Our live coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine has moved here.
February 14, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news
By Kathleen Magramo, Jack Guy, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales, Mike Hayes and Tori B. Powell, CNN
A group of Russians are fighting for Ukraine. NYT photojournalist explains why
As fighting continues in Ukraine, an unlikely group is fighting to defend the country from Vladimir Putin’s attacks.
Known as the Free Russia Legion, the group is made entirely of Russian soldiers.
Lynsey Addario, a New York Times photojournalist, told CNN's Erin Burnett on Tuesday the group is motivated "by various reasons."
"They believe Russia should not have invaded Ukraine and they feel that it's their way of standing up to what they feel is an unjust war, so it's really a moral sort of stand," she said, citing the work of Michael Schwirtz, NYT investigative reporter. "Then, there are, of course, Russians who have lived in Ukraine for a long time and they feel like they want to fight on behalf of the Ukrainians and then there's just, of course, people who detest Putin and want to sort of free their country from his leadership."
Addario, who recently returned from a trip documenting the Ukrainian frontlines, said Russian forces "really would like to target" members of the Free Russia Legion "because they're their own countrymen fighting for the enemy."
In a photo Addario captured during her visit, she recalled the story of one of the group's members named Zaza.
"Zaza looked like a baby. He was incredibly young," she remembered. "Zaza talked about how he just didn't believe in his country fighting this war and he made a decision finally to just walk across the border into Ukraine and offer himself up to fight for the Ukrainian military."
Widow of American volunteer killed in Bakhmut accuses Russia of targeting medics
Alex Potter, the wife of an American aid worker killed in Ukraine, told CNN's Jake Tapper on Tuesday she believes Russian forces were targeting medics in the attack earlier this month that took her husband's life.
"They were targeting medical providers who were unarmed in a civilian vehicle — a marked ambulance," she said. "It was a very insidious incident."
Pete Reed, an American volunteer aid worker and former US Marine, was killed in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on February 2 while working with the medical aid group, Global Outreach Doctors. Video footage from the scene, shown to CNN, shows the incoming missile hitting Reed’s team’s makeshift ambulance. Munitions experts have examined the video and identified the weapon as an anti-tank guided missile, according to Potter.
Simon Johnsen, a medic from Norway, described the attack as a prime example of Russia targeting medics and frontline helpers in so-called “double-taps," or hitting a target, waiting a few minutes for first responders to arrive and then hitting the same spot again.
Despite numerous strikes on medical workers and facilities over the course of this war, Russia has denied deliberately targeting civilians. The Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Potter said her husband was in the country to administer "direct medical care to injured civilians," adding that he also had created a coalition in Ukraine designed to bring people together.
She described her late husband as "charismatic and outgoing." The two married just days before Russia invaded Ukraine.
"He was just the best person, really," Potter said. "Everyone thought that he was their best friend because he was so attentive and so listening and so present with anybody. You know, even if he was working with like multiple computers and two phones and had 50 messages that were in his inbox, if someone needed to come up and talk to him, including myself, he was always very present and put his whole heart into everything."
Zelensky says situation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions remain extremely difficult
From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Kyiv and Lauren Kent in London
President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the situation in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions remains extremely difficult.
"Those are literally battles for every meter of Ukrainian land," Zelensky said in his daily address Tuesday. "We must appreciate the significance of those battles. Every meter won there means the defense of our entire country."
"Every day that our heroes have stood up in Bakhmut, in Vuhledar, in Maryinka, and in other cities and communities in Donbas reduces the duration of Russian aggression by weeks. This is where the unprecedented destruction of Russian potential is happening now," Zelensky added. "The enemy will not be able to regain anything they lose in our Donbas."
Earlier, the Ukrainian General Staff said Russian forces are continuing air and ground offensives near Bakhmut, Shakhtarsk, Avdiivka and other towns in the Donetsk region.
Russian rockets hit civilian infrastructure in the Donetsk region in two separate attacks, resulting in several wounded civilians, it said.
It's nighttime in Kyiv. Catch up on the latest developments in the war
From CNN staff
Russian forces are carrying out air and ground offensives in eastern Ukraine near Bakhmut, Shakhtarsk, and other towns in the Donetsk region, according to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on Tuesday.
"The enemy continues to concentrate their main efforts at assaulting in the Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk directions," the military said in one of its regular updates. "Enemy aircraft are actively operating."
The General Staff also said Russian rockets hit civilian infrastructure in the Donetsk region in two separate attacks, resulting in several wounded civilians.
Meanwhile, the head of Russia’s Wagner private military company on Tuesday warned that the capture of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut was far from imminent. Despite months of intense battle, Wagner and Russian forces have failed to capture Bakhmut, though they are slowly pushing toward encircling the city.
Fewer than 5,000 civilians remain in Bakhmut, the head of Ukraine's Donetsk region military administration said on Tuesday.
Catch up on other key recent developments in the war:
- NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that allies in the alliance, working closely with the EU, will continue supporting Ukraine "for as long as it takes" so that Kyiv can "uphold its right to self-defense." Stoltenberg opened the NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels Tuesday and said the alliance "will discuss our continued support, which is essential to help Ukraine prevail as an independent sovereign state and to uphold the international rules-based order." US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov are among those attending the meeting.
- Norway will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine: Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram said in a news release Tuesday that Norway "will donate eight tanks and up to four support vehicles to Ukraine. In addition, we have earmarked funds for ammunition and spare parts." Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in the news release that “several allied countries have also done the same," adding that it is “more crucial than ever to support Ukraine's defensive battle.” According to Gram, Norway will also contribute to the education and training of Ukrainian tank crews in Poland together with other allied countries.
- Dwindling ammunition stockpiles worry NATO allies while they try to keep Ukraine’s troops firing: Multiple European defense and security sources have told CNN that there are serious concerns at just how much of Europe’s ammunition has been used on the battlefield and not replaced. Even the biggest supplier of weapons to Ukraine and the world’s top military exporter, the United States, is having trouble keeping up with the demand, as CNN reported late last year. On Monday night, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters ahead of the meeting of alliance officials that “the current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production – this puts our defense industries under strain.”
- EU working group will be set up to explore using frozen Russian assets for Ukraine reconstruction: An EU “working group” will be set up to look at using frozen Russian assets for the reconstruction of Ukraine, the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union said on Tuesday. The group will carry out a “legal, financial, economic and political analysis of the possibilities of using frozen Russian assets,” the Swedish presidency’s statement said. Part of this work will involve obtaining a “clearer picture” of where Russian state-owned assets are located and their total value, the statement added.
- Ukraine expected to conduct offensive against Russia in the spring: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he expects to see Kyiv conduct an offensive in the spring against Moscow's forces. “What Ukraine wants to do at the first possible moment is to establish or create momentum and establish conditions on the battlefield that continue to be in its favor,” Austin said in a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday.
In daily address, Zelensky tells Western allies "efficiency is essential" in Kyiv's fight against Russia
From Maria Kostenko in Kyiv and Jessie Gretener in London
During his daily address Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Western allies that "efficiency is essential" as Kyiv continues to battle Russia on the front lines.
Zelensky spoke about the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting, saying “we have another strong decision for the defense of our country.”
“More air defense systems have been confirmed by our partners. More tanks have been confirmed. More artillery and shells have been confirmed. More training for our military has been confirmed,” Zelensky said.
He continued by arguing that “efficiency is essential,” saying that “the speed saves lives, the speed brings back safety.”
“Much of the agreements and discussions should be left behind closed doors at the Contact Group meetings. However, I can say with certainty that the fundamental trends remain unchanged. Ukraine and its partners are jointly doing their utmost to make the terrorist state lose. To make it happen as soon as possible,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky added that the “Kremlin is trying to squeeze out all the possible aggression potential from Russia," adding, “They’re in a rush. For they know that the world is stronger.”
Moldova's place is "in the European family," EU Parliament president says
From CNN's Radina Gigova and James Frater
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola expressed the parliament's "unwavering solidarity" with Moldova on Tuesday.
"On behalf of the European Parliament, I would like to express our unwavering solidarity with the Republic of Moldova and our trust in Moldova's pro-European leadership," read a letter published on Metsola's official Twitter account and addressed to Moldova's President Maia Sandu.
"We are well aware of the difficult domestic situation and geopolitical context your country is facing, exacerbated by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine," Metsola said.
More on this: On Monday, Sandu accused Russia of planning to use "saboteurs" to destabilize the former Soviet republic, echoing a claim made days earlier by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "The place of the Republic of Moldova is with us, in the European family," Metsola added.
Moldova and Ukraine were granted candidate status for EU membership last June.
In remarks published by Russian state news agency TASS on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the West is trying to turn Moldova into "another Ukraine."
Russia is operating camps where it's held thousands of Ukrainian children, report says
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
The Russian government is operating an expansive network of dozens of camps where it has held thousands of Ukrainian children since the start of the war against Ukraine last year, according to a new report released Tuesday.
The report contains disturbing new details about the extent of Moscow's efforts to relocate, re-educate, and sometimes militarily train or forcibly adopt out Ukrainian children -- actions that constitute war crimes and could provide evidence that Russia's actions amount to genocide, it says.
The report was produced as a part of the work of the US State Department-backed Conflict Observatory by the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab. The Observatory was established last year to gather evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
"All levels of Russia's government are involved," Yale Humanitarian Research Lab's Nathaniel Raymond told reporters Tuesday.
"Consider this report a gigantic Amber Alert that we are issuing on Ukraine's children," he said.
CNN has asked Russia's embassy in Washington for comment.
The report found that more than 6,000 children — ranging in age from mere months old to 17 — have been in Russian custody at some point during the course of the nearly year-long war, although the "total number of children is not known and is likely significantly higher than 6,000."
It identified 43 facilities that are a part of the network, which "stretches from one end of Russia to the other," including Russian-occupied Crimea, the "eastern Pacific Coast - closer to Alaska than it is to Moscow," and Siberia, Raymond said.
"The primary purpose of the camps appears to be political reeducation," he said, noting that at least 32 of the facilities identified in the report "appear to be engaged in systematic re-education efforts that expose children from Ukraine to Russia-centric academic, cultural, patriotic, and in two cases, specifically military education."
Read more about this here.
Russia is attempting to deprive Ukrainians of access to water supply, prime minister says
From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Kyiv and Lauren Kent in London
Russia is trying to deprive Ukrainians of access to water supplies — with dangerous implications for water storage facilities needed to operate nuclear power plants — Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Tuesday.
"We are losing thousands of cubic meters of water due to the Kakhovka HPP [Hydroelectric Power Plant] floodgates being partially damaged and then intentionally opened by the Russians," Shmyhal said in a Telegram post. "Some of the settlements that are getting water from the Dnipro river may be left without access to drinking water."
Shmyhal said the threat to Ukraine's nuclear power plants is even bigger, adding, "A drop in the water level in the storage facility could lead to improper operation of cooling systems at the Zaporizhzhia NPP."
Shmyhal noted that the threat to water supplies follows repeated attacks on Ukraine's power grid.
"The civilized world should not keep silence," Shmyhal added. "Ukraine calls for all available means to put pressure on Russia to close the floodgates and restore the hydraulic structures at the Kakhovka HPP or let Ukrainian technicians do it."
Disruptions to Ukraine's water supply have been an ongoing and wide-reaching issue since the Russian invasion.
In December, CNN reported that Russia’s persistent and pervasive attacks on Ukraine’s energy grid had, at least temporarily, left millions of civilians without electricity, heat, water and other critical services in the bitter winter months. Meanwhile in November, one of Ukraine’s largest state hospitals was “on the verge of evacuating” some patients after it lost water supply because of Russian air strikes, a regional official told CNN.
With previous reporting from CNN's Olga Voitovych, Sophie Tanno, and Gabriel Kinder.