March 9, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Jack Guy, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 0502 GMT (1302 HKT) March 10, 2023
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8:25 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

"This is respect for Ukraine": Zelensky thanks Georgia protesters for holding his country's flag

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Denis Lapin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Georgian protesters for holding his country’s flag during demonstrations on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

“I want to thank everyone who has been holding Ukrainian flags in the squares and streets of Georgia these days. I want to thank you for our national anthem that was played in Tbilisi. This is respect for Ukraine, and I want to express my sincere respect for Georgia,” Zelensky said. “There is no Ukrainian who would not wish success to our friendly Georgia. Democratic success. European success.”

Georgians have been coming out in force, protesting a foreign agents law introduced by the country’s ruling party that's widely seen as very similar to Russian legislation.

Protesters say the law will leave Georgia further from joining the European Union and NATO. 

“We want to be in the European Union and we will be. We want Georgia to be in the European Union, and I am sure it will be,” Zelensky added. “We want Moldova to be in the European Union, and I am sure it will be. All free peoples of Europe deserve this.”
9:28 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Here's why some people are comparing Georgia to Ukraine

From CNN's Sophie Tanno and Niamh Kennedy

Protests have erupted in Georgia this week after the country’s parliament passed the first reading of a draft law that would require some organizations receiving foreign funding to register as “foreign agents.”

It has been compared to a draconian set of laws adopted in Russia and condemned by rights groups as a bid to curtail basic freedoms and crack down on dissent in the country.

The developments have sparked mass unrest, with thousands of demonstrators gathering outside Tbilisi’s parliament building on Tuesday night, waving not just the Georgian flag but also that of the European Union.

The country, which won its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, has long been playing a balancing act between its citizens’ pro-European sentiment and the geopolitical aims of its powerful neighbor, Russia.

In March 2022, Georgia applied for EU membership — an ambition that may be jeopardized by the proposed legislation.

Comparisons with Ukraine: Analysts have noted similarities between the situation in Georgia and Ukraine — both former Soviet republics which have found themselves caught between the East and the West.

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank drew comparisons between the situation in Georgia and Russia’s invasions of Ukraine in 2014 and 2022.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in 2011 that had Russia not invaded Georgia in 2008, NATO would have expanded into Georgia.

The 2008 conflict centered on South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two breakaway provinces in Georgia. They are officially part of Georgia but have separate governments unrecognized by most countries.

Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia are propped up by Russia.

The 2008 invasion of Georgia only lasted days, but it appeared to have the same revanchist ambitions that drove Putin’s invasions of Ukraine in 2014 and last year, writes the ECFR.

“In this light, Russia’s wars in Georgia and Ukraine seem part of a single imperial project,” the report said.

Read more here.

8:24 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Ukraine may have repaired bridge on main road to Bakhmut, footage shows

From CNN's Denis Lapin and Vasco Cotovio

Ukrainian forces may have repaired a bridge on the main road connecting the village of Chasiv Yar to the city of Bakhmut, according to video and an image geolocated by CNN. 

The bridge had been hit by Russian artillery, which left a large crater that made the road unusable and forced Ukrainian forces to use dirt roads to supply their forces defending the fiercely contested city.

The footage shows a temporary bridge has been placed on top of the crater, and a vehicle is seen driving over it.

CNN could not independently verify when the video was filmed but the potential repair of the bridge could mean the reopening of a vital supply line for Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut.

9:07 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Putin to carry on war in Ukraine — possibly for years, US intelligence director says

From CNN's Jeremy Herb, Zachary Cohen and Michael Conte

The US intelligence community believes that Russia "probably does not want a direct military conflict with US and NATO forces, but there is potential for that to occur," according to the unclassified annual threat assessment report of the intelligence community on Wednesday. 

"Russian leaders thus far have avoided taking actions that would broaden the Ukraine conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders, but the risk for escalation remains significant," the report said. 

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told Congress that the war in Ukraine has become a “grinding attritional war in which neither side has a definitive military advantage,” but said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was likely to carry on, possibly for years. 

"We do not foresee the Russian military recovering enough this year to make major territorial gains, but Putin most likely calculates the time works in his favor, and that prolonging the war including with potential pauses in the fighting may be his best remaining pathway to eventually securing Russia's strategic interests in Ukraine, even if it takes years,” Haines said.

Haines said that Russia will likely be unable to sustain even its currently modest level of offensive operations in Ukraine without an additional mandatory mobilization and third-party ammunition sources.

“They may fully shift to holding and defending the territories they now occupy,” she said.

But Haines cautioned that a potential spring offensive by Ukraine may be limited by “the extent to which Ukrainian forces are having to draw down their reserves and equipment as well as suffer further casualties” defending against current Russian operations.

Haines and the other top intelligence officials — CIA Director William Burns, FBI Director Chris Wray, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier and National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone — testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday at the panel’s annual public worldwide threats hearing.

8:23 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

EU defense ministers call for plans to support Ukraine with ammunition

From CNN's Jessie Gretener

The European Union is "at the decisive moment now" for the bloc's support to Ukraine, its Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said Wednesday. 

Speaking at the EU defense ministers meeting in Stockholm, Breton urged that “it is absolutely mandatory that we move towards a sort of war economy mode in terms of supply and defense industry."

"We need to do whatever it takes to supply Ukraine, especially with ammunitions,” he said.  

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, called for EU defense leaders to work on a standard procurement scheme in the short term and increase defense capacity in the long term. 

In a separate interview with CNN Wednesday, Borrell's spokesperson Peter Stano said the EU's top diplomat proposes the bloc spend $1 billion on joint procurement of "crucially needed" ammunition for Ukraine.

“Right now, at this particular point, the ammunition is something the Ukrainians are needing most,” Stano said.

During the meeting, Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson echoed Borrell’s called for a plan, saying, “The Ukrainians direly need the ammunition in order to continue this war. And the other aspect of it is that we have to ramp up production in Europe.” 

“There are some talks about the EDA. I think it’s very important that the European Defence Agency has a coordinating role. There are also being proposals launched,” Jonson said. 

Meanwhile, Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur urged leaders to make sure they are not “digging into the bureaucracy,” adding that “the aim is 1 million rounds for Ukraine.” 

CNN’s Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi contributed reporting to this post.