Russian attacks on Ukraine are continuing after Moscow said it would reduce its military activity in some parts of the country.
Russia said Tuesday that it would cut back its military activity near Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv — but the U.S., the U.K. and Ukraine have expressed skepticism over Moscow's pledge to scale back the fighting.
Russian and Ukrainian delegates held face-to-face talks in Istanbul yesterday, with Ukraine's delegation calling for an international agreement under which other nations would guarantee Ukraine's security.
Russia continues shelling, holds positions near Kyiv despite Moscow's promises to scale back
"Significant" Russian shelling and missile strikes have continued on the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, and Russian troops are still holding positions close to Kyiv, despite promises to the contrary from Moscow, the United Kingdom said Thursday.
"Russian forces continue to hold positions to the east and west of Kyiv despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units," the U.K. Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence briefing.
Chernihiv is about 90 miles (145 km) north of Kyiv and 40 miles (64 km) south of the Russian border.
A Russian defense official said Wednesday that Moscow would "drastically" reduce military activity near Chernihiv and the capital of Kyiv, NBC News reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken urged caution about believing Moscow's promises. The Russian Defense Ministry's press office was not immediately available to provide comment to CNBC.
The British ministry said heavy fighting "will likely take place in the suburbs" of Kyiv in the coming days. Since last week, Ukrainian forces began to report retaking towns close to the capital.
The situation around the capital is fluid, and those Ukrainian claims are difficult or impossible to verify.
"You do see the Ukrainians trying to take advantage of opportunities and roll back the Russians where they can," NBC News Global Security Reporter Dan De Luce said.
Heavy fighting continues in Mariupol in the south, but the U.K. Ministry said Ukrainian defenders are still holding the city center. Mariupol has been largely destroyed by Russian artillery and missiles.
— Ted Kemp
Putin may have been misinformed about Ukraine, U.S. intelligence shows
According to newly declassified U.S. intelligence, Russian President Vladimir Putin feels he was misled by military leaders, who withheld details about the botched invasion of Ukraine out of fear.
"We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions, because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth," said White House communications director Kate Bedingfield.
As a result, there's been "persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership," she told reporters.
A U.S. official told NBC News earlier that Putin didn't know his military was using and losing conscripts in Ukraine, a sign that there was a "clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information to the Russian President."
When Putin actually realizes how badly his military is done in Ukraine, there might be "a real potential here for escalation," said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.
Neither the White House nor the Pentagon would say how American intelligence agencies learned what Putin was and was not being told. Releasing intelligence strongly suggests the U.S. has a mole in Putin's inner circle.
— Goh Chiew Tong, Christina Wilkie
U.S. sends 100 killer drones to Ukraine, following Zelenskyy’s request for additional aid
The U.S. will be sending 100 killer drones to Ukraine in a colossal weapons package that President Joe Biden approved earlier this month, officials have confirmed.
The so-called "kamikaze drones" will be deployed to Ukraine soon, according to the Pentagon. It comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's request to U.S. lawmakers for additional military equipment.
"We've heard the Ukrainians and we take that request very seriously," said Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of Defense for international security.
It's not clear how often the U.S. military has used the killer drones on the battlefield and AeroVironment, the U.S.-based firm that manufactures the weapon, declined to comment on the arms transfer.
The Switchblades are equipped with cameras, navigation systems and guided explosives. They can be programmed to automatically strike targets that are miles away or can loiter above a target until engaged by an operator to strike.
— Goh Chiew Tong, Amanda Macias
Congress hears sirens wail as Ukraine legislators visit
As members of the Ukrainian parliament were pleading for aid on Capitol Hill, an air raid siren blared from one of their cell phones — a wrenching alert from the war-torn country back home.
One of the visitors reached into her bag, pulled out the phone and let the siren wail in the halls of Congress.
"Right now, you hear the sound?" said Anastasia Radina, a member of the Ukrainian Rada.
"This is the air raid alarm in the community where my son is staying right now," she said at a press conference this week after meeting with members of Congress. "I need you all to hear that."
— Associated Press
Pentagon weighs stationing more troops permanently in Eastern Europe
The Pentagon is considering sending more U.S. troops to Eastern Europe on a permanent basis, citing significant changes in the security environment.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the issue is under discussion, but no decisions have been made.
Earlier in the day, the top U.S. commander in Europe told lawmakers that the U.S. and NATO military footprint in Europe and specifically in the Baltics has "got to change."
"Certainly this is an opportunity as a result of this senseless act on behalf of Russia, to re-examine the permanent military architecture that exists not only in Eastern Europe, but in our air policing activity in aviation and in our standing naval maritime groups," U.S. Air Force Tod Wolters said before the House Armed Services Committee.
— Amanda Macias
Satellite images show Mariupol before and after destruction
Satellite images from Maxar Technologies show total destruction from above in Mariupol. Here is a before and after view.
— Maxar Technologies via Getty Images
U.S. will provide $500 million in direct budgetary aid to Zelenskyy's government
President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the United States plans to provide his government with $500 million in direct budgetary aid, according to a White House readout of Biden's secure call with the Ukrainian leader.
In the world of international assistance, direct budgetary aid is relatively rare. More often nation-to-nation aid comes in the form of already paid-for things, like food or weapons or subject matter experts, and monetary loans. Direct budgetary aid, on the other hand, generally comes with few strings attached, the closest thing to a cash gift from one government to another.
The monthlong Russian invasion of Ukraine has severely hampered Kyiv's ability to collect tax revenue and remain operational, making this kind of cash aid especially important.
Congress recently approved a separate, more than $13 billion package of supplemental aid for Ukraine. But nearly all of that money is already committed to specific things, like refugee housing, defensive arms and medical supplies.
--- Christina Wilkie
U.K. aims to stop sanctioned oligarchs from maintaining their planes and yachts
The U.K. announced new legislation that aims to prohibit maintenance on aircraft or yachts belonging to sanctioned Russian elites and their businesses.
The new measures come after Britain designated more than 1,200 individuals and entities close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"There is no doubt that Putin and his elite have been surprised by the strength of our sanctions," U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss wrote in a statement.
"We will continue to ramp up the pressure so long as Russian troops are in Ukraine, targeting not only the businesses of oligarchs but also their assets and international lifestyles," Truss added.
— Amanda Macias
Top U.S. commander in Europe says Putin believed that Russians supported a Ukraine invasion
America's top commander in Europe gave his best assessment as to why Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine.
"I think he felt like he had the popular support of the citizens of Russia. I also felt like he was attempting to take advantage of fissures that could have appeared in NATO as a result of the post-Afghanistan environment," U.S. Air Force General and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Tod Wolters said during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.
"I also think it has to do with his age and its efficacy. All those combined together put him in a position where he elected to go at this time," Wolters said when asked why Putin chose Feb. 24 to invade Ukraine.
"The overriding variable in my view is the fact that he believes that he has popular support from his citizens," said Wolters, who also serves as commander of U.S. European Command.
— Amanda Macias
Zelenskyy says he and Biden discussed a new sanctions package
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's hourlong secure call with U.S. President Joe Biden finished just after noon, the White House said.
Ten minutes later, the Ukrainian leader tweeted that he and Biden had discussed a number of topics, most notably new sanctions on Russia and specific materiel that Ukraine needs.
The White House has been working on a package of new sanctions to impose on Russia that would be aimed at making it harder for Russia's military to get parts and material.
— Christina Wilkie
Russia's battlefield performance in Ukraine 'baffling,' top U.S. commander in Europe says
America's top commander in Europe described Russia's largely stalled military campaign and overall battlefield performance in Ukraine as "baffling."
"There was a degree of miscalculation and it's evident by the performance of the Russian military up to this point," U.S. Air Force General and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Tod Wolters said during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.
"This one has been baffling," said Wolters, who also serves as commander of U.S. European Command. He added that the U.S. military should "be prepared to take a really good look" at Russia's military force posture.
Since the Kremlin's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces have been increasingly beset by logistical and command and control issues, as well as morale problems.
— Amanda Macias
The art of war: Murals show support for Ukraine
Artists around the world created murals to show support for Ukraine as Russia's invasion continues.
To see more murals from around the world, click here.
— Adam Jeffery
100 'killer drones' included in latest U.S. arms package for Ukraine
American officials told lawmakers that the U.S. will send killer drones to Ukraine at the country's request.
"We have committed 100 switchblade tactical unmanned aerial systems to be delivered in the most recent package of presidential drawdown," U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters last week that the drones would arrive in Ukraine soon, but declined to elaborate further.
There are two variants of the weapon, the Switchblade 300 and the 600, manufactured by U.S.-based firm AeroVironment. It was not immediately clear which variant of the weapon the U.S. deployed to Ukraine.
The 300 version is designed to strike small targets. It can fit in a rucksack, weighs a little over 5 pounds and has a range of 10 miles. The 600 variant of the weapon is designed to destroy tanks and other armored vehicles. It weighs slightly more than 120 pounds and has a range of more than 40 miles.
— Amanda Macias
Zelenskyy and Biden plan to speak by phone today
President Joe Biden is slated to speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy around 10:45 a.m. ET, the White House said in a statement.
The two leaders are planning to "discuss our continued support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression."
The call follows Russia's claim Tuesday that it would "dramatically reduce" its military activity around the capital Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.
The announcement from the Russian Ministry of Defense was met with deep skepticism by officials in both Washington and Kyiv.
— Christina Wilkie
The aftermath of shelling in Donetsk
Emergency specialists work at a residential building damaged by shelling in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk during Russia's war in Ukraine.
Russia’s Lavrov says Moscow will move toward ‘multipolar world order’ with China
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov touted a move toward a new world order during a visit to China on Wednesday.
"We are living through a serious stage in the history of international relations," he said. "I am convinced that the outcome of this stage will substantially clarify the international situation. We will move towards a multipolar, equitable and democratic world order with [China] and other like-minded nations."
China, a close ally of Russia, has so far refused to fully denounce Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and has not joined the coordinated move to impose economic sanctions on Moscow.
— Chloe Taylor
Russia regrouping away from Kyiv but Ukraine still under constant attack, officials say
Russia is regrouping its troops away from Kyiv to concentrate on its offensive in eastern Ukraine, Ukraine's armed forces have said in a new update.
Moscow was moving to increase the supply of troops in the Donetsk and Tavriya directions, the update said, while offensives were also underway in other parts of the country.
"In the northern direction, the occupier focused on shelling areas of Chernihiv and strengthening defensive positions," Ukraine's armed forces said.
Russia said Tuesday that it would cut back its military activity in and around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an advisor to the Ukrainian Presidential Office, said in a video message on Wednesday that Russia had ulterior motives for regrouping its troops away from the capital.
"The Russians are not simply removing their troops from Kyiv and from the north of Ukraine — they are transferring them to the Joint Forces Operation zone [in eastern Ukraine] and near Mariupol in order to have a qualitative and quantitative advantage in these areas," he said, according to an NBC News translation.
Meanwhile, Oleh Synegubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said Wednesday that Russian forces had been "constantly firing" on multiple districts around Kharkiv, and Ukraine's Human Rights Ombudsman said every day Ukrainian towns and cities were being "shaken by constant shelling and bombing."
— Chloe Taylor