March 11, 2023 - Russia's war in Ukraine

By Joshua Berlinger, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 4:00 PM ET, Sat March 11, 2023
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9:31 a.m. ET, March 11, 2023

Russian paratroopers are reinforcing Wagner fighters in Bakhmut attacks, Ukrainian military spokesperson says

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Kostan Nechyporenko

As Russian attacks on the eastern city of Bakhmut continue, there have been more than 50 combat engagements between Ukrainian and Russian forces over the last 24 hours in the area, according to a Ukrainian military spokesperson.

"The enemy was actively conducting combat operations all week, just like the previous week. Yesterday was no exception," said Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the eastern grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, on national television Saturday. "Over the last 24 hours, the enemy attacked our positions in the Bakhmut sector 157 times with artillery and multiple rocket launchers."

Cherevatyi said Bakhmut itself was attacked 16 times, and 23 combat engagements took place within the city itself.

When asked which Russian units are leading the attacks on Bakhmut, and whether the tactics of the Russian forces have changed, Cherevatyi said most of the assault groups consist of Wagner fighters who are reinforced by Russian paratroopers. 

"The Wagner PMC has not been destroyed, we are only on the way to (achieving that)," he said. 

On Friday, Cherevatyi said a third wave of fighters from the Wagner private military company fighting in the area are being replaced by Russia's regular army.

9:27 a.m. ET, March 11, 2023

Zelensky calls Finland's prime minister "a defender of a free Europe" after talks in Kyiv

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hold a joint press conference in Kyiv, on March 10.
Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hold a joint press conference in Kyiv, on March 10. (Volodymyr Tarasov/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin for the defense support packages her country is providing to Ukraine, as well as for its "participation in the tank coalition," according to a statement released by his office Friday. 

Marin was in Kyiv that day, where she held talks with Zelensky and Ukrainian officials, visited wounded soldiers and attended the farewell ceremony for a celebrated Ukrainian commander killed in Bakhmut, Dmytro Kotsiubaylo, whose call sign was “Da Vinci.” 

The talks between the two leaders focused on defense and security, his office said. 

"I am sure we will further strengthen this area of our cooperation for the sake of both our nations, our independence and sovereignty – of Ukraine, Finland and our European neighbors," Zelensky said, calling Marin "a true friend of Ukraine, a defender of a free Europe."

According to the statement, Marin said, "I am very pleased to meet with Mr. President Zelenskyy in person today in Kyiv. You are a symbol of courage, bravery and the prospect of a better future for Europe."

"We support President Zelenskyy's Peace Formula and want this plan to start working. It is only lasting peace that can give our family of European countries, the Euro-Atlantic family, calm and prosperity. We want Ukraine to join NATO as one of the allies," she continued, according to the statement.

The leaders also discussed increasing sanctions pressure on Russia, Ukraine's reconstruction, as well as the establishment of a special tribunal for Russia's aggression against Ukraine. 

On Friday, Zelensky also held talks with Norway's Minister of Defense Bjørn Arild Gram, who was on a visit to Kyiv as well. 

9:22 a.m. ET, March 11, 2023

3 people killed by Russian shelling in Kherson, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Radina Gigova 

Police investigators inspect a shell crater left by a Russian military strike in Kherson, Ukraine, on March 11.
Police investigators inspect a shell crater left by a Russian military strike in Kherson, Ukraine, on March 11. (Ivan Antypenko/Reuters)

Three people were killed and two others were wounded by Russian shelling in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine Saturday, a regional leader said.

The attack happened on the Mykolaiv highway, according to a Telegram post from Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of the Kherson region's military administration.

Fragments of Russian ammunition apparently hit a car on the road, Prokudin said. Rescuers, medics and police were working at the scene.

12:08 p.m. ET, March 11, 2023

The head of Wagner says his group is fighting to make sure there is no "disgrace" of Russia

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova, Radina Gigova and Nathan Hodge

egeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, said in a video published Saturday that his fighters have one "simple" goal -- not to allow the "disgrace" of Russia at the hands of Western governments.

“What is our goal? Why are we fighting? The goal is simple. To not disgrace Russian weapons, to not disgrace Russia,” Prigozhin said in the video message published on Telegram. “Not to bring Russia to the point where it collapses itself."
Progozhin continued:
"Most likely this is the goal of the American, British intelligence services, which work for the long haul and work to destroy Russia, in which the ruler must continue losing ratings, the army must become weaker and weaker until the Russians say: 'what the heck is our self-consciousness?' Let us be ruled,” he said.

Though Prigozhin was a shadowy figure before Russia's war in Ukraine, he has become an increasingly public presence as Wagner forces have gotten more involved in the conflict.

After Russia’s military suffered humiliating setbacks on the battlefield in Ukraine, Prigozhin -- a canny political entrepreneur without any official government position -- began openly taking credit for Wagner’s efforts to secure some territorial gains, particularly in the battles raging around the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

His unexpected rise prompted speculation about possible elite infighting in Moscow as Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine sputtered.

8:12 a.m. ET, March 11, 2023

Power to infrastructure in Kharkiv has been fully restored, but 15,000 customers are still without power

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Radina Gigova 

Local residents charge their phones powered via generator during a power outage after energy infrastructure was hit by Russian missile attacks in Kharkiv on Thursday.
Local residents charge their phones powered via generator during a power outage after energy infrastructure was hit by Russian missile attacks in Kharkiv on Thursday. (Sofiia Gatilova/Reuters)

Engineers in Ukraine's Kharkiv region continue to work on restoring the power system damaged by Thursday's massive Russian attack, Oleh Synehubov, the head of the Kharkiv region military administration, said Saturday.

Power was restored Friday night to all private households in the city Kharkiv, and work is underway to fix the city's electric public transportation system, according to Synehubov.

Synehubov said 15,000 customers in Vovchansk, Stary Saltiv, and Slatyne in the region of Kharkiv are still without electricity, but "power companies will restore the power supply there in the near future."

On Friday, Synehubov said nearly half a million consumers were without power in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. 

National energy company Ukrenergo said Saturday that the entire power system in the city of Kharkiv is still being restored. One of the thermal power plants in Kharkiv has been partially restored after emergency repairs, and one of the trunk power grid facilities of Ukrenergo is back online, the company said.

Ukrenergo did not disclose how many households remain without power, but it said the city's critical infrastructure is fully powered. Work continues to restore the full power supply to the city and the region, the company said.

Russia has for months been trying to cripple Ukraine's power network, but as we have previously reported, the efforts have failed.

5:52 a.m. ET, March 11, 2023

Russia fired a rarely-used missile during its aerial assault on Thursday

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Russia’s overnight missile attack on Thursday showered Ukraine with an array of missiles, in one of Moscow’s biggest aerial assaults for months.

Russia launched a total of 95 missiles of various types over the past day, 34 of which were intercepted, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a morning update on Friday, as well as a number of Iranian-made Shahed drones.

That array included cruise missiles that were launched from both the sea and the air; six different kinds were used in the early hours of Thursday morning, according to Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander in chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Much attention has been focused on the six launches of Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missiles, which are especially difficult to stop.

The powerful weapon has rarely been seen over the country’s skies. Its first known use in Ukraine was last March and occasionally used since, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Read more about the missile here:

10:11 a.m. ET, March 11, 2023

UK: Ukraine turned Bakhmut into a "killing zone," but Russian forces control most of the city's east

Ukrainian servicemen fire artillery towards Russian positions near the Bakhmut frontline on Friday.
Ukrainian servicemen fire artillery towards Russian positions near the Bakhmut frontline on Friday. (Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Forces fighting for the Russian government have now taken control of most of the eastern part of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, where intense fighting has raged for months, according to the latest intelligence update from the UK Defense Ministry posted on Twitter.

The ministry said the river in the town center now marks the front line of the conflict.

Ukrainian forces still hold the west of Bakhmut. By demolishing key bridges and taking firing positions in fortified buildings, Ukraine's military has made it difficult for Russian-aligned troops to move forward — even turning one strip of open ground into a "killing zone," the ministry said.

However, the British assessment said Ukrainian supply lines still remain vulnerable to attacks.

A change of tactics: Mykhailo Podolyak, a key aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia appears to be changing tactics in Bakhmut.

Russia "has converged on Bakhmut with a large part of its trained military personnel, the remnants of its professional army, as well as the private companies," Podolyak told Italy's La Stampa newspaper

Troops from the Russian mercenary group Wagner have been heavily involved in the fight for Bakhmut.

Podolyak said Kyiv is fighting in Bakhmut, a city largely already abandoned and destroyed, to eliminate and bog down Russian troops.

Reuters contributed to this post.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated to whom Mykhailo Podolyak serves as an aide. It is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

4:11 a.m. ET, March 11, 2023

Ukrainian presidential office petitions for executed Ukrainian POW to be given hero award

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Jennifer Hauser

Ukraine's presidential office released a petition Friday on its website to posthumously award Oleksandr Matsiyevsky, a Ukrainian prisoner of war who shouted, "Glory to Ukraine!" before he was executed on camera by Russian forces, as a Hero of Ukraine.

Earlier this week there were differing reports of the identity of the serviceman whose execution was shared widely on social media, but Matsiyevsky's identity was confirmed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine Regional Territorial Defense "North" in a post on its Facebook page. The post said that Matsiyevsky was identified by his family and soldiers in his unit. The soldier's commander told Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne he has "no doubt" the man executed in the video is Matsiyevsky.

The capture: Matsiyevsky was believed to have been captured on December 30, when he and four other servicemen were engaged in a counterattack against enemy forces. Ukrainian authorities said, however, they do not have the "full details of that battle," nor do they know who died or how Matsiyevsky was captured.

There were no witnesses left," the post read. "All are dead or missing." 

Matsiyevsky's mother told the broadcaster Suspilne said watching the video has left her traumatized but proud of her son's resilience.

"I didn't sleep the entire night," she said.

She continued:

"But I felt some kind of lightness and some kind of ray of light when I saw how my son died. And it's so hard, but I really felt like I saw my son's character, so resilient, so unbreakable, because he said, mom, I will never surrender to captivity. I kept hearing him repeat Glory to Ukraine throughout the night. He was such a warrior, so brave and fearless, you wouldn't even imagine."
4:13 a.m. ET, March 11, 2023

Russia capturing some US-provided weapons to Ukraine and sending them to Iran, sources say

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

A Ukrainian Army soldier places a US-made Javelin missile in a fighting position on the frontline on May 20, 2022, in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine.
A Ukrainian Army soldier places a US-made Javelin missile in a fighting position on the frontline on May 20, 2022, in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Russia has been capturing some of the US and NATO-provided weapons and equipment left on the battlefield in Ukraine and sending them to Iran, where the US believes Tehran will try to reverse-engineer the systems, four sources familiar with the matter told CNN. 

Over the last year, US, NATO and other Western officials have seen several instances of Russian forces seizing smaller, shoulder-fired weapons equipment, including Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft systems that Ukrainian forces have at times been forced to leave behind on the battlefield, the sources told CNN.

In many of those cases, Russia has then flown the equipment to Iran to dismantle and analyze, likely so the Iranian military can attempt to make their own version of the weapons, sources said. Russia believes that continuing to provide captured Western weapons to Iran will incentivize Tehran to maintain its support for Russia's war in Ukraine, the sources said. 

US officials don't believe that the issue is widespread or systematic, and the Ukrainian military has made it a habit since the beginning of the war to report to the Pentagon any losses of US-provided equipment to Russian forces, officials said. Still, US officials acknowledge that the issue is difficult to track.