We've wrapped up our live coverage for the day. You can read more about Russia's invasion of Ukraine here, or scroll through the updates below.
March 30, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news
By Kathleen Magramo, Sophie Tanno, Aditi Sangal, Matt Meyer, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN
Explosions reported in Zaporizhzhia as Ukrainian official urges residents to take shelter
From CNN's Yulia Kasaieva in Kyiv
Local monitoring groups reported two explosions in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia just after midnight local time Friday (5 p.m. ET Thursday).
As sirens blared in the city, the Ukrainian Secretary of the Zaporizhzhia City Council Anatolii Kurtiev urged residents on Telegram to immediately head to shelters and stay there.
The head of a Russian-installed governing council in occupied parts of the Zaporizhzhia region also reported explosions.
“It’s loud in Zaporizhzhia!” the Russia-backed official, Vladimir Rogov, said on his Telegram channel.
Rogov said “several explosions were heard in the regional center."
Ukraine condemns Russia's impending UN Security Council presidency
From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva
Despite fierce criticism from many of the alliance's members over its invasion of Ukraine, Russia will assume the presidency of the United Nations Security Council Saturday as part of the position's regularly scheduled rotation of countries.
In condemning Russia's assumption of the post, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba noted Saturday is April 1, and called it the worst kind of "April Fool’s Day joke."
Kuleba made the remarks Thursday in a conversation hosted by the policy institute Chatham House.
"The country which systematically violates all fundamental rules of international security is presiding over a body whose only mission is to safeguard and protect international security,” Kuleba said.
The foreign minister downplayed Moscow's ability to wield significant power during the course of its presidency, though.
“I don't think Russia will be able to change the balance inside the UN Security Council during its presidency. It will try to abuse its rights of the presidency to push its own narratives, but I doubt they will be able to secure the sufficient number of votes to make the council adopt decisions,” Kuleba continued.
The foreign minister also said he expects the other members of the UNSC, both permanent and non-permanent, to “corner Russia as much as they can within existing procedures and rules during its presidency, not allow it to abuse the UNSC rules and to continue pushing the narratives which tell the truth about this war that Russia is conducting.”
Why this is happening: The presidency of the Security Council is held by each member in turn for one month, following the English alphabetical order of the member states' names. The council requires consensus to adopt most decisions, regardless of which country sits at the head of its meetings. You can read more about how it functions here.
Turkey's parliament approves Finland's accession to NATO, clearing way for membership
From CNN's Yusuf Gezer and Mostafa Salem
Turkey’s parliament unanimously approved Finland’s accession to NATO after a vote Thursday, clearing the path for the Nordic country to become the 31st NATO member.
The vote fulfills Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s promise to allow Finland into the defense alliance. It comes after Hungary’s parliament passed a bill Monday approving Finland’s NATO membership.
The Turkish parliament vote was the last major hurdle facing Finland’s bid to join the alliance.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the Turkish parliament's decision Thursday.
"I welcome the vote of the Grand National Assembly of #Türkiye to complete the ratification of #Finland’s accession. This will make the whole #NATO family stronger & safer," Stoltenberg said in a tweet.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö celebrated the news, saying "Finland is now ready to join NATO." Niinistö added that he hopes neighboring country Sweden will also be able to join as soon as possible.
How we got here: Finland announced its intention to join NATO in May 2022, along with Sweden, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused the two countries to abandon their long-held non-aligned status.
Turkey had stalled the approval process after accusing both countries of housing Kurdish “terrorist organizations.” In late February, Stoltenberg said it appeared the diplomatic hold-up was predominantly concerning Sweden.
Turkey has not yet indicated whether it will now approve Sweden’s NATO membership.
More background: NATO has an open-door policy, meaning that any country can be invited to join if it expresses an interest, as long as it is able and willing to uphold the principles of the bloc's founding treaty. However, under the accession rules, any member state can veto a new country from joining.
Turkey is a powerful NATO member, with the bloc's second-largest military after the US. Its location at the southeastern flank of the alliance makes it a strategically important member. It acts as a buffer between the West and a swathe of Middle Eastern nations with a history of political instability, and where Western states have major interests. The fact it joined the alliance in 1952, just three years after its founding, adds to its clout.
CNN's Jennifer Deaton contributed reporting.
An American journalist was arrested in Russia. Here's what to know to get up to speed
From CNN staff
Wall Street Journal reporter and US national Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia on suspicion of "espionage" and placed under arrest until May 29, according to a Moscow court Thursday. It comes amid a crackdown in Russia on independent journalists and foreign news outlets in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.
The US State Department is tasked with officially determining if Americans are detained wrongfully abroad.
Here's what we know so far:
- What happened: The Russian intelligence agency, the FSB, said Gershkovich was detained in Yekaterinburg, on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains "while trying to obtain secret information" relating to "the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.” The Wall Street Journal, which has had a decades-long presence in Moscow, has categorically rejected those allegations.
- Some background: It is the first time an American journalist has been detained on accusations by Moscow of spying since the Cold War, and comes a week after US authorities arrested Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, who they accused of being a Russian spy and was indicted in federal court. The Kremlin did not comment when asked if Gershkovich’s arrest was a tit-for-tat move for Cherkasov's arrest. Detentions of other Americans, including Paul Whelan, have led to lengthy and difficult negations between Washington and Moscow.
- Russia's response: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the arrest was a "prerogative of the FSB." In a call with reporters, he added: "As far as we know, he was caught red-handed." The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs routinely makes baseless claims about the work and motives of foreign journalists in Russia.
- United States' response: The US has condemned the detainment, saying it is "deeply concerned." The State Department has been directly in touch with the Russian government, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. The US Embassy in Moscow has formally requested consular access — something officials say is a priority for Gershkovich's well-being and to collect more information.
- Reaction: Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Emma Tucker told staff in a memo Thursday she was "very concerned" for the reporter's safety. Almar Latour — the chief executive of Dow Jones, which publishes The Wall Street Journal — said the safety of journalists is his top priority and that the company is working "around the clock" to secure Gershkovich's release. The New York Times said in a statement it is "deeply concerned” by the arrest and called for his immediate release.
Headlines from the war:
- On the front lines: The Ukrainian military said its units repelled nearly 50 Russian assaults across the front lines in the eastern Donetsk region over the past day – but there have been far fewer missile and air strikes than normal. Russian shelling has been centered around the embattled city of Bakhmut, as well as Avdiivka and Mariinka in Donetsk, and Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region, the military said.
- Ukraine's training: More than 7,000 Ukrainian troops have received training by United States forces since the beginning of Russia’s invasion last year, according to the Pentagon. More than 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers will have completed combined arms training in Germany at the end of this month, the Pentagon said.
- Sanctions: President Vladimir Putin has conceded that Western sanctions designed to starve the Kremlin of funds for its invasion of Ukraine could deal a blow to Russia’s economy. It is a rare admission by the Russian leader, who has repeatedly insisted that his country's economy remains resilient and that sanctions have hurt Western countries by driving up inflation and energy prices.
- Possible human rights violations: The United States and 44 other countries in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe invoked a special mechanism to investigate alleged human rights violations by Russia during its war in Ukraine.
Ukrainian city of Kharkiv suffers six missile strikes, regional leader says
From CNN's Julia Kesaieva in Kyiv
Russia fired at least six missiles at Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, Thursday night, according to the head of Kharkiv's regional military administration.
“The shelling is coming from the direction of Belgorod,” Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram, referring to a Russian city just across the border. “Information on casualties and destruction is being updated. Do not leave the shelters until the alarm goes off!”
EU denounces Russia’s “systematic disregard” for media freedom in arrest of American journalist
From CNN's Sugam Pokharel and Pierre Bairin
The European Union on Thursday condemned the Russian detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and denounced the country's “systematic disregard” for media freedom.
"Journalists must be allowed to exercise their profession freely and deserve protection. The Russian authorities demonstrate yet again their systematic disregard for media freedom,” EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said in a tweet.
Other world leaders also are expressing concern for the arrest. It is the first time an American journalist has been detained on accusations by Moscow of spying since the Cold War.
The French foreign ministry said on Thursday that Paris was “particularly worried and we have had the opportunity on several occasions to condemn the repressive attitude of the Russian authorities towards the press, whether Russian or international, present in Russia,” a spokesperson said.
“We will continue to convey the message of defending press freedom and calling on the Russian authorities to respect fundamental rights, including those attached to freedom of information,” the foreign ministry spokesperson added.
Ukrainian military reports fewer Russian strikes and slightly improved situation around Bakhmut on Thursday
From Julia Kesaieva and Tim Lister
The Ukrainian military said its units repelled nearly 50 Russian assaults across the front lines in the eastern Donetsk region over the past day – but there have been far fewer missile and air strikes than normal.
Russian shelling has been centered around the embattled city of Bakhmut, as well as Avdiivka and Mariinka in Donetsk, and Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region, the military said.
“The enemy continues to assault the city of Bakhmut. However, our defenders are bravely holding the city and repelling numerous enemy attacks,” the General Staff said.
Positions in the area appear to have changed very little.
Accounts from units in Bakhmut also suggest that Thursday was quieter than most days. The State Border Guard Services said two of Russia's Wagner assault groups were eliminated.
An unofficial Telegram account of the 46th separate airmobile brigade said that while Russian units had become more active in the city, the pressure on outlying settlements to the west and northwest had eased. The account also said that there was little coordination between Wagner mercenaries and regular forces, and claimed that a Wagner detachment in the city had been struck by Russian combat planes.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk region military administration, said that the front lines around Bakhmut, Chasiv Yar (northwest of Bakhmut), Avdiivka and Mariinka were still under constant shelling.
In the town of Avdiivka, the situation is “really tense," Vitalii Barabash, the head of the city military administration told Ukrainian media. He said that in his opinion, "it cannot be called completely critical, especially since the Russians are now in positions that are not very favorable for them, but more favorable for us."
Russian forces have put considerable effort into encircling Avdiivka, but their most recent assaults have gained no ground, according to the General Staff.
In other parts of Ukraine: The General Staff said cross-border shelling in the north persisted, with settlements in Chernihiv, Sumy and Kharkiv regions coming under attack. It said that Ukrainian forces continued to strike at concentrations of Russian troops, weapons and ammunition depots behind the front lines.
White House says there's "no reason to believe" Russia's claim that journalist was spying
President Joe Biden's administration says the US is still investigating Russia's allegations against a detained Wall Street Journal reporter, but voiced skepticism Thursday over the Kremlin's claim he was spying in the country.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was responding to a question about whether the White House would call journalist Evan Gershkovich's plight a "hostage situation."
"We have been very clear, there's — you know — there's no reason to believe that those charges are accurate, the espionage (charges)," Jean-Pierre said.
Earlier, a White House spokesperson deferred to the US State Department and said officials were still assessing whether the US considers the reporter's arrest a wrongful detention. The Biden administration has, however, condemned the arrest.
In response to a follow-up question, Jean-Pierre said the Kremlin detaining Americans and using them for leverage in negotiations is a familiar tactic.
She also urged US residents to stay out of the country.
"It is not safe for Americans right now in Russia," Jean-Pierre said.
"The State Department is going to continue to reiterate that: It is not safe at this time to be in Russia or to travel in Russia," the press secretary said.