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The latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. All times EST.
9 p.m.: Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, on Saturday asked Pope Francis and other religious leaders to persuade Ukraine to stop a crackdown against a historically Russian-aligned wing of the church, Reuters reported.
Kyiv on Friday ordered the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to leave a monastery complex where it is based, the latest move against a denomination the government says is pro-Russian and collaborating with Moscow.
Kirill urged religious leaders and international organizations to “make every effort to prevent the forced closure of the monastery, which will lead to a violation of the rights of millions of Ukrainian believers,” said a statement posted on the church’s website.
Kirill strongly backed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The UOC says it has severed its ties with Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate, and is the victim of a political witch hunt.
8:15 p.m.: There have been more than 50 combat engagements between Ukrainian and Russian forces over the last 24 hours in the Bakhmut area, according to CNN.
“The enemy was actively conducting combat operations all week, just like the previous week. Yesterday was no exception,” said Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the eastern grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, on national television Saturday, CNN reported.
When asked which Russian units are leading the attacks on Bakhmut, and whether the tactics of the Russian forces have changed, Cherevatyi said most of the assault groups consist of Wagner fighters who are reinforced by Russian paratroopers.
On Friday, Cherevatyi said a third wave of fighters from the Wagner private military company fighting in the area are being replaced by Russia’s regular army.
7:24 p.m.: Russian forces lost more than 500 troops in the past day in Bakhmut, Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the eastern grouping of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said Saturday according to the Kyiv Independent.
The Russian casualties include 221 killed and 314 wounded, according to Cherevatyi.
The spokesperson stated that there were 53 engagements in the area, including 23 inside the devastated city, in the past day. He added that Russian forces shelled the Bakhmut front 157 times.
Both Ukrainian and Russian forces are taking heavy losses. Russia’s assault on Bakhmut relies heavily on the private military company Wagner Group.
Battlefield reports are difficult to independently verify.
6:11 p.m.: Thousands took to the streets of Prague on Saturday in protest against the Czech government, high inflation and demanding an end to the country’s military support for Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported.
The Czech Republic has been battling record inflation levels for a year mainly because of a spike in energy prices caused by the war in Ukraine.
In February, annual inflation in the EU and NATO member state of 10.5 million people reached 16.7%.
The protesters called on the center-right government of Petr Fiala to resign, while Rajchl said he wanted leaders who “care about the interests of Czech citizens first.”
Critics accuse Fiala’s government of caring more about Ukraine with substantial military and humanitarian aid sent to the war-torn country since the invasion started in February 2022.
5:22 p.m.: The power supply was restored to all Kyiv residents on Saturday afternoon after some districts lost electricity related to Russia’s mass missile and drone attack two days earlier, according to the Kyiv City Military Administration, the Kyiv Independent reported.
However, 5% of the capital’s residents remain without heating as a result of damage to electric cables, according to Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv City Military Administration.
Russia launched a mass missile and drone attack across Ukraine on Thursday morning, killing at least six people and injuring at least seven. Numerous energy infrastructure sites were targeted.
After the strikes, energy company DTEK announced that some districts would face electricity interruptions to maintain stability in the power system.
4:20 p.m.: A Russian strike on the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson on Saturday left three people dead and two others wounded, authorities said, according to Agence France-Presse.
“Russian terrorists are shelling Kherson again,” Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said on messaging app Telegram.
He posted a picture of firefighters next to a charred car.
Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of Kherson’s regional military administration, said the casualties occurred when a car was hit by a shell and caught fire.
The strike came two days after Russian artillery fire also killed three people in Kherson, according to the Ukrainian presidency.
Kherson is the capital of one of the four regions, along with Donetsk, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia, that Russia claims to have annexed but does not fully control.
3:44 p.m.: Officials are putting extra security and defense measures in place across Ukraine to protect critical infrastructure and residential areas from another potential country-wide Russian attack, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said on national television Saturday, according to CNN.
“I would like to remind you that since the beginning of the large-scale invasion, more than 40,500 such strikes have been carried out on the territory of our country. About 152,000 residential buildings and about 400,000 public infrastructure facilities have been destroyed,” he added.
Klymenko said he could not elaborate on the details of the extra security measures but said authorities are trying to help residents feel safe, especially in the cities where the biggest attacks occurred. Officials are securing the centers where people can find shelter, warm up and charge their devices, and are conducting “intensified patrols,” he said.
2:25 p.m.: Russia is quickly going through decades of weapon stockpiles, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said on Twitter on Saturday, The Kyiv Independent reported.
Danilov said that Russia expected to fight a quick blitzkrieg operation after launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, but that is not what happened.
The official added that Russia’s “corrupt economy” was incapable of supplying its front-line needs and now needs external assistance “as a matter of primary importance.”
1:42 p.m.: The firefighters find thick grey smoke pouring from the roof of a brick house that is one of several homes hit by Russian shelling in a residential neighborhood of Kostiantinivka, according to The Associated Press.
The city in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province has come under intense bombardment in recent days while Russia’s forces continue their monthslong push to capture nearby Bakhmut. Ukrainian authorities say Russian forces are attacking Kostiantinivka with cluster bombs and missiles.
The barrages have overwhelmed local firefighters, who take great risks putting out fires in buildings and cars amid ongoing shelling. The governor of Donetsk province said one person was killed and at least three civilians wounded after several rounds of Russian shelling on Saturday.
12:50 p.m.: Russia has added the World Wildlife Fund to its register of foreign agents, a listing that brings additional government scrutiny, the AP reported. Russian law requires individuals and organizations that are determined to have received foreign funding and to have engaged in loosely defined “political activity” to identify themselves as “foreign agents.”
The Russian Justice Ministry says the World Wildlife Fund tried to influence government decisions and hindered industrial and infrastructure projects “under the guise of protecting nature.”
WWF representatives told Russian news site Meduza that the decision was unfounded and would be contested in court. The conservation organization has its headquarters in Washington and is involved in projects throughout the world, including Russia.
“The units are mostly already formed and today we are recruiting additional volunteers to have a reserve in the future,” Klymenko said on March 11.
The Offensive Guard units, which are expected to be used in an offensive against invading Russian forces, are currently being trained at facilities around the country, Klymenko added.
11:11 a.m.: British military officials say Russian forces have advanced in the eastern city of Bakhmut, a key target of Moscow’s grinding offensive that has brought staggering casualties, but they risk further harsh losses if they push ahead, The Associated Press reported. Elsewhere in Ukraine, repair work continued following a massive Russian missile and drone strike early Thursday that killed six people and left hundreds of thousands without power.
10:25 a.m.: Iran has reached a deal to buy advanced Su-35 fighter planes from Russia, Iranian state media said on Saturday, expanding a relationship that has seen Iranian-built drones used in Russia’s war on Ukraine, Reuters reported.
“The Sukhoi-35 fighter planes are technically acceptable to Iran, and Iran has finalized a contract for their purchase,” the broadcaster IRIB quoted Iran’s mission to the United Nations as saying in New York.
The report did not carry any Russian confirmation of the deal, details of which were not disclosed. The mission said Iran had also inquired about buying military aircraft from several other, unnamed countries, IRIB reported.
9:54 a.m.: The European Union could soon top up the fund used for purchasing weapons for Ukraine by $3.7 billion, a senior EU official said Friday, Reuters reported.
9:25 a.m.: British military officials say Russian forces have advanced in the eastern city of Bakhmut, a key target of Moscow’s grinding offensive that has brought staggering casualties, but they risk further harsh losses if they push ahead, The Associated Press reported. Elsewhere in Ukraine, repair work continued following a massive Russian missile and drone strike Thursday that killed six people and left hundreds of thousands without power, The Associated Press reported.
8:50 a.m.: Urmat has signed a contract to work for a Russian company that will pay him about $120 a day to collect dead Russian soldiers on the front line in Ukraine. The migrant worker from Kyrgyzstan, who did not want his last name published, says he is aware of the risks involved and has discussed the topic with Kyrgyz migrants working in Ukraine’s war zones, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty reported.
“They told me sometimes they came under shelling and that people get killed,” Urmat told RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service. “[People] do this kind of work because they’re in a desperate situation. Some have debts.”
Hundreds of Central Asian migrants have been hired by Russian firms to work in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory despite warnings from their governments not to go to Ukraine. Kyiv has also stated that such workers will be seen as accomplices of the Russian invaders.
The majority of the migrants are working in construction in war-ravaged cities like Mariupol. Other jobs involve digging trenches and gathering dead bodies.
8:05 a.m.: Ukraine has decided to fight on in the ruined city of Bakhmut because the battle there is pinning down Russia’s best units and degrading them ahead of a planned Ukrainian spring counter-offensive, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, as reported by Reuters.
7:20 a.m.: More than 600 kilometers west of Bakhmut, thousands of Ukrainians gathered in central Kyiv to say their last goodbyes to the fallen soldier Dmytro Kotsiubailo, killed in action near Bakhmut on March 7, The Kyiv Independent reported.
The 27-year-old battalion commander, better known as “Da Vinci,” was from the 67th Separate Mechanized Brigade and had been fighting in the war for nine years.
Kotsiubailo was severely wounded by a Russian tank in Donetsk Oblast back in 2014 but immediately returned to the front line after three months of recovery. He has fought Russia ever since.
Kotsiubailo was among the most decorated Ukrainian soldiers, being awarded the Hero of Ukraine national title in 2021.
6:30 a.m.: The British government is urging Olympic sponsors to pressure the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over its proposal to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete at next year’s Paris Games, British media reported on Saturday, according to Reuters.
5:19 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russian sources claimed that Wagner Group forces entered the built-up AZOM industrial complex, and frontal assaults on the complex will likely be costly for Wagner Group forces.
Russian forces also made gains in Bakhmut, are clearing eastern parts of the city, and have advanced to new positions in northwestern Bakhmut within 800 meters of the AZOM metal processing plant.
Additionally, Russian forces continue reconnaissance activity near islands in the Dnipro River delta.
4:10 a.m.: French President Emmanuel Macron will meet Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban to discuss the Ukraine crisis and other issues ahead of a European Council meeting, Macron’s office said Friday.
Orban has been an outspoken critic of Europe’s stance on the war in Ukraine, accusing it of waging an “indirect war” on Russia.
Macron will meet with Orban on Monday before the March 23-34 European Council meeting, and would also discuss energy issues and support for the European defense industry, a statement said.
EU member Hungary is highly dependent on imported Russian fuel. Orban has vowed to maintain ties with Russia and has refused to supply weapons to Ukraine.
He has also criticized western sanctions leveled at Russia, even if Hungary eventually voted with its EU partners on this issue.
3:10 a.m.: The International Fencing Federation on Friday decided to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Olympic qualifying events, sparking outrage in Ukraine.
Fencing became the first Olympic sport to reopen events to fencers from the two nations, one year after their exclusion because of the war in Ukraine.
Fencing’s qualifying process for the 2024 Paris Olympics is to begin in April.
FIE’s decision will take effect from April “subject to possible recommendations or future decisions of the International Olympic Committee (IOC),” a delegate told AFP.
Athletes could qualify and still be barred by the IOC from the Games.
“We are deeply shocked and outraged by this decision and we immediately convene a meeting of the Presidium to decide our response to the decision of the FIE and its possible appeal,” the Ukrainian Fencing Federation said in a statement.
Its Russian counterparts welcomed the decision.
2:05 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said that Ukrainian troops hold the western part of Bakhmut, while Wagner Group forces control the eastern part of town. A section near the Bakhmutka river has become a “killing zone,” the update said, with Ukrainian forces firing from fortified buildings to the west.
1:05 a.m.: The Kyiv Independent, citing Bloomberg News, reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin may attend the G-20 summit in India, scheduled for Sept. 9-10. The Kremlin has postponed Vladivostok’s Eastern Economic Forum, originally planned for the eve of the G-20 summit.
12:02 a.m.: Ukrainian officials on Friday ordered a historically Russian-aligned wing of the Orthodox Church to leave a monastery complex in Kyiv where it is based, the latest move against a denomination regarded with deep suspicion by the government.
Kyiv is cracking down on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the grounds that it is pro-Russian and collaborating with Moscow. The Moscow patriarch, Kirill, has strongly backed the invasion.
The UOC says it has severed its ties with Russia and the Moscow patriarchate, and is the victim of a political witch hunt.
The Ukrainian culture ministry said the UOC had been ordered to leave the 980-year-old Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery complex, where it has its headquarters.
In a statement, it said a probe had revealed the UOC “violated the terms of the agreement regarding the use of state property” but did not give any details.
The UOC, which has until March 29 to leave, said in a Facebook post that the results of the probe were “obviously biased and grossly violate legal norms.”
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