March 14, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Jack Guy, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:07 a.m. ET, March 15, 2023
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1:20 a.m. ET, March 14, 2023

Ukraine's future being decided in east of country, where fighting is "very tough," Zelensky says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Vasco Cotovio

A BMP-1 armed personnel carrier seen from a tank, in Donbas on March 7.
A BMP-1 armed personnel carrier seen from a tank, in Donbas on March 7. (Laurel Chor/SOPA Images/Sipa/AP)

President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country’s future is being decided in eastern Ukraine, where the fighting is “very tough.”

“The situation in the east is very tough and very painful. We need to destroy the enemy's military power, and we will,” he said in his nightly address Monday. “Bilohorivka and Maryinka, Avdiivka and Bakhmut, Vuhledar and Kamyanka — and all other places where our future is being decided. Where our future, the future of all Ukrainians, is being fought for.”

Zelensky went on to say he was grateful to every soldier putting their lives on the line in these battles.

“I thank everyone who is defending their positions and fighting for Ukraine and their brothers,” he said. “Thank you to everyone who never lets down those who are next to them on the line!”

“Today, I would like to recognize the soldiers of the 92nd Separate Mechanized Brigade for their successful actions in the area of Bakhmut,” the Ukrainian president added.

9:00 p.m. ET, March 13, 2023

First Ukrainian soldiers to finish training on Spain's Leopard tanks this week

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Olga Voitovych

The first group of Ukrainian soldiers training to operate and maintain Spain’s Leopard 2A4 tanks will finish their instruction this week, the Spanish Ministry of Defense said in a statement Monday.

The first group includes 10 complete crews and support staff, consisting of 55 soldiers in total.

“These courses were launched after the Spanish commitment to contribute to the Ukrainian defensive effort with the contribution of tanks was formalized,” the statement read. “At that time, Ukraine requested the training of crews and maintenance personnel for the operational deployment of the contributed Leopard 2A main battle tanks.”

Some more context: Spain agreed to send six of its Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks to Ukraine, part of a coordinated effort with Germany, Norway, Poland, Portugal and the Netherlands, to supply Kyiv with around 80 Leopard 2 vehicles. Germany will supply Ukraine with 18 of the more advanced Leopard 2A6 variant.

8:57 p.m. ET, March 13, 2023

ICC to open war crimes cases over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, media reports

From CNN's Zahid Mahmood and Sugam Pokharel

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is planning to open two war crimes cases tied to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and issue arrest warrants against “several people,” according to the New York Times (NYT) and Reuters, citing current and former officials with knowledge of the decision who were not authorized to speak publicly.

According to the NYT, the cases would represent the first international charges to be brought since the start of Russia’s war and come after months of work by special ICC investigation teams.

The first case the ICC is set to open is about Russia’s alleged abduction of Ukrainian children. The second is on Russia’s “unrelentingly” targeting civilian infrastructure, including water supplies and gas tanks, according to the NYT.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan’s first step is to present his charges to a panel of pretrial judges, who will decide whether legal standards have been met for issuing arrest warrants or whether investigators need more evidence, the NYT reported.

In a response to a request from CNN on the NYT’s reporting, the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor said that they “provide no comment on this report.”

ICC’s Khan visited Ukraine last month to probe Russia’s attacks on power and other infrastructure. Speaking to reporters during the visit, Khan said: “We see clearly a pattern, I think, in terms of the number, scale and breadth of attacks against the power grids of Ukraine. And we need to look at why that’s taking place; are they legitimate targets or not; and whether or not they are targeted for other reasons.”

Read more here.

8:54 p.m. ET, March 13, 2023

Russia and UN agree to 60-day extension of grain deal, state media reports

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio, Josh Pennington and Kateryna Krebs

Russia and the United Nations have agreed to a 60-day extension of the Ukraine grain deal after negotiations in Geneva, Russian state-run news agency RIA reported on Monday.

"Our Russian interdepartmental delegation has just completed another round of talks with UN representatives led by UNCTAD Secretary General R. Greenspan and OCHA head M. Griffiths,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said at a briefing on Monday, according to RIA.

The diplomat added Moscow had agreed to extend the current grain deal, which lasts until March 18, for an additional 60 days. 

Any further grain policy after the 60-day period would depend on "normalization" of agricultural exports, he said.

Why are grain exports so important? Ukraine and Russia are both significant suppliers of food to the world. Before the war, 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.

CNN's Rob Picheta, Jomana Karadsheh, Radina Gigova and Tim Lister contributed to this post.

2:53 a.m. ET, March 14, 2023

Ukrainian official says Wagner is stepping up recruitment effort in occupied Melitopol

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Military academy cadets cover the coffin with flags during the funeral of a Wagner Group mercenary killed in Ukraine at a cemetery in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 24, 2022.
Military academy cadets cover the coffin with flags during the funeral of a Wagner Group mercenary killed in Ukraine at a cemetery in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 24, 2022. (Igor Russak/Reuters)

Russia's Wagner private military company has unsuccessfully tried to recruit from among Melitopol's population despite stepping up efforts, according to the mayor of the Moscow-occupied city in southern Ukraine.

Ivan Fedorov, who is not in the city, told Ukrainian television that at the end of last week, occupying authorities had begun using social media to try to recruit residents for Wagner.  

"Of course, no one agrees," Fedorov said. "The offers they make are allegedly 200,000 rubles (approximately $2,600) per month to those who are ready to go to Bakhmut as part of Wagner. But they have not recruited anyone from the local population to join any volunteer battalion. They will not recruit for this one either."

CNN has been unable to verify such a recruitment campaign but the Wagner group has stepped up recruitment efforts after sustaining heavy casualties around the eastern city of Bakhmut.