Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

US Senate panel backs Finland, Sweden NATO membership

Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) speaks during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations to examine US-Russia policy, on Capitol Hill, Washington, December 7, 2021.

Alex Brandon | Pool | Reuters

A resolution urging NATO to quickly admit Finland and Sweden won easy passage in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a signal of bipartisan support from lawmakers.

Democrats and Republicans on the committee approved the measure supporting the expansion and urging other NATO states to swiftly admit the two Nordic states by voice vote, with no voiced objections.

The vote had been seen as a test of Republican lawmakers’ stand on the expansion, which President Joe Biden has thrown his support behind.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Finland and Sweden to end longstanding policies of military non-alignment and apply to join the 30-member US and European defensive alliance. Biden encouraged the two countries’ application and welcomed their leaders to the White House in May to celebrate it.

Unexpected opposition from NATO member Turkey has clouded what had been expected to be quick ascension to the bloc by the two countries. Turkey says it objects to the two countries’ stances regarding the Middle East’s Kurdish minority.

—Associated Press

Pro-Russia rebel court sentences 3 people to death

A court in separatist-controlled territory of eastern Ukraine sentenced two British citizens and a Moroccan man to death for fighting on Ukraine’s side in the war with Russia.

The three men fought alongside Ukrainian troops and surrendered to Russian forces weeks ago.

A court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic found them guilty of taking action toward a violent overthrow of power, an offense punishable by death in the internationally unrecognized rebel-held territory in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

The three were also convicted of mercenary activities and terrorism.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported Thursday that the three — Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Saaudun Brahim — are set to face a firing squad. They have a month to appeal.

—Associated Press

One doctor, little food, no power: In eastern Ukraine, locals face life without security

Two elderly people who can’t walk are in a luggage space on an evacuation bus. Donetsk (Donbas) region is under heavy attack during the full Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia invaded Ukraine starting on February 24, killing numerous civilians and soldiers.

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk | light rocket | Getty Images

UN says at least 4,302 killed in Ukraine since start of war

Buzova village resident Oleksandr (surname withheld) looks on as police exhume the bodies of his mother, brother and son to investigate alleged war crimes by Russian forces during the invasion of Ukraine on May 21, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Christopher Furlong | Getty Images

The United Nations has confirmed 4,302 civilian deaths and 5,217 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay fatality reports.

The international organization said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.

—Amanda Macias

Russia does not expect to cut gas to more European customers

The Astora underground natural gas storage facility stands on May 12, 2022 in Rehden, Germany.

David Hecker | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russia said on Thursday it did not expect Gazprom to cut gas supplies to any more European customers and said its scheme to make buyers pay for gas in rubles was working as planned.

Gazprom has cut supplies to Denmark’s Orsted and to Shell Energy for its contract to supply gas to Germany, as well as to Dutch gas trader GasTerra along with Bulgaria, Poland and Finland for refusing to make payments for Russian gas in rubles under the new ruble scheme .

Gas payments under the new scheme, set up in response to Western sanctions, were due in April and May.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said everyone who was to be cut off from supplies was now not receiving Russian gas.

“The system is functioning … and whose who receive the gas are working under the new system,” Peskov told his daily conference call with reporters.

Asked whether new gas cuts should be expected, he said: “No.”

—Reuters

Zelenskyy: Millions of people could starve if Russia’s Black Sea blockade continues

Wheat grows in a farm field about 25 kilometers from the front line of battle between Russian and Ukrainian troops on June 08, 2022 near Sloviansk, Ukraine.

Scott Olson | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that millions of people could starve if Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea continues, adding that the world is on the brink of a “terrible food crisis.”

The Kremlin has been accused of weaponizing food supplies by blocking Ukraine’s exports and ratcheting up the cost of grain. Ukraine has also accused Russia of laying mines in the Black Sea.

Russia, for its part, has disputed these claims, saying Ukraine is responsible for the mines at sea which — combined with an unprecedented barrage of international sanctions — are to blame.

“We cannot export our wheat, corn, vegetable oil and other products that have played a stabilizing role in the global market,” Zelenskyy said in a video statement to the TIME100 Gala.

“This means that, unfortunately, dozens of countries may face a physical shortage of food. Millions of people may starve if Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea continues.”

The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization has said a blockade of Black Sea ports means the world’s most vulnerable countries are paying more for less food. UN chief Antonio Guterres has said a trade deal to allow grain exports from Ukraine through the Black Sea could avert mass hunger.

—Sam Meredith

Mayor of Severodonetsk says evacuation attempts are impossible for now

The mayor of Severodonetsk has described the situation in the eastern Ukrainian city as “quite complicated but controlled” after a night of heavy artillery fire from Russian forces.

Speaking to Ukrainian television, Oleksandr Stryuk said the bridges between Lysychansk and Severodonetsk “are under constant shelling.”

“The evacuation is impossible for now,” Stryuk said, according to a translation. “It is possible to get to Lysychansk, as the ‘road of life’ is controlled by Armed Forces of Ukraine, but it’s under constant shelling.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the battle for Severodonetsk may decide the outcome of the east of Ukraine.

—Sam Meredith

Russian forces seen targeting south of Izium in eastern Ukraine

The UK’s Ministry of Defense says Russian forces have likely increased their efforts to advance to the south of Izium while fighting continues in Severodonetsk.

“Russia’s progress on the Izium axis had remained stalled since April, after Ukrainian forces made good use of the terrain to slow Russia’s advance,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

“Russia has likely attempted to reconstitute [the Eastern Group of Forces] after they suffered very heavy casualties in the failed advance on Kyiv, but its units likely remain understrength. Russia likely seeks to regain momentum in this area in order to put further pressure on Sieverodonetsk, and to give it the option of advancing deeper into the Donetsk Oblast,” it added.

—Sam Meredith

Russian forces control most of Severodonetsk, regional governor says

People wait to be evacuated in Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine on June 8, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian forces are in control of most of the city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine and are heavily shelling the nearby city of Lysychansk, according to the governor of the Luhansk region.

In an online post, Serhiy Haidai said Ukrainian troops in the Luhansk region are not under threat of encirclement.

Russian forces temporarily control more than 90% of the region, he added.

—Sam Meredith

Zelenskyy says fighting in Severodonetsk could decide the fate of east Ukraine

Smoke and dirt rise from shelling in the city of Severodonetsk this week. “Severodonetsk remains the epicenter of the confrontation in Donbas,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said via Telegram, according to a translation.

Aris Messinis | dpa | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that fighting for control of the city of Severodonetsk may decide the outcome of the conflict with Russian forces in the east of the country.

“According to the results of this day, the 105th day of the full-scale war, Severodonetsk remains the epicenter of the confrontation in Donbas. We defend our positions, inflict significant losses on the enemy,” Zelenskyy said via Telegram, according to a translation.

“This is a very fierce battle, very difficult. Probably one of the most difficult throughout this war. I am grateful to everyone who defends this direction. In many ways, the fate of our Donbas is being decided there.”

—Sam Meredith

UN chief says trade deal could avert mass hunger

The United Nations is pursuing a deal that would allow grain exports from Ukraine through the Black Sea and unimpeded access to world markets for Russian food and fertilizers.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told UN correspondents on Wednesday that without the deal hundreds of millions of people in developing countries face the threat of an unprecedented wave of hunger, three months after Russia invaded its smaller neighbor.

Guterres said, “Ukraine’s food production and the food and fertilizer produced by Russia must be brought into world markets, despite the war.”

Senior officials have been working closely with contacts in Moscow, Kyiv, Ankara, Brussels and Washington for the past 10 days, Guterres said. He said he didn’t want to jeopardize the chances of success by revealing details.

“This is one of those moments when silent diplomacy is necessary, and the welfare of millions of people around the world could depend on it,” he said.

—Associated Press

Biden reaffirms US support in phone call with Polish president

President Joe Biden speaking to Vladimir Putin from the White House, Dec. 30, 2021.

Source: White House Photo

President Joe Biden spoke with Polish President Andrzej Duda and reaffirmed US commitment to bolster security along Poland’s borders, the White House said in a readout of the call.

“They also discussed their ongoing support for the people and government of Ukraine in response to Russian aggression,” the readout said.

Biden last met with Duda in March during a high-profile trip to Poland.

—Amanda Macias

Ukraine might be about to pull back from a key eastern city

Smoke rises in the city of Sievierodonetsk during heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops on May 30, 2022.

Aris Messinis | dpa | Getty Images

Ukrainian troops may soon have to retreat from a key eastern city, the region’s governor and Western military analysts said Wednesday, as Russian advances force them back.

The street-by-street battle for Sievierodonetsk has become the focus of the conflict in recent weeks, with Russia slowly advancing toward its larger goal to take full control of the industrial Donbas region.

The last major city still under Ukrainian control in the Luhansk province—which together with neighboring Donetsk makes up the Donbas—has been pummeled by artillery in a back-and-forth fight that remains hard to decipher. Kyiv said a counteroffensive over the weekend had helped its forces regain some ground, but the situation appears to have deteriorated further since then.

Satellite imagery released by US defense contractor Maxar Technologies on Wednesday appeared to show what it said was “significant damage” in Sievierodonetsk and nearby areas amid fears that the city could be turned into a new Mariupol, the key port that was besieged by the Russians and left in ruins by slow fighting.

Read more here.

—NBC News

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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