March 8, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Joshua Berlinger, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond, Leinz Vales and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, March 9, 2023
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11:39 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Explosions reported in southwestern Kyiv, mayor says 

From CNN’s Josh Pennington and Sophie Jeong

Explosions were heard in southwestern Kyiv on Thursday, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on his official Telegram account. 

“There were explosions in the Holosiivskyi district of the capital. All response teams have been dispatched to the scene. Update to come,” the post read. 
10:00 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Missiles slam the Odesa and Khmelnytskyi regions as explosions are reported in Kharkiv

From CNN's Josh Pennington

Missiles struck the Odesa region's energy infrastructure and damaged residential buildings early Thursday, according to Maxim Marchenko, head of the Odesa regional military administration.

"Fortunately, there were no casualties. Power supply is currently being restricted. Our air defense units have shot down missiles," Marchenko said in a Telegram post, adding that a second wave could hit and residents should stay sheltering. 

Northwest of Odesa, missiles also struck in the Khmelnytskyi region. 

"Remain in your shelters! The enemy is striking the country's critical infrastructure. Take care of yourself and your loved ones!" Serhiy Hamaliy, the head of the Khmelnytskyi region military administration, said in a Telegram post.

In Kharkiv, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said there was a series of explosions.

"I don't have details yet, but I ask that everyone be careful," he said on Telegram. "Our energy infrastructure is in the crosshairs. We are having problems with electricity in some parts of Kharkiv. But we will survive and everything will be repaired."

Oleh Syniehubov, head of Kharkiv's military administration, wrote there were at least 15 strikes.

"There is a threat of repeat strikes! Stay in your shelters!" he wrote.
11:00 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Zelensky says he won't meet with Putin because Russian leader can't be trusted

Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a meeting in Kyiv, on March 8.
Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a meeting in Kyiv, on March 8. (Stringer/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky can’t currently envisage a situation in which he would meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

“We don't have any circumstances to talk to the Russian Federation president because he doesn't hold his word,” Zelensky said to CNN's Wolf Blitzer when asked what it would take to set up such a meeting.
“We don't have any confidence in him,” Zelensky added.
“Russia should leave our territory. And after that, we're happy to join the diplomatic tools. In order to do that, we can find any format with our partners just after that,” Zelensky said.

Personal life: The Ukrainian leader also spoke about how he and his family are dealing with the war, which is now in its second year.

“My daughter joined the university and she studies there, and my son is attending school in Ukraine,” he said. “They're both in Ukraine. They're very much like other Ukrainian kids. We live with sirens.”

“We want victory. We don't want to get used to war, but we got used to the challenges. Everyone wants one thing — to end the war,” he said. 

9:52 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

White House official says US focus is on providing weaponry that Ukraine needs now

John Kirby, White House national security spokesman, said the US is focused on providing Ukraine with the necessities of artillery, armor, ammunition and air defense.
John Kirby, White House national security spokesman, said the US is focused on providing Ukraine with the necessities of artillery, armor, ammunition and air defense. (CNN)

The US is focused on providing Ukraine with the necessities: artillery, armor, ammunition and air defense, said John Kirby, the White House national security spokesman, when asked about sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

"What we're focused on right now quite frankly, Wolf, is the kind of fighting that we expect that the Ukrainians will be doing in the weeks and months ahead here as the weather improves," Kirby told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "And this is based on their assessment of the fighting that they're going to be doing in the weeks and months ahead."

He said Ukrainians are using the air defense systems they currently have "quite effectively."

He noted the Russians "have not achieved anything near, or even approaching, air superiority over the skies of Ukraine" and attributed it to the support provided to Ukraine by the US and its allies.

9:37 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Zelensky wants Republican US House leader to visit Ukraine as GOP faces divide in providing aid

From CNN's Clare Foran

President Volodymyr Zelensky is inviting House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to visit Ukraine to see the situation on the ground firsthand – an invitation that comes as the Republican Party faces a divide over whether the United States should continue to provide aid to the country under attack from Russia.

“I think that Speaker McCarthy, he never visited Kyiv or Ukraine, and I think it would help him with his position,” Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
“Mr. McCarthy, he has to come here to see how we work, what’s happening here, what war caused us, which people are fighting now, who are fighting now. And then after that, make your assumptions,” he said.

How McCarthy responded: When asked about the invitation, McCarthy told CNN’s Manu Raju that he does not plan to visit Ukraine, and he argued that President Joe Biden has not acted quickly enough to aid the country. McCarthy, a California Republican, has said he supports Ukraine but does not support “a blank check,” a position he repeated on Tuesday – even though there is federal oversight of all the dollars that are spent there.

“Let’s be very clear about what I said: no blank checks, OK? So, from that perspective, I don’t have to go to Ukraine to understand where there’s a blank check or not,” McCarthy told CNN.

9:22 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Fighter jets could decide a Ukrainian victory, Zelensky says

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN's Wolf Blitzer he is “very grateful" for US President Joe Biden's visit to Ukraine last month. 

“It's an important signal to the whole world that the US is supporting us. And I think that US believe that we will prevail,” Zelensky said.

But on the question of whether the US will send Ukraine F-16 fighter jets to help the battle for control in the skies, Zelensky said, “The fighter jets issue is difficult. We're waiting for this decision to be taken.”

“We really need this and really appeal to the president that they could start training Ukrainian pilots, and President Biden told me that it will be worked upon … I believe that the United States will give us the opportunity to defend our skies,” Zelensky said.

Asked if the supply of Western jets will “make or break” a Ukrainian success in the war, Zelensky said: “Yes, we believe so.”

Recalling a discussion with Biden over jets, Zelensky said Biden and his aides felt jets “were not needed” at the moment.

"And I said, 'No, we need those jets,'" Zelensky said.

“What fighter jets could do, they could help us to defend ourselves,” Zelensky said. “That's why we need it urgently."

More on Ukrainian pilots: The US is working with Ukrainian pilots in the United States to determine how long it would take to train them to fly F-16 fighter jets, three sources briefed on the matter told CNN.

Two Ukrainian pilots are currently at a military base in the US having their skills tested in flight simulators to see how much time they would need to learn to fly various US military aircraft, including F-16s.

A US military official added that “there are no updates to provide regarding F-16s to Ukraine” and there are no immediate plans to increase the number of Ukrainian pilots in the US.

9:05 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Zelensky warns of "open road" through Ukraine’s east if Russia captures Bakhmut

From CNN's Rob Picheta


Russian troops will have “open road” to capture key cities in eastern Ukraine if they seize control of Bakhmut, President Volodymyr Zelensky warned in an interview with CNN, as he defended his decision to keep Ukrainian forces in the besieged city.

“This is tactical for us,” Zelensky said, insisting that Kyiv’s military brass is united in prolonging its defense of the city after weeks of Russian attacks left it on the cusp of falling to Moscow’s troops.

“We understand that after Bakhmut they could go further. They could go to Kramatorsk, they could go to Sloviansk, it would be open road for the Russians after Bakhmut to other towns in Ukraine, in the Donetsk direction,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive interview from Kyiv. “That’s why our guys are standing there.”

Zelensky said his motivations to keep the city are “so different” to Russia’s objectives.

“We understand what Russia wants to achieve there. Russia needs at least some victory – a small victory – even by ruining everything in Bakhmut, just killing every civilian there,” Zelensky said.

He said that if Russia is able to “put their little flag” on top of Bakhmut, it would help “mobilize their society in order to create this idea they’re such a powerful army.”

Read more about Zelensky's warning here.

7:51 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

US obtains warrant for seizure of $25M airplane owned by Russian oil company

From CNN's Jamie Crawford

The United States has obtained a warrant to seize an airplane owned by Igor Ivanovich Sechin, who heads a Russian oil company and has been described by the European Union as one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's "most trusted and closest advisors, as well as his personal friend."

The US Justice Department announced Wednesday the unsealing of a warrant for the seizure of a Boeing 737-7JU aircraft owned by PJSC Rosneft Oil Company, according to a DOJ news release.

The US District Court for the Eastern District of New York authorized the seizure of the airplane after “finding probable cause that the Boeing aircraft was subject to seizure based on violations of the Export Control Reform Act (ECRA) and the recent sanctions issued against Russia,” the release said.

The aircraft is believed to be worth approximately $25 million, the Justice Department said.