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March 9, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news
By Kathleen Magramo, Jack Guy, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer, CNN
"One day our luck will run out," IAEA chief warns after Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant loses power
From CNN's Bex Wright and Hande Atay Alam
The head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency said the loss of power at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant should serve as another reminder of the perilous situation facing the site and surrounding area.
"If we allow this to continue time after time, then one day our luck will run out," said Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The plant lost all off-site power due to Russian missile attacks Thursday, according to Ukrainian officials. Grossi said it was the first time the plant had lost all power since November 23, 2022.
"I am astonished by the complacency – yes, the complacency. What are we doing to prevent this from happening? We are the IAEA, we are meant to care about nuclear safety," Grossi said.
"This is the largest nuclear power station in Europe. ... What are we doing?" Grossi asked. "How can we sit here in this room this morning and allow this to happen? This cannot go on."
"I call on everyone in this room today and elsewhere – we must commit to protect the safety and security of the plant. And we need to commit now. What we need is action," Grossi said.
Some background: The plant has been under Russian control since March last year, but is still mostly operated by Ukrainian workers.
Attacks at the complex have sparked concerns about the specter of a nuclear disaster, and IAEA staff have been visiting the site to assess the damage. Recently, the UN nuclear agency said it has been unable to rotate teams at the plant because of increased volatility in the area.
The IAEA head has assured Ukraine his agency will never recognize Russia as the owner of the Zaporizhzhia plant, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. Grossi has also pledged a continuous IAEA presence at all of Ukraine's nuclear plants.
Watch Grossi's impassioned remarks Thursday here:
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.
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.
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.
Belarusian leader signs death penalty into law for treasonous officials and soldiers, state media says
From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova
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.
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
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.
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.
Biden budget requests specific funding for Ukraine
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
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.