Ukraine war live updates: Ukraine sees no hope for F-16s this year; Naftogaz CEO wants EU talks on Russia gas transit

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U.S. imposes sanctions on four Russians linked to FSB over Navalny poisoning

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on four Russians it accused of being involved in the 2020 poisoning of now jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said the four hit with sanctions are linked to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and included two it said are among the main reported perpetrators of Navalny’s poisoning.

“Today we remind Vladimir Putin and his regime that there are consequences not only for waging a brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine, but also for violating the human rights of the Russian people,” Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in the statement.

“The assassination attempt against Aleksey Navalny in 2020 represents the Kremlin’s contempt for human rights, and we will continue to use the authorities at our disposal to hold the Kremlin’s willing would-be executioners to account.”

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a screen set up at a courtroom of the Moscow City Court via a video link from his prison colony during a hearing of an appeal against his nine-year prison sentence he was handed in March after being found guilty of embezzlement and contempt of court, in Moscow on May 24, 2022.

Alexander Nemenov | AFP | Getty Images

Thursday’s sanctions were levied under a 2012 act which authorizes the U.S. government to sanction those connected to gross violations of human rights in Russia, freezing their assets and banning them from entering the United States.

Those targeted on Thursday are FSB Criminalistics Institute operatives Alexey Alexandrovich Alexandrov, Konstantin Kudryavtsev and Ivan Vladimirovich Osipov, as well as FSB operative Vladimir Alexandrovich Panyaev.

Russia’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Navalny, Putin’s fiercest domestic critic, is already serving sentences totalling 11-1/2 years on fraud and other charges that he says are bogus.

His political movement has been outlawed and declared “extremist”. Navalny had an extra 19 years in a maximum security penal colony added to his jail term earlier this month. A former lawyer, Navalny rose to prominence more than a decade ago by lampooning Putin’s elite and voicing allegations of corruption on a vast scale.

Navalny, who in the 2010s brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets, was detained in 2021 after returning to Moscow from Germany where he had been treated for what Western doctors said was poisoning by a Soviet-era nerve agent.

The Kremlin, which at one point accused him of working with the CIA to undermine Russia, denied any involvement in what happened to him and denies persecuting Navalny. It has portrayed him as an agent of disruption and says he never represented serious political competition.

— Reuters

Medecins Sans Frontieres workers transfer patients in Ukraine

Medecins Sans Frontieres NGO workers transfer patients to the medical train in Pokrovsk, Ukraine.

A few kilometers from the front line in the town of Kurakhove, the Belgian team of the NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres collects patients who will then be taken to the medical train to be transferred to the city of Lviv. 

Medecins Sans Frontieres NGO workers transfer patients to the medical train in Pokrovsk, Ukraine on August 9, 2023. 

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Medecins Sans Frontieres NGO workers transfer patients to the medical train in Pokrovsk, Ukraine on August 9, 2023. 

Jose Colon | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Medecins Sans Frontieres NGO workers transfer patients to the medical train in Pokrovsk, Ukraine on August 09, 2023. 

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Medecins Sans Frontieres NGO workers transfer patients to the medical train in Pokrovsk, Ukraine on August 09, 2023. 

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

An ambulance is seen in front of the train as Medecins Sans Frontieres NGO workers transfer patients to the medical train in Pokrovsk, Ukraine on August 9, 2023. 

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

– Jose Colon | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukraine claims gains on southeastern front, fighting rages in east

Ukrainian soldiers fire with D-30 artillery at Russian positions in the direction of Klishchiivka as the Russia-Ukraine war continues in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on August 12, 2023. 

Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Ukrainian military on Thursday claimed gains in its counter-offensive against Russian forces on the southeastern front, pushing forward from a newly-liberated village in an attempted drive towards the Sea of Azov.

The military said it had made progress to the south of Urozhaine, a village a few kilometers from a Russian stronghold at Staromlynivka. Kyiv said on Wednesday it had retaken Urozhaine as it tries to build southward momentum to split Russia’s occupying forces in half.

“In the direction south of Urozhaine they (Ukrainian troops) had success,” military spokesman Andriy Kovaliov said on national television. He gave no more details.

Urozhaine, in Donetsk region, was the first village Kyiv said it had retaken since July 27, signalling the challenge Kyiv faces in advancing through heavily mined Russian defensive lines without powerful air support.

It lies just over 90 km (55 miles) north of the Sea of Azov and about 100 km (60 miles) west of Russian-held Donetsk city.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in parts of Zaporizhzhia controlled by Moscow, said Urozhaine and the neighbouring village of Staromaiorske were not under Ukrainian control.

Rogov, writing on Telegram, said Russian forces had halted a Ukrainian offensive towards the village of Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia region, to the west of Urozhaine, on Thursday morning.

Ukraine’s Kovaliov also reported fierce fighting in the northeastern Kharkiv region, and around an eastern village not far from Bakhmut, the city occupied by Russian forces in May after a bloody months-long struggle.

“The enemy conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in the area of Senkivka in Kharkiv region and Bohdanivka in Donetsk. There are serious battles here,” he said. “In the Bakhmut direction, defensive forces (Ukraine) continue to conduct offensive actions to the south of Bakhmut.”

— Reuters

Only Ukraine can decide when the time is right for peace talks, NATO chief says

(From L) US President Joe Biden, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky talk ahead of a working session on Ukraine during the NATO summit, in Vilnius on July 12, 2023. 

Ludovic Marin | AFP | Getty Images

Only Ukraine can decide when peace talks with Russia could take place, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.

“It is the Ukrainians, and only the Ukrainians, who can decide when there are conditions in place for negotiations, and who can decide at the negotiating table what is an acceptable solution,” Stoltenberg said at a conference in Norway, according to comments reported by Reuters.

Stoltenberg’s comments come after a senior NATO official Stian Jenssen caused controversy earlier this week when he suggested Ukraine could end up ceding territory to Russia as part of a “possible solution” to ending the 18-month conflict. Jenssen later said the remarks had been a mistake.

Referring to the remarks, Stoltenberg said “his [Jenssen’s] message, and which is my main message, and which is NATO’s main message, is, firstly, that NATO’s policy is unchanged — we support Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.

Tensions have emerged recently between Ukraine and its NATO allies, particularly ahead of the most recent meeting of the defense alliance in July. Kyiv had pushed for allies to agree a schedule on when it would be invited to join the alliance. NATO said it would extend an invitation when “allies agree and conditions are met,” a move that disappointed and angered Ukraine.

— Holly Ellyatt

Google fined 3 million rubles for not removing ‘fake’ war content, Russian state media reports

Google was fined 3 million rubles ($32,000) for failing to remove banned content and “fakes” about what it describes as its “special operation” in Ukraine, according to a Google translation of a report by state media outlet Tass.

Jakub Porzycki | Nurphoto | Getty Images

According to the report, Google received a notice from Moscow asking it to remove videos from YouTube that contain “false information.”

Russia has fined Google multiple times for distributing content it deems illegal.

Google did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for confirmation of the fine.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Naftogaz CEO: We should be open to discussing Russia gas transit deal with the EU

The CEO of Ukraine’s largest oil and gas company Naftogaz, Oleksiy Chernyshov, said Kyiv should discuss the Russian gas transit deal with the EU, in a Thursday interview with CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetche.

“I believe we should discuss it, together with European Union consumers, and understand the position of the European Union,” Chernyshov said, when asked on the future of the arrangement that currently allows Russia to send gas to Europe via Ukraine. The deal is set to expire at the end of 2024.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko had signaled that Ukraine would not discuss a renewal of the contract with Russia, according to Reuters.

Naftogaz CEO: We should discuss Russian gas transit deal with EU

Chernyshov said that the gas transit deal is for the sake of European countries, rather than Ukraine, and that the fees that Ukrainian companies receive for allowing the movement of the supplies “will never be justified in the current full-scale war situation.”

“Naftogaz is continuing doing that and servicing this transit only in favor, only in support of certain European countries that are not capable to stop the consumption of gas right now, that is the only reason,” he said.

“We will take it into consideration while viewing the future of this contract,” Chernyshov added.

Russia previously said it would consider extending the contract. The European Union has pledged to no longer rely on Russian gas by 2027.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Ukraine liberates village of Urozhaine as counteroffensive continues, ISW says

Ukrainian forces continued their counteroffensive Wednesday, making advances in western Zaporizhia Oblast and on the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border, and liberating the village of Urozhaine, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest conflict update

A Ukrainian serviceman mans a machine gun as he rides on a MaxxPro MRAP in the liberated village of Blagodatne, Donetsk.

Anatolii Stepanov | AFP | Getty Images

The liberation report is in line with similar statements previously made by Ukraine, and also matches recent reports by Russian forces saying Russian units in the area were withdrawing, the ISW said.

Russian claims about Ukrainian assaults further south and east of the limits of the settlement further indicate that Ukrainian forces likely control the majority of the settlement, according to the update.

CNBC was unable to independently verify the information provided by the ISW.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Russia’s inflation spike sets Kremlin and central bank on collision course

North Korea and Russia to team up on ‘military cooperation plan,’ state media reports

North Korean state media site Yunhap reported that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reached an agreement with Kim Jong Un on a “large-scale military cooperation plan” during his time in North Korea last month, according to a Google translation of the report.

“It is judged that Minister Shoigu met with Chairman Kim Jong-un alone and agreed on a plan for military cooperation in a broad framework,” North Korea’s National Intelligence Service said, according to the report.

Russia allegedly proposed sales of artillery shells and missiles, and joint training, while North Korea requested loans of Western weapons and technical support, the report said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited North Korea in late July for the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, celebrated in North Korea as “Victory Day.”

Api | Gamma-rapho | Getty Images

Shoigu visited North Korea in late July for the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, celebrated in North Korea as “Victory Day.”

He accompanied Kim Jong Un to a defense exhibition featuring the North’s banned ballistic missiles as the neighbors pledged to boost ties, North Korean state media reported at the time.

CNBC was unable to independently verify the claims made in this report.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Putin does not care about global food security, U.S. government spokesperson says

The U.S. once again condemned Russia’s attacks on grain infrastructure in Ukraine in a press briefing by government spokesperson Vedant Patel Wednesday.

Patel made the comments on reports of Russian drone attacks having damaged warehouses and granaries in a Ukrainian port near the Danube River, in addition to port infrastructure in Odesa, Reni and Izmail.

Wheat grain in a storage facility in the village in Kyiv region, Ukraine.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

“This escalation demonstrates Moscow continues to prevent grain and foodstuffs from reaching those who need it most throughout the world,” Patel said.

“It is unacceptable. Putin simply does not care about global food security,” he added.

Danube ports have become the primary export route for Ukrainian grain since Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Ukraine says it has no hope of using F-16 fighter jets this year

Ukraine will not be able to use U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets in 2023, air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat told Ukrainian television Wednesday night, according to Reuters.

“It’s already obvious we won’t be able to defend Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets during this autumn and winter,” Ihnat reportedly said in a joint telethon broadcast by Ukrainian channels.

Ukraine has repeatedly asked Western allies to provide F-16 fighter jets, which the country sees as a key element in defeating Russian forces.

A media bus next to the Main Media Center in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

U.S. President Joe Biden endorsed training Ukrainian pilots to use F-16s in May, but has not given a timeline for when planes would be delivered.

“We had big hopes for this plane, that it will become part of air defence, able to protect us from Russia’s missiles and drones terrorism,” Ihnat said, as reported by Reuters.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Zelenskyy advisor slams idea of giving up territory for NATO membership

Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during an interview with AFP in Kyiv, on July 19, 2023.

Sergei Supinsky | Afp | Getty Images

Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, described any suggestion Ukraine could cede territory in exchange for NATO membership as “ridiculous.”

“That means deliberately choosing the defeat of democracy, encouraging a global criminal, preserving the Russian regime, destroying international law, and passing the war on to other generations,” Podolyak wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

It follows a report in the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang that NATO chief of staff Stian Jenssen said in a Tuesday panel discussion: “I think that a solution could be for Ukraine to give up territory, and get NATO membership in return.”

CNBC did not attend the panel event and has reached out to Jenssen for comment.

— Jenni Reid

Russia drone strikes damage grain storage in Danube port, governor says

Russian drone attacks on a Ukrainian port on the Danube river caused a fire and damaged warehouses and granaries, Odesa regional governor Oleh Kiper said in a Telegram post, according to a Google translation.

There were no deaths or injuries, Kiper said, later adding anti-aircraft defense systems had destroyed 11 attack drones.

Images posted by Kiper show grain spilled onto the ground and structural damage. CNBC has not independently verified the report or images.

Danube ports have become the primary export route for Ukrainian grain since Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July.

— Jenni Reid

Ukraine says cargo ship using Black Sea corridor despite continued tensions

Grain ship on the Black Sea on July 17, 2023.

Dia Images | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine said Wednesday a cargo ship was using a temporary corridor for cargo ships exiting and entering Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea amid continued uncertainty over Russia’s response to such vessels.

The ship was named as the Joseph Schulte, traveling under the Hong Kong flag.

“The first vessel is moving along the temporary corridor established for civilian vessels to/from the Black Sea seaports,” Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Telegram, according to a Google translation.

Ukraine’s navy announced the corridor on Aug. 10. Russia in July pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which had facilitated the export of Ukrainian agricultural goods through the war, sparking concerns over global food supply.

Cargo ships have been stuck in various ports since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia said in July it would consider all Ukraine-bound ships as potential carriers of military equipment. Tensions heightened on Sunday when Moscow said one of its warships had fired warning shots at a cargo vessel in the Black Sea, a move Ukraine called “provocative.”

— Jenni Reid

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