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Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

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2 hr 10 min ago

No confirmed advances by Russian forces in Bakhmut, think tank says

From CNN’s Sophie Tanno

There have been no confirmed advances by Russian forces in Bakhmut, according to think tank the Institute for the Study of War.

The report published late Saturday said that despite Russian forces and units from the paramilitary Wagner Group launching continued ground attacks in the city, there is no evidence that they made any progress.

“Russian forces did not make any confirmed advances within Bakhmut on March 11.

“Ukrainian and Russian sources continue to report heavy fighting in the city, but Wagner Group fighters are likely becoming increasingly pinned in urban areas, such as the AZOM industrial complex, and are therefore finding it difficult to make significant advances,” the ISW said.

The exact picture of what is happening in Bakhmut is difficult to establish. On Saturday Wagner’s chief said his forces were close to the city center.

Some context: For the first time in eight months, it appears that the Russians are on the cusp of taking a Ukrainian city, albeit a small one already abandoned by more than 90% of its prewar population.

Ukrainian defenses in and around the eastern city of Bakhmut have been squeezed in recent weeks by a combination of intense artillery, mortar fire, and airstrikes and a substantial commitment of ground forces, both Russian regulars and fighters of the Wagner private military company.

3 hr 23 min ago

Russia not involved in grain deal renewal negotiations

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova and Duarte Mendonca 

Russia says its representatives have not yet taken part in negotiations on extending the Black Sea grain deal, which was a rare agreement between Russia and Ukraine despite the conflict.

“Negotiations regarding this topic, especially with the participation of Russian representatives, were not conducted,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told journalists.

Repeating a Russian complaint about the agreement, Zakharova said that “only the Ukrainian part has been effectively implemented so far, and Russian agricultural exports continue to be blocked as a result of Western unilateral sanctions.”

The next round of talks on extending the Black Sea grain initiative will take place in Geneva, Switzerland on March 13 between Russia’s delegation and United Nations representatives, Zakharova added.

Some context: Much importance is placed on grain exports as Ukraine and Russia are both significant suppliers of food to the world. In normal times, Ukraine — known as one of the globe’s breadbaskets — would export around three-quarters of the grain it produces.

According to data from the European Commission, about 90% of these exports were shipped by sea, from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

The war and its impact on grain exports therefore has major implications, particularly in the global South which relies heavily on them.

4 hr 18 min ago

Supply routes are still functioning in battleground Bakhmut, Ukrainian commander says

From CNN’s Kostan Nechyporenko and Allegra Goodwin

Logistical routes in and out of Bakhmut are still functioning, meaning “the supply of ammunition” to the besieged city is possible, a Ukrainian army commander said Sunday. 

“The weather imposes its restrictions. But at the moment, the logistics routes are functioning. The supply of ammunition is possible, although it is difficult. Evacuation of the wounded is possible. Supply of reinforcements is also possible,” Mykola Volokhov, head of Ukraine’s ‘Terra’ aerial reconnaissance unit, said on local television. 

The eastern Ukrainian city is a key battleground in Russia’s invasion and has seen weeks of bloody fighting between Ukraine’s army and fighters from the Russian private military group Wagner. 

Rather than drive directly towards the center, Wagner groups have sought to encircle the city in a wide arc from the north. In January they claimed the nearby town of Soledar, and have since taken a string of villages and hamlets north of Bakhmut. 

Bakhmut has important road connections to other parts of the Donetsk region; eastwards to the border with Luhansk, north-west to Sloviansk and south-west to Kostiantynivka.

However a Russian victory would carry greater symbolic than military significance.

It comes as Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed his fighters have made further advancements in Bakhmut, posting a video Saturday in which he claims to be standing about 1.2 kilometers (less than a mile) away from the administrative center of the city.

5 hr 2 min ago

US authorities seized smuggled artifacts that were stolen from Ukraine – and returned them where they belong

From CNN’s Christina Maxouris

Stolen Ukrainian artifacts attempted to be smuggled into the US were seized by CBP officers and returned to the people of Ukraine, authorities said.
Stolen Ukrainian artifacts attempted to be smuggled into the US were seized by CBP officers and returned to the people of Ukraine, authorities said. (From @UKRintheUSA/Twitter)

Six months after US authorities in New York seized three metal swords and a stone axe head that had been stolen from Ukraine, the cultural artifacts were returned to the people they belong to.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, DC, accepted the artifacts Friday, according to a Twitter post.

“Honored to host the repatriation ceremony of the ancient Ukrainian (artifacts) that had been stolen from Ukraine,” the embassy said.

Ukrainian officials thanked US Customs and Border Protection officials “for helping (Ukraine) repatriate our cultural property and a part of our history,” the post added.

The items were seized in early September by CBP officers working at the John F. Kennedy International Airport’s International Mail Facility, according to a news release from the agency.

Read the full story here.

The Ukrainian stolen artifacts included three metal swords, US authorities said.
The Ukrainian stolen artifacts included three metal swords, US authorities said. (From @DFONewYork/Twitter)
5 hr 12 min ago

Ukraine’s foreign minister compares Bakhmut offensive to a thief breaking into a house

From CNN’s Sophie Tanno

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks to media after a United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, New York on February 23.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks to media after a United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, New York on February 23. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says Ukraine will fight on in the city of Bakhmut, comparing the Russians advance to a thief breaking into your house and trying to “steal everything.”

He made the comments in an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper on Sunday.

When asked whether he thought the city could still be held, Kuleba told the publication: “When someone breaks into your house, you don’t ask yourself how long you can resist the guy who broke into your house and is trying to kill you and your family and steal everything in the house, right?
“You think what else can you do to evict him from your home and get the police to arrest him.”

Speaking on who is behind the sabotage of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Kuleba said: “I can say that the Ukrainian government is not behind it that they didn’t do it.

“This was not a government-directed action.”

Kuleba also expressed disdain for protests in Germany calling for an end to the war and to stop the Berlin government from providing Ukraine with more weapons.

“I think these people need to be honest and they need to rewrite their slogans, instead of protesting under the slogan ‘Stop the war! Advertisement No arms sales’, they should write what they really mean: ‘Let the Russians kill, torture and rape Ukrainians,’ because if we don’t have weapons to defend ourselves, that’s what will happen.
He added: “I assure you that every single Ukrainian, even the soldier in the trenches who kills the Russian soldier who is attacking him at this very moment, wants peace more than the most peaceful protester at the Brandenburg Gate.”

6 hr 41 min ago

Russian wives and mothers call on Putin to stop sending mobilized men “to the slaughter”

From CNN’s Josh Pennington and Heather Chen

A group of Russian wives and mothers have called on President Vladimir Putin to stop sending their husbands and sons “to the slaughter” by forcing them to join assault groups without adequate training or supplies.

In a video shared by the independent Russian Telegram channel SOTA, the women said their loved ones had been “forced to join assault groups” at the beginning of March despite having just four days training since their mobilization in September.

The video shows the women holding a sign in Russian that reads, “580 Separate Howitzer Artillery Division,” dated March 11, 2023.

“My husband… is located on the line of contact with the enemy,” says one woman in the recording.

“Our mobilized [men] are being sent like lambs to the slaughter to storm fortified areas – five at a time, against 100 heavily armed enemy men,” she continued.

“They are prepared to serve their homeland but according to the specialization they’ve trained for, not as stormtroopers. We ask that you pull back our guys from the line of contact and provide the artillerymen with artillery and ammunition.”

CNN could not independently verify the claims made by the group of women in the video.

Russia’s move to send hundreds of thousands to fight on the battlefields of Ukraine has generated dissent and protest and prompted many Russians – young men in particular – to flee the country.

Read the full story here.

6 hr 27 min ago

Power fully restored across Kharkiv, says regional administration

From CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne and Maria Avdeeva

Power across the Kharkiv region has been fully restored, a spokesperson for the regional military administration told CNN.

The metro in Kharkiv city has reopened but the trams remain at a standstill, the spokesperson – who asked not to be named for security reasons – added. 

Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv region military administration, said Saturday that power to all customers in the Kharkiv region was expected to be restored in full by the end of the day.

“We have almost completely eliminated the consequences of the enemy attack that took place on March 9,” he said.

“Our power engineers have been working for two days — first to stabilize the situation, then to restore and eliminate the consequences of these enemy attacks.

“At the moment, I can say that the power supply has been restored by 100% for the population of Kharkiv [city]. And, of course, the power supply to Kharkiv’s critical infrastructure, including the water utility and sewage treatment plants, has also been restored.

“Yes, there is an issue with the city’s electric public transportation, but this issue is being resolved.”

The outage follows a barrage of Russian missiles last week, including a type Ukraine finds difficult to defend.

4 hr 16 min ago

Ukrainian snipers set up ambush for Wagner fighters at industrial plant in Bakhmut, Border Guard says

From CNN’s Radina Gigova

A still from a video released by the Ukrainian Border Guard showing Ukrainian snipers setting up an ambush for Wagner fighters at industrial plant in Bakhmut on Saturday.
A still from a video released by the Ukrainian Border Guard showing Ukrainian snipers setting up an ambush for Wagner fighters at industrial plant in Bakhmut on Saturday. (From Ukrainian Border Guard)

As battles grind on between Ukrainian and Russian forces for control of the eastern city of Bakhmut, Ukraine’s Border Guard Service released details Saturday about some encounters between Ukrainian troops and fighters from the Russian private military company Wagner. 

Industrial plants in Bakhmut are shown in a video published on the Border Guard website. CNN was unable to specifically geolocate the video but doesn’t have a reason to believe the footage is not from Bakhmut. 

“The other day, the border unit of the Luhansk detachment conducted a positional battle with enemy forces in the area of one of the industrial enterprises,” the Border Guard said in a statement. “The day before, the Ukrainian defenders withstood several assault attacks of the invaders.” 
“To continue the offensive, the Russian mercenaries entrenched themselves in one of the workshops and gathered strength,” the Border Guard said, adding that at this point the guards launched a counterattack.

A Ukrainian grenade unit was able to take down the machine gunner who was covering the entrance to the building. Then, a ground reconnaissance group of border guards were able to move in and “eliminated the Wagnerites,” the Border Guard said.

CNN is unable to independently verify how the events unfolded. The Border Guard doesn’t say what day the video was recorded. 

“To destroy the enemy’s reserve, the border guards set up an ambush. With the onset of darkness, a surprise awaited the attack squads who were approaching the front line. Border snipers neutralized six invaders,” the Border Guard said. 

Part of the video appears to show the moment described in the statement. The video also features a few comments from one of the Ukrainian soldiers. 

“About the situation in Bakhmut — they have already entered the industrial zone. We try to kick them out of there. They strengthened their positions there last night. My reconnaissance group entered their location this morning and is trying to attack their positions,” the soldier said. 

Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the eastern grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said on national television Saturday that over the last 24 hours, more than 20 combat engagements between Ukrainian and Russian forces have taken place within the territory of the city itself. 

Cherevatyi also said most of the Russian assault groups consist of Wagner fighters who are reinforced by Russian paratroopers.

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