Russia's President Vladimir Putin has warned the West of a "lightning fast" response to any country that intervenes in its war against Ukraine and creates what he called "strategic threats for Russia."
"We have all the instruments [to respond] that no one can boast of ... we're going to use them if we have to," he said, in what has widely been seen as an allusion to Russia's arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
Russia shocked the European community by halting gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday because they had refused to pay for the gas in Russian rubles, as Moscow demanded.
The move comes as tensions remain high between Western allies and Russia after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday said the threat of a nuclear war is very significant and the risks should not be underestimated.
U.S. President Joe Biden has asked Congress to approve $33 billion in additional money for the Ukraine war, which includes funding for U.S. military support to the embattled nation and a mix of direct cash and supplies for Ukraine.
Ukraine's prosecutor identifies 10 Russian soldiers accused of Bucha atrocities
Ukraine's prosecutor general has identified 10 Russian soldiers she said were involved in the atrocities in Bucha, Ukraine, according to the Associated Press.
Iryna Venediktova appealed to the public on Facebook to help gather evidence against those soldiers whom she said were "involved in the torture of peaceful people." They were from Russia's 64th Separate Motorized Rifle Ground Forces Brigade whose work President Vladimir Putin recently honored, the AP said.
"During the occupation of Bucha, they took unarmed civilians hostage, killed them with hunger and thirst, kept them on their knees with hands tied and eyes taped, mocked and beat them," she reportedly said, adding that the soldiers threatened to shoot the civilians and looted houses.
On Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Bucha, calling for an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine.
— Chelsea Ong
U.S. Embassy in Kyiv says staffer was killed in war in Ukraine
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv says one of its employees was killed in the Kremlin's war in Ukraine.
"Volodymyr, who took leave from his job as an Embassy bodyguard to rejoin the army and defend Ukraine," the U.S. mission in Kyiv wrote.
"We will never forget his kind spirit, dedication, and bravery. Our deepest condolences go to his family and friends," the embassy wrote in a tweet.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers Wednesday that the Biden administration is working on reopening the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.
— Amanda Macias
Biden will visit a Lockheed Martin plant to thank workers who make Javelin missiles
U.S. President Joe Biden said he will visit a Lockheed Martin plant in Troy, Ala. on Tuesday to thank the workers who are manufacturing Javelin missiles being sent to Ukraine.
Biden said the purpose of the trip was to "thank them for producing the weapons that helped stop Russia's advances in Ukrainian cities like Kyiv."
Since the start of Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine in late February, the shoulder-fired anti-tank Javelin missiles have proven to to be among the most decisive weapons in the Ukrainian arsenal.
Biden said the Lockheed Martin employees' "hard work has played a critical role in assuring Putin's strategic failure in Ukraine, and they should know that we know it." Biden's remarks were part of a broader announcement that he is seeking a massive $33 billion aid package for Ukraine.
--- Christina Wilkie
Some Russian troops are leaving positions in Mariupol, U.S. Defense official says
The Pentagon has seen some Russian forces leave positions in the coastal Ukrainian city of Mariupol, a senior U.S. Defense official said.
"We don't have an exact number on how many Russian forces are leaving Mariupol," the official said, adding that the number is not insignificant. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to share new details from the Pentagon's latest assessment of the war, said Russian forces are focusing a large number of airstrikes on Mariupol.
Russia has launched more than 1,900 missiles since the beginning of the invasion, according to the official. The person added that almost all of the strikes are coming from Russian airbases and not from inside of Ukraine.
"We are seeing them begin to leave Mariupol," the official said, adding that some troops have moved north and northwest.
— Amanda Macias
Finland and Sweden could join NATO quickly, Stoltenberg says
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Finland and Sweden would be "welcomed with open arms to NATO" should they apply to the 30-member strong alliance.
"It's their decision," Stoltenberg said. "But if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed, and I expect that process to go quickly," he said, without offering a timeline. He said the Nordic nations are NATO's closest partners and already have "strong and mature democracies."
"EU members and we have been working with Finland and Sweden for many, many years," he added.
Stoltenberg's comments, which came on the heels of a meeting with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, added that the militaries of Finland and Sweden are interoperable with NATO forces.
In recent weeks, Finland and Sweden have said they would consider joining the military alliance amid the Kremlin's war in Ukraine. Russia has long warned against any future enlargement of NATO, reportedly accusing the alliance of being "a tool geared towards confrontation."
— Amanda Macias
Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed welcomed home after release from Russian prison
U.S. Marine veteran Trevor Reed was welcomed home following his release from a prison in Russia where he had been detained since 2019.
Photos shared by U.S. House Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, show Reed with his family, who has waged a public fight for his release, and the lawmaker at the Kelly Field airport in San Antonio, Texas.
Reed was released Wednesday in a brokered prisoner swap.
Reed was accused of assaulting a Russian officer and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. Reed and his family have maintained his innocence and the U.S. government has described him as unjustly imprisoned.
— Amanda Macias
UN chief Guterres visits Bucha after meeting with Putin
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha and Irpin, where Russian forces have been accused of committing atrocities.
"I imagine my family, in one of those houses," he told reporters while pointing to a charred building behind him. "I see my granddaughters running away in panic. Part of the family eventually killed," he added.
"This horrific scenario demonstrates something that is unfortunately always true, that civilians always pay the highest price. Innocent civilians were living in these buildings," Guterres said.
Earlier in the week, Guterres met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He is set to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later on Thursday.
— Amanda Macias
Biden to ask Congress for $33 billion to support Ukraine through September
President Joe Biden will ask Congress for $33 billion to fund both humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine through September of this year, senior administration officials said Thursday.
The massive aid package will be accompanied by a proposal to Congress that it amend several longstanding criminal laws to make it easier for the U.S. to seize the assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs, sell the seized property and funnel the proceeds to the Ukrainians.
The $33 billion includes a request for $20.4 billion in additional security and military assistance for Ukraine as well as additional money to fund U.S. efforts to bolster European security in cooperation with NATO allies.
The administration said that $20.4 billion is designed to equip Kyiv and European partners with additional artillery, armored vehicles and anti-armor and anti-air capabilities, accelerate cyber capabilities and advanced air defense systems, and help clear landmines and improvised explosive devices.
— Christina Wilkie and Thomas Franck
U.S. President Biden to unveil massive new Ukraine aid package at 10:45 a.m.
U.S. President Joe Biden will address the nation at 10:45 a.m. from the White House, where he is expected to announce a massive new package of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Precise numbers for the aid have not been released, but the package is expected to dwarf the $3 billion the United States has already committed to Ukraine's defense and survival since Russia invaded its neighbor just over two months ago.
The new funding request will be accompanied by a White House proposal to Congress to change several criminal laws to make it easier for the government to liquidate the seized assets of Russian oligarchs and get that money to Ukraine.
Under federal law, in order to sell off seized assets, prosecutors must first show that they are the proceeds of a crime. Currently, being a sanctioned Russian oligarch isn't a crime.
Legal scholars have noted that without a crime, oligarchs could sue for the return of their property, and would stand a good chance of winning in court. Under Biden's proposal, Congress would create a new federal offense of knowingly possessing proceeds directly obtained from corrupt dealings with the Russian government.
--- Christina Wilkie
Russia's war in Ukraine is hitting Middle Eastern and African food security
Together, Russia and Ukraine account for roughly one-third of the world's global wheat exports, nearly 20% of its corn, and 80% of its sunflower oil — and they provide the majority of the Middle East and North Africa region's supply.
Wheat futures are up 30% since the invasion began in late February.
Before the war, more than 95% of Ukraine's total grain, wheat and corn exports was shipped out via the Black Sea, and half of those exports went to MENA countries. That vital conduit is now shut, choking off Ukraine's maritime trade after its ports came under attack from Russia's military.
The country is now trying to export some of its produce by rail, which has enormous logistical limits, while Ukrainian farmers whose infrastructure hasn't been destroyed attempt to till their fields wearing bulletproof vests.
Russia is the world's number one exporter of wheat, as well as – crucially – the top exporter of fertilizer. Fears of getting caught up in western sanctions on Moscow have already disrupted Russia's exports, too.
Experts have warned of the risk of riots, famine and mass migration hitting the region if basic food staples like wheat and flour become unaffordable or inaccessible.
— Natasha Turak
A coffin factory in Lviv works to meet the demand of a rising death toll in Ukraine
Ukrainian craftsmen work to meet the demand of the rising death toll at a coffin factory in Lviv.
The United Nations has confirmed 2,829 civilian deaths and 3,180 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.
Of those killed, the U.N. has identified at least 62 girls and 75 boys, as well as 68 children whose gender is unknown.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, citing delayed reports due to the armed conflict.
The international body said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.
— Amanda Macias, Adam Jeffery, Getty Images
Ukraine war could drag on for years, NATO chief says
There's a possibility that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine will last for years, NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.
"We need to be prepared for the long term ...There is absolutely the possibility that this war will drag on and last for months and years," Stoltenberg told a youth summit in Brussels.
He said the military alliance is ready to help Kyiv to transition from using old Soviet-era weapons to NATO-standard weapons.
— Holly Ellyatt
Don't test our patience, Russia warns the West
Russia has warned the West against inciting Ukraine to attack Russian territory, saying that this will lead to a "tough response from Russia."
"In the West, they are openly calling on Kyiv to attack Russia including with the use of weapons received from NATO countries," Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow, Reuters reported.
"I don't advise you to test our patience further," she said.
Zakharova's comments come after several attacks by Ukrainian forces on Russian regions bordering Ukraine. Russia said earlier this week that if such attacks continued then it would target decision-making centers in Ukraine.
Ukraine has not directly admitted that its forces were responsible for the spate of attacks but presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak reportedly described the incidents as "karma."
— Holly Ellyatt
Germany's military must be strong enough to deter Russia from attacking, Scholz says
Germany's leader said a strong military is needed to ensure Russia does not consider attacking it.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz also said Thursday that Putin is clinging to the idea of a "forced peace" in Ukraine and that will not work, Reuters reported.
Speaking in Tokyo, Scholz said Germany is looking to create closer ties with countries that share its values, naming Japan and India, among others.
— Holly Ellyatt
Central bank policy needs to be prudent amid gas shock threat, official says
Bank of Italy Governor and ECB Governing Council member Ignazio Visco warns the central bank's policy must remain careful amid the threat of the Russian war in Ukraine, but signals a third-quarter hike may be in the cards.
— Holly Ellyatt
Exxon reportedly declared force majeure on Sakhalin-1 operations
Exxon Mobil's Russian unit Exxon Neftegas has declared force majeure on its Sakhalin-1 operations, Reuters reported.
In a written response to Reuters, a spokesperson said Exxon is taking steps to exit the oil and gas project, which includes addressing contractual and commercial obligations.
The company previously said it would cease operations in Russia, including exiting the project.
Reuters reported that stakeholders in the project encounter increasing difficulty in shipping crude oil from the region due to sanctions on Russia, fear of reputational risk and trouble finding insurance coverage.
— Chelsea Ong
'We would never feel safe again' if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, UK says
The fate of Ukraine is hanging in the balance and Western allies must "double down" on their support for the country to ensure Putin fails in Ukraine, the U.K.'s foreign secretary said Wednesday.
"Ukraine's victory is a strategic imperative for us all," Liz Truss said in a speech in London last night, as she argued the Group of Seven industrialized nations and their allies need to maintain pressure on Russia through tougher sanctions, including "cutting off oil and gas imports once and for all," providing further military aid, and continued humanitarian support.
"If Putin succeeds there will be untold further misery across Europe and terrible consequences across the globe," she said, adding that "we would never feel safe again."
"So we must be prepared for the long haul and double down on our support for Ukraine," she said. Truss' comments come at a time when tensions between Western nations and Russia have risen significantly, with President Vladimir Putin warning that Russia will retaliate against any intervention in the Ukraine war.
— Holly Ellyatt
Blinken says Europe has 'ambitious' plans to cut energy reliance on Russia
European countries have 'genuinely ambitious' plans to reduce their reliance on Russian energy, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, adding that 'further progress' was expected on Russian oil imports in the coming weeks.
"The Europeans have, I think, genuinely ambitious plans to move away from this reliance on Russian energy. The challenge is to put them into effect," Blinken said at a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Around half of Russia's 4.7 million barrels per day of crude exports go to the EU. Cutting them off would deprive Moscow of a major revenue stream.
"I think you are likely to see in the coming weeks further progress on the oil side of the equation in terms of Russian imports. Gas is a bigger challenge," he added.
The European Union is considering options to cut imports of Russian oil as part of possible further sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, but none has been formally proposed as governments assess their impact.
White House set to make 'massive' funding request for more Ukraine aid
The White House is preparing to send a request to Congress for additional Ukraine aid as early as Thursday, administration officials confirmed to NBC News.
Officials described the amount of the request as "massive" but would not provide a specific dollar amount as some of the details have not been finalized.
The officials said the dollar amount sought should be able to fund U.S. support for Ukraine through the end of the current fiscal year, which ends in September. Since Russia's late February invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has authorized $3.4 billion in military assistance.
Last week, President Joe Biden said that he was running out of funding authorized by Congress and would soon send a request to lawmakers.
The latest military aid package of $800 million, which is the eighth installment of aid, comes after eight weeks of war and as Russian forces prepare for a renewed fight in the east and south of Ukraine.
— Amanda Macias
Putin threatens to retaliate against anyone who interferes with war in Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned world leaders against interfering with what he continues to call a "special military operation" in Ukraine.
"I want to stress once more, the special military operation in the Ukraine and Donbas, which started in February, all the objectives will be definitely carried out to guarantee the security of people in the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic, the Russian Crimea and all our country," Putin said before Russia's Council of Legislators in St Petersburg.
He said Russia's military prevented a "real threat, which was hanging over our motherland." Putin added that the Kremlin would retaliate against anyone who interfered with the ongoing military operation.
"Our response, our retaliation, those attacks will be lightning-fast. We have all instruments for that. Such instruments that no one can boast of ... and we're going to use them if we have to. I want everybody to know that," Putin said.
It was not immediately clear what was meant by instruments. Putin also said the rafts of global sanctions against Russia have failed to "strangle us economically."
— Amanda Macias