Latest news on Russia and war in Ukraine


Putin calls nuclear weapons a tool of deterrence in Ukraine

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with mothers of Russian servicemen participating in Russia-Ukraine conflict, ahead of Mother’s Day at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia November 25, 2022. 

Alexander Shcherbak | Sputnik | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the annexation of Ukrainian territories as a major achievement and said his country’s nuclear weapons serve as a tool of deterrence in the war that the Kremlin calls a “special military operation.”

Speaking with members of the presidential Human Rights Council, Putin described the land gains as “a significant result for Russia,” noting that the “Sea of Azov has become Russia’s internal sea.” He added that “Peter the Great fought to get access to the Sea of Azov.”

Russia seized broad swaths of southern Ukraine in the opening days of its invasion of Ukraine and captured the key Sea of Azov port of Mariupol in May after a nearly three-month siege. In late September, Putin illegally annexed four regions of Ukraine: Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south, and Donetsk and Luhansk in the east.

Asked by a member of the Human Rights Council to pledge that Russia would not be the first to use nuclear weapons, Putin demurred, saying Russia would not be able to use nuclear weapons at all if it agreed not to use them first and then came under a nuclear strike.

“If it doesn’t use it first under any circumstances, it means that it won’t be the second to use it either, because the possibility of using it in case of a nuclear strike on our territory will be sharply limited,” Putin said.

— Associated Press

Putin says Russia’s war could be a ‘lengthy’ process, downplays the need to mobilize more troops

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Young Scientists Congress in Sochi, Russia December 1, 2022. 

Mikhail Metzel | Sputnik | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his invasion of Ukraine could be “lengthy,” as the brutal conflict drags into its 10th month.

As Russia struggles to hold ground it gained this year in Ukraine, Putin downplayed the need to mobilize more troops. Considering another round of conscription “simply does not make sense,” Putin said, according to an NBC News translation of his remarks at a meeting of his human rights council.

Of the 300,000 reservists called up during Putin’s partial mobilization earlier this year, 150,000 are now in Ukraine, the Russian president said.

He added that “there is no mass withdrawal” from Russian positions in Ukraine.

— Jacob Pramuk

President Zelenskyy visits troops on the frontlines of Donetsk

President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Donetsk front, where the most violent clashes in the war with Russia took place in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Donetsk front, where the most violent clashes in the war with Russia took place in Ukraine on December 06, 2022. 

Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Donetsk front, where the most violent clashes in the war with Russia took place in Ukraine on December 06, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Donetsk front, where the most violent clashes in the war with Russia took place in Ukraine on December 06, 2022. (Photo by Ukrainian Presidency / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Donetsk front, where the most violent clashes in the war with Russia took place in Ukraine on December 06, 2022. 

Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian Presidency | Getty Images

Russia resumes use of Iranian drones — and cold weather has no impact, official says

Russian forces have resumed their use of Iranian drones, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force Command said, noting that colder weather did not seem to impede their operation.

“The enemy resumed attacks using Shahed-136/131 kamikaze drones for the first time in three weeks. We see that they were used last night, and the frost does not affect their operation. We must be ready for these challenges too,” Yurii Ihnat, spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force Command, said Wednesday, according to news agency Ukrinform.

Local residents look at parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle, what Ukrainian authorities consider to be an Iranian-made drone Shahed-136, after a Russian drone strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv on Oct. 17, 2022.

Vladyslav Musiienko | Reuters

Russia has been tight-lipped about the use of Iranian drones in attacks on Ukraine but the Iranian government has admitted to sending a batch of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia. Tehran said it had done so before the war started, however. Drones can be equipped with explosives or be used for reconnaissance and surveillance.

Recent intelligence has been reported suggesting that Iran will help Russia manufacture drones on its own soil.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Wednesday that its soldiers had “shot down 14 Shahed-136 assault drones, one BPLA Orlan-10 [a reconnaissance UAV] and 2 more enemy drones, the type of which is being specified” over the past 24 hours.

— Holly Ellyatt

31 suspicious packages sent to diplomats in 15 countries, Ukraine minister says

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday that 31 suspicious packages have been sent to diplomatic buildings in 15 countries over the past week.

“The threats to our diplomats keep coming,” Kuleba said on Facebook. “It’s been a week since Ukrainian embassies and consulates have been functioning in the mode of enhanced security measures, police borders, visits of canineologists, pyrotechnics and criminalists,” he said.

He added that in the last two days, suspicious packages have arrived at embassies in Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Denmark, as well as consulates in Gdansk.

“In total, we already have 31 cases in 15 countries: Austria (1), Vatican (1), Denmark (1), Spain (5), Italy (4), Kazakhstan (1), Netherlands (1), Poland (6), Portugal (2), Romania (2), USA (1), Hungary (2), France (1), Croatia (1), Czech Republic (2),” he wrote.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba attends a joint media briefing amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine 14 September 2022.

Nurphoto | Getty Images

“Usually, the mailings came from post offices that were not equipped with video surveillance systems. The attackers also took measures not to leave traces of their DNA on the packages. This, in particular, indicates the professional level of embodiment of this action,” he said.

“The campaign of terror against Ukrainian diplomats, which is currently taking place, is unprecedented on its scale not only in the context of Ukraine, but globally. I don’t remember any instance in history that so many embassies and consulates of one country have been subjected to such mass attacks in such a short period of time.”

He said Ukrainian diplomats would continue to work and would not be intimidated.

— Holly Ellyatt

Pope compares Ukrainian suffering to WWII Nazi death operation 

Pope Francis on Wednesday compared the war in Ukraine to a Nazi operation that killed some two million people, mostly Jews, in the first years of World War Two.

Speaking to Polish pilgrims at his weekly general audience, Francis noted that the Catholic University of Lublin, in Poland, had recently commemorated the anniversary of Operation Reinhard.

It was the code name for a secret operation in a part of occupied Poland which the Germans called the “General Government” area, that included territory now in Ukraine.

“May the memory of this horrible event arouse intentions and actions of peace in everyone,” he said, specifically mentioning the operation, saying it was one of “extermination”.

He then went off script to add: “And history is repeating itself. We see now what is happening in Ukraine.”

Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to “de-Nazify” the country and root out nationalists it considers dangerous. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of an unprovoked war to grab territory from its pro-Western neighbour.

Pope Francis arrives to preside a mass at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada July 26, 2022.

Amber Bracken | Reuters

Since the invasion began in February, Francis has been increasingly forceful in his condemnation of Russia’s actions. Last month, he said Ukrainians were suffering a “martyrdom of aggression” and compared the effects of the war on Ukrainians to the “terrible genocide” of the 1930s, when Soviet leader Josef Stalin inflicted famine on the country.

Francis has several times offered the Vatican’s mediation to resolve the conflict but his increased criticism of Russia has made this highly unlikely. In an interview last month with the Jesuit magazine America, Francis spoke of what he called the cruelty of Russian forces in Ukraine.

“Generally, the cruellest are perhaps those who are of Russia but are not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryati and so on. Certainly, the one who invades is the Russian state. This is very clear,” said Francis.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the comments “un-Christian” and incomprehensible.

— Reuters

Kremlin says U.S. defence budget ‘confrontational’ towards Russia

The Kremlin on Wednesday said that a U.S. military aid spending bill providing $800 million to Ukraine approved by U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday was “confrontational” towards Russia.

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “The document that has been adopted is of an extremely confrontational nature in relation to our country.”

Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov seen during the military parade at Red Square, on May 9, 2021 in Moscow, Russia.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The Fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, authorizes the additional spending for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, an increase of $500 million over U.S. President Joe Biden’s request earlier this year.

The bill also suspends some restrictions on contracts for munitions to support Ukraine.

It is expected to pass the Senate and House of Representatives this month, and be sent to the White House for Biden to sign into law.

— Reuters

Southern and eastern Ukraine bear the brunt of Russian attacks, officials say

The southern and eastern regions of Ukraine continue to bear the brunt of Russian missile attacks with strikes continuing overnight and into Wednesday, regional officials said.

Yaroslav Yanushevych, the head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, said that the southern region had been shelled 51 times over the past 24 hours, with two civilians killed during the strikes and another injured.

“Russian occupiers shelled the territory of Kherson region 51 times,” Yanushevych said on Telegram, adding that Russia had employed “artillery, MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems), tanks and mortars” to do so. “Civilian infrastructure objects” and residential buildings were damaged during the shelling, he said.

Workers repair a destroyed bridge, blown up by Russian troops during their retreat from Kherson region on December 6, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images

The southeastern region Zaporizhzhia has also experienced continued assaults into Wednesday, according to Oleksandr Starukh, the head of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration (RMA). He said on Telegram that two communities in the Zaporizhzhia district had been targeted with explosive-carrying drones and S-300 missiles.

“In one of the villages, two houses were destroyed and eight more were damaged. According to preliminary data, three people, including a 15-year-old girl, were injured,” Starukh said on Telegram.

The Dnipropetrovsk region toward eastern Ukraine was also shelled overnight with Valentyn Reznichenko, the head of the regional RMA, stating that Nikopol city was particularly badly hit.

“Nikopol suffered the most. Up to a dozen private houses, farm buildings and gas pipelines were damaged in the city,” he said on Telegram, adding that several shops, office buildings and a college had been “mutilated by Russian shells.”

CNBC was unable to immediately verify the information contained within the reports.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia beefing up defenses in Belgorod needlessly, UK says

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence said Russia’s decision to extend defensive positions along its international border with Ukraine, and deep inside the border region of Belgorod, reflects a misplaced belief that Ukraine could try to invade Russia.

A view of damaged structures in Belgorod in Russia after suspected attacks, seen on Nov. 6, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The U.K. said in its latest intelligence update that the recent beefing up of defenses in Belgorod could be due to Russian authorities wanting to promote a baseless idea that Ukraine could invade.

“There is a realistic possibility that the Russian authorities are promoting defensive preparations within internationally recognised Russian territory to burnish patriotic feeling. However, it probably illustrates some Russia decision-makers’ genuine (but false) belief that there is a credible threat of invasion by Ukrainian forces,” the U.K. said.

“Paucity in strategic assessment is one of the critical weaknesses in the central Russian government architecture: as highlighted by Russia’s original decision to invade Ukraine,” it noted, adding: “Impartial official analysis is almost certainly frequently undermined by a tendency toward group-think and politically expedient conclusions.”

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry noted that trench digging has been reported in Belgorod since at least April, “but the new constructions are probably more elaborate systems, designed to rebuff mechanised assault.” In addition, the governor of Belgorod announced Tuesday that he was establishing local “self-defence units.”

Russia has accused Ukrainian forces of shelling Belgorod and other border regions repeatedly during the war, killing a number of civilians in the process. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for any incidents within Russian territory, and at one point accused Russia of staging an attack to whip up anti-Ukrainian sentiment.

— Holly Ellyatt

Belarus to move military equipment, personnel to check for ‘terrorism’ response

A Ukrainian border guard scouts with a monocular near the Ukrainian border with Russia and Belarus in November. The Ukrainian army has expressed alarm at the “growing threat” of a Russian offensive through Belarus.

Sergei Supinsky | Afp | Getty Images

Belarus is moving military equipment and its security forces on Wednesday and Thursday to check its response to possible “acts of terrorism.”

State news agency BelTA cited the country’s Security Council stating that during the checks it would temporarily restrict citizens’ movement on certain public roads, and said the use of imitation weapons for training purposes is planned.

Any military activity by Belarus is being watched closely in Ukraine for signs that its forces could enter the war and assist its ally Russia. Belarus has appeared reluctant to fight alongside Russia in Ukraine but it conducts joint military exercises with Russia and has a joint unit with its neighbor.

— Holly Ellyatt

Pro-Russian official claims conditions are ripe for the capturing of Bakhmut

Pro-Russian official Denis Pushilin, the acting head of the separatist “Donetsk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine, has claimed that Russian forces in the region — arguably the most hotly-contested region in the Ukraine war at the moment — could soon be in a position to advance and capture Bakhmut.

Denis Pushilin (C), leader of the separatists in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) arrives to deliver a press conference in Donetsk, on April 11, 2022.

Alexander Nemenov | AFP | Getty Images

Pushilin told the TASS news agency that the “liberation” of Mayorsk near Horlivka, just to the south of Bakhmut, “created the prerequisites for advancing to Dzerzhinsk [known as ‘Toretsk’ in Ukrainian] and the subsequent encirclement of Artemovsk” — the Russian name for Bakhmut.

He said units of the Russian state-sanctioned private military company, the Wagner Group, were working “in Bakhmut” and were seeing “certain successes,” echoing comments by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu who said on Tuesday that a number of settlements near Bakhmut had come under the control of the Russian armed forces.

Fighting in Donetsk has descended into bloody trench warfare in recent months with fierce battles over every mile of territory and settlement surrounding Bakhmut.

Russia is believed to see the city as a key target, believing that capturing it will enable it to sever Ukrainian supply lines and allow its forces to advance toward Sloviansk and Kramatorsk to the north of Bakhmut.

CNBC was unable to verify Pushilin’s claims. The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Wednesday morning that Russian forces continued to focus their efforts on “conducting offensive operations” in the area around Bakhmut.

It’s not the first time that Pushilin has claimed that Bakhmut is close to encirclement, having said the same thing last week. Ukraine vehemently denies it is even close to being semi-encircled, with one official telling CNBC that Russia is seeing masses of personnel losses in the area, and little gains, although the official admitted the fighting was intense.

— Holly Ellyatt

Blinken says U.S. neither encourages nor enables Ukraine to strike inside Russia

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken attends the Freedom of Expression Roundtable, in New York, U.S., September 19, 2022. 

Craig Ruttle | Reuters

The United States has neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, but repeated Washington’s determination to make sure Kyiv has the equipment it needs to defend itself.

A third Russian airfield was ablaze from a drone strike, a day after Ukraine demonstrated an apparent new ability to penetrate hundreds of miles (km) deep into Russian airspace with attacks on two Russian air bases. Kyiv did not directly claim responsibility for the strikes, but nonetheless celebrated them.

— Reuters

At U.N., U.S., Russia accuse each other of no interest in Ukraine talks

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia addresses journalists regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., April 4, 2022. 

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

The United States and Russia accused each other of not being interested in Ukraine peace talks as calls grow at the United Nations for a ceasefire and diplomacy to end the war started by Moscow’s invasion nine months ago.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told a U.N. Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine that Moscow had noted “interest from a significant majority” of U.N. member states in a diplomatic settlement.

“We are reacting to this very seriously. We confirm our willingness to conduct negotiations,” he said, but added that the aim would be to “eradicate the root causes that forced us to start our special military operation (SMO).”

— Reuters

Turkey says Finland must end arms embargo to join NATO

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a press conference with in Istanbul, Türkiye, on Nov. 3, 2022.

Shadati | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Finland must publicly declare that it’s lifting an arms embargo on Turkey to win Ankara’s approval for its membership to NATO, the Turkish foreign minister said.

Mevlut Cavusoglu made the comments ahead of visit by Finland’s Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen, who will be discussing his nation’s bid to join the military alliance with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Thursday.

“The Finnish defense minister’s visit to Turkey is important because we have not yet heard a statement from Finland saying they’ve lifted their arms embargo against us,” Cavusoglu told reporters. “We’re expecting such a statement from there.”

Sweden and Finland abandoned their longstanding policies of military nonalignment and applied for membership in the alliance after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, amid concerns that Russia might target them next.

— Associated Press

Hungary vetoes 18 billion euro EU aid package for Ukraine

Hungary vetoed an 18 billion euro ($18.9 billion) EU aid package for Ukraine, meaning it cannot go forward and the European Commission will have to find other ways to continue providing aid to Ukraine into 2023.

“Orban is going into full escalation,” a Green Party member of the European Parliament tweeted in response to the news.

The move is seen as a way for Hungarian President Viktor Orban, a longtime ally of Putin, to force the EU into giving Hungary its share of recovery funds, some of which have been blocked by the EU because of breaches of the bloc’s laws.

The European Commission will now examine ways to “provide the necessary solution to Ukraine already as of January,” EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn said.

Czech Finance Minister Zbynek Stanjura said he asked his EU colleagues to work toward “a solution supported by 26 member states” that could bypass Hungary’s veto.

“We were not able to adopt the package as a whole but we will not be discouraged,” Stanjura said. “Our ambition remains that we will start disbursements to Ukraine in January.”

— Natasha Turak

Kremlin says no prospect for peace talks with Ukraine at the moment

Moscow says it agrees with the U.S. in that lasting peace is needed in Ukraine, but that it sees no prospect for talks in that direction at the present time.

“That the outcome should be a just and durable peace, one can agree with this,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told press, in reference to remarks U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made on Monday. Blinken said that the Ukraine war “would end almost certainly with diplomacy” and that a “just and durable peace” was essential.

“But as for the prospects for some sort of negotiations, we do not see any at the moment,” Peskov said.

He added that for talks to take place, Russia would need to have completed the objectives of its “special military operation,” the term the Kremlin has used since February to describe its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

— Natasha Turak

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