Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of plots and provocations ahead of war anniversary

This has been CNBC's live blog covering updates on the war in Ukraine. [Follow the latest updates here.]

The first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine is coming up on Friday and we've seen geopolitical tensions ramp up this week in the lead-up to the event.

Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden have made high-profile speeches this week in which they criticized each other's countries and traded barbs over the conflict.

Putin blamed the West for the war in Ukraine during a State of the Union speech Tuesday, and at another pro-war event on Wednesday, the president led the crowd in chants of "Russia!" saying the country was fighting for its "historical lands" in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a patriotic concert dedicated to the upcoming Defender of the Fatherland Day at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on February 22, 2023.
Maksim Blinov | Afp | Getty Images

Meanwhile Biden, during a trip to Europe this week, reaffirmed his commitment to Ukraine and said Moscow would "never" win the war. He also called Russia's decision to suspend its participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the U.S. — a pact that limits the two sides' strategic nuclear arsenals — a "big mistake."

While severing ties further with the West, Putin looked to deepen ties with China on Wednesday as he welcomed one of Beijing's top diplomats to Moscow. Russia's courting of China comes ahead of an expected visit by President Xi Jinping to Russia this spring.

Both Russia and Ukraine face an ammunition shortage, Eurasia Group chairman says

China is likely to offer a peace plan for Russia and Ukraine, consultancy says
China is likely to offer a peace plan for Russia and Ukraine, consultancy says

The Russia-Ukraine war is characterized by an ammunition shortage, Eurasia Group chairman Cliff Kupchan told CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia."

China providing Russia with the ammunition it lacks could "swing ... the war in Russia's favor," said Kupchan. "That's one of the reasons I'm so concerned and focused on China right now," he added.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government's "main concern" is getting more ammunition to the Ukrainians, who are running out, said Kupchan.

"I don't think either side has a structural advantage, in that they're both hurting pretty bad," he said.

It is also unlikely that Putin will invade Poland, said Kupchan. Putin "can't get a straight yes out" that Ukraine is a sovereign, independent country, he added.

"I don't think that he thinks of any other country like he thinks about Ukraine."

— Audrey Wan

China reiterates call for cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia

China reiterated its call for peace talks and a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine

"All parties should support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible, so as to gradually deescalate the situation and ultimately reach a comprehensive ceasefire," China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

China added that it supports the International Atomic Energy Agency in playing a "constructive role in promoting the safety and security of peaceful nuclear facilities."

China said the international community should "help parties to the conflict open the door to a political settlement as soon as possible, and create conditions and platforms for the resumption of negotiation." It added it is ready to "play a constructive role in this regard"

— Jihye Lee

U.S. Embassy in Kyiv issues warnings ahead of one-year anniversary of Russia's war

A picture shows a view of the US embassy in Kyiv on May 18, 2022. There is an American military officer in Ukraine as part of the U.S. embassy's defense attache, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said, but the stance that U.S. troops will not be fighting in the Ukraine war has not changed.
Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

The State Department warned U.S. citizens of a higher threat of missile attacks across Ukraine on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Russia's war.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv urges U.S. citizens to "observe air alarms, shelter appropriately, follow guidance from local authorities" and take other safety precautions.

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine's Zelenskyy says a meeting with China is 'desirable'

"Over 20 Iranian murderous drones, plus missiles, numerous shelling occasions, and that's just in one last night of Russian terror against Ukraine," Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Twitter Wednesday.
Julien De Rosa | Pool | Reuters

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had not yet seen a Chinese plan for ending Russia's war on Ukraine but that he would welcome talks with Beijing.

China, a close Russian ally, has said it will set out its position on settling the Ukraine conflict through political means in a document that will take into account territorial integrity, sovereignty and security concerns.

Asked about prospects for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Zelenskyy told a news briefing in Kyiv: "We would like to meet with China."

"This is in the interests of Ukraine today," he told the joint briefing with visiting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

— Reuters

Russia agrees to give mercenary group more ammunition after row, Wagner boss says

A repainted mural depicting the logo of Russia's Wagner Group on a wall in Belgrade, Serbia, on Jan. 19, 2023.
Darko Vojinovic | AP

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia's Wagner Group mercenary force, said that much-needed ammunition for his troops had been dispatched, after a public row in which he accused the military leadership of treason.

Prigozhin had on Wednesday published a grisly image of dozens of men who he said had been killed because commanders including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov had withheld ammunition to spite him. Neither man commented but the ministry rejected the charge.

In an audio clip, Prigozhin said he felt the pressure he and others had put on the defense ministry had paid off, and that he had been told ammunition was now on its way.

Wagner has spearheaded Russia's months-old battle for the small city of Bakhmut in Ukraine's Donetsk region — a fact he has advertised loudly — and has helped Moscow make small but steady gains.

— Reuters

G-7 leaders will hold virtual meeting with Zelenskyy to discuss additional supportive measures and sanctions

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters on the situation in Ukraine before a meeting with his Infrastructure Implementation Task Force, in the Cabinet Room at the White House, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2022.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

President Joe Biden and other G-7 leaders will meet virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss additional ways to support Ukraine.

"The G7 has become the anchor of our strong and united response to Russia. Tomorrow the leaders will discuss how we continue supporting Ukraine and continue to increase pressure on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and all those who enable his aggression," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a daily news briefing.

"Among other announcements, the United States will implement sweeping sanctions against key sectors that generate revenue for Putin. Go after more Russian banks, Russia's defense and technology industry and actors in the third-party countries that are attempting to backfill and evade our sanctions," she added.

Jean-Pierre also said the Biden administration will announce new energy and security assistance to help the Ukrainian government provide electricity and heat throughout the country.

— Amanda Macias

EU fails again to agree to new Russia sanctions, talks to resume Friday

A national flags of Ukraine an EU flags outside the Town Hall in Lille, France, on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

European Union countries failed to agree on a new set of sanctions against Russia that they had planned to have in place for the one-year anniversary of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine on Friday, diplomatic sources told Reuters.

The 27 EU countries need to agree unanimously to introduce sanctions. The sources said Poland was blocking the package over proposed exemptions to a ban on EU imports of Russian synthetic rubber.

Polish diplomats said the exemptions were so big they would render the sanctions ineffective. Other sources said the exemptions were proposed to accommodate Italy, backed by Germany.

Representatives of the member states were due to meet again at 4:00 p.m. EST on Friday, the day Russia invaded Ukraine last year, to try seal a deal, according to the sources.

— Reuters

Ukraine will propose a one-year extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the reopening of an additional port

Ships, including those carrying grain from Ukraine and awaiting inspections, are seen anchored off the Istanbul coastline on November 02, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Chris Mcgrath | Getty Images

Ukraine will propose to Turkey and the United Nations the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative to include the Mykolaiv seaport. 

Deputy Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Yuriy Vaskov said that by blocking Ukrainian ports, Russia violates international conventions on shipping. He called on the international community to intervene and restore Ukrainian ships' access to the sea.

In addition, Vaskov said that Ukraine will insist on increasing the number of inspection teams to eliminate the backlog of vessels that are awaiting inspection. Ukraine has previously blamed Russia for creating a backlog of ships.

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.

So far, more than 700 ships have sailed from Ukrainian ports.

— Amanda Macias

Key G-7 financial officials pledge 'unwavering support' to Ukraine on eve of one-year invasion anniversary

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a working session of G-7 leaders via video link, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv,on June 27, 2022.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the G-7 countries reaffirmed their "unwavering support of Ukraine" and "unity in our condemnation of Russia's war of aggression" in a joint statement released on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of its neighbor

"We remain determined to foster international cooperation to uphold multilateralism and address the global economic hardships caused by Russia's war and its weaponization of food and energy, which are disproportionately felt by low-and middle-income countries," the statement said.

The leaders are in India for the G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors ministerial meeting on Friday and Saturday.They have increased their budget commitment to the Ukrainian government to $39 billion for 2023 "based on the Government of Ukraine's needs," according to the statement.

The group also acknowledged contributions from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group in supporting Ukraine's economic recovery. The statement further praises the effectiveness of sanctions against Russia and the price caps on Russian oil products in depleting the Russian economy.

"We reject Russia's false narrative about the spillover effects of the sanctions on food and energy security. We reaffirm that our sanction measures targeting Russia are intended not to contribute to energy and food insecurity, while these measures are tailored to reduce Russia's ability to reap windfall profits from changes in global oil prices," the statement reads.

— Chelsey Cox

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says Putin's invasion of Ukraine has failed

Janet Yellen, US Treasury secretary, speaks during a news conference at the Group of 20 (G-20) finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Bengaluru, India, on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.
Samyukta Lakshmi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin's brutal, year-long invasion of Ukraine has failed, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

"One year later, Putin's war has been a strategic failure for the Kremlin. Ukraine still stands. And NATO and our global coalition stand united behind it," Yellen said during a press conference in Bengaluru, India, where she is participating in a bilateral meeting with Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The Treasury chief also praised Ukraine's resistance against the Russian military and reiterated the U.S. government's financial commitment to aid Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in defending the country.

"Our military assistance includes key defensive weapons that Ukraine has asked for – such as the Patriot missile defense system," Yellen said. "And our economic assistance is making Ukraine's resistance possible by supporting the home front: funding critical public services and helping keep the government running. In the coming months, we expect to provide around $10 billion in additional economic support for Ukraine."

The U.S. has already given over $46 billion in security, economic, and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, Yellen said.

—Chelsey Cox

Stoltenberg sees progress in Sweden's NATO bid, talks to resume in March

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference following a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 16, 2022. 
Yves Herman | Reuters

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he saw progress in stalled talks with Turkey on Sweden's membership bid and aimed to have both Sweden and Finland join the alliance by the time of its July summit.

Stoltenberg told Reuters he and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had agreed that Turkey, Finland and Sweden would meet at NATO headquarters mid-March "to address the challenges we face when it comes to Turkish ratification of the Swedish accession protocol."

Stoltenberg, who met Erdogan last week in Ankara, sounded more upbeat on the topic than in past months.

"I see progress," he said in an interview. "My aim is to have both Finland and Sweden as full members by the NATO summit," due to take place in Lithuania from July 11-12.

— Reuters

German energy boss warns: Don’t let guard down on gas supply

The temperature outside Klaus Mueller's office almost resembles spring, exactly the kind of mild weather that helped Germany get through the winter without Russian natural gas.

But Germany's chief utility regulator is not ready to sound the all clear on an energy crisis spawned by the war in Ukraine, even with natural gas reserves abundant and prices well down from their peak.

Too much could go wrong — especially if consumers and companies grow weary of the conservation habits they learned during a winter fraught with fear of rolling blackouts and rationing, Mueller, head of the Federal Network Agency, said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press.

Plus, there's next winter to think about.

Other risks, such as a pipeline accident or a sudden cold snap, could set back plans to keep natural gas storage as full as possible as Europe learns to live without the cheap Russian gas that fueled its economy for decades.

— Associated Press

Two ships leave Ukrainian ports under Black Sea Grain Initiative

A team inspects the produce in the ship carrying wheat from Ukraine to Afghanistan after inspection in the open sea around Zeytinburnu district of Istanbul, Turkey, on Jan. 24, 2023.
TUR Ministry of National Defence | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Two vessels carrying about 96,895 metric tons of grain and other food products have left Ukrainian ports, the organization overseeing the export of agriculture from the country said.

The ships are destined for Italy and Portugal and are carrying corn.

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.

So far, more than 700 ships have sailed from Ukrainian ports.

— Amanda Macias

Ukrainian Railways CEO shares the story behind 'Rail Force One,' the train that ferried Biden to Kyiv

US President Joe Biden sits on a train with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan after a surprise visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in Kyiv on February 20, 2023. (Photo by Evan Vucci / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EVAN VUCCI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Evan Vucci | Afp | Getty Images

Ukrainian Railways CEO Alexander Kamyshin shared the story behind U.S. President Joe Biden's secret trip to Kyiv.

In a Twitter thread, Kamyshin described the project as "complicated" but added that it "was an honor and a privilege for me and the whole Iron Team to deal with this visit."

Kamyshin also dubbed the train that Biden traveled in "Rail Force One" to play off of the transportation typically used by U.S. presidents.

— Amanda Macias

Western Europe should supply weapons to Ukraine faster, Polish PM says

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, along with leaders from Belgium, Italy and Greece, will propose a plan for a 'gas price corridor' across Europe in an attempt to bring down soaring prices.
Thierry Monasse / Contributor / Getty Images

Western European countries should be faster and more generous in supplying Ukraine with weapons, Polish Premier Mateusz Morawiecki said in Copenhagen after meeting Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen.

"I would like them to be exactly like Denmark and Poland. A longer version is to be more generous in terms of weapon delivery and more quick," Morawiecki told reporters.

— Reuters

Protestors paint giant Ukrainian flag outside Russian embassy in London

Activists from political campaign group Led By Donkeys poured paint onto the road to create a giant Ukrainian flag outside the Russian Embassy on February 23, 2023 in London, England. The group created the flag using washable paint poured onto the road and then driven through by passing vehicles.
Handout | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Demonstrators have painted the Ukrainian flag on the road outside the Russian embassy in London on Thursday ahead of the first anniversary of the war Friday.

The protest was purportedly carried out by campaign group Led By Donkeys, which said on Twitter Thursday:

"Tomorrow is the first anniversary of Putin's imperialist invasion of Ukraine, an independent state and a people with every right to self-determination. The existence of a massive Ukrainian flag outside his embassy in London will serve to remind him of that."

— Holly Ellyatt

Hungary to start debating NATO accession of Sweden, Finland next week

The flooded Danube river is seen in front of the Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2007. The river is expected to reach its peak level in the Hungarian capital Wednesday. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)
Photo: AP

The Hungarian parliament will begin debating the NATO accession of Sweden and Finland next week, according to its provisional schedule.

It shows that Hungary's parliament could vote on the issue during the week of Mar. 6. Hungary and Turkey are the only two NATO members that have so far withheld their approvals to integrate the Nordic countries into the military alliance.

Finland and Sweden jointly applied to enter the coalition in May, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine forced a departure from their long-standing policy of military non-alignment. Ankara objects in particular to the bid of Sweden, whom it accuses of harboring alleged members of the Kurdish Workers' Party, which both countries designate as a terrorist organization.

Ongoing delays have raised questions over whether Sweden and Finland's application processes will be delinked. But Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billström told CNBC earlier this week that Stockholm and Helsinki's admission into NATO was "just a matter of time."

Ruxandra Iordache

'Russia has chosen the path of the murderer,' Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via video link to the 2023 Munich Security Conference (MSC) on February 17, 2023 in Munich, Germany.
Johannes Simon | Getty Images

On the eve of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has condemned Russia's ongoing aggression.

"Russia has chosen the path of the murderer. The path of the terrorist. The path of the torturer. The path of the looter. This is the state choice of Russia, and there will be state responsibility for the terror committed," Zelenskyy said on Telegram in a post accompanied with images of the war.

"Dozens, hundreds of thousands of photos that leave deep scars in your heart and soul. They remind us of the path we have gone from February to February. It must be in our DNA," the president added.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine would prevail and would "hold to account all those who brought this evil, this war to our land."

Ukraine has accused Russia of committing multiple war crimes, from launching missile strikes on civilian infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals, to the use of torture on prisoners of war and civilians. Russia has denied targeting civilians during the war, despite multiple instances of civilian infrastructure, including residential buildings, being struck by Russian missiles, and has also accused Ukraine of committing war crimes, including the execution of prisoners of war, which Ukraine denies.

UN-appointed independent human rights investigators said that war crimes have indeed been committed in the conflict. It said last September, after an initial inquiry, that while Ukrainian forces were responsible for some human rights violations, a larger number of instances that amount to war crimes had been carried out by Russian forces.

— Holly Ellyatt

China says U.S. intelligence on giving weapons to Russia is speculation

Chinese Premier Li Qiang said on Wednesday that China was willing to work with Russia to promote their pragmatic cooperation in various fields and take it to a "new level."
Mladen Antonov | AFP | Getty Images

China's Foreign Ministry said any potential intelligence on arms transfer by China to Russia that the United States plans to release is just speculation, its spokesman said on Thursday.

"As for the so-called intel, this is just speculation and smearing against China," Wang Wenbin said at a regular briefing.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that the U.S. government is considering releasing intelligence on China considering supplying weapons to Russia.


Ukraine believes Russians preparing possible war anniversary 'provocations'

Ukraine's armed forces in the north of the country said Thursday that they believe Russia's forces are preparing for possible provocations on the first anniversary of their invasion.

Ukraine's North Operational Command said on Telegram today that Russian forces "are preparing possible provocations for the anniversary of the full-scale offensive, most likely, the goal is to accuse the Ukrainian defenders of violating territorial integrity," according to a Google translation of the post. 

The North Operational Command said its suspicions were "evidenced by intelligence data, which recorded the movement of columns of military equipment in the area of ​​the border with the Chernihiv region [in northern Ukraine] without identification marks and manpower dressed in a pixel [camouflage], similar to the uniform of the Armed Forces of Ukraine."

Ukrainian members of the Territorial Defense Forces take part in target practice on Feb. 22, 2023, in Chernihiv region, Ukraine.
Roman Pilipey | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The Command unit issued a later statement reiterating that its warning was about possible Russian provocations and not "about any actions that have taken place."

CNBC was unable to verify the information in the report but both sides have accused each other of preparing possible provocations and "false flag" attacks as the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine approaches on Friday.

— Holly Ellyatt

Moldova dismisses Russian report of Ukraine plot over Transdniestria

Moldova dismissed an accusation by Russia's defense ministry on Thursday that Ukraine planned to invade the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniestria after staging a false flag operation, and called for calm.

The Russian news agency RIA said Ukraine, which borders Moldova, planned to stage an attack by purportedly Russian forces from Transdniestria as a pretext for the invasion. Russia keeps troops in the breakaway region.

The TASS news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin as saying separately that the West had instructed Moldova's government in Chisinau to stop all interaction with Transdniestria's Moscow-backed authorities.

Flags of Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniestria and Russia flutter in central Tiraspol, in Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniestria May 5, 2022. 
Vladislav Bachev | Reuters

The Moldovan government issued a statement on the Telegram messaging app saying state authorities "do not confirm" the Russian defence ministry's allegations.

"We call for calm and for information to be received (by the public) from official and credible sources of the Republic of Moldova," it said. "Our institutions cooperate with foreign partners and in the case of threats to the country, the public will be promptly informed."

Moldova's foreign minister told Reuters on Wednesday that the tiny former Soviet republic, which also borders NATO member Romania, was prepared for a "full spectrum of threats" from Russia.

"Our institutions have planned for responses along the full spectrum of threats," he said. "Of course we have limited means, but at the same time we are not alone in this."

President Maia Sandu, who wants her country to join the European Union, accused Moscow this month of planning a coup to topple Moldova's leadership. Moscow denied the allegation.

The mainly Russian-speaking region broke away from then-Soviet Moldova in 1990. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, pro-Russian separatists fought a war with Moldovan government forces.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said last week it was "obvious" that Ukraine would not be Russia's last stop after invading Ukraine, and that the Kremlin was thinking about ways to "strangle" Moldova.

— Reuters

Ukraine holds resupply routes around Bakhmut despite Russia's 'creeping encirclement'

Ukrainian soldiers rest in a dugout on the front line near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region on Feb. 21, 2023.
Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images

Britain's Ministry of Defense said Thursday that heavy fighting has continued in the Bakhmut area over the past 48 hours but that Ukrainian forces "are keeping resupply routes open to the west despite Russia's creeping encirclement over the last six weeks."

Further south in the Donetsk region, the town of Vuhledar has again experienced heavy shelling, the ministry noted, adding that there is now "a realistic possibility that Russia is preparing for another offensive effort in this area despite costly failed attacks in early February and late 2022."

The ministry noted that Russia's Eastern Group of Forces likely still has responsibility for the Vuhledar operation, noting that its commander, Colonel General Rustam Muradov, "is likely under intense pressure to improve results following harsh criticism from the Russian nationalist community after previous setbacks."

The ministry added, however, it is unlikely that Muradov has a striking force capable of achieving a breakthrough.

— Holly Ellyatt

U.N. to mark one year of Ukraine war with vote to 'go down in history'

Vasily Nebenzya, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation of the United Nations, speaks during the Eleventh Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on Ukraine, at UN headquarters in New York City on February 22, 2023.
Timothy A. Clary | Afp | Getty Images

Marking one year of war, Ukraine and Russia lobbied countries at the United Nations on Wednesday for backing ahead of a vote by the 193-member General Assembly that the United States declared will "go down in history."

"We will see where the nations of the world stand on the matter of peace in Ukraine," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the General Assembly.

The General Assembly appeared set to adopt a resolution on Thursday, put forward by Ukraine and supporters, stressing "the need to reach, as soon as possible, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace" in line with the founding U.N. Charter.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denounced Russia's invasion and said the Charter was "unambiguous," citing from it: "All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."

Ukraine and its supporters hope to deepen Russia's diplomatic isolation by seeking yes votes from nearly three-quarters of the General Assembly to match - if not better - the support received for several resolutions last year.

They argue the war is a simple case of one unprovoked country illegally invading another, while Russia portrays itself as battling a "proxy war" with West, which has been arming Ukraine and imposing sanctions on Moscow since the invasion.

— Reuters

NATO chief sees 'some signs' China could back Russia’s war

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has already previewed new moves by the alliance, announcing on Monday that it would increase its rapid response force and will bolster its battlegroups in eastern Europe.
Yves Herman | Reuters

NATO's chief said that the military alliance has seen "some signs" that China may be planning to support Russia in its war in Ukraine, and strongly urged Beijing to desist from what would be a violation of international law.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also told The Associated Press in an interview that the alliance, while not a party to the war, will support Ukraine "for as long as it takes."

Asked whether NATO has any indication that China might be ready to provide arms or other support to Russia's war, Stoltenberg said:

"We have seen some signs that they may be planning for that and of course NATO allies, the United States, have been warning against it because this is something that should not happen. China should not support Russia's illegal war."

— Associated Press

Giving Ukraine fighter jets is 'difficult' because we need them, Swedish defense minister says

Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson said that giving Ukraine fighter jets is "difficult," because Sweden needs them "to maintain [its] territorial integrity."

"When I look at the Russian capabilities, they're severely downgraded when it comes to land components right now. But when it comes to assets in the air and naval assets, [they] are pretty much unchanged, so, for right now, [giving Ukraine] Gripen is in the 'too hard to do' box for me," Jonson told CNBC's Silvia Amaro, referring to the Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets.

Jonson also highlighted that Sweden is very aware of what he described as Russia's "low threshold" for the use of military force.

"[Russia] takes great political and military risk, and that's something we're cognisant about," Jonson said, as he emphasized how important it was that Ukraine wins against Russia.

"This is a war that Russia started," Jonson said. "If Russia would win this war, it would have disastrous geopolitical military and security policy consequences for Europe and Sweden as well."

"We're with Ukraine for as long as it takes," he added.

Sweden is currently in the process of applying to join the NATO military alliance, along with Finland. It is only a "matter of time" for the country to obtain its membership, the Swedish foreign minister said earlier Wednesday.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

'We have to be prepared,' Norway's foreign minister warns of nuclear risks

'We have to be prepared,' Norway's foreign minister says of nuclear risks
'We have to be prepared,' Norway's foreign minister says of nuclear risks

Norway's Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeld said Wednesday that NATO allies "have to be prepared" for rising nuclear risks, following Russia's decision to suspend its nuclear-arms treaty with the U.S.

Huitfeld told CNBC that the geopolitical situation was currently "stable" in northern Europe, but warned that Russia's nearby nuclear arsenal was a cause for concern.

"The situation in the north is stable, but we have to be prepared," she told Silvia Amaro.

"Russia has one of their largest nuclear arsenals very, very close to the Norwegian border, and they still have these capacities despite the conventional loses that we've seen at land," she said.

President Putin announced on Tuesday that Russia was suspending its participation in the New Start nuclear arms control treaty with the U.S. — a pact that limits the two sides' strategic nuclear arsenals.

Huitfeld added that the region would be "even more secure" once Sweden and Finland are ratified into the NATO military alliance.

"When that will happen, I cannot be sure. But they are delivering on everything, so they are prepared, and we are ready to support them," she said.

— Karen Gilchrist

Putin attends stadium concert to rally public support for war

People arrive for a patriotic concert dedicated to the upcoming Defender of the Fatherland Day at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on February 22, 2023.
Yuri Kadobnov | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin briefly attended a concert in Moscow Wednesday to mark the national "Defender of the Fatherland" day in Russia.

Giving a brief speech to pro-war crowds gathered in the Luzhniki arena, Putin led the audience in chants of "Russia!" and said the country was fighting in Ukraine "for lands that were historically ours," NBC News reported.

"Today, as part of a special military operation … We have gathered here for, in fact, a festive event, but I know that I was just listening to the country's top military leadership about the fact that right now there is a battle on our historical borders, for our people," Putin added, according to further comments reported by state news agency Tass.

Putin expressed his pride in Russia's forces and said each soldier was a defender of the Motherland.

— Holly Ellyatt

Moscow bullish about nuclear arms treaty suspension

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address, announcing that Moscow is suspending its nuclear arms treaty with the U.S.
Mikhail Metzel | Afp | Getty Images

Officials in Moscow appeared bullish on Wednesday about Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to suspend Russia's participation in the New Start nuclear arms treaty — the last remaining nuclear arms control pact between the U.S. and Russia that sought to limit the nuclear arsenals of both countries.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that the decision to suspend the treaty was "overdue" and that Russia's move would have "a huge resonance in the world in general and in the United States in particular."

Medvedev repeated a Russian claim that the U.S. "wants the defeat of Russia" and that the world is on the brink of a new global conflict. "If the United States wants to defeat Russia, then we have the right to defend ourselves with any weapon, including nuclear," Medvedev said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was reported in Russian media Wednesday as saying that Moscow would still be able to "fairly reliably assess" the U.S.' nuclear potential from outside of the agreement.

"There are national technical means that make it possible to fairly reliably assess what is happening. We, in addition, have accumulated experience in tracking what is happening in the United States, and not only in the United States, in this area, using other possibilities. Yes, this is not the same as information exchange within the framework of the agreement. But the situation has changed radically, so we will proceed from what is available," Ryabkov told reporters, according to Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

The New Start treaty allowed for mutual inspections of each other's nuclear weapons sites, although in practice, these have been suspended since the Covid-19 pandemic and have not resumed since the war in Ukraine began.

Ryabkov also said Russia would continue to adhere to the "central quantitative restrictions" under the treaty, saying that at this stage, Moscow considered "this sufficient from the point of view ensuring predictability and maintaining strategic stability."

Medvedev signaled, as did Moscow's Foreign Ministry in a statement on Tuesday, that Russia's suspension of the treaty is reversible but that it wants to see Washington show "political will ...for a general de-escalation and create conditions for the resumption of the full functioning" of the treaty. Russia has also said it wants to see Britain and France's nuclear arsenals counted in any future Start treaty.

— Holly Ellyatt

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