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Moscow says it'll try to retrieve U.S. drone; British and German fighter jets intercept Russian aircraft

This was CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine on March 15, 2023. See here for the latest updates. 

The fallout from an encounter between a U.S. drone and Russian fighter jets on Tuesday continues to be monitored closely just as another incident between NATO countries and Russia was recorded, with British and German fighter jets scrambled to escort a Russian aircraft away from Estonian airspace.

In comments released in the early hours of Wednesday, Russia's Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov appeared to blame the U.S. for the downing of the U.S. drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday that the U.S. military blamed on "reckless," "unprofessional" and "unsafe" behavior by the Russian fighter jets.

An Mq-9 Reaper type drone at the Naval Air Station at Sigonella, Sicily, the best equipped American intervention base in the Mediterranean on April 29, 2022 in Catania, Italy.
Fabrizio Villa | Getty Images

Antonov said in comments posted on the Russian embassy's Telegram account that he had told U.S. officials, after being summoned by the U.S. State Department, that Russia's position on the incident was that the U.S. drone had been "moving deliberately and provocatively towards the Russian territory with its transponders turned off."

He then claimed that it had "violated the boundaries of the temporary airspace regime established for the special military operation," the name Russia gives its invasion of Ukraine, and denied that the Russian jets had collided with the drone.

In the latest incident highlighting tensions between NATO and Russia, British and German fighter jets were also scrambled later Tuesday to intercept a Russian aircraft flying close to Estonian airspace. 

Five ships leave Ukraine under Black Sea Grain Initiative

A ship carrying wheat from Ukraine to Afghanistan after inspection in the open sea around Zeytinburnu district of Istanbul, Turkiye on January 24, 2023.
TUR Ministry of National Defence | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Five ships carrying 183,543 metric tons of grain and other agricultural products left Ukraine's Chornomorsk and Odesa ports.

The ships are destined for China, Spain and United Arab Emirates and are carrying corn, barley and wheat.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered last July between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, eased Russia's naval blockade and saw three key Ukrainian ports reopen.

So far, more than 700 ships have sailed from Ukrainian ports.

— Amanda Macias

More than 8.1 million Ukrainians have become refugees from Russia’s war, UN estimates

Evacuees from Mariupol area get settled at a refugee camp in the settlement of Bezymennoye during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the Donetsk region, Ukraine March 8, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

More than 8.1 million Ukrainians have become refugees and moved to neighboring countries since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February of last year, the U.N. Refugee Agency estimates.

Nearly 5 million of those people have applied for temporary resident status in neighboring Western European countries, according to data collected by the agency.

"The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance," the U.N. Refugee Agency wrote.

— Amanda Macias

Neighbors Bulgaria, Romania sign agreement to boost ties

A soldier of the Polish Army sits in a tank as a NATO flag flies behind during the NATO Noble Jump military exercises of the VJTF forces on June 18, 2015 in Zagan, Poland.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev held talks Wednesday with his visiting Romanian counterpart as the two neighbors and NATO allies signed a cooperation agreement to boost bilateral ties amid Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine.

Radev met with Klaus Iohannis in the capital, Sofia, where the two leaders discussed topics including regional security, energy, and economy. They also discussed their countries' bids to one day join Europe's ID-check-free travel zone, the so-called Schengen area.

In a news conference afterwards, Radev highlighted Tuesday's U.S. drone collision with a Russian fighter jet over the Black Sea, saying "we must do everything possible" to prevent events from escalating into a global conflict.

"In addition to supporting Ukraine," he said, "we must work to end this conflict as quickly as possible."

"The profound geostrategic changes on our borders, with consequences in the extended Black Sea region … prompt us to realize the need for even closer cooperation," he said.

Iohannis said that he discussed with Radev the EU's enlargement policy; the expansion of transport infrastructure; and the need to support embattled Moldova, which is not a member of the EU or NATO and has been heavily affected by the war in Ukraine.

— Associated Press

Ukraine can try to avoid repaying $3 billion loan to Russia

Ukrainian's then-President Viktor Yanukovych looks on before signing an agreement in Kiev on February 21, 2014
Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

The U.K. Supreme Court ruled that Ukraine can go to trial 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 court 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.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted that the ruling was "another decisive victory against the aggressor."

"The Court has ruled that Ukraine's defense based on Russia's threats of aggression will have a full public trial," he tweeted. "Justice will be ours."

The case was argued in November 2021, and the court was not asked to consider Russia's invasion of Ukraine three months later.

Ukrainian authorities allege that the corrupt government of pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych borrowed the money from Moscow under pressure before he was ousted in protests in February 2014, shortly before Russia illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

After the 2014 Ukraine revolution, the country's new government refused to repay the debt in December 2015, saying Moscow wouldn't agree to terms already accepted by other international creditors.

— Associated Press

Drone warfare in Bakhmut

An Ukrainian serviceman attaches a hand grenade to use in an attack, near Bachmut, in the region of Donbas.

An Ukrainian serviceman attaches a hand grenade on a drone to use in an attack, near Bachmut, in the region of Donbas, on March 15, 2023. 
Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images
An Ukrainian serviceman attaches a hand grenade on a drone to use in an attack, near Bachmut, in the region of Donbas, on March 15, 2023. 
Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images

— Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images

Russia ambassador says Moscow will "no longer allow anyone to break into its waters"

Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States.
Mark Wilson | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russia's Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said that Moscow will "no longer allow anyone to break into its waters," according to Russian state media agency TASS.

Antonov's comments come on the heels of a Russian fighter jet downing a U.S. drone operating over the Black Sea.

Russia's Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday that its two fighter aircraft did not come in contact with the U.S. drone. In a statement posted on its official Telegram channel, the ministry said the drone was flying with its transponders off near the Crimean Peninsula when it went into "unguided flight" and then fell into the water.

— Amanda Macias

Oscar stirs criticism of Russia's Navalny from Ukrainians

Kremlin critics were cheered this week when a Western documentary about jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny won an Oscar, but his political movement is in turmoil and some Ukrainian politicians say the award is undeserved.

Navalny wins the award for Documentary Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards in the Dolby Theatre on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California.
Myung J. Chun | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin's most high-profile domestic critic, is serving 11-1/2 years in jail in Russia after being convicted of fraud in two cases he and the West say were trumped up to silence him, and his anti-corruption organization has been banned as extremist.

His supporters cast him as a Russian version of Nelson Mandela who survived an assassination attempt and will one day be freed from unjust imprisonment to lead Russia. The lawyer-turned-activist remains a fierce Kremlin critic, releasing regular statements via his lawyers from behind bars.

But his Anti-Corruption Foundation, which now operates outside Russia, is reeling after his Chief of Staff Leonid Volkov admitted he had — without his colleagues' knowledge — lobbied the European Union to lift sanctions on Mikhail Fridman, one of Russia's richest men.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, lawyers Olga Mikhailova and Vadim Kobzev are seen on a screen via a video link during a court hearing at the IK-2 male correctional f