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Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Top Ukrainian and U.S. officials discuss war, possible next moves by Russia

Ukraine’s presidential office said Thursday that the Head of the Office of the President Andriy Yermak and Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, had spoken on the phone with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley (pictured) on Thursday.

Andre Pain | AFP | Getty Images

Top Ukrainian officials have held talks with their U.S. counterparts regarding the military situation in Ukraine, looking ahead to Russia’s offensive action expected imminently.

Ukraine’s presidential office said Thursday that the Head of the Office of the President Andriy Yermak and Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, had spoken on the phone with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley on Thursday.

“They were informed about the current situation at the front, in particular in the Donetsk and Southern directions,” the president’s office said in a statement, adding that “there was an exchange of views regarding the possible actions of the enemy in the near future.”

Ukraine thanks the U.S. for its ongoing support, the statement read, in terms of its defense capabilities and its anti-corruption crackdown, saying the government is “determined to comprehensively contribute to the cleansing of authorities from corruption risks.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Austria expels four Russian diplomats

Austrian police stand guard in front of the Russian embassy in Vienna.

Alex Halada | Afp | Getty Images

Austria named four Russian diplomats, two at the Russian Embassy and two working at Moscow’s mission to the United Nations in Vienna, as personae non gratae, the Austrian Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

The diplomats are alleged to have acted “in a manner incompatible with their diplomatic status,” the ministry said, without giving further details. The move is unusual for Austria, which has traditionally enjoyed cordial relations with Russia before Moscow invaded Ukraine.

The four diplomats have a week to leave Austria, the ministry said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia’s Lavrov promises to overshadow pro-Ukraine anniversary events

A Russian soldier walks amid the rubble in Mariupol’s eastern side where fierce fighting between Russia/pro-Russia forces and Ukraine on March 15, 2022.

Maximilian Clarke | SOPA Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Moscow had plans to overshadow pro-Ukrainian events arranged by Western and allied countries around the world to mark the anniversary of Russia sending its armed forces into Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Lavrov said Russian diplomats were working on something to ensure Western-led events in New York and elsewhere were “not the only ones to gain the world’s attention,” without providing details.

— Reuters

Russia likely damaging its reputation as an arms exporter, UK says

Military vehicles at a plant that is part of Russian missile manufacturer Almaz-Antey, in St. Petersburg, on Jan. 18, 2023.

Ilya Pitalev | Afp | Getty Images

It’s highly likely that Russia’s role as a reliable arms exporter is being undermined by its invasion of Ukraine and international sanctions and could be disrupted for several years, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Thursday.

“Even before the invasion, Russia’s share of the international arms market was declining. Now, when faced with conflicting demands, Russia will almost certainly prioritise deploying newly produced weapons with its own forces in Ukraine over supplying export partners,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.

A shortage of components is likely affecting the production of equipment for export, such as armored vehicles, attack helicopters and air defense systems, the ministry noted.

“In addition, Russia’s ability to sustain support services for existing export contracts, such as providing spare parts and maintenance, is likely to be seriously disrupted for at least the next three to five years,” it added.

— Holly Ellyatt

Rescue operations continue in Kramatorsk

Emergency services continue to work in Kramatorsk Thursday after a residential building was destroyed during a Russian rocket attack last night.

As a result of the attack, three storeys of a four-story residential building were destroyed, with the blast then setting fire to parked cars, the State Emergency Service said on Telegram.

Three people died in the attack and two others have been rescued. A total of 18 people were injured as a result of the attack, and eight of them have been hospitalized. The emergency services said 183 people and 18 units have been involved in rescue operations.

— Holly Ellyatt

‘We all want this to end’ but what matters is war’s outcome — not duration, Lavrov says

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said everyone wants the conflict in Ukraine to end, but what matters to Russia is the outcome of the war, not the duration.

Alexander Zemlianichenko | Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said everyone wants the conflict in Ukraine to end, but what matters to Russia is the outcome of the war, not the duration.

“We all want this to end, but it’s not the time factor that matters here … [but] the quality of the results that we will provide for our people, for those people who want to remain part of Russian culture,” Lavrov told TV journalist Dmitry Kiselev on Thursday in comments reported by state news agency Tass.

Lavrov added that the more long-range weapons are supplied to Kyiv, the further they need to be moved away from Russia and territory that it considers Russian (such as Crimea and four Ukrainian regions it declared it had annexed last year).

“If now we are striving to move the artillery of the Ukrainian armed forces to a distance that will not pose a threat to our territories, then the more long-range weapons are supplied to the Kyiv regime, the further they will need to be moved away from the territories that are part of our country,” Lavrov said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Search for survivors continues after Kramatorsk rocket attack

Rescuers remove debris to search for survivors at a destroyed apartment building hit by a rocket in downtown Kramatorsk on Feb. 1, 2023.

Yasuyoshi Chiba | Afp | Getty Images

The search for survivors is continuing in Kramatorsk after a deadly rocket attack on residential buildings in the city in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine.

More than 100 police officers are working at the site of the attack in which three civilians were killed and 20 wounded, the Donetsk police said in a statement Wednesday night.

The police said Russian troops had targeted a residential sector of the city with an “Iskander-K” missile — a Russian-made mobile short-range cruise missile, adding that at least eight apartment buildings were damaged and one of them was completely destroyed.

“People may still remain under the rubble. The enemy attack took place at 21:45 [local time]. A search and rescue operation is currently underway,” the police said in comments translated by NBC News.

Rescuers remove debris to search for survivors at a destroyed apartment building hit by a rocket during the night in Kramatorsk on February 1, 2023.

Yasuyoshi Chiba | Afp | Getty Images

It added that 11 investigative and operative groups, explosives experts, dog experts, paramedics, patrol police and other units were working on site. The police said that they are documenting the incident as a war crime.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilian infrastructure during the war but numerous residential buildings, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure such as schools and theaters have been damaged or destroyed during the almost one-year long conflict.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine says Russia is actively conducting reconnaissance, preparing for offensive

Russia is actively conducting reconnaissance operations and is preparing for an offensive in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, the military said Thursday.

Russia “is active in reconnaissance and preparing for an offensive on certain axes,” a spokesperson for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Oleksandr Shtupun, said in an update Thursday morning.

“Despite heavy losses, Russians continue to attempt offensives on Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Novopavlivka axes,” he said.

On the previous day, Russia launched six missile strikes, four of which targeted civilian infrastructure in the settlements of Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, and Druzhkivka (in the Donetsk region), as well as four air strikes and 73 strikes using MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket Systems), Shtupun said.

CNBC was unable to verify the information, although missile strikes were reported in Sloviansk and Kramatorsk on Wednesday, including a deadly attack on residential buildings in Kramatorsk in which at least three people died and 20 others were injured.

“The threat of Russian air and missile strikes across Ukraine remains high,” Shtupun said.

Ukrainian servicemen make a trench near Bakhmut on Feb. 1, 2023, as they prepare for a Russian offensive in the area.

Yasuyoshi Chiba | Afp | Getty Images

Russian forces and mercenaries from the Wagner Group, a private military company, have been attempting to capture Bakhmut in Donetsk for months and have claimed to have made advances toward their target in recent weeks. Several Russian officials said Wednesday that Bakhmut was essentially surrounded on three sides.

Ukraine’s General Staff said Wednesday that its forces had repelled attacks in the vicinities of various settlements in Donetsk, including Bakhmut, and neighboring Luhansk.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukrainian prosecutor general says Russia has committed more than 65,000 war crimes, reiterates calls for special tribunal

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin participates in a panel discussion at Georgetown Law in Washington, D.C., on February 1, 2023.

Amanda Macias | CNBC

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said Wednesday that regional authorities have registered more than 65,000 Russian war crimes since Moscow’s conflict began nearly a year ago.

“We have all witnessed with horror the evidence of atrocities committed in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izium, Kherson, Kharkiv regions and other liberated cities and towns,” Kostin said, adding that Ukrainian authorities have discovered mass burial sites in areas occupied by Russian troops.

“These crimes are not incidental or accidental, they include indiscriminate shelling of civilians, willful killing, torture, conflict-related sexual violence, looting and forced displacement on a massive scale,” he added in remarks at the Georgetown Law School in Washington.

His comments add to an emerging picture of the horrors experienced during nearly a year of war in Ukraine. The conflict has shown few signs of ending soon, even as local and international officials try to probe potential crimes committed over recent months in Ukraine.

In a separate discussion with journalists, Kostin said he believed Kyiv was close to gaining U.S. support to establish a special tribunal to prosecute Russia’s crimes of aggression.

Read the full story here.

— Amanda Macias

Russian journalist sentenced for speaking out on Ukraine

A damaged car and pile of debris are seen as the Russia-Ukraine War continues in Bakhmut, Ukraine on January 28, 2023.

Marek M. Berezowski | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A court in Moscow sentenced a Russian journalist in absentia to eight years in prison on charges of disparaging the military, the latest move in the authorities’ relentless crackdown on dissent.

Alexander Nevzorov, a television journalist and former lawmaker, was convicted on charges of spreading false information about the military under a law that was adopted soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine. The law effectively exposes anyone critical of the Russian military action in Ukraine to fines and prison sentences of up to 10 years.

Nevzorov was accused of posting “false information” on social media about the Russian shelling of a maternity hospital in the Sea of Azov port of Mariupol. Moscow has fiercely denied its involvement.

Nevzorov, who moved abroad after the start of the Ukrainian conflict, didn’t have an immediate comment on the verdict.

— Associated Press

Ex-Wagner Group member apologizes to Ukrainians in Norway

A pedestrian walks past a mural depicting the logo of the Russian mercenary ‘Group Wagner’ and a slogan in Russian by the informal pro-Russia organisation ‘Narodna Patrola (lit.: People Patrol), on January 20, 2023 in Belgrade, Serbia.

Srdjan Stevanovic | Getty Images

A former member of the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group who’s seeking asylum in Norway has apologized to Ukrainians living in the Scandinavian country, who object to his presence there.

“I’m a scoundrel to you, but I only ask you to take into account that I have come to realize that, albeit belatedly, and I spoke against all that,” Andrey Medvedev said in an excerpt from his interview to Norwegian broadcaster NRK that was posted online Tuesday. “I ask you not to condemn me, and in any case I apologize.”

Medvedev who has said that he fears for his life if he returns to Russia, lives in a center for asylum seekers in Oslo. He illegally crossed into Norway, which has a 198-kilometer (123-mile) -long border with Russia, earlier this month.

Medvedev has said that he left the Wagner Group after his contract was extended beyond the July-November timeline without his consent. He said he’s willing to testify about any war crimes he witnessed and denied participating in any himself.

— Associated Press

Ukraine raids home of billionaire in war-time anti-corruption crackdown

A picture taken on March 2015 by Unian agency shows Ukrainian billionaire Igor Kolomoisky speaking during the Ukrainian Football Federation session in Kiev. Ukraine’s president has dismissed Igor Kolomoisky, one of the country’s most controversial tycoons from his regional governor’s post, his office said on March 25, 2015.

Vladyslav Musienko | AFP | Getty Images

Security services searched the home of one of Ukraine’s most prominent billionaires, moving against a figure once seen as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s sponsor in what the authorities called a war-time anti-corruption purge.

Photographs circulating on social media appeared to show Ihor Kolomoiskiy dressed in a sweatsuit and looking on in the presence of an SBU security service officer at his home.

The action, days before a summit with the European Union, appears to reflect determination by Kyiv to demonstrate that it can be a steward of billions of dollars in Western aid and shed a reputation as one of the world’s most corrupt states.

The SBU said it had uncovered the embezzlement of more than $1 billion at Ukraine’s biggest oil company, Ukrnafta, and its biggest refiner, Ukrtatnafta. Kolomoiskiy, who has long denied wrongdoing, once held stakes in both firms, which Zelenskiy ordered seized by the state in November under martial law.

Separate raids were carried out at the tax office, and the home of Arsen Avakov, who led Ukraine’s police force as interior minister from 2014-2021. The SBU said it was cracking down on “people whose actions harm the security of the state in various spheres” and promised more details in coming days.

— Reuters

Vladimir Putin is now fighting for his own political survival: former German ambassador to Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inability to score a decisive win on the battlefield or subjugate Ukraine to his will means he is now fighting for his own political survival via the war, according to Rüdiger von Fritsch, former German ambassador to Russia and partner at Berlin Global Advisors.

Bakhmut surrounded on three sides, Russian official says

Ukrainian soldiers return from the front line in Bakhmut, Ukraine on Jan. 29, 2023.

Marek M. Berezowski | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian forces have almost completely surrounded Bakhmut in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, according to a Russian-installed official.

“Artemovsk [the Russian name for Bakhmut] is now in an operational encirclement, our forces are closing the ring,” Yan Gagin, an aide to Denis Pushilin, the acting head of the pro-Russian, separatist “Donetsk People’s Republic,” told the Rossiya-24t tv channel, according to state news agency Tass.

Gagin said battles are now taking place to control the highway between Bakhmut and the nearby town of Chasiv Yar. He said “this is the only artery through which Ukraine can supply its group in Artemovsk.”

CNBC was unable to immediately verify the claims but Russian forces have been trying to capture Bakhmut for months and have been seen to have been advancing in the area in recent weeks.

— Holly Ellyatt

Zelenksyy signals Kyiv ready to unroll new reforms as it pursues EU membership

Ukraine will host European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other top EU officials on Friday, with hopes high in Kyiv that its application to join the EU will continue to progress.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that Kyiv is preparing new reforms as it prepares for a summit with top EU officials at the end of the week.

“We are preparing new reforms in Ukraine. Reforms that will change the social, legal and political reality in many ways, making it more human, transparent and effective. But these details will be announced later, based on the results of the relevant meetings,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

Ukraine will host European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other top EU officials on Friday, with hopes high in Kyiv that its application to join the EU will continue to progress.

“This week will be a week of European integration in every sense of the word,” Zelenskyy said. “We are expecting news for Ukraine. We are expecting the decisions from our partners in the European Union that will be in line with the level of cooperation achieved between our institutions and the EU, as well as with our progress. Progress, which is obvious – even despite the full-scale war,” he said.

“We are preparing Ukrainian positions for negotiations with EU representatives,” he added.

Ukraine applied to join the 27-member political and economic bloc last year, just days after Russia invaded last February, and wants its application fast-tracked. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said earlier this week that Kyiv hopes it can join the EU within two years.

Other counties in Europe, such as North Macedonia and Montenegro, have been waiting more than a decade to have their membership applications progress, however, and there are expectations that EU officials could try to temper Ukraine’s expectations during their visit.

— Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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