Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded to NATO's forthcoming expansion, saying he has no problem with Sweden and Finland joining the military alliance, but that if infrastructure is deployed to those countries, Russia will respond in kind.
Putin's comments come after the Western military organization officially invited Sweden and Finland to join it in a historic move on Wednesday. That was made possible after a deal was forged with Turkey to accept the membership bids after initial objections from Ankara.
The alliance also reiterated its condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, outlined plans to beef up its defenses in Europe and said China posed a "challenge" to its interests.
Speaking at the NATO summit in Madrid, U.S. President Joe Biden said Russia's invasion of Ukraine has made the alliance stronger. He added that the U.S. plans to send another $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine.
NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced earlier in the week that the Western military organization would increase the number of troops within its rapid response force — which comprises land, air, sea and special forces units that are capable of being deployed quickly — to 300,000 from about 40,000 personnel.
Meanwhile, the battle for the Donbas rages in Ukraine, with the city of Lysychansk, a twin city to the captured city of Severodonetsk, under constant shelling as Russian forces try to grind down Kyiv's forces.
Zelenskyy thanks Ukrainian troops following Russian withdrawal from Snake Island
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Ukrainian forces following the liberation of Snake Island, a remote island off the south of Ukraine.
"Undoubtedly, the main word today is 'Snake.' Apparently, there was just as much talk about Zmiinyi (Snake) Island only on the day when the Russian ship arrived there. Then the ship left forever and now the island is free again," Zelenskyy said via the Telegram messaging platform, according to an NBC News translation.
Ukrainian officials said earlier that Russian troops evacuated Snake Island, which was taken by Russian forces on the first day of the invasion. Russia's Ministry of Defense also confirmed the withdrawal.
— Amanda Macias
Trudeau says Canada will increase its troop presence in Latvia
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will increase Canada's troop presence in Latvia as part of NATO's commitment to strengthen its deterrence measures along Russia's border.
Trudeau made the announcement at the close of the three-day NATO summit in Madrid. He did not give specific numbers.
Canada leads NATO's battlegroup in Latvia of around 2,000 soldiers in total. Albania, the Czech Republic, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain also provide troops to the group.
"We will be bolstering our military deployment in Latvia and work with other allies to be able to rapidly augment our current strength to our combat capable brigade when required," Trudeau said.
Trudeau said his government also wants to send up to 39 armored combat support vehicles to Ukraine along with six additional drone cameras to help fight the Russian invasion.
— Associated Press
More than 180 medical facilities and 230 schools damaged or destroyed in Ukraine, UN says
The United Nations found that approximately 182 medical facilities and 230 educational facilities in Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed by Russian forces.
"The attacks also endangered the lives of civilians and infringed on the enjoyment of other human rights, including the rights to health, work, education and housing," the UN Human Rights Office, or OHCHR, wrote in a new 44-page report.
The report, which covers the period of Feb. 24 to May 15, added that the armed conflict "has led to a wide range of human rights violations of both civilians and combatants."
"OHCHR verified numerous allegations of killings and summary executions, of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance, of torture and ill-treatment and of conflict-related sexual violence," the authors of the report wrote.
Russia has denied allegations that its forces have committed human rights abuses.
— Amanda Macias
U.S. takes enforcement action against trust with ties to a Russian oligarch
The United States took enforcement action imposing restrictions against Delaware-based Heritage Trust on the grounds that sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov holds a property interest, the Treasury Department said.
The move subjects the trust, with a value of over $1 billion, to the same restrictions as Kerimov, barring Americans from dealing with it or the contribution of funds.
It is the latest action enforcing Washington's wide-ranging sanctions against Russian oligarchs and elites following Moscow's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, which has killed thousands and displaced millions of citizens.
Read more here.
Estonia and Latvia agree to purchase air defense systems at NATO summit
NATO allies Estonia and Latvia, which share borders with Russia, agreed to jointly purchase a mid-range air defense system, the Estonian defense ministry said in a statement.
Estonian Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet and Latvian Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks signed the letter of intent at the NATO Summit in Madrid.
"Russia's aggression in Ukraine clearly demonstrates the need for air defense systems," Pabriks said in a statement. "I am delighted that we will be implementing this project together with Estonia, thus strengthening our regional cooperation and common defense."
— Amanda Macias
UK's Johnson sees signs that Ukraine will prevail
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the withdrawal of Russian troops from Snake Island in the Black Sea is a sign that Ukraine will prevail in the war.
Johnson said the pullout from the island where occupying Russian troops have faced relentless Ukrainian attacks shows that "again Russia has had to cede ground." He said that "in the end it will prove impossible for Putin to hold down a country that will not accept" occupation.
Johnson spoke at the end of a NATO summit in Madrid dominated by the consequences of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
He said Russia must be driven off from all the territory it has occupied since it invaded in February and that at the moment "there doesn't seem to be anything to talk about" regarding a cease-fire.
Johnson welcomed a commitment by many NATO members to increase defense spending and said the U.K. would raise its spending target from 2% of GDP to 2.5% by the end of the decade.
— Associated Press
At least 22 people found in rubble following Russian strike on shopping mall, Ukraine says
The Ukrainian State Emergency Service said via the Telegram messaging platform that at least 22 people were found in the rubble following a Russian missile strike on the Kremenchuk shopping mall, according to an NBC News translation.
CNBC and NBC News have not independently identified these claims.
After the strike, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Telegram that more than 1,000 people were inside at the time of the Russian rocket attack, according to an NBC News report.
— Amanda Macias
Macron says France is ready to send more troops to Romania as part of NATO mission
French President Emmanuel Macron says France is ready to send more troops to Romania if needed as part of the NATO mission to bolster forces on its eastern flank following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
France already has around 500 soldiers and an air defense system deployed in Romania. Macron said the assets can be reinforced "at very short notice."
Macron, speaking at a news conference following the NATO summit in Madrid, said France's financial, humanitarian and military support for Ukraine will continue "as long as needed."
— Associated Press
Americans will pay higher gas prices 'as long as it takes' to defend Ukraine, Biden says
Asked how long it is fair to expect for Americans to pay a premium for gasoline to defend Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden answered, "As long as it takes."
"This is a critical, critical position for the world," he added. "I suggested a while ago that what we should consider doing is putting a cap on the amount of money the world would pay for Russian oil."
Biden's remarks come just days after U.S. gasoline prices hit record highs earlier in June. The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $4.857 on Thursday, below highs north of $5 seen earlier in the month.
"We've commissioned a group of our national security people to sit down and work out that mechanism. We think it can be done," he added. "It would drive down the price of oil and it would drive down the price of gasoline as well."
Biden also reiterated that Russian alone is to blame for the current spike in petroleum and food prices.
— Thomas Franck
Biden announces $800 million more in military aid for Ukraine
U.S. President Joe Biden announced a 14th security assistance package for Ukraine worth $800 million.
Biden, speaking at the end of the NATO summit in Madrid, said the aid will include heavy artillery, ammunition, advanced air defense systems, counter-battery radar systems, ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, along with more HIMARS platforms from other allies.
Biden said that NATO and other allies around the globe are supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia.
"As I indicated to Putin, his action would cause a worldwide response," Biden said.
— Amanda Macias
Biden says NATO is 'stronger than ever' with invites to Sweden and Finland
U.S. President Joe Biden said that NATO is "stronger than ever" after Sweden and Finland were invited to join the defensive alliance.
Biden, speaking from a NATO summit in Madrid, said he told Russian President Vladimir Putin before the invasion of Ukraine that such an attack would galvanize, and not weaken, the military alliance.
"At this summit, we rallied our alliances to meet both the direct threats of Russia to Europe and the systemic challenges that China poses to a rules-based world order," he said.
"We will defend every inch of NATO territory," Biden added. "For our part, the United States is doing exactly what I said we would do if Putin invaded: Enhance our force posture in Europe. We're stationing more ships here in Spain. We're stationing more air defense in Italy and Germany. More F-35s in the United Kingdom."
Biden referenced NATO's mutual defense clause, known as Article 5. To date, the 30-member alliance has only invoked Article 5 once — in defense of the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
— Thomas Franck
Sanctions could be a justification for war, Medvedev says
Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's former president and the current deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council said Thursday that international sanctions on Russia could be seen as an act of aggression and a justification for war in certain circumstances.
"I would like to point out once again that under certain circumstances such hostile measures can also qualify as an act of international aggression and even as a casus belli [a justification for war]," Medvedev told the St Petersburg International Legal Forum on Thursday.
"In response to them the state has a right to individual and collective self-defense," Medvedev added.
Medvedev said the sanctions were unlawful and discriminatory against Russia and had caused the global food crisis, inflation and poverty.
— Holly Ellyatt
Ukraine sees the release of 144 soldiers in biggest prisoner of war swap
Ukraine secured the release of 144 of its soldiers in the biggest exchange of prisoners of war so far during the conflict on Wednesday. The following images show the swap taking place in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine.
NATO is 'prepared for all eventualities,' Stoltenberg says
NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance is prepared for "all eventualities" when it comes to Russia's potential response to its impending enlargement when Finland and Sweden join.
President Putin suggested on Wednesday that if NATO infrastructure and troops were deployed to Sweden and Finland, with whom Russia shares an 830-mile border, it would respond in kind.
"We are of course prepared for any eventuality, but I think what we see now in Ukraine is that Russia is now fully focused on that," Stoltenberg told CNBC's Hadley Gamble in Madrid as the NATO summit came to an end.
Asked to respond to President Vladimir Putin's comments on Wednesday, suggesting that Ukraine should surrender and that all Russia wants is to "liberate" the Donbas in the east of the country, Stoltenberg said:
"President Putin's brutal war against Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable ... so it's President Putin who should withdraw his forces and end this war immediately while stopping attacking a democratic, sovereign nation and causing so much suffering in Ukraine."
NATO's chief hailed the conclusion of a "transformative" summit in Madrid at which the alliance has made several decisions, including inviting Finland and Sweden to join and bolstering its defenses and deterrence in Europe.
— Holly Ellyatt
89% of Ukrainians reject ceding land to Russia for peace, poll finds
A large majority of Ukrainians have said it would be unacceptable to cede any territory seized by Russian forces during its invasion in order to reach a peace deal with Moscow, a new survey has found.
The Wall Street Journal-NORC poll found 89% of 1,005 Ukrainian adults surveyed said such a scenario would be unacceptable.
The survey, conducted with a Ukrainian polling firm, also found that 78% of Ukrainians approve of President Volodymyr Zelensky's response to the Russian invasion, with only 7% believing he has handled the war badly.
The poll used live interviewers to survey 1,005 adults who use a mobile phone with service from one of Ukraine's mobile providers, essentially covering areas controlled by the Kyiv government, as well as some Ukrainians who relocated abroad but retained Ukrainian mobile service, the WSJ said.
The survey also excluded Russian-controlled Crimea and the separatist-controlled parts of the Donbas in eastern Ukraine as national mobile providers aren't used there.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russian troops have withdrawn from Snake Island
Ukrainian officials said that Russian troops have evacuated Snake Island, a remote island off the south of Ukraine that was occupied by Russian forces on the first day of the invasion.
Russia's Ministry of Defense also confirmed the withdrawal has taken place from the island, which is locally known as Zmiinyi Island, describing it as an act "of goodwill."
Andriy Yermak, President Zelenskyy's chief of staff, tweeted this morning that there were no Russian troops on Snake Island anymore while an official message from Ukraine's southern operational command said Russian forces had "hastily evacuated" the island which is a strategic outpost in the Black Sea.
"During the night, as a result of the successful next stage of the military operation with strikes by our missile and artillery units on Snake Island, the enemy hastily evacuated the remnants of the garrison with two speed boats and, presumably, left the island," the operational command said on Facebook.
It added that currently, Snake island "is covered in fire, explosions are heard" with the final outcome of the operation still being investigated.
In a briefing by Russia's Ministry of Defense on Thursday, it confirmed the withdrawal, stating:
"On June 30, as a step of goodwill, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation completed the fulfillment of their tasks on Zmeiny Island and withdrew the garrison stationed there."
It said the move "demonstrated to the world community that the Russian Federation does not hinder the efforts of the UN to organize a humanitarian corridor for the export of agricultural products from the territory of Ukraine."
Russia said the decision "will not allow Kyiv to speculate on the impending food crisis, referring to the impossibility of exporting grain due to Russia's total control of the northwestern part of the Black Sea."
It said it was "now it is up to the Ukrainian side" to clear the Black Sea coast of mines — which both sides have accused each other of planting in the sea, and blaming these for hindering exports of vital produce.
— Holly Ellyatt
Ukraine's forces must avoid being encircled by Russians, UK says
Britain's Ministry of Defense has given its latest intelligence update on the state of fighting in Ukraine, noting that the country's armed forces continue to hold their positions in the city of Lysychansk following their withdrawal from Severodonetsk.
Russian forces, meanwhile, continue to pursue an approach of "creeping envelopment" from the Popasna direction, due south from Lysychansk, removing the need to force a major new crossing of the Siverskyi Donets river (which separates Severodonetsk from Lysychansk), the U.K. noted in its update on Twitter on Thursday.
The ministry said it is highly likely "that Ukrainian forces' ability to continue fighting delaying battles, and then withdraw troops in good order before they are encircled, will continue to be a key factor in the outcome of the campaign."
Current ground combat is likely focused around the Lyschansk oil refinery, 10 kilometers southwest of the city center, the U.K. added, backing up similar information from Ukraine's armed forces this morning.
"At the operational level, Russian forces continue to make limited progress as they attempt to encircle Ukrainian defenders in northern Donetsk province via advances from Izium."
— Holly Ellyatt
City of Lysychansk under 'constant shelling' as battle rages to control wider region
While global attention has been on the NATO summit taking place this week in Spain, in Ukraine, the battle for control of the Donbas in the east continues to rage.
On Wednesday, Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region where the fighting is most severe, said that the city of Lysychansk is under "constant shelling."
"Orcs are constantly trying to storm Lysychansk, fighting continues on the outskirts, the city itself is under constant fire," Haidai said in a post on Facebook last night. Ukrainian officials regularly describe Russian fighters as "orcs" after the brutish characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings."
Lysychansk is the twin city across the Siverskyi Donets river from Severodonetsk, which was seized by Russian forces last weekend after a tactical retreat by Ukrainian fighters. Haidai said around 15,000 civilians remain in Lysychansk although a "quiet," inconspicuous evacuation is taking place.
In its latest military update on the Russian invasion on Thursday morning, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Thursday that Russian troops are carrying out attacks and "battles are ongoing" in the area of the Lysychansk oil refinery.
"In Donetsk direction, the enemy, with the support of artillery, is trying to block the town of Lysychansk and take control of a section of Lysychansk-Bakhmut highway," Ukraine said, adding that Russian forces were firing at civilian infrastructure in nearby settlements.
Russian forces are heavily focused on gaining territory in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions that are part of the wider Donbas in east Ukraine. It is Russia's expressed aim to control the territory, where two pro-Russian separatist "republics" are located.
Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated on Wednesday that the so-called "liberation" of the Donbas was his main goal, as well as "the protection of these people [in the pro-Russian areas], and the creation of conditions that would guarantee the security of Russia itself."
'Everything was going fine between us': Putin expresses dismay at NATO expansion
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia will "respond in kind" if NATO infrastructure and troops are deployed in Sweden and Finland when they join the alliance.
"There's nothing that might concern us in terms of Finland and Sweden becoming NATO members. If they want to then please, go ahead," he said on Wednesday.
"But they should clearly understand they didn't face any threats before this. Now, if NATO infrastructure and troops are deployed we will be compelled to respond in kind and create the same threats for the territories where the threats towards us are created," he added.
"It's obvious — don't they understand that? Everything was going fine between us but now there will be tensions. This is obvious and inevitable."
Putin's comments came as NATO leaders and their allies met in Madrid on Wednesday. At the summit, the alliance pledged to strengthen their support for Ukraine and called Russia a "direct threat" to its security. It also formally welcomed Sweden and Finland — historically non-aligned countries — to join the alliance.
The leaders of both Nordic countries said Russia's invasion of Ukraine changed the dial for them when it came to deciding to apply to join NATO. Russia is aggrieved by the expansion as its land border with NATO territories will now roughly double. It has a 830-mile border with prospective member Finland and borders five other NATO members: Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Norway.
— Holly Ellyatt
UK announces 1 billion pounds in military support to Ukraine
The U.K. will be providing an additional 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) in military support to Ukraine, Reuters said citing the British government.
The new funding will boost Ukraine's defense capability, including air defense systems, new electronic warfare equipment, and equipment for Ukrainian soldiers, the news agency said.
"UK weapons, equipment and training are transforming Ukraine's defences against this onslaught. And we will continue to stand squarely behind the Ukrainian people to ensure Putin fails in Ukraine," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement, according to Reuters.
This comes after Britain pledged a further 1.3 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) in military support and aid to Ukraine in May.
The UK also announced this month a new training program for Ukrainian forces with the potential to train up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days.
— Chelsea Ong
Russia has not shown meaningful attempt at diplomacy, Blinken says at NATO
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. has not seen meaningful Russian diplomacy in ending the war in Ukraine.
"We have not seen any interest on the part of Vladimir Putin in engaging in any kind of meaningful diplomatic initiative," Blinken said during the NATO Madrid Summit. "But in any event, as we've said from the start, it's really important that the Ukrainians define the terms of any potential negotiation," he added.
America's top diplomat said that the U.S. will continue to send security assistance to Ukraine in order to mitigate and repel Russian aggression.
"When a negotiating table eventually does emerge, which at some point it will, they [Ukraine] have the strongest possible hand to play at the negotiating table," he said.
— Amanda Macias
'If Russia is not stopped in Ukraine, NATO will inevitably be drawn into the war,' Ukrainian official warns
Ukrainian official Andriy Yermak said that Russia will most likely push its war beyond Ukraine's borders into NATO-member territory, according to an NBC News translation.
"History has taught us that the aggressor's appetites grow with each concession," Yermak, the head of the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said on the Telegram messaging app.
"That is why the security of not only Europe but all of humanity is under threat. And we believe that if Russia is not stopped in Ukraine, NATO will inevitably be drawn into the war," he said, calling for more weapons and ammunition for Ukrainian forces.
"Russia is increasingly convinced that it cannot defeat Ukraine on the battlefield. That is why they increasingly resort to bloody terror and the killing of civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure," he added.
— Amanda Macias
Biden thanks Erdogan for allowing Finland and Sweden to join NATO
U.S. President Joe Biden thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for agreeing to allow Sweden and Finland into the NATO military alliance.
"I want to particularly thank you for what you did putting together with the situation with regard to Finland and Sweden and all the incredible work you're doing to try to get grain out of Ukraine, I was telling you, you're doing a great job. I want to thank you," Biden said alongside his Turkish counterpart.
Erdogan thanked Biden for renewed U.S. commitment to strengthening NATO and said the alliance will have to work together to resolve the mounting food crisis, Russian naval blockade of Ukraine's ports and issues related to oil and natural gas.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine releases dramatic footage of shopping mall strike
Ukraine's government has released footage showing the missile that hit the Amstor shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk in central Ukraine on Monday, a strike that killed at least 20 people and injured 59 others.
The video, which shows CCTV footage from a machinery plant near the mall on Monday, was shown in Ukraine's President Zelenskyy nightly address on Tuesday, and posted on Facebook.
CNBC has not been able to independently verify that the missile is a Kh-22 as stated in the tweet, and has been stated by several Ukrainian officials.
Kh-22 missiles are large, long-range anti-ship missiles that were developed by the Soviet Union and first used in the early 1960s, intended for use against U.S. Navy aircraft carriers in the Cold War.
The strike on the shopping mall was condemned as a war crime by Western leaders. For its part, Russia said it was targeting a depot of weapons donated by the U.S. and Europe that it said was located near the mall, a claim dismissed by Ukraine.
– Holly Ellyatt