Boris Johnson says Putin threatened him with missile strike in pre-call; Berlin rules out fighter jets for Kyiv

This was CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine on Jan.30,2023. See here for the latest updates. 

Ukraine is pressing its allies for faster weapons supplies as intense fighting continues in the eastern Donetsk region.

Following a weekend of attacks on the cities of Kharkiv and Kherson and ongoing battles around Bakhmut in Donetsk, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday that "Russia hopes to drag out the war, to exhaust our forces. So we have to make time our weapon. We must ... speed up the supply and opening of new necessary weaponry options for Ukraine."

Ukrainian servicemen launch a drone not far from the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region on Jan. 25, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine's allies agreed last week to provide the country with heavy battle tanks, with Kyiv then pressing for fighter jets too. One Ukrainian governent advisor was reported stating Saturday that "negotiations" were taking place over the possibility of sending fighter aircraft.

Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz insisted over the weekend that fighter jets would not be provided to Ukraine, however, telling a German newspaper that "the question of combat aircraft does not arise at all," Scholz told the Tagesspiegel newspaper in an interview published Sunday.

U.S. ambassador to the UN discusses food insecurity triggered by Russia’s war during trip in Africa

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks to the media after a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the situation between Russia and Ukraine, at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., February 17, 2022.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield discussed global food insecurity triggered by Russia's war in Ukraine during a lengthy trip across Africa.

"We have to tackle this issue and every country has to do more," Thomas Greenfield said on a call with reporters following visits to Ghana, Mozambique and Kenya.

"This is about humanity and we all have to ramp up our efforts," she said, adding that the United States cannot address the challenges alone.

— Amanda Macias

Iran and Russia sign financial agreement connecting their national banks

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi greets Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 19, 2022. Putin likely wanted to show that Moscow is still important in the Middle East by visiting Iran, said John Drennan of the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Sergei Savostyanov | AFP | Getty Images

An Iranian media organization reported that Tehran and Moscow signed a financial contract on Sunday that connects their national banks via a new terminal.

The infrastructure of the banking terminal is reportedly not reliant on the West.

Nearly a year ago, the U.S., European allies and Canada agreed to remove key Russian banks from the interbank messaging system, SWIFT, an extraordinary step that severed the country from much of the global financial system.

 Iran was removed from SWIFT in 2014 following developments in it's nuclear program.

— Amanda Macias

Poland is ready to hand over F-16 fighter jets, Ukraine says

An F-16 fighter jet takes part in the NATO Air Shielding exercise near the air base in Lask, central Poland on Oct. 12, 2022.
Radoslaw Jozwiak | Afp | Getty Images

Andrii Yermak, the head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office, said via his official Telegram that Poland is ready to provide some of its F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

"Work on obtaining F-16 fighters continues. We have positive signals from Poland, which is ready to hand them over to us in coordination with NATO," Yermak said, according to an NBC News translation.

He added that "tanks and fighters are a great company for turning Russian enemies into fertilizer," he added.

Kyiv has previously called on Western nations to provide fighter jets and tanks.

— Amanda Macias

UN says more than 7,000 killed in Ukraine since start of war

An elderly man walks among the graves of unidentified people, killed during Russian occupation, who were reburied from a mass grave in the small Ukrainian town of Bucha, near Kyiv, on January 12, 2023.
Sergei Supinsky | Afp | Getty Images

The United Nations has confirmed at least 7,110 deaths and 11,547 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor nearly a year ago.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay fatality reports.

"Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects, including shelling from heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, missiles and air strikes," the international organization wrote in a release.

— Amanda Macias

Turkey favors approving Finland’s NATO bid before Sweden’s

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu arrives for a two day NATO foreign ministers meeting in Berlin, Germany May 14, 2022. 
Michele Tantussi | Reuters

Turkey could greenlight Finland's membership in NATO before that of Sweden, if the military alliance and both Nordic countries agree to it, the Turkish foreign minister said Monday.

But Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haaivisto poured cold water on that suggestion, saying it was important that Finland and Sweden join NATO at the same time.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu defined Finland's application as "less problematic" than that of Sweden. Turkey accuses Stockholm of failing to take concrete steps to crackdown on groups that Ankara considers to be terrorists. 

"In my opinion it t would be fair to differentiate between the problematic country and the less problematic country," Cavusoglu told journalists during a joint news conference with his visiting Portuguese counterpart. "We believe that if NATO and these countries take such a decision, we can evaluate (Finland's bid) separately."

— Associated Press

U.S. ambassador to Russia arrives in Moscow

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation hearing to be the next ambassador to Russia in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

President Joe Biden's ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, met with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow wrote in a release.

The release did not provide further details of the meeting between the two diplomats.

Tracy, who was tapped by Biden in September and sworn in this month, is the first woman to occupy the post of U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation.

"Ambassador Tracy begins her tenure in Moscow focused on maintaining dialogue between our capitals at a time of unprecedented tension," the release said. "She will be an advocate for the safety and fair treatment of all U.S. citizens detained in Russia."

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine says it's repelling attacks in Donetsk —  Russia says it's gaining momentum

Members of a Ukrainian artillery unit cover their ears as an M109 self-propelled artillery unit is fired at Russian mortar positions around Vuhledar from a front line position on Dec. 19, 2022 in Donetsk, Ukraine.
Chris Mcgrath | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine said it was repelling Russian attacks near the town of Marinka in Donetsk while a Russian official said his forces were gaining a foothold in the area of Vuhledar, near Marinka.

The 79th Air Assault Brigade of Mykolaiv, a paratrooper brigade based in Mykolaiv, posted on Facebook Monday that its paratroopers had "repelled the assault of the Russian army on several positions near Marinka, Donetsk region, inflicting significant losses on the enemy."

The post, accompanied by footage appearing to show munitions being dropped onto Russian solders, said "the aerial reconnaissance of the Mykolaiv paratroopers detected the enemy's movement in time and fired at them, intensively dropping munitions from drones."

"As a result, the enemy suffered losses on the approaches to our front edge," the post added.

A top Russian official in Ukraine, the acting head of the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic" (a pro-Russian separatist area of eastern Ukraine) said Monday that Russian forces "have entrenched themselves" in the eastern part of Vuhledar in Donetsk, a town around 30 minutes from Marinka.

Denis Pushilin told the Rossiya-24 news channel, in comments reported by Tass news agency, that Russian units "continue to advance" in the Vuhledar direction, saying "now we can say that units in the eastern part of Vuhledar have established themselves.

Pushilin said it was too early to make predictions about taking control of Vuhledar because, he said, Ukraine's forces "had not received an order to retreat, and ... had time to gain a foothold in the city."

CNBC was unable to verify the information in the posts. Ukraine denied that Russia had seen gains.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday the situation at the frontline in Donetsk was "very tough."

"Bakhmut, Vuhledar and other areas in the Donetsk region are under constant Russian attacks. There are constant attempts to break through our defense," he said in his nightly address.

— Holly Ellyatt

Finland says to stick with Sweden in NATO process

Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto attend a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, after signing their countries' accession protocols at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 5, 2022.
Yves Herman | Reuters

Finland is maintaining its plan to join NATO at the same time as Nordic neighbour Sweden, Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said on Monday.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan signalled on Sunday that Ankara could agree to Finland joining NATO ahead of Sweden, amid growing tensions with Stockholm, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday made similar statements.

"Our strong wish is still to join NATO together with Sweden," Haavisto told a news conference in Helsinki.

— Reuters

Erdogan suggests Turkey could accept Finland into NATO — without Sweden

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan declaring a three-month state of emergency and vowing to hunt down the "terrorist" group behind the 2016 coup attempt during a news conference following the National Security Council and cabinet meetings at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, July 20, 2016. Following the coup, a newsroom crackdown ensued and a series of trials against journalists were launched.
Adem Altan | Afp | Getty Images

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan handed another blow to Sweden's NATO bid, suggesting that his government could approve Finland's NATO membership application without its Nordic neighbor.

Finland and Sweden both formally applied to join the 73-year-old defense alliance in May of last year, reversing their long-held policy of nonalignment in the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The two have vowed to take their steps forward in tandem.

Erdogan, angry at Sweden's government for a number of reasons, is poised to make or break both countries' NATO accession plans, as each state's application requires unanimous approval from all 30 current members. Hungary is the only country besides Turkey that is yet to approve the Nordic countries' bids, which the rest of the member states want to fast-track.

"We may deliver Finland a different message [on their application], and Sweden would be shocked when they see our message. But Finland should not make the same mistake Sweden did," Erdogan said during a speech on Sunday.

Read the whole story here

Russia will soon issue new history textbooks to students

A schoolgirl looks at a computer screen showing a map of Russia including annexed Ukrainian territories in Moscow on Oct. 12, 2022.
Alexander Nemenov | Afp | Getty Images

Russia will roll out a new history textbook to high schools in the coming months, with students to be taught about the "special military operation," as Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine, according to a report by news agency Interfax

The history textbooks will cover Russia's version of events in Ukraine, including "the entry into Russia" of the Donetsk and Luhansk "People's Republics" as well as Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, four regions that Russia claimed to have annexed last September following spurious referendums.

Russian Minister of Education Sergei Kravtsov said Monday that the new textbooks are expected to be ready in March and could appear in schools from the new academic year, Interfax said, in a report translated by Google.

The history books are being created at break-neck speed as Russia looks to promote its version of events in Ukraine to students. In December, Education Minister Kravtsov said a working group would be formed in order to create "unified textbooks on the history of Russia" and world history.

Ukraine and its Western allies do not recognize Russia's illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory and see Russia's attempts to disseminate Russian culture and language in those areas and to "Russify" them as another abuse of Ukraine's sovereignty.

— Holly Ellyatt

Kremlin dismisses Boris Johnson's missile strike accusation

Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov.
Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The Kremlin dismissed Boris Johnson's claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile strike.

The former U.K. prime minister claimed in a BBC documentary that he'd had a phone call with Putin before Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Johnson said in the show that Putin "threatened me at one point, and he said, 'Boris, I don't want to hurt you but, with a missile, it would only take a minute' or something like that."

"But I think from the very relaxed tone that he was taking, the sort of air of detachment that he seemed to have, he was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate," Johnson said.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the claim as a "lie" Monday, telling reporters "What Mr. Johnson said is not true. More precisely, it is a lie," he said according to an NBC News translation of the comments.

"This may either be a deliberate lie by Mr. Johnson, and then the question arises as to the reasons for his presentation of such a version of events. Or he actually did not understand what President Putin was talking about with him. And in this case it becomes a little worrying for the interlocutors of our President," Peskov said.

"But once again I officially repeat: this is a lie, there were no threats with missiles."

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine's prime minister says Kyiv wants to join the European Union within two years

Ukraine has made no secret of its wish to join the EU and has already applied to join the bloc.
Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Kyiv wants to join the European Union within two years, setting a very ambitious timetable for joining the bloc.

Speaking to Politico, Shmyhal said "we have a very ambitious plan to join the European Union within the next two years ... So we expect that this year, in 2023, we can already have this pre-entry stage of negotiations," he said.

Ukraine has made no secret of its wish to join the EU and has already applied to join the bloc. It is not the only candidate country. Others, such as North Macedonia and Montenegro have waited over ten years for any progress in their own respective membership applications. French President Emmanuel Macron has said EU membership for Ukraine is likely to be a process that will take "decades."

EU commissioners are heading to Kyiv on Friday to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Politco noted that their task will likely be "managing expectations" regarding such a tight timetable for entry into the EU.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia warns United States: the end of nuclear arms control may be nigh

Russia told the United States on Monday that the last remaining pillar of bilateral nuclear arms control could expire in 2026 without a replacement due to what it said were U.S. efforts to inflict "strategic defeat" on Moscow in Ukraine.

Both Russia and the United States still have vast arsenals of nuclear weapons which are currently partially limited by the 2011 New START Treaty, which in 2021 was extended until 2026.

What comes after Feb. 4, 2026, however, is unclear, though Washington has indicated it wants to reach a follow-on agreement with Russia.

Asked if Moscow could envisage there being no nuclear arms control treaty after 2026, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the RIA state new agency: "This is quite a possible scenario."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov says the risk of direct clashes between Moscow and Washington have increased after the U.S. decision to supply more advanced rocket systems to Ukraine.
Fabrice Coffrini | Afp | Getty Images

Ryabkov, Russia's top arms control diplomat, said the United States had in recent years ignored Russia's interests and dismantled most of the architecture of arms control.

"New START may well fall victim to this," Ryabkov told RIA. "We are ready for such a scenario."

His remarks constitute a warning to Washington that its continued military support for Ukraine could scupper the final major post-Cold War bilateral arms control treaty with Russia.

The United States has supplied more than $27 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24, including over 1,600 Stinger anti-aircraft rocket systems, 8,500 Javelin anti-tank missile systems and over 1 million 155mm artillery rounds.

"The entire situation in the sphere of security, including arms control, has been held hostage by the U.S. line of inflicting strategic defeat on Russia," Ryabkov said.

"We will resist this in the strongest possible way using all the methods and means at our disposal."

— Reuters

Boris Johnson claims Putin threatened him with a missile attack

Russia welcomed Boris Johnson's departure from office.
Justin Tallis | Afp | Getty Images

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to threaten him with a missile strike in what he described as an "extraordinary" phone call before Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In an excerpt of a BBC documentary called "Putin vs the West," Johnson says he spoke to Putin in February 2022, shortly before Russia's invasion of Ukraine. During that call, he said he told Putin that war would be an "utter catastrophe" and would entail sanctions on Moscow and likely more NATO troops on Russia's borders.

Johnson said that after making those points during the call, in which he said Putin had been "very familiar," Putin appeared to threaten him.

"He threatened me at one point, and he said, 'Boris, I don't want to hurt you but, with a missile, it would only take a minute' or something like that," Johnson said in the documentary, the BBC reported.

"But I think from the very relaxed tone that he was taking, the sort of air of detachment that he seemed to have, he was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate."

It's impossible to ascertain whether Putin was serious in his comment but relations between the U.K. and Russia were already strained before the war, particularly after a Russian nerve agent attack carried out in the U.K. in 2018. The U.K.'s staunch support of Kyiv has heightened tensions.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia keeping options open over further mobilization, UK says

Russian authorities are likely keeping open the option of another round of call-ups under its "partial mobilisation" program, according to Britain's Ministry of Defense.

In an intelligence update on Twitter, the ministry cited media reports last week suggesting Russian border guards were preventing dual passport-holding Kyrgyz migrant workers from leaving Russia, telling the men that their names were on mobilization lists.

Russian citizens drafted during the partial mobilization being dispatched to combat coordination areas after a military call-up for the Russia-Ukraine war in Moscow, Russia, on Oct. 10, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Separately, on Jan. 23, the ministry noted that Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the decree on the partial mobilization, announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin last September, "continues to remain in force, claiming the decree remained necessary for supporting the work of the Armed Forces."

"Observers had questioned why the measure had not been formally rescinded," the British ministry stated, adding that "the Russian leadership highly likely continues to search for ways to meet the high number of personnel required to resource any future major offensive in Ukraine, while minimising domestic dissent."

There has been mounting speculation that Putin could announce another mobilization wave, given the Russian defense ministry's recent announcement that it plans to beef up its combat personnel to 1.5 million people, from a current reported level of around 1.1 million.

— Holly Ellyatt

Zelenksyy presses Western allies for faster weapons supplies

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged EU allies to deploy a 10th sanctions package against Russia
Yan Dobronosov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pressed allies for faster weapons supplies as fighting in eastern Ukraine, particularly in the Donetsk region, continues to be intense.

"The situation is very tough. Bakhmut, Vuhledar and other areas in the Donetsk region are under constant Russian attacks. There are constant attempts to break through our defense," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Sunday.

"We are doing everything to ensure that our pressure outweighs the occupiers' assault capabilities. And it is very important to maintain the dynamics of defense support from our partners," he said, adding that "the speed of supply has been and will be one of the key factors in this war."

"Russia hopes to drag out the war, to exhaust our forces. So we have to make time our weapon. We must speed up the events, speed up the supply and opening of new necessary weaponry options for Ukraine," he said.

Ukraine's allies Germany and the U.S. agreed last week to send Kyiv dozens of tanks, with other allies in Europe pledging to send their own German-made tanks as well, and the U.K. sending British tanks to Ukraine. Ukraine's ambassador to France, Vadym Omelchenko, said on Friday that 321 Western tanks are set to be delivered to Ukraine.

— Holly Ellyatt

Germany's Scholz adamant Berlin will not send fighter jets to Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin on Jan. 25, 2023.
Fabrizio Bensch | Reuters

Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz insisted at the weekend that fighter jets would not be provided to Ukraine, telling a German newspaper that there should not be a "bidding war" over weaponry and that Germany "will not allow a war between Russia and NATO."

Scholz reiterated Germany's objections to sending fighter jets to Ukraine, telling the Tagesspiegel newspaper Sunday that there is no question of doing so.

"The question of combat aircraft does not arise at all," Scholz said, according to Politico's translation of the original story.

"I can only advise against entering into a constant competition to outbid each other when it comes to weapons systems," he added.

Germany last week agreed to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine after months of resisting pressure to do so. Berlin also said it would allow other allies to send their own German-made tanks to Kyiv. The U.S. also agreed to send a number of M1 Abrams tanks.

A Belgian F-16 jet fighter takes part in the NATO Air Nuclear drill "Steadfast Noon" at the Kleine-Brogel air base in Belgium on Oct. 18, 2022.
Kenzo Tribouillard | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine expressed gratitude for the decision to send tanks but immediately said it needed more firepower to counter Russia's invasion, asking for fighter jets from its allies. One defense ministry advisor told CNBC he was sure Kyiv would receive F-16 fighter jets from its allies and that there should be no delay over the decision, as there was over tanks.

Over the weekend, another Ukrainian official said negotiations over the possible sending of attack aircraft to Ukraine were "ongoing."

"Our partners understand how the war develops. They understand that attack aircraft are absolutely necessary to cover the manpower and armoured vehicles that they give us," advisor to the head of the Office of the President Mykhailo Podolyak told the Freedom TV channel Saturday.

"In the same way, in order to drastically reduce the key tool of the Russian army - artillery, we need missiles. That's why negotiations are already underway, negotiations are accelerating," Podolyak said in comments translated by NBC News.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukrainian tank crews arrive in UK to begin training on Challenger 2s

A Challenger 2 main battle tank on display for The Royal Tank Regiment Regimental Parade, on Sept. 24, 2022, in Bulford, England.
Finnbarr Webster | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukrainian tank crews arrived in the U.K. over the weekend to begin training on Challenger 2 tanks that Britain has provided to the country.

The U.K. said it would provide 14 tanks earlier in January, ahead of the U.S. and Germany announcing last week that they too would provide tanks.

Tank crews will be trained to both operate and maintain the tanks, which will be delivered to Ukraine by March.

— Holly Ellyatt