UN asks Zelenskyy and Putin to meet to discuss end of war; U.S. lobs fresh round of Russia sanctions

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

Russia has set a new ultimatum for surrender in the battered city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces and reportedly hundreds of civilians are holed up in the Azovstal steel plant potentially facing their "last days, if not hours," one Ukrainian commander said. Vastly outnumbered, the Ukrainian troops have pledged to keep fighting.

Officials in Ukraine continue to call for more weapons support and faster delivery as Russia intensifies its bombardment of the eastern Donbas region.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is preparing a massive new arms package for Ukraine, according to sources who spoke to NBC, and Chinese imports of Russian coal have plummeted.

Russia may ramp up attacks ahead of May 9 Victory Day celebrations: U.K. ministry

Russian President Vladimir Putin joins his hands as he holds a meeting at the Catherine's Hall of the Kremlin in Moscow on April 20, 2022. Russia likely wants to be able to show "significant successes" ahead of their annual May 9 Victory Day celebrations, the British defense ministry said in an intelligence update.
Mikhail Tereshchenko | Afp | Getty Images

Russia likely wants to be able to show "significant successes" ahead of its annual Victory Day celebration on May 9, the British defense ministry said in an intelligence update.

"This could affect how quickly and forcefully they attempt to conduct operations in the run-up to this date," the U.K. ministry said.

May 9 is of great national importance to Russia, as it marks the Soviet Union's triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Russian forces are now advancing toward Kramatorsk, the capital of the Donbas region, which continues to suffer from rocket attacks, the ministry said. The Donbas is made up of the two pro-Russian self-declared "republics" of Luhansk and Donetsk.

"High levels of Russian air activity endure as Russia seeks to provide close air support to its offensive in eastern Ukraine, to suppress and destroy Ukrainian air defense capabilities," the ministry added.

— Chelsea Ong

Ukraine wants to cut off Russia's ability to finance war with oil and gas sales

Ukraine wants to cut Russia off from financing its military activities with oil revenues, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

The plan is to restrict key sectors in Russia — including energy and banking, as well as export-import operations, transport, he said. "The next steps should include an oil embargo and a complete restriction on oil supplies from Russia," he said during his nightly video address.

Ukrainian and international experts are working to ensure that "Russia will lose the opportunity to finance the military machine," he added, saying details of the plan were published today.

"We are also working to ensure that all — I emphasize — all Russian officials who support this shameful war receive a logical sanctions response from the democratic world," the president said.

Ukrainian soldier checks the destruction of the shrapnel in a wall of a village near the frontline of Mykolaiv after a Russian shelling. A plan developed by a team of Ukrainian and international experts to strengthen sanctions against Russia has been published, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Wednesday.
Celestino Arce | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Zelenskyy highlighted his meeting with European Council President Charles Michel, who visited Kyiv on Wednesday.

The two leaders talked about how to address threats to food and energy security in Europe and globally. "Resuming exports of Ukrainian agricultural products and blocking Russia's ability to blackmail Europe with energy resources are top priorities for everyone on the continent," he added.

While pointing out that the EU was preparing a sixth package of sanctions, he emphasized that sanctions are not "an end in themselves," but a tool to motivate Russia to end the war.

Zelenskyy added that the situation in the east and south of Ukraine remains "as severe as possible" and that Russian forces are still trying for some victory through new large-scale offensives — "at least something they can 'feed' their propagandists with," he said.

Russia has been waging information warfare alongside its military operations. NBC News previously reported that Russians have been "fed a steady diet of propaganda" by Russian-state media.

— Chelsea Ong

Members of Five Eyes intelligence group warn of potential Russian cyberattacks

The Russian flag displayed on a laptop screen with binary code code overlaying.
Nurphoto | Getty Images

Cybersecurity authorities from the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom warned that intelligence indicates the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks on critical infrastructure networks.

The warning, which comes from members of the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing group, said that a cyberattack "may occur as a response to the unprecedented economic costs imposed on Russia."

The group also said that a malicious attack could occur as retaliation for providing security assistance to Ukraine.

The group urged those responsible for defending critical infrastructure networks "to prepare for and mitigate potential cyber threats—including destructive malware, ransomware, DDoS attacks, and cyber espionage."

— Amanda Macias

Former U.S. ambassador to Russia urges Biden to label the Kremlin a state sponsor of terrorism

Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, participate in a discussion with Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which included the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Philadelphia, Pa., on Thursday, March 10, 2022.
Tom Williams | Getty Images

Former U.S ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul is calling on the Biden administration to label Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, becoming the latest voice in a growing chorus of support for the controversial diplomatic move.

"The world should Designate the Russian Federation as a sponsor of terrorism and ... Expel Russia from the Financial Action Task Force on money laundering (FATF)," McFaul wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

He noted that there are four countries the U.S. currently considers state sponsors of terrorism: North Korea, Iran, Syria and Cuba. "Clearly, Russia is terrorizing more people today than Cuba is! Act now @POTUS," wrote McFaul, addressing President Joe Biden by his Twitter handle.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also recently asked Biden to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, and while Biden did not agree right away, he did not say "no," either. U.S. officials say the White House is looking closely at the rules around such a designation.

But they stressed that the point of the "state sponsor of terror" label is to trigger specific sanctions against a country, like arms embargoes and foreign aid suspensions. They also say that in the case of Russia, all those sanctions have already been imposed through other means, raising doubts about what the terror designation could actually accomplish.

— Christina Wilkie


Biden says weapons are flowing daily to Ukraine during meeting with top military advisors

US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Combatant Commanders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC on April 20, 2022.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden said he asked his military commanders and national security officials for assessments on global threats and challenges facing the United States, along with updates on the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Speaking at the start of a meeting in the Cabinet Room, Biden, flanked by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, said he sees "a need for adaptation" in light of Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

"The strategic environment is evolving rapidly in the world and that means our plans and force posture have to be equally dynamic. Ensuring the security of the American people, our interests and the interests of our allies means having to constantly adapt to anything and everything that is happening around the world," Biden said.

The White House meeting comes as Russia launches a new offensive in the east and south of Ukraine and as the U.S. and its allies rush to transfer more weapons to the fight. Biden said that U.S. security assistance is flowing into the region daily and that allies are "stepping up and amplifying the impact of our response."

The Biden administration is expected to announce another substantial security assistance package for Ukraine this week, five U.S officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Navy Admiral Christopher Grady, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday, Chief of Space Operations General John Raymond, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Brown and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Daniel Hokanson also attended along with several U.S. combatant commanders.

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine offers Russia talks 'without any conditions' on the fate of those left in Mariupol

Ukraine is ready to hold talks with Russia "without any conditions" to resolve the fate of civilians and soldiers trapped in a steel mill in the besieged city of Mariupol, said a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, served as the lead negotiator in the failed earlier talks between Russia and Ukraine in Belarus.

Zelenskyy also suggested Wednesday that Ukraine would be open to potentially exchanging Russian prisoners for Ukrainian civilians and soldiers in Mariupol, or Russian war dead for injured Ukrainians.

"Behind the backs of our guys in Mariupol there are around a thousand civilians, including women and children," he said after talks with European Council President Charles Michel.

After months of near constant Russian shelling, most of the port city of Mariupol has been demolished.

— Christina Wilkie

Yellen, Powell and Lagarde walk out of G20 event when Russian speaks

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde joined other allies in a coordinated walkout when the Russian deputy finance minister began speaking Wednesday at a G20 plenary meeting.

Canadian deputy prime minister and finance minister, Chrystia Freeland, posted a photo of the group moments after they left the meeting.

Walking out of events is a relatively common way that diplomats protest the policies of other countries. It's even rarer to see it at such a high level.

The U.S. said last week that Yellen would boycott some events at this week's G-20 conference in Washington, but until Wednesday it wasn't clear what form this would take.

Russian Deputy Finance Minister Timur Maksimov appeared virtually. A Treasury official told CNBC that several other virtual attendees at the session turned their screens off in protest.

-- Christina Wilkie

U.S. flies in four additional military cargo aircraft with security assistance

A C-130 Hercules taxis on the flightline July 14, 2014, at Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kelly Goonan | U.S. Air Force

Four U.S. military cargo aircraft carrying security assistance for Ukraine arrived in the region within the last 24 hours, a senior U.S. Defense official said on a conference call with reporters.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the aircraft carried weapons and other aid from the $800 million security package announced last week including some of the 18 howitzers. The official added that more howitzers and ammunition would be arriving in the region in the next 24 hours.

The howitzer artillery systems are the first known heavy artillery platforms of that caliber to be transferred to Ukrainian forces. The Pentagon also committed 40,000 artillery rounds, from both Army and Marine Corps stockpiles.

The Biden administration is expected to announce another substantial security assistance package for Ukraine this week, five U.S officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News.

— Amanda Macias

UN Secretary-General asks Putin, Zelenskyy to meet him to discuss ending the war

UN Secretary General António Guterres photographed at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland on Nov. 11, 2021.
Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images News | Getty Images

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres asked Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy if they would take meetings with him in their respective capitals.

A spokeswoman for Guterres said the request was made in separate letters delivered yesterday afternoon to the U.N. Permanent Missions of the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

"The Secretary-General said, at this time of great peril and consequence, he would like to discuss urgent steps to bring about peace in Ukraine and the future of multilateralism based on the Charter of the United Nations and international law," wrote U.N. Secretary-General spokeswoman Stephane Dujarric in a statement.

"He noted that both Ukraine and the Russian Federation are founding members of the United Nations and have always been strong supporters of this Organization," she added.

— Amanda Macias

U.S. lobs fresh round of sanctions against bitcoin miner and others aiding Russia

US President Joe Biden, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (L) and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R), speaks during a meeting with his cabinet at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 3, 2022.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. Treasury Department expanded its wide raft of sanctions to include businesses and individuals that are helping Russia blunt the impact of economic penalties imposed on Moscow.

Treasury officials said the department is now targeting Russian commercial bank Transkapitalbank, as well as a network of more than 40 people including oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev it believes are helping the Kremlin skirt a wave of economic punishments.

The Biden administration also said it's cracking down on companies operating in Russia's digital currency mining industry, including Bitriver, that help the country monetize its exports and other natural resources.

"Treasury can and will target those who evade, attempt to evade, or aid the evasion of U.S. sanctions against Russia, as they are helping support Putin's brutal war of choice," Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a press release.

U.S. troops begin training Ukrainians on howitzer artillery

U.S. Marines with Alpha Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 4th Marines, fire their M777 Lightweight 155mm Howitzer during Exercise Alligator Dagger in Arta Beach, Djibouti, Dec. 18.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Zachery C. Laning | U.S. Marine Corps

American troops have begun training Ukrainians to use howitzer artillery, a senior U.S. Defense official said.

"The training of some small number of Ukrainians on the howitzers has begun it has begun in a country outside Ukraine. I am not going to tell you or be able to detail where this is happening," the official said on a conference call with reporters.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the Pentagon expected the training of about 50 Ukrainian troops to last for nearly a week.

The U.S. included 18 howitzer artillery systems, the first known heavy artillery platforms of that caliber to be transferred to Ukrainian forces, in the $800 million security package announced last week.

The Pentagon also committed 40,000 artillery rounds, from both Army and Marine Corps stockpiles.

— Amanda Macias

Pentagon says Russia's test of its new intercontinental ballistic missile wasn't a surprise

The Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile is launched during a test at Plesetsk cosmodrome in Arkhangelsk region, Russia, in this still image taken from a video released on April 20, 2022.
Russian Defense Ministry | via Reuters

The Pentagon said that Russia's intercontinental ballistic missile test was not a surprise and that Moscow "properly notified the United States under its New START treaty obligations that it planned to test" the system.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters the Russian test was not deemed to be a threat to the United States or its allies. "The department remains focused on Russia's unlawful and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russia's Defense Ministry said it test-launched its new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile from Plesetsk in the country's northwest and hit targets in the Kamchatka peninsula in the far east, according to a Reuters. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that no other nation had a missile system comparable and that it would ensure Russia's security and "make those crazy who are trying to threaten it, think," according to Reuters.

When asked about Putin's rhetoric following the test, a senior U.S. Defense official said the Pentagon found it "unhelpful."

"It's not the kind of thing that we would expect from a responsible nuclear power, especially in the current environment," the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said.

— Amanda Macias

Wimbledon bans Russian and Belarusian tennis players, citing Ukraine war

The Wimbledon logo amongst flowers The Championships at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 10, 2019 in London, England.
Visionhaus | Getty Images

Russian and Belarusian tennis players will be barred from entering this year's Wimbledon Championship in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the tournament's sponsor, the All England Club, announced.

"We recognize that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime," said All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt.

The annual lawn tennis tournament played in Wimbledon, England is considered the most prestigious of the professional tennis circuit's "grand slam" championships, and it consistently draws the best players in the sport.

Several of those players hail from Russia and Belarus. On the men's side, there are four Russian players currently ranked in the top 40 in the world, including Daniil Medvedev, who is ranked No. 2 in the world behind Slovakia's Novak Djokovic. In women's tennis, Belarusian star player Aryna Sabalenka is currently ranked No. 4 in the world.

The Kremlin called the Wimbledon decision "unacceptable." Spokesman Dmitri Peskov described the sidelined players as "victims of some kind of political prejudices, intrigues and hostile actions towards our country."

--- Christina Wilkie

Russia tests nuclear-capable ballistic missile that Putin says has no peer

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the construction site of the Amur launch complex for Angara rockets at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur Region, Russia April 12, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik | Reuters

Russia said it test-launched its Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, a new addition to its nuclear arsenal which President Vladimir Putin said would give Moscow's enemies something to think about.

Putin was shown on television being told by the military that the missile had been launched from Plesetsk in the country's northwest and hit targets in the Kamchatka peninsula in the far east.

"The new complex has the highest tactical and technical characteristics and is capable of overcoming all modern means of anti-missile defense. It has no analogues in the world and won't have for a long time to come," Putin said.

"This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia's security from external threats and provide food for thought for those who, in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country."

— Reuters

Pentagon chief speaks to Chinese counterpart for the first time

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

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Chinese Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe this morning, the first known call between the two since Austin ascended to the top office in the Pentagon.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the call was a "follow-up" to the recent call between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Kirby added that on the call with Wei, Austin discussed U.S. and Chinese defense relations, regional security issues and Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Austin, who became the Pentagon chief more than a year ago, requested the call with Wei following months of failed efforts to speak with China's highest-ranki