Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine


Ukraine-based Russian armed groups say they have launched incursion into Russia

At least two Ukraine-based armed groups purporting to be made up of Russians opposed to the Kremlin launched an incursion across Russia’s western border on Tuesday, according to their social media pages.

The Freedom of Russia Legion and the Siberian Battalion both announced on their Telegram pages that they had launched attacks into Russia from Ukraine.

“We will take our land from the regime centimetre by centimetre,” the Freedom of Russia Legion said in its Telegram post. Reuters could not independently verify the claims.

Russian officials could not be immediately reached for comment on the claims on Tuesday.

In the past, Russian officials have cast the groups as puppets of the Ukrainian military and U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which Moscow says is trying to foment chaos in Russia.

Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s military intelligence, told Ukraine’s 24 Channel the groups were conducting the operation on Russian territory independently of Ukraine.

Fighters of the Russian Volunteer Corps attend a presentation for the media in northern Ukraine, not far from the Russian border, on May 24, 2023, amid Russian military invasion on Ukraine.

Sergey Bobok | Afp | Getty Images

Yusov said a third group, the Russian Volunteer Corps, was also participating in the operation.

The legion’s post appeared to refer to the upcoming Russian election, which will take place this weekend. “The people will vote for whom they want, not for whom they have to. Russians will live freely,” the group said.

The Freedom of Russia legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps have previously claimed responsibility for other cross-border raids into Russia from Ukraine.

— Reuters

Russia, Iran and China begin joint naval drills

Russia began a series of joint naval drills with its allies China and Iran on Tuesday, and the West is likely to watch the exercises closely.

The naval exercise, taking place under the “Maritime Security Belt-2024” title, are taking place in the Gulf of Oman, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Telegram.

“A detachment of warships of the Pacific Fleet, consisting of the guards missile cruiser ‘Varyag’ and the frigate ‘Marshal Shaposhnikov’ began practicing practical tasks of the joint international naval exercise “Maritime Security Belt 2024″ with ships of the Iranian and Chinese navies,” the defense ministry said.

Iranian, Chinese and Russian naval forces’ joint military exercise in 2023.

Anadolu | Anadolu | Getty Images

The main goal of the naval drills “is to improve the safety of maritime economic activity,” Russia said.

“During the exercise, warships of the three countries will perform joint maneuvers and fire at surface and air targets, and will also practice elements of freeing a ship captured by pirates.”

In total, more than 20 ships, support vessels and combat boats of the Russian Navy, the Iranian and Chinese Navy are involved in the exercise. Naval helicopters will also be widely used, the defense ministry added.

It’s the sixth time the countries have held the joint exercise, but it’s likely to be closely watched by the West given the deepening relationship between Russia, Iran and China and heightened tensions with the West.

Representatives of the navies of Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Oman, India and South Africa will take part in the exercise as observers for the first time, Russia said.

Vatican says end to Russian aggression is first condition for Ukraine peace

St Peters Square, Vatican City, Rome, Italy.

Gonzalo Azumendi | The Image Bank | Getty Images

The first condition for any negotiations to end the war in Ukraine is that Russia should halt its aggression, the second in command to Pope Francis said in a newspaper interview on Tuesday.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry summoned the papal nuncio on Monday to express “disappointment” with previous comments by Francis that Ukraine should “show the courage of the white flag” and open talks with Russia to end the two-year-old war.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, told Corriere della Sera daily on Tuesday that the Vatican was pressing for a cease-fire and “first of all it should be the aggressors who stop firing.”

— Reuters

Russian regions reportedly attacked by wave of Ukrainian drones, missiles and shelling

Russian officials in the region of Belgorod, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2024.

Anadolu | Anadolu | Getty Images

Russian authorities said seven regions were targeted by a wave of Ukrainian drones overnight, with attacks carried out against the Belgorod, Bryansk, Kursk, Leningrad, Moscow, Oryol and Tula regions.

Air defense systems destroyed and intercepted 25 Ukrainian drones (also known as UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles) overnight over the regions, the Russian Ministry of Defense said, according to a statement published by the Tass news agency.

“Tonight, an attempt by the Kiev regime to carry out a terrorist attack using 25 aircraft-type UAVs on objects on the territory of the Russian Federation was stopped,” the ministry said in a statement reported by Tass.

“Air defense systems on duty intercepted and destroyed over the territories of Moscow (2 UAVs), Leningrad (1 UAV), Belgorod (7 UAVs), Kursk (11 UAVs), Bryansk (1 UAV), Tula (1 UAV) and Oryol (2 UAVs) regions,” the department said. 

In a separate report, Tass cited the defense ministry as saying it had foiled a separate attempt to target the border region of Belgorod with missiles and shelling. “Russian air defense forces shot down one Tochka-U missile and eight shells of the RM-70 Vampire multiple launch rocket system of the Ukrainian Armed Forces over the Belgorod region, the Ministry of Defense reported,” Tass said.

In a separate report, the governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region, Gleb Nikitin, said Russian energy infrastructure had been targeted in the region.

“In the morning, the Kstovo industrial zone, a fuel and energy complex facility, was attacked by unmanned aerial vehicles. Now the special services are working on the spot, using all the necessary forces and means to localize the fire at one of the oil processing plants,” he said on his Telegram channel.

CNBC was unable to immediately verify the claims and Ukraine has not commented on these latest alleged attacks. Ukraine has repeatedly targeted Russian territory with drones on previous occasions, however, particularly targeting energy and fuel infrastructure, such as oil refineries.

— Holly Ellyatt

NATO holds accession ceremony for Sweden

Officials prepare to hoist the Swedish national flag during a flag raising ceremony for Sweden’s accession to NATO at the North Atlantic Alliance headquarters in Brussels, on March 11, 2024. 

John Thys | Afp | Getty Images

NATO held its accession ceremony for Sweden, the 32nd member of the transatlantic Western alliance, which officially joined last week nearly two years after it first bid to join the organization.

The Swedish flag was raised at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, for the first time as Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson gave remarks.

“Sweden brings high-end capabilities, first-class military forces, and spends more than 2% of GDP on defense,” Stoltenberg said.

“Sweden’s accession shows again that NATO’s door remains open. No one can close it. Sweden has taken its rightful place at NATO’s table under the shield of Article 5 protection – the ultimate guarantee of our freedom and security. All for one and one for all.”

In separate remarks, Stoltenberg said that Ukraine is “closer to NATO membership than ever before.”

— Natasha Turak

Russia is producing three times more artillery shells than U.S., Europe: CNN

155mm artillery shells are inspected in the production shop at the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant on April 12, 2023 in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Hannah Beier | Getty Images

Russia is manufacturing triple the number of artillery shells for its military than the U.S. and Europe are producing for Ukraine, a report by CNN says.

“Russia is producing about 250,000 artillery munitions per month, or about 3 million a year,” the report said, citing NATO intelligence estimates.

The U.S. and Kyiv’s allies in Europe meanwhile have the capacity to produce roughly 1.2 million munitions annually to send Ukraine, it said.

“The U.S. military set a goal to produce 100,000 rounds of artillery a month by the end of 2025 — less than half of the Russian monthly output,” it added.

That figure could now fall as Congress stalls on approving more military aid for Kyiv.

— Natasha Turak

Belarus announces a combat readiness inspection for its armed forces

Belarus is launching an inspection to assess the combat readiness of its armed forces, the country’s defense ministry announced on Telegram.

“The Armed Forces have begun checking the combat readiness of military formations and units,” the ministry wrote in its post, according to a Google translation from Russian. “The check is comprehensive. The personnel will have to move to designated areas and conduct a series of exercises and training, including live fire.”

It said that the inspection will entail the movement of military equipment, and that civilian transport and movement on public areas and roads may as a result be restricted.

Belarus is one of Russia’s closest allies, and its longtime President Alexander Lukashenko has provided Russia with logistical support and training grounds for its soldiers throughout Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

— Natasha Turak

Stoltenberg: Sweden joining NATO shows Putin’s war strategy has ‘failed’

Logistics Battalion Commander Major Anders Ekroth gestures to his NATO badge as he is interviewed at a supply depot during the Nordic Response military exercise on March 08, 2024 in Unspecified – Region EMEA. 

Leon Neal | Getty Images

Sweden’s accession to the NATO alliance, made official last week, shows President Vladimir Putin has failed in his aim to weaken Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during the official ceremony for the Nordic country’s membership.

“When President Putin launched his full-scale invasion two years ago, he wanted less NATO and more control over his neighbors. He wanted to destroy Ukraine as a sovereign state, but he failed,” Stoltenberg said, standing alongside Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Brussels ahead of the raising of Sweden’s flag outside NATO’s headquarters.

“NATO is bigger and stronger,” he added.

Sweden first bid to join the military alliance, ending its historically nonaligned position, in May 2022 in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, the country’s accession was held up by member states Turkey and Hungary. Hungary only last month voted in favor of the country joining the alliance.

— Natasha Turak

Trump will ‘not give a penny’ to Ukraine’s war effort, Hungary’s Orban says

Former US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Mark Wilson | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Former U.S. President Donald Trump will “not give a penny” to Ukraine for its war with Russia if he is re-elected, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on state television after meeting with Trump in Florida.

“He will not give a penny into the Ukraine-Russia war and therefore the war will end, as it is obvious that Ukraine on its own cannot stand on its feet,” Orban said on Sunday evening.

“If the Americans do not give money and weapons, and also the Europeans, then this war will be over. And if the Americans do not give money, the Europeans are unable to finance this war on their own, and then the war will end.”

Orban has long held friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, refusing to send weapons to Ukraine and maintaining active economic ties with Moscow despite EU sanctions. He met with Putin last October in China, despite criticism from other European leaders.

— Natasha Turak

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