Six Russian balloons identified over Kyiv, Ukrainian military says
The Kyiv city military administration said at least six Russian aerial objects were detected in the airspace above the city.
“These objects could carry corner reflectors and certain intelligence equipment. Air defense equipment fired at all air targets,” the Ukrainian office said on Telegram, according to an NBC News translation.
The office added that most of the balloons were shot down and that the “purpose of launching the balloons was possibly to detect and exhaust our anti-aircraft defense.”
“The final determination of the type and characteristics of the aircraft and their equipment will be made after a detailed study and analysis of the remains of the downed objects,” the Ukrainian office added.
— Amanda Macias
Russia denies that its forces move Ukrainian children to camps for adoption and military training
The Russian Embassy in Washington called allegations made on Wednesday by the State Department that Russian troops forcibly transfer and deport Ukrainian children “absurd.”
“We do our best to keep minors in families, and in case of absence or death of parents and relatives – to transfer orphans under guardianship. We ensure the protection of their lives and well-being,” Russian spokesman Igor Girenko wrote in a statement to CNBC.
In addition to denying allegations detailed in a stunning 35-page report supported by the State Department, the Russian Embassy blamed Western weapons for the deaths of at least 153 Ukrainian children.
Tuesday’s report entitled “Russia’s systematic program for the re-education and adoption of Ukraine’s children,” outlines the Kremlin’s systematic efforts to abduct children, prevent their return to Ukraine and “re-educate” them to become pro-Russia.
The report says that Russian forces have moved at least 6,000 Ukrainian children to camps and facilities across Russia for forced adoptions and military training.
Read the full story here.
— Amanda Macias
EU and G-7 embargoes on Russian oil are having the ‘intended effect,’ IEA says
European Union bans on Russian oil and oil product exports are having the “intended effect” on Russian oil production despite continued flows into the continent, according to Toril Bosoni, head of the oil industry and markets division at the International Energy Agency.
Bosoni told CNBC on Wednesday that Russia had rerouted a lot of the crude that previously went to Europe to new markets in Asia, with China, India and Turkey in particular ramping up purchases despite Russian crude exports to Europe dropping by 400,000 barrels a day in January.
However, she said Moscow has not been able to reallocate the trade of oil products in the same way as it has crude exports, which is why the IEA expects exports and production to fall further in the coming months.
“The price cap was put in place to allow for Russian oil to continue to flow to market, but at the same time reducing Russian revenues. Even though Russian production is coming to market, we’re seeing that the revenues that Russia receives from its oil and gas have really come down,” Bosoni said.
“For instance in January, export revenues for Russia were about $13 billion, that’s down 36% from a year ago,” she said. “Russian fiscal receipts from the oil industry is down 48% in the year, so in that sense we can say that the price cap is having its intended effect.”
She also highlighted the growing discrepancy between Russian Urals crude prices and international benchmark Brent crude. The former averaged $49.48 per barrel in January, according to the Russian Finance Ministry, while Brent was trading just below $85 a barrel on Wednesday.
— Elliot Smith
NATO will step up support for Bosnia, Georgia, Moldova
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a press conference at the end of a two-day meeting of the alliance’s Defence Ministers at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on February 15, 2023.
Kenzo Tribouillard | AFP | Getty Images
NATO will step up support for Ukraine and other partners at risk, namely Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Moldova, it said in a statement after a meeting of the alliance’s members in Brussels.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg hailed pledges of continued and doubled-down support for Ukraine by members of the 30-country alliance, including “more heavy weapons and military training,” the statement said.
The meeting included approving new guidelines for NATO defense planning, which Stoltenberg said “reflects the reality that we live in a more dangerous world. With Russia’s aggressive behavior, the persistent threat of terrorism, and the challenges posted by China.”
“It will drive the capability changes for the years to come,” he added. “And ensure that our deterrence and defense remain strong and credible.”
— Natasha Turak
Russia’s upper chamber of parliament will hold an extraordinary session on Feb. 22
The upper chamber of Russia’s parliament, the Federal Council, will conduct an extraordinary session on Feb. 22, almost exactly one year since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, state news outlet RIA Novosti reported.
The meeting will focus on laws integrating four annexed regions of Ukraine into Russia, RIA cited a lawmaker as saying. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of the four regions — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — in late September of 2022. The annexation of the territories is illegal under international law and has not been recognized by any international bodies.
Putin is scheduled to deliver his annual address to the Federal Assembly, which constitutes the Russian parliament’s upper and lower chambers, on Feb. 21.
— Natasha Turak
Popular support in U.S. for providing weapons to Ukraine has dipped, survey says
WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 21: U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky walk down the Colonnade as they make their way to the Oval Office at the White House on December 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. Zelensky is meeting with President Biden on his first known trip outside of Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, and the two leaders are expected to discuss continuing military aid. Zelensky will reportedly address a joint meeting of Congress in the evening. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Support among Americans for providing weapons and military support to Ukraine has waned somewhat since the immediate months following Russia’s full-scale invasion in February of last year.
The survey, conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found that 48% of respondents favor the U.S. giving Ukraine weapons, down from 60% in May 2022. Currently 29% of U.S. adults and oppose the assistance and 22% don’t have a position on it, according to the poll.
There is a roughly even divide among Americans on providing direct financial funds to Ukraine, with 37% in support of it and 38% opposed. Twenty-three percent of Americans surveyed said they neither support nor oppose it.
Military and financial support for Ukraine is gradually becoming more contentious as far-right politicians and pundits slam the Biden administration’s position and some show sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
U.S. President Joe Biden says frequently that Washington will stand by Ukraine for “as long as it takes.” Over the course of 2022, Congress authorized roughly $24.9 billion in military assistance to the country, according to the State Department, along with another roughly $25 billion in humanitarian and financial assistance.
— Natasha Turak
Air raid alerts ring out over Kyiv
Residents take shelter in a metro station during an air strike alarm in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on February 10, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Dimitar Dilkoff | Afp | Getty Images
Air raid sirens are ringing out over Kyiv and neighboring Cherkasy, activated after Russian attacks were detected, local official channels reported.
“An enemy air target was detected in the skies over Kyiv city,” Kyiv’s military administration posted via its Telegram channel. It advised all residents in the Kyiv and Cherkasy region to seek shelter and stay calm.
— Natasha Turak
Finland’s defense minister advocates for Sweden and Finland to join NATO simultaneously
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg talks speaks during a joint press with Sweden and Finland’s Foreign ministers after their meeting at the Nato headquarters in Brussels on January 24, 2022.
John Thys | AFP | Getty Images
It’s better for NATO if Sweden and Finland join the alliance at the same time rather than separately, Finnish Defense Minister Mikko Savola said during a NATO meeting in Brussels.
The comments come a day after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the Nordic countries joining quickly was more important than joining simultaneously.
“It’s better for Finland, better for Sweden, and also for NATO, that we both become members as soon as possible,” Savola was quoted by Reuters as saying.
“It is better for the planning, we have really close cooperation with Sweden, which is our closest partner.”
The Nordic neighbors formally applied to join NATO in May of last year in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, in a historic shift from their traditionally non-aligned positions. The accession of new members requires the acceptance of all existing coalition allies. Turkey and Hungary are the only states that have yet to give their approvals.
— Natasha Turak
British man killed in Ukraine named as Jonathan Shenkin
A British man who was killed in Ukraine while working there as a paramedic has been named as Jonathan Shenkin, Sky News reported.
Forty-five-year-old Shenkin, from Glasgow, was killed in December. He is one of eight U.K. citizens known to have died in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022.
In social media posts, Shenkin’s family described him as a “hero” who died “in an act of bravery as a paramedic,” according to Sky.
“On enlisting in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, he made the ultimate sacrifice to defend values we all believe in. He is survived by his son and daughter, to whom he was devoted,” the tribute post wrote, adding that he was awarded the medal for “Valour in Combat” for his work in Ukraine.
Earlier in his life, Shenkin served in the Israeli army and later founded his own security company which took him to conflict zones including Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.
— Natasha Turak
European Commission outlines new sanctions package against Russia targeting exports, oligarchs
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen at the European Council Building in Brussels, on December 21, 2022.
John Thys | Afp | Getty Images
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced details of the EU’s tenth sanctions package against Russia for its war in Ukraine, which is subject to the approval of EU member countries. The restrictions target export bans worth 11 billion euros ($11.78 billion), exports of dual use and advanced tech goods, as well as Russian propagandists.
The sanctions feature new measures to prevent circumvention, von der Leyen said in a statement, including tracking oligarchs who try to “hide or sell their assets” to escape sanctions.
“We now have in place the toughest sanctions ever introduced by the European Union. And we have to ensure that they are rigorously applied,” the statement said.
“We will track oligarchs trying to hide or to sell their assets to escape sanctions. And together with Member States we will set up an overview of all frozen assets of the Russian central bank held in the EU. We need to know where these are located and how much they are worth. This is crucial in view of the possible use of public Russian assets to fund reconstruction in Ukraine.”
“Together, we are tightening the screws on Russia more and more,” von der Leyen said, calling on member states to swiftly adopt the package. “Our aim is to have, together with our G7 partners, further significant sanctions in place by 24 February — exactly one year after Putin launched his imperial war.”
— Natasha Turak
UK defense minister pours cold water on Ukraine’s fighter jet hopes
A Belgian F-16 jet fighter takes part in the NATO Air Nuclear drill “Steadfast Noon” at the Kleine-Brogel air base in Belgium on Oct. 18, 2022.
Kenzo Tribouillard | Afp | Getty Images
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace dampened hopes of fighter jets for Ukraine, something its leaders have been urgently requesting for months.
Wallace outlined the complications involved in providing fighter jets as opposed to land-based systems, including the large amount of training and maintenance staff that would be needed for such an effort.
“I don’t think it’s going to be in the next few months, or even years, that we are going to necessarily hand over fighter jet, because they are very different weapons systems to you know, handheld anti-tank missiles,” Wallace told the BBC from Brussels.
“These aircraft come with not only huge sort of capability challenges, you know, you just can’t learn to fly in a week or two, it will take a long time.”
He added that the jets also “come with a pit crew like a Formula One team, you know, they come with hundreds of engineers and pilots. And that’s not something you can just generate in a few months, and we’re not going to deploy 200 RAF personnel into Ukraine at a time of war.”
— Natasha Turak
Russian forces have relocated at least 6,000 Ukrainian children to camps since start of war: report
A couple of children’s shoes is on the floor close to a placard in support of Ukraine, A woman is putting children’s shoes on the floor, as a part of a Ukrainian art installation to draw attention to the killings of civilians and in particular children during the war in Ukraine. The Hague, on April 2nd, 2022.
Romy Arroyo Fernandez | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Russian forces have moved at least 6,000 Ukrainian children to camps and facilities across Russia for forced adoptions and military training, according to a new report.
The allegations detailed in the 35-page report, such as the abduction or detention of children, may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. The allegations were detailed by the Conflict Observatory, a program supported by the U.S. State Department.
The report, entitled “Russia’s systematic program for the re-education and adoption of Ukraine’s children,” took more than a year to produce. It outlines what it calls the Kremlin’s systematic efforts to abduct children, prevent their return to Ukraine and “re-educate” them to become pro-Russia.
About three-fourths of the camps appear to “expose children from Ukraine to Russia-centric academic, cultural, patriotic, and/or military education … with the apparent goal of integrating children from Ukraine into the Russian government’s vision of national culture, history and society,” the authors of the report wrote.
— Amanda Macias
Pentagon awards Northrop Grumman Army contract for more ammunition
A howitzer, belonging to Ukrainian artillery battery attached to the 59th Mechanized Brigade, shoots-off to target the points controlled by Russian troops in order to support to the Ukrainian army as Russia-Ukraine war continues in Kherson Oblast, Ukraine on November 05, 2022.
Metin Atkas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
The Pentagon awarded Northrop Grumman and Global Military Products Inc., a contract worth more than $522 million for the manufacture and delivery of 155 mm artillery ammunition. The U.S. Army contract is funded by the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
“This is an example of the Army’s continued commitment to continue working closely with industry to support the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and award replacement contracts as quickly as possible, using undefinitized contract actions, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts, and other tools that accelerate acquisition timelines,” the Pentagon wrote in a statement.
— Amanda Macias
Two ships leave Ukrainian ports under Black Sea Grain Initiative
Ships, including those carrying grain from Ukraine and awaiting inspections, are seen anchored off the Istanbul coastline on November 02, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Chris Mcgrath | Getty Images
Two vessels carrying more than 81,000 metric tons of grain and other food products have left Ukrainian ports, the organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from the country said.
The ships are destined for China and India and are carrying sunflower oil and sunflower meal.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered in July among Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, eased Russia’s naval blockade and saw three key Ukrainian ports reopen.
So far, more than 700 ships have sailed from Ukrainian ports.
— Amanda Macias