Live updates: Putin says war was ‘unleashed by the West’; Russian attack on Danube destroys 13,000 tons of grain, Ukraine says

Russia prepares decree to unfreeze and swap assets with foreign investors

A Russian state flag flies over the Central Bank headquarters in Moscow, Russia, August 15, 2023. A sign reads: “Bank of Russia”. 

Shamil Zhumatov | Reuters

Russian authorities are working on a draft presidential decree to give the country’s retail investors a way to unblock their frozen assets held in overseas accounts and sell them to foreign parties, the central bank said on Wednesday.

International sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine have blocked many Russian investors’ access to securities held in jurisdictions outside the country, while Russian countermeasures have frozen Western funds within.

The central bank said the volume of assets “unblocked” would initially be limited and primarily aimed at retail investors, the bulk of whose investments in securities are held with Russian brokers at foreign accounting institutions.

It was not yet clear whether European clearing houses Euroclear and Clearstream, or financial regulators in Europe, would reciprocate. Euroclear and Clearstream did not respond to requests for comment.

— Reuters

Kyiv displays destroyed Russian military equipment for Independence Day in Ukraine

Dedicated to the Independence Day of Ukraine on August 24, Kyiv organizes an exhibition of destroyed Russian military equipment on the central street of Kyiv. 

A top view of samples of destroyed Russian military land vehicles displayed on Khreschatyk Street during an exhibition on August 23, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine. 

Andriy Zhyhaylo | Getty Images

Exhibition of destroyed Russian missiles shot down over Ukraine on August 23, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine. An exhibition of destroyed Russian missiles, which were shot down by the air defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, was opened on Khreshchatyk Street in Kyiv. Destroyed missiles that were aimed at civilian and infrastructure objects of Ukraine are displayed here. (Photo by Andriy Zhyhaylo/Obozrevatel/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

Andriy Zhyhaylo | Getty Images

Destroyed missiles that were aimed at civilian and infrastructure objects of Ukraine are displayed here. 

Andriy Zhyhaylo | Getty Images

A woman wearing a T-shirt in the colors of the Ukrainian flag, walks with two children and takes photos of destroyed Russian military vehicles displayed on Khreschatyk Street during an exhibition on August 23, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine. 

Andriy Zhyhaylo | Getty Images

Russia’s Danube attack destroys 13,000 tons of grain

Members of the public look at the Marine Terminal building damaged in the Russian drone attack on the port infrastructure of Izmail situated on the Danube River Wednesday night, August 2, Izmail, Odesa Region, southern Ukraine. (Photo credit should read Nina Liashonok / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Nina Liashonok | Future Publishing | Getty Images

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said Wednesday that an overnight Russian drone attack on the Danube River port of Izmail in southern Ukraine destroyed 13,000 tons of grain, according to a Google-translated Telegram post on the account of the Ukraine ministry of reconstruction.

The agricultural goods were destined for Egypt and Romania, Kubrakov said, adding that the port’s export capacity was reduced by 15% by the overnight strike.

“Russia is systematically attacking grain containers and warehouses to stop agricultural exports,” he said.

Russia did not immediately comment on the attacks.

— Karen Gilchrist

Putin tells BRICS war was ‘unleashed by the West’

Delegates listen on during the plenary session as Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his remarks via video-link during the 2023 BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on August 23, 2023.

Alet Pretorius | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday blamed “the West and its satellites” for unleashing war, repeating to allied nations his ongoing justification for Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking remotely to the BRICS summit currently underway in South Africa, Putin reiterated his claims that its conflict with Kyiv was in response to actions by the West, including the expansion of NATO.

“Our actions in Ukraine are dictated by only one thing — to end the war that was unleashed by the West and its satellites against the people who live in the Donbas,” Putin said, referring to the eastern part of Ukraine where Russian proxies have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.

“I want to note that it was the desire to maintain their hegemony in the world, the desire of some countries to maintain this hegemony that led to the severe crisis in Ukraine,” he added.

Many of the BRICS member nations have resisted condemning Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The BRICS grouping, which includes Brazil, India, China and South Africa, has taken on increasing importance for Russia in the wake of Western sanctions imposed following Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Putin, who was unable to attend the summit in person because of an international arrest warrant over alleged war crimes, said Russia would host a BRICS summit next year.

— Karen Gilchrist

Two killed in Russian attack on Ukrainian school, interior minister says

At least two people were killed and three more injured in a Russian attack on a school in the city of Romny in the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine, the country’s interior minister said Wednesday.

“Russians destroyed a school and killed at least 2 educators. Rescuers of the State Emergency Service unblocked their bodies. 3 more people were injured,” Ihor Klymenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

“There is information that 2 more employees of the institution are under the rubble,” he said, adding that the search and rescue operation is ongoing.

CNBC could not independently verify the reports.

— Karen Gilchrist

UK reportedly set to proscribe Wagner a terrorist group

Members of Wagner group sit atop of a tank in a street in the city of Rostov-on-Don, on June 24, 2023.

Stringer | AFP | Getty Images

The U.K. is set to proscribe Russia’s Wagner mercenary group as a terrorist organization “within weeks,” the FT reported British government officials as saying.

British Home Secretary Suella Braverman is expected to announce the designation imminently following months spent by officials building up a detailed legal case. The U.K. has already imposed sanctions on the Wagner group, its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin and range of its senior commanders. 

The U.K. imposed sanctions on the head of the group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, in 2020, and on the group in March 2022, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Wagner group led a mutiny against Russia’s military leaders in June, which was ended shortly after in a deal brokered by Belarus.

The home office did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

— Karen Gilchrist

Russia facing friction at Crimea border after bridge attacks, UK ministry of defense says

Maxar satellite imagery showing a super closeup view of Kerch Strait and the new damage to the Crimea Bridge which connects Crimea to Russia’s mainland. Please use: Satellite image (c) 2023 Maxar Technologies.

Maxar Technologies | Getty Images

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Wednesday that, as of mid-August, Russian forces were continuing to employ pontoon bridges at Chonhar and Henichesk crossing points, on the border between southern Ukraine and occupied Crimea.

Sharing its latest intelligence report on X, the platform formally known as Twitter, the ministry said that both bridges had sustained damage from Ukrainian precision strikes earlier this month and are “unlikely to be able to fully sustain the flow of heavy vehicles carrying ammunition and weaponry to the front.”

“The resulting bottlenecks mean Russian forces are partially reliant on a long diversion via Armiansk, northern Crimea. This is adding further friction to Russia’s logistics network in the south,” it added.

— Karen Gilchrist

Russia reportedly names new acting air force chief after munity-linked disappearance

A screen grab captured from a video shows Sergei Surovikin addressing the Wagner PMC leadership, commanders and soldiers on June 24, 2023.

Russian Defense Ministry | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russia has named a new acting head for its aerospace forces after the surprise disappearance of Sergei Surovikin following the failed Wagner mercenary mutiny in June, the RIA state news agency said Wednesday.

Chief of the general staff of the Aerospace Forces, General Viktor Afzalov, will replace Surovikin as interim commander-in-chief, RIA cited a source as saying.

“The ex-Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces of Russia Sergey Surovikin has now been relieved of his post, Colonel-General Viktor Afzalov, Chief of the General Staff of the Aerospace Forces, is temporarily acting as Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces,” the source told RIA.

Surovikin, who once led Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, was removed from his post Tuesday, according to a Telegram post from Russian news outlet Rybar.

Nicknamed “General Armageddon,” Surovikin was often publicly praised by Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and was reportedly being investigated for possible complicity in the mutiny.

— Karen Gilchrist

Russia says it thwarted another Ukrainian drone attack

A building of the Moscow International Business Center, Moskva City, damaged after a drone attack on Aug. 23, 2023.

Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday thwarted an overnight Ukrainian drone attack on Moscow, downing three drones, the city’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.

No casualties and only minor damage were reported in the sixth consecutive day of similar reported incidents on the capital.

“This night, air defense shot down a drone in the Mozhaisk district of the Moscow region. The second UAV hit a building under construction in the City. Emergency services were dispatched to the scene of the incident. According to preliminary information, there were no casualties,” Sobyanin wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

The Defense Ministry said air defense forces had shot down two of the three drones over the wider Moscow region’s Mozhaisky and Khimki districts.

A third drone, which was brought down using electronic warfare equipment, lost control and crashed into a high-rise building under construction in the Moscow City business district, the ministry said.

Ukraine did not immediately claim responsibility for the attacks.

— Karen Gilchrist

Russian drone strike hits Danube region, Ukraine’s military says

An overnight Russian drone attack on Ukraine’s southern Odesa and Danube regions caused fires in a number of grain facilities, Ukraine’s military and local authorities said Wednesday.

“The enemy hit grain storage facilities and a production and transshipment complex in Danube region. A fire broke out in the warehouses and was quickly contained. Firefighters continue to work,” the military said on the Telegram messaging app, according to a Reuters translation.

The strikes were the latest in a recent string of attacks targeting port infrastructure on the Danube following the decision by Moscow last month to quit a U.N.-brokered deal to ensure the safe passage of grain from the Black Sea.

Odesa’s governor said the attack on the region lasted for three hours and the Ukrainian air force had destroyed nine Russian drones.

“Unfortunately, there were hits to the production and transhipment complexes where a fire broke out. The damage includes grain storage facilities,” Oleh Kiper said on Telegram.

— Karen Gilchrist

Putin tells BRICS summit that Russia will be a ‘responsible supplier’ of food to Africa

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, speaks by video link during the BRICS business forum on the opening day of the BRICS summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in the Sandton district of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Aug. 22, 2023.

Bloomberg | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that his country would remain a “responsible supplier” of food and grain to African countries in a recorded address to a summit of the BRICS countries in South Africa.

He said that Moscow, which last month withdrew from a U.N.-brokered deal to ensure the safe passage of Black Sea grain exports, could take Ukraine’s place as an international supplier of grain.

Putin added that Moscow was being “hypocritically blamed” for global food shortages and said that Russia would be willing to rejoin the deal if its obligations were met. Those include the transfer of mineral fertilizers via European ports.

“Russia is being deliberately obstructed in the supply of grain and fertilizers abroad and at the same time we are hypocritically blamed for the current crisis situation on the world market,” he said.

Separately, Putin also said that the U.S. dollars in trade between Brics nations was decreasing, as the countries moved towards national currencies and away from dollars in what he called an “irreversible process of de-dollarisation”.

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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