March 2, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Jack Guy, Aditi Sangal, Tori B. Powell

Updated 5:45 PM ET, Fri March 3, 2023
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12:48 a.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Pregnant woman survives deadly Russian rocket attack in Zaporizhzhia

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Hannah Ritchie

A pregnant woman was among nine people rescued from the rubble of a residential building in Zaporizhzhia early Thursday after it was destroyed in a series of deadly Russian rocket attacks, according to Ukrainian authorities.

The State Emergency Service of Ukraine said in a Facebook post that at least two people were killed after rockets hit the multi-story apartment building in the southern city.

Zaporizhzhia, capital of one of four Ukrainian regions claimed by Russia in violation of international law, has faced sustained attacks from Moscow's forces in recent months.

In an update Tuesday, the Ukrainian military said Russian artillery had fired at more than 40 settlements in the long front line that runs from Donetsk through Zaporizhzhia and into Kherson.

11:57 p.m. ET, March 1, 2023

India navigates Ukraine tensions as G20 foreign ministers arrive in New Delhi

From CNN's Rhea Mogul and Vedika Sud

A man walks past a model of the G20 logo outside the finance ministry in New Delhi, India, on March 1.
A man walks past a model of the G20 logo outside the finance ministry in New Delhi, India, on March 1. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

Foreign ministers from the world’s biggest economies have convened in New Delhi, setting the stage for a grand test in Indian diplomacy as it attempts to navigate tensions over Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

In the second high-level ministerial meeting under India’s Group of 20 (G20) presidency this year, the country’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, will meet his American, Chinese and Russian counterparts Thursday, hoping to find enough common ground to deliver a joint statement at the end of the summit.

The world’s largest democracy, with a population of more than 1.3 billion, has been keen to position itself as a leader of emerging and developing nationsoften referred to as the global South — at a time when soaring food and energy prices as a result of the war are hammering consumers already grappling with rising costs and inflation.

Those sentiments were front and center during a news conference Wednesday, when India’s foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra told reporters that the foreign ministers should think about the impact, “particularly economic,” the conflict has had globally.

But analysts say India’s attempt to push its agenda has been complicated by the enduring divisions over the war.

Those differences played out in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru last month, when G20 finance chiefs failed to agree on a statement after their meeting. Both Russia and China declined to sign the joint statement, which criticized Moscow’s invasion. That left India to issue a “chair’s summary and outcome document” in which it summed up the two days of talks and acknowledged disagreements.

Analysts say that throughout the war New Delhi has deftly balanced its ties to Russia and the West, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi emerging as a leader who has been courted by all sides.

But as the war enters its second year, and tensions continue to rise, pressure could mount on countries, including India, to take a firmer stand against Russia — putting Modi’s statecraft to the test.

Read more here.

8:49 p.m. ET, March 1, 2023

Wagner boss says Russian mercenary group has no Serbian fighters

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin attends a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia on June 16, 2016.
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin attends a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia on June 16, 2016. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said there are currently no Serbian nationals among the private military company's fighters in Ukraine, after "the last one" left the area two months ago. His comments come after Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić accused Wagner of trying to recruit Serbs to fight in Ukraine. 

"Vučić is throwing this tantrum over nothing. There are no Serbs in Wagner PMC to date (as of March 1, 2023)," Prigozhin said in a comment posted on his public Telegram channel. "The last one who fought in the Wagner PMC left the area two months ago. If any Serb claims he fought in the Wagner PMC in 2023, it is a lie. Do not believe him." 

The remarks come after Politico published an article featuring comments from Vučić, who was quoted saying that Serbs who have been recruited to fight in Ukraine “are going to be arrested when they come back to Serbia."

"You don’t recruit like that in a friendly country," the Serbian president told Politico.

Vučić has openly accused Wagner of trying to recruit Serbian fighters for its ranks. His comments echo similar remarks published in Serbian media, according to CNN affiliate N1. The private Russian military company has advertised for personnel on Russia Today’s Serbian-language portal, according to N1. 

Vučić has sought to balance Serbia's cultural and religious ties with Russia, with ambitions to join the European Union and NATO. 

1:07 a.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Russian fighters are edging into the city of Bakhmut. Here's what you need to know

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Russian forces are edging closer and closer to capturing the city of Bakhmut, after weeks of bloody fighting gradually wore down a resolute Ukrainian resistance.

Bakhmut is not the sort of city Moscow had hoped to be fighting for in the second year of its invasion — it is a relatively small location in eastern Donetsk, which has remained out of reach of Russia’s sluggish ground campaign for many months.

But its capture would represent some military progress for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and give his forces the opportunity to launch aerial attacks on more urban areas further west.

Here’s what you need to know about the battle for Bakhmut.

  • Why is Bakhmut in focus? Ukraine’s biggest challenge at this moment is defending Bakhmut, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video message Tuesday. Russian forces have been making incremental gains around the city, but Ukrainian forces are yet to retreat, creating a standoff that recalls drawn-out battles for other eastern cities such as Severodonetsk over the past year.
  • What’s happening on the ground? There are still around 4,500 civilians in Bakhmut, including 48 children, the spokeswoman for the Ukrainian Donetsk regional military administration told CNN on Wednesday. She called on people to evacuate the city due to the danger but said they had enough supplies. A soldier from Ukraine’s 93th Brigade says his country’s forces are still standing in Bakhmut, with no plans for a retreat. "We are standing in Bakhmut. No one is going to retreat yet," the soldier said a video posted by the Ukrainian military on Wednesday. "We are standing. Bakhmut is Ukraine."
  • What does Bakhmut mean for the war? The city sits towards the northeast of the Donetsk region, about 13 miles from Luhansk region, and has been a target for Russian forces for months. Since last summer the city has been a stone’s throw from the front lines, so its capture would represent a long sought-after success for Moscow’s forces — and bring some limited strategic value.
  • Why does Putin want it? While Bakhmut’s strategic importance should not be overstated, its capture could still carry a very welcome symbolic impact for Russian President Vladimir Putin. When Russian troops took the town of Soledar in mid-January, it marked a first gain in the Donbas for months. Six weeks on, the capture of Bakhmut would represent the completion of the next step.

Read more here.

9:37 p.m. ET, March 1, 2023

Putin ally meets Chinese leader as US warns Beijing against shipping arms to Russia

From CNN's Simone McCarthy in Hong Kong

Chinese leader Xi Jinping met with Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko — a close ally of Vladimir Putin — on Wednesday, in a state visit that comes as the West raises concerns that China could be drawing closer to Russia — by considering providing lethal aid for Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Xi greeted Lukashenko in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Wednesday for their first face-to-face meeting since the two leaders upgraded ties to an “all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership” on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit last September in Uzbekistan, which Putin also attended.

“Today we will jointly set out new visions for the development of the bilateral ties … Our long-lasting friendly exchanges will keep our friendship unbreakable,” Xi told Lukashenko during the meeting, according to Chinese state media.

The visit from the Belarusian leader — who allowed Russian troops to use Belarus to stage their initial incursion into Ukraine last year — comes as tensions between the US and China have intensified in recent weeks, including over concerns from Washington that Beijing is considering sending lethal aid to the Kremlin’s struggling war effort. Beijing has denied those claims.

Read more here.

8:03 p.m. ET, March 1, 2023

Ukrainian officials report more Russian attacks across multiple regions 

From CNN's Tim Lister and Svitlana Vlasova

Ukrainians have reported attacks in the Bilohorivka and Kreminna areas in the eastern Luhansk region of Ukraine.

"There is constant shelling of our de-occupied settlements along the front line, despite the fact that there are many civilians in some settlements," Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said. "The enemy is well aware of this and still it shells with heavy caliber weapons."

For the past two months, the front lines close to the border of Luhansk and Kharkiv regions have seen heavy exchanges of fire as well as fighting in the forests west of Kreminna, which is held by the Russians.

"They also have a lot of Lancet kamikaze drones, and they are trying to use them to search for positions and equipment and to inflict fire," Hayday said.

There has also been heavy fighting east of the town of Kupyansk, which is in the same zone.

The Ukrainian State Border Guard Service released video of aerial reconnaissance in the area, saying that over the past few days 117 drone reconnaissance flights had helped fix artillery fire.

In the northern region of Kharkiv, several civilians had been wounded in Russian rocket attacks, the General Staff said. It reported heavy shelling along the front line that runs north-south on the Luhansk-Kharkiv border. 

Southwest of Donetsk city, "the enemy conducted unsuccessful offensive actions," according to the General Staff.

CNN has geolocated video published by one Ukrainian brigade showing several Russian tanks and fighting vehicles being struck near the town of Avdiivka.

"In the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions, the enemy is defending," the General Staff said, but "in some areas, it is trying to create conditions for an offensive." 

The General Staff said Russian artillery had fired at more than 40 settlements in the long front line that runs from Donetsk through Zaporizhzhia and into Kherson.

1:21 a.m. ET, March 2, 2023

Putin says he is preparing for meeting with Xi and Chinese delegation in Moscow

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he is readying for an upcoming visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Moscow, according to the Kremlin. 

Putin said he plans to meet with his counterpart and the Chinese delegation about a Moscow metro line during their visit to the Russian capital. A Russian division of a Chinese construction enterprise, China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCC), was involved in building a section of the metro line, according to Russian state-run news agency Tass.

"I plan to meet with the President of China, and if the agenda permits, we will be happy to show it to our guests. At least, I think that members of the delegation should be able to see it," Putin said during the opening ceremony for the Big Circle Line, according to a transcript from the Kremlin. Putin attended the ceremony virtually. 

Some key context: Beijing has refused to acknowledge the nature of the Ukraine conflict — it has so far avoided calling it an “invasion” — and continued diplomatic and economic support for Moscow.

As Russia continues to be hit with Western sanctions, China has declared “no limits” to its friendship with its northern neighbor and has thrown the Kremlin an economic lifeline.

Russia has repeatedly requested drones and ammunition from China, sources familiar with US intelligence said, and the Chinese leadership has been actively debating over the past several months whether or not to send the lethal aid, the sources added.

7:57 p.m. ET, March 1, 2023

Russia claims it stopped a "massive" drone attack on Crimea

From CNN's Katharina Krebs

Russia's Defense Ministry on Wednesday said its military prevented a "massive" drone attack on Crimea.

"Six Ukrainian strike unmanned vehicles were shot down by air defense systems. Four more Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles have been put out of action by means of electronic warfare," the ministry said in a statement.

There were no casualties, according to the ministry, which did not release any photographic evidence of the drones, nor provide details about the locations where the devices were allegedly brought down. 

On Tuesday, the ministry reported that electronic warfare systems had suppressed Ukrainian drones that tried to attack Krasnodar and neighboring Adygea in southwestern Russia. Russian authorities also claimed that a Ukrainian drone had crashed near Kolomna in the Moscow region, but an image of the drone could not be geolocated.

Some context: Russia has previously accused Ukraine of launching drone attacks against Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014. Two Ukrainian drones were shot down near the city of Sevastopol last month, according to a local Russia-backed official.