China’s top diplomat expects new agreements with Russia during Moscow visit
China State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi speaks during the United Nations Security Council meeting at the United Nations Headquarters to discuss the conflict in Ukraine on September 22, 2022 in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images News | Getty Images
China’s top diplomat Wang Yi told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday that he expects new agreements to be struck during his visit to Moscow on Wednesday.
Wang said he would work to “strengthen and deepen” relations between Moscow and Beijing. He provided no specific details on what agreements could be reached.
The Kremlin said Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will also meet Wang Yi later on Wednesday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said Moscow values its strategic “no limits” partnership with Beijing.
Russia has shown there is nothing it won’t do to achieve political goals, Swedish minister says
Russia has shown it is willing to go to extreme lengths to realize its political goals, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said, adding that Poland and the Baltic states could be at risk.
“What Putin’s illegal aggression on Ukraine has done is that it has broken the world security order as it was before, and we are not going to go back to that again, so we have to find new ways forward,” he told CNBC’s Silvia Amaro in Stockholm.
“Russia has shown very clearly there’s nothing they won’t do in order to use military means to reach political goals, and this is what made Sweden and Finland decide upon joining NATO, for us this meant leaving behind a 200-year policy of non-alignment so it shows how serious the situation is,” he noted.
“There is nothing stopping them from doing more. We have to look at Poland, we have to look at the Baltic states, who are also very close to Russia and we are in the same neighborhood as them and are sharing the same security concerns,” he said.
Sweden and Finland have applied to join the Western military alliance NATO since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago. There are ongoing efforts to persuade NATO member Turkey to drop its opposition to the applications from Sweden and Finland after Ankara said both countries were too lenient on groups it considers extremist.
Sweden’s Billstrom told CNBC that it has fulfilled NATO membership criteria and that the ball is now in Turkey’s court. Ankara has signaled it is willing for accession talks to continue but a membership deadline is not yet in sight.
— Holly Ellyatt
War will end when Russia returns to its own borders, Latvian president says
Latvia’s President Egils Levits said the conflict between Russia and Ukraine can end only when Russia withdraws its troops from Ukraine and returns to its own internationally recognized borders.
“Without that, the conflict cannot end … it’s clear that the aggressor should go back, obviously,” he told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick Tuesday.
Levits said that Russia poses a dilemma for the West because of its aggressive ideology, and that the West made a mistake in not reacting to earlier provocations by Moscow in Ukraine, with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and nearby Georgia, which Russia invaded in 2008 in a bid to support pro-Russian separatists.
“The lack of real reaction after the Russian attack [on] Georgia in 2008 led to the next attack against Ukraine in 2014, [where there was] also a very weak reaction,” Levits said. That led to the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, he noted, adding that “we should not make this failure again, to not react.”
— Holly Ellyatt
Fears of an arms race between Russia and U.S. are ‘overblown,’ diplomat says
Fears of an arms race between the U.S. and Russia are “overblown,” the former U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, William Courtney, told CNBC Wednesday.
His comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled out of the Kremlin’s last nuclear treaty with the U.S.
“Neither the U.S. nor Russia is really interested in an arms race for nuclear weapons,” said the diplomat. Both sides have a track record of “dramatically” reducing their nuclear arms since the 1960s, he noted.
Russia appears to have started a new offensive in Ukraine, but it appears to be less intense than people expected, added Courtney. Russia is using “probing attacks” as it may not be positioned to carry out a large-scale offensive, he said.
The last year’s fighting has depleted Russia’s forces in Ukraine and many of its experienced soldiers have become casualties, Courtney added.
— Audrey Wan
Moscow bullish about nuclear arms treaty suspension
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address, announcing that Moscow is suspending its nuclear arms treaty with the U.S.
Mikhail Metzel | Afp | Getty Images
Officials in Moscow appeared bullish on Wednesday about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to suspend Russia’s participation in the New Start nuclear arms treaty — the last remaining nuclear arms control pact between the U.S. and Russia that sought to limit the nuclear arsenals of both countries.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that the decision to suspend the treaty was “overdue” and that Russia’s move would have “a huge resonance in the world in general and in the United States in particular.”
Medvedev repeated a Russian claim that the U.S. “wants the defeat of Russia” and that the world is on the brink of a new global conflict. “If the United States wants to defeat Russia, then we have the right to defend ourselves with any weapon, including nuclear,” Medvedev said.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was reported in Russian media Wednesday as saying that Moscow would still be able to “fairly reliably assess” the U.S.’ nuclear potential from outside of the agreement.
“There are national technical means that make it possible to fairly reliably assess what is happening. We, in addition, have accumulated experience in tracking what is happening in the United States, and not only in the United States, in this area, using other possibilities. Yes, this is not the same as information exchange within the framework of the agreement. But the situation has changed radically, so we will proceed from what is available,” Ryabkov told reporters, according to Russian news agency Ria Novosti.
The New Start treaty allowed for mutual inspections of each other’s nuclear weapons sites, although in practice, these have been suspended since the Covid-19 pandemic and have not resumed since the war in Ukraine began.
Ryabkov also said Russia would continue to adhere to the “central quantitative restrictions” under the treaty, saying that at this stage, Moscow considered “this sufficient from the point of view ensuring predictability and maintaining strategic stability.”
Medvedev signaled, as did Moscow’s Foreign Ministry in a statement on Tuesday, that Russia’s suspension of the treaty is reversible but that it wants to see Washington show “political will …for a general de-escalation and create conditions for the resumption of the full functioning” of the treaty. Russia has also said it wants to see Britain and France’s nuclear arsenals counted in any future Start treaty.
— Holly Ellyatt
Ukraine ‘doing everything to contain’ Russian attacks on Donetsk, Luhansk
Destruction seen through a broken car window in Lyman, Ukraine, on Feb. 20, 2023.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Ukraine continues to battle relentless attacks on the eastern Donbas region, which comprises Luhansk and Donetsk. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday night that Ukraine is doing “everything” it can to defend its positions along the front line there.
“Today’s Staff of the Armed Forces meeting is expansive and detailed, including reports from the front lines from our commanders in the hottest areas. Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhny reported on the general situation at the front and enemy rocket attacks on our positions,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.
“Special emotions are evoked by reports on Donetsk and Luhansk regions. We are doing everything to contain the enemy attacks there — constant intensive assaults, which Russia does not stop, even though it is suffering huge losses there,” he said.
Zelenskyy said military commanders had reported continuing fierce battles in the Bakhmut and Lyman areas as well as around Avdiivka and other areas. “The occupiers are using the whole range of weapons there against our guys, even including tear gas grenades. But it is very important, despite all the pressure on our forces, that the front line has not undergone any changes,” the president added.
— Holly Ellyatt
G-7 foreign ministers say additional economic measures against Russia are on the way
The foreign ministers of G-7 member countries said that the group will impose additional sanctions against Russia for its war in Ukraine.
“We will impose further economic costs on Russia, and on individuals and entities – inside and outside of Russia – that provide political or economic support to these violations of international law,” the group wrote in a statement.
“We reiterate our condemnation of Russia’s irresponsible nuclear rhetoric. It will not distract or dissuade us from supporting Ukraine, for as long as necessary,” wrote the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., the U.S. and the High Representative of the European Union.
The ministers did not elaborate on the upcoming economic measures.
— Amanda Macias
Biden promises more defense aid to Ukraine as Zelenskyy touts ‘tank coalition’
During President Joe Biden’s surprise visit to Kyiv, the American leader announced nearly $500 million more in military aid to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the decision to send U.S.-made Abrams main battle tanks “the foundation for establishing a tank coalition.”
After weeks of political maneuvering, the U.S., Germany and the U.K. have all pledged to send modern tanks to Ukraine, which includes 31 Abrams, the Leopard 2 and the Challenger 2.
Here’s a quick look at Biden’s trip to Kyiv and the mighty tanks headed to Ukraine’s frontlines:
— Brad Howard, Jeff Morganteen and Amanda Macias
‘Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia,’ Biden says in speech days before one-year war anniversary
US President Joe Biden delivers a speech at the Royal Warsaw Castle Gardens in Warsaw on February 21, 2023.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
President Joe Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia in an address days before the one-year anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale invasion.
“Brutality will never grind down the will of the free,” Biden said in remarks from Warsaw’s Royal Castle.
“Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia,” the U.S. president added.
Biden also said that the U.S. would announce additional sanctions on Russia in coordination with G-7 members and other allies.
Biden’s remarks follow a surprise 23-hour visit to Ukraine’s war-weary capital on Monday. Under extraordinary secrecy, Biden traveled by plane, then by train for 10 hours overnight to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
While in Kyiv, Biden announced a weapons package worth nearly $500 million and hailed Zelenskyy’s leadership as his country fights the biggest air, sea and ground assault in Europe since World War II.
— Amanda Macias
Biden says U.S. support for Ukraine is ‘unwavering’
U.S. President Joe Biden is welcomed by Polish President Andrzej Duda for talks at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on February 21, 2023.
Mandel Ngan | Afp | Getty Images
President Biden on Tuesday reiterated the U.S.’s “unwavering” support for Ukraine during talks with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda in Warsaw.
“As I told President Zelenskyy when we spoke in Kyiv yesterday, I can probably say that our support for Ukraine remains unwavering,” Biden said.
Biden was in Warsaw ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Friday. On Monday, he made a surprise trip to Kyiv to meet with Zelenskyy.
Duda said Biden’s visit to Poland was an important sign of the U.S.’s commitment to maintaining security in Europe.
“Your visit is an important sign of security, a signal of U.S. responsibility for the security of the world and Europe. America can keep the world order,” Duda said during the meeting.
Putin hits out at Russian oligarchs, says they ‘got robbed’ in the West
Putin made a slew of apparent barbs at his sanctioned oligarch familiars on Tuesday, in remarks labelling them as traitors of the Russian state.
The Russian president claimed elite business people were now paying the price for taking advantage of Western influence and the liberalization of financial markets following the fall of the Soviet Union to move wealth out of the country.
“Instead of creating employment here, this capital was spent buying elite real-estate, yachts,” he said. “Some came to Russia,” he noted, “but the first wave was spent on consuming Western goods.”
Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska described it as a “colossal mistake” for Russia to invade Ukraine, in a rare rebuke from a member of Russia’s elite.
Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images
Putin said that sanctions leveled against many Russian business people in the wake of the Russia-styled “special military operation” in Ukraine showed that the West was not a sanctuary.
“The latest events have demonstrated that the West was just a ghost in terms of being a safe haven,” he said.
“Those who saw Russia as just a source of income and were planning to live abroad, they saw that they just got robbed in the West,” he continued.
“Many of you will remember that I joked you will be running around Western courts, trying to save your wealth in the West, and this is exactly what happened.”
“None of the simple citizens of this country were sorry about those who lost massive bank accounts in the West,” he added.
— Karen Gilchrist
‘They started the war,’ Putin says, accusing West of provoking Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday claimed Western allies “started the war” in Ukraine during his annual state of the nation address.
Speaking in Moscow, Putin accused the West of developing military contingents on the border of Russia.
“I would like to repeat, they started the war, and we used the force in order to stop it,” Putin said according to a translation of the speech.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, Moscow has referred to the conflict as a “special military operation.”
“We did everything possible in order to resolve this problem in a peaceful way. We were patient in our negotiations to come out of this terrible conflict. However behind our backs a completely different scenario was being prepared,” he said.
— Karen Gilchrist