Poland said on Tuesday that it was ready to deploy — immediately and free of charge — all their MiG-29 fighter jets to the US Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany and place them at the disposal of Washington to provide them to Ukraine, according to a statement from the Polish foreign ministry.
“At the same time, Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities. Poland is ready to immediately establish the conditions of purchase of the planes,” it added.
The Polish government in the statement urged “other NATO Allies — owners of MIG-29 jets — to act in the same vein.”
A top State Department official said Tuesday that Poland did not consult with the United States prior to issuing its statement about readiness to transfer jets to the US in Germany.
“I saw that announcement by the government of Poland as I was literally driving here today,” Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
“So to my knowledge, it wasn’t pre-consulted with us that they plan to give these planes to us,” she said.
“I look forward when this hearing is over to getting back to my desk and seeing how we will respond to this proposal of theirs to give the planes to us,” she said, noting that the US and Poland have been in consultations for a couple of days on this topic.
A senior US defense official, meanwhile, told CNN that they’ve seen the Polish government’s announcement and “have nothing to offer at this time.”
More background: It remains unclear where the US will pull the F-16s from in order to possibly send them to Poland or other Eastern European countries in the near term. But members of Congress are supportive of the effort. Sen. Ben Cardin asked Nuland for the Biden administration to notify them if there were going to be any delays to getting these F-16s to Poland.
Still, the complicated logistics behind the idea that both US and Polish officials have now discussed have yet been determined, two European diplomats told CNN.
The Polish announcement comes after some Polish officials were frustrated by how forward leaning the US was on this subject over the weekend, the sources said.
“In fact, we’re talking with our Polish friends right now about what we might be able to do to backfill their needs if, in fact, they choose to provide these fighter jets to the Ukrainians. What can we do? How can we help to make sure that they get something to backfill the planes that they’re handing over to the Ukrainians? We’re in very active discussions with them about that,” Secretary of State Tony Blinken said over on CBS on Sunday.
The Poles believe that the visit Vice President Harris is making to Poland in the coming days would be a good time for the US to announce more details but did not know if that was going to happen or not, a Polish official said.
Other countries that are in talks with the US about also partaking in a similar are conducting the conversations quietly, without raising expectations, said a central European diplomat.
CNN’s Barbara Starr contributed reporting to this post.
The US intelligence community believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin views the conflict in Ukraine as a “war he cannot afford to lose,” suggesting he is likely to escalate the conflict without any concern for the number of civilians killed, the US’s top intelligence chiefs told Congress.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said at a congressional hearing Tuesday that US intelligence assesses Putin is unlikely to be deterred by the setbacks the Russian military has faced in Ukraine, suggesting he is doubling down on his campaign to keep Ukraine from joining NATO.
CIA Director William Burns said Putin had launched the invasion “determined to dominate and control Ukraine” based on a set of assumptions that the conflict would be successful, including that Ukraine was weak, that European allies like France and Germany were risk-averse, that he had “sanctions-proofed” his economy and that his military was capable of a quick and decisive victory at minimal cost.
“He’s been proven wrong on every count,” Burns said.
The discussion of Putin’s motivations that led to Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine last month — and the sweeping, crippling sanctions from the West in response — offered the most public assessment to date of the US view of Putin’s ill-fated war in Ukraine. The intelligence community — which forecast Putin’s moves in the lead-up to the invasion —testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday at an annual worldwide threats hearing.
“This is a matter of deep personal conviction for him,” Burns told the committee. “He’s been stewing in a combustible combination of grievance and ambition for many years.”
Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the intelligence community estimates with “low confidence” that between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine since Moscow launched its invasion last month.
Read more about their comments to Congress here.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday spoke with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin separately.
In a tweet, Zelensky said he thanked Bennett “for Israel’s mediation efforts. Discussed ways to end the war and violence.”
A Kremlin statement on the call said the Israelis initiated the call, and that the two leaders “discussed various aspects of the situation with Russia’s special military operation to protect Donbass. Vladimir Putin shared his assessment of the third round of talks between the Russian delegation and representatives from Ukraine held on March 7 in Belarus.”
Israel has not provided any readouts or statements on the calls so far.
The latest round of conversations comes three days after Bennett took a surprise trip to Moscow on Saturday where he spent three hours with Putin. Bennett said the following day that Israel will continue to help mediate “even if the chance is not great.”
Russia has announced a new ceasefire starting at 10 a.m. Moscow time (9 a.m. Ukrainian/2 a.m. ET) Wednesday, saying it’s ready to provide evacuation corridors from Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol, along with other towns negotiated with the Ukrainian side.
Russian media reported the ceasefire parameters quoting the Russian Coordination Headquarters for Humanitarian Response in Ukraine.
Russia insists on the need of a continuous communication channel with Ukraine to exchange information regarding the evacuation of civilians and foreigners.
The Russian side proposes that Kyiv notify the representatives of the embassies of foreign states, and international organizations located on the territory of Ukraine about the ceasefire and the provision of humanitarian corridors by 3 a.m. Moscow time Wednesday (7 p.m. ET Tuesday).
Information on evacuation corridors from Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol will be sent to Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk on Wednesday, said the Russian Coordination Headquarters for Humanitarian Response in Ukraine.
The first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, published an open letter on her Facebook page reflecting on what has happened to Ukraine in the past two weeks since the Russian invasion.
“Despite assurances from Kremlin-backed propaganda outlets, who call this a ‘special operation’ — it is, in fact, the mass murder of Ukrainian civilians,” Zelenska said.
In the long and impassioned letter, she added: “Perhaps the most terrifying and devastating of this invasion are the child casualties. Eight-year-old Alice who died on the streets of Okhtyrka while her grandfather tried to protect her. Or Polina from Kyiv, who died in the shelling with her parents. 14-year-old Arseniy was hit in the head by wreckage and could not be saved because an ambulance could not get to him on time because of intense fires.”
“The first newborn of the war, saw the concrete ceiling of the basement, their first breath was the acrid air of the underground, and they were greeted by a community trapped and terrorized. At this point, there are several dozen children who have never known peace in their lives,” she wrote.
The Ukrainian first lady also discussed the challenges of getting essential medical care, as well as the growing tide of refugees.
She said Russian President Vladimir Putin has underestimated Ukrainians’ resistance.
“While Kremlin propagandists bragged that Ukrainians would welcome them with flowers as saviors, they have been shunned with Molotov cocktails,” she wrote.
Zelenska also thanked people from around the world for supporting her country.
And she echoed her husband’s demands for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. “Close the sky, and we will manage the war on the ground ourselves,” she said.
She concluded: “I testify and tell the world: the war in Ukraine is not a war “somewhere out there.” This is a war in Europe, close to the EU borders. Ukraine is stopping the force that may aggressively enter your cities tomorrow under the pretext of saving civilians.”
“If we don’t stop Putin, who threatens to start a nuclear war, there will be no safe place in the world for any of us,” she continued.
A bar owner and his team of volunteers in Kharkiv, Ukraine, have transformed the bar into an emergency shelter and food distribution center, and they are going around the battered city feeding about 1,800 people per day.
“We are not thinking about sleeping; we are not thinking about why we’re doing this. We just do it because for everyone here, that’s the only way,” Bohdan Yurov said to CNN’s John King in an interview.
Yurov said that seeing his city sustain heavy bombing now is “painful.”
“The last time bombs has fallen on Kharkiv was literally in the second World War, so it’s just unimaginable. … Like you just go the same streets, you try to visit houses where your relatives tried to hide from bombing and everything is just destroyed. Literally hundreds of houses. Every time we drive, we just think, ‘OK, which street is going to be next, which shelter is going to be next?’ Some places we cannot even recognize anymore so horrible they have destroyed,” he said.
He said they started out as a walk-in, but are now fielding requests through a direct helpline. “As soon as someone calls us, we are ready to deploy some supplies,” he added.
Yurov said he is in touch with several hundred supermarkets, stores and bakeries to help deliver free food to people around the city.
Watch Bohdan Yurov’s full interview with CNN’s John King:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked US President Joe Biden Tuesday for announcing the ban of Russian oil, natural gas and coal imports to the US.
“Thankful for US and @POTUS personal leadership in striking in the heart of Putin’s war machine and banning oil, gas and coal from US market,” Zelensky tweeted.
Speaking in a video posted on Telegram on Tuesday, Zelensky reiterated his thanks to Biden, saying: “The United States has taken a step that will significantly weaken the invaders. It will make them pay for aggression and be responsible for the evil they have done. For all the evil. America bans imports of oil from Russia, petroleum products, gas, coal. Prohibits US citizens from any investment in Russia’s fuel and energy sector.”
He added, “I am grateful personally to President of the United States Biden for this decision. For this leadership. For this most powerful signal to the whole world. It is very simple: every penny paid to Russia turns into bullets and projectiles that fly to other sovereign states.”
More on Biden’s actions: Sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas industry had once been viewed as mostly off the table as officials in the United States and Europe worried about a global spike in prices. But pressure had been growing on Biden to act, including from Zelensky and American lawmakers from both parties, as Russia’s onslaught in Ukraine increasingly targets civilians.
Biden acknowledged in frank remarks from the White House the step was likely to lead to higher costs for Americans, a potent political issue that is already leading to attacks from Republicans.
See Zelensky’s tweet:
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Diamond, Kevin Liptak, Phil Mattingly, MJ Lee and Kate Sullivan contributed reporting to this post.
A nine-car long armored Russian military train has been moved into Ukraine’s Kherson region from Crimea, according to a video posted on social media.
CNN has geolocated, and verified the authenticity of the video. It was first posted online by Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov on Monday, but incorrectly located.
An eyewitness took video of the train as it was passing through Novooleksiivka, Ukraine. The small town of Novooleksiivka is roughly 20 miles northeast from Russia-annexed Crimea and 55 miles southwest of Melitopol, Ukraine, which is currently under Russian military occupation.
The video shows that the train — the letter “Z” has been painted on some of the cars — has at least two apparent gunner cars.
The train is made up of two flatbed cars, one of which appears to be carrying a shrouded military vehicle and one other car.
In the video, a woman is heard yelling profanities at the Russian troops, in addition to, “Glory to Ukraine.”
A video report from Russian state media outlet Channel One in February 2020 gave an extensive look at the Baikal, one of Russia’s two armored trains. It’s unclear from the video whether the train seen in Novooleksiivka is the Baikal train.
The report claimed the Baikal has a communications jammer on-board to keep their communications covert and to not reveal their location. The Baikal is also were equipped with anti-aircraft turrets, 20mm thick walls, in addition to machine gun and sniper stations. It also has kitchen and dining room for the train crew.
Prior the invasion, Russia utilized its state-owned railroad company to transport and position many of its troops on the Ukrainian border in both Russia and Belarus.
Josh Pennington contributed reporting to this post.
Despite using all of the forces it had concentrated in and around Ukraine, Russia is still making very little progress, with NATO’s current intelligence assessment suggesting Moscow is unlikely to make much progress in the foreseeable future, a NATO military official told CNN.
“We see very little change,” the official said, citing the alliance’s latest intelligence assessment. “For the first time, we don’t expect them to make any gains in the next few days.”
They are putting in everything they have and are still making very little progress,” the official explained. “No one thought they would face these simple problems. After two weeks, they still haven’t been able to solve their logistics issues.”
The official conceded Russia had been able to make some marginal gains, especially in the South, but said the expectation was Moscow should be moving much faster at this stage.
“With all their armor they should be moving much faster,” the official said.
The official also said the shift in strategy to more direct targeting of key urban centers, which led to heavier bombardment of some cities, also had produced “no big effect.”