March 24, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Aditi Sangal, Leinz Vales, Matt Meyer and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 10:51 PM ET, Fri March 24, 2023
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4:28 a.m. ET, March 24, 2023

Russian missile attack kills 3 in Donetsk region

From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova

Rescuers work at a site heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on March 24.
Rescuers work at a site heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on March 24. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Reuters)

Three people were killed in a Russian missile attack on the city of Kostantynivka in the eastern Donetsk region overnight, Ukrainian authorities said.

The city has been struck with increasing frequency by Russian missiles, especially the inaccurate S-300. Kostantynivka lies about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the embattled city of Bakhmut.

The Donetsk regional prosecutor's office said that at 1 a.m. local time Friday, the Russian army fired two missiles from an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.

One hit the building of what’s known as an invincibility point — a place where civilians can access the internet, charge devices and receive other basic needs.

“Three women, who were internally displaced persons from Bakhmut, Chasiv Yar and…Pokrovsk district, aged 57 to 62, were killed,” the prosecutor's office said.

Two other people were injured, it added.

4:18 a.m. ET, March 24, 2023

Ukraine says Russian aircraft bombed northern Sumy region overnight

From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova in Kyiv

Russian fighter aircraft launched more than 10 guided bombs against targets in the northern Sumy region overnight, according to Ukrainian officials.

While Sumy often suffers cross-border artillery attacks, it rarely comes under such concentrated aerial bombardment.

Yurii Ihnat, a Ukrainian air force spokesman, said about 10 Su-35 aircraft — Russia's newest fighter jet — attacking the Sumy region with guided bombs.

“This is a serious threat, as guided bombs can fly far, and the planes are not within the range of our air defense,” Ihnat said. “Thus, more than 10 of these guided bombs attacked targets in the Sumy region. The losses there are being clarified.”

Ihnat also confirmed that Iranian-made Shahed drones had been used in an attack on the southern city of Kryvyi Rih. 

Serhiy Lysak, head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration, said one Shahed was shot down but there “were also hits by five UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle). No one was killed or injured.”

Lysak did not elaborate on what was struck.

3:02 a.m. ET, March 24, 2023

Indian Air Force says Russia can't meet arms deliveries due to Ukraine war

From CNN's Rhea Mogul

Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Narendra Modi during a meeting in Brasilia, Brazil, on November 13, 2019. 
Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Narendra Modi during a meeting in Brasilia, Brazil, on November 13, 2019.  (Pavel Golovkin/Reuters)

Russia is unable to honor its arms delivery commitments to India because of the war in Ukraine, the Indian Air Force (IAF) said, placing a potential strain on New Delhi’s relationship with its largest defense supplier as Moscow attempts to ramp up weapons production.

An IAF representative told an Indian parliamentary committee that due to the Ukraine war a “major delivery” from Moscow “is not going to take place.”

The admission, published in a report by India’s lower house of parliament on Tuesday, is the first official confirmation by Indian authorities amid swirling rumors and reports in local media suggesting shortcomings in Russian capacity.

“They have given us in writing that they are not able to deliver it,” the representative said, according to the report.

CNN has contacted the Russian Embassy in New Delhi but did not receive a response at the time of publishing.

The report did not mention the specifics of the delivery.

The biggest ongoing delivery is the S-400 Triumf air defense system units India bought in 2018 for $5.4 billion. Three of these systems have been delivered and two more are awaited, Reuters reported.

IAF also depends on Russia for spares for its Su-30MKI and MiG-29 fighter jets, the mainstay of the service branch, according to Reuters.

Russia is the world’s second-largest arms exporter, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a large-scale effort to build up capacity to produce more weapons for the war in a move he said was “urgently needed.”

Strained relations: New Delhi has strong ties with Moscow dating back to the Cold War, and remains heavily dependent on the Kremlin for its military equipment — a vital link given the ongoing tensions along India’s shared Himalayan border with an increasingly assertive China.

The admission by the IAF is “very serious,” according to Harsh V. Pant, vice president of studies and foreign policy at the New Delhi-based think thank Observer Research Foundation.

“I think it underscores the problems that (India) has been bedeviling this relationship for quite some time,” he added. “And the Ukraine crisis has accelerated the trend that India, for a very long time, has been trying to diversify, and was concerned about its overdependence on Russia.”

Read more here.

12:35 a.m. ET, March 24, 2023

Zelensky visits front lines and calls for increased cooperation from allies. Here's the latest news 

From CNN staff

After paying a visit to the front lines in the southern region of Kherson on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed optimism that cooperation with European allies could bring a victory by the end of the year.

He warned, however, that there were still problematic areas such as delays in the supply of armaments.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is eyeing a counteroffensive in Bakhmut as Russian forces in the besieged city appear to be losing momentum, one of Kyiv's top generals said Thursday.

Here's the latest headlines:

  • Zelensky calls for increased support: The Ukrainian President shared his view that the end of the war could come this year if European allies don’t waver in their support. Zelensky identifies several areas where he feels cooperation could improve, including supplies of long-range missiles and modern combat planes and increased sanctions on Russia. “If our joint efforts are resolutely focused on Ukraine's victory, the victory will be gained already this year," he said. 
  • Russian forces said to be stalling in Bakhmut: Russian forces are depleted in Bakhmut and are “running out of energy,” Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s land forces, said Thursday. “Very soon, we will take advantage of this opportunity,” he added. However, Russia’s heavy bombardment of the area continues, with attacks intensifying in the nearby town of Avdiivka. Some Ukrainian officials worry Avdiivka could be the next Bakhmut.
  • Infusion of supplies from allies: Slovakia announced it has handed over four of its Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, days after pledging to send 13 such jets. Additionally, Spain is expected to send its first shipment of modern battle tanks to Ukraine by the end of the week, the Spanish Defense Ministry said in a statement Thursday.
  • Ukraine retracts report of Russian retreat from Kherson: The Ukrainian military swiftly backtracked its earlier claim that Russian forces had withdrawn from the strategic town of Nova Kakhovka in Ukraine's southern Kherson region. That’s after Russian officials and military bloggers slammed the report. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said the mistake was the result of “incorrect use of available data.” 
  • Russian athletes: World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field and other sports, lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes, but announced the athletes will still be excluded "for the foreseeable future" due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
  • Reconstruction could top $400 billion: Reconstruction efforts in Ukraine after Russia's invasion could cost an estimated $411 billion, according to an updated assessment by the World Bank.

11:19 p.m. ET, March 23, 2023

Zelensky says victory possible this year but warns allies of inadequate cooperation in several areas

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a tripartite meeting on January 11 in Lviv, Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a tripartite meeting on January 11 in Lviv, Ukraine. (Yan Dobronosov/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images/FILE)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had an optimistic view on the end of the war for his European allies, while also warning of some areas that he believes need improvement.

He said, “if our joint efforts are resolutely focused on Ukraine's victory, the victory will be gained already this year."

"No one knows for sure how long the war will last and which battles will bring us success faster and which ones will require more effort. But what is clear is that if there are no delays or stagnation in our cooperation, that if our joint efforts are resolutely focused on Ukraine's victory, the victory will be gained already this year," Zelensky told a meeting of the European Council.

The Ukrainian President said he appreciated European support for the work of the International Criminal Court and efforts to launch a compensation scheme that would use billions in seized Russian assets to rehabilitate Ukraine.

But he said there were several areas where cooperation was still lacking:

  • Delays in supplying long-range missiles. Zelensky referred to the Russian missile attack on Wednesday against Zaporizhzhia.
  • Ukraine’s need for modern combat planes. Zelensky said he was grateful to Poland and Slovakia for sending MiG 29s to Ukraine — “but we need modern aircraft.”
  • Delays to a new sanctions package. Zelensky said “global efforts are not yet sufficient to prevent Russia from adapting to the sanctions and from circumventing them through third countries.”
  • International support for Ukraine’s peace formula. Zelensky said he was ready for a summit to discuss what he called “the only realistic and comprehensive plan to restore Ukraine's territorial integrity and guarantee security for our people and for the whole of Europe.”

Zelensky said Ukraine was progressing in developing its institutions to European standards and its “transformation into a modern, fully accountable to society, corruption-free and institutionally stable” state. It was critical that its accession path to the European Union not be impeded, he said.

“Ukraine is ready for a decision to start accession negotiations on EU membership already this year. The same readiness is needed from all of you — every leader in Europe.”

Zelensky ended his speech by warning that “If Europe hesitates, evil may have time to regroup and prepare itself for years of war.”

8:42 p.m. ET, March 23, 2023

Ukrainian officials say Russians sustaining heavy losses in 3 hotspots along the front lines

From CNN's Tim Lister, Svitlana Vlasova and Olga Voitovych

Ukrainian officials say Russian forces have kept up their bombardments across the Donetsk region, with more than 200 strikes against the Bakhmut area alone in the past 24 hours — but they claim the Russians are losing hundreds of men a day across the front lines.

The eastern city of Bakhmut remains "the focus of the enemy's main attack," according to Serhii Cherevatyi, the spokesman for the Eastern Grouping of the armed forces.

Cherevatyi said it was difficult to tell whether the intensity of Russian attacks around Bakhmut was waning because of factors such as weather, the rotation of units or reserves being brought forward by the Russians.

However, he said Russian tactics have remained the same with small tactical groups "trying to deplete our defenses." He said soldiers from the Wagner mercenary group are near Bakhmut, with Russian troops providing reinforcements where necessary.

“We knock them out. In fact, there will be no more Wagner fighters in a little while if they continue the same dynamics," Cherevatyi said.

Cherevatyi drew a distinction between the battle for Bakhmut and fighting elsewhere. He said further north, Wagner was less in evidence around Lyman and Kupyansk, where regular Russian forces, supported by the Luhansk militia, had made more than 400 attacks over the past day.

“The main task now is to withstand, to deplete the enemy's forces, while units are being trained both in Ukraine and abroad, equipped with new defense equipment, and coordinated,” Cherevatyi said.

In and around the town of Avdiivka, in the Donetsk region, intense Russian bombardments and airstrikes continue against Ukrainian defenses.

"All the time we were in the city, there were explosions. We did not see a single building that was not damaged. Unfortunately, there are still civilians in Avdiivka. People live in basements," military spokesman Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi said.

But he said many of the civilians were unwilling to leave, especially the elderly, and there has been no electricity in the city since May last year.

Dmytrashkivskyi said the Russians were trying to bypass the town “and these attacks are constantly accompanied by shelling. Yesterday the enemy managed 26 attacks and suffered quite significant losses. More than 100 people were killed and more than 240 wounded,” he claimed. “During the day, they attack with the help of aircraft, artillery and manpower. They are suffering heavy losses in manpower and equipment.”

8:40 p.m. ET, March 23, 2023

It will cost $411 billion to rebuild from the war in Ukraine, World Bank says

From CNN’s Florence Davey-Attlee

The estimated cost of reconstruction efforts in Ukraine after Russia's invasion has reached $411 billion, according to an updated assessment by the World Bank.

This amounts to 2.6 times the country’s estimated GDP in 2022. It includes an estimated $135 billion of direct damage — mainly to the housing, transportation, energy, commerce and industry sectors, according to the bank. The majority of damage is concentrated in frontline eastern regions, including Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk. 

The updated cost estimate covers damage incurred in the one-year period after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, 2022. It marks an increase from the bank's $349 billion estimate in June 2022.

“The amount of damage and recovery needs currently does not include data on the loss of infrastructure, housing and businesses in the occupied territories,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said, referring to areas controlled by Russia's troops. “When the defense forces release them, we expect that the data will be supplemented, and the Government will immediately begin restoration work in these territories.”

The reconstruction cost is a joint assessment made by Ukraine's government, the World Bank Group, the European Commission and the United Nations.

8:38 p.m. ET, March 23, 2023

Arrest of Putin overseas after ICC warrant would mean a "declaration of war," Russian official says

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London and Nadine Schmidt in Berlin 

Dmitry Medvedev attends a military parade on Victory Day in Red Square, Moscow, Russia, on May 9.
Dmitry Medvedev attends a military parade on Victory Day in Red Square, Moscow, Russia, on May 9. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Any arrest of Vladimir Putin overseas under the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) warrant for the Russian President would mean "a declaration of war against Russia," Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday, according to state-run news agency Tass.

"Clearly, such a situation is never going to happen but still, let’s imagine that it has happened. The incumbent head of a nuclear country arrives in, say, Germany, and is arrested. What does it mean? A declaration of war against Russia," Medvedev said, responding to a media question. "In such a case, all our weapons will target the Bundestag, the [German] chancellor’s office and so on."

Responding to German Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann’s remark that Berlin would have to implement the ICC decision and arrest the Russian President if he arrived in Germany, Medvedev said: "Does he even realize that it would be a casus belli, a declaration of war? "

Medvedev also reiterated that the ICC’s decision would have a detrimental impact on Moscow’s relations with the West.

"Our relations with the Western world are already poor; they are perhaps at their worst ever. Even when Churchill delivered his Iron Curtain speech, our relationship was better. And all of a sudden, they make such a move against our head of state," Medvedev said, according to Tass.

Hungary said Thursday it would not arrest Putin if he entered the country, despite the ICC issuing an arrest warrant for him last week, accusing him of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, said that even though Hungary is a signatory to the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC, and ratified it in 2001, arresting Putin would have no basis in Hungarian law.

“We can refer to the Hungarian law and based on that we cannot arrest the Russian President … as the ICC’s statute has not been promulgated in Hungary,” Gulyas said. He added that the Hungarian government had not yet “formed a stance” on the ICC arrest warrant for Putin.
8:17 p.m. ET, March 23, 2023

Ukraine will be on the agenda when Spanish leader visits China

From CNN's Al Goodman in Madrid

Pedro Sanchez attends the second session of the motion of censure, at the Congress of Deputies, in Madrid, Spain, on March 22.
Pedro Sanchez attends the second session of the motion of censure, at the Congress of Deputies, in Madrid, Spain, on March 22. (Eduardo Parra/Europa Press/Getty Images)

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says he will discuss Russia’s war on Ukraine with Chinese leader Xi Jinping during a state visit to China next week.

Sánchez said he will address three topics with Xi:

  • Reinforce bilateral relations and celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between Madrid and Beijing.
  • Explain the goals of the Spanish presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2023.
  • Discuss stability and durable peace in Ukraine.

Sanchez said he would specifically address the issues of peace, on Kyiv’s terms, and Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“That means respecting the UN human rights charter, with regards to the territorial integrity which is being violated by Russia, in this case in Ukraine,” he told reporters as he arrived for a European Council meeting in Brussels. “And logically it will be Ukrainians themselves who establish the conditions for the beginning of that peace dialogue that will logically have to occur.”

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday said it has no information to provide regarding the matter.

The Spanish prime minister said he was thankful for President Xi’s invitation and referred to China as “a global actor of the first order,” adding it was important to hear Beijing’s view.

Beijing has attempted to position itself as a peace broker in the conflict despite its growing relationship with Russia. Xi departed Moscow on Wednesday after pledging to deepen ties with President Vladimir Putin during a three-day state visit. Their talks failed to achieve a breakthrough on Ukraine.