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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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.

8:16 p.m. ET, March 23, 2023

Prince William and Polish President discuss Ukraine conflict during meeting in Warsaw

From CNN’s Max Foster in Warsaw, Poland

William, Prince of Wales, left, meets with Poland's President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, Poland, on March 23.
William, Prince of Wales, left, meets with Poland's President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, Poland, on March 23. (Ian Vogler/Reuters)

A meeting between Britain's Prince William and Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw focused on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and its impact on Polish society, a spokesperson for the Prince of Wales said in a statement.

“The Prince of Wales took the opportunity to thank the President and the Polish people who have done so much to support the people of Ukraine who’ve fled here,” the spokesperson said.

“They discussed the importance of the need for ongoing support to Ukraine and its people.”

Some context: Prince William made a rare, unannounced trip to Poland on Wednesday, meeting British and Polish troops stationed near the Ukrainian-Polish border and praising their “cooperation in support of the people of Ukraine and their freedom.”

The Prince of Wales first visited the 3rd Brigade Territorial Defense Force base in Rzeszów, where he met Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak and viewed a display of military equipment.