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U.S. approves $400 million military package for Ukraine; Wagner leader claims Bakhmut 'practically surrounded'

This is CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine. See below for the latest updates. 

Ministers of the Group of 20 nations continue to discuss the war in Ukraine, with Western countries and their allies issuing condemnations of Russia and urging other countries to follow suit.

India is one of the key allies of the U.S. that has consistently refrained from outright condemning Russia, but joined the U.S., Australia and Japan in calling Russia President Vladimir Putin's nuclear threats unacceptable. A senior Russian diplomat at the United Nations warned that increasing Western support for Ukraine could result in an open clash between nuclear powers.

Meanwhile, military strategists are increasingly doubtful of Ukrainian success in the bloody fight for the eastern city of Bakhmut, which is now completely destroyed. Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin claim Russian forces have "practically surrounded" Bakhmut.

'We're pushing,' Biden says of efforts to release former Marine Paul Whelan

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is being held on suspicion of spying, in the courtroom cage after a ruling regarding extension of his detention, in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 22, 2019.
Shamil Zhumatov | Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden said his administration is "pushing" to get former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan released from Russian custody. The quick comments from Biden came before he boarded Marine One on the White House South Lawn.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that the United States put forward a "serious proposal" for Whelan's release.

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

'Destabilization, mass migration and famine across the globe,' if the Black Sea Grain Initiative deal expires, former WFP chief says

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, Turkiye on January 24, 2023.
TUR Ministry of National Defence | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

In less than 20 days, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a United Nations-backed deal aimed at easing Russia's naval blockade and reopening three key Ukrainian ports, is set to expire.

"The Black Sea Grain Initiative must be renewed at all costs. It's absolutely critical if we're going to stop the global food crisis we're already facing from spinning out of control," former World Food Program executive director David Beasley told CNBC.

Beasley, who ran the World Food Program for six years before stepping down yesterday, said the globe will see "mass migration and famine" if the deal is not renewed.

"Ukraine is a breadbasket for the world which normally feeds 400 million people, while WFP has reached 36 million people with the food we've procured under the initiative," Beasley told CNBC.

"Just imagine what will happen if these supplies are cut off later this month – we'll see destabilization, mass migration and famine across the globe. World leaders must keep this vital initiative alive," he added.

— Amanda Macias

Biden and Scholz reaffirm support for Ukraine during White House visit

US President Joe Biden meets with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 3, 2023.
Andrew Caballero-reynolds | Afp | Getty Images

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz thanked U.S. President Joe Biden for his leadership on Ukraine during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office.

"I think it is very important that we give the message that we will continue to do [working together to support Ukraine] so as long as it takes and as long as necessary," Scholz said sitting next to Biden.

Biden commended Scholz for Germany's move away from Russian energy sources while increasing defense spending.

"I would argue that beyond your military support, the moral support you gave to Ukrainians has been profound," Biden said of his German counterpart.

"You've driven historic changes at home and you know, increasing defense spending and diversifying away from Russian energy sources I know that's not been easy and very difficult for you," Biden said.

— Amanda Macias

Ambassador Cindy McCain welcomes new appointment to lead the World Food Program

Cindy McCain speaks onstage during the U.S.VETS Salute Gala on November 05, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
FilmMagic | Getty Images

Ambassador Cindy McCain welcomed her appointment as the new executive director of the United Nations World Food Program.

"WFP has been a part of my life for decades, from my time as a humanitarian to today as the U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome," McCain wrote in a statement.

"I am ready to roll up my sleeves and spend time both in Rome and in the field, deepening my understanding of WFP's vital work, and making sure it continues to grow to meet the needs of a hungry world," she added.

McCain succeeds David Beasley, a former Republican governor of South Carolina, who held the role for six years. McCain is currently the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome.

"The road ahead is daunting, and hunger is on the rise. However, I'm sure of one thing – when we come together as one world, we can save lives," she said.

— Amanda Macias

AG Garland makes a surprise trip to Ukraine to discuss Russian crimes with Zelenskyy and international attorneys general and prosecutors general

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and ICC Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan QC meet, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 28, 2023.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a meeting with several international attorneys general and prosecutors general to discuss "bringing to justice those guilty of the crime of aggression."

"True justice is when all the people who are guilty are brought to justice according to the law. It is very important," Zelenskyy said, according to a readout from his office.

"We need justice, we need a tribunal to see all the guilty people behind bars," he added.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland was among the international lawyers in attendance, a Justice Department official confirmed to NBC News. Garland joined "at the invitation of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General to join President Zelenskyy and international partners," the official said.

Garland held several meetings and "reaffirmed our determination to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed in its unjust and unprovoked invasion against its sovereign neighbor," the official added.

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan, Head of the European Public Prosecutor Office Laura Kovesi and UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten also attended the meeting.

— Amanda Macias

Blinken announces 33rd security package worth $400 million for Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference on the sidelines of the Group of 20 foreign ministers' meeting in New Delhi on March 2, 2023.
Olivier Douliery | Afp | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new security assistance package for Ukraine worth $400 million.

The aid, the 33rd such installment, includes more ammunition for U.S.-provided HIMARS and howitzers, as well as ammunition for Bradley fighting vehicles and demolitions munitions and equipment.

"Russia alone could end its war today. Until Russia does so, for as long as it takes, we will stand united with Ukraine and strengthen its military on the battlefield so that Ukraine will be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table," Blinken wrote in a statement.

— Amanda Macias

Two U.S. citizens arrested for illegally exporting technology to Russia

A view of Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed at night in Moscow, Russia on October 27, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

U.S. agents arrested two Americans on Thursday for allegedly running a scheme to illegally export aviation technology to Russia.

Prosecutors said Cyril Gregory Buyanovsky, 59, and Douglas Robertson, 55, both of Kansas, owned and operated KanRus Trading Co. They circumvented U.S. export laws by supplying electronics and other aviation equipment used in Russian aircraft, prosecutors said.

"Since 2020, the defendants conspired to evade U.S. export laws by concealing and misstating the true end users, value and end destinations of their exports and by transshipping items through third-party countries," the Department of Justice wrote in a release.

"As further alleged, on Feb. 28, 2022, the defendants attempted to export avionics to Russia," the statement added.

— Amanda Macias

Germany's Scholz arrives in Washington for meeting with Biden

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden and was welcomed by German Ambassador to the U.S. Emily Haber.

During the two-day visit, Biden and Scholz will discuss Western support for Kyiv and measures against Russia. There will not be a state dinner nor a bilateral press conference.

— Amanda Macias

Russia to take preventive measures after alleged Bryansk attack

Russia will take steps to prevent further offensives in the border area of Bryansk, a day after accusing Ukraine-backed saboteurs of a "terrorist attack" in the region.

The incursion will be investigated and "measures will be taken to prevent this in the future," Kremlin spokersperson Dmitry Peskov said, according to a Google translation of comments carried by Russian state news agency Tass on Telegram.

Ukraine has distanced itself from the alleged incident, with Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser to the head of the Ukrainian President's Office, calling it a "classic deliberate provocation," while Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate spokesperson Andriy Yusov said Russian opponents of the Moscow administration had authored the attack.

Ruxandra Iordache

Wagner leader claims Russian forces have 'practically surrounded' Bakhmut

Russian forces have practically surrounded the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, according to Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russian paramilitary group Wagner.

"The divisions of the Wagner PMC practically surrounded Bakhmut, there was only one road left," Prigozhin said in a Telegram video, according to a Google translation of a report from Russian state news agency Tass. Reuters geolocated Prigozhin's footage to the village of Paraskoviika, 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) north of the center of Bakhmut.

Wagner forces have led Russia's offensive in eastern Ukraine for months. Russia, which regards Bakhmut as a strategic key point to cut Ukrainian supply lines in Donetsk, has previously claimed that it had nearly encircled the city.

Ukrainian member of parliament Serhiy Rakhmanin said Wednesday that: "I believe that sooner or later, we will probably have to leave Bakhmut. There is no sense in holding it at any cost."

Ruxandra Iordache

There's a 'big divide' on Ukraine at the G-20, EU's Borrell says

There was a "big divide" in opinions about the Ukraine war at the G-20 foreign affairs meeting, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said Friday.

He also stressed that the West needs to be "vigilant" on China's support for Russia.

"There is a big divide, and Russia will continue the war," he told CNBC's Tanvir Gill in India.

"China has always told us that they are not providing arms to Russia, and they do not plan to do it, very much explicitly," he added. "But, certainly we have to remain vigilant."

The West needs to be vigilant on China support for Russia, EU says
VIDEO5:4605:46
The West needs to be vigilant on China support for Russia, EU says

— Katrina Bishop and Silvia Amaro

Quad members call Putin's nuclear threats unacceptable

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a meeting of the Federal Security Service collegium in Moscow on Feb. 28, 2023.
Gavriil Grigorov | Sputnik | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin's nuclear threats are not acceptable, foreign ministers of the "Quad" group the U.S., Japan, Australia and India said in a joint statement on Friday during the Group of 20 meeting of ministers in India.

"We continued to discuss our responses to the conflict in Ukraine and the immense human suffering it is causing, and concurred that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible," the statement said.

The statement was a rare point of consensus between the U.S. and India on the Ukraine war. India's government has so far refused to outright condemn Russia for the war. Moscow is a longtime ally and important trade partner to India.

— Natasha Turak


Russia cannot be allowed impunity for the war, Blinken says

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference on the sidelines of the Group of 20 foreign ministers' meeting in New Delhi on March 2, 2023.
Olivier Douliery | Afp | Getty Images

Russia has to be punished for its war in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after a meeting in New Delhi with foreign ministers of the "Quad" group, whose members are the United States, India, Japan and Australia.

"If we allow with impunity Russia to do what it's doing in Ukraine, then that's a message to would-be aggressors everywhere that they may be able to get away with it too," Blinken said, speaking to a forum.

The meeting with Quad members came during the Group of 20 meeting in India of the world's top 20 economies, where the war in Ukraine dominated discussions. Western officials urged other countries present to keep pressuring Russia, but a joint communique from the meeting condemning Russia's war could not be agreed because of opposition from Moscow and Beijing. The Kremlin still calls the war its "special military operation."

— Natasha Turak

Russian envoy says nuclear powers may clash over Ukraine

A senior Russian diplomat warned that increasing Western support for Ukraine could trigger an open conflict between nuclear powers.

Speaking at the U.N. conference on disarmament, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov denounced the U.S. and its allies for openly declaring the goal of defeating Russia in a "hybrid" war, arguing that it violates their obligations under international agreements and is fraught with the war in Ukraine spilling out of control.

Ryabkov warned that "the U.S. and NATO policy of fueling the conflict in Ukraine" and their "increasing involvement in the military confrontation is fraught with a direct military clash of nuclear powers with catastrophic consequences."

He emphasized that Russian President Vladimir Putin's move to suspend the 2010 New START treaty, the last remaining nuclear arms pact with the U.S. came in response to the U.S. and NATO action on Ukraine.

— Associated Press

China has not yet provided Russia with weapons for the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, White House says

John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, answers questions during the daily press briefing at the White House on March 2, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Win Mcnamee | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The White House said it has not yet seen China supply Russia with weapons for the war in Ukraine.

"We haven't seen the Chinese make a decision to move in that direction," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said when asked about any potential weapons transfers.

"Ultimately it's their choice to make," Kirby added, declining to elaborate on potential U.S. retaliatory actions.

— Amanda Macias

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