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Russian troops punished for drink and drugs; frontline attacks on Ukraine rising, Zelenskyy says

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

Russian attacks have been increasing on the Ukrainian cities of Avdiivka and Kupyansk, as well as the Donetsk region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense is considering dismissing three commanders of the armed forces, Ukrainian news outlet Ukrainska Pravda reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources in Ukraine’s military and political leadership.

According to the sources, Ukraine's Defense Minister Rustem Umerov is preparing to dismiss Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, who is in charge of one of the fronts of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, and Serhii Naiev, commander of Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, along with another army chief.

Ukraine's presidential office did not confirm or deny the report to the outlet. If the dismissals do take place, they are likely to partly reflect criticism of Ukraine's counteroffensive, which has seen few gains since it was launched in June.

BAKHMUT DISTRICT, UKRAINE - OCTOBER 25: An infantry soldier fires an RPG at movement he sees in the morning fog, as the 10th Mountain Assault Brigade 'Edelveys' operate at the zero frontline with infantry holding fire at positions 100 meters below Russian positions, on October 25, 2023 in the Bakhmut district of Ukraine. Ukrainian forces continue to fight to retake Bakhmut, which was captured by Russian forces in May, following a yearlong battle. Over the summer, Ukraine regained territory north and south of Bakhmut but Russia has held the city itself. (Photo by Kostya Liberov/Libkos via Getty Images)
Libkos | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Separately, Russian soldiers found to be abusing alcohol or drugs are likely being posted to vulnerable "Storm-Z" units that are predominantly made up of Russian prisoners, the U.K.'s Ministry of Defense said.

Storm-Z assault detachments are used in what analysts say are highly attritional infantry-led frontal assaults.

Russian "milbloggers" closely following and commenting on the war on social media have claimed that "Storm-Z" assault detachments in the areas around Avdiivka and Bakhmut, two fighting hotspots in eastern Ukraine, are often destroyed after a few days of active operations and on average lose between 40-70% of their personnel.

Russian army 'eliminated' Ukrainian literature in Donetsk and Luhansk

The Russian army has "eliminated" almost all Ukrainian literature in the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, Gyunduz Mamedov, a former deputy prosecutor-general of Ukraine wrote in a social media post Tuesday.

Mamedov said that any Ukrainian books published from 1991 to 2021 had been dubbed "extremist literature," and that Russian authorities had replaced them with around 2.5 million Russian books.

In Sept. 2022, Russia claimed to have annexed Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

— Karen Gilchrist

Germany to supply Ukraine with 25 Leopard battle tanks

Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks arrive at a military training ground where Ukrainian tank crews are being trained to operate and maintain them by German and Danish military personnel on May 05, 2023 near Klietz, Germany.
Sean Gallup | Getty Images

German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall said Tuesday that it would supply Ukraine with with 25 main battle tanks Leopard 1A5, five armored recovery vehicles (Bergepanzer 2) and two driver training tanks.

In a statement, the company said the deal had been financed by the German government in a deal valued in the "upper-two-digit million-euro range."

It added that the deal also includes training, logistics, spare parts, maintenance and other support services.

— Karen Gilchrist

Ukraine and Britain agree to insurance deal for Black Sea exports

Ukraine and the U.K. on Tuesday agreed to a special mechanism for discounts on insurance against war risks for products exported through Ukraine's Black Sea corridor.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in a post on Telegram that the deal had been struck with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to make the corridor more accessible to a range of exporters.

"Ukraine together with a pool of British insurance companies formed a special mechanism. It will allow a discount on the cost of insurance against war risks for exporters of all products from Ukraine. This will make the Black Sea Corridor more accessible to a wider range of exporters," he said, according to a Google translation.

— Karen Gilchrist

Continued and stronger support for Ukraine is crucial, NATO Secretary General says

Continued and amplified support for Ukraine is crucial as fighting in the country continues, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday.

"The situation on the battlefield is difficult. And that just makes it even more important that we sustain and step up our support for Ukraine because we cannot allow President Putin to win," Stoltenberg said on the sidelines of a meeting with EU defense ministers in Brussels.

Stoltenberg also said that Ukraine needed to "prevail as a sovereign independent nation in Europe," and that supporting the country was in the interests of Western allies.

 — Sophie Kiderlin

Putin pardons convicted killer fighting in Ukraine

The four suspects in the murder case of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, from left, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, Pavel Ryaguzov, Ibragim Makhmudov and Dzhabrail Makhmudov sit inside the defendants' cage at a Moscow court on February 18, 2009. The jury in the trial of the 2006 murder of Politkovskaya will retire on February 19 to consider a verdict against the accused, the judge said. AFP PHOTO / ALEXEY SAZONOV (Photo by Alexey SAZONOV / AFP) (Photo by ALEXEY SAZONOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Alexey Sazonov | Afp | Getty Images

Russian former detective Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, who was convicted for his role in the killing of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, was pardoned after fighting in Ukraine, RBC news reported Tuesday.

"Under the first contract, Khadzhikurbanov participated in the SVO as a prisoner, then he was pardoned and now participates in the SVO as a civilian soldier, having entered into a contract with the Ministry of Defense," Khadzhikurbanov's lawyer Alexey Mikhalchik said.

SVO is another term for Russia's so-called "special military operation" — the euphemistic phrase it uses to refer to its invasion of Ukraine.

Best known for her coverage of abuses in Russia's war in Chechnya, Politkovskaya was shot dead in the lift of her Moscow apartment in 2006.

— Karen Gilchrist

Russian drones hit Dnipropetrovsk region, killing one, governor says

The governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region on Tuesday said that Russia hit the city of Nikopol with three kamikaze drones.

In a post on Telegram, regional governor Serhiy Lysak said that the attack had killed one person and injured another 72-year-old man.

CNBC was unable to independently verify the reports.

— Karen Gilchrist

Upticks of attacks in Avdiivka, Kup'yansk and the Donetsk region, Zelenskyy says

There has been an increase in Russian attacks on the Ukrainian cities Avdiivka and Kup'yansk and the Donetsk region, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a Telegram post on Tuesday.

He also said Ukraine was implementing additional defense measures, including enhanced intelligence and air defense approaches in the city of Kherson in the south of the country, which Zelenskyy said is experiencing continued shelling from Russia.

The Ukrainian President further said the so-called new grain corridor, which facilitates agricultural exports from the country, is functional has delivered around 4 million tons of cargo.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Putin approves new media restrictions ahead of elections

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Omsk Region Acting Governor Vitaly Khotsenko at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia August 28, 2023.
Mikhail Klimentyev | Kremlin | Sputnik | via Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin approved changes to legislation that placed new restrictions on media coverage ahead of next March's presidential elections, local Russian media reported on Tuesday.

Under the adjusted law, only reporters employed by registered media outlets will be permitted to cover election commission meetings, possibly blocking freelancers and independent journalists from reporting the events.

The changes also block any coverage of the commission's actions on military bases or in areas under martial law without the prior permission of regional and military authorities.

— Karen Gilchrist

German budget to increase cash for Ukraine

Germany's next budget could double military aid to Ukraine to 8 billion euros ($8.58 billion) in 2024, according to a draft copy seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

CNBC could not independently verify the report.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has positioned Berlin as the "backbone" of European defense since Russia's invasion of Ukraine and pledged to back Kyiv, while also increasing its military spending up to the NATO target of 2% of GDP.

A proportion of the additional funding would also be used to boost Germany's own military arsenal, after some of its supplies have been shipped to Ukraine.

— Karen Gilchrist

Kremlin says U.S. allegations on sanctions evasion are unfounded

A New Year decoration stylized as the "Kremlin Star," a tactical insignia of Russian troops in Ukraine, in Moscow, on Jan. 2, 2023.
Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images

The Kremlin said U.S. allegations that Russia and China are helping North Korea to evade sanctions are "absolutely unfounded."

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said earlier Tuesday that he was concerned that China and Russia are helping North Korea to expand its military capabilities by enabling it to evade UN sanctions.

Responding to the comments, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday that "all such statements are absolutely unfounded. They are not confirmed by anything. And each new such statement only further devalues ​​all others in this regard," Peskov said, according to comments reported by the RIA Novosti news agency.

— Holly Ellyatt

Goal of one million ammunition rounds for Ukraine will not be reached, Germany says

A Ukrainian serviceman checks a machine gun of a tank after loading ammunition during a military training near a front line, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, March 29, 2023.
Stringer | Reuters

The goal to supply Ukraine with one million rounds of ammunition will not be reached, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Tuesday, adding EU members are working together with the industry to ramp up production.

"It is safe to assume that the one million rounds will not be reached," he told reporters ahead of a EU Defence council in Brussels.

— Reuters

Russia says four Ukrainian drones shot down over home regions

Portrait of a Ukrainian soldier against the background of an explosion over the horizon as the special unit "Achilles" is preparing to carry out a combat mission at night on the heavy drone "Vampire", which the Russians call "Baba Yaga" on November 12, 2023 in the Bakhmut District, Ukraine.
Libkos | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russia's defense ministry said four Ukrainian drones had been intercepted over Russian regions, including the Moscow area, overnight.

In a statement on Telegram, the ministry said the drones were destroyed over the Moscow, Tambov, Orlov and Bryansk regions by air defense systems.

Ukrainian media, citing a Telegram account called Astra that's purportedly run by "independent Russian journalists who have been censored or persecuted in the Russian Federation," said Tuesday that a drone had attacked a chemical plant in Bryansk which produces explosives.

"The drone fell and crashed through the roof of a workshop under construction, but there were no casualties," the Telegram account said. CNBC was unable to verify the reports and Ukraine rarely comments on attempts to target Russian territory.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine reportedly considering dismissing three army commanders

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense is considering dismissing three commanders of the armed forces, Ukrainian news outlet Ukrainska Pravda reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources in Ukraine’s military and political leadership.

According to the sources, Ukraine's Defense Minister Rustem Umerov is preparing to dismiss Tetiana Ostashchenko, the commander of Medical Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, commander of the Tavriia Operational Strategic Group of Forces, and Serhii Naiev, commander of Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

CNBC could not independently verify the reports.

BAKHMUT DISTRICT, UKRAINE - OCTOBER 25: An infantry soldier fires an RPG at movement he sees in the morning fog, as the 10th Mountain Assault Brigade 'Edelveys' operate at the zero frontline with infantry holding fire at positions 100 meters below Russian positions, on October 25, 2023 in the Bakhmut district of Ukraine. Ukrainian forces continue to fight to retake Bakhmut, which was captured by Russian forces in May, following a yearlong battle. Over the summer, Ukraine regained territory north and south of Bakhmut but Russia has held the city itself. (Photo by Kostya Liberov/Libkos via Getty Images)
Libkos | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Paramedics and volunteers involved in medical support for Ukraine’s Defence Forces have reportedly been insisting on Ostashchenko’s dismissal, the news outlet said, while no reasons were given for the potential dismissal of Naiev or Tarnavskyi, who is in charge of one of the fronts of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Ukrainska Pravda asked the President’s Office to comment on the possible firings. Serhii Nikiforov, President Zelenskyy’s press secretary, responded that if such a decision were made, it would be duly announced on the president’s official website, the news outlet said.

"One of the sources noted that the question of these dismissals has been under consideration for several months now," it added.

If the dismissals do take place, it's likely to reflect criticism of Ukraine's counteroffensive, which has seen few gains since it was launched in June.

Holly Ellyatt

Russian troops found abusing alcohol and drugs likely posted to 'Storm-Z' penal units

LVIV REGION, UKRAINE - AUGUST 3: Russian POWs are seen waiting in line to call home to Russia in a prisoner of war detention camp on August 3, 2023 in the Lviv region, Ukraine. Hundreds of captured Russian POWs including conscripts, mercenaries, Wagner militia and Storm-Z Russian prisoners are being held in up to 50 sites around Ukraine. Storm-Z is a series of penal military units established by Russia since April 2023. (Photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images
Paula Bronstein | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russian soldiers found to be abusing alcohol or drugs are likely being posted to vulnerable "Storm-Z" units that are predominantly made up of Russian prisoners, the U.K.'s Ministry of Defense said Monday.

In September 2023, independent Russian media outlet Vertska reported that up to 15% of Russian soldiers in Ukraine were using drugs, including amphetamines and cannabis, which were easy to obtain even on the frontline.

"These reports are credible and follow numerous reports since the invasion of a high rate of disciplinary incidents, crimes and deaths related to alcohol abuse amongst the Russian force," the ministry said in an intelligence update on the X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter.

"One of the core drivers of poor Russian discipline and substance abuse likely remains the continued lack of opportunity for combat troops to rotate away from the front line."

"Russian commanders likely frequently punish drug and alcohol abusers by posting them to Storm-Z assault detachments, which have effectively become penal units," the British ministry added.

Storm-Z assault detachments predominantly comprise prisoner recruits and are used in what analysts say are highly attritional infantry-led frontal assaults.

Russian "milbloggers" closely following and commenting on the war on social media have claimed that "Storm-Z" assault detachments in the areas around Avdiivka and Bakhmut — two fighting hotspots in eastern Ukraine — are often destroyed after a few days of active operations and on average lose between 40-70% of their personnel.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine's foreign minister calls for increased aid and EU accession talks

Ukraine's Foreign Minister on Monday called for an increase in military aid, faster work on a 12th package of sanctions against Russia, and for a decision to be made next month on the start of negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the European Union.

In a statement on the foreign ministry's website, Dmytro Kuleba welcomed the European Commission's recommendation last week that formal talks should begin with Ukraine on joining the bloc. However, he appeared to criticize the EU's failure to discuss new sanctions on Russia, as was previously planned.

"Thanks to the positive recommendation of the European Commission, Ukrainians felt that our struggle was not in vain, that our efforts were recognized. We count on the unanimous support of your leaders in December, when the European Council will meet to approve the decision to open negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU," he said, according to a Google translation.

Kuleba's comments came after he participated in the council of foreign ministers of the EU. Ukraine's foreign minister also welcomed the appointment of former British Prime Minister David Cameron as his new U.K. counterpart.

— Karen Gilchrist

Germany will 'massively' expand funding for Ukraine in 2024

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stands next to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (3rd from right), Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synehubov (2nd from right) and Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov (5th from right) in Kharkiv on the site of a substation destroyed by the Russians during her trip to eastern Ukraine.
Jorg Blank | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Germany will significantly expand assistance to Ukraine next year, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Monday.

"Our support will be massively expanded for next year," she said, according to the Associated Press. The comments come after several media reports, citing unnamed sources, stating that Germany plans to expand its military funding for Kyiv next year.

The Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported at the weekend that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's governing coalition wants to increase Germany's military aid for 2024 from a planned 4 billion euros to 8 billion euros ($8.5 billion). The plans have not been confirmed yet, however, and will need to be approved by a parliamentary committee.

Asked about the report, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told the ARD broadcaster that "right now, as Ukraine has to continue its fight and at the same time part of public attention worldwide is directed more toward Israel, this is a strong signal to Ukraine that we won't leave it in the lurch."

— Holly Ellyatt

More signs appear of Ukrainian involvement in Nord Stream blasts, Russia says

Climate scientists described the shocking images of gas spewing to the surface of the Baltic Sea as a "reckless release" of greenhouse gas emissions that, if deliberate, "amounts to an environmental crime."
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Kremlin said on Monday that more signs were appearing of Ukrainian involvement in the blasts that ruptured Russia's Nord Stream gas pipelines last year, following a Washington Post report that a Ukrainian military officer coordin