Ukraine withdrawing some troops from Avdiivka, sends in elite unit; Zelenskyy heads to Berlin and Paris


Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses media after bilateral talks with Swiss President in Kehrsatz near Bern, Switzerland, on January 15, 2024. Zelensky will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos starting on January 16, 2024.

Alessandro Della Valle | AFP | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to visit Germany and France on Friday in a bid to secure crucial military assistance and bilateral security commitments.

Berlin and Paris could become the second and third Ukrainian allies to sign bilateral security pledges with Kyiv, after the U.K. signed a cooperation agreement in January that vowed to provide “comprehensive assistance to Ukraine for the protection and the restoration of its territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.”

With U.S. military aid held up for months by Republicans in Congress, Ukraine is struggling with a shortage of ammunition stockpiles, particularly in combat hot spots such as the eastern city of Avdiivka.

“We are making every effort to ensure that these agreements are strong for Ukraine, and I am confident that they will be,” Zelenskyy said in a post on X.

“We are developing a new security architecture for our country that will benefit us not only here and now, but also in the long run. This is something Ukraine never had but has always needed.”

Elliot Smith

Ukrainian military soldiers fire from the MT-12 or 2A29 gun “Rapira” is a Soviet smoothbore 100-mm anti-tank gun on December 7, 2023 in Avdiivka, Ukraine.

Kostya Liberov | Getty Images

Ukrainian troops are withdrawing from some areas of the eastern town of Avdiivka to seek better positions after months of intense combat.

Military spokesperson Dmytro Lykhoviy said in televised remarks that one of Ukraine’s most renowned fighting units, the Third Assault Brigade, had been scrambled to Avdiivka as reinforcement, according to Reuters.

The city lies just north of the regional center of Donetsk, and capturing it is critical to Russia’s goal of securing total control of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, which make up the industrial Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Moscow has devoted substantial battlefield resources to encircling and capturing the city, and Ukraine’s dwindling supply lines have left its forces vulnerable.

In a post on the Telegram messaging app on Thursday, the Third Assault Brigade confirmed it was “urgently redeployed to strengthen Ukrainian troops in the Avdiivka area,” and describe the situation there as “hell,” according to a Google translation.

“We are forced to fight at 360 degrees against new and new brigades that the enemy is bringing in,” Commander Andriy Biletskyi was quoted as saying, while the post described the situation as “threatening and unstable.”

“The enemy continues the active rotation of its troops, and throws new forces and means into the city,” it added.

Elliot Smith

White House national security communications adviser John Kirby answers a question during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2024. 

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The White House on Thursday confirmed that Russia is developing an “antisatellite capability.”

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told a press briefing that “there is no immediate threat to anyone’s safety” and that the device is “not an active capability and it has not yet been deployed.”

The intelligence declassified by the government does not confirm whether there is a nuclear component to the Russian weapon, but Kirby said it “would be a violation of the Outer Space Treaty to which more than 130 countries have signed up, including Russia.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the remaining classified information suggests Moscow is trying to develop a nuclear weapon in space to target satellites.

Elliot Smith

Photos published via Getty Images on Thursday showed tractors blocking a road during a demonstration by Polish farmers and protesters gathered outside local offices for the European Commission in the southwestern city of Wroclaw.

Polish farmers have been protesting against the European Union’s agriculture policies, including allowing cheap grain imports from Ukraine.

Polish farmers protest outside the local offices for the European Commission in Wroclaw, Poland, on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A fire burns outside the Provincial Office of Lower Silesia during a protest by Polish farmers in Wroclaw, Poland, on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Farmers drive tractors to a blockade point during a protest by Polish farmers in Wroclaw, Poland, on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tractors block a road during a protest by Polish farmers in Wroclaw, Poland, on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. Polish farmers launched a monthlong strike against what they describe as the uncontrolled influx of food products from Ukraine as well as the EU’s agricultural and climate polices piling pressure on the new cabinet of Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Russian politician, the Civic Initiative Party hopeful Boris Nadzhdin speaks to journalists after the meeting at the Central Elections Commission, on February 8, 2024, in Moscow, Russia. 

 Getty Images

Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday rejected two legal challenges by anti-war candidate Boris Nadezhdin after he was disqualified from next month’s presidential election, Nadezhdin said.

Nadezhdin had hoped to stand against President Vladimir Putin but was barred last week by the electoral commission, which said it found irregularities in the list of supporters’ signatures he had presented in support of his candidacy.

— Reuters

ODINTSOVO, RUSSIA – JANUARY 16: (RUSSIA OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Municipal Service Award Ceremony on January 16 2024, in Odintsovo, west of Moscow, Russia. Putin visited an annual award ceremony for municipal workers, heads of municipalities, village elders and employers of territorial departments. (Photo by Contributor/Getty Images)

Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he preferred Joe Biden as the next U.S. president over Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, who fell under intense scrutiny for his relationship with the Kremlin during his presidency.

″[Biden] is more experienced and more predictable. He is an ‘old school’ politician. But we will work with any U.S. leader, elected by the people of America,” Putin told journalist Pavel Zarubin late Wednesday, according to Russian state-controlled news outlet Tass.

The Trump and Biden presidential campaigns did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.

Read the full report here.

— Ruxandra Iordache



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