March 10, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Andrew Raine, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 4:16 p.m. ET, March 12, 2023
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2:59 p.m. ET, March 10, 2023

Why Russian missile bombardment is unlikely to force a major breakthrough in the war

From CNN's Rob Picheta

A plume of smoke rises above an infrastructure facility in the Holosiivskyi district of Kyiv during Russia's mass missile attack on March 9.
A plume of smoke rises above an infrastructure facility in the Holosiivskyi district of Kyiv during Russia's mass missile attack on March 9. (Eugen Kotenko/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

Russia launched a total of 95 missiles of various types over the past day — 34 of which were intercepted — the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a morning update on Friday, as well as a number of Iranian-made Shahed drones.

Nearly half a million people are without power in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, following the latest barrage of strikes, according to the regional governor.

And there are concerns about how effectively Ukraine can stand up to such bombardments.

But aerial strikes like these are not going to win Russia the war, Western experts say.

“There is a long history of nations trying to win wars through strategic bombardment, to break the will or capacity of an opposing state to resist,” Justin Bronk, senior research fellow for airpower and technology at the London-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank, told CNN. “It has an incredibly poor record of success.”

Russia’s limited stockpiles mean it’s unlikely they will force a major breakthrough in the war through the skies, so long as its air force is unable to gain supremacy above Ukraine.

New strategy?: The use of so many different weapons systems in one night has increasingly become Russia’s preferred method of striking through the skies, but with larger gaps between the raids, Bronk said.

The use of hypersonic missiles in particular follows the Kremlin’s years-long push to equip its military with such weaponry – a move that the United States and the West has been less keen to adopt, given the trade-offs in pursuing hypersonic capabilities.

“What you get is a missile that is much harder to intercept and gives your opponent much less warning. What you lose is that it’s much more expensive, and often can only be carried by a much more limited number of platforms,” Bronk explained.

How Ukraine's defenses held up: “They are not coping well enough,” an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

The Kinzhal missiles are a specific challenge: They are immune to Ukraine’s air defenses. An air-launched variant of the Iskander short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) which has also, more frequently, been used in Ukraine, the Kinzhal was unveiled by President Vladimir Putin in 2018 as a cornerstone of a modernized Russian arsenal.

Future attacks?: While Russia has deployed a handful of missiles that Ukraine is currently unable to stop, it appears unlikely that such attacks will become a regular or decisive feature of the conflict – because, by most Western assessments, Russia is running low on supplies.

Read more here.

12:50 p.m. ET, March 10, 2023

UN experts call recruitment of prisoners by Russia's Wagner Group "alarming"

From CNN's Sebastian Shukla and Radina Gigova

The recruitment of prisoners serving sentences in Russian correctional facilities by the Russian private military company Wagner is "alarming," a group of UN experts said in a joint statement released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Friday. 

Members of the Wagner group are reportedly "offering pardons for criminal sentences" and "a monthly payment" to the prisoners' relatives of those who agree to join, the experts said.

Wagner has allegedly recruited both Russian and foreign nationals serving sentences in correctional facilities, they said, adding that in some cases, Wagner used threats, intimidation and pressure tactics to recruit.

Recruited prisoners "have been involved in a range of activities – including providing military services, rebuilding infrastructure, and taking direct part in hostilities on the side of the Russian forces," the statement added.

The experts say they "have information that several recruits have been executed for attempting to escape and, in other cases, seriously injured in public as a warning to other recruits. Such tactics constitute human rights violations and may amount to war crimes."

The group has expressed its concerns to the Wagner Group and the Russian government. It has also urged Moscow to protect detainees from "violence, exploitation and intimidation,” according to the statement.

2:59 p.m. ET, March 10, 2023

Power restored for critical infrastructure and many residents in Kharkiv, regional governor says

From CNN's Dennis Lapin in Kyiv

Power has been restored to 65% of consumers in the city of Kharkiv and to 90% of consumers in the larger Kharkiv region, regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said in an update on Telegram Friday.

"We continue to work on restoring power supply and eliminating the consequences of a massive Russian missile strike on the critical infrastructure of the region," he said. 

"In Kharkiv, power has been fully restored to critical infrastructure facilities, including the water utility, sewage treatment systems and heating networks," he added. 

Russia has launched a total of 95 missiles of various types over the past day, the Ukrainian military said Friday. While Ukraine's defenses knocked down 34 of the strikes, dozens of missiles pounded infrastructure targets, further battering the country's fragile energy systems.

Earlier Friday, Syniehubov said nearly half a million people lost power in the city of Kharkiv following the barrage.

1:25 p.m. ET, March 10, 2023

Ukrainian military spokesperson: 3rd wave of Wagner fighters being replaced by Russian army in Bakhmut area

From CNN's Dennis Lapin and Radina Gigova

Ukrainian service members fire a howitzer at a front line near the city of Bakhmut on March 10.
Ukrainian service members fire a howitzer at a front line near the city of Bakhmut on March 10. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters) 

The eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut is still "the hottest spot on the front line" and continues to be the target of some of the heaviest direct Russian fire, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military told CNN.

"Bakhmut is still the hottest spot on the front line, with 20 of the 188 attacks of the entire Bakhmut direction this day coming directly at the town of Bakhmut," said Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the eastern grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Cherevatyi also said a third wave of fighters from the Wagner private military company fighting in the area are being replaced by Russia's regular army.

"The first wave, which began last February, consisted of professional military, people associated with the FSB and the Interior Ministry. The second wave of Wagner consisted of those mobilized from prisons, who were almost all wiped out during the so-called 'meat assaults,' when Wagner tried to break through the defenses with live fire," he said. 

"Now we see the replacement of Wagner's group by the regular army. This is probably due to Prigozhin's conflict with the leadership of the Russian army," he added. 

Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin has publicly attacked the Russian Defense Ministry, blaming it for not supplying his fighters with enough ammunition to prevent their deaths.

Cherevatyi also said he cannot confirm the status of the village of Dubovo-Vasilyevka, located north of Bakhmut, which Prigozhin claimed to have been captured by his fighters on Wednesday.  

Prigozhin's Telegram post was accompanied by a video that purported to show several Wagner fighters standing next to the group's flag, one of them playing an accordion.

CNN is not able to independently verify Prigozhin's claims. 

11:10 a.m. ET, March 10, 2023

Russian shelling leaves at least 6 wounded in eastern Ukrainian city, regional head says

From CNN's Dennis Lapin and Radina Gigova 

Russian shelling wounded at least six people Friday in a city in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the region's military administration.

The shelling on Kostyantynivka, an industrial town north of Donetsk city, also hit private houses and damaged a gas pipeline, Kyrylenko said in a Telegram post.

According to preliminary information, Russian forces used Uragan (or Hurricane) multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) in the attack, the Ukrainian official said. Russia has used Uragan MLRS to shell the area relatively frequently.

"Rescuers and police are working at the scene," Kyrylenko said. 

1:10 p.m. ET, March 10, 2023

US intelligence believes individuals with Russian ties trying to stir insurrection against Moldovan leaders

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

A man holds Moldovan national flag as special police officers patrol a street near a polling station during the second round of Moldova's presidential election in the town of Varnita in 2020.
A man holds Moldovan national flag as special police officers patrol a street near a polling station during the second round of Moldova's presidential election in the town of Varnita in 2020. (Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images)

The US intelligence community believes that individuals with ties to Russian intelligence are planning to stage protests in Moldova to try to foment a manufactured insurrection against the Moldovan government, with the ultimate goal of seeing a more pro-Russia administration installed there, White House officials said Friday.

The US believes that Russia is working to weaken the Moldovan government, the officials said, which is seeking closer ties with the European Union. The US is also seeing signs that Russian government-linked actors could provide training to anti-government demonstrators in Moldova. Chisinau has been rocked by anti-government protests in recent weeks, largely organized by Moldova’s Russia-friendly Shor Party. 

The US also believes that Moscow is working to sow disinformation about Moldova’s overall stability. One example was the Russian Ministry of Defense’s claim last month that Ukraine has been planning to invade Transnistria, Moldova's Moscow-backed separatist region.

US officials said those allegations are “unfounded, false, and create baseless alarm.” 

Moldova’s President, Maia Sandu, said publicly last month that she believes the Russian government was planning “a series of actions involving saboteurs who have undergone military training and are disguised as civilians to carry out violent actions, attacks on government buildings and hostage-taking.”

Moldova has been a flashpoint on the periphery of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the past year, with Russian missiles crossing into Moldovan airspace on several occasions, including this past February.

The Biden administration sees no immediate military threat to Moldova, officials said. But the US has been watching Russia’s activities in Moldova closely, wary of Russia’s ongoing efforts to destabilize Europe. President Joe Biden met with Sandu last month in Warsaw, where they discussed Russian malign influence activities. 

The US Treasury sanctioned nine individuals and 12 entities in October that the US believed to be involved in working to destabilize Moldova. 

CNN's Rob Picheta contributed to this post.

9:58 a.m. ET, March 10, 2023

Wagner head says private military company is opening new "recruitment centers" in over 40 cities across Russia

From CNN's Katharina Krebs and Radina Gigova

The head of Wagner private military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, announced on Friday the opening of dozens of new "recruitment centers" across Russia, according to a statement published by his holding company, Concord.

“Wagner group recruitment centers have opened in 42 cities of the Russian Federation," Prigozhin is quoted as saying in the statement. "New fighters will be coming there, who will go with us side by side to defend their country and their families. To create our common future and protect the memory of the past." 

"Despite the colossal resistance of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, we will move forward. Despite the sticks that are stuck in our wheels at every step, we will overcome this together," he added. 

In addition to the statement by Prigozhin, the Concord press service also published a document that includes a list with the addresses and telephone numbers of the alleged recruitment centers.

The majority of those recruitment centers appear to be gyms and sports centers, according to the names listed in the document. 

Many of the alleged recruitment centers are in Moscow, where the document claims eight such centers will be opened. Saint Petersburg has the second-largest number of centers, with five, according to the document.

Other cities where alleged recruitment centers will be opened include Krasnodar, Kaliningrad, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Murmansk. 

CNN in unable to independently verify Prigozhin's claims about the opening and operations of the alleged centers. 

The Wagner group has been active throughout the war in Ukraine, and Prigozhin has recently been outspoken about ammunition issues, placing the blame for his fighters' deaths on Russia's defense ministry.

1:49 p.m. ET, March 10, 2023

Russia hit Ukraine with hypersonic missiles in its latest barrage. Here's what to know about the weapons.

From CNN's Rob Picheta

When Russia launched a total of 95 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 Russian President Vladimir 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.

8:57 a.m. ET, March 10, 2023

Foreign students who fled Ukraine at the beginning of war remain in limbo

From CNN's Stephanie Busari and Nimi Princewill

Korrine Sky, 26, a British-Zimbabwean citizen who was in the second year of a medical degree at Ukraine’s Dnipro Medical Institute.
Korrine Sky, 26, a British-Zimbabwean citizen who was in the second year of a medical degree at Ukraine’s Dnipro Medical Institute. (Korrine Sky)

Ukraine's strong reputation for medical courses and affordable tuition had attracted more than 70,000 international students to the country. But as they fled the country at the onset of Russia's invasion, many say they faced segregation and racism at Ukraine’s borders

One African medical student told CNN at the time that she and other foreigners were ordered off a public transit bus at a border checkpoint between Ukraine and Poland and asked to stand aside as the bus drove off with only Ukrainian nationals on board. The Border Guard Service of Ukraine told CNN at the time that the claims were untrue.

One year on, some of the students tell CNN they are in limbo:

Facing deportation: While hundreds of students were evacuated from Ukraine by their own countries, some stayed in the bordering European nations to which they had fled. Many are yet to be granted refugee status, said Korrine Sky, 26, a British-Zimbabwean citizen, adding that she has been in contact with some foreign students.

“Some were given between six months to one-year visas. As of February and March, a lot of the visas that they were granted at the start of the war, will be running out. So, they’ll be facing deportation. A lot of them have decided to go back to Ukraine,” Sky told CNN in a phone call from her home in Leicester, England.

“There’s also a large portion of students who’ve now gone back to Ukraine because their universities weren’t offering transcripts unless they return,” she added.

CNN has contacted the Ministry of Education and the minister for comment.

Unable to continue education: After fleeing the conflict, Sky said she hoped to complete her education at other European universities that had offered a place to international students displaced by the Russian war. However, her hopes were soon dashed after she discovered the scholarship opportunities were reserved mainly for Ukrainian students.

“That’s the same sentiments we’d had when we were trying to get on the buses and the trains (while fleeing the war) … It was Ukrainians only. No one seems to even have a single bit of empathy that our lives have been completely disrupted,” she said. “There’s a lot going on in the world at the moment… so we are lower down in the list of priorities.”

Mandatory exams in Ukraine: Some Ukrainian universities are mandating that students return in March to complete exams in order to graduate.

Students are protesting, writing in a statement that organizers are aware of the risks of traveling to Ukraine, with no insurance or direct flights available. CNN reviewed a consent form issued by Kyiv Medical University to students, stating that students take responsibility for all risks involved in traveling to Ukraine. CNN has contacted Kyiv Medical University for comment.

The Dean of International Students Faculty at the Ternopil National Medical University said its exams for students is currently being organized by the health ministry, and that the university will arrange another round of exams for international students who are unable to come. No timeline was provided for facilitating the exam outside Ukraine. CNN has contacted Ukraine’s ministry of health for further comments.

Graduates are also facing issues: Nigerian student Adetomiwa Adeniyi, 25, only had a few months of studies remaining when the war broke out. So he says he was able to finish the education online and receive a degree. Now, Adeniyi is unable to practice as a doctor, because Nigeria’s medical council (MDCN) does not recognize medical degrees acquired digitally.

He says he might be forced to repeat his final year in a Nigerian university or find a country abroad that will allow him to practice.

Costs put everything on hold: For fourth-year medical student Oyindamola Morenikeji from Nigeria, "everything is just at a standstill," as she told CNN of her failed attempts to transfer to another European school, after her family already had a tough time funding her $4,000 per year education in Ukraine.

Morenikeji says she is considering applying to a Nigerian nursing school and starting all over again but is worried about the financial toll on her family. "It feels like when they were close to the final point, everything came crashing," she told CNN.