March 29, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Rhea Mogul, Joshua Berlinger, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 2:17 a.m. ET, March 30, 2023
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8:55 p.m. ET, March 28, 2023

Military action is growing near Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, IAEA director general says

From CNN’s Alex Hardie and Jaya Sharma

Military action is increasing around Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Grossi said Tuesday.

Speaking from Dnipro in Ukraine ahead of a visit to the plant, Grossi said the situation “is not getting any better."

"Military action continues," he told CNN’s Lynda Kinkade. "In fact, it is increasing. There are growing numbers of troops, and military vehicles, heavy artillery, more military action around the plant.” 

The plant has been “in blackout repeatedly,” Grossi added.

The director general's visit will be his second to the plant and his first since the IAEA established a permanent presence at the site in September last year, the agency said in a statement Saturday.

“I want to see what the situation is for myself, talk to the management there, which is the Russian management," Grossi told CNN.

Russia's state-owned nuclear energy monopoly, Rosatom, said Tuesday that Russia is ready to discuss the situation at the plant with Grossi.

“In a few hours myself and my team, we are going to cross the front line again — as we did last year,” Grossi said. “I am going to continue my consultations in order to try to establish a protection around the plant and spare us all from a nuclear accident with potential catastrophic consequences.”

The IAEA chief said the current risk level at the plant is “extremely high and it’s totally unpredictable, precisely because we are in a combat zone.”

On Monday, Grossi met with President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was visiting the Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro regions. Later, in his nightly address on Monday, Zelensky thanked Grossi for his support.

CNN's Anna Chernova and Sarah Dean contributed reporting.

8:53 p.m. ET, March 28, 2023

US announces it supports creation of special tribunal to prosecute Russia for "crime of aggression" in Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The United States announced it supports the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute the crime of aggression — a significant development in the push to hold top Kremlin officials accountable for the war in Ukraine.

“At this critical moment in history, I am pleased to announce that the United States supports the development of an internationalized tribunal dedicated to prosecuting the crime of aggression against Ukraine,” US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack announced Monday.

The announcement of US support for the development of such a body comes after Ukraine and other countries have for months pushed for the creation of the mechanism.

In that time, the US would not say whether it supported a special tribunal, with US officials instead saying there were reviewing the option and supporting other mechanisms like the International Criminal Court.

However, in her remarks Monday, Van Schaack said “there are compelling arguments for why” the crime of aggression “must be prosecuted alongside” crimes that are being investigated by the ICC.

She noted the past example of the Nuremberg trials prosecuting Nazi leaders after World War II, in which “the United States led the prosecution of the crime of aggression — deemed ‘crimes against the peace’ in the lexicon of the era.”

There are a number of different bodies like the ICC which can prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity, but they do not have the jurisdiction to prosecute the crime of aggression by Russia against Ukraine.

As such, Ukrainian Ambassador at Large Anton Korynevych in December argued that these existing mechanisms do not do enough to ensure that the decision-makers in Moscow face punishment for their war against Ukraine.

Read more here.

11:52 p.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Russian man whose daughter made anti-war painting sentenced to 2 years in prison

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Tim Lister

A Russian man whose 12-year-old daughter drew an anti-war picture at school has been sentenced to two years in prison by a court for his own online posts critical of the invasion of Ukraine.

Alexey Moskalyov had been charged with “discrediting the Russian military” and was under house arrest in the Tula region after being accused of repeatedly publishing anti-war posts.

According to the indictment, Moskalyov, “using his personal computer, posted on his page in social networks statements in the form of text-graphic publications discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” reported Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

One of Moskalyov’s posts read: “Army of Russia. The oppressors around us,” according to the court, as quoted by Russian independent news site Mediazona.

In April last year, Moskalyov’s daughter Masha drew a picture of Russian missiles being fired at a Ukrainian family and wrote “No to war” and “Glory to Ukraine” during her art class, according to Mediazona.

The school subsequently called the police.

Read more here.

5:15 a.m. ET, March 29, 2023

US official says new drone routes over Black Sea "definitely limits" intelligence gathering

From CNN's Jim Sciutto

The US decision to fly its surveillance drones further south over the Black Sea after a Russian jet collided with a US drone earlier this month “definitely limits our ability to gather intelligence” related to the Ukraine war, a senior US military official tells CNN.

Flying drones at greater distances reduces the quality of intelligence they can gather, a US military official explained, noting that spy satellites can compensate to some degree but have shorter times over targets, again reducing effectiveness relative to surveillance drones.

After the Russian jet collided with a US Reaper drone earlier this month, the US began flying its surveillance drones further south and at a higher altitude over the Black Sea than previously, placing them further away from airspace surrounding the Crimean peninsula and eastern portions of the Black Sea.

When CNN first reported this change, one US official said the new routes were part of an effort “to avoid being too provocative,” as the Biden administration continues to be careful to avoid any incident that could escalate into a direct conflict with Russian forces. The official said the drone flights would continue this way “for the time being,” but added there is already “an appetite” to return to the routes closer to Russian-held territory.

Asked about the new routes’ impact on intelligence gathering, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told CNN, “We’re not going to discuss missions, routes, or timing of operations. We’re also not going to discuss intelligence operations other than to say we maintain a robust ISR capability in the region and beyond.” A spokesperson for the National Security Council referred questions to the Pentagon.

Read more here.

11:50 p.m. ET, March 28, 2023

US replaces Russia as Europe's top crude oil supplier

From CNN's Anna Cooban in London

The United States is now the biggest supplier of crude oil to the European Union.

In December, 18% of the bloc’s crude imports came from America, EU data office Eurostat said Tuesday.

That is a big turnaround: Russia was until recently the bloc’s top supplier of crude, accounting for as much as 31% of total imports until the end of January 2022, according to Eurostat. The US, meanwhile, came a distant second, with a maximum 13% share.

But Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year led to an upheaval in Europe’s energy supplies. EU states slashed their imports of Russia’s energy, and the bloc imposed sanctions on the country’s oil and coal exports.

Read more here.