March 14, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Jack Guy, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:07 a.m. ET, March 15, 2023
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9:51 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

Fighting around Bakhmut is "really hell on Earth," Ukrainian soldier says

From CNN's Amir Vera

Watch the interview here:

Roman Trokhymets is a Ukrainian soldier who served around the eastern city of Bakhmut, the scene of some of the fiercest fighting between Ukraine and Russian forces.

Recovering from a recent injury, he told CNN's Erin Burnett on Tuesday what it was like fighting in a war to protect his country.

“I can’t even describe the whole emotions, that’s why I try to drop some video and the photos, because sometimes you can’t understand everything, just look at the photo,” he said.

“It’s really hell on earth, is what I can say in just a few words,” Trokhymets said.

Trokhymets, who was a realtor before the war, has been tweeting photos and videos from the frontlines.

9:58 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

"It is premature to draw conclusions" about fighting around Bakhmut, Ukraine minister says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Radina Gigova

A man stands in front of a house destroyed by shelling in the village of Chasiv Yar near Bakhmut, on March 14.
A man stands in front of a house destroyed by shelling in the village of Chasiv Yar near Bakhmut, on March 14. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

It is premature to draw conclusions about the dynamic of the fighting in Bakhmut as battles for control of the eastern city are still raging, Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on national television Tuesday. 

Russian forces are conducting offensive operations along the eastern front and are trying to advance in several directions, Maliar said.

"Fighting continues near Kreminna, Bilohorivka and Spirne. Of course, Bakhmut is the epicenter. The enemy is trying to capture the city from several directions and to surround it," she said. 

Russian forces had "some minor success" but the Ukrainian military had "significant successes," although she declined to go into details. "There is a positive dynamic," she said. 

Maliar added:

"When there are battles, we need to understand that both sides are moving. And it is premature to draw conclusions ... This is a process. The battles for the city [of Bakhmut] are not over, and therefore they can have different dynamics — positive and negative, and we should take it as the Ukrainian army is doing absolutely everything it can to prevent the enemy's plans from being realized," she said. 
7:21 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

A Russian jet forced down a US drone over international waters. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

A Russian fighter jet forced down a US Air Force drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday after damaging the propeller of a MQ-9 Reaper drone, according to US officials. The drone was flying over international waters when one of two Russian jets intentionally flew in front of and dumped fuel on the unmanned drone several times, according to the US European Command. 

Russia has pushed back, denying that its jets came "into contact" with the drone. The Russian Ambassador to the US said Russia does not want “confrontation” with the US but "as we see it, American aircraft have no business being near the Russian border."

Here's what to know:

  • US-Russia drone intervention: A Russian jet downed a US drone over the Black Sea. Aircraft from both countries have operated over the Black Sea during the course of the war, but this is the first known such interaction, a potentially dangerous escalation at a critical time in the fighting. The incident prompted US officials to express "strong objections" to diplomats. Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder called it "uncommon and unfortunate and unsafe." President Joe Biden and US allies have been briefed, according to the White House and the Pentagon.
  • Russian response: Russia has pushed back, denying that its fighter jets came "into contact" with the US drone. Russian Ambassador to the US Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said Russia does not want a "confrontation" with the US, but that the craft was too close to the Russian border. The drone has not been recovered, a spokesperson for US European Command said.
  • Latest from the frontlines: Russian strikes across the Donetsk region have killed at least three people. In Bakhmut, social media posts appear to confirm fighting around the AZOM metallurgical plant in the north of the city. The intensity of shelling the city has increased, a Ukrainian soldier said on Ukrainian national television. Wagner units appear to be making limited advances but remain well short of encircling Bakhmut. In southern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said it destroyed four Russian missiles that were headed toward the Odesa.
  • Update on western aid: Ukrainian soldiers have nearly completed their training on Leopard 2 battle tanks in Munster, Germany, according to a spokesperson for the special training command. Once the training is finished, Germany can deploy the Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, the spokesperson said. Germany has so far vowed to supply Ukraine with 18 of the latest A6 model Leopard 2 tanks. Additionally, the Netherlands announced it will send two minesweepers, drone detection radar systems and ferrying and bridge-building systems to Ukraine, according to Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren.
  • War crime investigation: The Russian government has said it does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, after the court declared its plans to open two war crimes cases against Russia, according to The New York Times and Reuters.
6:24 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

Ukrainian official calls on international community to  discuss impact of Russia's "environmental crimes"

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Russia's war in Ukraine is damaging the environment — and it needs to be discussed more by experts, Ukrainian and United Nations officials said.

The Executive Director of the UN Environment Program, Inger Andersen, met with the Head of the Office of Ukraine's President, Andriy Yermak, in Kyiv on Tuesday, according to a statement from the Ukrainian presidency.

The leaders discussed "the issue of Russian responsibility for environmental crimes in Ukraine." Yermak told Anderson that "Russia is causing enormous damage to the ecological system of our country," according to the statement.

For her part, Andersen emphasized her support for Ukraine in overcoming the challenges to its ecological system due to the Russian invasion, and emphasized the importance of a deeper discussion about this issue at the expert level, according to the statement.

6:21 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

Russian ambassador says US aircraft have no business being near Russian border

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Radina Gigova

Anatoly Antonov, the Russian Ambassador to the US, said Tuesday that Russia does not want “confrontation” with the US but "as we see it, American aircraft have no business being near the Russian border."

Talking to reporters after he was summoned to the State Department following an incident that led to the downing of a US Reaper drone over the Black Sea, Antonov asked, "Could you imagine if such a UAV appeared suddenly close to New York or San Francisco?"

"Can you imagine the reaction of the US press, the Pentagon, to this drone? What kind of drone was it? Think about this before summoning me to the State Department. It's a multipurpose [drone], with strike capabilities of up to a 1700 kg explosive payload," he said. "Tell me how any MoD of any country would react to the threat of such danger appearing along their borders?"

Antonov did say he wanted to point out "how professional the Russian pilots were in their actions. No contact was made, nor were any weapons used by our fighter jets."  

"I think it's better that we discuss at the State Department avenues of cooperation and mutual action, but unfortunately, my communication with the State Department lately has just been to address their protests about the actions of the Russian Federation," he said. 
"The Russian Federation is not interested in confrontation. The Russian side is interested in pragmatic relations with the USA in the interests of both the Russian and American people." 

Some background: The Reaper drone was flying over international waters when one of two Russian jets intentionally flew in front of and dumped fuel on the unmanned drone several times, according to the US European Command. The aircraft then hit the propeller of the drone, prompting US forces to bring the MQ-9 drone down in international waters.

Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder added Tuesday that the Russian aircraft flew “in the vicinity” of the drone for 30 to 40 minutes before colliding just after 7 a.m. Central European Time.

6:06 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

Transfer of jets to Ukraine may happen within next 4 to 6 weeks, Polish prime minister says 

From CNN's Alex Hardie and Niamh Kennedy in London 

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday that a transfer of Poland's supply of MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine “might happen within the next four to six weeks.” 

Morawiecki made the remark while answering questions from reporters in Warsaw.  

It comes after Polish President Andrzej Duda told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in a late February interview that Ukrainian pilots were "prepared to operate" MiG-29 fighter jets.

Ukrainian pilots however will likely need more training to "be ready to fly modern aircraft at NATO standards, such as F-16s," Duda said, emphasizing that the "training of a pilot is much more complicated and much longer [than the training of a tank operator].” 

Duda told CNN that modern weapons are "key" to shoring up Ukraine's ability to defend itself from Russia. When asked if that includes fighter jets, he responded: “If there is such a need, of course, yes.” 

6:02 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

US taking steps to ensure drone won't end up in the wrong hands, White House official says

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The US is taking measures to ensure that the drone that was downed over the Black Sea won't fall into the wrong hands, a top White House official said Tuesday.

“Without getting into too much detail, what I can say is that we've taken steps to protect our equities with respect to that particular drone – that particular aircraft. And it’s the United States property. We obviously don't want to see anybody getting their hands on it beyond us,” John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday.

Pressed on whether the US would show evidence to back its account of what happened – given Russia’s denial – Kirby noted the US is “looking at some imagery to see if any of that might be suitable” for public release, but said no decisions have been made at this time. 

He also dismissed the denial issued by Russia's ministry of defense.

“Obviously we refute the Russians' denial and I think anybody, after a year now, Jake, should take everything that the Russians say about what they're doing in and around Ukraine with a huge grain of salt,” he said. 

Kirby pointed to the summoning of Russia’s Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov to State Department as “one of the advantages of having diplomatic lines open,” saying that in the meeting, the State Department walked the ambassador “through the very significant and very real concerns over this unsafe and unprofessional conduct by Russian pilots.”

He reiterated his condemnation of the incident, warning of immediate and broader implications.

“We certainly don’t want to see this war escalate beyond what it has already done to the Ukrainian people,” Kirby said, calling it “inappropriate, unsafe, unprofessional conduct by the Russian pilots.”
5:45 p.m. ET, March 14, 2023

Russia does not want confrontation with US, Russian ambassador says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Russia does not want “confrontation” with the US, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said Tuesday after he was summoned to the State Department following an incident that led to the downing of a US Reaper drone over the Black Sea.

“We prefer not to create a situation where we can face unintended clashes or unintended incidents between the Russian Federation and the United States,” Antonov said.

He was inside the State Department for a little over half an hour. Antonov said Assistant Secretary Karen Donfried conveyed the US’ concerns about the incident, and he “exchanged our remarks on this issue because we have some differences.”

“It seems to me that it was a constructive conversation on this issue. I have heard her remarks, I hope that she has understood what I have mentioned,” Antonov said in response to a question from CNN.

Antonov reiterated the ministry of defense’s denial that any Russian aircraft came into contact with the drone.

He also claimed that Russia “had informed about this space that was identified as a zone for special military operation.”

“We have warned not to enter, not to penetrate,” he said, asking how the US would react if a Russian drone came close to New York or San Francisco.