Accessibility links

Breaking News

Latest Developments in Ukraine: March 15

A Ukrainian serviceman hugs a woman as they visit the Wall of Remembrance to pay tribute to killed Ukrainian servicemen during a commemorative ceremony to mark the Volunteer Day honoring fighters, who joined the Ukrainian armed forces, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 14, 2023.
A Ukrainian serviceman hugs a woman as they visit the Wall of Remembrance to pay tribute to killed Ukrainian servicemen during a commemorative ceremony to mark the Volunteer Day honoring fighters, who joined the Ukrainian armed forces, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 14, 2023.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia's war on Ukraine. All times EDT.

11:20 p.m.: Reuters reported that Ukrainian tycoon Kostyantyn Zhevago said his record of investing in his homeland was proof of innocence ahead of Thursday's extradition hearing in a French Alpine town over accusations of embezzling tens of millions of dollars.

Zhevago's case comes as Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy seeks to clip the wings of oligarchs dominating the economy since the fall of the Soviet Union three decades ago.

The 49-year-old billionaire, who controls London-listed iron pellet producer Ferrexpo, was arrested at a ski resort in December at the request of Ukraine which wants him over the disappearance of $113 million from the now bankrupt lender Finance & Credit Bank.

Zhevago, a former lawmaker and former beneficiary owner of Finance & Credit Bank, was released on bail for 1 million euros and due to appear at an appeals court in the nearby town of Chambery.

10:45 p.m.: Turkey will continue discussions to extend a deal that allows grain shipments from Ukraine's Black Sea ports for 120 days rather than 60 days, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said, according to Reuters.

"We started negotiations in line with the initial version of the deal. The continuation of the deal is important. We will continue our contacts (regarding its extension for) 120 days instead of two months," Akar said according to a statement by the defense ministry.

Parties of the deal will evaluate and decide on a further extension of the agreement, Akar also said, adding that Ankara hoped for a positive outcome.

The deal reached in July last year created a protected sea transit corridor and was designed to alleviate global food shortages by allowing exports to resume from three ports in Ukraine, a major producer of grains and oilseeds.

10:05 p.m.:

9:20 p.m.: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that his country may soon ratify Finland’s application to join NATO, The Associated Press reported.

That would allow for the possibility of Finland joining the Western military alliance separately from Sweden. Finland and Sweden abandoned decades of nonalignment and applied to join NATO last year. All 30 existing allies need to ratify their accession.

Turkey’s government accuses Sweden of being too soft on groups it deems to be terror organizations. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto is scheduled to meet with Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday. Asked by reporters on Wednesday if the Turkish parliament might ratify Finland’s membership after that, Erdogan responded: “God willing, if it is for the best.”

8:35 p.m.: After the Bomb, Silence: Under Fire in Bohoyavlenka, Eastern Ukraine: "When there's an explosion, there's a terrifying boom, and then a deathly silence," says Lyuba, whose house is the only intact structure on her street in Bohoyavlenka, eastern Ukraine. Current Time correspondent Borys Sachalko sent this report from the village, 10 kilometers from the frontline town of Vuhledar.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has the report.

7:40 p.m.: The U.K. Supreme Court has ruled that Ukraine can try to avoid repaying $3 billion in loans it said it took under pressure from Russia in 2013 to prevent it from trying to join the European Union, The Associated Press reported.

The court on Wednesday rejected a bid by a British company acting on Russia’s behalf to order Ukraine to repay the loans without facing a trial. Ukraine said it borrowed the money while facing the threat of military force and massive illegal economic and political pressure nearly a decade before Russia invaded its neighbor.

The loans were issued before Russia illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in 2014, and the case was heard before Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

6:51 p.m.: Canada will send about 8,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and a dozen air defense missiles as part of Ottawa's latest military aide to Kyiv, the Canadian defense ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Canada will also provide Ukraine with more than 1,800 rounds of training ammunition for Leopard 1 battle tanks donated by Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government, one of Ukraine's most vocal international supporters, has committed over $730 million in military aid to Kyiv since the start of the Russian invasion last year.

Canada has already announced it is donating eight Leopard 2 main battle tanks, which are expected to be in Ukraine in the coming weeks, the ministry said.

6:03 p.m.: Inside Kyiv's Sacred Cave Monastery as 'Eviction' Deadline Looms -- Ukraine has ordered Moscow-affiliated clerics to leave Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, the country’s most important Orthodox monastery, by the end of March. Here is the background of the site, and developments that have led to the current crisis. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has the report.

5:18 p.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting Syrian leader Bashar Assad for talks in the Kremlin that are expected to focus on rebuilding Syria after a devastating civil war and mending the country’s ties with Turkey, The Associated Press reported.

Welcoming Assad at the start of Wednesday's meeting that comes on the anniversary of Syria’s 12-year uprising-turned-civil war, Putin emphasized the Russian military’s “decisive contribution” to stabilizing the country.

Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since September 2015, teaming up with Iran to allow Assad’s government to fight back armed opposition groups and to reclaim control over most of the country. While Russia has concentrated its military resources in Ukraine, Moscow has maintained its military foothold in Syria.

4:42 p.m.: Spain and Portugal confirmed the addition of Morocco to their bid to host the 2030 World Cup and said Ukraine may still be included, in a statement on Wednesday, according to Agence France-Presse.

4:05 p.m.:

3:47 p.m.: World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) director general Olivier Niggli has told AFP that Russian competitors "are being tested now" despite their disappearance from global view after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported.

"The idea that the Russians are not being tested now is false," he said. "They are being tested now."

However Niggli said the reinstatement of the Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA -- suspended in the wake of a massive doping and corruption scandal -- was "complicated" because it was currently impossible to send WADA officials to Moscow to make a first-hand assessment.

Athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus were banned from international competition in response to the Russian invasion.

But the International Olympic Committee has said it is examining a "pathway" to allow athletes from those two countries to take part in the 2024 Paris Olympics, a suggestion that has been greeted with dismay by Ukraine.

3:05 p.m.:

2:27 p.m.: As Russia is waging war in Ukraine, it also seeks to increase its already strong influence in Moldova, a nation of 2.6 million people that borders Ukraine and the EU, The Kyiv Independent wrote in collaboration with its media partners.

According to a leaked document obtained by an international consortium of media outlets, including the Kyiv Independent, Moscow is planning to gain vast control over the country by 2030.

2 p.m.: Reuters reported that on the ground in Ukraine, Russia has kept up its push to capture the small eastern city of Bakhmut and secure its first substantial victory in more than half a year.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his military top brass had advised reinforcing Bakhmut.

Kyiv had appeared last month to be preparing to pull out of the city but has since decided to defend it, saying it is exhausting Russia's attacking force there to prepare for e way for its own counterattack.

Some Western and Ukrainian military experts have questioned whether it makes sense for Kyiv to hold on there because of its own heavy losses.

But Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said the defense of Bakhmut was important.

"A huge number of [Russian] troops are being killed and as of today, the enemy's capacity to advance is being reduced," Malyar said.

1:10 p.m.: Nine countries have pledged to transfer more than 150 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, according to U.S. Defense Minister Lloyd Austin at the Ramstein format meeting on March 15, The Kyiv Independent reported.

Austin did not name any specific countries, only remarking that the tank coalition "continues to grow."

Poland's Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said on March 9 that 10 more Leopard tanks had been transferred to Ukraine, bringing the total to 14.

German and Portuguese tanks are also expected to arrive in Ukraine by the end of March.

In addition to Leopard 2 tanks, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced on Feb. 7 during his visit to Kyiv that Ukraine was set to receive over 100 older Leopard 1 tanks from several European countries.

12:30 p.m.: Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty reported Russian parliament's upper chamber has approved a bill expanding the Kremlin's wartime censorship measures to include punishment for anyone considered to have discredited "volunteer" forces, such as so-called private military groups involved in Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The bill, already approved by the lower chamber, increases the maximum prison term for those found to have repeatedly discredited forces in Ukraine from three years to five years. The punishment for discrediting actions that lead to death or mass disorder rises from five years to seven years in prison. Authorities have used the law to hand down lengthy jail sentences to long-time Kremlin critics.

11:20 a.m.: The Danish government and the parliament's majority have agreed to allocate an additional $1 billion in civil, defense, and economic aid for Ukraine, according to a press release published by the Danish Finance Ministry, The Kyiv Independent reported.

The majority of the funds will be spent on military assistance consisting of weapons, other military equipment, and training efforts, the ministry wrote on March 15.

Using the newly created fund, Copenhagen also will provide Ukraine with humanitarian aid, help the country with long-term reconstruction and support the business initiatives allowing Danish companies to contribute to Ukraine's recovery.

"Ukrainians are fighting not only for their own freedom but also for the security of the whole of Europe. With the Ukraine Fund, we are taking Danish support to a new level," Denmark's Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said.

10:10 a.m.: Russia said on Wednesday it would try to retrieve the remains of a U.S. military surveillance drone that fell into the Black Sea after an incident involving Russian fighter planes, accusing Washington of "directly participating" in the war in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The U.S. military said Tuesday that a Russian fighter jet clipped the propeller of one of its spy drones as it flew over the Black Sea in international air space, causing it to crash.

Russia denied being responsible for the crash and said relations with the U.S. had reached their "lowest point."

Kremlin Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev told the Rossiya-1 TV channel: "I don't know whether we will be able to retrieve it or not, but that it has to be done. And we'll certainly work on it. I hope, of course, successfully."

"Secondly, regarding the drone - the Americans keep saying they're not taking part in military operations. This is the latest confirmation that they are directly participating in these activities - in the war," Patrushev said.

White House spokesman John Kirby said the drone may never be recovered, but that U.S. authorities had taken precautions to ensure Russia's ability to draw useful intelligence from the craft would be limited if a Russian team did so.

9:20 a.m.: The U.S. military surveillance drone that crashed into the Black Sea may never be recovered, White House spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday, after the craft was intercepted Tuesday by Russian fighter jets, worsening taut relations between Washington and Moscow, Reuters reported.

In the first such incident since the Ukraine war began, Russian Su-27 jets struck the propeller of the unmanned drone and made it inoperable, the Pentagon said. Russia's defense ministry blamed "sharp maneuvering" of the drone for the crash and said that its jets did not make contact.

8:23 a.m.: The U.S. will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows," U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a virtual meeting of the Ukraine contact group after Washington accused Russia of downing one of its reconnaissance drones over the Black Sea.

"It is incumbent upon Russia to operate its aircraft in a safe and professional manner," Austin said, VOA’s Jeff Seldin reported.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that relations with the United States were in a "lamentable state" and at their lowest level after the incident, according to Reuters.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters there had been no high-level contact with Washington over the incident, and that he had nothing to add to a statement issued by Russia's Defense Ministry.

The U.S. military says a Russian fighter jet collided Tuesday with a U.S. intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance drone operating within international airspace over the Black Sea, causing the drone to crash.

A U.S. military official told VOA the unmanned U.S. MQ-9 has not yet been recovered. Russia's defense ministry blamed the drone for the crash and said that its Su-27 jets did not come into contact with the U.S. aircraft.

7:35 a.m.: Russia kept up the intensity of its ceaseless assault on Bakhmut and continued to target civilian objectives, causing casualties, the Ukrainian military said on March 15, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to keep defending the city in the eastern region of Donetsk and inflict maximum losses to the enemy, RFE/RL reported.

Russia launched more that 90 unsuccessful attacks along the front line in the east, with a focus on Bakhmut, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in its daily briefing on Wednesday.

Besides Bakhmut, which has been the epicenter of the months-long battle in the east, Russian forces focused their offensive efforts on conducting operations in the directions of Lyman, Avdiyivka, Maryinka, and Shakhtarsk, the report military reported.

6:05 a.m.: Agence France-Presse reported that Kyiv accused Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Wednesday of trying to widen the conflict in Ukraine after Washington said Russian fighter jets intercepted a US drone over the Black Sea, causing it to crash.

"The incident with the American MQ-9 Reaper UAV — provoked by Russia over the Black Sea — is Putin's way of signaling his readiness to expand the conflict to involve other parties. The purpose of this all-in tactic is to always be raising the stakes," Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council secretary Oleksiy Danilov said on social media.

5:45 a.m.: Reuters reported that Russia has proposed suspending its double taxation agreements with what it calls "unfriendly countries" - those that have imposed sanctions on Moscow, the Finance Ministry said on Wednesday.

"The Russian Finance Ministry and Foreign Ministry proposed that the President of Russia issue a decree suspending double taxation agreements with all countries that introduced unilateral economic restrictive measures against Russia," it said.

5:20 a.m.: Russia and the United States have offered different accounts of the downing of a U.S. intelligence drone in the Black Sea.

The United States said the drone was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by Russian aircraft.

Russia's ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said the drone's fight was unacceptable.

Reuters had a full report of the two accounts and explanation of just what an MQ-9 drone actually is.

4:45 a.m.: Denmark will set up a $1 billion fund for aid to Ukraine in 2023, the Danish government announced on Wednesday following agreement by almost all parties in parliament.

"The government has agreed to establish a fund for Ukraine with a total framework of around seven billion kroner ($1 billion) in 2023," the finance ministry said in a statement, a project supported by 159 of 179 members of parliament according to Agence France-Presse.

4:25 a.m.: Reuters reported that world number one Iga Swiatek has called for more support to be offered to Ukrainian players on the women's tour after Lesia Tsurenko said she withdrew from her match against Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka at Indian Wells due to a panic attack.

Tsurenko said the attack was triggered by a chat she had with WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon about tennis's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Belarus has been a key staging ground for what Moscow calls a "special military operation".

Poland's Swiatek, who wears a Ukrainian flag on her cap during matches, has previously condemned Russia's invasion and said the action taken by the tennis leadership had not been enough.

"I totally understand why she withdrew, because honestly I respect Ukrainian girls so much. If a bomb landed in my country or if my home was destroyed, I don't know if I could handle that and compete," Swiatek said.

3:50 a.m.:

3:10 a.m.:

2:50 a.m.: Proposed amendments to Russia's citizenship law would allow for the stripping of acquired citizenship for treason and discrediting the military operation in Ukraine, Russian media reported on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Soon after sending its army into Ukraine just over a year ago Russia introduced sweeping wartime laws to silence dissenting voices. It has been extending censorship ever since.

Russia calls its action in Ukraine a "special military operation," while Ukraine and its allies say that is a euphemism for a full blown aggression to grab land.

The amendments on stripping the citizenship of those who have acquired it relate to "treason, discrediting the special military operation," the RIA news agency quoted Konstantin Zatulin, first deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) affairs.

The proposed amendments have been submitted to the committee.

The CIS was formed in 1991 by Russia and a group of former Soviet republics. In 2022, based on data from Russia's Ministry of Internal Affairs, more than 691,000 people received Russian citizenship, with nearly half coming from CIS countries.

On Tuesday, Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, voted to approve a bill amendment that would punish those found guilty of discrediting "volunteer" groups fighting in Ukraine.

The Kremlin says the majority of Russians support its action in Ukraine and opinion polls back that assertion.

Hundreds of thousands who disagree with the decision or fear conscription have fled the country, however, and those who remain, risk being jailed if deemed to have discredited the army.

"Discrediting" the army can be punished by up to five years in prison, while spreading deliberately false information about it can attract a 15-year jail sentence.

2 a.m.:

1:20 a.m.: The EU laid out plans Tuesday to make electricity bills "less dependent" on fossil fuel costs, to limit the risks of price hikes like those seen after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Brussels has been working on reforming its electricity market since Moscow's war sent prices spiraling for individual consumers and businesses last year.

Agence France-Presse had the full report.

12:40 a.m.: British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace urged Moscow to respect international airspace, after the United States said that Russia had caused one of its drones to crash into the Black Sea on Tuesday.

"The key here is that all parties respect international air space and we urge the Russians to do so," Wallace told Reuters at the DSEI Japan defense show in Chiba prefecture, near Tokyo. "The Americans have said they think it is unprofessional," he added.

The incident involving a Russian Su-27 fighter jet fighter plane and a U.S. military MQ-9 drone is the first such direct encounter between the two powers since Russia invaded Ukraine over a year ago and risks deepening tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Russia said it viewed the incident as a provocation.

12:01 a.m.: March marks the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Many Crimean Tatars had to leave their home after Russian forces overran the peninsula — among them Ernest Suleimanov and his family. They fled to Warsaw where they opened a restaurant named "Crimea" right in front of the Russian embassy in Poland.

For VOA from Warsaw, Lesia Bakalets has their story.

Some information in this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.

  • 16x9 Image

    VOA News

    The Voice of America provides news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of over 326 million people. Stories with the VOA News byline are the work of multiple VOA journalists and may contain information from wire service reports.