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European Council President Michel visits Ukraine for talks

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomes European Council President Charles Michel before a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine April 20, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

European Council President Charles Michel arrived in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv for talks on Thursday, and said he hoped the coming year would be one of “victory and peace”.

“Back in #Kyiv to discuss all strands of cooperation,” he wrote on Twitter, posting a photograph of himself on the platform of a train station.

— Reuters

Wagner chief says village has been captured on outskirts of Bakhmut

The head of the Wagner Group, a private military company fighting alongside regular Russian units in Ukraine, has claimed his forces have taken full control of Klishchiivka, a village just south of Bakhmut, a prime target for the Russian military.

The press service of Wagner founder and leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Telegram Thursday that it had received an audio message from Prigozhin that stated, “we can safely say that the settlement of Klescheevka [the Russian name for Klishchiivka], which is one of the important suburbs of Bakhmut … has been completely taken under the control of the Wagner PMC units,” he said, according to a Google translation of the post.

“Kleshcheevka is released. Fierce fighting is still going on around Kleshcheevka. The enemy clings to every meter of the earth.”

Prigozhin contradicted reports that Ukrainian forces were fleeing Bakhmut (known as Artemovsk in Russia) saying, “contrary to various opinions that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are fleeing from Artemovsk, this is not so. The APU works clearly and harmoniously. We have a lot to learn from them. But in any case, the units of PMC “Wagner” are moving forward meter by meter. The settlement of Artemovsk will be taken.”

Ukrainian soldiers outside the strategic city of Bakhmut on Jan. 18, 2023, in Bakhmut, Ukraine.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Capturing Bakhmut is a key target for Russian forces as they look to take control of the Donetsk region and then the wider Donbas in eastern Ukraine, a key goal in the war for Russia. Its forces have made gains toward the city following the capture of nearby Soledar.

There is increasing tension between Prigozhin and his Wagner forces, and the Russian Defense Ministry. Prigozhin claimed his Wagner forces had captured Soledar in early January, only for the defense ministry to say its own troops had captured the town.

For its part, Ukraine maintains it has not even lost Soledar and said Thursday morning on Facebook that its armed forces had repelled Russian attacks near 14 settlements in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the previous day, including those around Soledar and Bakhmut. It also said it had repelled an attack on Klishchiivka, the village claimed to have been captured by Wagner forces.

Holly Ellyatt

Russia’s security service opens espionage case against U.S. citizen

Russia’s Federal Security Service (the FSB) said Thursday that it had initiated a criminal case against a U.S. citizen on suspicion of espionage.

In a statement on its website, the FSB said “the American is suspected of collecting intelligence information on biological topics directed against the security of the Russian Federation,” according to a google translation of the post.

The FSB did not give any further information in its post, including whether or not it had arrested the U.S. citizen it did not name. CNBC has asked the FSB for more information.

The arrest of another U.S. citizen on criminal charges in Russia comes just a month after American basketball star Brittney Griner was freed after being detained in Russia last year on drugs charges. Ultimately, Griner was freed from a Russian penal colony in exchange for high-profile Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

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

Spying charges add a layer of complexity to cases of foreigners being arrested in Russia, but Moscow continues to refuse to swap Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was convicted of espionage in a Russian court in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Whelan pleaded not guilty and denied the charges.

At the time of Griner’s release in December, the U.S. said it would continue to petition for Whelan’s release.

— Holly Ellyatt

Helicopter crash is a result of the war, Zelenskyy says

“Mobilization of the world must outpace a next military mobilization of our joint enemy,” Zelenskyy said via videoconference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

As investigations continue into the cause of a helicopter crash near Kyiv on Wednesday that killed the country’s interior minister and several of his colleagues, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the tragedy was a consequence of the war.

“This [helicopter crash] is not an accident because it has been due to war and the war has many dimensions, not just on the battlefields – there are no accidents at war time. These are all war results … every death is a result of the war,” he told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

After repeated revisions to the death toll yesterday, it’s now believed that 14 people died in the incident, including all nine people on board the helicopter, and at least one child. The crash took place near a kindergarten and residential buildings.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian embassy tweets map that shows Crimea as part of Ukraine

A Twitter account operated by the Russian Embassy in Sweden on Wednesday posted an image of Europe which identifies Crimea—shown at the lower right—as part of Ukraine.

Twitter / Russian Embassy, SWE / Forum Mapping HU.

A Twitter account operated by the Russian Embassy in Sweden posted a map identifying Crimea as part of Ukraine.

Officially, Moscow claims Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula that extends into the Black Sea, as part of Russia. Crimea was seized from Ukraine when Russia invaded the region in March 2014.

— Ted Kemp

U.S. Defense Secretary Austin will meet new German counterpart in Berlin

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing on “Department of Defense’s Budget Requests for FY2023”, on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 7, 2022.

Sarah Silbiger | Reuters

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Berlin, where he will meet with his new German counterpart Boris Pistorius.

The two are expected to hold a joint press conference.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz named Pistorius as Germany’s next defense minister on Tuesday after Christine Lambrecht resigned on Monday. Lambrecht had previously faced criticism for her handling of the slow supply of offensive weapons to Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

IAEA sends staff to all Ukraine nuclear plants in safety bid

In this photo provided by the IAEA Press Office, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi, right, visits the Chernobyl nuclear power plant near Chernobyl, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.

IAEA Press Office via AP

The International Atomic Energy Agency is placing teams of experts at all four of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants to reduce the risk of severe accidents as Russia’s war against the country rages on, agency head Rafael Grossi said Wednesday.

The IAEA, which is affiliated with the United Nations, already has a permanent presence at Ukraine’s — and Europe’s — largest nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia that is held by Russian forces.

The IAEA’s permanent presence at all of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, with at least 11 staff in total, marks an unprecedented expansion for the agency. IAEA technicians will also be at Chernobyl, the now-closed nuclear plant that was the site of a deadly nuclear accident in 1986 that spread fallout over much of Europe.

“From tomorrow, there will be two flags at all of the nuclear facilities in Ukraine; one of Ukraine and the second of the international nuclear agency,” Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said at a joint press conference with Grossi at the government headquarters in Kyiv on Wednesday.

— Associated Press

NATO warns Russia is preparing for a long war in Ukraine, vows to be ready

A fire engulfed a CHP power station hit by Russian missile on October 10, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russia is preparing for an extended war so NATO must get ready “for the long haul” and support Ukraine for as long as it takes, the alliance’s deputy secretary general told top military chiefs from across Europe.

Speaking at the opening of the military chiefs’ meeting in Brussels, Mircea Geoana said NATO nations must invest more in defense, ramp up military industrial manufacturing and harness new technologies to prepare for future wars.

As Russia’s war on Ukraine nears the one-year mark, NATO chiefs are expected to discuss how allies can expand the delivery of weapons, training and support to Ukraine in the coming months, and how they can further shore up their own defenses.

“We have no indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals have changed,” said Geoana, adding that Russia has mobilized more than 200,000 additional troops. “So we must be prepared for the long haul. 2023 will be a difficult year and we need to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

— Associated Press

Zelenskyy says Western countries should send tanks before another Russian attack

“Mobilization of the world must outpace a next military mobilization of our joint enemy,” Zelenskyy said via videoconference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that Western countries should send tanks before Russia’s next offensive.

His comments come as analysts fear the Kremlin could soon launch a new mobilization drive — and once again pile the pressure on the country’s Western allies to deliver heavily armored vehicles to Kyiv.

Speaking via videoconference, Zelenskyy said, “Mobilization of the world must outpace a next military mobilization of our joint enemy.”

“The supplying of Ukraine with air defense systems must outpace Russia’s next missile attacks. The supplies of Western tanks must outpace another invasion of Russian tanks,” he added.

Read the full story here.

— Sam Meredith

Death toll from missile strike on residential building in Dnipro rises to 45

Rescuers carry the body of a dead person during a missile attack by the Russian army in Dnipro.

Sergei Chuzavkov | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Mayor of Dnipro Borys Filatov said the death toll from a Russian missile strike on a residential building has risen to 45 people.

Filatov said that at least 17 people remain missing in Dnipro and 12 bodies have not been identified, according to an NBC News translation. Another 25 people are recovering in the hospital.

— Amanda Macias

Putin says war victory is ‘inevitable’ as NATO chief calls for more weapons for Kyiv

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that victory in the war in Ukraine was “inevitable” while NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Putin must realize he cannot win on the battlefield.

Speaking to workers at a weapons factory in St. Petersburg, Putin said “victory is assured, I have no doubt about it,” state news agency Tass reported. Putin made the comments on the same day on which he commemorated the 80th anniversary of Soviet forces breaking the Nazi siege of Leningrad (modern-day St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown).

In this screen shot made on Ocober 12, 2022 French president Emmanuel Macron (R) speaks during an interview in front of pictures of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ludovic Marin | Afp | Getty Images

Meanwhile, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg commented Wednesday that we have reached a “pivotal moment” in the war.

“President Putin has shown no sign of preparing for peace and therefore he must realize he cannot win on battlefield. This is a pivotal moment in the war and the need for a significant increase in support for Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“If we want a negotiated peaceful solution tomorrow we need to provide more weapons today.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukrainian officials killed in helicopter crash were flying to front line

The senior officials of the Ukraine’s Interior Ministry who died this morning in a helicopter crash were on their way to the front line, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the presidential administration, said in a briefing Wednesday.

“The purpose [of the flight] was to make a working visit to one of the hot spots in our country. The Minister of Internal Affairs was heading there,” deputy head of the President’s Office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said at a briefing in comments reported by news agency Ukrinform.

Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi died in a helicopter crash in Ukraine.

Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, First Deputy Minister Yevheniy Yenin, and State Secretary of the Interior Ministry Yuriy Lubkovych were killed in the crash. Nine people were on board the helicopter and all perished in the crash near a kindergarten and a residential building in Brovary on the outskirts of Kyiv.

— Holly Ellyatt

Zelenskyy says investigation into ‘terrible tragedy’ has begun

Military stand at the site where a helicopter crashed near a kindergarten in Brovary, outside the capital Kyiv, killing Sixteen people, including two children and Ukrainian interior minister, on January 18, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has commented on the heliptor crash outside Kyiv that killed several of his colleagues in the Interior Ministry on Wednesday.

“Today, a terrible tragedy occurred in Brovary, Kyiv region. A SES [State Emergency Service] helicopter crashed, and a fire broke out at the crash site,” Zelenskyy posted on Telegram.

“I have instructed the Security Service of Ukraine, in cooperation with the National Police of Ukraine and other authorized bodies, to find out all the circumstances of what happened.”

He said the exact number of victims of the tragedy is currently being established. The head of Kyiv’s regional military administration said earlier that there were 18 known victims, including three children.

Police cordon off the site where a helicopter crashed in Brovary in the Kyiv region on Jan. 18, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Zelenskyy confirmed that officials from the Interior Ministry were on board as he sent his condolences to the victims of the crash.

“Among them [the victims] are Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Denys Monastyrskyi, his first deputy Yevhen Yenin, State Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Yuri Lubkovych, their assistants and the helicopter crew.” 

“25 people were injured, including 10 children. As of this minute, 3 children died. The pain is unspeakable. The helicopter fell on the territory of one of the kindergartens,” he said, in comments translated by NBC.

“All services are working on the scene of the tragedy,” he added.

— Holly Ellyatt

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