Ukraine war live updates: Russia raises conscription age limit; Zelenskyy gives fresh corruption warning


North Korea and Russia to strengthen cooperation, Defense Minister Shoigu says

Russia and North Korea on Wednesday announced plans to strengthen their defense cooperation, Reuters reported Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying.

“I am convinced that today’s talks will contribute to strengthening cooperation between our defense departments,” Shoigu said after a meeting in Pyongyang with his North Korean counterpart.

— Karen Gilchrist

Moldova to cut number of Russian embassy staff, Tass reports

Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu answers journalists’ questions ahead of a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council at the EU headquarters in Brussels, on Feb. 20, 2023.

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Moldova’s foreign minister said Wednesday that it had cut the number of staff at its Russian embassy, according to Russia’s Tass state news agency.

Nicu Popescu reportedly told a government meeting that the move was made in response to suspicions that “a number of embassy employees may be involved in efforts to destabilize the situation in the country.”

Moldova’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

“We have agreed with institutions and individuals making political decisions that it would be necessary to limit the number of Russian diplomats accredited in Moldova,” Tass reported Popescu as saying.

Russian Ambassador to Moldova Oleg Vasnetsov said that Chisinau’s move “undermines the opportunity for dialogue between the two countries.”

“All this so-called spying scandal is a pretext for the decision made ages ago to reduce the number of diplomatic staff,” Vasnetsov told a press briefing.

— Karen Gilchrist

Belarus likely leveraging the presence of the Wagner Group, ISW says

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at the Grand Kremlin Palace on May 25, 2023 in Moscow.

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko may be using the presence of Russia’s exiled militia group Wagner on his country’s territory as a bargaining chip with Moscow, the Institute of War signaled in its latest update.

Lukashenko travelled to Moscow at the end of last week to meet his counterpart Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin has acknowledged that the two allied leaders discussed the Wagner Group in recent days without disclosing conclusions or details.

Belarus has extended shelter to some Wagner troops as part of an amnesty deal negotiated with Putin after the group’s failed insurrection in late June.

“Lukashenko was likely trying to leverage Putin’s concern over the Wagner Group throughout the entire visit to Russia to gain favorable conditions in Belarusian-Russian relations while deflecting Putin’s demands for closer integration into the Union State and support for Russia’s war in Ukraine,” the ISW said.

“Russian leadership is attempting to mitigate the security vacuum left by the Wagner Group’s departure by creating formalized but decentralized military “enterprises” on the basis of federal subjects,” it added.

Ruxandra Iordache

Danone writes downs $221 million on seized Russian assets

French food business Danone said Wednesday that it would “deconsolidate” its Russia business in July after authorities in the country seized control of its subsidiary earlier this month.

The company said the decision would result in a cash impairment of around 200 million euros ($221 million) and a non-cash foreign exchange translation difference of about 500 million euros, Reuters reported.

— Karen Gilchrist

Zelenskyy issues warning against corruption

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy referred to the misuse of public funds and acceptance of bribery as a “betrayal of state principles, a betrayal of the interests of society” and reiterated the need to prioritize bringing Kyiv’s legislation in line with EU standards.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned against corruption and treachery in his country’s internal affairs, as Kyiv keeps its sights firmly set on national defense and European integration.

“I want to warn all MPs, officials, and everyone else in public office,” he said on Tuesday during a presidential address. “When everyday you search for weapons for the state, when all the attention is on providing artillery, missiles, drones, when you constantly see and feel the moral strength gained for Ukraine by our warriors, our people, who are doing everything possible and impossible for the victory and preservation of freedom, any internal betrayal, any ‘beach’ or any personal enrichment instead of Ukraine’s interests triggers fury at the very least.”

He referred to the misuse of public funds and acceptance of bribery as a “betrayal of state principles, a betrayal of the interests of society” and reiterated the need to prioritize bringing Kyiv’s legislation in line with EU standards.

“Every law that is necessary for Ukraine to start negotiations with the EU on accession must be adopted. And I don’t want to hear any more excuses. And no one else does. Ukraine does not give you any more time. If you are working for Ukraine, you are needed by Ukraine, if not, you are not,” he said.

The EU has repeatedly urged Kyiv to make further progress in judicial reforms and its fight against corruption when evaluating Ukraine’s application to the bloc.

Ruxandra Iordache

Russia raises maximum age limit for conscription

Russia’s lower parliament, the Duma, has raised the maximum age at which young men can be conscripted from 27 to 30, retaining the lower limit at 18, Russian state-owned news agency Tass said Tuesday, according to a Google translation.

The measure takes effect on Jan. 1, 2024, and was put forward by State Duma Defense Committee chairman Andrey Kartapolov in March.

The conscripted will be drafted into one-year contracts of compulsory military service applicable during periods of mobilization, under martial law and in wartime, as well as when Moscow’s armed forces are mobilized outside of Russian borders.

Ruxandra Iordache

U.S. approves security package worth $400 million for Ukraine

Ukrainian serviceman holds a Next Generation Light Anti-armour Weapon (NLAW) on the position not far from the front line in the south of Kharkiv region, on July 11, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images

The Biden administration approved a new security assistance package for Ukraine worth $400 million.

“The people of Ukraine continue to bravely defend their country against Russia’s aggression while Russia continues its relentless and vicious attacks that are killing Ukrainian civilians and destroying civil infrastructure,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in a release announcing the arms package.

The weapons included in the latest package are:

  • Additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS
  • Stinger anti-aircraft systems
  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS
  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds
  • 120mm and 60mm mortar rounds
  • 32 Stryker armored personnel carriers
  • Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided or TOW missiles
  • Javelin and other anti-armor systems and rockets
  • Hornet unmanned aerial systems
  • Hydra-70 aircraft rockets
  • Tactical air navigation systems
  • Demolitions munitions for obstacle clearing
  • Over 28 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenades
  • Night vision devices and thermal imagery systems
  • Spare parts, training munitions and other field equipment

— Amanda Macias

Putin expected to visit China in October, Kremlin says

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with China’s President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21, 2023.

Alexey Maishev | Afp | Getty Images

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin was invited and plans to attend the Belt and Road forum in China in October, Reuters reports.

The Biden administration has reiterated that Beijing should not assist Moscow as Washington and its Western allies coordinate rounds of sanctions for the Kremlin’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

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