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Ukraine marks one year of war and ‘invincibility’; Turkey to restart NATO talks with Sweden, Finland

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy sends defiant message on war’s anniversary: ‘This is a year of our invincibility’

“On 24 February, millions of us made a choice. Not a white flag, but a blue and yellow flag. Not fleeing, but facing. Facing the enemy. Resistance and struggle,” Zelenskyy wrote in a post on Telegram.

Julien De Rosa | Pool | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a defiant message on the day marking one year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“On 24 February, millions of us made a choice. Not a white flag, but a blue and yellow flag. Not fleeing, but facing. Facing the enemy. Resistance and struggle,” Zelenskyy wrote in a post on Telegram.

“It was a year of pain, sorrow, faith and unity. And this is a year of our invincibility. We know that this will be the year of our victory!”

— Natasha Turak

Turkey, Finland and Sweden to resume talks on NATO accession in mid-March

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a press conference at the end of a two-day meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Feb. 15, 2023.

Kenzo Tribouillard | AFP | Getty Images

NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced Friday that talks among Sweden, Finland and Turkey will resume next month after coming to a standstill in January.

Sweden and Finland applied to join the defense alliance back in May. So far, 28 out of the 30 NATO member nations have approved their membership, but Hungary and Turkey have yet to do so. Budapest says it will hold parliamentary debates on the two accessions in the coming weeks, but the timeline from Ankara is a bit more vague given upcoming elections and tensions with Stockholm.

Back in January, discussions between Turkey, Finland and Sweden were put on hold after far-right activists burnt a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.

Signaling an improvement in relations, Stoltenberg said on Friday that the three nations will resume talks and come together in Brussels in mid-March.

“We agreed to restart the talks and convene a trilateral meeting between Finland, Sweden and Turkey at NATO headquarters in mid-March,” he said at a press conference in Estonia.

“Our aim is both for Sweden and Finland to join as soon as possible,” he added.

Speaking at a press conference that also marked one year since Russia began its full-invasion of Ukraine, Stoltenberg said that Putin “has not given up on his goals” and that he is “not preparing for peace, but for more war.”

— Silvia Amaro

Ukrainian refugees could help Germany’s labor market, but not for long: They’re ‘ready to go home’

Pupil Marharyta (l) sits next to her German classmate Milena (r) during geography lessons in a classroom at Lorup primary and secondary school (Werlte municipality).

Friso Gentsch | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Germany’s labor market is under severe pressure, and the recent influx of Ukrainian refugees is unlikely to solve the country’s workforce issues in the long term. More than half of German companies are struggling to find skilled workers to fill vacancies, the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry reported in January.

Aside from Poland, Germany has taken in more refugees than any other region since Russia invaded Ukraine one year ago. The conflict has ravaged swathes of Ukraine and seen 8 million people leave in search of safety.

Over a million of these Ukrainian refugees have been recorded as arriving in Germany, a country that has warmly welcomed them.

The arrival of these often highly educated Ukrainians could bring benefits for Germany, particularly when it comes to bolstering its workforce. Sylvain Broyer, chief EMEA economist at S&P Global Ratings, said the presence of refugees would be “positive” for the Germany economy right now.

Read the full story here.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Ukraine and the West prepare for the biggest reconstruction since World War II

One year since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine’s economy and infrastructure are in tatters, with the government and its allies planning the largest rebuilding effort since World War II.

The World Bank estimates that Ukrainian GDP shrank by 35% in 2022, and projected in October that the population share with income below the national poverty line would rise to almost 60% by the end of last year — up from 18% in 2021.

The World Bank has so far mobilized $13 billion in emergency financing to Ukraine since the war began, including grants, guarantees and linked parallel financing from the U.S., U.K., Europe and Japan.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that the Ukrainian economy contracted by 30%, a less severe decline than previously projected. Inflation has also begun to decelerate, but ended 2022 at 26.6% year on year, according to the National Bank of Ukraine.

In a statement following a visit to Ukraine this week, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva said she saw “an economy that is functioning, despite the tremendous challenges,” commending the government’s vision to move from recovery to a “transformational period of reconstruction and EU accession.”

Read the full story here.

— Elliot Smith

After a year of death and destruction, Ukraine braces itself for major escalation in the war

Destruction seen through a broken car window in Lyman, Ukraine, on Feb. 20, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

As Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine enters its second year, military analysts say they believe that capturing the Donbas region, which includes Donetsk and Luhansk (regions where two self-proclaimed, pro-Russian “republics” are located), remains a key aim for Russia as it launches a new large-scale offensive using several hundred thousand conscripts drafted by Putin last September.

How that offensive proceeds, and how quickly and effectively Ukraine can counter it, will be decisive, defense experts warn.

Russia’s “main strategic goal remains to destroy Ukraine, all of it,” Andriy Zagorodnyuk, Ukraine’s former defense minister, told CNBC ahead of the one-year anniversary.

Read the full story here.

— Holly Ellyatt

Both Russia and Ukraine face an ammunition shortage, Eurasia Group chairman says

China is likely to offer a peace plan for Russia and Ukraine, consultancy says

The Russia-Ukraine war is characterized by an ammunition shortage, Eurasia Group chairman Cliff Kupchan told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”

China providing Russia with the ammunition it lacks could “swing … the war in Russia’s favor,” said Kupchan. “That’s one of the reasons I’m so concerned and focused on China right now,” he added.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government’s “main concern” is getting more ammunition to the Ukrainians, who are running out, said Kupchan.

“I don’t think either side has a structural advantage, in that they’re both hurting pretty bad,” he said.

It is also unlikely that Putin will invade Poland, said Kupchan. Putin “can’t get a straight yes out” that Ukraine is a sovereign, independent country, he added.

“I don’t think that he thinks of any other country like he thinks about Ukraine.”

— Audrey Wan

China reiterates call for cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia

China reiterated its call for peace talks and a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine

“All parties should support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible, so as to gradually deescalate the situation and ultimately reach a comprehensive ceasefire,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

China added that it supports the International Atomic Energy Agency in playing a “constructive role in promoting the safety and security of peaceful nuclear facilities.”

China said the international community should “help parties to the conflict open the door to a political settlement as soon as possible, and create conditions and platforms for the resumption of negotiation.” It added it is ready to “play a constructive role in this regard”

— Jihye Lee

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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