NATO leaders promise Zelenskyy aid, more troops in east; Ukraine says it sank Russian warship Orsk

This has been CNBC's live blog covering updates on the war in Ukraine. [Follow the latest updates here.]

It was a day of high-level meetings on Thursday, with an extraordinary NATO summit taking place in Brussels, as well as meetings of EU leaders and the G-7.

NATO committed extra troops along its eastern flank, with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg telling CNBC ahead of the summit that Russian President Vladimir Putin had made "a big mistake."

The U.K. and U.S. rolled out more sanctions against Russian elites and government officials, while the U.S. announced billions more in aid and said it would take up to 100,000 Ukraine refugees.

U.S. President Joe Biden sent Russian leader Vladimir Putin a stern warning, saying NATO would respond "in kind" if Russia uses chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.

Support for Ukraine increases the chances of Russia wanting a ceasefire, says ex-NATO policy planner

Rasmussen Global discusses support from NATO countries for Ukraine war

The odds of Russia and Ukraine reaching a ceasefire depend on the balance of power between the two sides, according to Fabrice Pothier, former head of policy planning for NATO secretary generals.

"The more support we will provide to [Ukrainian] President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian forces, the more likely Russia is to call for a durable ceasefire because Russia will see that they are not prevailing at all on the military terrain," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia" on Friday.

However, Moscow hasn't reached that point yet, said Pothier, who is now CEO of political consultancy Rasmussen Global.

Russia is digging in its heels at the moment, he said. "Unless we are willing to double down in our support to Zelenskyy and in our sanctions, I don't see why President Putin will stop where he is now," said Pothier.

— Abigail Ng

Zelenskyy urges the EU to grant Ukraine membership

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen on a screen as he delivers a speech in front of the Assembly of the European Parliament on March 1, 2022 in Brussels, Belgium.
Thierry Monasse | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the European Council to let his country into the bloc in a Thursday address.

"You and I are preparing Ukraine's membership in the European Union. Finally. Here I ask you — do not be late. Please," he said, according to a video posted on his official Telegram channel.

Earlier in the speech, Zelenskyy thanked the EU for its support in imposing sanctions on Russia, but said those measures came "a little late."

He added that over the past month of fighting, the EU saw "who is worth what" and has seen that Ukraine should be allowed to join the group "in the near future."

— Abigail Ng

Ukraine strikes 'high value' logistics targets

In this image from 2018, the Russian warship Orsk passes through Turkey's Dardanelles Strait. Military vehicles and a large hoist are visible on deck.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Ukrainian military has launched strikes against "high value targets in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine," including ammunition depots and a landing ship, the U.K. Ministry of Defence said on Thursday evening.

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said it expects Ukrainians to continue targeting logistics-related targets held by Russian invaders.

"This will force the Russian military to priortise the defence of their supply chain and deprive them of much needed resupply for forces," the Defence Ministry said.

Ukrainian officials said on Thursday that they sank the Orsk, a large Russian amphibious vessel, off Berdyansk, Ukraine, earlier this week.

Russian military authorities had expected the Orsk to boost their logistics capabilities in the Berdyansk port, according to comments from an officer of the Russian Black Sea Fleet which were translated by NBC News.

Berdyansk is about 40 miles (64 km) west of the Black Sea city of Mariupol, which Russians are destroying with artillery.

A Russian embassy contacted for comment referred CNBC to the country's ministry of defense website, the English version of which was not loading.

Moscow's inability to adequately resupply its troops, combined with fierce Ukrainian resistance, have largely brought Russian advances to a halt in the month-old war.

— Ted Kemp

Humanitarian crisis grows for thousands trapped in Mariupol

People stand in a long queue during the distribution of humanitarian aid near a damaged store of wholesaler Metro in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine.

People stand in a long queue during the distribution of humanitarian aid near a damaged store of wholesaler Metro in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 24, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
People push carts after receiving humanitarian aid in a damaged store of wholesaler Metro in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 24, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
People stand in a long queue during the distribution of humanitarian aid near a damaged store of wholesaler Metro in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 24, 2022.
Pavel Klimov | Reuters
People stand in a long queue during the distribution of humanitarian aid near a damaged store of wholesaler Metro in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 24, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
People stand in a long queue during the distribution of humanitarian aid near a damaged store of wholesaler Metro in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 24, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
People stand in a long queue during the distribution of humanitarian aid near a damaged store of wholesaler Metro in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 24, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
Service members of pro-Russian troops drive armoured vehicles past local residents in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 24, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
Civilians are being evacuated along humanitarian corridors from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol under the control of Russian military and pro-Russian separatists, on March 24, 2022.
Stringer | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
A child holds a bread as civilians are being evacuated along humanitarian corridors from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol under the control of Russian military and pro-Russian separatists, on March 24, 2022.
Leon Klein | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images


Ukraine to feature heavily in Blinken travel to Middle East, North Africa

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at the State Department in Washington, March 17, 2022.
Saul Loeb | Pool | Reuter

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the Middle East and North Africa starting on Saturday in a trip that will be heavily dominated by discussion of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken is set to visit Israel, the West Bank, Morocco, and Algeria from Saturday to Wednesday, the State Department announced on Thursday, in a trip that will focus on Iran and the conflict in Ukraine.

"Both of those are going to be really at the top of the agenda," top U.S. diplomat for Near Eastern affairs Yael Lempert told reporters.

Lempert said that Blinken will discuss Israel's role as mediator between Russia and Ukraine during his visit over the weekend.

— Reuters

Biden says U.S. would ‘respond’ to Russia if Putin uses chemical or biological weapons

Russian soldiers wear chemical protection suits as they stand next to a military fueler on the base of a prime mover of Russian Topol intercontinental ballistic missile during a training session at the Serpukhov's military missile forces research institute some 100km outside Moscow on April 6, 2010. T
Natalia Kolesnikova | AFP | Getty Images

U.S. President Joe Biden said NATO would respond "in kind" if Russia uses weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine.

"We will respond if he uses it," Biden said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "The nature of the response depends on the nature of the use."

The president spoke after a marathon of summit meetings with the European Union, G-7 partners and NATO allies.

Biden also said he would support an effort to expel Russia from the G-20 group of economies.

— Christina Wilkie

At least 977 killed and 1,549 injured in Ukraine, UN says

A children walks in front of a damaged school in the city of Zhytomyr, northern Ukraine, on March 23, 2022.
Fadel Senna | AFP | Getty Images

Russian forces have killed at least 977 civilians since it began its invasion of Ukraine, according to the United Nations.

At least an additional 1,594 people have been injured, including 64 children, from Feb. 24 through March 22, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

The majority of deaths recorded have been caused by the use of explosive weapons with a "wide impact area," the office said. That includes shelling from heavy artillery and airstrikes.

The agency said it believes the actual number of casualties are "considerably higher," since information from areas with intense fighting is delayed and some reports are being corroborated.

– Amanda Macias

EU leaders send a message to China to stop Putin

Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi shakes hands with France's President Emmanuel Macronat NATO Headquarters in Brussels on March 24, 2022.
John Thys | Afp | Getty Images

EU leaders had one message for Beijing as they gathered in Brussels to discuss new sanctions against Russia: Stop President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking to CNBC Thursday, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi said: "China is [the] most important country, they can be crucial in the peace process, they have lots of leverage, a lot of leverage, and so we are all waiting."

Latvia's Prime Minister Arturs Karins also told CNBC: "China has a choice, it's rather a simple choice: put your lot in with Russia — that is waging war against Ukraine, bombing women, children, hospitals — or find a way to work with Europe, with the U.S. and with western democracies."

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin also called China a "major player" and said the European Union had to make sure "China is on the right side of history with this war."

Read the story here.

— Matt Clinch

UN calls for an immediate end to war, blames Russia for humanitarian crisis

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks at the 11th emergency special session of the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., March 2, 2022.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters

The United Nations General Assembly, in a two-day emergency meeting, adopted a resolution that formally blames Russia for causing the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and calls for a peaceful and immediate end to the war.

France and Mexico proposed the resolution which was supported by dozens of other UN member states. Russia created its own humanitarian proposal which the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations described as a "flimsy fabrication."

"It really is unconscionable that Russia would have the audacity to put forward a resolution asking the international community to solve a humanitarian crisis that Russia alone created," U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.

The adopted resolution, "Deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine" and "urges the immediate peaceful resolution of the conflict."

– Amanda Macias

'We are entering an unprecedented food crisis,' Macron warns

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a news conference following a NATO summit, in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2022.
Gonzalo Fuentes | Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron urged the G-7 heads of state to invest in ways to alleviate the mounting food crisis triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"We are entering an unprecedented food crisis," Macron told G-7 leaders in Brussels, adding that it should be an "imperative that Russia doesn't create a famine."

The war "makes countries have difficulty getting supplies of wheat and more generally cereals," Macron said. He noted that Russian and Ukraine are two of the world's largest cereal producers.

Earlier in the day, U.S. President Joe Biden met with Macron on the sidelines of the NATO leaders' meeting. The two discussed ways to continue holding Russia accountable, as well as additional ways to support the Ukrainian government, according to a White House readout of the meeting.

– Amanda Macias

U.S. makes plans in case Russia uses chemical, nuclear weapons

Russian soldiers wear chemical protection suits as they stand next to a military fueler on the base of a prime mover of Russian Topol intercontinental ballistic missile during a training session at the Serpukhov's military missile forces research institute some 100km outside Moscow on April 6, 2010.
Natalia Kolesnikova | AFP | Getty Images

The White House has set up a team of experts to plan how the United States could respond should Russia use weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological or nuclear - during its invasion of Ukraine, senior administration officials said on Thursday.

Russia has repeatedly raised the prospect of using nuclear weapons as it struggles to overcome Ukraine's military during the month-old war that the Russian government calls a "special operation." This week, the Kremlin said such weapons would only be used in the case of an "existential threat."

U.S. officials have warned that Russia's accusations that Ukraine might use chemical weapons are a lie, and also an indication Moscow may resort to their use, given past precedent.

The White House National Security Council sent an internal memo to agencies on Feb. 28 to create a strategy group to examine major geopolitical shifts that are occurring as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, officials said. A second group, known internally as the "Tiger Team," is looking at what the next three months look like.

— Reuters

NATO boosts defenses in Europe, says it faces ‘gravest threat’ to its security in decades

U.S. Army MIM-104 Patriots, surface-to-air missile (SAM) system launchers, are pictured at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Poland March 24, 2022.
Stringer | Reuters

NATO said it will strengthen its defenses in Europe in the face of Russia's continuing aggression toward Ukraine.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the organization has collectively agreed to reinforce its defense capabilities in the region following an extraordinary summit of the military alliance in Brussels earlier Thursday.

"Today NATO leaders agreed to reset our deterrents and defense for the longer term to face a new security reality. On land, we will have substantially more forces in the eastern part of the alliance at higher readiness, with more pre-positioned equipment and supplies," he said.

"In the air, we will deploy more jets and strengthen our integrated air and missile defense. At sea, we will have carrier strike groups, submarines and significant numbers of combat ships on a persistent basis," he added, with members also set to strengthen their cyber defenses.

Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine says it sank Russian warship Orsk

Smoke rises after shelling near a seaport in Berdyansk, Ukraine, Thursday, March 24, 2022. Ukraine's navy reported Thursday that it had sunk the Russian ship Orsk in the Sea of Asov near the port city of Berdyansk.

Ukrainian authorities said they destroyed a Russian warship that entered the port of Berdyansk earlier this week.

"In the temporarily occupied Berdyansk, our soldiers destroyed a large Russian landing ship, the Orsk, and damaged a number of other ships," said Anrdii Yermak, head of the office of the president of Ukraine, in comments translated by NBC News.

The ship was used to deliver military equipment, including tanks, weapons, ammunition and humanitarian supplies, according to the Russian Federation.

"The arrival of a large amphibious ship in the port of Berdyansk is a truly epoch-making event that opens up opportunities for the Black Sea Fleet in logistical matters, to use the infrastructure of the port of Berdyansk in full," one of the officers of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation said in a statement announcing the ship's arrival that was translated by NBC. The ship "will go to strengthen our group operating in the direction indicated by the higher command."

— Dawn Kopecki


Stoltenberg extends term at NATO as Russia's war wages on

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference after the Extraordinary Summit of NATO Heads of State and Government in Brussels, Belgium on March 24, 2022.
Halil Sagirkaya | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will extend his term as head of the alliance for one more year.

Stoltenberg's term, which was set to expire in September, comes as the world's most powerful military alliance works to end Russia's war in Ukraine.

"Honoured by the decision of #NATO Heads of State and Government to extend my term as Secretary General until 30 September 2023," Stoltenberg wrote in a tweet.

"As we face the biggest security crisis in a generation, we stand united to keep our alliance strong and our people safe," he said.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One that President Joe Biden thinks "very highly of Secretary General Stoltenberg."

– Amanda Macias

NATO calls on China to 'join the rest of the world and clearly condemn the brutal war'

A view of the Extraordinary Summit of NATO Heads of State and Government held in Brussels, Belgium on March 24, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The leaders of the 30-member NATO alliance called on China to "uphold the international order" and abstain from supporting Russia's war effort in any way.

"Our message to China is that they should join the rest of the world and clearly condemn the brutal war against Ukraine," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during a press conference following the leaders' meeting.

In a joint statement, NATO leaders said they were "concerned by recent public comments by PRC officials and call on China to cease amplifying the Kremlin's false narratives, in particular on the war and on NATO."

A senior administration official, who declined to be named in order to share details of the NATO meeting, said China was a big topic among allies. The official said that there was "a recognition that China needs to live up to its responsibilities within the international community as a UN Security Council member," the official said.

"We need to continue to call on China not to support Russia and its aggression against Ukraine, and that we need China to call for a peaceful end to the conflict as a responsible member of the international community," the official added.

– Amanda Macias

NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg briefs press following extraordinary meeting

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg briefs the press following the organization's extraordinary meeting in Brussels.

He said NATO was sending more troops on the ground as well as committing more naval and air warfare capabilities to Ukraine.

"It's a new reality, it's a new normal," he said, adding that the alliance is making military plans to respond to a potential long-term threat from Russia.

— Dawn Kopecki

Zelenskyy calls on NATO for more swift military support

A view of the Extraordinary Summit of NATO Heads of State and Government held in Brussels, Belgium on March 24, 2022.
NATO | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged NATO leaders to supply his besieged country with more weaponry as the Russian invasion in Ukraine entered its second month.

"Ukraine does not have powerful air defense system, we have far less aviation than Russians do," Zelenskyy said in a virtual address. "I ask you to reassess your positions and think about security in Europe and in the whole world. You can give us just 1% of all of your airplanes, just 1% of your tanks," he added.

A senior Biden administration official, who declined to be named in order to speak about the NATO meeting, said Zelenskyy's message was "very much focused on the efforts of the Ukraine military and people to defend their country."

The official said that the Ukrainian leader did not request a no-fly zone nor did he request NATO membership as he has previously done.

– Amanda Macias

U.S. set to announce plans to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians

Refugee children fleeing Ukraine are given blankets by Slovakian rescue workers to keep warm at the Velke Slemence border crossing on March 09, 2022 in Velke Slemence, Slovakia.
Christopher Furlong | Getty Images

President Joe Biden is slated to announce plans of welcoming up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing the war in Ukraine, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News.

The admissions would be facilitated through a range of pathways, including through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program as well as nonimmigrant and immigrant visas. The source said that additional details are expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

Since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, more than 3.6 million people have fled the country with more than 2 million fleeing to Poland.

– Amanda Macias

Ukraine's Zelenskyy claims Russia has used phosphorus bombs in Ukraine

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the Ukrainian people, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 23, 2022.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed, during a speech to NATO members today, that Russia has used phosphorus bombs in an attack.

"This morning we had phosphorus bombs from Russia, people were killed, children were killed," Zelenskyy said during an address via videolink to the NATO summit taking place in Brussels.

Separately, early on Thursday, the governor of the eastern Luhansk region claimed that four people had been killed after shelling and the use of phosphorus. The governor attached stills and a video, which have not been verified, that he claimed show buildings destroyed in the attack.  

It has not been possible to independently verify the claims made by Zelenskyy and the governor of Luhansk. Zelenskyy provided no evidence in his address.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon was unable to confirm the use of phosphorous when contacted by NBC's Dan DeLuce.

Zelenskiy also appealed to NATO leaders on Thursday to increase military support for the country.

Russia "wants to go further. Against eastern members of NATO. The Baltic states. Poland for sure," Zelenskiy said in a pre-recorded video address to the NATO summit, Reuters reported.

"NATO has yet to show what the alliance can do to save people," he said.

Holly Ellyatt

Russian market partially reopens after monthlong shutdown

Russia's central bank in Moscow.
Gavriil Grigorov | TASS | Getty Images

Russia's stocks moved sharply after the market partially reopened for limited trading after its longest shutdown since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Moscow Exchange resumed trading in 33 Russian equities, including some of its biggest names like Gazprom and Sberbank, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Moscow time (3 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET) following an announcement from the Central Bank of Russia on Wednesday. The MOEX Russia Index was up more than 5% by around 1 p.m. Moscow time, having pared earlier gains of more than 10%.

Short-selling on stocks will be banned, however, and foreign investors will not be able to sell stocks or OFZ ruble bonds until April 1.

The country's stock exchange had been closed since Feb. 25 as Russian assets plunged across the board following the country's invasion of Ukraine and in anticipation of the punishing international sanctions.

– Elliot Smith

The UK has now sanctioned more than 1,000 Russian banks, businesses and people

The U.K. has announced 65 new Russian sanctions today targeting a range of key strategic industries and individuals that are supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions have targeted Russian Railways and defense company Kronshtadt, the main producer of Russian drones, as well as the Wagner Group — the organization of Russian mercenaries reportedly tasked with assassinating Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, the U.K.'s Foreign Office said in a statement Thursday.

Six more banks are being targeted too, including Alfa Bank whose co-founders include previously sanctioned oligarchs Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan, and the world's largest diamond producer Alrosa.

President Putin has already crossed a red line 'into barbarism,' says Boris Johnson

Sanctioned individuals include the billionaire oil tycoon Eugene Shvidler as well as the founder of Tinkoff bank Oleg Tinkov. In addition, Herman Gref, the chief executive of Russia's largest bank Sberbank, and Polina Kovaleva, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's step daughter have also been sanctioned.

Galina Danilchenko, who was installed by Russia as the "mayor" of Ukraine's Melitopol is also sanctioned — the first time an individual has been sanctioned for collaboration with Russian forces currently in Ukraine.

The U.K. has now sanctioned over 1,000 individuals and businesses under the Russia sanctions regime since the invasion, the foreign office said.

Holly Ellyatt

President Putin has made a 'big mistake' invading Ukraine, NATO chief says

NATO: President Putin has made a big mistake

President Putin has made "a big mistake" in invading Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said ahead of an extraordinary meeting of the transatlantic military alliance in Brussels.

"President Putin has made a big mistake and that is to launch a war, to wage a war, against an independent sovereign nation," he told CNBC's Hadley Gamble on Thursday.

Speaking further to the press, Stoltenberg said the meeting was taking place as leaders faced "the most serious security crisis in a generation."

He said leaders would address this crisis and its implications "for Ukraine, for NATO and for the whole international rules-based order."

Stoltenberg said NATO has increased its military presence in the eastern part of the alliance and today will "address the need for a reset of our deterrence and defense in the longer term."

"The first step is the establishment of four new battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia," he said, saying NATO members need to invest more in defense.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is due to address NATO leaders today.

Holly Ellyatt

Putin’s invasion is seen as his biggest ever mistake — and will harm Russia for years

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia March 18, 2022.
Sergey Guneev | Sputnik | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been in power for more than two decades and during that time has carefully cultivated an image of himself as a tough, strongman leader, fighting for Russia's interests and reinstating the country as a geopolitical and economic superpower.

With his decision to invade neighboring Ukraine, however, analysts say Putin has made the biggest mistake of his political career and has weakened Russia for years to come.

The country and its strongman leader are now pariahs on the global stage, and Russia's economy is facing more pain with further sanctions to be discussed by world leaders meeting today.

The Institute of International Finance has said it expects Russia's economy to contract by 15% in 2022, driven by both official sanctions and the "self-sanctioning" of foreign companies that have pulled out of Russia.

Predicting a further economic decline of 3% in 2023, the IIF said Wednesday that the war "will wipe out fifteen years of economic growth."

Holly Ellyatt

Quad looks past India's refusal to condemn invasion

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at Hyderabad House, on December 6, 2021 in New Delhi, India.
Sonu Mehta | Hindustan Times | Getty Images

One month into the war in Ukraine, the liberal, democratic West is aggressively wooing India, curiously willing to look past its "neutral" stance on Russia's invasion. 

Over the past week, India's partners in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) — the United States, Australia and Japan — have come calling on New Delhi, in-person and virtually. 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and U.S. State Department officials met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior Indian officials, discussing bilateral and Indo-Pacific issues while skipping mention of India's refusal to condemn Russia's attack. 

India has so far abstained on four United Nations resolutions related to the Ukraine war. But the latest — an abstention on a Russian-sponsored vote on Wednesday — was the first attempt by the country to align itself with broader international opinion against the Ukraine invasion. Only China and Russia voted in favor of the resolution that referred to a "humanitarian crisis" while making no mention of an invasion. It failed to pass.

The war is creating interesting geopolitical options for India, a democracy with a cultural and political affinity to the West. At the same time, it also has decades-old ties with Russia on whom it depends for most of its arms supplies. The West has been more understanding of India's predicament.

— Ravi Buddhavarapu

Leaders set for NATO, EU and G-7 meetings focused on Ukraine

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks at US President Joe Biden while posing for a family photograph with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other leaders as they pose for a family photograph ahead of an extraordinary summit at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2022.
Brendan Smialowski | Reuters

The war in Ukraine is top of the agenda as leaders from the world's most advanced nations prepare to meet on Thursday.

There are three key meetings ahead with an extraordinary NATO summit taking place in Brussels, as well as meetings of EU leaders and the Group of Seven (G-7).

U.S. President Joe Biden is attending the meetings and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to address the NATO summit via videolink.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance is expected to commit to "major increases" in the number of troops it has along its eastern flank. Additional arms and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine is also expected to be on the agenda.

Possible extra sanctions on Russia will be discussed when President Biden meets his EU counterparts at a session of the European Council.

Holly Ellyatt

Russian forces halt advance on Kyiv, establish defensive positions instead, Pentagon says

A Ukranian armoured vehicle drives along a road in the Ukranian capital Kyiv on March 19, 2022.
Fadel Senna | AFP | Getty Images

Russian forces are beginning to set up defensive positions about 10 to 12 miles away from Kyiv's city center, according to a senior U.S. Defense official.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details from the Pentagon's ongoing assessment of the war, said that Russians have been largely stalled outside of Kyiv for weeks now.

"We are starting to see now that they are basically digging in and they are establishing defensive positions," the official said of Russian forces.

"So it's not that they're not advancing, they're actually not trying to advance right now," the official said, adding that Russian troops do not appear to continue an advance on Kyiv anytime soon.

– Amanda Macias

Ukrainian forces make counterattacks near Kyiv, may have regained ground

A Makariv residential building destroyed by Russian shelling is shown in an image taken March 16, 2022. The town near Kyiv is the scene of more fighting this week.
Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Ukrainian defenders in the vicinity of Kyiv are mounting successful counterattacks near the capital and appear to be retaking lost ground, the British Defence Ministry said Wednesday night, though reports from the area partially contradicted those claims.

The ministry said in an intelligence update that Ukraine is bringing "increasing pressure" northeast of Kyiv, where a long-stalled advance by Russian troops has left them facing "considerable supply and morale issues."

Ukrainian forces have probably retaken the towns of Makariv and Moschun, said the ministry.

Moschun is close to Kyiv and due north, while Makariv is about 20 miles (32 km) due west of the capital.

The Ukrainian government first claimed to have retaken Makariv on Tuesday. Journalists from the Washington Post who were in the vicinity reported on Wednesday evening that Ukrainian soldiers were in the town, but it was still being struck by Russian artillery.

The U.K. ministry added that there is "a realistic possibility that Ukrainian forces are now able to encircle Russian units in Bucha and Irpin." Both of those towns border Kyiv's western city limits.

CNBC was unable to independently corroborate the ministry's claims. The situation on the ground in Ukraine is fluid and often impossible to verify.

"It is likely that successful counter attacks by Ukraine will disrupt the ability of Russian forces to reorganise and resume their own offensive towards Kyiv," the Defence Ministry said.

— Ted Kemp

Russia to expel more U.S. diplomats, State says

A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on December 7, 2021.
Alexander Nemenov | AFP | Getty Images

The Kremlin has informed U.S. officials that more American diplomats will be ordered to leave Russia, a State Department spokesman said.

"The U.S. Embassy received a list of diplomats declared 'persona non grata' from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 23," a spokesperson wrote in an evening statement.

"This is Russia's latest unhelpful and unproductive step in our bilateral relationship. We call on the Russian government to end its unjustified expulsions of U.S. diplomats and staff. Now more than ever, it is critical that our countries have the necessary diplomatic personnel in place to facilitate communication between our governments," the spokesperson wrote.

Earlier in the week, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan in Moscow that relations between Washington and Moscow were on the "verge of rupture.

Biden has previously called Russian leader Vladimir Putin a war criminal for his attacks on Ukraine. It was the first time Biden had publicly branded the Russian leader with that phrase.

– Amanda Macias

UK set to announce arms package of 6,000 missiles and an additional $528 million for Ukraine

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a joint news conference with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (not pictured) in Warsaw, Poland February 10, 2022.
Slawomir Kaminsk | Reuters

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is slated to announce a major new arms package for Ukraine at the NATO and G7 leaders' meetings on Thursday.

The UK will provide Ukraine with 6,000 missiles, including anti-tank and high explosive weapons as well as $33 million or £25 million in financial backing.

"This more than doubles the defensive lethal aid provided to date to more than 10,000 missiles and comes on top of the £400 million ($528 million) the UK has committed in humanitarian and economic aid for the crisis," 10 Downing Street wrote in a statement announcing the measure.

The UK has sent more than 4,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine's armed forces, including Javelin missiles and Starstreak high-velocity anti-air missiles to help defend against aerial bombings.

Additionally, Johnson is committing $5.4 million or £4.1 million to the BBC World Service in order to help tackle Russian disinformation. Johnson is also expected to announce some financial support for the International Criminal Court's investigation into war crimes.

– Amanda Macias

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