The West braces for Russia’s next moves as Ukraine war enters a new phase
A Ukrainian soldier walks in a supermarket, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, April 29, 2022.
Jorge Silva | Reuters
The war in Ukraine appears to be entering a new phase after Russia ramped up its threats this week, NBC News reports, with analysts saying that both sides seem prepared for prolonged conflict that could extend beyond the battlefield.
Moscow has escalated a slew of threats, including warnings of nuclear confrontation, energy crises and invasions of new territories. Meanwhile, the U.S. and its allies are preparing new shipments of heavy weapons and military equipment to aid Ukraine.
Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin told reporters after a trip to Kyiv that the U.S. wants to see Russia military weakened to the extent that it can’t do things like invade Ukraine. And on Thursday, President Joe Biden requested Congress to provide $33 billion to Ukraine, including $20 billion for military equipment and assistance.
— Emma Newburger
UK PM Johnson tells Zelenskyy he is more committed than ever to reinforcing Ukraine
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend a news briefing, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 9, 2022.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Handout
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a phone call that he is more committed than ever to reinforcing Ukraine and “ensuring Putin fails,” according to a Downing Street statement. It also confirmed that the U.K. will continue to provide additional military aid to Ukrainians.
Johnson also offered Britain’s continued economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine, the statement said.
The leaders also discussed progress of the effort to evacuate the southern city of Mariupol and agreed to remain in close contact on next steps.
— Emma Newburger
Ukraine says 20 civilians evacuated from besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol
A view shows a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 26, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters
A Ukrainian commander said 20 civilians were evacuated Saturday from the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol, according to a video posted to Telegram and translated by NBC News.
Earlier in the day, Russian state media had reported that 25 civilians were evacuated from the plant. CNBC could not independently confirm either claim.
In recent weeks, Russian forces had all but surrounded the strategic coastal town of Mariupol making the steel facility the city’s last stronghold.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he personally requested that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov coordinate an evacuation for civilians trapped in the steel facility during in-person talks in Moscow last week. Following discussions in Moscow, Guterres traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
— Amanda Macias
Ukraine says Russian strike knocks out runway at Odesa airport
Journalists and residents look on as smoke fills the Odesa sky in early April.
Bulent Kilic | AFP | Getty Images
A Russian missile strike at the airport in the southwestern port of Odesa — a city that has so far been relatively unscathed in the war — has damaged the runway, and it can no longer be used, the Ukrainian military said on Saturday.
Russia has sporadically targeted Odesa, a Black Sea port, and a week ago, Ukraine said at least eight people were killed in a strike on the city.
“As a result of a missile attack in the Odesa region, the runway at Odesa airport was damaged. Its further use is impossible,” the Ukrainian military said.
There was no immediate word on the strike from the Russian military.
Warren Buffett says there ‘isn’t any solution’ for nuclear war
Warren Buffett at press conference during the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting, April 30, 2022.
At the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting on Saturday, Warren Buffett and his executive team were asked about the impact of a potential nuclear war on the conglomerate company.
The 91-year old investor said that the world has been testing its luck since the 1940s with potential global devastation.
“The world is flipping a coin every day as to whether people who can literally destroy the planet as we know it will do it. And, unfortunately, the major problem is with people who have large stocks of nuclear weapons and ICBMs,” Buffett said.
Without referencing the Russia-Ukraine war specifically, Buffett expressed confusion that a country would consider using nuclear weapons in limited fashion “because they are losing a war.”
“If somebody’s willing to kill hundreds of thousands of people … why would they stop?” Buffett said.
As for the business impact, Buffett downplayed the idea that the company could plan to limit the impact of such an event.
“We have no solution for it, and there isn’t any solution for it,” Buffett said.
— Jesse Pound
Bodies of 3 more tortured men found in Bucha, police say
The funeral scarfs hang on the cemetery fence on April 14, 2022 in Hostomel, Ukraine.
Anastasia Vlasova | Getty Images
Another mass grave has been found in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, the scene of alleged mass executions of civilians before its recapture by Ukrainian forces in early March, the head of Kyiv’s regional police force said.
“On April 29, a pit with the bodies of three men was found in the Bucha district,” regional police chief Andriy Nebytov wrote on Facebook. “The victims were tortured for a lengthy period of time. Bullet wounds were found on the extremities of their bodies. In the end, each of the men was shot through the ear.”
“This is another mass burial made by the occupiers in the Bucha district, the long-suffering district where more than a thousand civilians have been killed and tortured,” Nebytov added.
According to Nebytov’s post, the burial site was found in the forest near the village of Myrotske, 6 miles northwest of the town of Bucha. Nebytov said the three bodies were being sent for a forensic examination, following a preliminary inspection by the Kyiv regional police.
— Associated Press
Russian non-proliferation official talks down nuclear threat
Russian nuclear missile rolls along Red Square during the military parade marking the 75th anniversary of Nazi defeat, on June 24, 2020 in Moscow, Russia.
Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images
Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West should not underestimate the elevated risks of nuclear conflict over Ukraine. On Saturday, a top Russian non-proliferation official made less threatening comments.
Vladimir Yermakov, the Russian foreign ministry’s head of nuclear non-proliferation, told the Russian government-controlled TASS news agency that all nuclear powers must stick to the logic laid out in official documents aimed at preventing nuclear war, and Russia believes the risks of nuclear war should be kept to a minimum and that any armed conflict between nuclear powers should be prevented.
The United States government had said after Lavrov’s comments that it did not believe there was a threat of Russia using nuclear weapons despite an escalation in Moscow’s rhetoric.
Yermakov on Saturday referred in his comments to a joint statement published in January by Russia, China, Britain, the United States and France, in which the five countries — permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — agreed that the further spread of nuclear arms and a nuclear war should be avoided.
“The risks of nuclear war, which should never be unleashed, must be kept to a minimum, in particular through preventing any armed conflict between nuclear powers,” TASS quoted Yermakov as saying on Saturday. “Russia clearly follows this understanding.”
Ukrainian official says more prisoners swapped with Russia
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk holds a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 24, 2022. (Photo by PRIME MINISTRY OF UKRAINE/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Prime Ministry of Ukraine | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Seven Ukrainian soldiers and seven civilians have been released in a prisoner swap Saturday with Russia, according to social media posts from Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
“We’re bringing home 14 of our people: seven military personnel and seven civilians,” Vereshchuk wrote on Facebook and Telegram. “To me, this exchange is special: one of the female soldiers is five months pregnant.”
Earlier this week, Vereshchuk said Russia had handed over 33 Ukrainian soldiers, including 13 officers, in an exchange of prisoners of war.
Vereshchuk did not say how many Russians were involved in the exchanges. As of Saturday afternoon, the most recent swap had not been confirmed by official Russian sources.
— Associated Press
Angelina Jolie visiting children in Ukraine
U.S. actor and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie visits Lviv’s main railway station, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine April 30, 2022 in this handout image.
Ukrzaliznytsia | via Reuters
Angelina Jolie is visiting Ukraine to meet children affected by the war and the organizations providing them aid, a spokesperson for the actress and humanitarian told NBC News.
Jolie is calling for an opening of humanitarian corridors to allow for the evacuation of civilians and the ability to deliver humanitarian relief in conflict zones. Ukraine has struggled to open safe corridors for people seeking to flee increasingly dangerous conditions, saying that Russia is making it impossible.
“The purpose of Angelina’s visit is to bear witness to the human impact of the conflict, and to support the civilian population. She met with orphaned and displaced children – including children evacuated from Mariupol – and Ukrainian volunteers and doctors caring for them, as well as local NGOs working on civilian protection,” the spokesperson said.
The visit is being carried out in a private humanitarian capacity, the spokesperson said.
Ukraine agriculture officials say Russian forces ramped up grain theft in April
A driver unloads a truck at a grain store during barley harvesting in the village of Zhovtneve, Ukraine, July 14, 2016.
Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters
Russian forces have ramped up grain theft in areas of Ukraine they invaded and now occupy, according to agriculture officials in the nation under siege.
The Kremlin has denied Ukraine’s account of the matter, saying it did not know where that information was coming from.
Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister Taras Vysotskiy said on national TV in Ukraine that Russia has already stolen “several hundred thousand tonnes” of 1.5 million tonnes of grain farmers had stored in the country.
Agriculture minister Mykola Solskyi said the grain theft had increased in April, and could comprise a threat to global food security while creating food insecurity in parts of Ukraine that are not controlled by Russia.
A look at the mounting damage from the Kremlin’s war — and its cost
A destroyed Russian tanks is removed on April 5, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine.
Nils Petter Nilsson | Getty Images
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor said there are ways under existing law to get Russian President Vladimir Putin to pay reparations for the Kremlin’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
“One way is we say we will only return the central bank reserves when you put $200 billion into a reconstruction fund and until you do, we keep these $300 billion,” Taylor explained to an audience of international lawyers gathered at the American Bar Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
A photograph taken on April 25, 2022 shows a pile of missile remains, collected by members of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine after shellings in Kharkiv, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sergey Bobok | Afp | Getty Images
Taylor, the vice president of the Russia and Europe unit at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said that the U.S. and other nations are currently assessing ways in which to change legislation to further hold the Kremlin to account.
A man walks past destroyed and burned cars in Irpin on April 19, 2022, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images
Last month, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal projected that his country would need at least $575 billion to physically rebuild what Russian forces destroyed in just three weeks. Shmyhal’s estimate did not include compensation for deaths and injuries.
A man walks next to the debris of a destroyed Russian tank near the village of Zalissya, northeast of Kyiv, on April 12, 2022.
Genya Savilov | AFP | Getty Images
After nine weeks of war and failed peace talks, the damage from the Kremlin’s war is mounting. Here is a further look at the devastation.
An expert of a State Emergency Service bomb squad digs around the dangerous remains of an Uragan rocket stuck in pastureland during a mine clearance effort, Hryhorivka, Zaporizhzhia Region, southeastern Ukraine.
Dmytro Smolyenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images
A Ukrainian serviceman looks at a Russian ballistic missile’s booster stage that fell in a field in Bohodarove, eastern Ukraine, on April 25, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP | Getty Images
A ruined car is placed on a flatbed lorry from in front of a destroyed apartment building after it was shelled in the northwestern Obolon district of Kyiv on March 14, 2022. – Two people were killed on March 14, 2022, as various neighbourhoods of the Ukraine capital Kyiv came under shelling and missile attacks, city officials said, after the Russia’s military invaded the Ukraine on February 24, 2022. (Photo by Aris Messinis / AFP) (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Aris Messinis | Afp | Getty Images
Servicemen arrange the shells on the ground as they work to dispose of ammunition collected in the territories liberated from Russian invaders, Kyiv Region, northern Ukraine.
Anatolii Siryk | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Destroyed military equipment of the Russian army in the city of Bucha.
Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images
A military sapper carries an unexploded shell left after Russia’s invasion near the village of Motyzhyn, in Kyiv region, Ukraine April 10, 2022.
Stringer | Reuters
Macron pledges ongoing assistance to Ukraine in his second term
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron during a news briefing following their talks in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 8, 2022.
Gleb Garanich | Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron told Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that he intends to work with allies to “re-establish the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” during his second term, according to the presidential Elysee Palace.
Before his re-election last week, Macron held multiple conversations with Zelenskyy and Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Zelenskyy and Macron spoke again for an hour on Saturday with the French president committing to send more humanitarian assistance and military supplies to aid the nation under siege.
France has already sent 615 tons of equipment and aid to Ukraine, including generators for hospitals, ambulances and food. Macron also recently revealed that France sent anti-tank missiles and truck-mounted cannons, as well as other “consequential equipment” to aid Ukraine.
— Associated Press
Russian central bank expects economy to shrink by 8% to 10%
A national flag flies above the headquarters of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation in Moscow.
Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Russian central bank projected that the economy would shrink by 8% to 10% this year.
The central bank said it cut its key interest rate to 14% and discussed the possibility of lowering rates further in 2022.
“The external environment for the Russian economy remains challenging,” the bank said in a Friday statement. The bank added that it was prepared to step in further to prevent inflation from spiking.
“The current situation is extremely uncertain,” Central Bank of Russia Governor Elvira Nabiullina was quoted as saying by Reuters at a news conference Friday. She downplayed concerns of a sovereign default but acknowledged “difficulties with payments,” according to Russian-state-owned news agency TASS. “I hope that all this will end up successfully,” she added.
Read more on the economic fallout facing Russia.
— Amanda Macias
Zelenskyy says gas prices rising across Ukraine as Russia targets infrastructure
Firefighters are at work to put out a fire at an oil depot near Chuguiv, Kharkiv region, following Russian missiles strikes on April 22, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia’s attacks on its energy infrastructure have led to “queues and rising prices at gas stations” in many regions of the country, but Ukraine will soon stamp out the fuel shortages.
This week, Russia struck Ukraine’s main fuel producer, the Kremenchuk oil refinery, among other energy infrastructure targets.
“The occupiers are deliberately destroying the infrastructure for the production, supply and storage of fuel,” Zelenskyy said in a nightly video speech on Friday.
While he promised a fix for the energy supply issues, he indicated it won’t be immediate.
“Russia has also blocked our ports, so there are no immediate solutions to replenish the deficit,” Zelenskyy said.
EU will reportedly propose a ban on Russian oil
The European Union plans to propose a ban on Russian oil, according to Bloomberg News. Restrictions would be introduced gradually before going into full effect by the end of the year, the outlet said.
A decision on the sanctions could be made as soon as next week, Bloomberg reported. All 27 member states must back the measure to be adopted.
An oil embargo would likely up the ante against Russia. The EU, looking to pressure Putin to stop the war on Ukraine, is the largest consumer of Russian crude and fuel, Bloomberg reported.
— Jessica Bursztynsky
Wives of Mariupol defenders appeal for soldiers’ evacuation
Two Ukrainian women whose husbands are defending a besieged steel plant in the southern city of Mariupol are calling for any evacuation of civilians to also include soldiers, saying they fear the troops will be tortured and killed if left behind and captured by Russian forces.
“The lives of soldiers matter too. We can’t only talk about civilians,” said Yuliia Fedusiuk, 29, the wife of Arseniy Fedusiuk, a member of the Azov Regiment in Mariupol.
She and Kateryna Prokopenko, whose husband, Denys Prokopenko, is the Azov commander, made their appeal in Rome on Friday for international assistance to evacuate the Azovstal plant, the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the strategic and now bombed-out port city.
An estimated 2,000 Ukrainian defenders and 1,000 civilians are holed up in the plant’s vast underground network of bunkers, which are able to withstand airstrikes. But conditions there have grown more dire, with food, water and medicine running out, after Russian forces dropped “bunker busters” and other munitions in recent days.
The United Nations has said Secretary-General António Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on arranging evacuations from the plant during a meeting this week in Moscow, with the U.N. and International Committee of the Red Cross involved. But the discussions as reported by the U.N. concerned civilians, not combatants.
— Associated Press
More than a dozen U.S. military flights of security assistance for Ukraine set to arrive
A C-130 Hercules takes off from Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2016, during Jump Week.
Yasuo Osakabe | U.S. Air Force photo
More than a dozen U.S. military cargo flights carrying security assistance for Ukraine are expected to arrive in the region on Saturday.
A senior U.S. Defense official said Phoenix ghost drones, radars and additional artillery rounds were some of the types of military aid on the flights.
The official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, a ground-rule established by the Pentagon, said that U.S. military cargo flights that arrived on Friday carried equipment including small-caliber rounds, 122mm rockets, helmets and body armor.
From heavy artillery to tactical drones to armored vehicles, the U.S. has provided $3.4 billion in weapons to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion two months ago.
Read more about the weapons the U.S. has committed to the fight thus far.
— Amanda Macias
Russia’s foreign minister claims 1 million people evacuated from Ukraine
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a news conference after his meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Moscow, Russia, April 26, 2022.
Maxim Shipenkov | Reuters
Russia’s foreign minister says Moscow has evacuated over 1 million people from Ukraine since the war there began.
The comments Saturday by Sergey Lavrov in an interview with Chinese state news agency Xinhua come as Ukraine has accused Moscow of forcefully sending Ukrainians out of the country. Lavrov said that figure included more than 300 Chinese civilians.
Lavrov offered no evidence to support his claim in the interview.
Lavrov also said that negotiations continue between Russia and Ukraine “almost every day.” However, he cautioned that “progress has not been easy.”
Lavrov in part blamed “the bellicose rhetoric and inflammatory actions of Western supporters of the Kyiv regime” for disrupting the talks. However, Russian state TV nightly has had guests suggest that Moscow use nuclear weapons in the conflict.
— Associated Press
Lavrov claims West will fight until ‘the last Ukrainian’
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made another string of assertions in an interview with Chinese state media agency Xinhua, published Saturday morning.
Lavrov claimed that NATO was interfering with a political settlement in Ukraine and that the West intended to fight until “the last Ukrainian,” according to an NBC News translation.
He also claimed the Ukraine conflict “contributes to the process of freeing the world from the neo-colonial oppression of the West.”
‘We will not give up’: UN chief tells Ukrainians
The United Nations will not give up, but will “redouble its efforts to save lives and reduce human suffering,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a Twitter post on Friday.
The UN chief said he was “moved by the resilience and bravery of the people of Ukraine. My message to them is simple: We will not give up.”
“In this war, as in all wars, the civilians always pay the highest price,” he said.
“I was moved by the resilience and bravery of the people of Ukraine. My message to them is simple: We will not give up,” tweeted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, after he returned from a visit to Ukraine earlier this week, where he visited the Kyiv suburbs of Borodianka, Bucha and Irpin.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Guterres has just returned from the war-torn country, where he visited the Kyiv suburbs of Borodianka, Bucha and Irpin nine weeks after Russia began its illegal and unprovoked war.
“When we see this horrendous site, it makes me feel how important it is [to have] a thorough investigation and accountability,” he said Thursday, when he was in Bucha — where horrific photos of mass graves and executed civilians strewn in the streets sparked global outrage.
“The war is an absurdity in the 21st century. The war is evil,” he said during his visit to Ukraine, where he also met President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
— Joanna Tan
Russia has been forced to merge ‘depleted and disparate’ forces in Ukraine, UK says
Russia faces “considerable challenges” in its war against Ukraine, including shortcomings in its tactical co-ordination and weakened morale, the U.K. Defence Ministry said. In this photo taken in April 2022, volunteers are seen cleaning up the rubble from a building in Kyiv hit by a Russian missile attack.
Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images
Russia continues to face “considerable challenges” in its war against Ukraine, the U.K. Defence Ministry said.
“It has been forced to merge and redeploy depleted and disparate units from the failed advances in north-east Ukraine. Many of these units are likely suffering from weakened morale,” the ministry said on Twitter.
“Shortcomings in Russian tactical co-ordination remain. A lack of unit-level skills and inconsistent air support have left Russia unable to fully leverage its combat mass, despite localised improvements,” said the latest British intelligence report.
In a bid to fix problems that have constrained its advances, Moscow is trying to concentrate combat power geographically, shorten its supply lines and simplify command and control, the report said.
— Joanna Tan
U.S. and Canadian troops are training Ukrainian soldiers in Europe, Pentagon says
Canada has given heavy artillery to Ukrainian forces including M-777 howitzers similar to this one.
Lennart Preiss | Getty Images
U.S. troops in Germany have started training Ukrainian soldiers on the use of heavy weapons to defend their country against Russian attacks, the Pentagon said Friday.
“These efforts build on the initial artillery training that Ukraine’s forces already have received elsewhere and also includes training on radar systems and armored vehicles that have been recently announced as part of security assistance packages,” Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.
This week, President Joe Biden called on Congress to authorize as much as $33 billion in humanitarian and military aid to Kyiv in its fight against Moscow’s attacks.
Canada has given heavy artillery to Ukrainian forces, including M-777 howitzers and anti-armor ammunition, the Canadian government said last week.
Canadian service members are training Ukrainians on the M-777 howitzer in Europe, Kirby added, citing Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand.
— Joanna Tan
Russia says it’s not at war with NATO, blames alliance for war in Ukraine
Russia’s foreign minister says Moscow does not consider itself at war with NATO.
In an interview with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya TV channel, Sergei Lavrov said: “Unfortunately, NATO, it seems, considers itself to be at war with Russia.”
“NATO and European Union leaders, many of them, in England, in the United States, Poland, France, Germany and of course European Union chief diplomat Josep Borrell, they bluntly, publicly and consistently say, ‘Putin must fail, Russia must be defeated,'” he told the network.
“When you use this terminology,” he said, “I believe you think that you are at war with the person who you want to be defeated.”
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow is not at war with NATO, but that NATO sees itself as being at war with the Kremlin.
Dimitar Dilkoff | Afp | Getty Images
Lavrov — who has been sanctioned by the U.S., U.K. and Europe for his role in the war — reportedly said his country’s “special operation” in Ukraine is “a response to what NATO was doing in Ukraine to prepare this country for a very aggressive posture against the Russian Federation.”
He told Al-Arabiya that Ukraine was given arms that can reach Russian territory, and that military bases were being built, including on the Sea of Azov — where the battle for the besieged port city of Mariupol continues today.
Russian forces have largely destroyed the city of Mariupol, though Moscow falsely claims that it doesn’t target civilian areas.
Lavrov claimed many military exercises held on Ukrainian territory “were conducted under NATO auspices, and most of these exercises were designed against the [interests] of the Russian Federation, so the purpose of this operation is to make sure that those plans do not materialize.”
— Joanna Tan