March 30, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Sophie Tanno, Aditi Sangal, Matt Meyer, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 8:38 PM ET, Thu March 30, 2023
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3:13 a.m. ET, March 30, 2023

Battle for Bakhmut has turned into a "slaughter-fest for the Russians," top US general says

From CNN's Haley Britzky

Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, DC, US, on March 29.
Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, DC, US, on March 29. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

There are roughly 6,000 Wagner group mercenaries fighting in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told US lawmakers on Wednesday. 

“They're conducting combat operations right now in Bakhmut primarily. It's probably about 6,000 or so actual mercenaries and maybe another 20 or 30,000 recruits that they get, many of whom come from prisons,” Milley told the House Armed Services Committee alongside US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “And they are suffering an enormous amount of casualties in the Bakhmut area; the Ukrainians are inflicting a lot of death and destruction on these guys.” 

The battle over Bakhmut has turned into a “slaughter-fest" for the Russians, Milley said.

“The Ukrainians are doing a very effective area defense that is proven to be very costly to the Russians. For about the last 20, 21 days, the Russians have not made any progress whatsoever in and around Bakhmut,” he said. “So it's a slaughter-fest for the Russians. They're getting hammered in the vicinity of Bakhmut and the Ukrainians have fought very, very well.”

The head of the Russian private military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in an audio message earlier Wednesday that the battle for the city "has already practically destroyed the Ukrainian army," but added that Wagner has "been pretty battered" as well.

8:34 p.m. ET, March 29, 2023

IAEA director general says situation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has not improved

From CNN's Tim Lister

The situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has not improved, according to director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi.

The plant has been occupied by Russian forces since March of last year and is now run by the Russian atomic agency, ROSATOM. 

Grossi said military activity and the number of troops in the area were increasing, without specifying whether he meant both Russian and Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian troops are stationed several miles across the reservoir from the plant. 

He said original plans to create a demilitarized zone around the plant had “evolved” toward greater protection of the plant itself and added there should not be heavy military equipment at the plant. Ukraine has accused the Russians of basing rocket systems at the plant, which Moscow has denied.

Grossi said he was trying to formulate “realistic, viable proposals” that would be acceptable to both sides.

8:16 p.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Top US general says China-Russia-Iran partnership will be "problematic" for "years to come"

From CNN's Haley Britzky

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers Wednesday that China, Russia, and Iran would be a problem for the US “for many years to come” as the three are working more closely together.

Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Milley said Russia and China are “getting closer together.”

“I wouldn’t call it a true full alliance in the real meaning of that word, but we are seeing them moving closer together, and that’s troublesome,” Milley said. “And then … Iran is the third. So those three countries together are going to be problematic for many years to come I think, especially Russia and China because of their capability.”

While the US has made clear for years now that the three countries are focuses of the military — particularly China and Russia — tensions with all three have been on the rise in recent months and even weeks.

Read more here.

3:16 a.m. ET, March 30, 2023

Ukrainian Olympics star says IOC allowing Russian and athletes to compete is a "slap in the face"

From CNN's Amanda Davies, Don Riddell and Ben Morse

Vladyslav Heraskevych of Ukraine compete in the Men's Skeleton during the BMW IBSF Bob & Skeleton World Cup at the Veltins-EisArena on January 6, in Winterberg, Germany
Vladyslav Heraskevych of Ukraine compete in the Men's Skeleton during the BMW IBSF Bob & Skeleton World Cup at the Veltins-EisArena on January 6, in Winterberg, Germany (Patrick Goosen/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to allow Russian and Belarussian athletes to participate in international competitions comes as a “slap in the face” to Ukrainian skeleton star Vladyslav Heraskevych.

On Tuesday, IOC president Thomas Bach outlined new guidelines that would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals, paving the way for their return.

Athletes from the two nations were banned from most international competitions in February 2022 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and following the IOC executive board’s recommendation.

Heraskevych, who shot to fame at the Beijing Winter Olympics last year when he held up a “No War in Ukraine” banner to protest the impending Russian invasion, said the decision is a shocking one for him and his compatriots.

The IOC’s executive board began a three-day meeting on Tuesday, and the 24-year-old Heraskevych told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies: “Athletes’ voices should be heard, we’re open and we’re able to speak in public. We’re not hiding behind some private meetings or private calls or behind some commissions.”

According to the IOC’s latest recommendations, athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport must compete only as individual neutral athletes and meet all anti-doping requirements, while those who support the war or are contracted to military or national service cannot compete.

Read more here.