February 12, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Sophie Tanno, Laura Smith-Spark, Matt Meyer and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 2:21 a.m. ET, February 13, 2023
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5:14 p.m. ET, February 12, 2023

Ukraine is keeping Russia from dominating the Black Sea, defense minister says

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Ukraine's defense minister said Ukraine has kept Russia from dominating the Black Sea when asked about the potential risk to southern Ukraine in a possible large-scale Russian counteroffensive.

"I really don't like to make predictions or evaluate opinions, but in order for there to be a risk of capturing Odesa and the region in general, Russia must have dominance over the Black Sea," Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said during a press conference Sunday. "But we deprived them of this opportunity."

Reznikov gave an example of the Ukrainians using the Neptune, an anti-ship weapon developed in Ukraine, to target the Russian cruiser Moskva in 2022. 

"Plus, the Harpoon anti-ship complexes are at work, so I don't see any chances for them approaching Odesa from the sea," the Defense Minister continued.

Talking about the left-bank territories of southern Ukraine, Reznikov said the enemy "has an opportunity to replenish their groupings with weapons, equipment and people; therefore, the situation there is more tense."

4:33 p.m. ET, February 12, 2023

Eastern Ukraine is facing record levels of shelling, military official says

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Russia has "set records" for shelling, pounding Ukraine with artillery fire in the east, a military spokesperson said during an interview on Ukrainian television Sunday. 

"For many days in a row, the enemy sets records hitting Ukraine with artillery fire in the Lyman direction and in the Luhansk region," said Serhii Cherevatyi with the Eastern Grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. "In the past 24 hours there were 424 shellings by different types of artillery and 23 combats," he added.  

According to the Cherevatyi, the main direction of the enemy's attack remains on the Bakhmut section of the frontline.

"There, the enemy struck 167 times along the entire section of the front with various types of rocket-propelled artillery, and 41 clashes between forces took place. The enemy lost 212 servicemen and 315 servicemen were wounded as a result," he continued.

CNN is not able to independently confirm the number of sustained casualties.

“In the area of ​​Bakhmut itself, there were 48 attacks and 19 clashes between forces,” he said. He added “battles were also fought in the area of ​​Torske, Fedorivka, Ivanivske and Chasiv Yar." 

When asked whether the Russians are trying to wear down the Ukrainian troops, Cherevatyi expressed his belief that, on the contrary, "the defense forces in the east of Ukraine are wearing out the enemy so that it cannot conduct large-scale offensive operations." 

"Right now, the defenders of eastern Ukraine are doing an incredible thing — they are exhausting the enemy and causing the enemy losses in manpower and equipment, which is definitely reflected both in the quality of the enemy's conduct of hostilities and in his moral and psychological state," Cherevatyi said.  

He also reported that currently, "army reserves are being prepared to carry out a decisive blow to the enemy and push it away from Ukraine's territory under the supervision of Ukraine's commander-in-chief and the chief of the general staff."  

"Using, of course, the help of our partners from the free world," Cherevatyi added.

4:38 p.m. ET, February 12, 2023

Damage to Ukraine's health care system estimated “at tens of billions of dollars,” health minister says

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Debris is seen in a destroyed hospital used as a Russian base on December 15, 2022, in Kupiansk.
Debris is seen in a destroyed hospital used as a Russian base on December 15, 2022, in Kupiansk. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Damage to Ukraine's health care system is estimated to be tens of billions of dollars, according to Ukraine's Minister of Health Viktor Liashko.

"Experts of the World Bank and the World Health Organization estimate the damage to the health care system of Ukraine at tens of billions of dollars. The last figure they presented at the end of September 2022 was $26 billion," Liashko said in an interview with Ukrainian media on Sunday. 

The health minister reported that Ukraine's medical infrastructure was significantly damaged as a result of the full-scale invasion and an estimated 1,218 health care facilities were damaged. He said among the health care facilities damaged include “540 hospitals (that) were partially destroyed, and 173 were completely destroyed.” 

"We have calculated the average price of all facilities, and now we can actually talk about the sum of up to 1 billion dollars, which is necessary to restore the medical facilities to the state they were in before February 24,” he said.

Ukraine's minister of health said medical facilities in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions suffered the most significant destruction due to active hostilities.

"Healthcare facilities of various levels were most affected there; from rural clinics to city hospitals," Liashko continued. "Currently, the infrastructure in Kherson and the region suffers the most because the city is under shelling."


3:44 p.m. ET, February 12, 2023

Ukrainian ambassador on Western hesitance to send fighter jets: "That's what we heard about tanks"

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the Polish Air Force takes part in a NATO air shielding exercise at the Lask Air Base in Lask, Poland, in October 2022.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the Polish Air Force takes part in a NATO air shielding exercise at the Lask Air Base in Lask, Poland, in October 2022. (Omar Marques/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian ambassador to the United Kingdom said Ukraine will "wait and see" if its allied partners will agree to the country's request to send fighter jets, after Poland's president cast doubt on the prospect.

Any move from Ukraine's allies to send fighter jets to Ukraine would have to be a "joint decision," Polish President Andrzej Duda told the BBC in an interview Saturday.

"A decision today to donate any kind of jets, any F-16s, to donate them outside Poland is a very serious decision. And it's not an easy one for us to take," Duda said, explaining that Poland has a very limited number of the jets.

When asked by the BBC during an interview Sunday if he was disappointed by Duda's remarks, Ukraine's Ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko responded: "No, let's wait and see." The ambassador added, "That's what we heard about tanks. That's what we heard about long legion artillery, that we heard about everything."

Prystaiko maintained that certain world leaders "have to say these words for the sake of the unity of the alliance."

"I am not saying that somebody is trying to, you know, downplay it. No, just trying to create a compromise among all of them, and come with some sort of group decision," he said. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stressed Ukraine's need for modern fighter jets during an address to the European Council in Brussels on Thursday. 

On Friday, Ukraine's Air Force and the Dutch Defense Minister announced that the Ukrainian government had officially asked the Netherlands for its American-made F-16 fighter jets.

With previous reporting from CNN's Mick Krever and Radina Gigova 

2:48 p.m. ET, February 12, 2023

Ukraine reports new Russian bombardments across the country. The shelling has killed at least 1 person

From CNN's Tim Lister and Maria Kostenko

Russian forces have maintained a high tempo of rocket attacks across the front lines of the eastern Donetsk region, the Ukrainian military reports.

Moscow's troops carried out 23 attacks using rocket launchers over the course of 24 hours into Sunday evening local time, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in an update Sunday. The shelling focused on Lyman, Bakhmut and Avdiivka in Donetsk, and also Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region.

The Ukrainian military restricted access to Bakhmut as roads into the city came under increased fire.

Authorities in the central Dnipropetrovsk region said the town of Nikopol, across the Dnipro River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, was shelled three times Sunday. One woman was killed and two others were wounded.

Russia also shelled several settlements in the northern Sumy region, according to the General Staff, as well as several places near the border in Kharkiv region.

Russia also used aircraft to strike at Ukrainian defenses this weekend, the military said.

In southern Ukraine, the city of Kherson and 14 other settlements came under enemy fire.

10:06 a.m. ET, February 12, 2023

Ukrainian soldiers of the "Uzghorod Lumberjacks" plan to watch Super Bowl on front lines

From Victoria Butenko in Kyiv

When the Super Bowl gets underway in the US state of Arizona on Sunday night, at least one Ukrainian military unit stationed on the front lines will be trying to watch the game.

They are members of a Ukrainian American Football team who call themselves the “Uzhgorod Lumberjacks.” Uzghorod is a city on Ukraine's border with Slovakia.

In a short video on their Facebook page, the Lumberjacks said: "We deeply appreciate and are grateful to the American people for their support! We firmly hold the line of defense of Europe!"

They added: "Together for victory in the military super bowl between Ukraine and Russia."

The video featured Vitalii Melnyk, offensive lineman, and sergeant of the Ukrainian army; Oleksandr Soloviov, center lineman, soldier of the Ukrainian army; Ivan Horvat, line-backer, soldier-medic of the Ukrainian army; and Fedir Shandor, defensive lineman and a sergeant of the Ukrainian army.

One member of the Lumberjacks team, Danylo Boguslavskiy, was killed in action in October in Kherson region.

His brother Roman, who lives in the United States, took Danylo's military patch to be photographed next to the Lombardi trophy, which will be awarded to the winners of the Super Bowl.

In a Facebook caption, Roman wrote: "This is my brother Danylo Boguslavskiy’s badge in front of the trophy. Half of the world away he loved this game with his whole heart and dreamt of attending this event one day."

7:51 a.m. ET, February 12, 2023

Heavy shelling reported on Russian-controlled settlement in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region

From CNN's Dennis Lapin

Heavy shelling was reported Saturday on the Russian-controlled settlement of Polohy in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region, resulting in damage to electricity and water supply, Vladimir Rogov, an official in the Russian-backed administration, posted on Telegram. 

"Polohy town came under fire from the Ukrainian Armed Forces," Rogov said. 

"As a result of yesterday's shelling by the Ukrainian armed forces, electricity and water supply lines were damaged," he said.

It comes after Ukraine's Defense Intelligence on Tuesday dismissed Russia's claims that it has taken control of several small settlements in the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions.  

Ukraine said "their capture by the enemy has not been confirmed at this time" and that "the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to defend each of these areas."

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had said earlier Tuesday that Russia's "operations are successfully developing" near the key towns of Bakhmut and Vuhledar, and that Russian forces had taken control of several small settlements in the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

CNN was unable to independently verify those claims.

8:20 a.m. ET, February 12, 2023

Wagner fighters recount the horrors of battle in eastern Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister and Frederik Pleitgen

Military academy cadets cover the coffin with flags during the funeral of a Wagner Group mercenary killed in Ukraine at a cemetery in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 24, 2022.
Military academy cadets cover the coffin with flags during the funeral of a Wagner Group mercenary killed in Ukraine at a cemetery in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 24, 2022. (Igor Russak/Reuters)

Two former fighters of the Russian private military company Wagner have told CNN of their horrific experiences on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine, and how anyone who faltered was immediately shot by their own commanders.

The two fighters were captured by Ukrainian forces late last year. CNN is not disclosing their identities for their own safety. Both are married with children and were recruited while in prison. One was serving a 20-year sentence for manslaughter.

For security reasons, the Ukrainians kept a presence in the room where the interview took place. CNN told the fighters that they could end the interview at any time they wished. But they spoke in detail for more than an hour.

The two fighters told of hideous losses in “first wave” assaults reminiscent of World War I charges.

“There were 90 of us. Sixty died in that first assault, killed by mortar fire. A handful remained wounded,” said one, recalling his first assault near the village of Bilohorivka.
“If one group is unsuccessful, another is sent right away. If the second one is unsuccessful, they send another group.”

Read the full story here.