Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday night that the country's armed forces are preparing a "countermeasure" to Russia's offensive operations.
"We are analyzing the intentions of the occupiers and are preparing a countermeasure - an even more powerful countermeasure than it's been," he said in his nightly address.
Zelenskyy did not elaborate on what the countermeasures would look like. Since September, Ukraine has retaken some parts of the country seized by Russian forces earlier this year, particularly around the regions of Kharkiv in the northeast and Kherson in the south.
Russia has seen some slow gains in eastern Ukraine, however, with fierce fighting continuing around Bakhmut in Donetsk. Pro-Russian separatist leader, Denis Pushilin (the head of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic) claimed earlier this week that Bakhmut was close to being encircled, a claim vehemently denied by a Ukrainian official.
Ukrainian Defense Ministry official Yuriy Sak told CNBC on Wednesday that Bakhmut was "undoubtedly one of the key hotspots at the moment" in the war but claimed Russia was experiencing a "colossal" level of losses there.
Member states will have to decide on EU proposal to create a court to investigate Russian war crimes, UN says
The U.N. said it will let member states decide whether to set up a court to investigate possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
Earlier in the day, the European Union proposed to set up a U.N.-backed court to investigate possible war crimes in Ukraine. The EU also proposed using frozen Russian assets to rebuild Ukraine.
"The decision to establish a tribunal, with or without the involvement of the United Nations, is a decision that will rest with the [U.N.] member states," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said during a daily press briefing.
"The Secretary‑General is definitely aware that there've been discussions in various forums concerning the possibility of the establishment of an international tribunal in regards to what's going on in Ukraine and in particular, on the issue of the crime of aggression," he said, adding that any further comment on the matter would only be speculation.
— Amanda Macias
Ukrainian defense official speaks next to dud warhead
Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine Hanna Maliar speaks standing next to a dud warhead imitating a nuclear part of a Kh-55SM strategic cruise missile, which was used by Russian troops during a recent missile attacks on Ukraine.
The Kh-55SM strategic cruise missile can carry nuclear warheads, speakers at the briefing said.
— STR | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Biden, Macron vow to continue to support Ukraine against Russia
U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in a joint press conference at the White House reaffirmed their commitment to supporting Ukraine against Russia.
"Having the U.S. strongly support the Ukrainians at this time is very important not just for the Ukrainians, but for the Europeans, who we are. This is why we do thank you for the solidarity, for the stability of our world today," Macron said. "Because if we consider that we can abandon the country and abandon the full respect of its principles, it means there is no possible stability in this world."
Macron is visiting the U.S. as a visitor for Biden's first state dinner as president.
Biden said he does not intend to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin any time soon, but he would be willing to if Putin is genuinely interested in ending the war.
"I'm prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he's looking for a way to end the war. He hasn't done that yet," Biden said.
"In the meantime, I think it's absolutely critical, what Emmanuel said: we must support the Ukrainian people," Biden said. "The idea that Putin is ever going to defeat Ukraine is beyond comprehension."
- Emma Kinery
More than 7.8 million Ukrainians have become refugees from Russia’s war, U.N. estimates
More than 7.8 million Ukrainians have become refugees and moved to neighboring countries since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the U.N. Refugee Agency estimates.
Nearly 5 million of those people have applied for temporary resident status in neighboring Western European countries, according to data collected by the agency.
"The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance," the U.N. Refugee Agency wrote.
— Amanda Macias
Backlog of 74 ships waiting to transport crops from Ukraine
The organization overseeing the export of Ukrainian crops said there is a backlog of 74 vessels waiting to be loaded with cargo.
The U.N.-led Joint Coordination Center also said that about 95 loaded vessels are waiting for inspection in Turkish territorial waters.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered in July among Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the United Nations, eased Russia's naval blockade and saw the reopening of three key Ukrainian ports.
Since the deal was signed, more than 510 ships carrying 12.6 million metric tons of grain and other food products have left for destinations around the world.
Kyiv has previously blamed Moscow for holding up inspections and delaying vessel movements.
— Amanda Macias
Women make arctic warfare camouflage as winter sets in
Women make arctic warfare camouflage in a school gymnasium in Bucha, Ukraine. Ukrainian officials expect a new wave of Russian bombing this week, with previous rounds targeting critical infrastructure and causing massive water and power cuts, including in the capital Kyiv.
— Jeff J. Mitchell | Getty Images
More than 6,600 people have died in Ukraine, United Nations says
At least 6,655 civilians have died and 10,368 have been injured in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24, according to the United Nations.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher than that because armed conflict can delay fatality reports.
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, according to the organization.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine works to restore electricity infrastructure in Kherson
Electricity workers wearing bulletproof vests and helmets prepare to start work to repair a destroyed high voltage power line Kherson, Ukraine.
Teams of electrical workers have been brought in from across Ukraine to help restore power to the city of Kherson and surrounding areas. The workers are forced to wear protective equipment as they are targeted by continued Russian shelling of electrical infrastructure.
Kherson's power grid has continued to suffer damage from Russian shelling, despite Ukraine reclaiming the territory from Russian occupation last month.
— Chris McGrath | Getty Images
Macron says France and U.S. need to become 'brothers in arms' again in light of Russia's invasion
French President Emmanuel Macron said the U.S. and France need to become "brothers in arms" again as the two democracies band together to help Ukraine fight off Russian President Vladimir Putin's illegal invasion of the sovereign nation.
"As war returns to European soil following Russia's aggression against Ukraine and in light of the multiple crises our nations and all societies face, we need to become brothers in arms once more," Macron said, speaking outside the White House next to U.S. President Joe Biden at a formal ceremony officially opening the visit.
Macron's trip marks the first state visit under the Biden administration. The two have a joint press conference scheduled at 11:45 a.m. today, followed by a state dinner at the White House later tonight.
"Our democracies on both sides of the ocean are being shaken by the same doubts as to our ability to be sufficiently strong and effective when it comes to the challenges we share of climate to politics to technology," Macron said.
— Emma Kinery
Ukrainian doctors operate with phone flashlights after power outages
Ukrainian doctors operate with phone flashlights due to power outages caused by Russia's extensive bombing of Kyiv.
— Abdullah Unver | Getty Images
Russia is not interested in what the oil price cap will be, Lavrov says
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Moscow was not interested in the level of the proposed European Union and G-7 cap on Russian oil prices since Russia would agree deals with buyers directly.
Lavrov repeated Russia's position that Moscow would not supply oil to countries that backed such a price cap.
Russian oil sanctions are about to kick in. And they could disrupt markets in a big way
Upcoming sanctions on Russian oil are set to be "really disruptive" for energy markets if European nations fail to set a cap on prices, analysts warned.
The 27 countries of the European Union agreed in June to ban the purchase of crude oil from Dec. 5. In practical terms, the EU — together with the United States, Japan, Canada and the U.K. — want to drastically cut Russia's oil revenues in a bid to drain the Kremlin's war chest following its invasion of Ukraine.
However, concerns that a complete ban would send crude prices soaring led the G-7 to consider setting a cap on the amount it will pay for Russian oil.
An outright ban on Russian imports could be "really disruptive" to markets, according to Henning Gloystein, director of energy, climate and resources at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group.
The potential for rising oil prices is "why there's pressure from the U.S." to agree on a cap, Gloystein told CNBC Wednesday.
A price limit would see G-7 nations buy Russian oil at a lower price, in an effort to reduce Russia's oil income without raising crude prices across the globe. However, EU nations have been in dispute for several days over the right level to cap prices.
Read more on the story here: Russian oil sanctions are about to kick in. And they could disrupt markets in a big way
— Silvia Amaro
Belarus' defense minister says army must be prepared to defend the country
Belarus' defense minister said the country's armed forces must be prepared to defend the country, claiming that "neighboring states" are actively "militarizing."
"Seeing how our neighbors are acting, we are naturally obliged to react to everything that happens and prepare our armed forces, our state. First of all, for defense," Belarus' Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin told reporters, according to the state news agency BelTA.
"We are not going to threaten anyone, attack someone. We want to live independently on our territory, make decisions, respect our sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity," he said.
There has been mounting speculation that Belarus, Russia's ally, could enter the war in Ukraine in order to aid Russian forces although it has only provided logistical aid so far, with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko believed to have been reluctant to commit ground forces, fearing a political backlash at home.
Nonetheless, Russian and Belarusian have formed a joint military unit and conducted drills together. Ukraine has previously said Russia could stage a "false flag" attack on Belarus, blaming Ukraine, in order to provoke it into joining its war effort.
Khrenin claimed "neighboring states are militarizing with active steps," adding: "I don't want anyone to be afraid that a war will start tomorrow" he said President Lukashenko had emphasized "that there are no direct preparations for a war."
"We are well aware that if we now get involved in an arms race, as some states are doing, then we, of course, can cause trouble to our economy and certain social problems," Khrenin said.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russian Black Sea deployment could suggest attack is coming, official says
The deployment of the Russian Black Sea fleet's naval group could hint at further reconnaissance and information gathering taking place in preparation for potential missile strikes, according to a report citing comments by Natalia Humeniuk, the head of the joint press center of Ukraine's Operational Command South.
"The operational situation is quite stable at the moment, but this should not be reassuring to us," Humeniuk said Thursday, according to a report by Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform.
"Hostilities continue – this is directly about the development of hostilities on the front line – and once again, the presence of a naval group in the Black Sea means that aerial reconnaissance, gathering of data on the situation, and preparing for possible missile strikes are ongoing," she said.
Russia has not commented on any Black Sea deployment and CNBC was unable to verify Humeniuk's comments.
Humeniuk said Russian warships can move to combat readiness in two to three hours, and said Ukraine needs to watch the movement of these ships in conjunction with the activity of Russian aircraft in order to gauge whether an attack is imminent.
Humeniuk didn't rule out that warship movements could be designed to pile more psychological pressure on already hard-pressed Ukrainians living in a war zone, but the actual preparation for mass missile attacks is likely, "so people should be ready," Ukrinform reported.
Ukraine's Navy said on Facebook Thursday that "there are 7 enemy ships in the Black Sea on combat standby." In the last couple of days it has reported a higher daily number of Russian warships in the area, noting that one of them was equipped long-range "Kalibr" cruise missiles.
— Holly Ellyatt
U.S. and NATO 'directly involved' in the war, Russian official says
Russia's foreign minister has accused the United States and NATO of being "directly involved" in the war in Ukraine and said Moscow is ready to listen to suggestions for a "negotiated solution" to the conflict, but had "never" asked for negotiations.
Speaking at a conference on European security issues, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West was pumping "deadly weapons into Ukraine to kill Russians" and was "directly involved" in the war by supplying such weapons and by training military personnel, state news agency Tass reported.
Lavrov denied Russia had asked for negotiations with Ukraine to "buy time" in the conflict, which Moscow calls a "special military operation," in order to regroup its forces and equipment.
"When we are accused of constantly asking for some kind of negotiations in order to gain time in order to gather additional forces for a special military operation, this is both ridiculous and unpleasant, because people lie, lie openly," Lavrov said, Tass reported.
"We never asked for any negotiations, but we always said that if someone has an interest in a negotiated solution, we are ready to listen."
As the war drags on and losses mount, Ukraine has hardened its position against negotiations with Russia, and talks following Russia's invasion on Feb. 24 failed to find mutual agreement on a cease-fire.
It recently said that it will not negotiate with Russia while President Vladimir Putin is in power, or while Russian troops remain on Ukrainian land, and believes it can win the war.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russia has expended 'significant proportion' of missiles against Ukraine's energy grid, UK says
Russia has already expended a large proportion of its suitable missiles against tactical targets in Ukraine, such as its energy network, according to Britain's Ministry of Defense.
Russia has repeatedly attacked Ukraine's electricity distribution grid in the last couple of months, primarily with cruise missiles. The ministry said this is "likely the first example of Russia attempting to implement the concept of a Strategic Operation for the Destruction of Critically Important Targets (SODCIT), a key component of the military doctrine it has adopted in recent years."
Russia saw this strategy of "using long-range missiles to strike an enemy state's critical national infrastructure, rather than its military forces, [as a way] to demoralise the population and ultimately force the state's leaders to capitulate," the ministry said on Twitter Thursday.
The U.K. said while Russia's strikes continue to cause power shortages "resulting in indiscriminate, widespread humanitarian suffering across Ukraine," the effectiveness of Russia's strategy has likely been blunted because it has already expended "a large proportion of its suitable missiles against tactical targets" in Ukraine.
The ministry added that because Russia's strategy of targeting Ukraine's power grid has only recently been implicated, the "material and psychological effect of the SODCIT is likely less than if it was deployed in the initial period of a war."
— Holly Ellyatt
Fierce fighting in Bakhmut leading to high losses for Russia, Ukraine official claims
Intense fighting around Bakhmut in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine is inflicting high losses on Russian forces, with a Ukrainian official telling CNBC Wednesday that there are "mountains of corpses of Russian invaders" in the area.
"Both regular Russian troops, the newly mobilized as well as mercenaries of the Wagner group, they're all fighting [around Bakhmut]. And the losses of the enemy of in all of these categories are colossal, and they're measured in their 1000s, of [soldiers] killed in action," Sak said.
The so-called "Battle of Bakhmut" has been likened to the Battle of Verdun in World War 1, with scenes of trenches and mass destruction being posted on social media.
Analysts say Russia has made some slow gains around the city but is not as close to encircling it as one pro-Russian official claimed this week. Russia is seen to want to capture Bakhmut and to then advance to Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
It's hard to verify how many casualties both Ukraine and Russia have counted in the Battle of Bakhmut but both claim to have killed hundreds of each other's soldiers.
Ukrainian official Yuriy Sak told CNBC that "there is no question of any Russian encirclement or even semi encirclement" but acknowledged that the front line is "very close" to the city.
"Photos and videos from that area are reminiscent of the landscapes of the First World War — burnt trees, trenches, destruction, mountains of corpses of Russian invaders, this is really, really horrendous," he said.
"The defense of Bakhmut continues and, of course, it's a difficult fight because the Russians hope to gain an upper hand and move on then to Sloviansk but this is not going to happen," he added.
— Holly Ellyatt
Ukraine is preparing a 'powerful countermeasure' to Russian forces, says Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country's armed forces are preparing a "countermeasure" to Russia's advances that will exceed prior ones.
Zelenskyy made the comment during his nightly address to the nation, and following a meeting he held with the general staff of the Armed Forces.
"We are analyzing the intentions of the occupiers and are preparing a countermeasure - an even more powerful countermeasure than it's been," he said, speaking Ukrainian.
Zelenskyy did not elaborate on what the countermeasures would look like. But since September, Ukraine has retaken major parts of the country seized by Russian forces earlier this year, including territory in Kharkiv and Kherson.
— Christina Wilkie
EU seeks specialized court to investigate Russia war crimes
The European Union proposed to set up a U.N.-backed court to investigate possible war crimes Russia committed in Ukraine, and to use frozen Russian assets to rebuild the war-torn country.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in a video message that the EU will work with international partners to get "the broadest international support possible" for the tribunal, while continuing to support the International Criminal Court.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, his military forces have been accused of abuses ranging from killings in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha to deadly attacks on civilian facilities, including the March 16 bombing of a theater in Mariupol that an Associated Press investigation established likely killed close to 600 people.
Investigations of military crimes committed during the war in Ukraine are underway around Europe, and the Hague-based International Criminal Court has already launched a probe.
But because Russia does not accept the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction, the European Commission said it presented to the 27 EU countries two options to hold the Kremlin accountable: either a "special independent international court based on a multilateral treaty or a specialized court integrated in a national justice system with international judges — a hybrid court."
— Associated Press
Europe wary of Turkish hub to hide gas 'made in Moscow'
Russian President Vladimir Putin's plan to make Turkey a hub for his country's gas could allow Moscow to mask its exports with fuel from other sources, but that might not be enough to persuade Europeans to buy, analysts and sources said.
Russia supplied 40% of the European Union gas market until Moscow on Feb. 24 sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in what it calls a "special military operation".
Since then, the West has introduced sweeping sanctions, including on Russian oil and gas, cut its purchases of the Russia-sourced fuels and sought alternatives.
After explosions — whose cause is under investigation — damaged the Nord Stream Russian gas pipeline system to Europe under the Baltic Sea, Putin in October proposed setting up a gas hub in Turkey, building on a southern route for exports.
Without being specific, Putin has said a hub could be set up in Turkey relatively quickly, and predicted customers in Europe would want to sign contracts.
So far there have been no public commitments to do so, and analysts say investment as well as time would be needed.
Blinken says Russia will continue attacking Ukraine until its military is defeated
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia is not seeking a diplomatic resolution to its war with Ukraine, but instead will continue to attack the country over and over, until its own army is defeated.
"Russia's savage attacks on Ukrainian civilians are the latest demonstration that President Putin currently has no interest in meaningful diplomacy," Blinken said at a NATO ministers meeting in Bucharest.
"Short of erasing Ukraine's independence, [Putin] will try to force Ukraine into a frozen conflict, lock in his gains, rest and refit his forces, and then, at some point, re-attack again."
Blinken's statement represents one of two competing views within the Biden administration about the path forward in Ukraine.
The opposing view is being championed by the nation's most senior military advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, who shared it in a recent interview on CNBC.
"We've seen the Ukrainian military fight the Russian military to a standstill," Milley said during an appearance on Squawk on the Street on Nov. 10. "What the future holds is not known with any degree of certainty, but we think there are some possibilities here for some diplomatic solutions."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has consistently said that negotiations cannot begin until Russia returns Ukrainian territory it has seized or annexed, including Crimea.
— Christina Wilkie
Situation at the front difficult, Zelenskyy says, and Russia is 'planning something'
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the situation at the front as difficult, with intense fighting in the east, northeast and south of Ukraine, where he said Russian forces are "planning something."
"The situation at the front is difficult. Despite extremely large Russian losses, the occupiers are still trying to advance in Donetsk region, gain a foothold in Luhansk region, move into Kharkiv region, they are planning something in the south," Zelenskyy said on Telegram Tuesday night.
He said Ukraine's defenses are holding, however, preventing Russia from advancing.
"They said that they would capture Donetsk region - in spring, summer, fall. Winter is already starting this week. They put their regular army there, they lose hundreds of conscripts and mercenaries there every day, they use barricades there."
He said Russia would lose 100,000 of its soldiers and additional mercenaries while "Ukraine will stand."
— Holly Ellyatt
As destruction reigns, one ongoing battle in Ukraine is reminiscent of WW1
The sight of trenches, endless mud and mass destruction — with just the stumps of trees emerging from a boggy, churned up landscape — is associated with World War I but one part of Ukraine is witnessing the same kind of destruction and desolation.
For several months now, Russian and Ukrainian forces have been fighting for control of the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine — in what is essentially a key part of a larger battle for control of the Donbas. The Donbas is a region in eastern Ukraine that contains two pro-Russian, so-called "republics" that Russia says it wants to "liberate."
Some analysts have posted images comparing the destruction of the area to the "Battle of Verdun" in World War I, a bloody and intense battle between French and German forces that lasted from February to December 1916.
One of the longest and fiercest battles during the war, it is also seen as one of the most costly in terms of life; both France and Germany are estimated to have seen hundreds of thousands of casualties each. In the end, the French forces won the battle but it came to symbolize the immense destructiveness and human cost of war.
Read the whole story here: Trenches, mud and death: One Ukrainian battlefield looks like something out of World War I
— Holly Ellyatt