Ukraine war live updates: Putin delivers State of the Nation address to Russian lawmakers, troops and journalists

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s State of Nation address Thursday has covered a variety of topics so far, from Russia’s low birth rate, to the risk of an arms race with the United States, to low incomes and improving relations with the Middle East and Latin America.

Putin proposed to increase child benefits and improve social services to support and encourage Russians to have large families, as well as efforts to increase low incomes and Russian life expectancy.

A man holds the Russian national flag in front of a Wagner group military vehicle with the sign read as “Rostov” in Rostov-on-Don late on June 24, 2023. 

Stringer | AFP | Getty Images

He also spoke of Russia’s need to strengthen its western military district, signaling an intention to boost troop numbers along the border with new NATO member Finland. Putin said Russia’s armed forces had gained a wealth of military experience from fighting in Ukraine, stating “the combat capabilities of the armed forces have increased manifold.”

“Our units are firmly in possession of the initiative. They are confidently advancing in a number of operational directions, liberating new territories,” he told the audience, made up of lawmakers, officials, religious leaders and journalists.

— Holly Ellyatt

Military vehicles at a plant that is part of Russian missile manufacturer Almaz-Antey, in St. Petersburg, on Jan. 18, 2023.

Ilya Pitalev | Afp | Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said Russia’s economy would soon be among the world’s four largest in terms of purchasing power parity.

Boasting vast natural resources, Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) rebounded sharply last year from a slump in 2022, but the growth relies heavily on state-funded arms and ammunition production for the war in Ukraine, masking problems that are hampering an improvement in Russians’ living standards.

— Reuters

Possible NATO should send troops to Ukraine, Lithuania's foreign minister says

NATO should not rule out the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine, Lithuania’s foreign minister told CNBC, backing similar calls from French President Emmanuel Macron.

Gabrielius Landsbergis described as “well-time and well thought through” comments made by Macron Monday, claiming that NATO countries had discussed the possibility of Western ground troops being deployed in Ukraine.

The claims were swiftly rejected Tuesday by fellow NATO allies, but Landsbergis said “brave steps” were needed to defend Ukraine — and Europe at large — from Russian aggression.

“As far as sending troops to Ukraine, I would say as much that we should not take any options off the table,” Landsbergis told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

“[Putin] doesn’t have any red lines,” he added. “President Macron, he tries to delete certain red lines and that’s why we support him.”

— Karen Gilchrist

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly, including the State Duma parliamentarians, members of the Federation Council, regional governors and other high-ranking officials, in Moscow, Russia February 20, 2019.

Alexei Nikolsky | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is united in the face of “international terrorism” and challenges to its sovereignty posed by the “colonial West,” which he claimed was trying to “bring discord to our home.”

“We shall overcome everything together,” Putin said as he began his State of the Nation address, according to a BBC feed. He praised Russian citizens, businesses and troops in Ukraine for their efforts in “defending the Motherland.”

The Russian leader led a minute’s silence to honor Russia’s armed forces, then extolled the “colossal” battlefield experience they gained during the two years of fighting in Ukraine.

Putin said Russian forces were on the offensive and were “liberating” new territories in Ukraine, once again repeating unsubstantiated claims that Russia is seeking to overthrow a “Nazi” regime in the country. He added that the West had provoked the conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his spokesperson Dmitry Peskov at the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council meeting at the Congress Hall in Bishkek on Dec. 9, 2022.

Vyacheslav Oseledko | Afp | Getty Images

The Kremlin has hinted at what we could hear from Russian President Vladimir Putin during his State of the Nation address Thursday.

Ahead of the address to Russian lawmakers, officials and journalists, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told Russian media the address would focus on the “sovereignty” of the Russian Federation.

The address, which Peskov said would last for over an hour, could also be seen as Putin’s election program, he said.

“Will there be a large part intended for listeners in foreign countries? No … For the president the main thing is our country, for the president the main thing is the continuation of the sovereignization of our country,” Peskov said in an interview with Channel One.

“Any speech by the president, especially an actual address to the nation, and an address to the Federal Assembly is actually an address to the nation, of course, attracts the interests of analysts around the world,” Peskov said. 

“It will be the same this time. And they will analyze it for a long time,” the Kremlin representative emphasized.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine’s new army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said Thursday that the situation on the front line and particularly in eastern Ukraine where Russia has made several gains in recent weeks remains “difficult” and “tense.”

Posting on Telegram, Syrskyi said Russian forces continued “active offensive actions in many directions of the front line.” 

“The situation was particularly tense in the Avdiivka and Zaporizhzhia directions, where Russian assault units are trying to break through the defenses of our troops and capture the settlements of Tonenke, Orlivka, Semenivka, Berdychi, Krasnohorivka,” he said.

Fierce fighting continues in the areas of Verbove and Robotine, he added, saying Russian forces were trying to gain control over the settlements.

Syrskyi’s comments come after Ukrainian losses in the Donetsk region in recent weeks, most significantly with the loss of Avdiivka, followed by the small settlements of Lastochkyne, Stepove and Severne. 

Colonel general Oleksandr Syrskyi, Commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, attends an interview with Reuters, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine January 12, 2024. 

Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters

Unusually, Syrskyi openly criticized some unnamed commanders, having visited Ukrainian forces on the eastern front earlier this week.

“The success of any battle depends on the quality of planning and how successfully the commander’s plan is implemented by his subordinates. This is primarily determined by the experience and skill of the commander and commanders, the ability to correctly assess the situation and make adequate and timely decisions,” he said.

During his recent visit to the front line, he said, “some commanders were found to have certain miscalculations in mastering the situation and assessing the enemy, which directly affected the stability of the defense in certain areas.”

Syrskyi said he had taken measures “to correct the situation on the spot, with the allocation of an additional resource of ammunition and material means, as well as the necessary reserves.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly, on April 21, 2021 in Moscow, Russia.

Konstantin Zavrazhin | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to deliver his State of the Nation address to Russian lawmakers Thursday.

The speech is usually delivered to around a 1,000 lawmakers and officials, faith leaders, diplomats and journalists. As was the case last year, participants in Russia’s “special military operation” (code for war) in Ukraine have also been invited. The speech begins at noon local time (9 a.m. GMT).

The topics of the address are not usually revealed ahead of the speech, but Putin said last week that the upcoming message takes into account “the internal political calendar” and will set Russia’s goals for the next six years. The longest address took place in 2018 and lasted almost two hours.

There’s speculation that Putin could use his State of the Nation address on Thursday to make some announcement about Transnistria, potentially even bolstering Russia’s small military presence in the separatist region.

Putin’s speech comes less than a month before the presidential election on March 15-17 that Putin is expected to win given the lack of non-systemic opposition figures in Russia and pro-Kremlin media.

Russian news agencies will be broadcasting the speech online and it will be broadcast on federal TV channels as well as outdoor screens in large cities. Streets are closed off in central Moscow for the event.

— Holly Ellyatt

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, as he speaks during his annual state of the nation address in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020.


Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next move is being closely watched after the pro-Russian, breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova asked Russia to “protect” it against an alleged threat from Moldova’s authorities.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry responded by saying protecting that the interests of the residents of Transnistria — calling them “compatriots” — was a priority for Russia, the ministry told RIA Novosti.

There’s speculation that Putin could use his State of the Nation address on Thursday to make some announcement about Transnistria, potentially even bolstering Russia’s small military presence in the separatist region.

Read more on the story here: West watches for Putin’s next move after breakaway region asks Moscow to ‘protect’ it from Moldova

Russia could use a tactic it has used previously to justify similar actions — that is, saying it is acting to protect its own citizens by sending troops into the region. The same tactic has been used in eastern Ukraine with pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, and in the case of the Russian-backed separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia. Both of those cases led to, or involved, war.

Moldova’s pro-Western government slammed what it saw as a “propaganda” statement from Transnistria while the U.S. said it was watching events closely.

“One signpost to watch this year is whether Putin makes any references to Transnistria, an internationally recognized part of Moldova which has been controlled by Russia since 1992,” Andrius Tursa, central and eastern Europe advisor at risk consultancy Teneo, said in a note this week.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia on Wednesday said it regrets that Sweden is set to join NATO and pledged to take some retaliatory measures to protect itself.

“Russia will take retaliatory measures of a political and military-technical nature in order to stop threats to its national security. Their specific content will depend on the conditions and scale of Sweden’s integration into NATO, including the possible deployment of NATO troops, strike systems and weapons on the territory of this country,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a post via Telegram, according to a Google translation.

Russia said that while security matters are a sovereign question for Sweden, the move would have a negative impact on northern Europe’s stability and the Baltic Sea region, which is shared by Sweden, Russia and various other countries.

Sweden bid to join NATO, where an attack one member country is seen as an attack on all members, following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. After long-standing opposition, Hungary on Monday voted to approve the bid, clearing the way for Sweden to join the alliance.

— Sophie Kiderlin

European leaders should discuss using the profits from frozen Russian assets to boost Ukraine’s military, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.

“It is time to start a conversation about using the windfall profits of frozen Russian assets to jointly purchase military equipment for Ukraine,” she said in a speech before the European Parliament.

“There could be no stronger symbol and no greater use for that money than to make Ukraine and all of Europe a safer place to live,” von der Leyen noted.

Von der Leyen’s comments come after U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday said it is important to find a way to unlock the value of frozen assets to bolster Ukraine, stressing there is a “strong international law, economic and moral case” to do so, and that it was crucial for allies to work together on the matter.

Read the full story here.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Yulia Navalnaya (first row, 3rdL), widow of Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died on February 16 in a Russian prison, is applauded by European Parliament President Roberta Metsola (first row, 3rdR) after addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on February 28, 2024. 

Frederick Florin | Afp | Getty Images

Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of dead Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny told European lawmakers Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin must answer for what he has done with Russia, Ukraine, and Navalny.

“Putin must answer for what he has done with my country, Putin must answer for what he has done to a neighboring peaceful country and Putin must answer for everything he has done to Alexei,” she said.

Addressing the European Parliament, Navalnaya said Putin could not be negotiated with and was “capable of anything.” If you want to defeat Putin, she said, you have to be innovative; “You cannot hurt him with resolutions or a set of sanctions,” she said.

Navalny’s wife, wider family and supporters accuse the Kremlin of ordering Navalny’s death in an Arctic penal colony earlier in February. The Kremlin denies involvement in his death.

Addressing the Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Navalnaya accused the Russian authorities of torturing Navalny while in prison “on Putin’s orders,” and then of abusing his body after his death. She did not give any further details. CNBC has contacted the Kremlin for a response to the allegations. Navalny’s family and supporters criticized Russia’s authorities for initially refusing to release his body for burial. His remains were released to the family last Saturday.

Navalny’s funeral is due to take place in Moscow on Friday, with Navalnaya telling parliamentarians that she wasn’t sure if the occasion would be peaceful or whether Russian police would make arrests.

Navalnaya has become something of a figurehead for Russia’s opposition — many of whom are imprisoned, living abroad or dead — following the death of her husband.

— Holly Ellyatt

Flowers are seen placed around portraits of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in a Russian Arctic prison, at a makeshift memorial in front of the former Russian consulate in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on February 23, 2024. 

– | Afp | Getty Images

The funeral of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny will be held on Friday in Moscow, his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said Wednesday.

The funeral will take place at the Borisovskoye cemetery after a ceremony at a church in the Maryino district of the city at 2 p.m. local time.

“Come early,” Yarmysh told her followers on X, formerly Twitter. It’s likely that there will be a strong police presence at the funeral given that a large number of Navalny’s supporters are likely to attend.

Yarmysh said Tuesday that various funeral venues refused to accommodate the service, with one location reportedly telling her that they’d been ordered not to host a service.

“Since yesterday we have been looking for a place where we can organize a farewell event for Alexey. We have called most of the private and public funeral agencies, commercial venues and funeral halls. Some of them say the place is fully booked. Some refuse when we mention the surname ‘Navalny’,” she said, adding that “in one place, we were told that the funeral agencies were forbidden to work with us.”

Navalny’s death in an Arctic penal colony on Feb. 16 remains unexplained, with Navalny’s supporters accusing the Kremlin of orchestrating his murder. The Kremlin denies any involvement.

Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, had to lobby Russia’s prison authorities and President Vladimir Putin to release her son’s body for burial before it was handed over on Feb. 24.

— Holly Ellyatt

A man makes a selfie photo in front of the Kremlin’s Spasskaya tower and St. Basil’s cathedral in downtown Moscow on September 11, 2023. Russia’s Elections Commission said that the pro-Kremlin United Russia part had won local elections in four regions of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces, in a vote dismissed by Kyiv. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Alexander Nemenov | Afp | Getty Images

Russian officials appear to be relishing the gaffe made this week by French President Emmanuel Macron after he suggested that NATO countries had discussed the possibility of Western ground troops being deployed in Ukraine, saying such an eventuality could not be “ruled out.”

Macron’s suggestion was widely and very publicly rejected by NATO member countries yesterday. Germany, the U.K., Spain, Poland and NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg were among those denying that sending ground troops into Ukraine was an option.

The Kremlin had warned earlier Tuesday that such a move would lead to an “inevitable” conflict between NATO and Russia. Since then, state-run Russian media has been dominated by Russian officials relishing the obvious division in NATO, and Macron’s apparent misreading of the NATO mood music.

“Macron made a number of loud statements, including the possibility of sending NATO troops to Ukraine, which horrified the residents of his country and the leaders of a number of European states,” Russian State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said on his Telegram channel.

“To maintain personal power, Macron came up with nothing better than to spark a third world war. His initiatives are becoming dangerous for French citizens,” Volodin added.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry claimed Wednesday that Ukraine is facing a “catastrophic” situation at the front Russia is currently enjoying a spate of small territorial gains in eastern Ukraine and that Macron’s statement had not helped the country.

“The situation at the front for the Kyiv regime is monstrous, catastrophic,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told the Sputnik radio station, Tass news agency reported.

She claimed NATO countries’ denials that they planned to send their ground troops into Ukraine showed the West had “betrayed Ukraine and will continue to use and betray it,” repeating Moscow’s baseless claims that Western countries are using Ukraine to destroy Russia.

— Holly Ellyatt

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