Kremlin says no decision yet on whether Putin will attend summit in South Africa
From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova
No decision has been taken yet on whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the BRICS summit in South Africa in August, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday.
"No decision has been made on this yet," Peskov told CNN.
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are collectively known as the fast-growing BRICS economies.
Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin on war crimes charges. The warrant relates to an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
South Africa is a party to the convention that requires the arrest of anyone for whom a warrant has been issued by the court.
6:14 a.m. ET, March 24, 2023
Estonia to expel Russian diplomat for "undermining Estonia’s security"
From CNN’s Teele Rebane
Estonia has ordered the expulsion of a diplomat working for the Russian Embassy for “undermining Estonia’s security,” the Estonian foreign ministry announced in a statement on Friday.
“The diplomat in question has been engaged in directly and actively undermining Estonia’s security and constitutional order, spreading propaganda that justifies Russia’s military action and causing divisions in Estonian society,” the statement from the ministry read.
The person in question was declared persona non grata after their activities were found to have violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. They were ordered to leave Estonia by March 29, the ministry said.
6:00 a.m. ET, March 24, 2023
Wagner is deporting Bakhmut residents to Russian-occupied areas of Luhansk region, Ukraine says
From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova and Tim Lister
Wagner mercenaries have begun deporting residents of the Bakhmut suburbs they control, the Ukrainian National Resistance Center (NRC) – an official body – said on Thursday.
“Militants forcefully take local residents to captured areas of Luhansk region, where they are filtered. After that, they are deported to Perm (Russia) and other remote regions of the Russian Federation,” the center said.
CNN cannot independently verify this claim.
“Locals are deported under the intention of evacuation. After that, they are assimilated in remote areas of the empire, because they are now dependent on the occupiers,” the NRC said.
Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesman for the Eastern Grouping of the Armed Forces, addressed these claims on Ukrainian television Friday.
“This is one of the regular crimes of the Russian Federation. There is nothing to be surprised at, because the entire military structure of the Russian Federation is a criminal ... All of this will be recorded, documented and handed over to the relevant national and international jurisdictions,” he said.
5:59 a.m. ET, March 24, 2023
Russian troops play greater role around Bakhmut as Wagner loses fighters, Ukraine says
“It is not that [Wagner] are withdrawing, but that due to heavy losses they have to be reinforced by units of the regular army of the Russian Federation, primarily by airborne troops,” Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesman for the Eastern Grouping of the Armed Forces, told Ukrainian television Friday.
Russian forces in the area are “making several dozen attacks every day. There were 32 firefights over the last day” in and around Bakhmut, Cherevatyi said, adding that there were also air strikes launched by both fixed-wing planes and attack helicopters.
“Artillery is a much bigger factor of influence on military operations there than aviation,” he noted.
4:20 a.m. ET, March 24, 2023
2 killed in Russian strikes on Sumy, Ukraine says
From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova in Kyiv
Shelling by Russian forces overnight Thursday in the northern Sumy region killed two people and caused extensive damage in four communities, the Sumy regional military administration said.
Bilopillia, Vorozhbinska, Richkivska and Mykolaivka were struck by Russian shells, it said.
Bilopillia suffered 80 hits from rockets, 20 from artillery, and was hit by an airstrike, according to the military administration.
Two people were killed and nine injured, it added.
Residential and administrative buildings were also damaged and destroyed, it said.
A quick recap: Russian fighter aircraft also launched more than 10 guided bombs against targets in Sumy overnight, Ukrainian officials said earlier. While Sumy often suffers cross-border artillery attacks, it rarely comes under such concentrated aerial bombardment.
4:28 a.m. ET, March 24, 2023
Russian missile attack kills 3 in Donetsk region
From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova
Three people were killed in a Russian missile attack on the city of Kostantynivka in the eastern Donetsk region overnight, Ukrainian authorities said.
The city has been struck with increasing frequency by Russian missiles, especially the inaccurate S-300. Kostantynivka lies about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the embattled city of Bakhmut.
The Donetsk regional prosecutor's office said that at 1 a.m. local time Friday, the Russian army fired two missiles from an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.
One hit the building of what’s known as an invincibility point — a place where civilians can access the internet, charge devices and receive other basic needs.
“Three women, who were internally displaced persons from Bakhmut, Chasiv Yar and…Pokrovsk district, aged 57 to 62, were killed,” the prosecutor's office said.
Two other people were injured, it added.
4:18 a.m. ET, March 24, 2023
Ukraine says Russian aircraft bombed northern Sumy region overnight
From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova in Kyiv
Russian fighter aircraft launched more than 10 guided bombs against targets in the northern Sumy region overnight, according to Ukrainian officials.
While Sumy often suffers cross-border artillery attacks, it rarely comes under such concentrated aerial bombardment.
Yurii Ihnat, a Ukrainian air force spokesman, said about 10 Su-35 aircraft — Russia's newest fighter jet — attacking the Sumy region with guided bombs.
“This is a serious threat, as guided bombs can fly far, and the planes are not within the range of our air defense,” Ihnat said. “Thus, more than 10 of these guided bombs attacked targets in the Sumy region. The losses there are being clarified.”
Ihnat also confirmed that Iranian-made Shahed drones had been used in an attack on the southern city of Kryvyi Rih.
Serhiy Lysak, head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration, said one Shahed was shot down but there “were also hits by five UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle). No one was killed or injured.”
Lysak did not elaborate on what was struck.
3:02 a.m. ET, March 24, 2023
Indian Air Force says Russia can't meet arms deliveries due to Ukraine war
From CNN's Rhea Mogul
Russia is unable to honor its arms delivery commitments to India because of the war in Ukraine, the Indian Air Force (IAF) said, placing a potential strain on New Delhi’s relationship with its largest defense supplier as Moscow attempts to ramp up weapons production.
An IAF representative told an Indian parliamentary committee that due to the Ukraine war a “major delivery” from Moscow “is not going to take place.”
The admission, published in a report by India’s lower house of parliament on Tuesday, is the first official confirmation by Indian authorities amid swirling rumors and reports in local media suggesting shortcomings in Russian capacity.
“They have given us in writing that they are not able to deliver it,” the representative said, according to the report.
CNN has contacted the Russian Embassy in New Delhi but did not receive a response at the time of publishing.
The report did not mention the specifics of the delivery.
The biggest ongoing delivery is the S-400 Triumf air defense system units India bought in 2018 for $5.4 billion. Three of these systems have been delivered and two more are awaited, Reuters reported.
IAF also depends on Russia for spares for its Su-30MKI and MiG-29 fighter jets, the mainstay of the service branch, according to Reuters.
Russia is the world’s second-largest arms exporter, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a large-scale effort to build up capacity to produce more weapons for the war in a move he said was “urgently needed.”
Strained relations: New Delhi has strong ties with Moscow dating back to the Cold War, and remains heavily dependent on the Kremlin for its military equipment — a vital link given the ongoing tensions along India’s shared Himalayan border with an increasingly assertive China.
The admission by the IAF is “very serious,” according to Harsh V. Pant, vice president of studies and foreign policy at the New Delhi-based think thank Observer Research Foundation.
“I think it underscores the problems that (India) has been bedeviling this relationship for quite some time,” he added. “And the Ukraine crisis has accelerated the trend that India, for a very long time, has been trying to diversify, and was concerned about its overdependence on Russia.”
Zelensky visits front lines and calls for increased cooperation from allies. Here's the latest news
From CNN staff
After paying a visit to the front lines in the southern region of Kherson on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed optimism that cooperation with European allies could bring a victory by the end of the year.
He warned, however, that there were still problematic areas such as delays in the supply of armaments.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is eyeing a counteroffensive in Bakhmut as Russian forces in the besieged city appear to be losing momentum, one of Kyiv's top generals said Thursday.
Here's the latest headlines:
Zelensky calls for increased support: The Ukrainian President shared his view that the end of the war could come this year if European allies don’t waver in their support. Zelensky identifies several areas where he feels cooperation could improve, including supplies of long-range missiles and modern combat planes and increased sanctions on Russia. “If our joint efforts are resolutely focused on Ukraine's victory, the victory will be gained already this year," he said.
Russian forces said to be stalling in Bakhmut: Russian forces are depleted in Bakhmut and are “running out of energy,” Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s land forces, said Thursday. “Very soon, we will take advantage of this opportunity,” he added. However, Russia’s heavy bombardment of the area continues, with attacks intensifying in the nearby town of Avdiivka. Some Ukrainian officials worry Avdiivka could be the next Bakhmut.
Infusion of supplies from allies: Slovakia announced it has handed over four of its Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, days after pledging to send 13 such jets. Additionally, Spain is expected to send its first shipment of modern battle tanks to Ukraine by the end of the week, the Spanish Defense Ministry said in a statement Thursday.
Ukraine retracts report of Russian retreat from Kherson: The Ukrainian military swiftly backtracked its earlier claim that Russian forces had withdrawn from the strategic town of Nova Kakhovka in Ukraine's southern Kherson region. That’s after Russian officials and military bloggers slammed the report. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said the mistake was the result of “incorrect use of available data.”
Russian athletes: World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field and other sports, lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes, but announced the athletes will still be excluded "for the foreseeable future" due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Reconstruction could top $400 billion: Reconstruction efforts in Ukraine after Russia's invasion could cost an estimated $411 billion, according to an updated assessment by the World Bank.