Russia may rethink Black Sea strategy after sinking of warship Moskva; Germany seizes world's largest yacht tied to Russian billionaire

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

A Russian warship stationed in the Black Sea has sunk, according to a Russian state-owned media report. Earlier in the day, the flagship missile cruiser from the Black Sea fleet was hit by a Ukrainian missile attack and evacuated, according to Ukrainian authorities.

The U.K.'s Defense Ministry said the sinking of the Russian Moskva warship will likely prompt Moscow to reconsider its maritime strategy.

On Thursday, Republican lawmakers Senator Steve Daines (R-MO) and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) visited Kyiv and Bucha, becoming the first known American officials to visit Ukraine since Russia began its invasion in late February.

Meanwhile, German authorities seized the world's largest superyacht following official confirmation that the vessel has links to Russian billionaire and business tycoon Alisher Usmanov.

Sinking of Moskva will make Russia rethink its Black Sea strategy, British ministry says

The Moskva is shown in 2008.
Vasily Batanov | AFP | Getty Images

The loss of Russia's Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva is likely to force the Kremlin to review its maritime strategy in the Black Sea, according to a Western assessment.

Ukraine said that it struck the Moskva on Wednesday with two cruise missiles. Moscow admitted that the missile cruiser Moskva sank on Thursday, but blamed it on onboard ammunition that detonated.

A Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday that the United States could confirm neither story.

Regardless, the Moskva was Russia's command vessel on the Black Sea, and it was critical to the Russian fleet's air defense strategy, the U.K. Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence assessment posted Friday.

"This incident means Russia has now suffered damage to two key naval assets since invading Ukraine, the first being Russia's Alligator-class landing ship Saratov on 24 March," the Ministry of Defence said.

"Both events will likely lead Russia to review its maritime posture in the Black Sea," the ministry said.

Military analysts have speculated that the Moskva would have played an important role in any amphibious attack on Odesa, Ukraine's most important maritime port.

The Soviet-era Moskva was refitted to improve its capabilities and returned to operational status last year, the British ministry said. It played roles in Russia's bombing of Syria in 2015, its invasion of Crimea in 2014, and its war with Georgia in 2008.

Russia has claimed that its crew of 510 individuals was safely evacuated.

— Ted Kemp

'Indisputable evidence of Putin's war crimes': U.S. lawmakers visit Kyiv and Bucha

Two U.S. lawmakers visited Ukraine on Thursday, becoming the first known American officials to do so since Russia began its offensive on Feb. 24.

Senator Steve Daines (R-MO) and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN), who was born in Ukraine, traveled to there to meet Ukrainian officials in the capital of Kyiv and Bucha, where Russian troops have been accused of mass atrocities.

Biden says what happened in Bucha, Ukraine, was a war crime
Biden says what happened in Bucha, Ukraine, was a war crime

"There is indisputable evidence of Putin's war crimes everywhere — the images of shallow mass graves filled with civilians, women and children are heart wrenching," Daines said in a statement.

"America and the world need to know about Putin's atrocities against the innocent people of Ukraine now, not after time has passed and the aftermath of evil and bloodshed have been cleaned up. The sooner we can provide Ukraine with the lethal aid they need to win this war, the sooner we will end the war crimes."

The bodies and mass graves were found after Russian troops pulled out of Bucha, a suburb on the outskirts of Kyiv. The atrocities prompted the UN to suspend Russia from its seat on the Human Rights Council and pushed the U.S. and European leaders to impose more sanctions on Moscow.

Joanna Tan

U.N. World Food Program says people are being "starved to death" in Mariupol

An aerial view taken on April 12, 2022, shows the city of Mariupol, during Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine.
Andrey Borodulin | AFP | Getty Images

The head of the U.N. World Food Program said people are being "starved to death" in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol and he predicted the country's humanitarian crisis is likely to worsen as Russia intensifies its assault in the coming weeks.

WFP executive director David Beasley also warned in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press in Kyiv that Russia's invasion of grain-exporting Ukraine risks destabilizing nations far from its shores and could trigger waves of migrants seeking better lives elsewhere.

The war that began Feb. 24 was "devastating the people in Ukraine," Beasley said, lamenting the lack of access faced by the WFP and other aid organizations in trying to reach those in need amid the conflict.

The fluid nature of the conflict, which has seen fighting shift away from areas around the capital and toward eastern Ukraine, has made it especially difficult to reach hungry Ukrainians.

The WFP is trying to put food supplies now in areas that could be caught up in the fighting, but Beasley acknowledged that there are "a lot of complexities" as the situation rapidly evolves.

Associated Press

Canada sends soldiers to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees

Canada is sending soldiers to Poland to help with the care, co-ordination and resettlement of Ukrainian refugees in Poland, including some who will come to Canada.

Defense Minister Anita Anand announced the deployment of up to 150 troops Thursday.

More than 2.6 million Ukrainians have fled into Poland since the first Russian troops crossed into Ukraine on Feb. 24 and over 2 million more have fled into other surrounding countries.

Anand said the majority of the deployed troops will head to reception centers across Poland to help care for and register Ukrainian refugees.

Another group is being sent to help co-ordinate international aid efforts.

Canada has deployed hundreds of additional troops to eastern Europe since Russia's invasion as the NATO military alliance seeks to both support Ukraine and prevent the conflict from expanding into a broader war.

Associated Press

Ukraine seizes 26 cars, 23 houses and a yacht from Putin ally Medvedchuk

Ukrainian lawmaker Viktor Medvedchuk reacts as he leaves the Prosecutor General office in Kiev after a hearing on May 12, 2021. - Medvedchuk, seen as Russian President Vladimir Putin's top ally in Kiev, on Wednesday called a treason investigation against him a "political reprisal" and vowed to defend himself.
Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

Authorities in Ukraine have seized more than 150 assets belonging to Viktor Medvedchuk, the former media mogul and politician charged with treason for allegedly conspiring with the Kremlin to overthrow Ukraine's elected government.

The assets included 26 cars, 32 apartments, 23 houses, 30 plots of land, 17 parking spots and a yacht, according to an announcement from Ukraine's equivalent of the FBI.

Medvedchuk was captured this week after more than a month on the run, following his escape from house arrest in the days just after Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

A top Ukrainian official also described for the first time the high-stakes mission to recapture Medvedchuk.

Russian agents allegedly planned to smuggle Medvedchuk out of Ukrainian territory first by boat into the Russian-occupied region of the country, and from there on to Moscow.

— Christina Wilkie

Russia says Moskva, its missile cruiser, has sunk

Russian flagship missile cruiser Movska sinks after suffering severe damage
Russian flagship missile cruiser Movska sinks after suffering severe damage

A Russian warship stationed in the Black Sea and allegedly damaged by a Ukrainian missile strike has sunk, according to a Russian state-owned media report.

"The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation reports that when the cruiser Moskva was towed to the port of destination due to damage to the hull received during the fire caused by the detonation of ammunition, the ship lost stability," RIA reported, according to an NBC News translation.

"The ship sank in a stormy sea," the media organization added.

Earlier on Thursday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. had no reason to refute Ukrainian reports that the vessel was struck by a Ukrainian missile.

He added that the U.S. military was also not in a position to confirm those reports either.

Kirby said the vessel was operating about 60 miles south of Odesa when it suffered an explosion.

"We don't know what caused that explosion," Kirby said. "We've seen the social media reports that this one, maybe a Ukrainian coastal defense missile hit it. We can't rule that out; we just don't have enough information right now."

A senior U.S. Defense official said earlier on Thursday that following the explosion and significant fire on the Moskva, about six warships in the northern Black Sea moved south.

"At this point, we hold them no closer than about 80 nautical miles from the coast," the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. "But ships move and I can't predict where there'll be an hour from now."

The official added that Moskva appeared to still be operating under its own power and was in the process of being towed for repairs.

— Amanda Macias

The world’s largest yacht, linked to Russian billionaire Usmanov, seized by Germany

A file photo dated September 10, 2018 shows mega yacht named "Dilbar" belonging to Uzbek-born Russian business-magnate Alisher Usmanov as it refuels by a tanker in Mugla, Turkiye. Germany seizes Russian billionaire Usmanov's yacht at Port of Hamburg.
Sabri Kesen | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

German authorities seized the world's largest superyacht following official confirmation that the vessel has links to Russian billionaire and business tycoon Alisher Usmanov.

The vessel was restricted from leaving its anchorage by German authorities on March 3, according to a senior Biden administration official with knowledge of the matter.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said last month that the yacht had not been physically seized but rather was not allowed to move from its location in the German port city of Hamburg. The person added that more measures would be taken later.

A German official confirmed to CNBC that the motor yacht was linked to Usmanov and therefore is subject to asset seizure.

The extraordinary yacht, named "Dilbar" after Usmanov's mother, extends over 500 feet and is equipped with the largest indoor swimming pool ever installed on a private vessel. The Department of Treasury estimates that the current value of Usmanov's yacht is approximately $735 million.

Usmanov and his superyacht entered the crosshairs of the U.S. and its allies last month when the Biden administration announced additional sanctions on Russian elites with Kremlin ties.

A Treasury official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said any action taken by German authorities would not involve transferring the vessel to the United States under the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, sanctions.

The sanctions listing Usmanov's yacht as blocked property effectively mean that any transactions related to the yacht including maintenance, the hiring of crew or the payment of docking fees conducted with U.S. persons or in U.S. dollars are prohibited.

— Amanda Macias

UK freezes $13 billion in assets linked to Abramovich

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (R) and director Eugene Tenenbaum (L) celebrate a goal for Chelsea v Bolton Wanderers in Barclays Premier League February 25, 2012.
Jed Leicester | Action Images | Reuters

The United Kingdom has frozen assets belonging to two Russian oligarchs worth up to 10 billion pounds (US$13 billion).

The actions against Eugene Tenenbaum and David Davidovich, two close associates of the better-known Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, represent the largest asset freeze action in British history.

The asset freeze came one day after authorities on the offshore tax haven island of Jersey froze assets valued at more than $7 billion that are also suspected of being connected to Abramovich. This brings the combined value of the frozen assets to as much as $20 billion.

Officials said the Jersey judgement against Abramovich and the British actions against Tenenbaum and Davidovich were coordinated.

The Channel Island of Jersey has long served as a secretive offshore corporate tax haven where some of the world's wealthiest people hide their assets via mazes of shell companies.

— Christina Wilkie

Russian ruble weakens past 80 vs. dollar, stocks fall sharply

The Russian ruble weakened on Thursday, driven by expectations that Russia may relax its temporary capital control measures further, while stocks fell sharply as the country continued what it calls "a special military operation" in Ukraine.

The Russian central bank is considering easing requirements for mandatory foreign currency revenue sales by export-focused companies, business daily Vedomosti reported, citing a central bank official.

Currently, Russian exporters are obliged to sell 80% of their forex revenues in the first three days after receiving it under a rule established by President Vladimir Putin in late February to limit the ruble's volatility amid Western sanctions.

The ruble ended trading on Moscow Exchange 1.3% lower at 80.90, heading away from its strongest level since Nov. 11 of 71 it hit last week.

— Reuters

Ukraine says explosion aboard Russian warship was missile strike

A satellite image shows a view of Russian Navy's guided missile cruiser Moskva at port, in Sevastopol, Crimea, April 7, 2022. Picture taken April 7, 2022. 
Maxar Technologies | Reuters

Ukraine's southern military command said it hit the Moskva warship warship with a Ukrainian-made Neptune anti-ship missile and that it had started to sink.

Russia said the crew were evacuated after an explosion of ammunition aboard, and a U.S. defense official said the stricken vessel was still trying to put out a fire.

Reuters was unable to verify any of the various statements.

Russia's defense ministry said a fire on the Soviet-era missile cruiser had been contained but left the ship badly damaged. It did not acknowledge the ship, which had more than 500 sailors aboard, had been attacked and said the cause of the fire was under investigation.

— Reuters

Blinken and Kuleba discuss additional sanctions and latest security package

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the press about the war in Ukraine, at the State Department in Washington, DC, March 17, 2022.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed additional sanctions and the latest $800 million security assistance package.

"In our new call, @SecBlinken and I discussed the next military aid package for Ukraine and coordinated positions on further sanctions which will be imposed on Russia," Kuleba wrote in a tweet announcing the call between the two.

In a separate tweet, Blinken said he "reinforced the United States' continued support for Ukraine" with Kuleba.

State Department spokesman Ned Price wrote in a separate statement that the two discussed other security assistance for Ukraine's defense and gave an update on the current material supply from the United States and its allies.

— Amanda Macias

CIA chief says U.S. cannot 'take lightly' threat Russia could use nuclear weapons

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing about worldwide threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 14, 2021.
Saul Loeb | Pool | Reuters

The threat of Russia potentially using tactical or low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine cannot be taken lightly, but the CIA has not seen a lot of practical evidence reinforcing that concern, CIA Director William Burns said.

In a speech at Georgia Tech, Burns referred to the "potential desperation" and military setbacks that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government have suffered since moved forces into Ukraine on Feb. 24.

For those reasons, "none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons," Burns said.

That said, despite "rhetorical posturing" by the Kremlin about putting the world's largest nuclear arsenal on high alert, "We haven't seen a lot of practical evidence of the kind of deployments or military dispositions that would reinforce that concern."

— Reuters

Russian warships in Black Sea moving away from area of operations, U.S. Defense official says

Russian warships ahead of the Navy Day parade in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea, on July 23, 2021.
Alexey Pavlishak | Reuters

A senior U.S. Defense official said that about six warships in the northern Black Sea have moved south following an apparent explosion and significant fire on a Russian vessel.

"At this point, we hold them no closer than about 80 nautical miles from the coast," the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said. "But ships move and I can't predict where there'll be an hour from now," the official said.

Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian officials claimed that the Russian warship, the Moskva, stationed in the Black Sea was damaged by a missile strike. The U.S. was not able to independently confirm those reports.

"The cruiser we believe was between 60 and 65 nautical miles south of Odesa, almost exactly due south when it experienced an explosion," the official said, adding that they didn't know what caused the explosion or fire. "We do believe that the ship is still battling with a fire," the person added.

— Amanda Macias

Strike on Russian warship is 'the first step for the future deliberation of Crimea,' ex-Ukraine pres. Poroshenko says

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko cheered a reportedly successful missile strike on the elite Russian warship Moskva as both a major victory for Ukraine's military and a mark of progress against Russia's occupation of the Crimean Peninsula.

"This is, I think, the first step for the future deliberation of Crimea," Poroshenko said in an MSNBC interview. It is unclear whether Poroshenko, who spoke English with a thick accent, may have meant to say "liberation" instead of "deliberation."

"Because the bases for this flagship is Crimea," Poroshenko explained. "And they have many cruise missiles on the boat," each of which could lead to "dozens or maybe [hundreds of] Ukrainians killed," he added.

Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014. That same year, Poroshenko was elected president of Ukraine after the nation's Russia-backed leader, Viktor Yanukovich, fled the country amid violent protests. Poroshenko was replaced by current President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in 2019. Before Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February, Poroshenko had returned to Kyiv to face treason charges.

Kevin Breuninger

Free first aid classes for population in Odesa

Medical workers in Odesa held a free lesson on first aid and self help for civilians, including what to do if there's a threat of a chemical attack. 

People attend a free lesson of the first aid care in Odessa, on April 13, 2022. 
Vladimir Shtanko | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
People attend a free lesson of the first aid care in Odessa, on April 13, 2022. 
Vladimir Shtanko | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
People attend a free lesson of the first aid care in Odessa, on April 13, 2022. 
Vladimir Shtanko | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
People attend a free lesson of the first aid care in Odessa, on April 13, 2022. 
Vladimir Shtanko | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
People attend a free lesson of the first aid care in Odessa, on April 13, 2022. 
Vladimir Shtanko | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

— Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

White House now focused on enforcing Russia sanctions, national security adviser says

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan participates in a conversation with David Rubenstein, Chairman of the Economic Club, at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC, on April 14, 2022.
Stefani Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said the Biden administration is focused on ensuring Russia does not attempt to evade global sanctions for its war in Ukraine.

"What we have done is unprecedented in terms of a major economy to take this set of steps across financial sanctions, investment bans, the export controls," Sullivan said during a discussion with The Economic Club of Washington, D.C., adding "our focus will be in the course of the coming days is on evasion."

In the weeks since Russia's invasion of its ex-Soviet neighbor, Washington and its allies have imposed rounds of coordinated sanctions vaulting Russia past Iran and North Korea as the world's most-sanctioned country.

— Amanda Macias and Thomas Franck

U.S. reportedly weighing high level official visit to Ukraine

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing on "Department of Defense's Budget Requests for FY2023", on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 7, 2022.
Sarah Silbiger | Reuters

Senior U.S. officials are weighing whether to send a top Cabinet level official to Kyiv as a high profile representative in a show of solidarity with Ukraine, a source familiar with the situation said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken or Defense Secretary Austin Lloyd are potential candidates to pay a surprise visit to Kyiv, the source said.

President Joe Biden is unlikely to make the trip, the source said. No final decision has been made on sending an official, the source said. The discussions were first reported by Politico.

Other Western leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, have made trips to Ukraine in show of support following Russia's invasion in February.

— Reuters

U.S. cannot confirm if Russian warship was damaged by missile strike

The Russian missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet is seen anchored in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, on Sept. 11, 2008.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said that the U.S. cannot independently confirm Ukrainian claims that the Russian warship, the Moskva, stationed in the Black Sea was damaged by a missile strike.

Sullivan said that the U.S. and its allies were monitoring reports out of Ukraine but were unable to provide an assessment at this time.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC on "Morning Joe" that the vessel was operating about 60 miles south of Odesa when it suffered an explosion.

"We don't know what caused that explosion," Kirby said. "We've seen the social media reports that this one, maybe a Ukrainian coastal defense missile hit it. We can't rule that out, we just don't have enough information right now," Kirby added.

— Amanda Macias

IMF says Russia's war in Ukraine contributing to downgrades of 143 economies, 86% of GDP

Russia's war in Ukraine is leading the International Monetary Fund to downgrade its growth outlooks for 143 economies comprising 86% of global economic output, managing director Kristalina Georgieva said. Global growth estimates for both 2022 and 2023 are being cut as higher food and energy prices hit economies around the world.

"To put it simply, we are facing a crisis on top of a crisis," Georgieva said in a speech in Washington ahead of the IMF and World Bank meetings next week, describing the Russian invasion as "sending shockwaves throughout the globe" and hampering countries' recoveries following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Global prices for some grains have spiked since the Russia-Ukraine war started, with both countries contributing a significant percentage of the world's supply for some of those commodities such as wheat.
Vincent Mundy | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"The outlook has deteriorated substantially, largely because of the war and its repercussions," Georgieva said, adding that food insecurity is a "grave concern" given the hit to grain and fertilizer exports from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, which are the top suppliers to much of the developing world.

— Natasha Turak

More than 31,500 Ukrainian refugees registered in Switzerland since war began

People fleeing from Ukraine due to ongoing Russian attacks, take a free bus to the Swiss city Sorula offering humanitarian aid, in Krakow, Poland on April 01, 2022.
Stringer | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, 31,553 Ukrainian refugees have been registered in Switzerland, the country's Secretariat for Migration said in a Twitter post. Of those, 27,093 have been granted protective S status, which means they will receive a one-year temporary residence permit that is renewable for as long as the war continues. 

In the space of one day, 1,114 additional people coming from Ukraine were registered as refugees in Switzerland. In the last 24 hours, close to 60,000 people have fled Ukraine, according to data from UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency.

Nearly 4.7 million people have left Ukraine as refugees as of April 12, according to the UN.

— Natasha Turak

UN says 1,964 civilians killed and 2,613 injured in Ukraine

Graves of civilians killed during Ukraine-Russia conflict are seen next to apartment buildings in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 10, 2022. 
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

The United Nations has confirmed 1,964 civilian deaths and 2,613 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.

Of those killed, the U.N. has identified at least 34 girls and 55 boys as well as 72 children whose sex is unknown.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights adds that the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, citing delayed reporting due to the armed conflict.

The international body said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.

— Amanda Macias

Kharkiv governor says civilians killed and wounded during Russian shelling

Firefighters try to contain a fire at a plant following Russian shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, April 11, 2022.
Alkis Konstantinidis | Reuters

Oleh Synyegubov, regional governor of Kharkiv, said four civilians had been killed and 10 wounded during Russian shelling Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. NBC could not immediately verify the numbers.

Synyegubov in a statement also urged residents of some of the region's towns to evacuate ahead of expected fighting, as Russian bombardments intensify in the country's east.

Kharkiv, in the northeast of Ukraine, has already sustained heavy attacks, with Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov saying there has not been a single day without strikes since the invasion began on Feb. 24.

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine is investigating almost 6,500 alleged war crimes by Russia

Ukraine's Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova visits a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on April 13, 2022.
Fadel Senna | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine is investigating almost 6,500 alleged war crimes committed by Russia since its full-scale invasion of the country.

In a tweet Thursday, Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office said it had registered 6,492 alleged crimes of aggression and war crimes.

Katrina Bishop

Russia's Medvedev calls Finland and Sweden new 'opponents' if they join NATO

Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson walks with Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin prior to a meeting, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Stockholm, Sweden, April 13, 2022.
Paul Wennerholm| TT News Agency | Reuters

Finland and Sweden will become enemies of Russia if they join NATO, Russia's Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev has said.

The change would give Moscow "more officially registered opponents," Medvedev wrote on Telegram.

"In this case, it will no longer be possible to talk about any nuclear–free status of the Baltic - the balance must be restored," he said. "Until today, Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to."

He also claimed that NATO was planning to admit the two Nordic states — who until now have been partners with the 30-member military alliance but remained neutral — with "minimal bureaucratic procedures."

Russia's response should be taken with "no emotion, with a cold head," he added.

The comments come a day after Finland and Sweden's leaders said their decision on whether to apply for NATO membership would come within a matter of weeks, saying their security assessments had dramatically changed following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

— Natasha Turak

Russia will seek peace or leave the international arena forever: Zelenskyy

Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked European nations to stop buying Russian oil.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

In his latest nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy predicted that the Russian leadership will either seek peace, or would leave the international arena forever.

He also called again for an oil embargo from his European counterparts. "The European Union must stop sponsoring Russia's military machine," he said in the speech.

-Matt Clinch

Czech Republic reopens embassy in Kyiv

Messages of support for Ukraine outside the Russian Embassy in Prague, Czech Republic, on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. The Czech Republic reopened its embassy in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, nearly 2 months after its closure on 24 February following Russia's invasion of the country.
Milan Jaros | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Czech Republic has reopened its embassy in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, nearly two months after it closed on Feb. 24 when Russia's invasion began.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a tweet its diplomats are back in Ukraine and the Czech flag is once again flying above the embassy.

"This is one of the many steps we are taking to show our support for Ukraine. Czechia will always stand with Ukraine," the ministry said.

Other countries that have announced the return of their diplomats to Kyiv include Slovenia, Estonia and Turkey.

— Chelsea Ong

‘Sapiens’ author says Ukraine war could mark most dangerous moment since Cuban missile crisis

Israeli author, historian and professor Yuval Noah Harari has spoken out frequently against President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine, adding that it has had the unintended consequence of forging greater unity between Europe and the U.S.
Kristof Van Accom | AFP | Getty Images

Israeli historian and bestselling author Yuval Noah Harari has told CNBC said the growing risk that Russia may turn to nuclear weapons or other forms of chemical or biological warfare to advance its onslaught posed an existential threat to humanity.

While acknowledging the current threat of nuclear war is "not very likely," Harari said that everybody — governments and individuals — should be "very concerned."

"It's a possibility, a real possibility that we need to consider. And that's terrible news for the whole human race," he said.

Read the full story here.

-Karen Gilchrist

Details revealed on $800 million U.S. weapons package for Ukraine

Ukraine was already stocking up on U.S.-made Javelins before Russia invaded. Pictured here a group of Ukrainian servicemen taking a shipment of Javelins as Russia positioned troops on Ukraine's border.
Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday night revealed details about the latest military aid package the United States will send to Ukraine, which includes 300 armored vehicles, artillery and anti-chemical protective equipment.

A post on his official Twitter account listed 200 M113 armored personnel carriers and 100 other armored, wheeled vehicles. The M113 is an older, tracked vehicle that the United States began using before the Vietnam War.

Among the newer weapons in the package are 500 Javelin missiles and 300 Switchblade attack drones. Ukrainian defenders have used the Javelin and other shoulder-launched weapons to devastating effect against Russian tanks and other vehicles.

Eight howitzers and 40,000 artillery rounds are also part of the newest U.S. arms shipment.

The list includes "protective equipment" against chemical, biological and radiological attacks, as well as 30,000 sets of body armor and helmets.

Military observers and others have voiced fears that Vladimir Putin may use weapons of mass destruction against Ukrainian troops and civilians as Russia continues to suffer defeats on the battlefield.

"We continue to stand with the brave Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom," Austin said. "To that end, this latest support package contains many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided along with critical new capabilities."

— Ted Kemp

Ukraine claims it has damaged a Russian warship in the Black Sea

The Russian missile cruiser Moskva was set afire and evacuated after a Ukrainian attack on the ship. Here the Moskva is shown off the coast of Syria in 2015.
Max Delany | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine claimed it has damaged a Russian warship, the Moskva, stationed in the Black Sea after striking it with Neptune missiles.

"It has been confirmed that today the missile cruiser 'Moscow' went exactly where it was sent to by our border guards on Zmiinyi Island! Neptune missiles which are guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage to the Russian ship," Maksym Marchenko, the governor of the Odesa region, said in a Telegram post.

Russian State Media service TASS, quoting the Russian Ministry of Defense, confirmed the ship caught fire after being "seriously damaged" and that the entire crew had been evacuated.

According to the Russian ministry, the fire started after ammunition was detonated onboard the warship. "As a result of a fire, ammunition detonated on the Moskva missile cruiser. The ship was seriously damaged. The crew was completely evacuated," TASS quoted the Russian the ministry as saying.

Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Oleksiy Arestovych claimed that 510 Russian crew members were on board the ship during a television interview. During the interview, Arestovych sarcastically said two sailors must have caused the fire by smoking in the wrong place, or maybe they were just unlucky.

Arestovych also said the Moskva was the same warship that asked Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island (a Ukrainian island on the Black Sea) to surrender at the start of the conflict, with the Ukrainian troops telling the marines on the ship to "go f--- yourself." Audio recordings of this incident went viral back in February.

Unlike the Russian logistics vessel Orsk which Ukraine destroyed last month, the guided missile cruiser Moskva is an offensive warship designed to attack targets from a distance. Moscow used the ship off the coast of Syria in 2015.

NBC News, Riya Bhattacharjee, Ted Kemp

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