Zelenskyy says trapped Ukrainians will 'fight till the end,' Pentagon says Russians have been 'flummoxed'

This has been CNBC's live blog covering updates on the war in Ukraine. Follow the latest updates

Ukraine has rejected an ultimatum to surrender its besieged port city of Mariupol to Russian forces. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Eurovision News that ultimatums won't work as trapped Ukrainians will "fight till the end."

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Ukrainian forces — including civilians — have put up a strong resistance against Russian forces, and the Kremlin is struggling to achieve its goals in Ukraine. "I think what we're seeing here is the Russians have been flummoxed, they've been frustrated," said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby.

Earlier, Ukrainian authorities said Moscow had demanded Mariupol be handed over by 5 a.m. Russian forces said they would spare the lives of those who complied with their surrender ultimatum and would allow civilians to leave if their demands were met.

Thousands of civilians are trapped in the city, which is running dangerously low on vital supplies like food, water and medicines.

'Russians have been flummoxed': Pentagon says Russia is struggling to achieve its goals

A local resident walks with a child past a tank of pro-Russian troops during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 18, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Nearly a month since Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian forces have been unable to achieve their objectives, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

"We're on day 26 [and] the Russians have clearly not achieved many, or almost all of the objectives that ... we believe they were setting out to achieve," said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby at a briefing on Monday.

"They wanted to get after population centers so that they could take control of key ports, key cities, key government institutions," he said, adding that the Kremlin wanted to install a government that is "more friendly to Russia."

So far, Kirby said, Pentagon leaders believe the Russians have taken Kherson, and the Ukrainians have launched a counterattack there.

"I think what we're seeing here is the Russians have been flummoxed, they've been frustrated. They have failed to achieve a lot of their objectives on the ground," he added.

— Sumathi Bala 

Trapped Ukrainians will 'fight till the end' and ultimatums won't work, says Zelenskyy

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with Eurovision News that his country will not submit to ultimatums from Russia.

"People will either leave the city or those who cannot leave will fight till the end. Therefore, an ultimatum, is a bad thing because it will lead to genocide and the destruction of the Ukrainian people," he told the European Broadcasting Union, an alliance of public broadcasters, on Monday.

Whether it comes to Ukraine's membership to NATO, or other forms of compromises, it needs to be accepted by the people, Zelenskyy added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the US Congress from Kyiv, Ukraine on March 16, 2022, at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC.
Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

"When you talk about certain changes and they can be historic, we are not going anywhere. We will come to the referendum. Our people will have to say and give an answer to certain formats of compromises," he said. "What will those be? It will be defined by our conversation and understanding between Ukraine and Russia."

The president said residents of occupied cities such as Melitopol and Berdyansk will continue to resist Russian forces.

"We hate these troops who are destroying us and killing our people, [and we hate] their policy. We don't care, if we want peace, we need to sit down and talk," he added. "The right word is to negotiate. Negotiate as you have to. But to negotiate, not to execute ultimatums."

— Sumathi Bala

Ukrainian girl who went viral for singing "Let it Go" in Kyiv bomb shelter performs in Poland

Seven-year-old Amellia Anisovych, a refugee from Ukraine, center, sings the Ukraine national anthem at the start of a fund-raising concert in Lodz, Poland, Sunday, March 20, 2022.
Marian Zubrzycki | AP

Seven-year-old Amellia Anisovych, a refugee from Ukraine, center, sings the Ukraine national anthem at the start of a fund-raising concert in Lodz, Poland, Sunday, March 20, 2022.

Anisovych became widely known for singing a song from the movie Frozen in a bomb shelter in Kyiv in early March. She has since come to Poland with her grandmother and brother.

Her parents remained in Kyiv.

Associated Press

Democrat refuses to take donations from Koch Industries as company remains in Russia

Charles Koch, head of Koch Industries.
Bo Rader | Wichita Eagle | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., won't accept future donations from Koch Industries and will contribute what it has recently received to a charity dedicated to providing aid to Ukraine, spokeswoman Deb Barnes told CNBC on Monday.

The move comes after Koch Industries decided to continue doing business in Russia, even as other major U.S. and European companies flee the country to avoid sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.

Schrader's campaign received $4,500 from the Koch Industries' political action committee during the 2022 election cycle, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign donations and spending.

Ethics attorneys say that the donations could represent an effort by Koch to influence lawmakers as they work to provide further help to Ukraine, with some lawyers calling for those on Capitol Hill to return the contributions.

More than two dozen lawmakers saw nearly $110,000 from the Koch Industries PAC in February, as Russian President Vladimir Putin started moving his forces into Ukraine.

— Brian Schwartz

Russian naval activity in the Black Sea has increased, Pentagon says

Russian warships ahead of the Navy Day parade in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea, on July 23, 2021.
Alexey Pavlishak | Reuters

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. has observed an increase in Russian naval activity in the Black Sea near the Ukrainian city of Odesa.

Kirby said that some of the bombardment around Odesa is coming from a mixture of different types of Russian warships in the sea but was unable to confirm munitions or targets.

"We just see indications that they have increased their activity in the northern Black Sea. That's not something that we had observed over the last few days," Kirby said.

Earlier in the day, a senior Defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told reporters that it was too soon to say whether Russian forces were planning an amphibious assault of Odesa.

– Amanda Macias

U.S. corporations should be 'prepared for the worst'

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, November 9, 2021.
Leah Millis | Reuters

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and other Biden administration officials warned business leaders they should be "prepared for the worst" as world leaders punish Russia with crippling economic sanctions over President Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine.

Executives across energy, food and manufacturing industries met with Raimondo, President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and others to discuss the war.

While NATO allies are doing everything to pressure Putin to end the war quickly, "we know that that might not be possible. And so we're also prepared for this to last quite a long time," Raimondo told reporters after the meeting.

— Dawn Kopecki


Russians trying to encircle Mariupol, Pentagon says

Ukrainian soldier stands guard aboard military boat called 'Dondass' moored in Mariupol, Sea of Azov port on November 27, 2018. - Three Ukrainian navy vessels were seized off the coast of Crimea by Russian forces, which fired on and boarded Kiev's ships after several tense hours of confrontation. Here's what is known about Sunday's incident.
SEGA VOLSKII | AFP | Getty Images

The Pentagon said Russian troops are attempting to encircle the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol but have yet to take it from Ukrainian forces.

"They clearly want to take Mariupol. It's a city port city there on the Sea of Azov and it's a link between the Donbas area and Crimea," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during a press conference.

"You can see why Mariupol might be of interest but the Ukrainians are defending it bravely and have been able to stymie the Russians' efforts to take it," he said.

Kirby added that the Russians have attempted to encircle Mariupol from both the north and up its coast.

– Amanda Macias

Zelenskyy says Russia will have to 'destroy us all' before it surrenders Mariupol

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a meeting with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 15, 2022.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia will have to "destroy us all" before it will surrender the port city of Mariupol, according to a transcript of an interview he did with several public broadcasters.

Russian National Defense Control Center Head Mikhail Mizintsev has said the Kremlin would allow peaceful civilians to evacuate Mariupol — only after Ukraine's military surrendered the city and left unarmed, NBC News reported.

"Ukraine cannot fulfill these demands. They would first have to destroy us all to have their ultimatum fulfilled," Zelenskyy said in the interview translated by NBC News. "We would never give Kharkiv, Mariupol or Kyiv. Neither residents of those cities, nor I, the president can do this."

In a separate nterview with NBC News, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said at least 14 local leaders had been kidnapped or abducted by Russian troops since the invasion began. NBC News has not been able to independently verify that, but Vereshchuk said the abductions include mayors and leaders of the territorial communities.

— Dawn Kopecki

NATO official sees Russia war entering a stalemate

A police officer stands guard next to the Wreckage and debris outside a damaged shopping centre in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv by Russian air strikes, amid Russian invasion, in Kyiv, Ukraine, 21 March 2022.
Ceng Shou Yi | Nurphoto | Getty Images

The nearly monthlong Russian war in Ukraine is on the verge of entering a stalemate, said a senior NATO intelligence official, with Ukrainian forces preventing Russia from making progress but Russian President Vladimir Putin showing no willingness to back down. 

"If we're not in a stalemate, we are rapidly approaching one," said the NATO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military assessments. "The reality is that neither side has a superiority over the other."

Belarus, a close Russian ally, may soon attack Ukraine itself and is preparing to potentially let Russia position nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil, the official said. Belarus has already allowed Russia's military to use its territory to invade Ukraine.

— NBC News

Russian forces make little progress in advance on Kyiv

Ukrainian soldiers march in formation toward a battle with Russian forces near Irpin, Ukraine, on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Marcus Yam | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

A senior U.S. Defense official said Russian forces in Ukraine have made little progress in their advance on Kyiv.

The official, who asked not to be named to share details of the combat, said that Russian troops are still approximately 10 to 15 miles outside of Kyiv's city center, a distance Russian forces attained weeks ago and have yet to shorten.

Last week, the same Defense official said it was the Pentagon's belief that Russian forces plan to encircle Kyiv.

The official said the Pentagon has received anecdotal reports of some Russian troops experiencing morale issues but cautioned that the U.S. was not able to assess how much of Russian President Vladimir Putin's military felt this way.

For weeks, Russian forces have been slow to alleviate long-standing logistical challenges, including the resupply of food and fuel to troops on the front.

– Amanda Macias

Russia has launched more than 1,100 missiles since start of war

Amid the intensified Russian offensive encircling Kyiv, a Russian missile struck the residential area in Podilskyi district which killed one civilian and injured dozens.
Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Russian forces have launched more than 1,100 missiles during the Kremlin's 26-day war in Ukraine, according to a senior U.S. Defense official.

The tempo of missile launches, a mixture of short and medium-range as well as cruise and ballistic, have increased out of frustration over a stalled Russian ground fight.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous to share details of the fighting, said the U.S. is no longer providing a tally of where the missiles are being fired from. In previous weeks, the Pentagon said nearly half were being fired from mobile platforms inside of Ukraine.

The Defense official was unable to confirm reports that Russian forces fired a hypersonic missile into Ukraine and instead added that the use of such a weapon might have been used to stoke fear.

– Amanda Macias

Russia says U.S. relations 'on the verge of rupture'

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan leaves after a closed hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the U.S. Capitol May 24, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong | Getty Images

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it summoned U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan in Moscow to formally protest President Joe Biden's decision last week to label Russian President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal."

Sullivan was told that Biden's accusation had put "Russian-American relations on the verge of rupture," according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry translated by NBC News.

Biden said March 16 that he believes Russian leader Vladimir Putin "is a war criminal" for his attacks on Ukraine. It was the first time Biden had publicly branded Putin with that phrase.

— Christina Wilkie

Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher raised over $34 million for Ukrainian refugees

Mila Kunis stands with her husband Ashton Kutcher before Game 2 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, June 5, 2016.
Jose Carlos Fajardo | Medianews Group | Getty Images

Actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have raised more than $34 million in donations for humanitarian aid to Ukraine and temporary housing for Ukrainian refugees, according to the couple's Go Fund Me page.

Kunis was born in Ukraine, and she calls herself "a proud Ukrainian."

The money raised is going to the charitable arms of two Silicon Valley startups, housing rental giant Airbnb and shipping broker Flexport. Airbnb is providing free short-term housing to Ukrainian refugees, while Flexport is overseeing relief shipments for refugees.

Top donors to the campaign include billionaire Larry Ellison, tech venture capitalist Yuri Milner and model Karlie Kloss and her husband Josh Kushner.

--- Christina Wilkie

More than 920 killed due to conflict in Ukraine, UN says

Editor's note: Graphic content. The following post contains images of casualties in Ukraine.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said more than 920 people have died due to the armed conflict in Ukraine.

The UN's tally, which spans from Feb. 24 to March 20, includes 925 deaths and 1,496 injuries. Of those killed, 39 are reported as children.

Workers transport a corpse of a Ukrainian soldier at the morgue in Mykolaiv, Ukraine on March 18, 2022.
Alejandro Martinez | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

"Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote in a release.

The international group also "believes that the actual figures are considerably higher" but adds that reporting is delayed and difficult to corroborate. 

– Amanda Macias

Global regulators worry crypto assets are being used to evade sanctions

An illustration showing physical bitcoins alongside binary code displayed on a laptop.
Jakub Porzycki | NurPhoto via Getty Images

The global Financial Stability Board is closely scrutinizing the use of crypto assets during the war in Ukraine after concerns they could be used to evade Western sanctions on Russia.

Some crypto exchanges have rejected calls to cut off all Russian users, raising concerns that crypto could be used as a way to circumvent sanctions.

Ukraine has also raised millions of dollars in cryptocurrencies after posting appeals on social media for donations in bitcoin and other digital tokens.

The FSB, which groups financial regulators, central banks and finance ministry officials from the Group of 20 economies, is sharing the information it obtains among its members.

– Reuters

Biden to speak with Macron, Scholz, Draghi and Johnson ahead of NATO meeting

US President Joe Biden speaks on the phone to his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on December 9, 2021.
Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden will speak with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine.

The 11 a.m. ET secure conference call with allies comes ahead of this week's emergency NATO leaders meeting in Brussels, Belgium.

Later in the day, Biden will also consult with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, national security advisor Jake Sullivan, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and CEOs about the U.S. response to Russia's assault on its neighbor, which has gone on for nearly a month.

– Amanda Macias

Israeli field hospital to open in Lviv

Demonstrators gather at Habima Square in the centre of Israel's Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on March 20, 2022 to attend a televised video address by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Jack Guez | AFP | Getty Images

Maksym Kozytskyi, head of the Lviv Regional State Administration, announced that an Israeli field hospital will be opened in the Lviv region on March 22.

The hospital — which will be in the Yavoriv district of the city of Mostyska — will provide assistance to internally displaced people as well as residents of Mostyska and surrounding communities, Kozytskyi said in a Telegram post.

"The medical institution will operate in specially equipped tents. Here, Israeli doctors will conduct an initial examination, as well as a separate insulator," he said.

"If a person needs surgery, Israeli specialists will be able to operate on the premises of the community hospital. Three wards [will be] equipped for the inpatient stay of patients in the hospital: men's, women's and children's. Almost 100 people will work in the bridge hospital, more than 60 are doctors."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Israeli lawmakers on Sunday, urging them to impose sanctions on Russia in response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Israel has condemned Russia's attack on Ukraine, but has not imposed any economic sanctions on Moscow. Under Israeli law, sanctions can only be imposed on a country designated as an enemy state, according to NBC News.

Chloe Taylor

Russia has shelled Zhytomyr region for the first time, official says

People look at damage at a school that was hit by a Russian attack ten days ago on March 20, 2022 in Zhytomyr, Ukraine.
Chris Mcgrath | Getty Images

Vitaliy Bunechko, governor of Ukraine's Zhytomyr region, said in an address posted to Facebook that Zhytomyr had been shelled for the first time since the Russian invasion began.

"Zhytomyr region was shelled for the first time by Grad missiles," a caption accompanying the address said, according to an NBC News translation. "Three servicemen and one civilian were killed."

CNBC has not been able to independently verify this information.

In recent weeks, Russian forces have been widening their attacks and targeting cities further into Ukraine's west — away from the Russian border.

A woman walks past a rocket crater and a destroyed home destroyed that was struck in a recent Russian attack on March 20, 2022 in Zhytomyr, Ukraine.
Chris Mcgrath | Getty Images

On Friday, missiles hit the outskirts of Lviv, a city in western Ukraine which — until the attack — had not been the site of active hostilities. Many Ukrainians fleeing their homes have poured into Lviv as Russia's invasion rages on.

— Chloe Taylor

Images show destroyed Retroville shopping mall in Kyiv

Images show the destruction of the Retroville shopping mall after a Russian attack on the northwest of Ukraine's capital city Kyiv.

Editors' note: Images contain graphic content.

A man stand looking at the burning and destroyed Retroville shopping mall after a Russian attack on the northwest of the capital Kyiv on March 21, 2022.
Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images
Ukranian servicemen search through rubble inside the Retroville shopping mall after a Russian attack in northwest of Kyiv on March 21, 2022.
Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images
A Ukranian serviceman walks between debris inside the Retroville shopping mall after a Russian attack on the northwest of the capital Kyiv on March 21, 2022.
Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images
Ukraine army Chaplain Mikola Madenski walks through debris outside the destroyed Retroville shopping mall in a residential district, after a Russian attack on the Ukranian capital Kyiv on March 21, 2022.
Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images
A man with his bicycle walks between debris outside the destroyed Retroville shopping mall in a residential district, after a Russian attack on the Ukranian capital Kyiv on March 21, 2022.
Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Bodies of Ukranian servicemen are covered with blankets and plastic bags outside the Retroville shopping mall following a Russian missile attack in Kyiv on March 21, 2022.
Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images