Ukraine war live updates: Germany’s Scholz urges allies to send tanks to Ukraine; European gas hits cheapest level in 18 months

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Ukrainian troops holding Bakhmut line plead for weapons

A woman crosses a destroyed bridge in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on January 6, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine have both suffered heavy casualties in the fight for Bakhmut, and most of the city’s pre-war population of 70,000 have left for safer territory, leaving behind cratered roads and buildings reduced to rubble and twisted metal.

Dimitar Dilkoff | Afp | Getty Images

Ukrainian soldiers fighting to hold off a Russian push on the small eastern city of Bakhmut pleaded for more weapons from the outside world as senior Western leaders met in Munich on Friday to assess the year-long war shaking Europe.

“Give us more military equipment, more weapons, and we will deal with the Russian occupier, we will destroy them,” said Dmytro, a serviceman standing in the snow near Bakhmut, echoing a plea by his president to the Munich conference.

Nearly one year into the invasion, President Vladimir Putin’s troops are intensifying assaults in the east.

Ukraine is planning a spring counter-offensive, for which it wants more, heavier and longer-range weapons from its Western allies.

Reuters

U.S. to directly warn companies against evading Russia sanctions

Economist Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo answers questions during his Senate Finance Committee nomination hearing to be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, in Washington, D.C., February 23, 2021.

Greg Nash | Pool | Reuters

The United States will directly warn companies against evading U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia over the war in Ukraine, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said, as Washington seeks to further squeeze Russia’s economy.

Speaking to Reuters ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of its neighbor, Adeyemo cited specific concerns about the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Turkey and countries near Russia evading sanctions.

“We’re going to go directly to their companies and make very clear to their companies that you have a choice,” Adeyemo said.

“You can continue to do things that are going to benefit Russia and provide them material support, but then you bear the risk of losing access to the European economy, to the United States economy, to the UK economy — this is your choice,” he said. “We’re willing to take these actions.”

— Reuters

Two ships leave Ukrainian ports under Black Sea Grain Initiative

A photograph taken on October 31, 2022 shows a cargo ship loaded with grain being inspected in the anchorage area of the southern entrance to the Bosphorus in Istanbul.

Ozan Kose | AFP | Getty Images

Two vessels carrying more than 90,845 metric tons of grain and other food products have left Ukrainian ports, the organization overseeing the export of agriculture from the country said.

The ships are destined for Egypt and Turkey and are carrying corn and barley.

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

First Ukrainian battalion completes training on U.S. armored vehicles

Ukrainian soldiers in armored military vehicles as strikes continue on the Donbas front line.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Pentagon said the first Ukrainian battalion completed combined arms training on the M2 Bradley fighting vehicle in Grafenwoehr, Germany.

“Approximately 635 Ukrainians completed the approximately five-week period of instruction, which included basic soldier tasks like marksmanship, along with medical training, squad, platoon and company training, and a battalion force-on-force exercise,” said Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder in a statement.

Ryder added that additional training is underway and is being overseen by U.S. European Command.

— Amanda Macias

Satellite imagery analysis of a Russia-North Korea railroad crossing suggests an increase in trade as Western sanctions hit Moscow

A new report from a Washington-based think tank suggests energy and economic trade relations between Russia and North Korea have risen as Western countries aim to hamstring Russia’s economy with sanctions.

The new analysis of satellite imagery, conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, shows an increased use of a railroad between Russia and North Korea.

“While satellite imagery alone cannot conclusively identify the contents of the railcars traveling between the two countries, future observation of railcar traffic at the Tumangang-Khasan railroad crossing can provide a broad but useful indicator of the changing volume of trade activity between the two nations,” the authors of the report wrote.

“The increased sanctions chokehold on Russia due to the war in Ukraine increases the likelihood that the railroad traffic observed at this border crossing is also being used to both offset economic sanctions and ease surge demands for munitions, as evidenced by the Wagner Group’s acquisition of North Korean arms,” the authors added.

— Amanda Macias

Biden heads to Poland next week — here’s a preview of his trip

President Joe Biden is traveling to Poland next week ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Here’s a preview of his schedule:

  • Biden will arrive in Warsaw, Poland on Tuesday morning, local time where he will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda. The two leaders will discuss joint support for Ukraine and NATO’s deterrence, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
  • Biden will deliver remarks that evening on the war and the U.S.’s continued support for Ukraine. Kirby said Biden will make the U.S.’s commitment clear and assure Ukraine it will support the country “for as long as it takes.”
  • On Wednesday Biden will meet with leaders of the Bucharest Nine, with members Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. In the meeting, Biden will “reaffirm the United States’ unwavering support for the security of that alliance and transatlantic unity,” Kirby said.

“This is an important trip for the president,” Kirby said. “It comes at an important moment, and it follows days of diplomacy at the Munich Security Conference.”

Emma Kinery

Talks on extending Black Sea Grain Initiative will start in a week, Ukraine says

1 million metric tons less of cereals in the market could create an increase in prices of around 0.5%

Bfk92 | E+ | Getty Images

Negotiations will start in a week on extending a U.N.-backed initiative that has enabled Ukraine to export grain from ports blockaded by Russia after its invasion, a senior Ukrainian official said.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last July allowed grain to be exported from three Ukrainian ports.

The agreement was extended by a further 120 days in November and is up for renewal again in March, but Russia has signaled that it is unhappy with some aspects of the deal and has asked for sanctions affecting its agricultural exports to be lifted.

“Negotiations on extending the grain corridor will begin in a week and then we will understand the positions of all parties,” Ukrainian Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yuriy Vaskov said during a grain conference in Kyiv organized by the ProAgro agriculture consultancy.

— Reuters

Russia discusses deeper military and economic ties with closest ally Belarus

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at the Palace of Independence on Dec. 19, 2022, in Minsk, Belarus.

Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted neighboring ally Belarus’ leader for talks on expanding military and economic cooperation amid the fighting in Ukraine.

Russia used Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine nearly a year ago at the start of what the Kremlin calls its “special military operation.”

Russia has maintained troops and weapons in Belarus and the two countries have regularly conducted joint drills as part of their military alliance.

Speaking at the start of his talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Putin proposed to discuss security issues, military cooperation and ways to further bolster economic ties.

Putin noted that Belarus has preserved Soviet-era industrial assets, adding that it offers good opportunities for joint manufacturing programs.

“By pooling our efforts we will create synergy,” Putin said. “It could be very efficient in some sectors and bring good results for both Belarus and Russia.”

— Associated Press

Finland and Sweden’s NATO plans could be delayed after Turkey’s devastating earthquake

Finland’s foreign minister says he expects a vote on NATO membership in early March

Finland is concerned that its application to join NATO in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be delayed after a devastating earthquake in Turkey.

Helsinki applied to join the defense alliance in May, alongside its neighboring nation Sweden — in a historic move, given the Nordic country’s decadeslong policy of military neutrality. This diplomatic approach came to an end after President Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine almost a year ago.

Joining NATO has been a somewhat difficult process for Finland and Sweden, with Hungary and Turkey holding back their ratification. All other 28 NATO nations have approved the accession of Helsinki and Stockholm.

“Things are now up to Hungary and to Turkey to deliver and to handle this issue,” Pekka Haavisto, the Finnish minister for foreign affairs, told CNBC on Friday.

Read the full story here.

Watch CNBC's full interview with Finland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto

French President Emmanuel Macron urges allies to double down on Ukraine support

French President Emmanuel Macron urged allies to increase their military support for Ukraine in the face of an intensifying Russian offensive. More military aid would help enable Ukraine to stage an effective counter-offensive, he said during the Munich Security Conference.

“We absolutely need to intensify our support and our effort to the resistance of the Ukrainian people and its army and help them to launch a counter-offensive which alone can allow credible negotiations, determined by Ukraine, its authorities and its people,” Macron said, according to a Reuters translation.

— Natasha Turak

At some point U.S. will need to provide security guarantees for Ukraine: Sen. Chris Coons

Watch CNBC's full interview with U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del)

The U.S. will at some point have to provide a guarantee of security for Ukraine, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the Munich Security Conference.

“At some point, we are going to need to provide security guarantees for Ukraine,” the Democratic lawmaker said, when asked if the U.S. would be providing fighter jets to the embattled country. “Once we’ve reached some point where on the battlefield, there is a ceasefire in negotiations at that point, we’re going to need to provide Ukraine with the most cutting edge conventional weaponry possible to deter Russia from renewing its attacks on Ukraine.”

By that point, Coons said, fighter jets should come into the picture which would require significant training time that should start earlier.

“We need to be in a position to provide them with modern advanced fighter jets,” he said. “I think we should begin the training and the preparations for that. Now, that may be a year or even two years away. But I do think we should prepare for providing Ukraine with all the weaponry they need, that is conventional that can secure their future against an incessant and aggressive Putin.”

Ukraine has for months urged its Western allies to provide it with fighter jets, but to no avail, as allies express concern over escalating the conflict to a level that would potentially provoke a severe response from Russia.

— Natasha Turak

Allies who can send tanks to Ukraine must ‘do so now,’ Germany’s Scholz says

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the only G-7 leader to do so.

Johannes Simon | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Countries who can send battle tanks to Ukraine must do so now, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said during a speech at the Munich Security conference, displaying a sharp reversal from previous months of resisting providing tanks for Ukraine.

“Those who can send such battle tanks should really do so now,” Scholz told the conference, adding that he planned to be “intensively campaigning” for other allied countries to do so.

Germany faced intense criticism for months as it refrained from sending (and from allowing allied countries to send) its powerful German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine as the country battles Russian forces.

Scholz finally gave in in late January, agreeing to send a Ukraine company of 14 of its own Leopard 2 A6 tanks. But later talks with NATO allies failed to bring together enough of the vehicles to create a full battalion 56 of the A6 tanks which are more modern. So far NATO partners have only been able to put together half a battalion of the A6s, Germany’s defense minister said this week.

Scholz said on Friday that Germany will “contribute to help our partners make this decision” to provide more tanks, “for example by training Ukrainian soldiers here in Germany or by supporting them with logistics and supplies.” He added, “that is an example of the kind of leadership people can expect from Germany.”

— Natasha Turak

Moldova is increasingly caught in the crosshairs of Russia’s war

Moldova, a landlocked European country on Ukraine’s western border, has been battling political and economic instability following Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.

Agf | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

Moldova, a small European nation to Ukraine’s western border, has found itself increasingly caught in the crosshairs of Russia’s war, following the collapse of its government last week.

President Maia Sandu on Monday accused Russia of plotting a coup to overthrow her pro-European Union government using “foreign saboteurs.”

Sandu said authorities had confirmed allegations first voiced by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last week, who warned his intelligence agencies have uncovered “a detailed Russian plan to undermine the political situation in Moldova.”

Analysts said it is entirely possible that Moscow is using Moldova — and separatist groups in its pro-Russian breakaway state of Transnistria — to sow discord and disarm Ukraine from a new front, ahead of the war’s one-year anniversary.

Read the full report here.

— Karen Gilchrist

Soros: A Ukrainian victory would mean Russia no longer poses a threat to Europe or the world

Hungarian-born US investor and philanthropist George Soros.

FABRICE COFFRINI

A Ukrainian victory in the war with Russia would result in the collapse of the Russian empire, billionaire fund manager George Soros told the Munich Security Conference on Thursday.

Soros said efforts by Russian private paramilitary contractor Wagner Group to take control of the town of Bakhmut were “unlikely” to overcome fierce Ukrainian resistance, adding that “once Ukraine can use the weapons it has been promised, the tables will be turned.”

However, he also noted that another large bipartisan funding package to Ukraine from the U.S. is increasingly unlikely due to opposition from the now Republican-led House of Representatives.

“This gives Ukraine a narrow window of opportunity later this spring, when it receives the promised armaments, to mount a counterattack which would determine the fate of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Soros said.

He suggested former Soviet Union countries are eagerly anticipating a Russian defeat in Ukraine so as to be able to assert their independence from Russian influence.

“This means that a Ukrainian victory would result in the dissolution of the Russian empire. Russia would no longer pose a threat to Europe and the world,” Soros said.

“That would be a big change for the better. It would bring huge relief to open societies and create tremendous problems for closed ones.”

Read the full story here.

Elliot Smith

European natural gas falls to lowest price in nearly 18 months

A worker walks past gas pipes that connect a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit ship with the main land in Wilhelmshaven, northern Germany on December 17, 2022. EU energy ministers are wrangling over a proposed price cap on gas.

Michael Sohn | Afp | Getty Images

European natural gas fell to its lowest price in nearly a year and a half on Friday, hitting 49.50 euros ($52.66) per megawatt hour, in the first dip in price below 50 euros per megawatt hour since August 2021.

A substantial supply of gas in storage and mild winter weather has helped bring down prices that had reached a record high of nearly 340 euros per megawatt hour in September.

The European TTF benchmark fell nearly 5% to 49 euros per megawatt hour during the day, reflecting market optimism that European countries will make it through this and next year’s winters without facing shortages — a still widespread fear in the wake of severing Russian supplies.

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine can lose the war — but Russia can’t win, Eurasia Group CEO says

Ukraine can lose this war — but Russia can't win, Eurasia Group CEO says

Ukraine can lose the war against Russia, but Russia itself still won’t win, Eurasia Group CEO Ian Bremmer argued while speaking to CNBC at the Munich Security Conference.

“Ukraine can lose — everyone here needs to understand Ukraine can lose this war,” Bremmer said. “The big geopolitical challenge is that Russia can’t win.”

“I mean they (Russia) can win in Ukraine, but they can’t win globally, they can’t win in terms of NATO, because they will still be a pariah, they will still be cut off. NATO will still expand,” the CEO and founder of the political risk consultancy said.

“And for Putin, feeling humiliated, insecure and in a vastly worse geostrategic position than he was before he invaded, what’s he going to do as the world’s most powerful rogue state? That’s a long term question that goes well beyond Ukraine.”

— Natasha Turak

WHO appeals for more funding to support Ukraine’s embattled healthcare sector

A child rests in a cot in front of a window protected by sandbags in the department of intensive care for newborns at Okhmatdyt Hospital on December 06, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images

The World Health Organization is appealing for more funds to help Ukraine prop up its embattled healthcare sector, which has come under attack more than 750 times across the country in the last year by Russian forces.

“We are coordinating nearly 200 partners to deliver various health services right across this vast country, reaching 8.5 million people last year,” Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said during a press briefing in Ukraine. “We aim to reach 13.6 million people with this support this year. That’s why we have increased our appeal for 2023 to $240 million – $160 million for Ukraine and $80 million for refugee-receiving countries.”

Hospitals, clinics and maternity wards all over Ukraine have been destroyed by Russian strikes and shelling, while as many as 10 million people may currently be facing mental health problems, Kluge said.

He said he was “amazed” at the “remarkably resilient” state of Ukraine’s healthcare system despite the war, and said it was “a testament to its heroic workforce, sustained political commitment and consistent budget support for health.”

— Natasha Turak

As many as 60,000 Russian forces may have been killed in the last year, UK says

As many as 60,000 Russian forces, including both the formal military and private contractors, may have been killed in the year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

“Russian Ministry of Defence and private military contractor (PMC) forces have likely suffered 175-200,000 casualties since the start of the invasion of Ukraine. This likely includes approximately 40-60,000 killed,” the ministry wrote in its daily intelligence update on Twitter.

“By modern standards, these figures represent a high ratio of personnel killed compared to those wounded. This is almost certainly due to extremely rudimentary medical provision across much of the force.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no sign of being deterred by heavy personnel losses, and has begun sending more troops into combat for a spring offensive to try to gain more Ukrainian territory.

— Natasha Turak

World leaders meet for Munich Security Conference

Questions about the future of democracy will be on the agenda at the Munich Security Conference

World government and military leaders are convening in Munich, Germany, for the annual Munich conference on international security policy. This year’s summit is set to focus on the Russia-Ukraine war and takes place just before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbor.

French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will be in attendance, among numerous other leaders and officials. Ukrainian officials will be making speeches and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will open the meeting with a video address.

Russia is banned from the conference for the first time in 20 years.

— Natasha Turak

Zelenskyy rejects idea of conceding any territory to Russia for peace deal

Conceding any of Ukraine’s territory to Russia in exchange for a peace deal is off the table for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy because Russia would just “keep coming back,” he told the BBC in an interview.

He said that more weapons and military aid from the West would ensure a faster end to the conflict. “Modern weapons speed up peace,” he said. “Weapons are the only language Russia understands.”

Zelenskyy added that Russia’s anticipated spring offensive had already started, saying that “Russian attacks are already happening from several directions.”

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine’s National Guard attends interactive fire training in Lviv

Service members in Ukraine’s National Guard attend a presentation of the unit’s interactive fire training simulator in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

A serviceman of Ukraine’s National Guard attends a presentation of the unit’s interactive fire training simulator in the western Ukraine city of Lviv on February 16, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Yuriy Dyachyshyn | Afp | Getty Images

Servicemen of Ukraine’s National Guard attends a presentation of the unit’s interactive fire training simulator in the western Ukraine city of Lviv on February 16, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Yuriy Dyachyshyn | Afp | Getty Images

A serviceman of Ukraine’s National Guard attends a presentation of the unit’s interactive fire training simulator in the western Ukraine city of Lviv on February 16, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Yuriy Dyachyshyn | Afp | Getty Images

— Yuriy Dyachyshyn | AFP | Getty Images

No trips outside of Poland planned for Biden next week, White House says

White House National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby takes questions during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S. February 10, 2023. 

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The White House said it has planned no stops other than Poland for President Joe Biden’s trip next week.

“The president is looking forward to meeting with President [Andrzej] Duda and communicating with the Polish people in making remarks there in Warsaw. I don’t have any other meetings to speak to or to detail or preview today,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters when asked if Biden may visit Ukraine.

“I would add that President Biden and President Zelenskyy have spoken regularly and routinely over the course of the last year, both face-to-face and over the phone. And we fully expect that direct communication between those two leaders will absolutely continue well into the future,” Kirby said.

— Amanda Macias

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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