Ukraine war live updates: Russia warns it's ready to retaliate if the West seizes frozen assets, says Europe will be hurt most

Russian forces are making “slow but incremental” advances in eastern Ukraine, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed Monday that their forces had taken control of Novomykhailivka, a village in Donetsk. A Ukrainian military official disputed the claim, saying Ukrainian forces still held the town.

Novomykhailivka had limited military strategic significance, the U.K. Defense Ministry said in a post on social media platform X, but it noted that the village “lies on roads to further settlements that straddle both sides of the Sukhiy Yaly river in southern Donetsk.”

Ukrainian snipers take part in a maneuvers and trench warfare training during a training session as the war between Russia and Ukraine continues in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on March 22, 2024. 

Wolfgang Schwan | Anadolu | Getty Images

“Russian forces reportedly entered the town on 9 February 2024, and reached the middle of the town by 24 March. The 79th Separate Air Assault Tavriia Brigade reportedly stated this required a force of 30,000 Russian personnel, with a loss of 300 pieces of equipment in the six months of fighting on the approach to the town,” the ministry commented.

“From entering to clearing the town, a total distance of under 5km, took Russian forces 73 days. That was with the benefit of additional operational reserves. This demonstrates the slow but incremental advances Russian forces are making.”

The ministry said Russian forces will likely seek to advance toward the town of Kostyantynivka, around 2 kilometers west from Novomykhailivka.

“Further advances north of Vulhedar could eventually allow Vulhedar’s defences to be bypassed. Those defences have caused extremely high casualties for Russian ground forces,” it noted.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia’s Belgorod region which borders Ukraine said that 120 civilians had been killed there in Ukrainian strikes and 651 people injured since the start of the war over two years ago.

Belgorod has been repeatedly attacked by Ukrainian artillery, drones and proxies over the past year. Russia invaded Ukraine in February, 2022.

Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said 11 children were among the dead and 51 children had been injured, some of them suffering amputations.

“The situation is extremely difficult. The attacks continue. People continue to die,” Gladkov said in a video message on Telegram in which he warned citizens to be vigilant during celebrations of Orthodox Easter on May 5.

Russian officials in the region of Belgorod, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2024.

Anadolu | Anadolu | Getty Images

Kyiv denies targeting civilians and says it has the right to strike Russia, though U.S. officials are concerned that attacks on Russian territory could trigger an escalation of the war. Ukrainian proxies have repeatedly tried to pierce the border and push into Belgorod.

Russia says the use of Western weapons to attack Belgorod shows that the West is essentially already a party to the war, which has killed and injured many thousands of soldiers. Neither Russia nor Ukraine give casualty figures for their soldiers.

— Reuters

A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Tuesday that Russia is ready to retaliate if almost $300 billion of frozen Russian assets are seized by the West and used to assist Ukraine.

“The Europeans know that there will be a very tough response on our part, and an adequate response,” Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of the Russian upper house of parliament, told state news agency RIA Novosti.

Matviyenko, a member of Russia’s Security Council, said in an interview that a draft law on response measures had already been prepared. She did not specify what the retaliatory measures would be but said Europe “will lose more than we do.”

People hold a giant Russian flag during a patriotic concert dedicated to the upcoming Defender of the Fatherland Day in Saint Petersburg on February 22, 2023.

Olga Maltseva | AFP | Getty Images

Western officials are not fully decided on the controversial proposal to seize frozen Russian assets abroad, the majority of which around $224 billion are in the European Union, a Russian lawmaker said Monday, noting that only $5 to $6 billion worth of assets were in the U.S.

Supporters of the proposal say Russia needs to be punished for its invasion of Ukraine beyond sanctions on high-profile Russian individuals, entities and industries, and that Russian assets should be used to fund Ukraine’s war effort and eventual multi-billion dollar reconstruction.

Critics of the move warn that seizing Russian assets will only escalate tensions and create a dangerous precedent.

The Kremlin has thundered against the proposal, describing it as illegal and illegitimate. Some Russian officials have warned that Moscow could, in turn, confiscate Western assets if the proposal goes ahead.

— Holly Ellyatt

Momentum is building around renewed allied support and funding for Ukraine after months of delay over further aid in the U.S.

Days after the U.S. House of Representatives gave the greenlight to a $61 billion aid package for Ukraine, the U.K. announced Tuesday its largest-ever military aid package for Kyiv worth £500 million ($617.1 million).

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is due to announce the aid package when he travels to Poland on Tuesday. The latest package includes:

  • 60 boats, including offshore raiding craft, rigid raiding craft and dive boats as well as maritime guns.
  • More than 1,600 strike and air defense missiles, as well as additional Storm Shadow long-range precision-guided missiles.
  • More than 400 vehicles, including 160 protected mobility “Husky” vehicles, 162 armored vehicles and 78 all-terrain vehicles.
  • Nearly 4 million rounds of small arms ammunition.

The U.K. said the aid “will be used to rapidly deliver urgently-needed ammunition, air defence, drones and engineering support. The drones will be procured in the U.K. and the funds will support a scale-up in domestic defence supply chains.” The U.K. is one of the larger supporters of Ukraine and has donated £3 billion in military aid to Ukraine this financial year.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (L) is greeted by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the start of a plenary session of the European Political Community summit at the Palacio de Congreso in Granada, southern Spain on October 5, 2023.

Ludovic Marin | Afp | Getty Images

Sunak is set to meet Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to discuss security, trade and diplomatic ties before the leaders meet NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Warsaw, with discussions focused “on the threat from Russia,” Downing Street said in a statement. Sunak will then travel to Germany to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

In a statement, Sunak said “defending Ukraine against Russia’s brutal ambitions is vital for our security and for all of Europe. If Putin is allowed to succeed in this war of aggression, he will not stop at the Polish border.” 

“I am in Warsaw today to deepen ties with our Polish partners and commit critical new military support for Ukraine’s defence.  Ukraine’s armed forces continue to fight bravely, but they need our support – and they need it now.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine has rejected Russia’s claim to have taken control of the village of Novomykhailivka in the east of the country, saying its military still held the settlement and was still fighting.

Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed on Monday that its southern group of forces had seized Novomykhailivka, around 25 miles southwest of the city of Donetsk, in the east of the country.

But Yevhen Shmataliuk, commander of Ukraine’s 79th amphibious assault brigade, which has been fighting on the Donetsk front line, said his troops still hold 15% to 20% of the village and that the rest of it is under Ukraine’s “fire control.”

“We are not going to move anywhere but forward,” Shmataliuk said in an interview with Ukraine’s public broadcaster, in comments reported and translated by Reuters.

A Ukrainian serviceman drives a British FV103 Spartan armoured personnel carrier on a road that leads to the town of Chasiv Yar, in the Donetsk region, on March 30, 2024, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Roman Pilipey | Afp | Getty Images

Eastern Ukraine is a hot spot of intense fighting as Russian forces look to advance and occupy the whole of Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk. Russia claimed on Sunday that it had seized Bohdanivka, northeast of Chasiv Yar, another near-term target which, if taken, would give Russian forces a strategic boost to advance on other larger cities in the region.

CNBC was unable to verify either the Russian or Ukrainian claims. Ukraine received a vital boost last Saturday when a $61 billion aid package was approved by the House of Representatives. The Senate and U.S. President Joe Biden now have to greenlight the aid.

Ukraine has urged U.S. officials to act as fast as they can to send weapons and air defense systems to Ukraine, warning that it is outmanned and outgunned on parts of the front line as it stands.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and the southern city of Odesa were the targets of Russian drone attacks overnight, regional officials said.

A drone attack on port city Odesa injured seven people, including two children, and Kyiv was also targeted with unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.

“Another air attack on the capital of Ukraine!” Serhii Popko, the head of Kyiv regional military administration, said on Telegram.

“According to preliminary data, enemy drones were launched from the territory of the Kursk region [in Russia], flew through Sumy region, Cherkasy region and entered Kyiv from the southwest,” he said.

Firefighters try to extinguish the fire after a fire broke out residential buildings and conduct search and rescue operations after Russian attacks in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 21, 2024. As a result of Russia’s attacks on the capital Kyiv, explosions occurred in Podilsk, Shevchenkiv and Sviatoshyn districts. As a result of the attack, residential areas, warehouses and a substation caught fire in the Podilsk region. 177 firefighters and 38 vehicles were used to extinguish the fires in the region. According to preliminary information, 12 people, including 1 child, were injured as a result of the attack, while 79 people were evacuated from the damaged areas. 

Ukraine State Emergency Service/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

All the drones were destroyed by Ukraine’s air defense forces, he said, and no casualties were reported.

Ukraine’s air force said on Telegram that 15 out of 16 drones launched by Russia overnight were destroyed. It said it repelled another attack in which two short-range Iskander ballistic missiles were fired from the Belgorod region in Russia. It did not say what happened to the missiles. CNBC was unable to immediately verify the reports.

— Holly Ellyatt

A Patriot anti-aircraft missile system during the National Guardian exercise at the tank training school on the Munster military training area.

Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

European ministers said on Monday they were looking urgently at how to provide more air defence to Ukraine but they stopped short of concrete pledges of the Patriot systems that Kyiv values most.

Meeting in Luxembourg, foreign and defence ministers from the European Union said the U.S. House of Representatives vote to approve a $60 billion Ukraine package at the weekend should not lead to any complacency on their part.

“We can be joyous for a day but we have to be prepared for the battle that is coming tomorrow. Therefore there can be no calming down,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters as he arrived at the meeting.

With Russia having stepped up air attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and cities, EU governments are under pressure to supply more protective systems to Kyiv. But countries that have U.S.-made Patriots – which Ukraine already uses and values highly for their ability to shoot down fast-moving ballistic missiles – were non-committal on Monday.

Since Kyiv began a push for more Patriots in recent weeks, Germany has been the only EU country to pledge an extra battery. Berlin is also leading a drive to get more air defence from other countries for Ukraine, through donations of equipment and financial contributions.

Other European countries including Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden also have Patriot systems.

— Reuters

Global military spending reached a record high of $2.44 trillion in 2023 after jumping 6.8% from 2022 amid a “global deterioration in peace and security,” the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report on Monday.

Ukraine and Russia topped the list for the countries that increased their military spending the most in 2023, by 51% and 24%, respectively. Russia’s actual military expenditure remained far above that of Ukraine at an estimated $109 billion.

This figure is likely an underestimation, the report noted, as Russia’s financials are highly opaque, and the budget allocated to military spending is supplemented by businesses, individuals and organizations.

Ukraine’s military spending meanwhile totaled around $64.8 billion — around 59% the amount of Russia’s spending, but 37% of Ukraine’s GDP, the report said. The figure does not include the tens of billions of military aid that Kyiv receives, which narrow the gap between its expenses and those of Russia.

Read the full story here.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine, speaks during the farewell ceremony for Dmytro Kotsiubailo on Independence Square on March 10, 2023, in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine will face a difficult period on the front in the mid-May, early June period when Russia is expected to launch a new and wider offensive, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence told the BBC.

“A rather difficult situation awaits us in the near future. But it is not catastrophic, this must also be understood. Armageddon will not happen, as many are now beginning to say. But there will be problems from mid-May,” Kyrylo Budanov told the BBC Ukrainian service in an interview published Monday

Ukrainian officials have already warned that they expect Russian forces to launch a new offensive in early summer.

“The Russians will use a comprehensive approach. They conduct a complex operation … it will be a difficult period. Mid-May, early June,” Budanov told the BBC in an interview conducted on April 19, a day before the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $61 billion aid package for Ukraine.

Budanov was confident Ukraine would win the war despite forthcoming challenges.

The coming period, in our opinion, will be difficult. But difficult and catastrophic are different things. We’ve been through tough times several times, and we’ll get through this one, believe me. Nothing extraordinary will happen. We know all their plans in advance,” he said, without providing further details.

CNBC was unable to verify Budanov’s claims.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hinted last Friday that Russian forces would try to seize the city of Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine in a future significant Russian offensive operation. He’s the first senior Kremlin official to outright identify the city as a potential Russian operational objective in a summer offensive.

Russia wants to establish a demilitarized so-called “sanitary zone” in the border areas of Ukraine to protect Russia’s southwestern regions from attack.

— Holly Ellyatt

A man wearing military uniform with a Z letter, a tactical insignia of Russian troops in Ukraine, makes a selfie photo at Red Square in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in central Moscow on February 13, 2023.

Alexander Nemenov | Afp | Getty Images

Russia said on Monday its forces had taken control of the village of Novomykhailivka 40 km (25 miles) southwest of the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, the second advance it has announced in two days.

Reuters could not independently verify the Russian gain, reported by the defence ministry. Ukraine’s General Staff said in its regular morning report that Kyiv’s forces continued to hold back Russian attempts to advance near the village.

Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement that its Southern group of forces had fully taken Novomykhailivka “and improved the tactical situation along the front line”.

On Sunday Russia said it had taken control of the settlement of Bohdanivka, further to the north. Bohdanivka lies northeast of Chasiv Yar, a strategic town located on high ground which, if captured, could open up the way for Russia to advance on several “fortress cities” in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian gains, if confirmed, underline the urgency for Ukraine of taking delivery of more than $60 billion in new U.S. military aid that the House of Representatives approved on Saturday. It is expected to be approved this week by the Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Washington on Sunday to quickly turn the bill into law and proceed with the actual transfer of weapons, saying long-range arms and air defence systems were top priorities.

The Kremlin said on Monday that the new U.S. aid would not change the situation on the front lines. The influx of weapons should improve Kyiv’s chances of averting a major Russian breakthrough in the east, military analysts say, but Kyiv still faces manpower shortages on the battlefield.

— Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Monday that Russia and the West are on the brink of a potential nuclear confrontation.

“Westerners are dangerously balancing on the brink of a direct military clash between nuclear powers, which is fraught with catastrophic consequences,” the minister said in a video message to the participants of the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference, news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Lavrov was reported as stating that the support of nuclear powers France, the U.S. and U.K. for Ukraine posed a serious strategic risk for Russia.

Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint press conference with Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mali, Abdoulaye Diop (not pictured), following their talks in Moscow, Russia, 28 February 2024.

Maxim Shipenkov | Reuters

“Of particular concern is the fact that it is the ‘troika’ of Western nuclear states that are among the key sponsors of the criminal Kyiv regime, the main initiators of various provocative steps. We see serious strategic risks in this, leading to an increase in the level of nuclear danger,” he said.

Russia repeatedly falsely describes Kyiv as a “criminal” regime in order to discredit and delegitimize the government. Ukraine’s international allies say they are helping Ukraine to fend off Russia’s unprovoked aggression and invasion that was launched over two years ago.

Lavrov said the world was experiencing a crisis in the system of arms control, disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation and that in order to prevent a further deterioration of a global crisis, joint efforts “were required to build an updated international security architecture based on the principles of multilateralism, equality and indivisibility,” RIA Novosti noted.

“Only in this way is it possible to reduce the level of interstate conflict and ensure real progress in the field of arms control,” Lavrov noted.

As relations between the West and Russia have deteriorated, the arena of arms control has become a frequent bone of contention and source of divergence, with several arms treaties between the U.S. and Russia abandoned or close to collapse.

— Holly Ellyatt

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