March 9, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Jack Guy, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 12:02 AM ET, Fri March 10, 2023
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6:22 p.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Ukraine's infrastructure was hit by dozens of missile strikes Thursday. Here's what to know

From CNN's staff

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said six people were killed in a wave of Russian missile strikes across Ukraine on Thursday. Earlier, regional authorities said 11 people were killed in the Russian attacks, which included those who died in shellings and other kinds of attacks.

While energy has been restored to most of the country, Russian forces are keeping up their assaults near the invasion's eastern front, especially around the strategic city of Bakhmut.

Here are the headlines to know:

  • Wave of Russian strikes: At least 11 people are dead and more than 20 injured following a barrage of Russian strikes against critical infrastructure across Ukraine, according to regional authorities. Some of the strikes used advanced missiles that Ukrainian forces cannot shoot down. President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his nightly address, said six people were killed directly from missile strikes, describing it as a "difficult night" in Ukraine.
  • Russia's narrative: The Russian Ministry of Defense said the attack was retaliation for what the ministry called "terrorist actions" organized by Kyiv. Russian security officials claimed a small Ukrainian armed group had crossed into Russia's Bryansk region last week. Kyiv dismissed Moscow's claim the overnight assault on "peaceful cities and villages of Ukraine" was retaliatory.
  • A rare type of missile: Russia launched a total of 84 missiles over the last 24 hours, and Ukraine's air defenses intercepted 34 of them, the Ukrainian military said. However, six of the strikes involved Kinzhal ballistic missiles that eluded Kyiv's air defenses, the military said. Yurii Ihnat, a spokesperson for the Air Force Command of Ukraine, said they have "no capabilities to counter these weapons." The use of such a wide and unpredictable array of weaponry seemingly marks a shift in the Kremlin's strategy.
  • Impact at Zaporizhzhia: The power supply at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is back on after it was “completely disconnected” from Ukraine’s power grid due to Russian shelling, according to the national energy company. The Russian-controlled plant is still operated mostly by Ukrainian workers and had been running in emergency mode after the shelling. In other parts of the country, engineers have restored the electricity supply in most regions where energy facilities were damaged, Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko.
  • Fighting in the east: Russian forces have kept up their assaults near the invasion's eastern front in Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said. Holding on to the eastern city of Bakhmut is important for Ukrainians, as every day of sustained resistance allows Kyiv's forces to chip away at Russia's offensive capabilities, one of Ukraine's top military leaders said.
5:11 p.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Crews will work for as long as necessary to restore power following Russian strikes, Zelensky says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Jessie Gretener

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said work to restore power to parts of the country hit by a wave of Russian strikes Thursday is still underway, but efforts will continue "for as long as necessary."

The president said the situation in Kharkiv and the Zhytomyr region has been the most difficult.

“Another attempt by the terrorist state to wage war against civilization has led to temporary power, heat and water outages in some of our regions and cities,” Zelensky said.

Critically, power has already been restored to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The plant is under Russian control, but it is being operated mostly by Ukrainians. It was running on emergency mode after the shelling, according to the national energy company.

“Russia is deliberately creating such critical situations at our nuclear facilities," Zelensky said.

Nearly a dozen people were killed in the attacks, officials said. Zelensky expressed condolences to those families.

3:36 p.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Ukraine's air defense systems "not coping well enough" against Russian hypersonic missiles, adviser says

From CNN's Jessie Gretener

Ukraine's air defense systems didn't withstand some of Russia's Kinzhal missiles, according to an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, following a widespread attack from Moscow on Thursday.

A total of 84 missiles were fired on Ukrainian infrastructure, including six Kinzhal ballistic missiles that have the ability to elude Kyiv’s air defenses, the Ukrainian military said.

"They are using hypersonic missiles. They are using new types of weapons, and they are seeing how our air defense systems can cope with it," said Alexander Rodnyansky, an economic adviser to Zelensky. "They are not coping well enough."

Rodnyansky outlined what he saw as the Kremlin's tactical, economic and political objectives for Thursday's strikes, including what he described as "economic terrorism." 

"They're sending a very strong signal to everyone in Ukraine — and to perhaps some of our refugees outside of Ukraine — that life is very far from returning to normal despite the fact that over recent weeks there was more quiet," he said.

This could cause refugees to stay away and businesses to withhold investing in the country, Rodnyansky said.

"It is a question of managing expectations and showing this is a long game and that they are trying to plan this war for years," Rodnyansky added.

What else to know: Russia used the Kinzhal missile, which it has described as a hypersonic weapon, on a few occasions in the first weeks of its invasion last year. But the powerful weapon has rarely been seen over the country's skies.

Its first known use was last March, and then again in May, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

3:18 p.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Belarusian leader signs death penalty into law for treasonous officials and soldiers, state media says

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko meets with foreign media at his residence in Minsk, Belarus on February 16, 2023.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko meets with foreign media at his residence in Minsk, Belarus on February 16, 2023. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday signed a law introducing the death penalty for “state treason” committed by government and military officials, state news agency Belta reported. 

Additionally, the law introduces criminal liability for “propaganda” of terrorism, discrediting of the country’s armed forces, other troops and military formations, paramilitary organizations, and violation of requirements for the protection of state secrets.

Belarus’ parliament last year passed a bill that would impose the death penalty for “high treason, in order to prevent” possible actions by “destructive elements” in the country, which Lukashenko signed into law on Thursday.

Human rights group Amnesty last year called the law the "latest display of Belarusian authorities’ profound disregard for human rights.”

Belarus' role in the Ukraine war: Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said in February that “there is no way we are going to send our troops to Ukraine unless you are going to commit aggression against Belarus.”

“But don’t forget Russia is our ally — legally, morally and politically,” he added.

Lukashenko's government has claimed on numerous occasions that Ukrainian drones and missiles have entered its territory, sometimes without providing evidence.

Belarus helped Russia launch its initial invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, allowing the Kremlin’s troops to enter the country through the Ukrainian-Belarusian border north of Kyiv.

2:47 p.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Power restored in most areas after Russia's latest assault on infrastructure, Ukraine's energy minister says

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Olga Voitovych

A worker repairs a power line following a Russian strike in the village of Velyka Vilshanytsia, Lviv region, Ukraine, on March 9.
A worker repairs a power line following a Russian strike in the village of Velyka Vilshanytsia, Lviv region, Ukraine, on March 9. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images)

Engineers have restored electricity supply in most regions where energy facilities were damaged by Thursday's massive Russian bombardment, Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said in a statement. 

Halushchenko said Russia used a new tactic in its latest large-scale assault, launching different types of missiles and drones at the same time.

"Unfortunately, there are hits to both generation and transmission facilities, i.e. power substations. The situation is not easy, but we can already say that the power supply, which was limited in 14 regions on March 9, has been restored. Repair work is ongoing and will continue around the clock until the power supply is fully restored," the minister said.

Earlier Thursday, the mayor of Kyiv said utility crews had fully restored power in the Ukrainian capital, but about a third of the city's homes were still without heat.

Halushchenko said this was Russia's 15th massive shelling of Ukraine's battered energy system.

This wave of strikes forced the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to switch to backup power from diesel generators.

"The whole world sees that Russians do not care about any risks of a possible nuclear accident. And today, thanks to the fact that Ukraine has always supported the plant's safety systems, all diesel generators that provide backup power to ZNPP have been used. Currently, the power supply to the plant, which has been provided by Ukraine for more than a year of occupation of ZNPP, has been restored," he said. 

Facing Russia's regular attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities, the country's power engineers have developed a number of mechanisms that help them restore service quickly despite the extreme conditions, the minister said. 

"Over this period, we have developed technical solutions that allow us to keep the system intact. And today we have proved it: Despite another massive night attack, the Ukrainian energy system remained intact in the morning," Halushchenko said. 
2:14 p.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Russia's “deliberate targeting” of civilians and energy grid is a war crime, EU chief says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite and Olga Voitovych

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned the latest Russian missile barrage on Ukraine during a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In a tweet, von der Leyen said "Russia’s deliberate targeting of civilians and energy grid is a war crime."

Zelensky said that during the call, "we welcomed the new package of EU sanctions and agreed on further pressure on the aggressor. We also discussed in detail Ukraine's progress in implementing the recommendations of the European Commission to start negotiations on Ukraine's accession this year."

Russia launched one of its biggest aerial assaults of the year on Thursday, with 84 missiles targeted at Ukrainian infrastructure across the country. 

This included six Kinzhal ballistic missiles that eluded Kyiv's air defenses, the Ukrainian military said. At least 11 people were killed.

3:15 p.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Biden budget requests specific funding for Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US President Joe Biden speaks during the House Democratic Caucus Issues conference in Baltimore on March 1.  
US President Joe Biden speaks during the House Democratic Caucus Issues conference in Baltimore on March 1.   (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

The 2024 fiscal year budget presented by US President Joe Biden's administration requests $63.1 billion for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development, including specific funding for the war in Ukraine and countering China – a nearly $5 billion increase from the fiscal year 2023 adjusted enacted budget.

The request includes $1.7 billion “that will help Ukraine win the war and lay the reform and recovery foundation for winning the peace and help other partners impacted by the war stabilize their economies and prepare for recovery,” according to a State Department fact sheet.

In addition, the new budget requests a $1.5 million increase to funding for the Global Engagement Center, which would support programs countering propaganda and disinformation by Russia.

It also seeks $8.9 million “to support a priority U.S. strategic objective of increasing NATO common funding starting in 2023 as agreed to by the North Atlantic Council in December 2022.”

“Increased funding for the NATO civil budget will enable the organization to maintain its technological and operational edge in the evolving strategic and security environment that includes threats and challenges such as a more aggressive and assertive Russia and China, the need for strengthened cybersecurity, and threats posed by emerging and destructive technologies,” according to the budget justification document.

The Biden administration also requested $842 billion for the Defense Department, including $753 million for Ukraine to counter Russian influence and to help Kyiv with its security, energy and cybersecurity needs.

With the war in Ukraine in its second year, the latest budget requests $6 billion to support Ukraine, NATO and other European partners.

CNN's Oren Liebermann contributed reporting to this post.

1:42 p.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Russia is launching attacks elsewhere on the eastern front as battle for Bakhmut grinds on, Ukraine says

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Olga Voitovych

The Ukrainian military shared updates Thursday from multiple fronts in its defense against Russia's invasion.

The battle for Bakhmut: Russian forces are still working to encircle the eastern city of Bakhmut, "with further access to the administrative borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions," the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said.

The military said it "repelled numerous attacks" surrounding the city, saying more than half a dozen villages northwest, west and southwest of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region have recently taken enemy fire.

Elsewhere on the eastern front: North of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, Russian forces are trying to break through Ukraine's defenses in Kupyansk and Lyman, according to the General Staff.

South of Bakhmut, Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensives on several towns near the eastern cities of Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk, Ukraine's military said.

In southern Ukraine: Russian forces are on the defensive in the southern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, according to Ukraine.

The General Staff claimed that in some Russian-occupied settlements of Kherson, "Russian invaders have intensified looting," using ammunition delivery trucks to smuggle out household appliances and other property.

CNN is unable to verify Ukraine's claim.

Ukrainian strikes: Over the last 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have carried out seven strikes on areas where Russian personnel and military equipment are gathered.

Missile troops and artillery units hit a Russian command post, six areas where Moscow's troops were concentrated, two logistics centers, three ammunition depots, an electronic warfare station and an anti-aircraft missile system, the General Staff said. 

1:36 p.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Biden stopped by meeting with Finnish president and discussed commitment to Ukraine

From CNN's Betsy Klein

US President Joe Biden informally dropped by a meeting between national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on Thursday, according to the White House. 

Biden, the White House said, “reiterated strong US support for the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO as soon as possible. The leaders also discussed their continued commitment to supporting Ukraine in the face of Russia’s aggression.”

Latest on Finland and NATO: Last year, the Nordic country ditched decades of neutrality and announced it would seek to join NATO, attempting to strengthen its security following the onset of the war in Ukraine. 

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan objects to Sweden and Finland’s membership on what he claims are security grounds, and Hungary has also failed to ratify the accession of both Finland and Sweden.

NATO diplomats are split on whether they think Turkey will budge before the July 11 alliance summit. 

CNN's Luke McGee contributed reporting to this post.