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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10:12 p.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Russian man whose daughter drew anti-war picture is detained in Belarus after failing to turn up at hearing

From CNN's Andrew Haag, Francesca Hoffman,  Jennifer Z. Deaton, Josh Pennington, Hande Atay Alam 

A screengrab of Masha Moskalyova, 12, describing the police search of her home in Russia's Tula region to Activatica, an online portal supporting grassroots activism in the country.
A screengrab of Masha Moskalyova, 12, describing the police search of her home in Russia's Tula region to Activatica, an online portal supporting grassroots activism in the country. (From Activatica/YouTube)

A Russian man, Alexey Moskalyov, who had been sentenced to two years in prison, was detained in Belarus after failing to turn up for a hearing, his lawyer told CNN’s Erin Burnett Wednesday. 

Moskalyov had been charged with “discrediting the Russian military” and was under house arrest after being accused of repeatedly publishing anti-war posts.

Moskalyov pleaded not guilty but failed to turn up to his hearing in the city of Yefremov on Tuesday. Prosecutors had requested two years in prison for him, according to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

According to the independent Russian Telegram channel SOTA, "his arrest was made possible because he activated a cell phone in the apartment, allowing [authorities] to identify the fugitive." 

Some background: In April of 2022, Moskalyov’s then 12-year-old daughter 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, according to Russian independent news outlet, Mediazona. Her school subsequently called the police, who later visited the family home. 

This week, according to his lawyer, Masha wrote her father a letter from the orphanage where she has been sent. “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,” it said.

5:34 p.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Turkish president says Putin might visit Turkey on April 27 for nuclear power plant inauguration

From CNN’s Hande Atay in Atlanta.

Russian President Vladimir Putin might visit Turkey on April 27 for the inauguration of the country's first nuclear power plant, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Wednesday.

Turkey's first nuclear power plant, Akkuyu, will be built by Russia's state nuclear energy company Rosatom. 

"On the 27th (of April), one possibility is that maybe Putin will come, or we will have an online system to connect," Erdogan said during an interview with Turkey's private channel ATV.

4:48 p.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Germany to increase military support to Ukraine by $13 billion, government says

From CNN's Chris Stern in Berlin and Sharon Braithwaite in London

The German federal government has agreed to allocate an additional 12 billion euros (over $13 billion) worth of military support to Ukraine over the next nine to 10 years, it announced Wednesday in a statement.

"Germany has been supporting Ukraine in the war against Russia for more than a year with money, equipment and material and will continue to do so. This must also be reflected in the budget. On the one hand, for the procurement of armaments for Ukraine, and on the other hand, for the replacement of weapons and material handed over to Ukraine from Bundeswehr stocks," the government noted. 

Around $4.3 billion will go to the German military to replace the military aid Berlin has given to Kyiv since the invasion, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius added.

Earlier this year, Berlin made a historic move to arm Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks.

5:09 p.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Argentine president: War in Ukraine caused immeasurable damage to world economy

From CNN’s Michael Rios in Atlanta

Argentine President Alberto Fernández speaks at a news conference at Palacio San Martin in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 28.
Argentine President Alberto Fernández speaks at a news conference at Palacio San Martin in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 28. (Agustin Marcarian/Reuters)

Argentine President Alberto Fernández says the war in Ukraine has “generated immeasurable damage to the world economy.”

“We see the grave problem Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created,” Fernandez said Wednesday during his visit with US President Joe Biden at the White House. “We need to work together and unite efforts so the war can end, so it stops ending human lives, so the world economy can recover.”

During his visit, Fernandez addressed bilateral relations, US support during Argentina’s financial challenges and other pressing global issues. 

Fernandez also said peace is urgent because of the food insecurity the war can cause.

“When the (Food and Agriculture Organization) announced that more than 300 million people could struggle with hunger because of this war, I realized that peace is urgent,” he said.

5:28 p.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Ukraine is not ordering monks to leave Kyiv monastery, minister says  

From CNN's Tim Lister, Sarah Dean and Olga Voitovych, Anna Gorzkowska and Sugam Pokharel

The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra is pictured March 24.
The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra is pictured March 24. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Ukraine is not ordering the monks from the pro-Russian Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) to leave a historic cave monastery complex in Kyiv, the country's Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said Wednesday. 

“We are not ordering the monks to leave the monastery," Tkachenko told CNN’s Paula Newton. "We canceled the agreement, which was concluded between Yanukovych government in 2013 and Russian and Ukrainian branch of Russian church, which we believe is illegal. So, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily need to leave tomorrow or today." 

The Ukrainian government and security service said some members of the church are loyal to Moscow.

"We will not drag them out by their feet, we will not use force — they will leave on their own … [but] there can be no Russian church on the territory of our country," said Oleksii Danilov, head of Ukraine’s National Security Council.

Wednesday marked the deadline for clergy from the UOC to leave the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. Hundreds of worshippers gathered to pray on their knees “for the saving of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra," according to video and images shared by the church on social media Wednesday.

When asked about some Ukrainians reacting to the deadline order with disbelief and frustration, Tkachenko said: “First of all, the leaders of Ukrainian branch of Russian church did not call Ukrainians to come to Ukrainian army to defend Ukraine during this war [….] but they didn't finish their relationship with Russian church [...] they are a follower of Kremlin policy, of the policy of war.” 

The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra is home to the UOC, a branch of Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine that has been traditionally loyal to the leader of the Russian church, Patriarch Kirill.

Kirill is a close ally of Vladimir Putin and a supporter of his war on Ukraine. In May 2022, the UOC cut ties with Moscow and declared “full independence.”

The agreement that permitted the UOC to occupy the historic cave monastery complex was terminated on March 10, and the UOC was instructed to leave the premises by March 29.  

But the order shouldn't be called an eviction, said Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security Council.

Danilov told Ukrainian television that “the Lavra is not a hotel, so eviction is not the right term."

"This is the property of our state, the common property of citizens," Danilov said. "As of today, this property should be vacated, according to the legal documents that exist today.”

During his daily video message Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky made comments about the eviction deadline.

“Today we have also taken a step to strengthen the spiritual independence of our state, to protect our society from the old and cynical Moscow manipulations of religion,” Zelensky said in his daily video message.

He added that his country "is the territory of the greatest religious freedom in our part of Europe."

"This has been the case since 1991. It will always be so," he said.

2:17 a.m. ET, March 30, 2023

Russians facing heavy losses in Bakhmut, top US general says. Here's the latest from Ukraine

From CNN staff

There are roughly 6,000 Wagner group mercenaries fighting in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told US lawmakers on Wednesday. 

The mercenary group is "suffering an enormous amount of casualties in the Bakhmut area; the Ukrainians are inflicting a lot of death and destruction on these guys," he said, describing the battle Bakhmut as a “slaughter-fest" for the Russians.

The head of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in an audio message Wednesday that the battle for the city "has already practically destroyed the Ukrainian army," but added that Wagner has "been pretty battered" as well.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Kremlin says "hybrid war" is for the long term: The Kremlin sees the conflict in Ukraine as part of a long-term war, spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. “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,” he said.
  • Ukrainian defense minister hints offensive may begin in April or May: Minister Oleksii Reznikov suggested that Ukrainian offensive action involving Western tanks may begin in April or May. In an interview with Estonian television, Reznikov said that German Leopard tanks, which have begun arriving in Ukraine, will be part of “the counteroffensive campaign under the decision of our General Staff. … They are planning that in different directions.”
  • Rail infrastructure hit in Melitopol strike, Russian-appointed official says: Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-appointed military-civilian administration in occupied Zaporizhzhia in southeast Ukraine, said Wednesday that six Ukrainian HIMARS rockets struck rail infrastructure in a pre-dawn attack. Rogov said Russian air defenses shot down three of the rockets, and the remaining three hit objects in Melitopol: a railway, an electricity substation and the railway depot. There were no casualties reported.
  • Hungary says grievances need to be addressed before supporting Sweden: Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács said Wednesday that there is “an ample amount of grievances that need to be addressed” before Sweden’s bid to join NATO is ratified by the country. The remarks were published by the spokesperson in a blog titled “Three reasons why Hungary’s parliament is right to be hesitant about Sweden’s NATO admission” and said Sweden “must face the music” over what it called its “daunting attitude” toward Hungary. The Hungarian parliament approved a bill on Monday to allow Finland to join NATO but has not yet voted on Sweden’s NATO accession.  
  • Situation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has not improved, IAEA director general says: The plant has been occupied by Russian forces since March of 2022 – and is now run by the Russian atomic agency, ROSATOM. Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi said military activity and the number of troops in the area were increasing, without specifying whether he meant both Russian and Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian troops are stationed several miles across the reservoir from the plant. 
4:29 p.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Polish prime minister urges EU to limit impact of Ukrainian grain influx in neighboring countries 

From CNN’s Alex Hardie in London

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks at a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, on November 20, 2022.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks at a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, on November 20, 2022. (Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva/AFP/Getty Images)

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki urged European Union leaders on Wednesday to use “all instruments” to limit the impact of the influx of Ukrainian grain on the markets of neighboring countries. 

Speaking to reporters in Warsaw, Morawiecki said that “we did not agree to this, and we do not agree that this grain should be sold on the Polish market” and “destabilize our domestic markets.”

Morawiecki said he had agreed, with leaders of several European Union countries also bordering Ukraine, to forward a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen demanding “immediate use of all instruments, all available procedures and regulations, to limit the impact of Ukrainian grain to the markets of Ukraine's neighboring countries.”

“We are ready to help take this grain and export it to Africa. There you go,” Morawiecki added. 

A ship is loaded with Ukrainian wheat to deliver to Kenya and Ethiopia at the port of Chornomorsk on the Black Sea coast on February 18.
A ship is loaded with Ukrainian wheat to deliver to Kenya and Ethiopia at the port of Chornomorsk on the Black Sea coast on February 18. (Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Some context: According to Reuters, there is mounting anger in the Polish countryside over the influx of Ukrainian grain, which is affecting Polish prices.

At a meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels on March 20, Poland requested the “urgent mobilization” of EU support for what it said were problems in the grain market “caused by a large influx of cereals from Ukraine.”

“Some grain purchasers, especially in this region [south-eastern Poland], have suspended or limited the purchase of domestic grain because stores are full. Poland calls for improved and better-supervised grain transit from Ukraine,” Poland’s agriculture ministry said.  

Morawiecki also told reporters on Wednesday that Romania’s president and prime minister shared his opinion.

3:47 p.m. ET, March 29, 2023

Switzerland joins EU’s latest package of sanctions against Russia 

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

Switzerland joined the European Union’s 10th package of sanctions against Russia Wednesday, the government said in a news release.

Switzerland, a non-EU member, had already sanctioned around 120 additional individuals and entities added by the EU in its latest sanctions against Moscow, the government said. 

"The Federal Council is now adopting the remaining measures of the tenth package of sanctions with effect from 29 March," the statement read. "In addition to changes to the reporting obligation in the financial sector, these include a ban on Russian nationals from serving on governing bodies of critical infrastructure owners or operators as well as further sanctions in relation to goods."

The latest package also tightens import restrictions on goods of economic importance to Russia, the news release stated. 

The European Union last month approved a 10th round of sanctions against Russia.