Heavy losses reported among Russian mercenaries; Kherson comes under 'massive fire'
This was CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine. See here for the latest updates.
The recently liberated city of Kherson in southern Ukraine has come under what one official described as "massive fire" on Monday. Meanwhile significant parts of Ukraine continue to struggle with power shortages after more Russian attacks on energy infrastructure at the weekend. A drone strike on Odesa left 1.5 million people without power.
Fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine remains intense. One Ukrainian official claimed over the weekend that Russian mercenaries belonging to the shady "Wagner Group," a Russian state-sanctioned private military group fighting in Ukraine, suffered heavy losses after the hotel they were using as their headquarters was hit by Ukrainian forces.
Leaders of the Group of Seven nations are meeting virtually on Monday to discuss the possibility of tougher sanctions against Russia and more assistance for Ukraine.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told CNBC Monday that the West had tried to build bridges with Russia since the end of the Cold War but any trust that was established in recent years has been destroyed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Correction: This story was updated to reflect that the head of NATO is the secretary-general.
Biden has not spoken to WNBA star Griner since she returned to the U.S.
The White House said that President Joe Biden has not yet spoken to WNBA star Brittney Griner since she was released from Russia last week.
Biden spoke to Griner from the Oval Office as she was headed to the United States following a prisoner exchange with Russia. The two-time Olympic gold medalist was serving a nine-year sentence in a Russian penal colony after she was convicted on drug charges in August.
Griner was handed over to U.S. officials in exchange for Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout.
— Amanda Macias
Biden administration official meets with Paul Whelan's family on next steps in securing his release
Biden administration officials met with the family of detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan, a State Department spokesman confirmed to NBC News.
During the meeting, U.S. officials described the next steps of their strategy to secure Whelan's release from Russia. The State Department spokesperson declined to elaborate on U.S. efforts publicly.
"As President Biden said directly to the Whelan family, and as senior officials working on this case said directly to Paul, we have not forgotten him and we will continue to pursue every avenue for his release," the State Department spokesperson said of the meeting.
Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence in Russia, was arrested in 2018 on charges of acting as a spy for the United States. At the time he was arrested, Whelan was visiting Russia to attend a wedding, according to his brother, David Whelan.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine PM requests air defenses to counter Russia attacks
Ukraine's prime minister has appealed for Patriot missile batteries and other high-tech air defense systems to counter Russian attacks that knocked out electricity and water supplies for millions of Ukrainians, putting Europe on alert to brace for more refugees.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told French broadcaster LCI that in addition to making Ukrainians suffer, Russia wants to swamp Europe with a new wave of Ukrainian refugees by continuing to strike power stations and other infrastructure.
Poland's president said his nation already has seen an increased demand to shelter refugees due to the combination of such attacks coupled with the freezing weather in Ukraine.
"The number of refugees in Poland has risen (recently) to some 3 million. That will probably also mean an increase in their numbers in Germany," Polish President Andrzej Duda said following talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin.
— Associated Press
Zelenskyy speaks with Macron about French initiatives to support Ukraine's reconstruction
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron via teleconference about French initiatives that aim to boost Ukraine and help it rebuild.
The "Solidarity of the Ukrainian people" program works to bring together international support for urgent Ukrainian needs for winter.
The "Franco-Ukrainian Conference for Resilience and Reconstruction" initiative is a coalition of 500 French companies that will work to contribute to Ukraine's reconstruction and other investments.
Macron reaffirmed French support for Ukraine "for as long as necessary to see its sovereignty and territorial integrity fully restored."
— Amanda Macias
Putin will not hold annual press conference, Kremlin says
The Kremlin said that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not hold his annual press conference this year.
The news conference, which typically last multiple hours, is one of the few opportunities for journalists outside of the Kremlin press pool to ask Putin questions.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed reports by Russian-state owned media that Putin will not hold a press conference this year. Peskov declined to give a reason for the cancellation.
— Amanda Macias
G-7 nations meet with Zelenskyy and reaffirm support for Ukraine against Russia
Group of Seven allies convened with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and reiterated their commitment to helping the country combat Russian aggression.
In a statement released after the meeting, G-7 leaders promised to support Ukraine "for as long as it takes," calling Russia's actions an "illegal, unjustifiable and unprovoked war of aggression." The group further condemned actors facilitating the war.
"There can be no impunity for war crimes and other atrocities," the statement read. "We will hold President Putin and those responsible to account in accordance with international law. We reiterate that Russia's irresponsible nuclear rhetoric is unacceptable and that any use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons would be met with severe consequences."
G-7 leaders vowed to have their finance ministers meet "shortly" to discuss how to support Ukraine financially into 2023. The leaders said the International Monetary Fund should be a central player.
The allies also reiterated they would continue to move away from purchasing Russian oil and would go ahead as planned with the plan to set a price cap on Russian oil in early February.
"Russia's war of aggression must end," the statement read. "To date, we have not seen evidence that Russia is committed to sustainable peace efforts. Russia can end this war immediately by ceasing its attacks against Ukraine and completely and unconditionally withdrawing its forces from the territory of Ukraine."
— Emma Kinery
Ukrainian and French first ladies meet in Paris
Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska said she met with the French first lady Brigitte Macron in Paris. Zelenska arrived in France on Sunday and leads a delegation that includes Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
"The First Lady of France, Brigitte Macron, is one of those whom I have the honor to call a colleague and friend. And, of course, a great friend of Ukraine," Zelenska said on her Telegram channel.
Zelenska also wrote that she accompanied Macron to a school in Paris where Ukrainian children who fled the war in Ukraine are studying.
— Amanda Macias
WHO records more than 710 attacks on vital health services in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, there have been at least 715 attacks on vital health services in the country, the World Health Organization's Surveillance System for Attacks on Health Care estimates.
The organization reports that health care facilities were damaged 630 times, ambulances were targeted in 91 cases and at least 174 attacks affected crucial medical supplies. The group also estimated that attacks on health services led to at least 100 deaths and 129 injuries.
The Kremlin has previously denied that it targets civilian infrastructure like hospitals, schools and apartment buildings.
— Amanda Macias
Four vessels depart Ukraine’s ports under Black Sea Grain Initiative
The organization overseeing the export of agricultural products said four vessels carrying wheat and vegetable oil left Ukrainian ports.
The ships are carrying corn, wheat, vegetable oil and rapeseed and are destined for Spain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands.
The amount of grain and other foodstuffs exported under the Black Sea Grain Initiative so far exceeds 13.7 million metric tons.
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 three key Ukrainian ports reopen.
The deal among the signatories is set to expire in about three months.
— Amanda Macias
Nearly 8 million Ukrainians have become refugees from Russia's war, U.N. estimates
Nearly 8 million Ukrainians have become refugees and moved to neighboring countries since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the U.N. Refugee Agency estimates.
More than 4.8 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 82 ships waiting to transport crops from Ukraine
The organization overseeing the export of Ukrainian crops said that there is a backlog of 82 vessels waiting to be loaded with cargo.
The U.N.-led Joint Coordination Center also said that 59 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 540 ships carrying 13.7 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
More than 6,700 people have died in Ukraine, United Nations says
At least 6,755 civilians have died and 10,607 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
Russia 'walked away' from relationship with the West, NATO says
The West has tried to build bridges with Russia since the end of the Cold War but any trust that was established in recent years has been destroyed, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.
"NATO strived for decades to develop a better, more constructive relationship with Russia," he told CNBC's Hadley Gamble.
"After the end of the Cold War we established institutions [like the] NATO-Russia Council, when I was prime minister of Norway I remember that President Putin attended NATO summits ... so this was a different time when we worked for a better relationship. Russia has walked away from all of this," he said.
Stoltenberg said a level of trust that had been established during a rapprochement between Western nations and Russia in recent decades had been destroyed by Moscow's decision to invade Ukraine.
"Even if the fighting ends, we will not return to some kind of normal, friendly, relationship with Russia. Trust has been destroyed," he said. "I think the war has had long-lasting consequences for the relationship with Russia."
Read more on the story here: Trust between the West and Russia has been destroyed, NATO chief says
Kherson 'under massive fire' from Russian forces, official says
Kherson city, in the partially-liberated southern region of Kherson, is coming under "massive fire," according to the head of the regional military administration there.
"Kherson is under massive fire from the Russian occupiers," Yaroslav Yanushevych said on Telegram Monday, saying Russians had attacked two neighborhoods in the city. Five people were known to have been wounded in the attacks and two people to have died, he said.
"Emergency medical aid teams, together with the Red Cross, are heading to the Ostriv district. The number of victims [there] is currently unknown," he said. CNBC was unable to verify the details within Yanushevych's post.
Yanushevych called on civilians to stay within sheltered areas if they hear the sounds of explosions.
Ukraine called on residents within Kherson to evacuate last month following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the city and the wider Kherson region to the west bank of the Dnieper river, given that Russian forces have tended to heavily bombard the settlements from which they have retreated.
— Holly Ellyatt
NATO says 'the time has now come' for Sweden and Finland to be admitted into the alliance
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that "the time now has come" for Turkey and Hungary to ratify Sweden and Finland's accession to the military alliance.
Stoltenberg told CNBC he was confident the two holdouts would join their fellow 28 member states in ratifying soon. He would not provide a specific timeline, though he said that the organization's support for the prospective members was assured.
"It's inconceivable that if Finland and Sweden were attacked or came under some kind of pressure from Russia, that NATO would not react. So I'm not saying that it doesn't matter, the last two ratifications, but we are in a totally different place," Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg added that with the two new accessions, President Putin would get "the exact opposite" of what he set out to achieve with his invasion of Ukraine: an expanded NATO presence along the Russian border.
— Karen Gilchrist
NATO's Stoltenberg says it's important to keep Ukraine weapons battle-ready
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stressed the need to ensure that the weapons the alliance has already supplied to war-torn Ukraine can be deployed in combat.
"I understand this focus on new systems, but ... [it's] as important, if not even more important to ensure that the systems which are already delivered are working as they should be," he said in a CNBC interview with Hadley Gamble. "Because there are a lot of systems which are now extremely effective, when they work, in Ukraine."
He said NATO had already provided Ukraine with weapon systems such as artillery, battle tanks and armed vehicles and needed to maintain the supply of equipment to Kyiv.
"We need to ensure that there is a steady flow of ammunition, of spare parts and maintenance capacity," Stoltenberg urged.
— Ruxandra Iordache
Ukraine says it has hit 9 Russian command posts, artillery and ammo depots
Ukraine's forces have reportedly destroyed nine Russian command posts and an additional 17 areas where there was a "build-up of manpower," one artillery cluster and two ammunition depots in the past 24 hours, according to an update from the General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces.
In its latest military update, Ukraine said it had repelled Russian attacks in several areas of Luhansk and Donetsk, where fighting has been at its most intense in recent months.
It said Russian forces had launched two missile strikes on civilian infrastructure in the industrial city of Kostiantynivka in Donetsk as well as 11 airstrikes on the positions of Ukrainian troops along the front line, "as well as more than 60 MLRS (multiple launch rocket system) attacks on the civilian infrastructure of Kherson city and the positions of Ukrainian troops."
"There is still a threat of missile and UAV strikes on the energy system and critical infrastructure objects throughout the territory of Ukraine," the General Staff warned.
It said Russian forces continued to violate international humanitarian law, claiming it was using the civilian population as human shields. Russia claims Ukraine does the same thing.
The General Staff also reported that Ukraine's air force had launched 14 strikes on areas where there was, it said, a "concentration of enemy manpower, weapons and military equipment, as well as air defense positions." CNBC was unable to verify the information within the report.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russia's McDonald's successor replacing Big Mac with 'Big Hit'
Starved of Big Macs since McDonald's closed its Russian restaurants in March, Russians will from next year be treated to an alternative from the burger chain's successor - the "Big Hit".
Vkusno & tochka, or "Tasty & that's it", on Monday said the Big Hit would be available from February and a similar product to the McDonald's Happy Meal would be making a comeback as "Kids' Combo."
McDonald's closed its Russian restaurants soon after Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February, eventually selling to a local licensee, Alexander Govor, who unveiled the new brand in June.
CEO Oleg Paroev said Vkusno & tochka had now overcome all the supply chain issues it had faced, and was growing its share in a market traditionally dominated by foreign chains. Since acquiring Russia's McDonald's restaurants, Govor has snapped up Finnish packaging company Huhtamaki's Russian business and a logistics firm, set to be renamed "Logistics & that's it".
On Monday, he said Vkusno & tochka may try to find a partner to produce children's toys for the Kids' Combo, which are currently being launched with a free book, but that his M&A appetite had been satisfied for now. Vkusno & tochka and meat producer Miratorg on Monday said they had agreed to build a factory in 2023 to supply the chain with chips and potato wedges.
Some Vkusno & tochka restaurants had to take fries off the menu earlier this year when faced with a potato shortage.
Putin’s old EU ally Viktor Orban is once again aggravating Brussels
Hungary is blocking new financial support for Ukraine as the country attempts to wrestle free its own EU funds, with nationalist leader Viktor Orban once again ruffling feathers in the heart of Brussels.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, in November proposed an 18 billion euro ($18.9 billion) package for the war-torn nation. The funds are supposed to be disbursed regularly throughout 2023. But, Hungary was the only nation among the 27 EU states to veto the plan.
Hungary Prime Minister Orban, often seen as a scourge to EU politics with once-warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, took to Twitter on Tuesday. "Today's news was all about Hungary vetoing financial assistance to Ukraine. This is fake news. Hungary is ready to give financial assistance to Ukraine, on a bilateral basis. No veto, no blackmailing," he said.
But Brussels disagrees. Some EU officials believe Budapest's vote was an attempt to force through its own EU funding. An EU official, close to the ministers' talks and who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, told CNBC: "They [Hungary] will deny it, [but] they want to create leverage and are taking two files under hostage."
Russia's strategy of bombing Ukraine 'into talking' isn't working, former ambassador says
Tony Brenton, former British Ambassador to Russia, says he doesn't think serious negotiations between Russia and Ukraine are a near-time prospect.
Russia accuses U.S. of not having 'constructive approach' to technical talks
A top official in Russia's Foreign Ministry said Monday that Moscow does not see a "constructive approach" from Washington in talks that have been held between the two sides in Istanbul in the last few days.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin was quoted by Russian state news agency Tass as saying that Istanbul is a convenient platform for talks between Russia and the U.S. but that talks have not been so fruitful.
"Istanbul is a convenient platform for such contacts. I can say that any contacts are useful, but, unfortunately, we do not see a constructive approach from the American side aimed at concrete results," Vershinin told Russian journalists.
A meeting was held between U.S. and Russian officials on Friday, Reuters reported, to discuss technical points of difference between the countries, with discussions over the issuance of visas one of the talking points.
— Holly Ellyatt
Ukraine steps up diplomacy amid fighting, power outages
The United States is prioritising efforts to boost Ukraine's air defences, President Joe Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart on Sunday, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stepped up efforts to secure international assistance over the Russian invasion that is dragging into a 10th month.
Heavy fighting in the country's east and south continued unabated, while drone and missile strikes on key power infrastructure, notably in the Black Sea port city of Odesa, kept many Ukrainians in the cold and dark.
There are no peace talks and no end in sight to the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War Two, which Moscow describes as a "special military operation" and Ukraine and its allies call an unprovoked act of aggression.
"We are constantly working with partners," Zelenskyy said after talking to Biden and the leaders of France and Turkey, adding that he expects some "important results" next week from a series of international events that will tackle the situation in Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will hold on Monday an online meeting with Group of Seven (G-7) leaders and the European Union foreign ministers will to try to agree on further sanctions on Russia and Iran and on additional aid or arms deliveries to Ukraine.
While Zelenskyy has held numerous talks with Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan since Russian forces invaded in late February, the accumulation of discussions in just one day is not a regular event.
Russia unlikely to be able to fully occupy 'annexed' parts of Ukraine, UK says
Russia's apparent war aims of "liberating" eastern Ukraine and extending control over the southern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson are likely to fail, Britain's Ministry of Defense stated Monday, with little gains expected over the winter.
"Russia is likely still aiming to extend control over all of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson Oblasts [regions]. Russian military planners likely still aim to prioritise advancing deeper into Donetsk Oblast," the defense ministry said on Twitter.
"However, Russia's strategy is currently unlikely to achieve its objectives: it is highly unlikely that the Russian military is currently able to generate an effective striking force capable of retaking these areas," the U.K. added.
"Russian ground forces are unlikely to make operationally significant advances within the next several months."
Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov rearticulated the main goals of the "special military operation" (as Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine) last week, stating that these were to fully occupy the four regions of Ukraine that Russia declared it had annexed back in September.
Peskov stated there was "a lot of work ahead" to "liberate" these territories that were "occupied" by Ukrainian forces.
— Holly Ellyatt
1.5 million people left without power in Odesa after drone strike
Energy operators are working to restore the power supply to the southern port city of Odesa after its energy network was targeted by Russian drones over the weekend.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 1.5 million people were left without power after Russia launched drones strikes on the city. The president said Ukraine had managed to shoot down 10 of 15 Iranian drones used to target Odesa.
Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Sunday that "restoration work continues in the south of our country - we are doing everything to restore the light supply to Odesa."
"As of this time, we managed to partially restore the supply in Odesa and other cities and districts of the region. We are doing everything to achieve the maximum possible after the Russian hits," he said.
He said the Odesa region is still among the regions with the largest number of energy shutdowns, and that the situation remains "very difficult" in Kyiv, the capital's surrounding region, as well as Lviv, Vinnytsia, Sumy and Dnipropetrovsk, among others.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russian mercenaries suffered 'very significant' losses in Luhansk, official says
Russian mercenaries fighting in eastern Ukraine suffered heavy losses after the hotel they were using as their headquarters was hit by Ukrainian forces this weekend, according to an official.
There were "very significant" losses after the guest house in Kadiivka in Luhansk was hit, the head of the Luhansk Military Administration Serhiy Haidai said on his Telegram account on Sunday.
Haidai claimed the hotel was being used as the headquarters of the private military force, the "Wagner Group," a state-sanctioned group founded by an ally of President Vladimir Putin.
Wagner soldiers, widely seen as mercenaries, are fighting alongside the regular Russian army in Ukraine, particularly in the east of the country, where fighting is intense as Russian forces try to occupy more of the region and Ukrainian forces try to reclaim more territory.
Haidai said Russian forces are looking to mobilize all the men in the region and that age or health is no barrier to being forcibly mobilized. CNBC was unable to immediately verify Haidai's claims.