March 10, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, George Ramsay, Jack Guy, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya, Jason Kurtz, Aditi Sangal and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:11 a.m. ET, March 11, 2022
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12:19 a.m. ET, March 10, 2022

Ukrainian air defenses denying Russians access to airspace, US official says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

Ukrainian air defenses are largely denying the Russian military access to Ukrainian airspace, a US official said Wednesday, but cautioned Russia’s superior combat power still has the capability to overwhelm the country's defenses.

Russia’s air force is largely avoiding Ukrainian airspace because of an array of anti-aircraft systems that have denied Russia air superiority, according to the US official.

Russia is flying 150-200 sorties per day, but they’re virtually all over Russian territory, the official said. Russian pilots have not ventured far into Ukrainian airspace because of the effective use of surface-to-air missiles, including portable Stingers provided by the US and larger systems.

Although some Russian aircraft have entered Ukrainian airspace quickly for an attack, they don’t loiter or provide significant cover for Russian ground forces. 

Ukrainian air defenses have denied Russia the freedom to maneuver in the skies, underscoring what Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said earlier Wednesday about the “limited” effectiveness of Russian air operations

Air defense is from anti-aircraft systems: In addition, Ukraine has operational jets, but they are not flying a significant number of combat missions, the official said. The air defense is coming primarily from their anti-aircraft systems, which is why it’s more effective to provide Ukraine with the weapons that have proven most problematic for the Russians: anti-armor missiles and anti-aircraft missiles. 

Russian losses: Russia has lost approximately 20-25 helicopters and 15-20 other aircraft, the official said, while also losing hundreds of vehicles, including tanks and armored equipment. CNN previously reported that Russia has lost 8-10% of its military assets in the invasion.

Some context: The official’s comments come after the Pentagon said it did not support the transfer of Polish MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine through the US. Kirby said Wednesday the proposal would offer little benefit to the Ukrainian military, which already has operational aircraft, but entails a high risk of escalation with Russia.

Ukrainians effectively fighting back: Despite the massive Russian advantage in combat power, they have not been able to bring that force to bear at a decisive place and time, the official said. Ukraine has fought back very effectively, using small teams composed of light infantry to attack large Russian convoys which generally travel by road.

The Ukrainians are fighting on their home turf, giving them an advantage in knowing the terrain and allowing them to use the local population as their eyes and ears. The US also has anecdotal evidence of dissension in the Russian ranks.

12:15 a.m. ET, March 10, 2022

About 6,000 Russian troops may have been killed in Ukraine, US official says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

Russia has potentially suffered 6,000 troops killed in action since its invasion of Ukraine began, according to a US official, who cautioned that an accurate estimate of combat casualties is incredibly difficult to make — especially as the fighting unfolds in real time.

The official said the number of Russian troops killed could be in the 5,000 to 6,000 range or even higher, but emphasized there is low confidence in the numbers.

Some context: The latest assessment comes after the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier told the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday the intelligence community assesses that 2,000 to 4,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine.

Berrier also said there is “low confidence” in the assessment.

The number of wounded could be three times as high, he added.

12:01 a.m. ET, March 10, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. As Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters a third week, here's what you need to know

Russia has escalated its attacks on civilians as Ukrainians rush to escape through evacuation corridors. Wednesday saw Russian forces bomb a maternity hospital in Mariupol, fighting in the streets of Voznesensk and gridlock as people tried to escape areas near Ukraine's capital, Kyiv.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Bombing "atrocity": Russian forces bombed a maternity and children's hospital in Mariupol, city authorities said, injuring at least 17 people. The attack sparked immediate international condemnation and came despite Russia agreeing to a 12-hour pause in hostilities to allow refugees to evacuate towns and cities. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said the bombing is "proof of a genocide" and renewed calls for a no-fly zone over the country.
  • Evacuation corridors: Zelensky said nearly 35,000 people were rescued via humanitarian corridors Wednesday, including from Kyiv, Sumy and Enerhodar. He said efforts will continue Thursday and hoped to evacuate people from Mariupol, Izium, and Volnovakha. But Ukrainian authorities said evacuation efforts failed in some of Kyiv's suburbs, and heavy weapons fire appeared to have disrupted some routes.
  • Chemical weapons warning: The White House warned that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine or manufacture a "false flag" operation that uses them. It comes after Russia accused the US of developing chemical weapons in Ukraine, which the US immediately denied. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said "we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine," noting Russia's “long and well-documented track record of using chemical weapons.”
  • Kamala Harris in Poland: The US Vice President arrived in Poland ahead of a high stakes visit that has been complicated by what the White House calls a "temporary breakdown in communications" over sending fighter jets to Ukraine. The issue is expected to be discussed when Harris begins meetings with Polish leaders on Thursday morning.
  • UK to supply Ukraine with anti-air missiles: Britain is planning to send anti-air missiles to Ukraine to help Kyiv combat Russia's "indiscriminate and murderous" airstrikes, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said. Separately, in a call with Zelensky, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to tighten sanctions and "impose the maximum economic cost on Russia."
  • Russian conscripts: Russia's Defense Ministry confirmed that military conscripts have been involved in the invasion and some were taken prisoner by Ukrainian forces. It comes a day after President Vladimir Putin insisted conscripts were not part of the assault.

11:04 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022

Russian forces bombed a maternity and children's hospital. Here's what we know about the siege of Mariupol

An injured pregnant woman leaves the damaged hospital with her belongings.
An injured pregnant woman leaves the damaged hospital with her belongings. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Harrowing images show a heavily pregnant woman clutching her belongings, her face covered with cuts, as she walks down a bombed-out staircase at a maternity and children's hospital in the city of Mariupol, southern Ukraine. Inside, smashed incubators and bloodied beds lay among the wreckage.

Russian forces bombed the hospital Wednesday, Mariupol officials said — an attack described by Ukraine's President as an “atrocity" and "proof of a genocide."

Here's what we know:

  • Mariupol city council accused Russia of dropping several bombs on the hospital from the air, destroying the medical facility building where children were recently being treated.
  • The attack came despite Russia agreeing to a 12-hour pause in hostilities to allow refugees to evacuate a number of towns and cities.
  • Police in the Donetsk region said according to preliminary information at least 17 people were injured, including mothers and staff. Ukraine's President said authorities were sifting through the rubble looking for victims.
  • A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman claimed — without providing evidence —  that Ukrainian forces had “equipped combat positions” within the hospital. Video from the hospital after the bombing clearly showed there were both patients and staff there, including pregnant women.
  • The attack received international condemnation, with the UN saying it would follow up “urgently” on the “shocking reports,” and that health care facilities, hospitals and health workers should not “ever, ever be a target.”

Leader's reaction: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said the bombing is "proof of a genocide of Ukrainians taking place" and repeated his call for NATO to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

"Children's hospital? Maternity ward? Why were they a threat to Russian Federation? What kind of country is the Russian Federation that is afraid of hospitals, afraid of maternity wards and destroys them?" he asked.

More bombings: A city administration building and a university in Mariupol, less than a kilometer from the bombed-out hospital, has been identified by CNN as a second location in the city hit by an apparent Russian military strike.

Evacuation corridor: The attacks came as humanitarian corridors were set up around Ukraine to evacuate civilians to safety. It is unclear if any people made it out of Mariupol, which has been has been under siege for days and isolated by Russian forces.

"Desperate situation": About 1,300 civilians have been killed in Mariupol since the Russian invasion began, two officials in the city said. Residents have been cut off from water and electricity for days, and on Tuesday Ukraine's Foreign Minister accused Russia of committing war crimes by holding 300,000 civilians “hostage.” Photos show bodies being placed into a mass grave in the city.

Destruction of city: New satellite images Wednesday from Maxar Technologies show homes, buildings, grocery stores and shopping malls across Mariupol damaged or destroyed in the fighting.

10:30 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022

Chernobyl nuclear plant has been disconnected from the power grid. Here's what we know

Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear plant has been disconnected from the electricity grid and lost its supply of external power, Ukraine’s energy operator Ukrenergo and state-run nuclear company Energoatom said Wednesday.

It comes two weeks after Russian forces seized control of the plant, which was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986.

Here's what we know:

What happens if Chernobyl loses power?: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had been told by Ukraine that Chernobyl had lost power, but that it saw “no critical impact” on the plant’s safety. 

"Specifically, regarding the site’s spent fuel storage facility, the volume of cooling water in the pool is sufficient to maintain effective heat removal from the spent fuel without a supply of electricity. The site also has reserve emergency power supplies with diesel generators and batteries," IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.

Is Chernobyl still active? The Chernobyl site is not currently operational and handling of nuclear material has been halted, the IAEA said, citing information from Ukraine’s nuclear regulator. The facility holds decommissioned reactors as well as radioactive waste facilities.

However, the lack of power "is likely to lead to a further deterioration of operational radiation safety at the site," Grossi said.

Chernobyl radiation leak warning: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the country's security and intelligence service warned of a possible radiation leak after the plant was disconnected.

“Reserve diesel generators have a 48-hour capacity to power the Chornobyl NPP. After that, cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent,” Kuleba said in a tweet Wednesday. 

Ukraine’s technical security and intelligence service echoed Kuleba’s concerns, warning that “all nuclear facilities” in the Chernobyl exclusion zone were without power, and that if the pumps could not be cooled, a “nuclear discharge” could occur. 

Neither Kuleba nor the intelligence service commented on whether the diesel generators could be sustained beyond the 48-hour period.

Lines down: On Tuesday, the IAEA said it had lost contact with remote data transmission from safeguard monitoring systems at Chernobyl. 

Staff pushed to the limit: The loss of power at Chernobyl has raised further concerns for some 210 personnel that have been working for two weeks straight at the site since Russian forces seized control of the facility. Grossi said they have been effectively living there, working around the clock and unable to rotate shifts.

“From day to day, we are seeing a worsening situation at the Chornobyl NPP, especially for radiation safety, and for the staff managing the facility under extremely difficult and challenging circumstances,” Grossi said. “I repeat my urgent appeal to the forces in effective control of the plant to respect internal radiation protection procedures, to facilitate the safe rotation of staff and to take other important steps to ensure safety.”

Eight of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors are currently operating, including two at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya — which is also now under Russian control —  and that radiation levels still appear normal, Ukraine’s nuclear regulator told IAEA.

2:42 a.m. ET, March 10, 2022

Nearly 35,000 people rescued through humanitarian corridors, Zelensky says

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Hira Humayun

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “all in all almost 35,000 people were rescued” via the humanitarian corridors established Wednesday.

“Today we were able to organize three humanitarian corridors: from the city of Sumy, from city of Kyiv and Kyiv region, and from Enerhodar,” he said, adding that efforts will continue Thursday.

Zelensky said Ukrainian authorities were preparing six humanitarian corridors to get people out of areas under attack by Russian forces.

“We are praying to be able to evacuate people from Mariupol, from Izium, from Volnovakha, etc. to evacuate to safe places of free Ukraine. And I'm sure that every Ukrainian that knows these people need help will make sure these people feel cared for," he said.

While some routes were successful in evacuating people to safety, others had to be abandoned.

What happened: Local authorities in areas close to Kyiv that have been under attack for more than a week said efforts to evacuate people to safety Wednesday failed. The city council of Bucha said 50 buses had been blocked by the Russian military in nearby Stoyanka.

12:06 a.m. ET, March 10, 2022

White House warns that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine 

From CNN's Sam Fossum

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 9 in Washington, DC.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 9 in Washington, DC. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The White House warned Wednesday that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine or manufacture a "false flag" operation that uses them. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, slamming what she called false claims from Russia that the US is developing chemical weapons in Ukraine, tweeted: 

"Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them. It’s a clear pattern.”

Psaki also noted Russia’s “long and well-documented track record of using chemical weapons” as well as its pattern of “accusing the West of the very violations that Russia itself is perpetrating.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned earlier this year of the possibility of Russia carrying out a fake or real chemical weapons attack as a manufactured pretext for an invasion into Ukraine. But his comments came before Russia’s full invasion began.

Read the tweets:

CNN's Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.

7:36 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022

How the US is trying to help Ukraine without triggering a wider war with Russia

From CNN's Jeremy Herb, Jeremy Diamond, Kevin Liptak, Natasha Bertrand, and Lauren Fox

The swift US rejection of a Polish plan to get MiG-29 fighter jets into Ukraine is the clearest example yet of the complications that the US and its NATO allies face trying to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s brutal assault while ensuring they don’t get dragged into a wider war.

The negotiations fell apart almost as quickly as they came together.

Poland’s announcement on Tuesday that it was ready to provide MiG fighter jets to Ukraine via a US Air Force base in Germany caught the US off-guard. By Wednesday morning, US and Polish officials were still discussing the prospect of providing fighter jets to Ukraine, an administration official told CNN.

But on Wednesday afternoon, the Pentagon bluntly announced it was opposed to the idea, which Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin conveyed in a call to his Polish counterpart.

“Secretary Austin thanked the minister for Poland’s willingness to continue to look for ways to assist Ukraine, but he stressed that we do not support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian air force at this time, and therefore have no desire to see them in our custody either,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said at a briefing.

The episode underscores how the US and its allies may be reaching the limits of what they can do to help Ukraine — while staying out of the conflict — and points to possible cracks in an alliance that has remained strongly unified in the early part of the war as members enacted stiff sanctions and provided security aid.

It also demonstrates that the Biden administration is still working to get on the same page.

Read more:

7:32 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022

Ukrainian President asks why a maternity hospital was a "threat" to Russia

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked why a maternity hospital was a "threat" to Russia, in a video message posted to Telegram late Wednesday night.

The video comes after a maternity hospital in Mariupol was bombed earlier in the day.

“Russian bombs fell on a hospital and maternity center in Mariupol. A children’s hospital, a working maternity hospital, those buildings are ruined!” the President said.

“Children`s hospital? Maternity ward? Why were they a threat to Russian Federation? What kind of country is the Russian Federation that is afraid of hospitals, afraid of maternity wards and destroys them?” he asked.

Zelensky said at least 17 people were injured in the attack and authorities are continuing to search through the rubble for more victims.

Russia claims Ukraine was establishing combat positions at the hospital, something CNN has not been able to verify.