March 29, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Rhea Mogul, Joshua Berlinger, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 2:17 a.m. ET, March 30, 2023
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10:48 a.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Russia says it has suspended all nuclear notifications with US, according to state media

From CNN's Darya Tarasova and Tim Lister

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that all types of notifications between Russia and the United States under the nuclear New START treaty have been suspended.

Russian state media said that Ryabkov’s statement included suspending notifications on test missile launches, although Ryabkov himself was not specific on that point. Such notifications are covered by the original 1988 treaty, which remains in force.

Ryabkov did say that "there will be no notifications at all. All formats are suspended.”

“All notifications, all forms of notifications, all data exchange, all inspection activities, in general, all types of work under the contract are suspended, they will not be carried out. And this does not depend on the position that the United States may take," Ryabkov said, according to Russian state media.

On Tuesday, CNN reported that senior US officials had disclosed that Russia will not provide the United States with data on its nuclear forces that is normally shared semi-annually – and in response, the US said it will not do so either.

Moscow’s move not to provide the information comes after President Vladimir Putin in February suspended Russia’s participation in the New START treaty, the only bilateral agreement left between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. 

On Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb said that the US had pressed Russia about the exchange of information, due at the end of this month.  

“Russia responded that they will not be providing that information,” he said. “And so as a diplomatic countermeasure, the United States will not be providing that information back.”

Notices about missile tests and other events involving nuclear weapons have been an important part of preserving strategic stability for decades. They ensure that neither Russia and the United States misinterpret each other’s moves.

What to know about New START: The treaty puts limits on the number of deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons that both the US and Russia can have. It was last extended in early 2021 for five years, meaning the two sides would soon need to begin negotiating on another arms control agreement. Under the key nuclear arms control treaty, both the United States and Russia are permitted to conduct inspections of each other's weapons sites, though inspections had been halted since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

CNN's Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler contributed previous reporting to this post.

11:01 a.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Pussy Riot member placed on Russia's federal wanted list

From CNN's Darya Tarasova and Tim Lister

Nadya Tolokonnikova speaks onstage during Unfinished Live at The Shed on September 22,  in New York City.
Nadya Tolokonnikova speaks onstage during Unfinished Live at The Shed on September 22, in New York City. (Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

A member of the Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot is now on Russia’s federal wanted list, according to an interior ministry database.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is wanted under a criminal article, according to the interior ministry list published by the independent Russian outlet Mediazona. At the beginning of this month, a case was introduced against Tolokonnikova for “insulting the religious feelings of believers," as outlined in Russia's Criminal Code.

Tolokonnikova is no longer in Russia. She was recently in the United States.

She was declared a foreign agent in December. In that same month, Pussy Riot issued an anti-war statement and video, “Mama, Don’t Watch TV,” condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The chorus of the song was inspired by the words of a captured Russian conscript soldier who, in a telephone conversation with his mother, said "Mom, there are no Nazis here, don't watch TV." 

“This is the music of our anger, indignation, disagreement, a reproachful desperate cry against Putin's bloodthirsty puppets, led by a real cannibal monster, whose place is in the infinity of fierce hellish flames on the bones of the victims of this terrible war,” Pussy Riot said in a statement shared with CNN.

In 2012, Tolokonnikova and two other members of Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich, were sentenced to two years in prison after performing a "punk prayer" in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. 

5:57 p.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Russian girl in orphanage tells father accused of anti-war posts that "victory will be ours"

From CNN's Tim Lister, Darya Tarasova and Anna Chernova

Russian citizen Alexei Moskalyov, who is accused of discrediting the country's armed forces in the course of Russia-Ukraine military conflict, attends a court hearing in the town of Yefremov in the Tula region, Russia, on March 27.
Russian citizen Alexei Moskalyov, who is accused of discrediting the country's armed forces in the course of Russia-Ukraine military conflict, attends a court hearing in the town of Yefremov in the Tula region, Russia, on March 27. (SOTA/Reuters)


The 13-year-old daughter of a Russian man sentenced to two years in prison for anti-war posts online has written him a letter from the orphanage where she has been sent, telling him that "we will win."

“Know that we will win, that victory will be ours, no matter what happens, we are together, we are a team, you are the best,” according to the letter from Masha Moskalyova to her father Alexey Moskalyov. The letter was released at Moskalyov's request, according to his lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov.

In April 2022, Masha drew a picture of Russian missiles being fired at a Ukrainian family and wrote “No to war” and “Glory to Ukraine” during her art class. Her school subsequently called the police, who later visited the family home. 

A court in the Tula region, south of Moscow, sentenced Moskalyov to two years in jail on Tuesday for a series of anti-war online postings. But he had escaped his house arrest, which began earlier this month, the night before the hearing, according to a court spokesperson.

Masha was sent to an orphanage when her father began his house arrest. 

Masha told her father in the letter that “everything is fine with me, I love you very much and know that you are not guilty of anything, I am always for you and everything you do is right.” 

“I hope, no, I know that you will not give up, you are strong, we are strong, we can, and I will pray for you and for us, dad … I can say that I'm proud of my father,” she continued.

“I don’t want to write about my health and mood, I don’t want to upset you, but I understood that the bitter truth is better than the sweet lie,” she added.

She ends the letter with a peace sign. Describing her father as her hero, she said, “I will give this pendant to you as the bravest person in the world!”

What the Kremlin says: Asked about the case, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday he could not comment as it was the court’s decision.

“The matter of the story with the child is completely different," he claimed. "Indeed, the state of things with the fulfillment of parental duties and with ensuring the child's living is very deplorable.”

“Everything is much more complicated there, everything is not so straightforward,” Peskov said.

Correction: An earlier version of this post gave an incorrect age for Masha Moskalyova.

9:12 a.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Kremlin says Olympic committee's rules on Russian participation are discriminatory

From CNN's Anna Chernova

The International Olympic Committee’s guidelines that allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutral participants at international competitions have “elements of discrimination,” according to the Kremlin.

Russian and Belarusian athletes were banned from most international competitions in February 2022 after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, following IOC executive board recommendations. 

On Tuesday, IOC President Thomas Bach outlined new guidelines that would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals, paving the way for their return to international competitions. 

“Such recommendations (by the IOC) were characterized as containing elements of discrimination, which is unacceptable,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. 

“As for us, we will continue to defend the interests of our athletes in every possible way, and, of course, we will continue contacts with the IOC precisely to protect the interests of our athletes,” Peskov added. 

According to the recommendations, athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport must compete only as individual neutral athletes and meet all anti-doping requirements, while those who support the war or are contracted to military or national cannot compete. 

The IOC also said that a decision about the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games would be made at a later stage. 

9:41 a.m. ET, March 29, 2023

UN nuclear watchdog is working on new way to secure Zaporizhzhia plant, according to Russian state news

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), visits the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on March 29.
Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), visits the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on March 29. (Andrey Borodulin/AFP/Getty Images)

The International Atomic Energy Agency is working out a new concept for securing the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, its head Rafael Grossi said Wednesday, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. 

“We are developing a concept that is aimed at protecting the station more locally," Grossi told reporters during his visit to the plant, RIA Novosti reported.

“I am working with management in both Kyiv and Moscow to implement measures to protect the plant," he added. 

Grossi reiterated that the situation at the nuclear facility is not improving and hostilities around it are intensifying. Measures must be taken to protect the station from any attacks, he added, according to RIA Novosti.

The UN nuclear watchdog chief arrived at the power plant Wednesday and inspected the territory together with Renat Karchaa, the adviser to the general director of Russia’s nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom, according to RIA Novosti.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not planning to meet with Grossi during his visit to Zaporizhzhia, but Grossi remains in contact with Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy giant Rosatom, the Kremlin said earlier Wednesday.

8:28 a.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Kremlin says "hybrid war" is for the long term

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

The Kremlin continued to dig into its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with spokesperson Dmitry Peskov saying that the country sees a long-term “war in a broad context.”

“If you mean war in a broad context — a confrontation with hostile states and with unfriendly countries, a hybrid war that they unleashed against Russia — this is for long,” Peskov told reporters Wednesday.

“Here we need firmness, self-confidence, purposefulness, unity around President [Vladimir Putin],” he added.

Peskov was asked when Russia’s “special military operation” — the country's euphemism for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine — could end and if the Russian population was tired of it after over a year of battles.

In response, he said:

“We see an absolutely unprecedented consolidation of Russian society around the president and his policies. And we see an absolutely dominant confidence in society that all the goals of the special military operation will be achieved and must be achieved.”

Remember: In the fall, Russian President Vladimir Putin's "partial mobilization" sparked rare protests and an exodus of men from the country. 

9:38 a.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Wagner chief admits battle for Bakhmut has "battered" private military group but remains confident in victory

From CNN's Darya Tarasova and Sarah Dean

Smoke rises from burning buildings in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on March 26.
Smoke rises from burning buildings in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on March 26. (Libkos/AP)

The founder and head of Russia's Wagner private military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in an audio message on Wednesday that the battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut "has already practically destroyed the Ukrainian army," adding that Wagner has "been pretty battered" as well.

In response to a question from a journalist regarding Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's promise to defend Bakhmut to the end, Prigozhin said:

"If today two powers are fighting — Ukraine with the collective West on the one hand and Russia with a small number of allies — then the general battle of the Wagner PMC against the Armed Forces of Ukraine with foreign units installed in it, in which the Wagner PMC will win, is the greatest turn in this war and in all modern history."

In his voice note on Telegram, he said that Wagner "destroys foreign forces that are trying to bring Russia to its knees."

"This is a great turn in the war, because only one Russian army will remain on the chessboard, and all other pieces will be removed from it. And if PMC Wagner dies in the Bakhmut meat grinder and takes the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the forces attached to it with foreign weapons, and so on, and gives the Russian army the opportunity to go further to protect the interests of Russia, then we have fulfilled our historical role, period," he added. 

Prigozhin has paid several visits to Bakhmut and its immediate surroundings in recent weeks.

Both Ukrainian and Wagner officials acknowledge street-by-street fighting in the city, with the Ukrainians claiming that they have stabilized the situation in Bakhmut. 

7:35 a.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Russian-occupied Melitopol is partially without power after strikes. Here's the latest from Ukraine

From CNN staff

There are reports of new strikes in Melitopol, a city that lies between Kherson and Mariupol, in Russian-held southern Ukraine. And the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog has arrived on a visit to the occupied Zaporizhzhia power plant amid fears of growing military activity in the area.

Catch up on the latest headlines:

  • Woken up by blasts: Residents of Melitopol, a hub for Russian troops about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the front lines, awoke early this morning to the sound of blasts, local media reported. A locomotive depot was among the areas hit, the city's administration said. Russian authorities in the city said shelling by Ukrainian forces partially knocked out electricity. Melitopol's exiled mayor said that "several explosions" were heard and the city's northern and western districts were without power, as well as some surrounding villages.
  • Nuclear watchdog arrives at occupied plant: International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi arrived at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant today for his second visit to the facility, which is controlled by Russian authorities. Grossi told CNN that military action around the facility is increasing and that Russia has said it is ready to discuss the safety situation at the plant with international observers.
  • An invitation to Kyiv: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky formally invited Chinese leader Xi Jinping to visit Ukraine in an interview with The Associated Press published on Wednesday. It's unclear if Xi will accept. He and Russian President Vladimir Putin are close allies who have have strengthened economic and political ties since the invasion of Ukraine began. Xi earlier this month conducted a three-day state visit to Moscow filled with pomp and circumstance, but their talks yielded no breakthrough on resolving the conflict.
  • The latest from Bakhmut: The situation in the eastern Ukrainian city, where fighting has raged for months, remains "under control," the Ukrainian military said. Kyiv said it shot down a Russian Su-24M bomber near Bakhmut this afternoon. CNN cannot independently verify the claim. Russian forces still control access to both Bakhmut and the nearby town of Avdiivka on three sides. They have made marginal gains in recent weeks but have been unable to encircle Ukrainian troops in either place. Most of the eastern front lines have changed little in the first three months of this year.
  • Elsewhere on the front lines: Ukraine's military also said in an update Tuesday that the heaviest combat is concentrated in several zones in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and its units have repelled the latest efforts by Russian forces to advance.

Here's a look at the latest map of control:

7:04 a.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Today is the deadline for clergy from pro-Russian Ukrainian Orthodox Church to leave Kyiv cave monastery 

From CNN’s Sarah Dean in London and Olga Voitovych in Kyiv 

A delegation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church branch loyal to Moscow, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 20.
A delegation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church branch loyal to Moscow, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 20. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Wednesday marks the deadline for clergy from the pro-Russian Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) to leave a historic cave monastery complex in Kyiv.

The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra is home to the UOC, a branch of Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine that has been traditionally loyal to Patriarch Kirill — the leader of the Russian church. Kirill is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a supporter of his war on Ukraine. In May 2022, the UOC cut ties with Moscow and declared “full independence.”

But in November last year, the Ukrainian Security Service said it raided the monastery to counter suspected “subversive activities of [the] Russian special services” in the country.

On March 10, Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Informational Police said it had notified the UOC that their 2013 agreement allowing the free use of the building was being terminated, and that the UOC must vacate by March 29. The ministry cited a working group's conclusion that the monastery “violated terms of the agreement on the use of state property.”

In a statement, the UOC said, “there is no information about legal grounds for such actions," and that the group's conclusion were "drawn up, apparently, with bias and with brutal violation of legal rules.”

People hold placards reading "Moscow priests get away from Ukraine!", right, and "Moscow shaman get away from holy Lavra!" as they rally at the entrance to the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 28.
People hold placards reading "Moscow priests get away from Ukraine!", right, and "Moscow shaman get away from holy Lavra!" as they rally at the entrance to the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 28. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Video and images shared by the church on social media on Wednesday show hundreds of worshippers gathered to pray on their knees “for the saving of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra”.

The Lavra was founded in the 11th century. As well as being a place of pilgrimage, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kyiv.