Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

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Crowd protests jailing of activist in Russian region of Bashkortostan

A rights activist in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan was sentenced to four years in a penal colony on Wednesday after a court found him guilty of inciting ethnic hatred, prompting clashes between his supporters and police.

Independent Russian-language news outlets said police fired tear gas and made arrests after scuffles broke out with a large crowd of people who had gathered in support of activist Fail Alsynov. It was not clear how many people had been detained.

Alsynov was accused of insulting migrant workers in a speech he made in April 2023 at a protest over plans to mine for gold in Bashkortostan, which is located in Russia’s southern Ural mountains near the border between Europe and Asia.

His supporters said the case against him was delayed revenge for his role in protests several years earlier in which activists successfully blocked plans to mine for soda on a hill that local people consider a sacred place.

Videos published on social media showed hundreds of people gathered near the court in the small town of Baymak, 1,380 km (860 miles) east of Moscow. Some reports said there were several thousand.

Large protests in Russia are extremely rare because of the risk of arrest over any gatherings which the authorities deem unauthorised. Thousands of people have been detained in the past two years for opposing the war in Ukraine.

— Reuters

Putin ‘precipitated virtually everything he sought to prevent’ through Ukraine invasion, Blinken says

Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, speaks with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 16th, 2024.

Adam Galici | CNBC

Russian President Vladimir Putin has “precipitated virtually everything he sought to prevent” by launching an invasion against Ukraine to separate Kyiv from the West, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a panel discussion in Davos, Switzerland.

“Ukraine has been a profound strategic failure for Vladimir Putin and for Russia, in so many ways,” he said.

“You now have a Russia that overall is weaker militarily, it’s weaker economically, it’s weaker diplomatically. Europe has severed its energy dependence on Russia. Ukrainians are more united than they’ve ever been. The NATO alliance is stronger, is larger and will get larger still in the weeks ahead.”

Russia has repeatedly said that Ukraine’s NATO aspirations — which the country still upholds, along with membership to the EU — violated its national security interests.

“Putin has already failed in what he set out to do: He set out to erase Ukraine from the map, to eliminate its independence, to subsume it into Russia. That has failed, and it cannot and will not succeed,” Blinken said Wednesday, noting that Kyiv’s ambitions to deepen its relationship with the West and Europe need not have divorced it from Russia.

“That was not at all incompatible with maintaining close ties with Russia: cultural, economic and others. Those ties have now been obliterated because of Russia’s aggression,” Blinken said.

Ruxandra Iordache

Russia and North Korea to develop relations ‘in sensitive areas,’ Kremlin says

Russia and its ally North Korea will develop bilateral relations, including in “sensitive areas,” the Kremlin said Wednesday, a day after Russia’s president held talks with North Korea’s foreign minister.

“The discussion was generally about bilateral relations, about the situation on the Korean Peninsula , an exchange of views on the most pressing international affairs. But the main emphasis was on the development of bilateral relations,” Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters, state news agency RIA Novosti said.

Moscow aims to develop relations in all areas, “including sensitive ones,” Peskov said, without providing more details.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur region on Sept. 13, 2023.

Vladimir Smirnov | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin met North Korean Foreign Minister Choi Song Hui Tuesday, marking the latest high-profile meeting between the countries’ officials.

The U.S. has expressed concern over burgeoning military ties between Russia and North Korea, accusing Moscow of using North Korean missiles against Ukraine.

North Korea said the allegations were baseless, while Moscow said they were U.S. disinformation.

— Holly Ellyatt

EU will provide further funds to Ukraine, von der Leyen says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (R) meets with President of EU Comission Ursula von der Leyen (R) during a bilateral meeting as part of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switerland on January 16, 2024.

Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu | Getty Images

The chief of the European Union’s executive Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Wednesday said she was “confident” all 27 member states will find a solution to provide funds to Ukraine, an issue currently in gridlock over Hungary’s resistance.

Von der Leyen spoke to lawmakers in the EU parliament after EU leaders last month had agreed to start accession talks with Ukraine but failed to green-light a financial package worth 50 billion euros ($54 bln) to Kyiv over Hungary’s veto.

— Reuters

Kharkiv and Odesa targeted by Russian missiles and drones

This photograph taken oh January 17, 2024 shows a residential building destroyed as a result of a missile attack in Kharkiv late on January 16, 2024. At least 17 people were wounded in Russian strikes on the Ukrainian city on January 16, 2024, the regional governor said. (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)

Sergey Bobok | Afp | Getty Images

The Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv and Odesa were hit by Russian missiles and drones Tuesday evening, injuring civilians and damaging residential buildings, Ukrainian officials said.

Two Russian missiles damaged 19 residential buildings in Kharkiv, northeast Ukraine, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Telegram Wednesday morning.

“Seventeen townspeople are injured, 14 of them are in the hospital, one is in serious condition. 14 cars were crushed. All relevant services continue to work on site. All the necessary help is provided to everyone who needs it,” he said.

Terekhov described the attack on the city center as “exclusively terrorist in nature,” saying there was no military infrastructure in the area. Russia says it does not target civilians in its strikes, although at least 10,000 civilians have died in almost two years of war. Eleven people were injured in Kharkiv last week when a hotel was hit by two Russian missiles.

The southern port of Odesa and the wider region were also targets, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said, leaving three people injured. He said rescuers had evacuated 130 residents as a result of damaged housing infrastructure.

“The Russian military also attacked Kherson region, Dnipropetrovsk region and Sumy region,” Klymenko added. “Fortunately, there were no casualties. In total, 10 shellings on 8 settlements of the country were recorded that [Tuesday] night.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia’s neighbors back Ukraine’s refusal to negotiate on peace talks

Polish President Andrzej Duda told CNBC Tuesday that Ukraine’s refusal to cede ground to Russia in any prospective peace talks was “perfectly understandable.”

Speaking to CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Duda restated his support for his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, following peace formula talks last weekend.

“It’s no wonder that the Ukrainian authorities won’t speak to [Russian President] Vladimir Putin today because they were clear from the start,” Duda told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick.

“To me, as the president of Poland, it’s perfectly understandable. It’s clear,” he said.

Duda’s comments were echoed by Latvia’s president, Edgars Rinkēvičs. He told CNBC that “all those voices who are saying that we probably should have some kind of political process, talks or discussions, they somehow don’t hear what Mr. Putin is saying,” Rinkēvičs told CNBC on Tuesday.

A meeting of national security advisors was held in Davos last Sunday with a focus on Ukraine’s 10-point peace formula. Russia was not invited to the talks, however, and has previously described them as “absurd.”

When asked to comment on Sunday’s talks, the Kremlin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told CNBC, “We find these negotiations strange without our participation. They have no prospects for success.”

Read more on the story here: ‘Perfectly understandable’: Russia’s neighbors back Ukraine’s refusal to negotiate on peace talks

— Holly Ellyatt

Not securing additional funding for Ukraine would be a ‘real problem,’ Blinken says

Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, speaks with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 16th, 2024.

Adam Galici | CNBC

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked to CNBC about his meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at Davos on Tuesday.

“We need to make sure that with Congress, we get the supplemental funding that President Biden’s asked for, we’re working very hard on that,” he said.

Blinken said he believed there was bipartisan support for this in both Houses but explained that this would be an issue if the funds were not secured.

“Look there’s no magic pot of money if we don’t get that money, it’s a real problem,” he said.

— Vicky McKeever

Putin says it’s impossible to take away Russia’s gains in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday it was “impossible” to take away from Russia the military gains it had made in Ukraine.

Talking about possible peace talks, Putin also said in televised comments that ideas put forward by Ukraine were “prohibitive formulas for the peace process.”


Zelenskyy decries West’s ‘weakness’ in failing to sanction Russia’s nuclear industry

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s president, during a special address on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday decried the failure of Western allies to sanction Russia’s nuclear industry.

In a special address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Zelenskyy said President Vladimir Putin had shown himself a “terrorist” after Russian forces seized Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in 2022.

“It’s a clear weakness of the West that Russia’s nuclear industry is still not under global sanctions, even though Putin is the only terrorist in the world who took a nuclear power plant hostage,” Zelenskyy said.

Tensions around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant have persisted throughout the war with Russia and Ukraine accusing each other of endangering the safety and security of the plant during missile strikes around the facility.

Though the European Union has largely weaned itself off Russian fossil fuels, it has found it harder to shake ties with the country’s civil nuclear industry, which is a key energy source for several eastern European countries.

— Karen Gilchrist

One man has stolen at least 13 years of peace, Zelenskyy says

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stolen years of peace and threatens not just Ukraine but the wider world, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the World Economic Forum Tuesday.

“One man has stolen at least 13 years of peace, replacing them with pain, pain, pain and crisis that impact the entire world,” Zelenskyy told delegates in a keynote speech in Davos.

Saying Putin “embodies war,” Zelenskyy said “he will not change.”

Ukraine’s relationship with Russia started to deteriorate following the election of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2010. He was in office until 2014, when pro-European and anti-Russian protests swept across Ukraine, leading to his removal from power, a move that angered Moscow. Russia accused the West of orchestrating a coup in Ukraine, which it denied, and soon after invaded and annexed Crimea. Russia also supported pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine before it invaded the country in 2022.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s president, center, is escorted by security from a bilateral meeting on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. The annual Davos gathering of political leaders, top executives and celebrities runs from January 15 to 19. Photographer: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Zelenskyy said that anyone who believed the war would be contained to Ukraine was mistaken, warning it could easily spread beyond the country’s borders.

The president met international investors in Davos earlier Tuesday, pressing Ukraine’s case for private investment. The forum is an opportunity for Zelenskyy to plead Ukraine’s case for continuing military and humanitarian aid in front of dozens of heads of state and government, as well as business leaders.

The forum comes at a time when ongoing support for Kyiv looks shaky, given increasing war fatigue and forthcoming elections in the European Parliament and U.S. that could change the dial on military aid.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy meets JPMorgan executives, other major investors in Davos

Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., left, shakes hands with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s president, center, on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. The annual Davos gathering of political leaders, top executives and celebrities runs from January 15 to 19. Photographer: Sridhar Natarajan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with JPMorgan’s management and other international investors in Davos Tuesday.

“It is important for us to attract private capital to the reconstruction of Ukraine. We hope that JPMorgan will help attract a large number of global investors and corporations to the Ukrainian economy,” Zelenskyy said on Telegram.

Ukraine’s presidential office released a statement saying that the president had “met with the largest financial funds in the world” Tuesday.

The meeting was also attended by the chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase, James Dimon, and other members of the management team, as well as U.S. Special Representative for Economic Recovery of Ukraine Penny Pritzker.

The Vice Chairman of BlackRock Philip Hildebrand also attended as well as the founder of Bridgewater Associates Ray Dalio, the co-founder and co-chairman of the private investment company The Carlyle Group, David Rubinstein, founder and owner of Dell, Michael Dell, head of the investment company Blackstone Group, Stephen Schwartzman, Australian entrepreneur Andrew Forrest and the founder of ArcelorMittal, Lakshmi Mittal.

Zelenskyy discussed “the importance of attracting private capital to projects for the reconstruction of Ukraine,” the statement said.

He also emphasized the importance of developing and implementing “blended financing mechanisms that combine private and public capital.”

“This is where we see your direct role right now. I know that you are actively cooperating with our team. I look forward to a concrete result,” Zelenskyy told business leaders.

— Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:


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