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Latest Developments in Ukraine: March 4

Hennadiy Mazepa and his wife, Natalia Ishkova, walk along the road as they collect wood from houses destroyed by Russian shelling in Chasiv Yar, Ukraine, March 3, 2023.
Hennadiy Mazepa and his wife, Natalia Ishkova, walk along the road as they collect wood from houses destroyed by Russian shelling in Chasiv Yar, Ukraine, March 3, 2023.

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

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

8:55 p.m.: A Ukrainian army representative who asked not to be named for operational reasons told The Associated Press that it was now too dangerous for civilians to leave Bakhmut by vehicle and that people had to flee on foot.

An AP team near Bakhmut on Saturday saw a pontoon bridge set up by Ukrainian soldiers to help the few remaining residents reach the nearby village of Khromove. Later they saw at least five houses on fire as a result of attacks in Khromove.

Ukrainian units over the past 36 hours destroyed two key bridges just outside Bakhmut, including one linking it to the nearby town of Chasiv Yar along the last remaining Ukrainian resupply route, according to U.K. military intelligence officials and other Western analysts.

Capturing Bakhmut would not only give Russian fighters a rare battlefield gain after months of setbacks, but it might rupture Ukraine’s supply lines and allow the Kremlin’s forces to press toward other Ukrainian strongholds in the Donetsk region.

8 p.m.: Ukrainian crews being trained on British Challenger 2 tanks in England say the vehicle's power, mass, and operating controls will be a welcome addition on the battlefield in the Donbas region, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Ukrainian Service reports.

Although the 20-year-old tanks are seen as needing updates in the United Kingdom, they make for a powerful improvement over the Soviet-era T-80 tanks Ukrainian soldiers have been using up to now. With 14 Challengers headed to Ukraine, British instructors hope to have Ukrainian crews up to speed by the end of March.

7:05 p.m.: Relatives, neighbors and friends of eight men executed by Russian forces during the occupation of the Ukrainian town of Bucha gathered Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the deaths, The Associated Press reported.

The eight had set up a roadblock in an attempt to prevent Russian troops from advancing as they swept toward Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, at the start of their invasion. But the men were captured, Ukrainian authorities say, and executed.

Their bodies lay outside a building on Yablunska Street for a month, with relatives only able to collect them in April after Russian troops pulled out of Bucha.

After the Russians left, Ukrainian authorities found mass graves and bodies strewn in the town's streets, buildings and homes. The events there are being investigated as war crimes.

"My heart is torn apart and my soul is in such pain for everyone who died here," said Oleksandr Turovskyi, whose 35-year-old son, Sviatoslav, was among the eight.

6:10 p.m.: Ukrainian forces defending Bakhmut are facing increasing pressure from Russian forces, British military intelligence said on Saturday, with intense fighting taking place in and around the eastern city, Reuters reported.

Ukraine is reinforcing the area with elite units, while regular Russian army and forces of the private military Wagner group have made further advances into Bakhmut's northern suburbs, the British Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence bulletin.

The Ukraine armed forces' general staff said in a Facebook post late on Saturday that Russian troops were trying but failing to surround Bakhmut, adding defenders had repelled numerous attacks in and around the city.

Oleh Zhdanov, a prominent Ukrainian analyst of military affairs, said late Saturday that he could not detect any immediate signs Kyiv was going to order a retreat from the city.

"At the moment the situation is more or less stabilized. In terms of the advancement of Russian troops, we practically stopped (it)," he said in a YouTube interview.

5:15 p.m.: NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, U.S. Army General Christopher Cavoli, described the extent of the Russian war as “unbelievable.” According to the German magazine Der Spiegel, Cavoli said that Russia has lost more than 200,000 troops since the start of its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

He said that more than 1,800 Russian officers were killed or wounded, according to Der Spiegel.

Cavoli also said that Russia has lost "far more" than 2,000 large battle tanks and that its army fires an average of 23,000 artillery shells per day.

The U.K. Defense Ministry previously estimated that Russia's army and private mercenary groups have likely lost about 175,000-200,000 people in Ukraine, with up to 60,000 killed. According to the report, prisoners recruited by the Kremlin-backed private mercenary Wagner Group have suffered a casualty rate of up to 50%, says The Kyiv Independent.

"The Russian casualty rate has significantly increased since September 2022 when 'partial mobilization' was imposed," the report reads.

The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported on March 4 that Russia had lost 152,190 troops in Ukraine since the beginning of its full-scale invasion.

This number includes 820 casualties Russian forces suffered just over the past day, The Kyiv Independent reports.

4:15 p.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy said local and regional authorities met in Lviv to discuss how to deal with issues such as energy, security, social protection, anti-corruption going forward in Ukraine.

“The United for Justice conference, which started yesterday, continues here in Lviv. Several panel discussions took place today, including the investigation, punishment of the occupiers for abuse of people, rape, and other violent crimes committed in the occupied territory,” said Zelenskyy. “The world is already helping us with these investigations. But, of course, much, much more needs to be done. Not only to identify all criminals, not only to punish them, but also to help people who have been abused to overcome this blow and return to a normal life."

3:15 p.m.: Assets seized from two Russian banks, MR Bank and Prominvestbank, will be used to rebuild Ukraine infrastructure, Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said during a conference Saturday.

The fund had been added to the budget after the banks’ liquidations on Feb. 25, 2022, the day after Russia’s full-scale invasion.

According to The Kyiv Independent, in early December, the World Bank estimated that the cost of Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction was upwards of 600 billion euros.

Following Russia’s continuous attacks on the country’s critical infrastructure since early October, the World Bank’s estimate of the cost of Ukraine’s post-war recovery had increased by more than 200 billion euros since June, when the forecast was set at 350 billion euros.

In December 2022, the U.S. Senate approved an amendment allowing the transfer of seized assets belonging to Russian oligarchs to the people of Ukraine.

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1:10 p.m.: Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas is seeking a second term in Sunday's general. The outcome will determine whether the Baltic country can keep its high level of support for Ukraine.

AP reports, the small Baltic nation has provided Ukraine with more weapons than any other country relative to the size of its economy. Kallas belongs to a generation of young female leaders, who have emerged as strong voices for Ukraine. Kallas' main challenger is Martin Helme, head of the nationalist EKRE party.

Estonia borders Russia to the east and broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, the country has become a member of both NATO and the European Union.

12:35 p.m.: The death toll from a Russian missile strike that hit an apartment block in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia Thursday, rose to 11 Saturday, after a woman's body was found in the ruins of the five-story residential building, the state emergency service said.

One child was among those killed in Thursday's early-morning strike, the service said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

According to officials from the regional administration the strike was by a Russian S-300 missile.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has promised to hold Russia accountable.

"The terrorist state wants to turn every day for our people into a day of terror. But evil will not reign in our land," he said.

"We will drive all the occupiers out and they will definitely be held accountable for everything," he added.

11:55 a.m.: At a steel plant in central Ukraine, instead of producing and repairing mining equipment, a team of workers is building metal bunkers for front-line troops.

The team is assembling prefabricated materials into underground shelters with a Soviet-era design. They have already shipped 123 of the 2-meter (6 1/2-foot) -wide, 6-meter-long (20-foot) -long structures to areas such as eastern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk provinces.

The bunkers need to be buried 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) underground and can accommodate up to six soldiers. “This is so they can rest, sit out the attacks,” says the production team's manager, AP reports.

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10:45 a.m.: Russia has not taken control of the eastern city of Bakhmut, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Armed Forces told CNN Saturday.

“The fighting in Bakhmut is more on the outskirts, with the city controlled by Ukrainian defense forces: the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Border Guard and the National Guard,” said Serhiy Cherevatyi, the spokesperson for the eastern grouping of the armed forces.

Ukrainian troops are rotating positions in Bakhmut in controlled, planned rotations, he said in response to reports of the withdrawal of some units.

Cherevatyi said there have been hostilities around Bakhmut, in the villages of Vasiukivka and Dubovo-Vasylivka to the north of the city, and in the villages of Ivanivske and Bohdanivka to the west.

“There were 21 enemy attacks with the use of various artillery systems and MLRS near Bakhmut alone, and 9 combat engagements. 131 attacks and 38 combat engagements took place on this front in total,” Cherevatyi said.

Over 150 Russian soldiers were killed and 239 were wounded, and three were taken prisoner, he added.

10:05 a.m.: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu paid a rare visit to Russia's forces deployed in Ukraine, his ministry said Saturday.

"The Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, inspected the forward command post of one of the formations of the Eastern Military District in the South Donetsk direction," his ministry said in a statement published on messaging app Telegram.

In a video released by the ministry, Shoigu is seen awarding medals to Russian military personnel and touring a ruined town along with district's commander, Colonel-General Rustam Muradov.

Russian pro-war advocates have criticized Shoigu, who has served as defense minister since 2012, over his performance in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Wagner Group mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin last month, accused Shoigu and others last month of "treason" for withholding supplies of munitions to his militia which has played a significant role in Russia's war in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

8:58 a.m.: Ukrainian troops holding out in Bakhmut, are under increased pressure trying to help civilians flee the besieged eastern town. A woman was killed, and two men were badly wounded Saturday, while trying to flee Bakhmut over a makeshift bridge, a Ukrainian army representative on the ground told the AP.

According to analysts, Kyiv may be mulling a controlled pullout. U.K. military intelligence officials and a Washington-based think tank reported that Ukraine has moved to destroy strategic bridges near the city, which has been a key target of Russia's long grueling assault in the east.

8:17 a.m.: North Korean state media reported Saturday allegations that Western nations were involved in blasts that damaged Russia's undersea Nord Stream gas pipelines last year.

Moscow says, without providing evidence, that the West was behind the blasts that damaged the pipelines in September and has called for an international investigation. Western officials have denied those accusations.

In an article carried by North Korean state news agency KCNA, international affairs critic Ahn Cheol-hyuk backed Russian calls for an impartial investigation, saying the world needs to be aware of the "vicious coerciveness, war and conspiracy maneuvers of the United States."

Investigators from Sweden and Denmark - in whose exclusive economic zones the explosions occurred - have said the explosions were a result of sabotage but have not said who they believe was responsible.

North Korea has publicly supported Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago and expressed support for Russia's proclaimed annexation of parts of Ukraine, which most countries have rejected.

The United States has accused North Korea of providing weapons to Russia as well. Both Pyongyang and Moscow have denied that, Reuters reports.

7:45 a.m.: Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia's Wagner Group mercenary force, posted a video on Saturday showing allegedly coffins, he said, contained bodies of Ukrainian soldiers being sent to territory held by Kyiv.

In the video, Prigozhin, wearing military gear, said: "We are sending another shipment of Ukrainian army fighters home. They fought bravely and perished. That's why the latest truck will take them back to their motherland."

The footage shows men in uniform nailing wooden coffins shut and loading them onto a truck.

Prigozhin, whose Wagner Group has spearheaded Russia's months-long assault on the easter city of Bakhmut has repeatedly praised the Ukrainian army as a worthy and capable adversary, Reuters reports.

5:20 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.
Russian forces also continued ground attacks along the Donetsk Oblast front line as Ukrainian forces appeared to prepare for a controlled withdrawal from at least parts of Bakhmut.

4:25 a.m.: Thousands of Ukrainians who fled to Spain after Russia invaded their country last year are still waiting for promised payments of $425 a month in the Spanish regions where most of the refugees live.

The central government promised in June that the "most vulnerable" Ukrainians would receive monthly help from a $56 million fund, with direct payments made through Spain's regional administrations.

The payments have yet to be disbursed in the Valencian Community, Catalonia and Madrid regions, The Associated Press confirmed Friday. The three regions together are home to more than two-thirds of 168,000 Ukrainians registered by the Interior Ministry as under temporary protection in Spain.

Spanish media reported that up to eight regions have yet to make any of the promised payments.

The Inclusion Ministry, which oversaw the policy, told the AP it gave the funds to Spain's regional governments in October. The ministry expected 40,000 applications.

Applications opened to Ukrainians registered as living in Madrid in late November, and in December in the Valencian Community and Catalonia. The Catalan region's government said it had received more than 6,000 applications so far and had not yet processed them all.

Regional government officials in Catalonia and Madrid told the AP they blamed the central government and the complexity of the documentation required for the delays. The Inclusion Ministry said it had met its responsibility and the money was now the administrations' responsibility.

3:12 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said Russia is attacking the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut "with intense fighting taking place in and around the city."

The northern suburbs, currently held by Ukraine, are vulnerable on three sides, the update noted. Ukrainian forces are reinforcing the area. Still, Ukraine's resupply routes out of the town are "increasingly limited."

2:12 a.m.: Russia’s missile strike on Jan. 14 caught Kyiv residents off-guard.

After nearly a year of Moscow’s repeated attacks, something unusual happened: The explosions sounded before the air raid alert went off, which is rarely the case in what is believed to be the most protected city in Ukraine.

On that day, Russia launched the first officially confirmed attack on Kyiv with the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, the newest and most advanced air defense system in Moscow’s arsenal. The S-400 was also likely used in the attack on Kyiv on Dec. 31, according to the Air Force of Ukraine.

Russian forces have been using other air defense systems, such as S-300, for strikes on Ukrainian cities presumably because of a shortage of high-precision missiles. Designed primarily to take down targets in the air, these systems also have a surface-to-surface function. When used in this way, their key difference compared to other types, such as cruise missiles, is their extremely poor accuracy.

1:10 a.m.: Ukraine's top prosecutor said Friday the country is moving toward opening an office of the International Criminal Court as Kyiv seeks to establish a special tribunal to prosecute the leadership in Moscow, Agence France-Presse reported.

The ICC is investigating possible war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war on Ukraine.

"Today, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved a memorandum between the Ukraine government and the International Criminal Court, which will allow the opening of the office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in Ukraine in the near future," Andriy Kostin said.

Kostin told a justice conference in Lviv, western Ukraine, it will "allow the ICC prosecutor to more fully investigate international crimes committed in Ukraine."

12:02 a.m.: One year after he penned an anti-war plea on a TV camera lens, Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev on Friday reiterated his call for peace, saying it is crazy to see "normal citizens suffering and dying" as the Ukraine conflict rages on, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Of course it's tough. It's hard to talk about it because even if you try to just play tennis or something, to stay practicing and stuff, you know it's affecting you," said the 25-year-old.

"You cannot act like nothing is happening because it's horrible. It's crazy that so many just normal citizens are suffering, dying.

"The only thing I hope is that soon there will be peace in every country."

Some information in this report came from Agence France-Presse.

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