Ukraine war live updates: Russian billionaires taken off EU sanctions list; Ukraine accused of another nuclear plant drone strike

Russian billionaires and businessmen Mikhail Fridmanand Pyotr Aven attend the plenary session of the Congress of Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurson the slidelines of Russian Business Week in Moscow, Russia, March 16, 2017.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images

The European Union Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday to remove Russian billionaires Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven from a list of individuals facing European Union sanctions after Russia’s attack on Ukraine in 2022.

“The General Court considers that none of the reasons set out in the initial acts is sufficiently substantiated and that the inclusion of Mr Aven and Mr Fridman on the lists at issue was therefore not justified,” the Luxembourg-based court said in a statement.

The funds and economic resources of both men were frozen after the European Council imposed restrictions following the Russian invasion. Both are major shareholders of conglomerate Alfa Group, which includes Russia’s top private bank Alfa Bank and its biggest food retailer X5 Retail Group.

The court ruled the billionaires should not have been included on the list between February 2022 and March 2023. An EU decision in March 2023 reimposed the restrictive measures on the two men, who have lodged a separate appeal against that action.

The court said the Council may have grounds to establish that Fridman and Aven have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but it does not demonstrate the men have supported actions or policies against Ukraine, or that they have supported Russian decision makers financially.

— Reuters

Russia continues efforts to conscript thousands of soldiers each spring and fall, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update Wednesday.

The spring conscription round began on April 1, the ministry noted, with around 150,000 soldiers from the 18-30 age group set to be conscripted this season.

“These conscripts will serve for 12 months, in all branches of Russia’s military forces, but are currently not employed in combat roles in Ukraine,” the ministry said in an intelligence update on social media platform X.

Russian citizens drafted during the partial mobilization begin their military trainings after a military call-up for the Russia-Ukraine war in Rostov, Russia on October 04, 2022. 

Arkady Budnitsky | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian forces in Ukraine are instead staffed by contract service soldiers and some reservists mobilized in late 2022, the U.K. noted.

“Conscript soldiers are commonly put under pressure to enlist as contract soldiers and would then be liable for service in Ukraine. There is likely to be some reluctance among Russian authorities to risk combat casualties among conscript soldiers, which would likely be unpopular. Casualties among volunteer soldiers are more tolerated by society,” the ministry added.

Russia seeks to recruit around 400,000 contract service personnel in 2024 “in order to sustain its forces in Ukraine, which have suffered huge losses, and support its announced plans to increase the size of the armed forces to 1.32 million this year and 1.5 million subsequently,” it said.

— Holly Ellyatt

A picture taken on April 8, 2024 shows rescuers evacuating residents from the flooded part of the city of Orsk, Russia’s Orenburg region, southeast of the southern tip of the Ural Mountains.

Anatoliy Zhdanov | Afp | Getty Images

The water level in the Ural River in the city of Orenburg, an epicenter of dramatic flooding in southern Russia, has risen to 996 cm, the city’s Mayor Sergei Salmin said on the Rossiya-24 TV channel Wednesday.

The level is reportedly 66 cm above the danger level and higher than readings taken earlier this morning, news agency TASS reported.

“At 12 o’clock local time (10:00 a.m. Moscow time) the water is still rising, now we have already exceeded all the highest marks. Our dangerous value is 930 cm. At the moment we have already recorded 996 cm,” Salmin said, TASS noted.

He said 1,910 households were now flooded and 865 people had been evacuated from the city. Salmin said evacuations continued. 

— Holly Ellyatt

A drone attack targeted the southern Russian city of Taganrog on Wednesday, Russian officials said.

“Attention! UAV attack. If possible, go down to the lower floors, to the basement. Find a place without windows, sit on the floor,” Andrei Fateyev, the head of the city administration, said on Telegram Wednesday.

Law enforcement officers cordon off the site of an explosion in the southwestern Russian city of Taganrog on July 28, 2023. Russia said on July 28, 2023 it intercepted two Ukrainian missiles over its southern Rostov region bordering Ukraine, with at least a dozen people wounded by debris falling on the city of Taganrog. 

Stringer | Afp | Getty Images

Taganrog, which is located in the Rostov region of southern Russia, is one of a number of Russian towns and cities to be targeted by drone attacks in recent months. The governor of the Rostov region, Vasily Golubev, described the latest purported attack as “massive.”

Russia accuses Ukraine of routinely attacking its territory although Kyiv rarely comments on such assaults. Officials in Taganrog say the city has been targeted with drones and missiles before. Kyiv has not commented on the latest accusation.

— Holly Ellyatt

A picture taken on April 8, 2024 shows rescuers evacuating residents from the flooded part of the city of Orsk, Russia’s Orenburg region, southeast of the southern tip of the Ural Mountains.

Anatoliy Zhdanov | Afp | Getty Images

More than 300 homes have been flooded in the southern Russian city of Orenburg after rapidly melting snow from the Ural Mountains caused the region’s worst flooding in decades.

Authorities warned overnight that the situation in Orenburg is dangerous and ordered the evacuation of more than 100,000 by late Wednesday.

The Ural River, Europe’s third-longest, rose by another 20 inches from its critical level of 30 feet late on Tuesday. The river flows through Russia and Kazakhstan and into the Caspian Sea, and the situation is expected to worsen through Thursday.

— Elliot Smith

A view of the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on June 15, 2023. 

Olga Maltseva | Afp | Getty Images

Officials at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine on Tuesday accused Kyiv of another drone attack, claiming an unmanned aerial vehicle fell on the roof of its training center.

Ukraine has denied any knowledge of a series of drone attacks on Europe’s largest nuclear plant in recent days that prompted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to sound the alarm over nuclear security.

Moscow has repeatedly accused Ukraine of being behind the attacks, but a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence service said on national TV Tuesday that Ukraine does “not commit any military actions or provocations on nuclear facilities,” according to Reuters.

Ukrainian intelligence officials have also accused Russia of using the seized nuclear site as a platform for “propaganda.”

— Elliot Smith

Ukraine shot down 14 of 17 Shahed drones launched by Russia towards the Black Sea port of Odesa overnight, the country’s air force said on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukrainian air defense forces also destroyed two Kh-59 guided air missiles headed towards Odesa, Air Force Commander Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk said. CNBC was unable to immediately verify the claims.

— Elliot Smith

Deaths and injuries amongst civilians in Ukraine jumped 20% in March of this year compared to February, the United Nations human rights body said in a report Tuesday.

At least 604 civilians were killed or injured during the month, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine found. This includes at least 57 children, doubling the number when compared to the previous month, it added.

“The March increase in civilian casualties was mainly due to attacks by the Russian armed forces using missiles and loitering munitions across Ukraine and increased aerial bombardments near the frontline,” the report said.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Russia has not been invited to the planned Ukraine summit in Switzerland, a spokesperson for the Russian embassy in Switzerland confirmed to CNBC.

“The Swiss side did not send Russia an invitation to the conference. At the same time, our position is well known. Even if we receive an invitation to such an event, the Russian side will not accept it,” Vladimir Khokhlov, press secretary at the embassy said.

This is in line with comments previously made by Russian spokespeople, who have said the country would not join the proposed summit and that it was doomed to fail without Moscow’s participation.

“The idea of a ‘peace conference’ promoted by the organizers is inappropriate for us, as it is just another variant of pushing through an unviable ‘peace formula’ that does not take into account Russian concerns,” Khokhlov added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his allies have been working on plans for a Ukraine summit in Switzerland, which would see leaders discuss potential conflict resolution approaches. The talks would likely include Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace formula.

According to Reuters, Zelenskyy over the weekend said a date for the summit could be agreed upon in the coming days or weeks and that 80 to 100 countries would participate.

— Sophie Kiderlin

A woman and a child were killed by Ukrainian shelling in the Russian village of Klimovo, the local governor Aleksandr Bogomaz said in a post on Telegram on Tuesday, which was Google-translated by CNBC.

Three other civilians were injured and were receiving medical support, while several cars were injured and a fire broke out in a residential building due to the strike, he added. Klimovo is located in western Russia, near the border to both Ukraine and Belarus.

CNBC could not independently verify the report.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Russia and Kazakhstan ordered more than 100,000 people to evacuate after swiftly melting snow swelled mighty rivers beyond bursting point in the worst flooding in the area for at least 70 years.

The deluge of melt water overwhelmed scores of settlements in the Ural Mountains, Siberia and areas of Kazakhstan close to rivers such as the Ural and Tobol, which local officials said had risen by metres in a matter of hours to the highest levels ever recorded.

A screen grab captured from a video shows residents and pets are being evacuated collectively due to flooding after a dam burst in the city of Orsk, Russia on April 6, 2024.

Russian Ministry of Emergency/Anadolu via Getty Images

The Ural River, Europe’s third largest which flows through Russia and Kazakhstan into the Caspian, burst through an embankment dam on Friday, flooding the city of Orsk just south of the Ural Mountains.

Downstream, water levels in Orenburg, a city of around 550,000, were rising.

Sirens in Kurgan, a city on the Tobol river, a tributary of the Irtysh, warned people to evacuate immediately. An emergency was also declared in Tyumen, a major oil producing region of Western Siberia – the largest hydrocarbon basin in the world.

“The difficult days are still ahead for the Kurgan and Tyumen regions,” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “There is a lot of water coming.”

— Reuters

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