Biden to announce $800M in new aid for Ukraine; Russian forces take 500 hostages in Mariupol hospital, official says: March 15 recap

·17 min read

Editor's note: This page recaps the news from Ukraine on Tuesday, March 15. Follow here for the latest updates and news from Wednesday, March 16, as Russia's invasion continues.

Ukrainians must realize the country will not be joining NATO and must "count on ourselves and our partners who are helping us" to withstand the Russian onslaught, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday.

Later in the day, the White House said President Joe Biden will travel to Brussels for a March 24 NATO summit on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations yielded a sliver of hope when Zelenskyy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said “there is certainly room for compromise.” However, the invading forces continued their bombardment of Kyiv while a siege of the port city of Mariupol prompted about 20,000 civilians to flee. Negotiations are expected to resume Wednesday.

Zelenskyy, speaking to representatives of the U.K.-led Joint Expeditionary Force, said Ukraine has heard for years about "the allegedly open doors” of NATO but acknowledged his country will not be able to join. Instead, Ukraine needs separate security guarantees from its allies, he said.

Zelenskyy had been a strong supporter of Ukraine's efforts to join NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has called for a guarantee that Ukraine would never join NATO among terms for an end to the war.

Still, Zelenskyy has repeatedly called for NATO to set up a no-fly zone above Ukraine to ease an aerial assault from Russia that has decimated Ukraine cities since the invasion began Feb. 24. And he said Tuesday that Europe could “help yourself by helping us” with more military aid. The Ukrainian military is using up weapons and ammunition meant to last a week in 20 hours, he said.

Leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia were traveling to Kyiv on a European Union mission Tuesday to show support for Ukraine. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a tweet announcing the trip that "Europe must guarantee Ukraine's independence and ensure that it is ready to help in Ukraine's reconstruction."

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Latest developments:

►A fourth Russian general was killed in fighting at Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday, identifying him as Maj. Gen. Oleg Mityaev, commander of the 150th motorized rifle division. Russia did not confirm the death.

►Ukrainian forces on Tuesday evening repelled an attack on Kharkiv by Russian troops, who tried to storm the city from their positions in Piatykhatky, a suburb 15 kilometers (9 miles) to the north, the head of the Kharkiv region said.

►A funeral service was held Tuesday in Lviv for four Ukrainian soldiers killed in a Russian attack on a training base in Yavoriv in western Ukraine. The attack on Sunday killed at least 35 people.

►Zelenskyy addressed the Canadian Parliament, again pleading for a no-fly zone over his country. The speech came as Moscow announced it was banning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from entering Russia.

►The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says at least 691 civilians have died and 1,143 have been injured since the war began. At least four children have died, the agency said.

►More than 3 million Ukrainians have fled the country, the U.N. refugee agency said. "Today we have passed another terrible milestone," tweeted U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. "The war has to stop. Now."

►A humanitarian disaster is unfolding in Izium, an eastern city of 46,000 people, Deputy Mayor Volodymyr Matsokin said. The city lacks basic supplies and extensive Russian shelling has severely damaged infrastructure, he said.

►Belarus, a neighbor of both Russia and Ukraine but an ally of the former in the war, continued its crackdown on independent media by sentencing two journalists from the nation's oldest newspaper to 2 1/2 years in prison on charges of dodging communal payments they have rejected as politically driven.

Biden to announce $800 million additional military aid for Ukraine

President Joe Biden on Wednesday is expected to announce an additional $800 million in military aid for Ukraine, according to a White House official, bringing the total U.S. support for Ukraine to $1 billion in just the last week.

Biden will announce the aid in an 11:45 a.m. ET speech, shortly after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to urge for greater assistance during a virtual address to the U.S. Senate and House earlier in the morning.

“We’re moving urgently to further augment the support to the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their country,” Biden said Tuesday. “And I’ll have much more to say about this tomorrow — about exactly what we’re doing in Ukraine.”

The additional $800 million will mean more than $2 billion in U.S. aid has gone to Ukraine since Biden entered office. The money has paid for an assortment of military equipment including 600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 2,600 Javelin anti-armor systems, nearly 40 million rounds of small arms ammunition, 200 grenade launchers and ammunition, 200 shotguns and 200 machine guns, according to the White House.

In addition, Biden signed into law a government funding bill Tuesday that will provide $13.6 billion in humanitarian aid, economic support and defense assistance for Ukraine and the region.

— Joey Garrison

Russian forces take 500 hostage in Mariupol hospital, Ukraine official says

Russian forces took control of a hospital in the port city Mariupol, holding about 500 people hostage late Tuesday, according to a regional leader.

Pavlo Kyrylenko said on the social media app Telegram that Russian forces rounded up 400 people from their houses in the neighborhood and drove them into the hospital, where about 100 patients, doctors and other hospital staff were. Kyrylenko said Russians were using the hostages as human shields.

“It’s impossible to leave the hospital, they are shooting hard,” Kyrylenko said.

He said staff are continuing to treat patients in makeshift wards set up in a basement despite damage done to the building from shelling.

The siege of Regional Intensive Care Hospital in Mariupol comes the week after Russian forces bombed a maternity hospital in the same city. Three people were killed, including a child.

Biden to attend NATO summit in Brussels to discuss Russia’s invasion

President Joe Biden will travel to Brussels for a March 24 NATO summit on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Biden’s attendance after NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg announced the extraordinary summit of all NATO allies at the NATO headquarters.

“At this critical time, North America & Europe must continue to stand together,” Stoltenberg said in a statement on Twitter.

This will be Biden’s first to Europe since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine three weeks ago. Vice President Kamala Harris last week traveled to Romania and Poland, where she reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to defend members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Psaki said Biden will discuss “ongoing deterrence and defense efforts in response to Russia's unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine and reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our NATO allies.” She said Biden will also join a scheduled European Council summit to discuss concerns about Ukraine, including transatlantic efforts to impose economic costs on Russia and humanitarian support to those affected by the violence in Ukraine.

When asked, Psaki would not say whether Biden will visit Poland, where the vast majority of Ukrainian refugees have fled. “We’re still working through the final details of the trip and what it may look like,” said Psaki, who did not rule out Biden possibly meeting with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Joey Garrison

As advancement stalls, Russia seeks reinforcements

Russian losses on battlefields in Ukraine have stalled its offensive and forced it to seek reinforcements from troops stationed in the Pacific and paying mercenary forces, according to the British Defense ministry. Russia has been seeking mercenaries from Syria and elsewhere to fight in Ukraine.

"Russia will likely attempt to use these forces to hold captured territory and free up its combat power to renew stalled offensive operations," British defense attaché Mick Smeath said in a statement Tuesday evening.

Ukrainian resistance has hampered advancement by Russia, whose ability to hold territory it seizes would be degraded by continued losses, according to British military intelligence.

Earlier Tuesday, a senior Defense Department official said the Russian offensive against Ukraine’s major cities, including Kyiv, was not progressing.

However, Russian forces continue to bombard Kyiv with artillery and missile fire, striking residential areas with increasing frequency, according to the official, who shared battlefield assessments on condition of anonymity.

Russia’s main force has made minimal progress toward Kyiv. The leading edge of the troops remain about 10 miles to the northwest and about 15 miles to the east of the city’s center. Ukrainians continue to mount stiff resistance, including near the city of Kharkiv.

-- Tom Vanden Brook

Fox News cameraman and consultant killed while covering war

Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and journalist Oleksandra "Sasha'' Kuvshynova were killed while reporting with correspondent Benjamin Hall in Ukraine outside the capital city of Kyiv, Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott announced Tuesday.

The group was traveling in a vehicle in Horenka – nearly 20 miles from Kyiv – when they were struck by incoming fire Monday, Scott said in a statement. Hall remained hospitalized.

"Pierre was a war zone photographer who covered nearly every international story for Fox News from Iraq to Afghanistan to Syria during his long tenure with us," Scott said. "His passion and talent as a journalist were unmatched."

Kuvshynova, 24, was a freelance consultant for the network's team in Ukraine who helped with her knowledge of Kiev and its surroundings as well as her country's language. "Her dream was to connect people around the world and tell their stories and she fulfilled that through her journalism,'' Scott said.

American photojournalist Brent Renaud was killed Sunday when Russian forces fired on a car in Irpin, a town 30 miles outside Kyiv. A second American journalist, Juan Arredondo, was hospitalized with shrapnel wounds, police said.

Ned Price, the State Department’s chief spokesman, did not directly respond when asked if Russia is intentionally targeting journalists, but said the department is documenting attacks on people who should be “completely off limits.” He said it would merit a serious response if the department determines “there is any intentionality here.''

Asha C. Gilbert

Russian TV employee who protested war is fined $270, could face tougher penalty

The Russian state television employee who interrupted a live news program by protesting against the war in Ukraine was fined the equivalent of $270 but could face harsher penalties under Russia's new law aimed at quelling opposition to the invasion.

Marina Ovsyannikova was ordered to pay 30,000 rubles by Moscow's Ostankino District Court on charges of organizing unsanctioned actions for her call to demonstrate against the war. CNN reported that Ovsyannikova was questioned for 14 hours before her court appearance.

More concerning than the fine was the possibility Ovsyannikova could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison if found guilty of violating the punitive legislation adopted a day after the Feb. 24 invasion. Russia's top state investigative agency is looking into whether Ovsyannikova broke the new law by publicly spreading false information about the Russian military.

Ovsyannikova, who said in a video that her father is Ukrainian and her mother is Russian, walked into a Channel One studio during Monday's evening news show with a poster saying “no war” and “Russians against the war” and warning viewers against believing propaganda spread by the station In the video, she said “Russia is the aggressor country and one person, Vladimir Putin, solely bears responsibility for that aggression,” and she urged Russians to join anti-war protests.

Speaking in a video address early Tuesday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Russians “who do not stop trying to convey the truth, real facts … And personally to the woman who entered the studio of Channel One with a poster against the war.”

Girl who went viral singing 'Let It Go' in Kyiv bomb shelter is now in Poland

A video of a 7-year-old girl singing the song “Let It Go” from Disney’s “Frozen” in a bomb shelter in Kyiv went viral last week. Now she has made it safely to Poland.

The girl, Amelia, is in the country with her grandmother, the BBC reported. She told the outlet that, “It was OK” in the bomb shelter.

“There were other children there. My classmate, Artyom, was there too,” she said.

“I would be very happy to be with my mother and father, in Kyiv, of course,” she added. She also thanked the millions of people who saw the video of her singing the hit song from the Disney movie.

Last week, Idina Menzel, who voiced Elsa, the character who sings “Let it Go” in “Frozen,” shared the video of Amelia singing on Twitter, writing, “We see you. We really, really see you.”

-- Marina Pitofsky

U.S. supplies another $186 million in humanitarian aid

The Biden administration said Tuesday it would provide an additional $186 million in humanitarian assistance in response to the refugee crisis caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine. More than 3 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia invaded on Feb. 24th, with the majority crossing into Poland.

“This will provide further support for humanitarian organizations responding to the crisis and complement the generosity of the neighboring countries that are welcoming and supporting refugees,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Blinken said the new funds would help provide food, drinking water, shelter and emergency health care through international and non-governmental partners. “This funding will also help victims of this conflict maintain contact with family members who have been separated and promote family reunification when possible,” Blinken said.

-- Deirdre Shesgreen

Kyiv mayor: Men should fight, not 'sit somewhere and sympathize'

Russia stepped up its bombardment of Kyiv on Tuesday, smashing apartments and a subway station as the assault edged closer to the city center. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said barrages hit four multi-story buildings in the city and killed dozens of people. The shelling ignited a huge fire in a 15-story apartment building and spurred a frantic rescue effort.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko stressed that Kyiv is prepared to defend itself and was confident it will not fall. He urged the men who left the capital to return and fight.

“Everyone who loves Kyiv and wants it to survive should help as best they can," said Klitschko, a former heavyweight champion boxer. "Kyiv men, come back. We must protect our city and our future. Don’t sit somewhere and sympathize."

Russia sanctions President Biden, top national security officials

The Kremlin has sanctioned President Joe Biden and 13 of his top national security and foreign policy aides, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Tuesday. Among the other officials sanctioned are Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin; Secretary of State Antony Blinken; CIA Director Bill Burns; White House press secretary Jen Psaki; national security adviser Jake Sullivan and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

When a country sanctions officials or a company, their assets in the country are seized and they're subject to arrest if they set foot on the country. The U.S. and the European Union have sanctioned a number of top Kremlin military officials, billionaires and members of the Russian legislature over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

It is unlikely the sanctions against the U.S. will have a material effect, given that none of the officials have reported assets in Russia. Western governments have ramped up efforts to seize the wealth of Russian oligarchs and financial institutions in their countries.

– Matthew Brown

Zelenskyy: Russian troops who surrender will be treated 'decently'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Russian troops in an online video early Tuesday that they can surrender and will be treated "decently" and pleaded with European nations to provide his military with more weapons.

"On behalf of the Ukrainian people, I give you a chance," Zelenskyy said in a video translated into English by his office, ahead of his scheduled speech to Canada's parliament Tuesday. "Chance to survive. If you surrender to our forces, we will treat you the way people are supposed to be treated. As people, decently."

NATO leaders focus on bolstering forces near Russian border

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was traveling to Brussels on Tuesday for a meeting of NATO’s defense ministers that will focus on bolstering the alliance’s eastern front following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Austin then is scheduled to visit senior civilian and military leaders in Slovakia and Bulgaria, according to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.

The NATO meeting comes after Russia’s cruise-missile attack Sunday on the Yavoriv military training base in western Ukraine. The attack killed at least 35 people and occurred not far from the border with Poland, a NATO ally. President Joe Biden and other senior officials have pledged to respond to any Russian attack that spills into NATO territory.

Tom Vanden Brook

Damage in Ukraine estimated at $500 billion and rising

Preliminary losses from Russia's attack in Ukraine are already estimated at $500 billion – and the damage grows worse every day, Minister of Finance Serhiy Marchenko said Tuesday. Supply chains have been broken, some businesses destroyed and others left unable to function because their workers have fled, Marchenko said. The true cost of the war won't be determined until it's over, he said. The International Monetary Fund, which has approved $1.4 billion in emergency financing for Ukraine, said this week that the country's economic output could shrink by up to 35% if the war drags on.

Marchenko said some of the hundreds of billions in Russian assets frozen in the U.S. and Europe could be tapped to help his country rebuild.

China defends position on Ukraine

China's stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “impartial and constructive” while the U.S. has been “immoral and irresponsible” by spreading misinformation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Tuesday.

Lijian accused the U.S. of spreading misinformation over reports Beijing had agreed to a Russian request for military supplies. Lijian also said the U.S. played a major role in the development of the crisis, a reference to NATO expansion.

Lijian spoke at a press briefing on day after Yang Jiechi, one of China's top diplomats, met with U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Yang called on the international community to support peace talks and said "China always stands for respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries."

State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to confirm whether U.S. officials believe Beijing has conveyed its support for Moscow's assault on Ukraine but said the U.S. is watching very closely whether China or any other country is providing any form of support, including material, economic or financial assistance.

Poland on edge as Russian airstrikes hit near border

KRAKOW, Poland — After a deadly Russian missile attack in Ukraine just 15 miles from the Polish border Sunday, some Poles are increasingly anxious – saving money, checking to see whether their passports are up to date and making plans to flee if war spills over to their country.

“I said to my husband, ‘If only one bomb touches Polish ground, I will pack myself, pack my grandma, pack my mom, and we are going abroad,'” local artist Aga Gaj said.

Poles are nervous following a Russian airstrike that killed 35 and injured at least 100 at a military base where Americans had trained Ukrainian forces before the war. The United States and NATO have regularly sent instructors to the base, known as the International Peacekeeping and Security Center. Just weeks before the war began, Florida National Guard members trained there. Read more here.

– Katelyn Ferral, USA TODAY Network

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine recap: Biden to provide Ukraine with $800M in new aid