Georgia withdraws ‘foreign agents’ bill after mass protests
Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party moved to withdraw its controversial draft legislation on “foreign agents,” following two days of mass protests, according to Reuters.
Opponents criticized the proposed bill as being modeled on the authoritarian Russian regime. The legislation would have called on Georgian organizations that received more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents” or face potential penalties.
“The Kremlin did not inspire anything and has absolutely nothing to do with this,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Thursday, according to Russian state news agency Tass.
EU High Representative Josep Borrell on March 7 warned that the law was “incompatible with EU values and standards” and “goes against Georgia’s state objective of joining the European Union.”
“Its final adoption may have serious repercussions on our relations,” he said.
Georgie applied for EU membership in March 2022, but the European Council ruled it was only prepared to grant the country candidate status once it implements certain reforms, including in the judiciary.
The EU delegation to Georgia welcomed the announcement of the draft legislation withdrawal on Twitter, encouraging Georgian politicians to resume pro-EU reforms “in an inclusive [and] constructive way.”
— Ruxandra Iordache
IAEA calls to secure Zaporizhzhia nuclear site after the assailed plant entered ‘blackout mode’
“I am astonished by the complacency – what are we doing to prevent this happening? We are the IAEA, we are meant to care about nuclear safety,” IAEA director general Rafael Grossi said in a Thursday statement.
Joe Klamar | AFP | Getty Images
The International Atomic Energy Agency doubled down on calls to secure Ukraine’s embattled Zaporizhzhia plant after missile attacks interrupted the facility’s power supply.
“I am astonished by the complacency – what are we doing to prevent this happening? We are the IAEA, we are meant to care about nuclear safety,” IAEA director general Rafael Grossi said in a Thursday statement. “Each time we are rolling a dice. And if we allow this to continue time after time then one day our luck will run out.”
He called on the IAEA board of governors and the international community to “protect the safety and security” of Zaporizhzhia, which the agency assesses has lost all power for the first time since Nov. 23, following reported missile strikes that rained on Ukraine overnight.
The Zaporizhzhia station was “de-energized and has gone into blackout mode,” Ukrainian nuclear power company Energoatom said earlier on Thursday. The IAEA added that all 20 of the facility’s emergency diesel generators have been activated, with eight supplying essential power and with enough diesel remaining on site for 15 days of operation.
“This is the largest nuclear power station in Europe. What are we doing? How can we sit here in this room this morning and allow this to happen? This cannot go on,” Grossi said.
Russia and Ukraine have frequently traded accusations of shelling and endangering the Zaporizhzhia facility.
— Ruxandra Iordache
Zelenskyy says Russia won’t ‘avoid responsibility’ for striking Ukraine
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia will be held to account after the latest series of missile strikes to hit the capital Kyiv and other major cities across Ukraine overnight.
“It’s been a difficult night. A massive rocket attack across the country. Kyiv, Kirovohrad, Dnipro, Odesa, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Zhytomyr, Vinnytsia regions. Attacks on critical infrastructure and residential buildings,” he said on Telegram. “Unfortunately, there are injured and dead.”
Damaged vehicles after explosions in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on March 9, 2023.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
He said efforts were underway to restore energy infrastructure that had been damaged in the 81 missile strikes that the president and Ukraine’s military said had been targeted at Ukraine.
“The enemy fired 81 missiles in an attempt to intimidate Ukrainians again, returning to their miserable tactics. The occupiers can only terrorize civilians. That’s all they can do. But it won’t help them. They won’t avoid responsibility for everything they have done,” Zelenskyy said.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russia uses six hypersonic missiles amid widespread strikes on Ukraine, army chief says
The head of Ukraine’s armed forces said Russia fired 81 missiles at Ukrainian territory in the early hours of Thursday morning, including six “kinzhal” hypersonic missiles which its air force cannot intercept.
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny said on Telegram Thursday that “over the night, the enemy launched a massive missile attack on the critical infrastructure of Ukraine” and launched 81 missile strikes from different bases. Listing the strikes and weapons used, Zaluzhny said there were:
– 28 launches of Kh-101/Kh-555 air-based cruise missiles;
– 20 launches of Kalibr sea-based cruise missiles;
– six launches of X-22 air-based cruise missiles;
– six launches of Kh-47 “Kinzhal” air-based cruise missiles;
– eight launches of guided air missiles: 2 – Kh-31P; 6 – X-59;
– 13 launches of S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles.
In addition, he said, there had been eight recorded attacks using Iranian-made “Shahed-136/131” attack UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles.
He said Ukraine’s air and other defense forces destroyed 34 cruise missiles out of the 48 Kh-101/Kh-555 and Kalibr cruise missiles that had been launched, as well as four of the “Shahed-136/131” drones.
A view of a site after explosions in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on March 9, 2023. Many vehicles were damaged by the explosions.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Zaluzhny said that “as a result of organized countermeasures, 8 Kh-31P and Kh-59 guided air missiles did not reach their targets.”
Ukraine’s armed forces do not have means to intercept Kh-22 and Kh-47 “Kinzhal” hypersonic missiles, Ukraine’s air force said in a separate, but similar, statement detailing the missile strikes on Ukraine this morning.
Officials across Ukraine reported missile and drone attacks on their respective regions this morning, with the capital Kyiv and second-largest city Kharkiv, as well as Odesa and Lviv, among the cities reporting damaged energy infrastructure and casualties as a result of the strikes.
— Holly Ellyatt
Power to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant lost after missile strikes
A Russian serviceman guards an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, in southeastern Ukraine, on May 1, 2022.
The power supply to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was lost as a result of missile attacks on Ukraine.
“The last line of communication between the occupied Zaporizhzhia NPP and the Ukrainian power system was cut off as a result of rocket attacks,” Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom said in a statement Thursday.
“Currently, the station is de-energized and has gone into blackout mode,” it said. This is the sixth time this has happened since Russian forces occupied the plant early on in the invasion of Ukraine.
Energoatom said 18 diesel generators have been switched on to power the plant’s needs with enough fuel for 10 days’ worth of power. “The countdown has begun,” Energoatom said.
Russia unleashed a wave of drone and missile attacks across Ukraine overnight, with the capital Kyiv among the cities hit. Energoatom did not supply any details on how missile strikes had directly affected power to the plant, while Russia-installed officials in the occupied part of Zaporizhzhia said that the halt in electricity supplies to power the plant was “a provocation,” Reuters reported.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest of its kind, has frequently found itself at the center of the conflict between Russian and Ukrainian forces, which accuse each other of shelling and endangering the functioning and safety of the facility and risking a potential catastrophic nuclear accident.
Energoatom said Thursday that “if it is impossible to renew the external power supply of the station during this time, an accident with radiation consequences for the whole world may occur.”
International observers have called for a demilitarized zone around the plant.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russia unleashes wave of missile strikes on Ukraine, officials say
Kyiv and other major cities in Ukraine, including Lviv, Kharkiv and Odesa, have been hit by a wave of Russian missile strikes overnight, Ukrainian officials said, with air raid alerts activated across much of the country in the early hours of Thursday.
The Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko said the capital had been hit by a number of explosions that had damaged energy infrastructure and injured several civilians.
In his most recent post on Telegram this morning, Klitschko said that due to emergency power outages after the missile attack, 40% of the capital’s residents were without heating.
The air alert lasted almost seven hours in the capital, Serhii Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, said on Telegram as he accused Russia of unleashing “almost all types of their air weapons” from Iranian-made drones to “almost all types of cruise missiles.”
Popko said preliminary information indicated that a Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missiles (a nuclear-capable, Russian air-launched ballistic missile) had hit an infrastructure object. CNBC wasn’t able to verify the claims.
Officials in the southern port of Odesa, Lviv in western Ukraine and Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine all reported missile strikes overnight while in the Dnipro area, a regional official said there was “serious destruction” as a result of the shelling with “energy infrastructure and industrial enterprises” damaged. A number of fatalities have been reported in Lviv and Dnipro.
The governor of the northeastern Kharkiv region, Oleh Syniehubov, said Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv had seen around 15 strikes on the city and region. “Objects of critical infrastructure are again under the sights of the occupiers,” he said, adding that “information about the victims and the scale of the destruction is being clarified.” Residents in the area have been told to stay in shelters.
— Holly Ellyatt
Wagner Group leader says that the best of its fighters are still ‘waiting in the wings’
A mural depicting the Wagner Group’s logo in Belgrade, Serbia.
Srdjan Stevanovic | Getty Images
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner Group of mercenaries fighting in Donetsk, said that the best of its fighters are “waiting in the wings.”
Prigozhin said on his official Telegram that some of Wagner’s units with “all possible modern weapons and intelligence means” have not yet joined the fight in Ukraine.
He also said, according to an NBC News translation, that the Wagner forces fighting in Bakhmut had taken full control of the eastern part of the city.
— Amanda Macias
Bakhmut may fall but it’s unlikely to be a turning point in the war, NATO chief says
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference following a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 16, 2022.
Yves Herman | Reuters
The beseiged city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine could soon be fully captured by Russian forces, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday, but it’s unlikely to represent a turning point in the war.
Russian forces, he said, had “suffered big losses but at the same time we cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days and therefore it is also important to highlight that this does not necessarily reflect any turning point of the war and it just highlights that we should not underestimate Russia. We must continue to provide support to Ukraine,” he said as he attended a meeting of EU defence ministers in Stockholm.
“Russia’s war of aggression grinds on against Ukraine and over the last weeks and months we have seen fierce fighting in and around Bakhmut and what we see is that Russia is throwing in more troops, more forces and what Russia lacks in quality, they try to make up in quantity,” he added.
— Holly Ellyatt
Police response to protests in Georgia causes concern
Protesters clash with riot police near the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi on March 7, 2023.
– | Afp | Getty Images
Police in Georgia have reportedly used tear gas and stun grenades to respond to protests outside the Georgian Parliament on Wednesday.
Demonstrations in the capital erupted after after legislators gave initial backing to a draft law on “foreign agents” that would require any organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents” or face fines.
Reuters witnesses in the capital, Tbilisi, saw police with riot shields making arrests along Rustaveli Avenue, the main thoroughfare running through the center of the city. Some demonstrators were seen throwing petrol bombs and stones, the news agency reported.
Protesters wave Georgian, Ukrainian and NATO flags during clashes in Tbilisi on March 7, 2023.
– | Afp | Getty Images
Critics see the draft law as authoritarian and akin to a Russian-style directive designed to restrict civil society and repress media freedom.
Georgia has a strained and tense relationship with Russia which invaded the country in 2008 in support of two pro-Russian separatist areas, similarly to its support of two pro-Russian self-declared “republics” in Ukraine.
Like Ukraine, Georgia applied to join the EU and NATO, fearing Russia’s potential attempts to spread, or impose, its influence. The protests this week have attracted pro-EU demonstrators who waved EU flags and chanted anti-Russian slogans.
Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said on Twitter that he was “strongly concerned about developments in Georgia,” adding that the “right to peaceful protest is at the core of any democracy.”
He said the “adoption of this ‘foreign influence’ law is not compatible with the EU path” which the majority in Georgia wants, he said, adding that “commitment to rule of law and human values is key to EU project.”
— Holly Ellyatt
Three reasons why Ukraine is fighting on in Bakhmut
Ukrainian servicemen fire a 105mm Howitzer towards Russian positions, near the city of Bakhmut, on March 4, 2023.
Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images
After seven months of fighting over the industrial city of Bakhmut in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, it’s not surprising that neither Ukraine nor Russia want to capitulate over its defense — or capture.
But now it looks increasingly likely that Russia could be gaining the upper hand. On Wednesday, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Russia’s mercenary forces fighting in Bakhmut, said that Wagner had taken full control of the eastern part of the city.
Despite its forces appearing vulnerable to encirclement, Ukraine vowed on Monday to continue defending the city and to send in reinforcements.
Both Russia and Ukraine have thrown masses of personnel into their bids to capture, and defend, Bakhmut, respectively, with both claiming to have inflicted hundreds of losses on each others’ forces on a daily basis.
Aside from atoning for these sacrifices with some kind of victory in Bakhmut, there are several other reasons why both sides have a reason to continue fighting until the bitter end, ranging from the symbolic to the militarily expedient.
Read more here: Ukraine is vowing to defend ‘fortress’ Bakhmut as Russian forces surround it: Here are 3 reasons why
Russian mercenaries claim they control eastern Bakhmut
The leader of Russia’s mercenary forces fighting in Bakhmut said Wednesday that his private military company, the Wagner Group, had taken full control of the eastern part of the city, according to comments published by Russian state news outlet Tass.
“Wagner PMC units have occupied the entire eastern part of Bakhmut. Everything east of the Bakhmutka River is completely under the control of the Wagner PMC,” Wagner’s leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was quoted as saying by Tass, citing comments made on Prigozhin’s Telegram channel. CNBC was unable to verify the claims.
Ukraine gave a military update Wednesday in which it noted that Ukraine had repelled over 100 attacks on the Donetsk region over the past day, including on Bakhmut, but said Russian forces were “continuing their unsuccessful offensive operations” in the area.
A repainted mural depicting the logo of Russia’s Wagner Group on a wall in Belgrade, Serbia, on Jan. 19, 2023.
Darko Vojinovic | AP
Russia sees the capture of Bakhmut, a city it refers to as “Artemovsk” or “Artyomovsk,” as a key strategic goal, as it looks to cut off Ukrainian supply routes in eastern Ukraine, but the battle for Bakhmut is a also symbolic one for the Wagner Group as it seeks to prove its credibility to Russia’s Ministry of Defense.
Prigozhin has had a long-running spat with defense officials in Moscow, criticizing its strategy in the war and, most recently, suggesting that the ministry had not responded to his request for urgent ammunition deliveries for his troops. Prigozhin suggested this could be because of “bureaucracy or betrayal.”
— Holly Ellyatt
Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:
- Georgia withdraws ‘foreign agents’ bill after mass protests
- IAEA calls to secure Zaporizhzhia nuclear site after the assailed plant entered ‘blackout mode’
- Zelenskyy says Russia won’t ‘avoid responsibility’ for striking Ukraine
- Russia uses six hypersonic missiles amid widespread strikes on Ukraine, army chief says
- Power to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant lost after missile strikes
- Russia unleashes wave of missile strikes on Ukraine, officials say
- Wagner Group leader says that the best of its fighters are still ‘waiting in the wings’
- Bakhmut may fall but it’s unlikely to be a turning point in the war, NATO chief says
- Police response to protests in Georgia causes concern
- Three reasons why Ukraine is fighting on in Bakhmut
- Russian mercenaries claim they control eastern Bakhmut
- Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here: