Ukraine Daily Summary - Friday, March 17

UN Commission finds Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine -- Russia transports stolen Ukrainian grain via occupied Berdiansk port -- China sends rifles, body armor to Russian entities -- Russian occupying forces in Crimea preparing for defense -- and more

Friday, March 17

Russia’s war against Ukraine

A woman walks along a street with buildings destroyed by shelling as evacuation of civilians continues under difficult conditions in Siversk, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on March 15, 2023. (Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

UN Commission finds Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine. A UN Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine has found that Russia committed numerous war crimes in Ukraine, including attacks on energy infrastructure, forcibly transporting children to Russia, and imprisoning, torturing, raping, and killing Ukrainians, according to a report published on March 16.

General Staff: Russia transports stolen Ukrainian grain via occupied Berdiansk port. A Russian barge was spotted transporting stolen Ukrainian wheat from the occupied Berdiansk, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, the General Staff’s evening update says. This news comes as the Black Sea Grain Initiative is set to expire on March 18.

Politico: China sends rifles, body armor to Russian entities. Trade and customs data from June to December 2022 showed that Chinese companies have exported 1,000 assault rifles and other equipment, such as drone parts and body armor, to Russian entities, Politico reported. There is no explicit evidence that proves the shipments were intended for Russia’s troops in Ukraine, Politico noted.

CNN: Ukraine’s military downed Chinese Mugin-5 drone in Donetsk Oblast. The retrofitted Chinese-made drone allegedly carried a bomb of about 20 kilograms, which Ukrainian soldiers later detonated. According to an expert cited by CNN, the bomb was likely made with 3D-printed components.

Poland confirms it broke up Russian spy network. Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski confirmed on March 16 that Warsaw had broken up a Russian espionage network, detaining nine people allegedly preparing sabotage acts and monitoring rail routes to Ukraine. A day before, Polish radio station RMF24 reported the country’s security agency had arrested six people who were part of the Russian spy ring.

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US official: ‘Ukraine doesn’t have time to waste’ ahead of counteroffensive. Ukraine’s upcoming counteroffensive has the United States fast-tracking the supply of weapons and training Ukrainian soldiers, with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warning, “Ukraine doesn’t have any time to waste,” Politico reported.

Southern Command: ‘Atypical’ activity of Russian naval grouping recorded in Black Sea. Russia has withdrawn 20 ships and many of its auxiliary fleet’s units into the Black Sea on the morning of March 16, said Ukraine’s Southern Command spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk, calling it “atypical activity and a number of ships.”

Intelligence: Russian occupying forces in Crimea preparing for defense. The Russian military keeps “a powerful ground and aviation component” in Crimea, building fortifications and preparing for defense on the occupied peninsula, Vadym Skibitskyi, deputy chief of Ukraine’s military intelligence, said on March 16.

UK Defense Ministry: Russian Defense Ministry insists on capturing Vuhledar as it competes with Wagner. Russia’s Ministry of Defense has been “insistent in its drive for success” in Vulhedar, partially due to its competition with Wagner Group, which has achieved a measure of tactical success in the Bakhmut sector, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on March 16.

ISW: Prigozhin speculates there is Kremlin conspiracy to undermine, ’neutralize’ Wagner Group. Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed he received a press question exposing a plot spearheaded by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and Russian Security Council Secretary to undermine and “neutralize” the Wagner Group.

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Bakhmut-bound infantry assault troops: ’We are holding on, ready for any scenario.’

Just a few dozen kilometers from Bakhmut, Ukrainian infantry train to ready themselves for brutal days ahead. Nearly 20 soldiers from a platoon with the 80th Air Assault Brigade gathered at an undisclosed location in Donetsk Oblast on their day off to fire some shots.

Photo: Asami Terajima/The Kyiv Independent

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Ukraine war latest: As Wagner’s offensive in Bakhmut likely ‘nears culmination,’ Kyiv set to receive first MiG-29 jets.

The Russian state-backed mercenary company Wagner Group’s offensive on Bakhmut “appears to be nearing culmination,” the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest assessment on March 16.

Photo: Sergey Shestak/AFP via Getty Images

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The human cost of Russia’s war

1 killed, 14 injured as Russia attacks 7 Ukrainian regions over past 24 hours. Russian attacks killed one civilian in Bakhmut and injured 11 more in Donetsk Oblast, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported in his morning update on March 16. Russia hit ten settlements and three communities in the region, damaging over 25 houses, five high-rises, a school, an educational institution, and cars, said Kyrylenko.

Russian shelling of Donetsk Oblast kills 1, injures 7 on March 16. Russian forces fired at Kostiantynivka and two villages in Toretsk in Donetsk Oblast, killing one person and wounding seven others, Prosecutor General’s Office reported on March 16.

General Staff: Russia has lost 162,560 troops in Ukraine since Feb. 24, 2022. Ukraine’s General Staff reported on March 16 that Russia had also lost 3,492 tanks, 6,799 armored fighting vehicles, 5,377 vehicles and fuel tanks, 2,528 artillery systems, 502 multiple launch rocket systems, 262 air defense systems, 304 airplanes, 289 helicopters, 2,132 drones, and 18 boats.

International response

Poland to send MiG-29 jets to Ukraine in coming days. Poland will hand over the first four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine within the coming days, Polish President Andrzej Duda said on March 16, cited by Rzeczpospolita newspaper. “The remaining aircraft are being serviced and prepared,” Duda added, without mentioning the total number of MiG-29s Poland plans to send to Ukraine.

White House: Poland sending jets to Ukraine won’t sway US to send F-16s. U.S. National Security Council Communications Coordinator John Kirby said Poland supplying Ukraine with MiG-29s was “a sovereign decision,” and it wasn’t for the U.S. to “characterize Poland’s decision one way or another.” “It doesn’t change our calculus with respect to F-16s,” he added.

The Telegraph: France accused of stalling EU plan to replenish Ukraine’s ammunition stocks. France was accused of slowing down the European Union’s plan to ramp up ammunition supply to Ukraine by demanding that the shells be produced within the bloc, the Telegraph reported on March 15, citing unnamed EU sources.

Media: Estonia to transfer more weapons, special equipment to Ukraine. Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur’s proposal to send another military defense package to Ukraine has been approved, ERR reported. The latest defense aid will include semi-automatic rifles, sniper rifles, scopes, binoculars, ammunition, individual and special equipment, patrol boats, thermal imaging scopes, and medical supplies.

Latvian Prime Minister visits Kyiv, meets with Ukrainian officials. Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš met with President Volodymyr Zelensky on March 16 in Kyiv. Zelensky expressed his gratitude to Kariņš for the newly approved military defense package, highlighting that the total aid commitment from Latvia has reached 1% of its GDP since the start of the full-scale invasion.

Sweden to send Ukraine 8 Archer self-propelled artillery systems. The Archer self-propelled artillery systems, coupled with combat vehicles and tanks, increase Ukraine’s defense capabilities and enable them to regain territory at a faster pace, according to Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson.

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Today’s Ukraine Daily was brought to you by Toma Istomina, Dinara Khalilova, Oleksiy Sorokin, Kate Tsurkan, Brad LaFoy, Anastasiia Malenko, Anastasiya Gordiychuk, and Olena Goncharova.

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