politics

U.S. Sends ‘Kamikaze Drones' to Ukraine; Pentagon Weighs Permanently Stationing More Troops in Europe

Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

This has been CNBC's live blog covering Wednesday's updates on the war in Ukraine. [Follow the latest updates here.]

Russian attacks on Ukraine are continuing after Moscow said it would reduce its military activity in some parts of the country.

Russia said Tuesday that it would cut back its military activity near Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv — but the U.S., the U.K. and Ukraine have expressed skepticism over Moscow's pledge to scale back the fighting.

Russian and Ukrainian delegates held face-to-face talks in Istanbul yesterday, with Ukraine's delegation calling for an international agreement under which other nations would guarantee Ukraine's security.

Russia continues shelling, holds positions near Kyiv despite Moscow's promises to scale back

"Significant" Russian shelling and missile strikes have continued on the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, and Russian troops are still holding positions close to Kyiv, despite promises to the contrary from Moscow, the United Kingdom said Thursday.

"Russian forces continue to hold positions to the east and west of Kyiv despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units," the U.K. Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence briefing.

Chernihiv is about 90 miles (145 km) north of Kyiv and 40 miles (64 km) south of the Russian border.

A Russian defense official said Wednesday that Moscow would "drastically" reduce military activity near Chernihiv and the capital of Kyiv, NBC News reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken urged caution about believing Moscow's promises. The Russian Defense Ministry's press office was not immediately available to provide comment to CNBC.

The British ministry said heavy fighting "will likely take place in the suburbs" of Kyiv in the coming days. Since last week, Ukrainian forces began to report retaking towns close to the capital.

The situation around the capital is fluid, and those Ukrainian claims are difficult or impossible to verify.

"You do see the Ukrainians trying to take advantage of opportunities and roll back the Russians where they can," NBC News Global Security Reporter Dan De Luce said.

Heavy fighting continues in Mariupol in the south, but the U.K. Ministry said Ukrainian defenders are still holding the city center. Mariupol has been largely destroyed by Russian artillery and missiles.

— Ted Kemp

Putin may have been misinformed about Ukraine, U.S. intelligence shows

According to newly declassified U.S. intelligence, Russian President Vladimir Putin feels he was misled by military leaders, who withheld details about the botched invasion of Ukraine out of fear.

"We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions, because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth," said White House communications director Kate Bedingfield.

As a result, there's been "persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership," she told reporters.

A U.S. official told NBC News earlier that Putin didn't know his military was using and losing conscripts in Ukraine, a sign that there was a "clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information to the Russian President."

When Putin actually realizes how badly his military is done in Ukraine, there might be "a real potential here for escalation," said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

Neither the White House nor the Pentagon would say how American intelligence agencies learned what Putin was and was not being told. Releasing intelligence strongly suggests the U.S. has a mole in Putin's inner circle.

— Goh Chiew Tong, Christina Wilkie

U.S. sends 100 killer drones to Ukraine, following Zelenskyy’s request for additional aid

The U.S. will be sending 100 killer drones to Ukraine in a colossal weapons package that President Joe Biden approved earlier this month, officials have confirmed.

The so-called "kamikaze drones" will be deployed to Ukraine soon, according to the Pentagon. It comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's request to U.S. lawmakers for additional military equipment.

"We've heard the Ukrainians and we take that request very seriously," said Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of Defense for international security.

It's not clear how often the U.S. military has used the killer drones on the battlefield and AeroVironment, the U.S.-based firm that manufactures the weapon, declined to comment on the arms transfer.

The Switchblades are equipped with cameras, navigation systems and guided explosives. They can be programmed to automatically strike targets that are miles away or can loiter above a target until engaged by an operator to strike.

— Goh Chiew Tong, Amanda Macias

Congress hears sirens wail as Ukraine legislators visit

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) is flanked by Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) as he speaks during a meeting between members of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus and members of the Ukrainian Parliament at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 30, 2022. 
Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters
U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) is flanked by Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) as he speaks during a meeting between members of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus and members of the Ukrainian Parliament at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 30, 2022. 

As members of the Ukrainian parliament were pleading for aid on Capitol Hill, an air raid siren blared from one of their cell phones — a wrenching alert from the war-torn country back home.

One of the visitors reached into her bag, pulled out the phone and let the siren wail in the halls of Congress.

"Right now, you hear the sound?" said Anastasia Radina, a member of the Ukrainian Rada.

"This is the air raid alarm in the community where my son is staying right now," she said at a press conference this week after meeting with members of Congress. "I need you all to hear that."

— Associated Press

Pentagon weighs stationing more troops permanently in Eastern Europe

US soldiers walk to board a plane from Pope Army Airfield in Fort Bragg, North Carolina on February 14, 2021 as they are deployed to Europe.
Allison Joyce | AFP | Getty Images
US soldiers walk to board a plane from Pope Army Airfield in Fort Bragg, North Carolina on February 14, 2021 as they are deployed to Europe.

The Pentagon is considering sending more U.S. troops to Eastern Europe on a permanent basis, citing significant changes in the security environment.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the issue is under discussion, but no decisions have been made.

Earlier in the day, the top U.S. commander in Europe told lawmakers that the U.S. and NATO military footprint in Europe and specifically in the Baltics has "got to change."

"Certainly this is an opportunity as a result of this senseless act on behalf of Russia, to re-examine the permanent military architecture that exists not only in Eastern Europe, but in our air policing activity in aviation and in our standing naval maritime groups," U.S. Air Force Tod Wolters said before the House Armed Services Committee.

— Amanda Macias

Satellite images show Mariupol before and after destruction

Satellite images from Maxar Technologies show total destruction from above in Mariupol. Here is a before and after view.

Before

Maxar satellite imagery of homes and buildings before the invasion, Mariupol, Ukraine on June 21, 2021
Maxar Technologies | Getty Images
Maxar satellite imagery of homes and buildings before the invasion, Mariupol, Ukraine on June 21, 2021

After

Maxar satellite imagery of destruction of homes and buildings after the invasion, Mariupol, Ukraine on March 29th, 2022.
Maxar Technologies | Getty Images
Maxar satellite imagery of destruction of homes and buildings after the invasion, Mariupol, Ukraine on March 29th, 2022.

— Maxar Technologies via Getty Images

U.S. will provide $500 million in direct budgetary aid to Zelenskyy's government

President Biden has warned Putin that the U.S. and its allies are willing to impose swift and severe costs on Russia.
Courtesy: The White House
President Biden has warned Putin that the U.S. and its allies are willing to impose swift and severe costs on Russia.

President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the United States plans to provide his government with $500 million in direct budgetary aid, according to a White House readout of Biden's secure call with the Ukrainian leader.

In the world of international assistance, direct budgetary aid is relatively rare. More often nation-to-nation aid comes in the form of already paid-for things, like food or weapons or subject matter experts, and monetary loans. Direct budgetary aid, on the other hand, generally comes with few strings attached, the closest thing to a cash gift from one government to another.

The monthlong Russian invasion of Ukraine has severely hampered Kyiv's ability to collect tax revenue and remain operational, making this kind of cash aid especially important.

Congress recently approved a separate, more than $13 billion package of supplemental aid for Ukraine. But nearly all of that money is already committed to specific things, like refugee housing, defensive arms and medical supplies.

--- Christina Wilkie

U.K. aims to stop sanctioned oligarchs from maintaining their planes and yachts

The superyacht Phi owned by a Russian businessman in Canary Wharf, east London which has been detained as part of sanctions against Russia.
James Manning | Pa Images | Getty Images
The superyacht Phi owned by a Russian businessman in Canary Wharf, east London which has been detained as part of sanctions against Russia.

The U.K. announced new legislation that aims to prohibit maintenance on aircraft or yachts belonging to sanctioned Russian elites and their businesses. 

The new measures come after Britain designated more than 1,200 individuals and entities close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"There is no doubt that Putin and his elite have been surprised by the strength of our sanctions," U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss wrote in a statement.

"We will continue to ramp up the pressure so long as Russian troops are in Ukraine, targeting not only the businesses of oligarchs but also their assets and international lifestyles," Truss added.

— Amanda Macias

Top U.S. commander in Europe says Putin believed that Russians supported a Ukraine invasion

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia March 18, 2022.
Sergey Guneev | Sputnik | Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia March 18, 2022.

America's top commander in Europe gave his best assessment as to why Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine.

"I think he felt like he had the popular support of the citizens of Russia. I also felt like he was attempting to take advantage of fissures that could have appeared in NATO as a result of the post-Afghanistan environment," U.S. Air Force General and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Tod Wolters said during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

General Tod Wolters, commander, U.S. European Command, testifies during the House Armed Services Committee hearing titled National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activity in Europe, in Rayburn Building on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.
Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
General Tod Wolters, commander, U.S. European Command, testifies during the House Armed Services Committee hearing titled National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activity in Europe, in Rayburn Building on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.

"I also think it has to do with his age and its efficacy. All those combined together put him in a position where he elected to go at this time," Wolters said when asked why Putin chose Feb. 24 to invade Ukraine.

"The overriding variable in my view is the fact that he believes that he has popular support from his citizens," said Wolters, who also serves as commander of U.S. European Command.

— Amanda Macias

Zelenskyy says he and Biden discussed a new sanctions package

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses the members of Norwegian parliament via video link, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 30, 2022. 
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses the members of Norwegian parliament via video link, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 30, 2022. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's hourlong secure call with U.S. President Joe Biden finished just after noon, the White House said.

Ten minutes later, the Ukrainian leader tweeted that he and Biden had discussed a number of topics, most notably new sanctions on Russia and specific materiel that Ukraine needs.

The White House has been working on a package of new sanctions to impose on Russia that would be aimed at making it harder for Russia's military to get parts and material.

Christina Wilkie

Russia's battlefield performance in Ukraine 'baffling,' top U.S. commander in Europe says

General Tod Wolters, U.S. European Command and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 29, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Win Mcnamee | Getty Images
General Tod Wolters, U.S. European Command and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 29, 2022 in Washington, DC.

America's top commander in Europe described Russia's largely stalled military campaign and overall battlefield performance in Ukraine as "baffling."

"There was a degree of miscalculation and it's evident by the performance of the Russian military up to this point," U.S. Air Force General and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Tod Wolters said during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

"This one has been baffling," said Wolters, who also serves as commander of U.S. European Command. He added that the U.S. military should "be prepared to take a really good look" at Russia's military force posture.

Since the Kremlin's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces have been increasingly beset by logistical and command and control issues, as well as morale problems.

— Amanda Macias

The art of war: Murals show support for Ukraine

Artists around the world created murals to show support for Ukraine as Russia's invasion continues.

Fresco murals by French street artists Kelu Abstract and Jeff Aerosol are displayed on the wall of a Parisian building on March 14, 2022 in Paris, France.
Chesnot | Getty Images
Fresco murals by French street artists Kelu Abstract and Jeff Aerosol are displayed on the wall of a Parisian building on March 14, 2022 in Paris, France.
A resident walks past mural painting by Bulgarian artist Stanislav Belovski depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin holding his own body in Sofia, on March 15, 2022.
Nikolay Doychinov | AFP | Getty Images
A resident walks past mural painting by Bulgarian artist Stanislav Belovski depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin holding his own body in Sofia, on March 15, 2022.
Juan Mabromata | AFP | Getty Images
A woman walks pass the mural "No to war" by muralist Maximiliano Bagnasco in Buenos Aires on March 5, 2022.
A mural of Putin, Hitler, and Stalin with a slogan
Mateusz Slodkowski | Lightrocket | Getty Images
A mural of Putin, Hitler, and Stalin with a slogan " No More Time" is seen on the wall next to the PKM Gdansk Jasien train station.
A resident looks at new street art mural has appeared in Cardiff depicting Ukraine's capital Kyiv under siege on March 01, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales.
Huw Fairclough | Getty Images
A resident looks at new street art mural has appeared in Cardiff depicting Ukraine's capital Kyiv under siege on March 01, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales.

To see more murals from around the world, click here.

— Adam Jeffery

100 'killer drones' included in latest U.S. arms package for Ukraine

AeroVironment Switchblade 600 Drone
Courtesy: AeroVironment
AeroVironment Switchblade 600 Drone

American officials told lawmakers that the U.S. will send killer drones to Ukraine at the country's request.

"We have committed 100 switchblade tactical unmanned aerial systems to be delivered in the most recent package of presidential drawdown," U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters last week that the drones would arrive in Ukraine soon, but declined to elaborate further.

There are two variants of the weapon, the Switchblade 300 and the 600, manufactured by U.S.-based firm AeroVironment. It was not immediately clear which variant of the weapon the U.S. deployed to Ukraine.

The 300 version is designed to strike small targets. It can fit in a rucksack, weighs a little over 5 pounds and has a range of 10 miles. The 600 variant of the weapon is designed to destroy tanks and other armored vehicles. It weighs slightly more than 120 pounds and has a range of more than 40 miles.

— Amanda Macias

Zelenskyy and Biden plan to speak by phone today

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends an interview with some of the Russian media via videolink, as Russia?s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 27, 2022.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends an interview with some of the Russian media via videolink, as Russia?s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 27, 2022.

President Joe Biden is slated to speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy around 10:45 a.m. ET, the White House said in a statement.

The two leaders are planning to "discuss our continued support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression."

The call follows Russia's claim Tuesday that it would "dramatically reduce" its military activity around the capital Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.

The announcement from the Russian Ministry of Defense was met with deep skepticism by officials in both Washington and Kyiv.

— Christina Wilkie

The aftermath of shelling in Donetsk

Emergency specialists work at a residential building damaged by shelling in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk during Russia's war in Ukraine.

Emergency specialists work at a residential building damaged by shelling during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine March 30, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
Emergency specialists work at a residential building damaged by shelling during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine March 30, 2022.
A woman carries a bottle of water as emergency specialists work at a residential building damaged by shelling during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine March 30, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
A woman carries a bottle of water as emergency specialists work at a residential building damaged by shelling during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine March 30, 2022.
Firefighters work at a residential building damaged by shelling during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine March 30, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
Firefighters work at a residential building damaged by shelling during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine March 30, 2022.

— Reuters

Russia’s Lavrov says Moscow will move toward ‘multipolar world order’ with China

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference following talks with President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer in Moscow, Russia March 24, 2022.
Kirill Kudryavtsev | Reuters
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference following talks with President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer in Moscow, Russia March 24, 2022.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov touted a move toward a new world order during a visit to China on Wednesday.

"We are living through a serious stage in the history of international relations," he said. "I am convinced that the outcome of this stage will substantially clarify the international situation. We will move towards a multipolar, equitable and democratic world order with [China] and other like-minded nations."

China, a close ally of Russia, has so far refused to fully denounce Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and has not joined the coordinated move to impose economic sanctions on Moscow.

— Chloe Taylor

Russia regrouping away from Kyiv but Ukraine still under constant attack, officials say

Russia is regrouping its troops away from Kyiv to concentrate on its offensive in eastern Ukraine, Ukraine's armed forces have said in a new update.

Moscow was moving to increase the supply of troops in the Donetsk and Tavriya directions, the update said, while offensives were also underway in other parts of the country.

"In the northern direction, the occupier focused on shelling areas of Chernihiv and strengthening defensive positions," Ukraine's armed forces said.

Russia said Tuesday that it would cut back its military activity in and around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an advisor to the Ukrainian Presidential Office, said in a video message on Wednesday that Russia had ulterior motives for regrouping its troops away from the capital.

"The Russians are not simply removing their troops from Kyiv and from the north of Ukraine — they are transferring them to the Joint Forces Operation zone [in eastern Ukraine] and near Mariupol in order to have a qualitative and quantitative advantage in these areas," he said, according to an NBC News translation.

Meanwhile, Oleh Synegubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said Wednesday that Russian forces had been "constantly firing" on multiple districts around Kharkiv, and Ukraine's Human Rights Ombudsman said every day Ukrainian towns and cities were being "shaken by constant shelling and bombing."

— Chloe Taylor

China says relations with Russia are withstanding ‘test of international turbulence’: State-controlled media

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Wednesday that China-Russia relations have withstood the test of international turbulence, according to Chinese state-run television channel Phoenix TV.

According to Phoenix TV, he made the comments during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

Wang also said that China's relations with Russia "maintained the correct direction [and] continue to develop resiliently," according to the Chinese broadcaster.

China, a close ally of Russia, has so far refused to fully denounce Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and has not joined the coordinated move to impose economic sanctions on Moscow.

Chloe Taylor

Kyiv officials say capital hit by multiple shelling strikes

A completely destroyed building is seen after Russian shelling in the Sviatoshinsky district of Kyiv, Ukraine on March 30, 2022.
Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
A completely destroyed building is seen after Russian shelling in the Sviatoshinsky district of Kyiv, Ukraine on March 30, 2022.

The Kyiv region has been hit by more than 30 shelling strikes over the past 24 hours, officials said Wednesday.

"More than 30 shellings of housing estates and infrastructure facilities have been recorded," the Kyiv Regional State Administration said in a Telegram post translated by NBC News.

Authorities said in the post that the most dangerous areas in the region were the settlements along the Zhytomyr highway, as well as the north of Vyshhorod district and the settlements of Baryshivska and Velikodimerska on the outskirts of the capital.

On Tuesday, Russia said it would scale back its military operations in and around Kyiv.

— Chloe Taylor

45% of Ukrainians worried about finding enough food, UN says

People line up for food handed out by volunteers at a humanitarian aid distribution point, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 28, 2022.
Thomas Peter | Reuters
People line up for food handed out by volunteers at a humanitarian aid distribution point, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 28, 2022.

An estimated 45% of the Ukrainian population is worried about finding enough to eat, the U.N.'s World Food Programme said Wednesday.

The organization said it was already supporting 1 million people on the ground in Ukraine by supplying them with food.

"Just one month ago, we had no presence on the ground, no staff, no network of suppliers or partners. To build an operation from the ground up and get food to one million people seemed a monumental challenge," Jakob Kern, WFP's emergency coordinator for Ukraine, said in a press release.

"Now that the structures are in place, we need the funding to keep delivering assistance, and to help 3 million people in need."

— Chloe Taylor

145 children have died in the war, Ukraine says

In this picture taken on March 18, 2022, 109 empty strollers are seen placed outside the Lviv city council during an action to highlight the number of children killed in the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Yuriy Dyachyshyn | AFP | Getty Images
In this picture taken on March 18, 2022, 109 empty strollers are seen placed outside the Lviv city council during an action to highlight the number of children killed in the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, 145 children have been killed in the conflict in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Human Rights Ombudsman said Wednesday.

A further 222 children have been injured, officials said, noting that "children in the Kyiv region suffered the most."

— Chloe Taylor

Russia state Duma speaker suggests switching to ruble payments for more exports

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Russian State Duma chairman and speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said Wednesday that Moscow should consider asking for payments in rubles for more of its exported goods.

The Kremlin has repeatedly demanded that so-called "unfriendly" countries pay in rubles for gas, a demand that has been rejected by G-7 countries.

"European politicians need to stop talking, stop looking for excuses why their countries cannot pay in rubles," Volodin said on Telegram Wednesday, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin "made the right decision" by demanding payments for gas be made in the Russian currency.

Most countries currently pay for Russian gas in euros or dollars.

"It would be right, where it is profitable for our country, to expand the list of goods exported for rubles: fertilizers, grain, oil, oil, coal, metals, timber, etc.," Volodin added. "I appeal to colleagues from the national parliaments of unfriendly countries: take the issue of ruble settlements more seriously."

Volodin, an influential lawmaker in the Russian political sphere, has been an outspoken supporter of Moscow's military action in Ukraine. 

Chloe Taylor

4 million have fled Ukraine, UN says

A displaced Ukrainian and child make their way to board a bus for onward travel at a temporary refugee center, setup at a disused Tesco building, in Przemysl, Poland, on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.
Angel Garcia | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A displaced Ukrainian and child make their way to board a bus for onward travel at a temporary refugee center, setup at a disused Tesco building, in Przemysl, Poland, on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

More than 4 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in late February, the U.N.'s Office for the High Commissioner for Refugees said Wednesday.

Chloe Taylor

Chernihiv official says Russia continuing to attack the region despite claims it would pull troops back

An external view shows hotel ‘Ukraine’ destroyed during an air strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in central Chernihiv, Ukraine March 12, 2022.
Oleh Holovatenko | Reuters
An external view shows hotel ‘Ukraine’ destroyed during an air strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in central Chernihiv, Ukraine March 12, 2022.

Viasheslav Chaus, governor of Chernihiv, said Wednesday that Russian forces "spent the whole night" attacking the region despite Moscow's claims yesterday that it would pull troops back from Kyiv and Chernihiv.

"Yesterday, the Russians publicly stated that they were reducing their offensive actions and activity in the Chernihiv and Kyiv areas. Do we believe that? Of course not," Chaus said in a Telegram post.

"The enemy demonstrated a 'decrease in activity' in the Chernihiv region by striking Nizhyn, including by air, and spent the whole night hitting Chernihiv," he added. "Civil infrastructure has been destroyed again, libraries, shopping malls and other facilities have been destroyed, and many houses have been destroyed. Because, in fact, the enemy roamed Chernihiv all night."

CNBC has not been able to independently verify these reports. A spokesperson for the Russian government was not immediately available for comment.

— Chloe Taylor

Germany declares 'early warning' stage of gas supply emergency

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck holds a press conference on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.
Kay Nietfeld | Picture Alliance | Getty Images
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck holds a press conference on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.

Germany is bracing for a potential disruption of natural gas supplies, activating the first "early warning" stage of an emergency amid a dispute with Russia.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in a news conference the measure was the first of three stages and does not yet imply a state intervention to ration gas supplies.

Habeck called for consumers and companies to reduce consumption, however, reportedly saying that "every kilowatt hour counts."

It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin urges so-called "unfriendly" countries to pay in rubles for Russian gas. The G-7, which induces Germany, has rejected that demand.

Habeck has said Germany, which imported around 55% of its gas supplies from Russia last year, would not be able to achieve full independence from Moscow before mid-2024.

— Sam Meredith

You can’t trust ‘what is coming out of the mouth of Putin’s war machine,’ UK’s deputy PM says

Foreign Minister Dominic Raab is pictured in Downing Street on March 25, 2020 in London, England.
Peter Summers | Getty Images
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab is pictured in Downing Street on March 25, 2020 in London, England.

U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has expressed skepticism over Russia's claims that it intends to scale back its military operations in some parts of Ukraine.

"We judge the Russian military machine by its actions, not just its words," he told Sky News on Wednesday, saying the U.K. was not putting a lot of faith in Russia's stated intentions.

"There's some skepticism that [Russia] will regroup to attack again rather than seriously engage in diplomacy or anything of that nature," Raab added. "Of course, the door to diplomacy will always be left ajar, but I don't think you can trust what is coming out of the mouth of Putin's war machine."

— Chloe Taylor

Sanctions on Russia to continue until we see de-escalation, Italy’s Di Maio says

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" that sanctions on Russia will continue until Italy sees military de-escalation in Ukraine.

— Chloe Taylor

Japan skeptical over Russian pledge to cut military operations

Japan has expressed skepticism over Russia's pledge to reduce its military operations in and around the Ukrainian capital.

"We are aware that during the ceasefire negotiations between Russia and Ukraine on March 29, both sides made certain concessions, with the Russian side indicating its intention to drastically reduce military operations in and around the capital, Kyiv," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday.

He noted that U.S. President Joe Biden and other U.S. government officials were taking a wait-and-see approach to Russia's stated intentions, with some saying this is merely a repositioning of Moscow's troops and not an actual withdrawal.

"Japan shares the belief that it is important to achieve a concrete cease-fire as soon as possible, and we will continue to monitor the situation with great interest, and at the same time, we will provide the various types of support to Ukraine that we have already announced in a prompt and steady manner," Matsuno said. "In order to immediately stop Russia's aggression and ensure the withdraw of its troops it is important for the international community to work together and  continue to take strong measures against Russia."

— Chloe Taylor

EU to pressure China over stance on Russia-Ukraine war

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen delivers a statement in Brussels.
Kenzo Tribouillard | AFP | Getty Images
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen delivers a statement in Brussels.

The European Union wants to put pressure on China to be neutral with its stance over Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine, sources with knowledge of the matter told CNBC ahead of a virtual meeting between Brussels and Beijing on Friday.

There is concern among western officials regarding the role that China might play in the war between Russia and Ukraine. The Chinese authorities have so far refused to fully denounce Russia's unprovoked invasion of its neighbor — having abstained during a vote for a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Moscow.

China has also supported Moscow's complaints about NATO expansion and U.S. officials have also said that Russia has asked China for military and economic support — something that the Kremlin and Beijing have both denied.

European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are speaking Friday with China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang at 10 a.m. Brussels time and then with Chinese President Xi Jinping at 2 p.m.

The goal of the summit is "ensuring, in a way, the neutrality of China so they don't help Russia," an EU official, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the discussions, told CNBC Tuesday.

Read the full story here.

Silvia Amaro

Ukrainian official says Russia will target Kyiv ‘until the end of the conflict’

A Ukrainian service member walks on the front line near Kyiv as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, Ukraine March 29, 2022.
Gleb Garanich | Reuters
A Ukrainian service member walks on the front line near Kyiv as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, Ukraine March 29, 2022.

Oleksiy Arestovtch, an advisor to the Ukrainian President's Office, said Wednesday morning that ongoing talks between Russia and Ukraine would do nothing to decelerate the war.

"Negotiations will in no way slow down the war and will not cancel it," he said on Telegram in the early hours of Wednesday morning. "This is a separate line that prepares a future peace agreement, because any war, even a hundred years' war, ends with a peace agreement."

He noted, however, that "serious success" had been achieved at Tuesday's talks in Istanbul.

"Ukraine has improved its pre-war position in all areas of consultation," Arestovtch said. "At some point the negotiating and military lines will converge and this will definitely be a victory for Ukraine."

But he expressed skepticism over the pledge Russia made at the meeting to scale back its military activity near Kyiv and the city of Chernihiv.

"Russian troops will be targeting the cities until the very end of the conflict," he said. "Including Kyiv."

— Chloe Taylor

Russian attacks continue in Ukraine

Service members of pro-Russian troops are seen atop of an armoured vehicle in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict on a road leading to the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 28, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
Service members of pro-Russian troops are seen atop of an armoured vehicle in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict on a road leading to the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 28, 2022.

Ukraine's armed forces said in an update Wednesday morning that more than 1,000 Russian troops had been transferred from occupied Georgia to reinforce Russia's military presence in Ukraine.

"The enemy continues to conduct full-scale armed aggression against our state," officials said in the update, adding that Russian troops "continue to loot the homes and apartments of local residents, detain pro-Ukrainian activists and government officials in Ukraine."

CNBC has not been able to independently verify these reports.

A spokesperson for the Russian government was not available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials said on Telegram Wednesday morning there had been shelling attacks in Kyiv's Brovary district yesterday, which resulted in a fire. It was not specified if there were any casualties.

Officials also said Russian troops had fired on residential neighborhoods in the Luhansk region early this morning. Authorities said there were "victims" in the attack, and were clarifying the information on casualties resulting from the attack.

"Rescuers are trying to save the living," Luhansk Governor Serhii Haidai said.

— Chloe Taylor

Russian military is suffering ‘heavy losses’ but will likely continue with attacks, the U.K. says

Honor guards attend a funeral of Rustam Zarifulin, 26, who died of wounds on March 14 during the outgoing Russian military action in Ukraine in the city of Kara-Balta some 60 kilometres from Bishkek on March 27, 2022.
Vyacheslav Oseledko | AFP | Getty Images
Honor guards attend a funeral of Rustam Zarifulin, 26, who died of wounds on March 14 during the outgoing Russian military action in Ukraine in the city of Kara-Balta some 60 kilometres from Bishkek on March 27, 2022.

Russian units are suffering "heavy losses" and have been forced to return to Belarus and Russia to reorganize and resupply, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry.

"Such activity is placing further pressure on Russia's already strained logistics and demonstrates the difficulties Russia is having reorganizing its units in forward areas of Ukraine," showed the ministry's latest intelligence report.

However, Russia is likely to continue mass artillery and missile strikes to compensate for its "reduced ground manoeuvre capability," it said in a Twitter post. The U.S. previously warned that Russia's pledge to move troops away from Kyiv is "not a real withdrawal."

"Russia's stated focus on an offensive in Donetsk and Luhansk is likely a tacit admission that it is struggling to sustain more than one significant axis of advance," the U.K. Defense Ministry added.

— Goh Chiew Tong

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

You can read Tuesday's live coverage of the war in Ukraine here:

Russia claims it will curb attacks around Kyiv; Ukraine calls for security guarantee in latest talks

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