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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11:44 a.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Russia says it launched the "massive retaliation strike" on Ukraine in response to alleged Bryansk attack

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Anna Chernova

Locals gather around a shelling crater after a rocket hit the Pisochyn neighborhood outside Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 9.
Locals gather around a shelling crater after a rocket hit the Pisochyn neighborhood outside Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 9. (Pavlo Pakhomenko/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

The Russian Ministry of Defense said Thursday the barrage of missile strikes launched on Ukraine overnight was retaliation for what the ministry called "terrorist actions" organized by Kyiv in Russia's Bryansk region last week.

"High-precision long-range air, sea and land-based weapons, including the Kinzhal hypersonic missile system, hit key elements of Ukraine's military infrastructure, military-industrial complex enterprises, as well as energy facilities that serve them," the Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed in a statement.

It claimed that the target was reached and "all assigned objects have been hit."

"Unmanned aerial vehicles were destroyed, the transfer of reserves and railway transportation of foreign weapons was disrupted, and production facilities for the repair of military equipment and the production of ammunition were disabled," the ministry said in the statement. 

Ukrainian authorities said Russia fired 81 missiles into multiple Ukrainian regions, including the nation’s capital overnight into Thursday. At least 11 people were killed across Ukraine in the strikes, according to regional authorities.

Here's what happened in Bryansk: Russian security officials claimed a small Ukrainian armed group had crossed the Russian border last week into the southern Bryansk region. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said the agency was carrying out operations following “armed Ukrainian nationalists who violated the state border.” Russian President Vladimir Putin described the incident as a "terrorist attack." A local official said two civilians were killed.

An adviser in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, Mykhailo Podolyak, said the alleged raid was either a Russian provocation or the work of local partisans taking a stand against the Kremlin, denying any Ukrainian involvement.

CNN cannot independently verify the Russian claims, and local media have not carried any images of the supposed incidents, any type of confrontation or an alleged raid reported by Russian authorities.

Ukraine rejects Russia's narrative: Kyiv responded dismissively to Moscow's claim the overnight assault on "peaceful cities and villages of Ukraine" was retaliatory. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense issued a statement likening the Kremlin's narrative to Nazi propaganda that sought to justify attacks on British civilians during WWII.

CNN's Olga Voitovych, Vasco Cotovio, Nathan Hodge and Rob Picheta contributed to this post.

11:29 a.m. ET, March 9, 2023

US sanctions China-based network that supplies parts for Iranian drones used by Russian military

From CNN's Sam Fossum

The US has issued a slew of sanctions against members of a China-based network that supplies critical parts for the attack drones that Iran exports to Russia for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The US Treasury issued the sanctions Thursday in its latest attempt to undermine support for the Kremlin’s war machine and funding for the Iranian regime, as both countries forge closer ties.

The sanctions issued today designate a network of five China-based companies and one employee who support Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) procurement network, and are responsible for the sale and shipment of “thousands of aerospace components,” according to the Treasury.

Specifically, the network supplies the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company, which the US government says helps produce the Shahed-136 UAV that's been exported to Russia for use in its invasion. 

“Iran is directly implicated in the Ukrainian civilian casualties that result from Russia’s use of Iranian UAVs in Ukraine,” said Treasury Under Secretary Brian Nelson, the department’s top official on sanctions. 

The latest crackdown started in earnest in February, on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Biden administration announced sanctions for “over 200 individuals and entities, including both Russian and third-country actors across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East that are supporting Russia’s war effort.” Those sanctions were imposed in partnership with the G7 and other allies.

12:14 p.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Holding Bakhmut becomes more important each day, a top Ukrainian general says

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Svitlana Vlasova

Ukrainian servicemen load an armored car before being deployed to the frontline of Bakhmut, in Chasiv Yar, Ukraine, on March 9.
Ukrainian servicemen load an armored car before being deployed to the frontline of Bakhmut, in Chasiv Yar, Ukraine, on March 9. (Ignacio Marin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The importance of Ukraine holding on to the eastern city of Bakhmut is "constantly growing," 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 Thursday.

"The importance of holding Bakhmut is constantly growing. Every day of the city's defense allows us to gain time to prepare reserves and to prepare for future offensive operations," Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine's land forces, said in a statement.

"In the battles for this fortress, the enemy loses the most trained and combat-ready part of its army, the Wagner (private military company) assault units," said Syrskyi, who is Ukraine's second highest-ranking general.

According to the Ukrainian commander, Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin has said if Bakhmut is captured by his fighters, Russia will be able to launch a "large-scale offensive" using army and airborne units.

"This once again proves the very important role of Bakhmut in the overall defense system of our grouping," Syrskyi said. "Thousands of enemies who died during the assault on the town are a vivid confirmation of this."

"Fighting in the Bakhmut sector continues," he said. "I am proud of the courage and heroism of our soldiers who are disrupting the aggressor's plans with their resilience."

The latest from the front: 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 Thursday.

Ukraine's military said its forces had recently repelled attacks in the villages of Orikhovo-Vasylivka and Dubovo-Vasylivka to the northwest of Bakhmut, in Ivanivske to the west of the city and in Oleksandro-Shultine to the southwest.

"The enemy continues to violate the norms of International Humanitarian Law, continues to carry out strikes, shell civilian objects and civilian homes, and tries to destroy the critical infrastructure of our country," the General Staff said. 

10:25 a.m. ET, March 9, 2023

The US and its allies have frozen more than $58 billion from Russian oligarchs

From CNN's Sam Fossum

The US and its allies have blocked or seized more than $58 billion worth of assets owned or controlled by sanctioned Russians in the past year as Western governments continue to dial up the pressure over the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine, according to a joint statement from a multinational sanctions enforcement task force. 

The Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs (REPO) Task Force held its sixth multilateral deputies meeting Thursday morning to discuss the group's continued work and pledge to "redouble" their efforts to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin and his associates. The task force is a joint effort between the US, Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, the UK and the European Commission.

"REPO will redouble efforts to hold Russia accountable for its unjust war, countering Russian efforts to undermine, circumvent, or evade REPO's collective sanctions," according to a joint statement released following the meeting and obtained first by CNN.

"REPO will continue to identify, locate, and freeze the assets of sanctioned Russians, with the aim of depriving the Kremlin of the funds it needs to fight its illegal war," it continued. 

Identifying sanctions evasion: The task force, which was formed last March, is also taking further steps to crack down on sanctions evasion as the US and its allies work to seal the cracks in a sanctions regime that has weakened but not crippled the Russian economy. 

Following Thursday's meeting, REPO also issued a joint global advisory to help the private sector spot and prevent common sanctions evasion methods, like using family members to maintain access to sanctioned assets, creating complex ownership structures and using third-party jurisdictions and false trade information to ship controlled goods, including those that support the Kremlin's war machine. 

The task force has blocked financial assets and seized luxury yachts, high-end real estate and even priceless art, with US officials recovering a possible Fabergé egg from one Russian oligarch's seized yacht last summer.

A US Treasury official told CNN that REPO also provides the governments involved a valuable and streamlined mechanism to apply many of the same tools and best practices for the broader effort to crack down on sanctions evasion.    

Over one year into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Biden administration officials are focusing on how to plug the gaps on sanctions evasion — a problem that runs the gamut of adversaries like China and allies like Turkey, India and the United Arab Emirates. 

9:54 a.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Why Russia’s rare launch of Kinzhal hypersonic missiles across Ukraine may mark a shift in Kremlin’s strategy

From CNN's Rob Picheta

When Russia launched a total of 81 missiles at major cities across Ukraine on Thursday morning, it included six Kinzhal ballistic missiles that eluded Kyiv's air defenses, the Ukrainian military said.

"The attack is really large-scale and for the first time using such different types of missiles. We see that this time as many as six Kinzhal were used. This is an attack like I don't remember seeing before," Yurii Ihnat, spokesperson for the Air Force Command of Ukraine, said on Ukrainian television Thursday.

"So far, we have no capabilities to counter these weapons," he added, referring to the Kinzhals, plus six X-22 air-launched cruise missiles that were also launched by Russian forces.

Russia used the nuclear-capable 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 in May, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The use of such a wide and unpredictable array of weaponry seemingly marks a shift in the Kremlin's strategy.

About the Kinzhal: It is an air-launched variant of the Iskander short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) which has also, more frequently, been used in Ukraine, and was unveiled by Putin in 2018 as a cornerstone of a modernized Russian arsenal.

Like virtually all ballistic missiles it is hypersonic, which means they travel at least five times the speed of sound, but it is also particularly difficult to detect because it can be launched from MiG-31 fighter jets, giving it a longer range and the ability to attack from multiple directions.

CNN's Svitlana Vlasova and Radina Gigova contributed reporting.

Correction: This post has been updated to clarify that virtually all ballistic missiles not missiles in general are hypersonic.

9:09 a.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Power supply to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant was restored, Ukraine's national energy company says 

From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova and Radina Gigova

The power supply to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) has been restored, Ukraine's national energy company Ukrenergo said in a statement Thursday.

"Ukrenergo specialists have restored the power supply to Zaporizhzhia NPP, which was interrupted by today's missile strikes," the company said. "ZNPP is switching from diesel generators to getting electricity for its own needs from the Integrated Power System of Ukraine."

The plant has been under Russian control since March last year, but is still mostly operated by Ukrainian workers.

8:11 a.m. ET, March 9, 2023

Analysis: Don’t expect to see GOP leader Kevin McCarthy in Kyiv any time soon

Analysis by CNN's Stephen Collinson

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks during a news conference after a budget briefing at the U.S. Capitol March 8, in Washington, DC.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks during a news conference after a budget briefing at the U.S. Capitol March 8, in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to visit Ukraine during an exclusive interview with CNN.

“Mr. McCarthy, he has to come here to see how we work, what’s happening here, what war caused us, which people are fighting now, who are fighting now. And then after that, make your assumptions,” Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

But the California Republican told CNN on Tuesday he had no plans to visit.

“Let’s be very clear about what I said: no blank checks, OK? So, from that perspective, I don’t have to go to Ukraine to understand where there’s a blank check or not,” McCarthy told CNN. “I will continue to get my briefings and others, but I don’t have to go to Ukraine or Kyiv to see it.”

Almost every Western leader who matters, and many who don’t, have now made the daring trip to visit Zelensky, a hero of democracy, in Kyiv.

Yet McCarthy, who has a reputation for loving a photo-op with famous people, rebuffed the invitation to visit the Ukrainian leader.

His bridging of two adamant strands of opinion in the House GOP on Ukraine is just about holding. Moderate Republicans who helped the GOP win the majority last November are just as important to the party’s hopes of retaining control of the chamber next year as pro-Trump extremists. But their priorities risk being constantly compromised by the speaker’s repeated plays to Trump’s base and the ex-president’s most devoted followers in the House.

Making the trip is effectively a political impossibility for McCarthy as Trump accused Biden of caring more about Ukraine’s borders than America’s.

McCarthy hasn’t fully adopted demands of his most radical subordinates, like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida, for audits or an end to Ukraine aid. His line about a blank check could be interpreted as a holding position between his extremist colleagues and hawkish internationalist Republicans who want to do more.

But with Russia only escalating its assault and the GOP presidential primary likely to drag the party toward the anti-aid faction, it’s a position that may crumble before much longer.

7:56 a.m. ET, March 9, 2023

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

At least 11 people have been killed by a wave of Russian missile strikes across Ukraine overnight Thursday, sparking calls for more weapons shipments and sanctions against Russia.

Elsewhere, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is operating in emergency mode after damage caused by Russian shelling disconnected it from the power grid.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • Massive Russian strikes overnight Thursday: At least 11 people are dead and more than 20 injured following a barrage of 81 Russian strikes against critical infrastructure across Ukraine. The strikes used advanced missiles that Ukrainian forces cannot shoot down, said a spokesperson for the Ukrainian air force, adding that the strikes constitute "an attack like I don't remember seeing before."

  • Ukraine PM calls for more weapons and sanctions: Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal called on Western allies to supply more weapons to Ukraine and impose more sanctions on Russia following the strikes. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said it has been a "difficult night," claiming that Russian missiles hit "critical infrastructure and residential buildings."
  • Kremlin questions Nord Stream report: A media report that a “pro-Ukrainian” group may have been behind last year’s attack on the Nord Stream gas pipeline is “hard to believe," the Kremlin said Thursday. “It was too difficult a task that only a well-trained special state service could handle. There aren't many of them in our world,” he said.
  • Nuclear power plant operating in emergency mode: The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been “completely disconnected” from Ukraine’s power grid due to Russian shelling and is operating in emergency mode. There is enough diesel on site to power generators for 15 days, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
  • Iran testing weapons in Ukraine, says US official: Ukraine is becoming a “battle lab” for testing Iranian weapons outside of the Middle East, a senior US defense official said Thursday. The official added that Russia is willing to transfer advanced technology to Iran in order to receive Iranian “lethal aid.”  
7:18 a.m. ET, March 9, 2023

At least 11 killed in overnight Russian strikes across Ukraine, says regional authorities

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Svitlana Vlasova

Russia’s overnight strikes have killed at least 11 people and left 22 injured, according to local officials. 

As the assault continued into the early hours of Thursday morning, 81 missiles were fired into multiple Ukrainian regions including the nation’s capital, Kyiv, injuring three.

Police experts and rescuers inspect the site of fallen fragments of Russian rockets near a multi-storey residential building in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 9.
Police experts and rescuers inspect the site of fallen fragments of Russian rockets near a multi-storey residential building in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 9. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv, there were further strikes, as three residential buildings were destroyed. Reports indicate at least five have been killed as rescuers continue to search for additional victims. 

Police experts and local residents carry an unidentified body following a Russian strike in the village of Velyka Vilshanytsia, Lviv region, Ukraine, on March 9.
Police experts and local residents carry an unidentified body following a Russian strike in the village of Velyka Vilshanytsia, Lviv region, Ukraine, on March 9. (Yuriy Dyachshyn/AFP/Getty Images)

There were more fatalities in the Kherson region where at least three people died and three others were wounded after shelling hit residential areas and apartment buildings.

In the Kharkiv district a missile injured two elderly women, while the rest of the region is currently without power, regional authorities have said. 

In the Dnipropetrovsk region, one person was killed and two were injured, according to preliminary information.

Other regions hit by Russian strikes include Luhansk, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernihiv, Sumy, Zaporizhzhya, Kirovohrad and Vinnytsia.

Russian shells also hit a hospital and at least 9 residential buildings in Donetsk, killing two civilians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the attacks in a Facebook message on Thursday claiming Russia "won’t avoid responsibility for everything they have done.”

A burning residential house is seen after a Russian military strike in Kherson, Ukraine, on March 9.
A burning residential house is seen after a Russian military strike in Kherson, Ukraine, on March 9. (Andriy Yermak/Telegram/Reuters)