Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy insisted his forces must win the battle for Bakhmut in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, as doubts continue over whether Ukraine should spend more manpower and resources on defending the besieged city in Donetsk.
"As always, today I was in touch with our commanders, with intelligence [officers]. It is very hard in the east — very painful," Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.
"We must destroy the enemy's military power - and we will destroy it," he said, adding that the defense of settlements big and small, such as Bilohorivka and Avdiivka or Bakhmut and Vuhledar, could determine what Ukraine's future looks like.
There are doubts over the merits of defending Bakhmut, a city said to be almost completely surrounded by Russian forces and mercenary units.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Ukraine was suffering losses among reserves it intended to use in planned counteroffensives against Russian forces, expected in late spring.
Putin rejects theory about Ukrainian role in pipeline blasts
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday dismissed as "sheer nonsense" allegations that Ukrainians could be behind the blasts that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea last year, and again pointed the finger at the U.S.
Putin spoke after The New York Times, The Washington Post and German media published stories last week citing unidentified U.S. and other officials as saying there was evidence Ukraine, or at least Ukrainians, may have been responsible. The Ukrainian government has denied involvement.
Germany's Die Zeit newspaper and German public broadcasters ARD and SWR reported that investigators believed five men and a woman used a yacht hired by a Ukrainian-owned company in Poland to carry out the attack. German federal prosecutors confirmed that a boat was searched in January but have not confirmed the reported findings.
Putin rejected the notion as "sheer nonsense."
"Such an explosion, so powerful and at such depth, could only be conducted by experts backed by the entire potential of a state that has relevant technologies," he said in televised remarks.
— Associated Press
U.S. turns to new ways to punish Russian oligarchs for the war
The U.S. has begun an aggressive new push to inflict pain on Russia's economy and specifically its oligarchs with the intent of thwarting the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine.
From the Treasury Department to the Justice Department, U.S. officials will focus on efforts to legally liquidate the property of Russian oligarchs, expand financial penalties on those who facilitate the evasion of sanctions, and close loopholes in the law that allow oligarchs to use shell companies to move through the U.S. financial system.
Andrew Adams, who heads the U.S. government's KleptoCapture task force, designed to enforce the economic restrictions within the U.S. imposed on Russia and its billionaires, told The Associated Press that the group is prioritizing its efforts to identify those who help Russians evade sanctions and violate export controls.
"These illicit procurement networks will continue to take up an ever-increasing amount of our bandwidth," said Adams, who also serves as acting deputy assistant attorney general.
So far, more than $58 billion worth of sanctioned Russians' assets have been blocked or frozen worldwide, according to a report last week from the Treasury Department. That includes two luxury yachts each worth $300 million in San Diego and Fiji, and six New York and Florida properties worth $75 million owned by sanctioned oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
— Associated Press
Russia denies that its aircraft came into contact with the U.S. drone
Russia's Ministry of Defense said its two fighter aircraft did not come in contact with a U.S. drone operating over the Black Sea.
Russia said in a statement posted on its official Telegram channel that the drone was flying with its transponders off near the Crimean Peninsula when it went into "unguided flight" and then fell into the water.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. was in the process of summoning Russia's Ambassador Anatoly Antonov to discuss the "brazen violation of international law."
"We have engaged at high levels with our allies and partners in the first instance, to brief them on this incident and to let them know what we know," Price said on a conference call with reporters.
"We are engaging directly with the Russians again at senior levels to convey our strong objections to this unsafe unprofessional intercept, which caused the downing of the unmanned U.S. aircraft," he added.
— Amanda Macias
Russian jet downs U.S. Reaper drone over Black Sea
A Russian fighter jet downed a U.S. drone operating over the Black Sea on Tuesday, U.S. European Command said in a statement.
"Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9," said U.S. Air Force Gen. James Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa.
Prior to the collision, two Russian aircraft harassed the drone, he said.
"Several times before the collision, the Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner," the statement added.
The MQ-9 Reaper system is designed to collect intelligence and carry out reconnaissance missions and is manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.
The remotely piloted system can carry a combination of Hellfire missiles, Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and Laser Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
— Amanda Macias
Potential Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis says protecting Ukraine is not a 'vital' U.S. interest
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential Republican presidential candidate, said the ongoing war in Ukraine should not be a top priority for the United States.
"While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness with our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural and military power of the Chinese Communist Party — becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them," DeSantis said in a statement provided to "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Fox News.
As a member of Congress, DeSantis voted for several defense spending bills that provided U.S. military and intelligence support for Ukraine.
— Amanda Macias
Warsaw may give Ukraine MiG-29 jets in next 4 to 6 weeks, Polish prime minister says
Poland could give Ukraine MiG-29 fighter jets in the coming four to six weeks, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said, suggesting that Kyiv's allies were moving closer to an agreement on the next step in their military support for the country.
Poland has said it would be prepared to send Soviet-designed MiG-29 jets to Ukraine as part of a coalition of countries. However, with Kyiv's allies taking a cautious approach to the transfer of fighter jets it has been unclear how long such a process might take.
"That could happen in the coming 4-6 weeks," Morawiecki told a news conference when asked how long it could be before Warsaw supplies the aircraft.
Last Thursday Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said his Polish counterpart had told him at a European Union meeting on the previous day that Warsaw would agree to a joint process to hand over MiG-29 jets to Ukraine.
Nad said the time had come also for Slovakia to make a decision on whether or not to send jets to Ukraine.
Seven ships leave Ukraine under Black Sea Grain Initiative
Seven ships carrying 265,977 metric tons of grain and other agricultural products left Ukraine's Chornomorsk and Odesa ports Monday.
The ships are destined for Spain, China and the Netherlands and are carrying corn, sunflower meal and sunflower oil.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered last July between 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
Russia is fighting for the existence of its state, Putin says
Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated claims that Russia is involved in a battle for the existence of its own state.
"So for us this is not a geopolitical task, but a task of the survival of Russian statehood, creating conditions for the future development of the country and our children," Putin said, adding that Russia was also fighting in Ukraine for pro-Russian communities in eastern Ukraine, according to comments reported by Reuters.
Speaking during a visit to an aviation factory in the far eastern region of Buryatia, Putin said Russia had tried to mend relations with Ukraine for decades but that "the situation changed" after a pro-Western Ukrainian uprising in 2014, which saw a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian president ousted in an event Russia describes as a "coup d'état."
Putin has frequently claimed that the war in Ukraine was caused by the West trying to meddle in Ukraine and damage Russia. Ukraine and its allies say Russia wants to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence and to install a pro-Moscow regime in Kyiv.
Asked whether he was concerned last year that the Russian economy could collapse under international sanctions, Putin said he had worried, but he added that Russia's "economic sovereignty" now was a major result of last year. The foundations of Russia's economic stability were "stronger than anyone thought," he added.
Putin said Russia's financial system had got stronger and that Western companies that left Russia last year thought the economy would collapse "but it didn't."
— Holly Ellyatt
Kindergarten damaged in Russian strike on Odesa region
Ukraine's military said a Russian missile attack on the region of Odesa has damaged a kindergarten and private houses.
Ukraine's southern operational command said Russian Su-24 planes (tactical bomber aircraft) had launched four missiles toward the coast around Odesa. The command unit said the missiles were likely to be Kh-31P "anti-radiation" missiles — medium-range supersonic missiles designed to counter air defenses.
In this case, while the missiles were destroyed over the sea, Ukraine said, "the debris and blast wave damaged a kindergarten on the coast and several private houses around." There were no casualties, the post on Facebook noted. The post included images of debris strewn across a children's nursery.
"The enemy once again reminded that the coast is currently a battle line and extremely dangerous," the military said. CNBC was unable to verify the information in the post.
— Holly Ellyatt
Russian parliament votes to censor criticism of mercenary groups
Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, voted on Tuesday to approve an amendment that would punish those found guilty of discrediting "volunteer" groups fighting in Ukraine, extending a law that censors criticism of Russia's armed forces.
The amendment is seen as a move to "protect" fighters working for the private Wagner Group, a mercenary force, which is leading Russia's campaign for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
The bill needs to be approved by the parliament's upper house before passing to President Vladimir Putin for final approval Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin has welcomed the proposals - an expansion of Russia's wartime censorship measures introduced after Moscow invaded Ukraine.
Prigozhin asked parliament in January to ban negative media reports about his men by amending the criminal code, an idea Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin quickly said he backed.
Under Russia's current laws "discrediting" the army can be punished by up to five years in prison, while spreading knowingly false information about it can attract a 15-year jail sentence.
Russian prosecutors have already opened more than 5,800 cases against people for discrediting the armed forces, the OVD-Info rights group says, while authorities have also used the laws against spreading false information to hand down lengthy jail sentences to long-time Kremlin critics.
Kremlin: Grain deal can't stand on one leg
The Kremlin on Tuesday said the Black Sea grain deal could not "stand on one leg" as Moscow criticised the West for not doing enough to remove obstacles to Russia's own agricultural and fertiliser exports.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said contacts continued over the deal, and that "everybody agrees" an agreement to ease restrictions on Russia should be fulfilled.
6 apartment blocks damaged and 1 person dead in Kramatorsk after missile strike
A missile strike on Kramatorsk, a city near Bakhmut in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, has damaged six apartment blocks and killed a civilian, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a Telegram post that a Russian missile had hit the city center.
"Kramatorsk. A Russian missile hit the city center. Six high-rise buildings were damaged. At least three people were injured. One person died. My condolences to the family! Rescue operations are still ongoing," the president said.
"Every strike that takes an innocent life must result in a lawful and just sentence that punishes murder. It will definitely be that way," Zelenskyy added.
— Holly Ellyatt
Kremlin says Russia does not recognise ICC jurisdiction, media report suggests
Russia does not recognise the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the TASS news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Tuesday.
Peskov was asked about reports the ICC was expected to seek its first arrest warrants against Russian individuals in relation to the conflict in Ukraine shortly.
"We do not recognise this court, we do not recognise its jurisdiction," TASS quoted Peskov as saying.
The prosecutor of the ICC is expected to ask a pre-trial judge to approve issuing warrants against several Russians for the abduction of children from Ukraine to Russia and the targeting of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Monday.
Russia extends vital grain deal with Ukraine for 60 days, official says
A vital grain export deal between Ukraine and Russia has been extended for 60 days, according to Russia