April 20, 2024

Mikhail Gorbachev dies at 91

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images

Mikhail Gorbachev, who as the last leader of the Soviet Union waged a losing battle to salvage a crumbling empire but produced extraordinary reforms that led to the end of the Cold War, has

died. He was 91.

The Central Clinical Hospital said in a statement that Gorbachev died after a long illness. No other details were given.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that Russian President Vladimir Putin offered deep condolences over Gorbachev’s death and would send an official telegram to Gorbachev’s family in the morning.

Though in power less than seven years, Gorbachev unleashed a breathtaking series of changes. But they quickly overtook him and resulted in the collapse of the authoritarian Soviet state, the freeing of Eastern European nations from Russian domination and the end of decades of East-West nuclear confrontation.

His decline was humiliating. His power hopelessly sapped by an attempted coup against him in August 1991, he spent his last months in office watching republic after republic declare independence until he resigned on Dec. 25, 1991. The Soviet Union wrote itself into oblivion a day later.

— Associated Press

Biden administration welcomes reports of first vessel carrying Ukrainian grains to Africa

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about US policy towards China during an event hosted by the Asia Society Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on May 26, 2022.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the arrival of the first vessel carrying grain to Africa from Ukraine and reaffirmed U.S. support to the U.N.’s World Food Program, or WFP.

“As part of a more than $68 million recent contribution by the United States to the World Food Program, this grain is among the first shipments of Ukrainian agricultural products exported from the Black Sea to reach some of the world’s most food insecure countries since the beginning of Russia’s unjustified, full-scale attack on Ukraine on February 24,” Blinken wrote in a statement.

The U.S. is the largest contributor to the WFP and has provided more than $5.4 billion to the program since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“We call on Russia to immediately cease its war on Ukraine, which would do much to address the recent spike in global food insecurity,” Blinken added.

— Amanda Macias

Russia has turned Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant into a military base, Ukraine says

A Russian serviceman stands guard the territory outside the second reactor of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022.

Andrey Borodulin | AFP | Getty Images

Oleksandr Starukh, the head of Zaporizhzhia’s regional military administration, told reporters that Russia has turned the nuclear power plant into a military base and has begun storing heavy equipment there.

“It is worth noting that even in such difficult conditions, Ukrainian personnel continue to work there and make maximum efforts to ensure nuclear and radiation safety,” Starukh said, according to an NBC News translation.

“I emphasize that the only way is complete demilitarization. The occupiers must leave the station and take away all equipment and weapons. The security of almost the entire world depends on this,” he added.

— Amanda Macias

Six vessels carrying a total of 183,000 metric tons of Ukrainian crops depart

Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov said that six vessels carrying 183,000 metric tons of grains and other crops left Ukrainian ports.

Kubrakov said that one of the cargo vessels, named Karteria, is carrying more than 37,000 metric tons of wheat and is destined for Yemen.

“Grateful to @UNReliefChief for successful joint work & efforts to prevent global famine,” he wrote in a tweet.

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine may face its coldest winter in decades, state gas company says

Ukrainian police officers document the destruction at one of Europe’s largest clothing market “Barabashovo” (more than 75 hectares) in Kharkiv on May 16, 2022, which was destroed as aresult of shelling, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine may see its coldest winter season in decades, warned the head of Naftogaz, the country’s national gas company.

Naftogaz chief Yuriy Vitrenko said most of the country is grappling with damaged infrastructure due to Russian shelling and won’t be able to properly heat their living quarters.

He also said that Ukrainians should begin stocking up on warm clothing and blankets. Average winter temperatures in Ukraine can fall below 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

— Amanda Macias

Celebrity chef Jose Andres says more than 150 million meals have been delivered to Ukrainians

Spanish celebrity chef and restaurateur Jose Andres said in a tweet that more than 150 million meals have been served to those affected by the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

“More than 1,100 cities, nearly 7,500 locations reached weekly by WCK. Still much needs to be done, we must keep supporting,” wrote Andres, referencing the World Central Kitchen, his humanitarian organization dedicated to feeding vulnerable communities.

The two-star Michelin chef brought the World Central Kitchen to Ukraine in order to address the mounting food crisis triggered by Russia’s war.

— Amanda Macias

U.S. will ‘stand with Ukraine for as long as that takes,’ State Department says

Ukrainian soldiers move U.S.-made missiles on Feb. 13, 2022. The U.S. could announce new military aid for Ukraine as early as this week, a defense official and an administration official said.

Sergei Supinsky | Afp | Getty Images

A State Department official downplayed concerns that the U.S. has low stockpiles of weapons, reiterating the importance of providing additional security assistance packages for Ukraine.

“Our belief is, is that we will do everything we can to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself, can defend its territorial sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said principal deputy spokesman Vedant Patel when asked about reports of low U.S. arsenals.

“We are going to continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as that takes,” he said, adding that the U.S. will continue to impose additional economic costs on Russia.

Patel did not confirm reports of low U.S. stockpiles nor did he elaborate on what types of economic costs would be imposed on Russia.

— Amanda Macias

Estonia aims to train Ukrainian troops through new program

Commander of the Estonian first infantry brigade Colonel Andrus Merilo, takes part in a major drill as part of the EFP NATO operation at the Tapa Estonian army camp near Rakvere, on February 6, 2022.

ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images

Estonia’s minister of Defense said the country would train Ukrainian armed forces through a new proposal called the European External Action Service.

“Supporting Ukraine in a multitude of ways is and will remain a priority. We have to help Ukraine as long as it needs, as much as it needs and as fast as it needs,” wrote Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur in a statement.

He said the training would focus on weapons Western governments have provided to Ukraine.

“What’s important now is increasing and picking up the speed of providing military aid to Ukraine,” he added.

— Amanda Macias

More than 180 cultural sites in Ukraine have been partially damaged or destroyed

A Russian soldier patrols the Mariupol drama theatre, hit March 16 by an airstrike, on April 12, 2022 in Mariupol, as Russian troops intensify a campaign to take the strategic port city. Editor’s note: This picture was taken during a trip organized by the Russian military.

Alexander Nemenov | AFP | Getty Images

More than 180 cultural sites in Ukraine have been partially or totally destroyed as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, according to a tally compiled by UNESCO.

United Nations experts identified 183 cultural sites: 78 religious buildings, 35 historical buildings, 31 cultural centers, 17 monuments, 13 museums as well as nine libraries.

The majority of the damaged cultural sites are located in Donetsk, Kharkiv and in Kyiv.

— Amanda Macias

First vessel carrying Ukrainian agricultural products arrives in Africa

Three more ships carrying grain departed Ukrainian ports on Aug 5 as part of an internationally brokered pact.

Oleksandr Gimanov | Afp | Getty Images

A vessel carrying Ukrainian grain arrived in Ethiopia, the first shipment since the start of Russia’s war six months ago.

The United Nations-chartered ship named “Brave Commander” arrived with 23,000 metric tons of wheat.

“The food on the Brave Commander will feed 1.5 million people for one month in Ethiopia,” said Mike Dunford, regional director of the U.N.’s World Food Program in East Africa.

“So this makes a very big impact for those people who currently have nothing. And now WFP will be able to provide them with their basic needs,” Dunford wrote.

Before Russia’s war, Ukraine exported up to 6 million metric tons of food a month on about 200 vessels.

— Amanda Macias

Russia tries to disrupt IAEA inspection of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine says

A Russian serviceman stands guard the territory outside the second reactor of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022.

Andrey Borodulin | AFP | Getty Images

A top Ukrainian official said Russian forces were trying to disrupt the inspection of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The International Atomic Energy Agency sent a team of scientists and safety experts earlier this week to inspect the plant, which the Russian military has occupied since March 3.

“Russia is trying to disrupt the IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by simulating combat operations in Energodar and shelling the area neighboring the nuclear power plant site,” wrote Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. ​​

— Amanda Macias

U.S. officials say Russia has received Iranian drones

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi greets Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 19, 2022. Putin likely wanted to show that Moscow is still important in the Middle East by visiting Iran, said John Drennan of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Sergei Savostyanov | AFP | Getty Images

Two U.S. officials told NBC News that Russia has received combat drones from Iran.

Russia has received Mohajer-6 and Shahed-series unmanned aerial vehicles and has plans to use the drones on the battlefield in Ukraine, the officials said, citing U.S. intelligence reports.

The officials told NBC News that the initial delivery is likely just the beginning and Russia will likely import “hundreds” of drones of various types from Iran.

The Washington Post first reported that Russia had accepted the transfer of the drones.

— Amanda Macias

Battle for Kherson heats up as Russia sends military convoys to the city

Pro-Ukraine volunteers from Chechnya train near Kyiv over the weekend. The Zelenskyy government has displayed growing confidence in recent weeks, increasingly taking the initiative in a conflict that the Kremlin itself has admitted is stalled.

Genya Savilov | Afp | Getty Images

The battle for the Russian-occupied city of Kherson in southern Ukraine is heating up Tuesday with several reports of missile strikes around the city and shooting on the streets of some neighborhoods.

One Ukrainian official said earlier today that the country’s forces had struck a Russian ammo depot while a deputy of the Kherson Regional Council, Serhii Khlan, said on Facebook that Russian forces were sending military equipment from Crimea to the city, in order to defend it from Ukraine’s counteroffensive to retake the city.

He said Ukraine was carrying out strikes on the Antonivka Bridge — a key element of a transport route into Kherson — to try to prevent the column reaching it.

“The Russians are forming large columns of equipment in Crimea and sending them towards the temporarily occupied Kherson region. It is important to make sure that this equipment is not moved to the front line. And here we are watching – strikes on the Antonivka Bridge again,” he said on Facebook.

Most, a local news outlet in Kherson, has also reported intense shooting in several Kherson neighborhoods. CNBC was unable to immediately verify the reports.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia and Ukraine again accuse each other of nuclear power plant shelling

A Russian serviceman stands guard the territory outside the second reactor of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022.

Andrey Borodulin | AFP | Getty Images

A top Ukrainian official claimed Russia is deliberately shelling routes to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russian forces and meant to be inspected by international experts this week.

The corridors to the plant are intended for use by agents from the International Atomic Energy Agency as it prepares to conduct a mission to the plant, also known as the Zaporizhzhia NPP or ZNPP, in southern Ukraine.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a presidential advisor, wrote Tuesday on Twitter that Russia instead wanted to divert the mission through the Russian-held territory of Crimea. Ukraine has insisted the inspectors access the plant via Ukrainian-controlled land.

“Russia is deliberately shelling corridors for IAEA mission to reach ZNPP. All to offer passage through Crimea/ORDLO. Ukraine’s position is the same. Access only through controlled territory of Ukraine. Nuclear power plant demilitarization. Ru-troops withdrawal. Only ua-personnel at the station,” Podolyak said.

The anticipated inspection of the ZNPP comes after increasing concerns for its safety given the surrounding warfare in the region. Both Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling around the plant and both have said the other is planning a “provocation” at the plant ahead of or during the IAEA’s visit.

A satellite imagery shows an overview of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukraine, August 29, 2022.

Maxar Technologies | via Reuters

Russia’s Ministry of Defense repeated those accusations today, accusing Ukraine of “provocations … in order to create a threat of a man-made disaster at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant.”

It claimed, in a Telegram update, that Ukraine used “four attack drones on the territory of the nuclear power plant” and that one of the drones “fell on the roof of the building of Special Building No. 1, which stores American-made nuclear fuel and solid radioactive waste.” The ministry also claimed Ukrainian artillery fired two shells at the territory of the nuclear power plant.

Ukraine has not commented on the claims, which have also not been independently verified.

“The firepower of the enemy was suppressed by return fire from the Russian Armed Forces. The radiation situation at the Zaporozhye NPP remains normal,” the ministry added.

— Holly Ellyatt

IAEA experts arrive in Kyiv ahead of visit to nuclear power plant, CNN reports

A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency — the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog — has reportedly arrived in Kyiv ahead of a visit to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine.

The facility has been occupied by Russian troops since the start of the invasion and there have been increasing fears over the safety of the plant, with Ukraine and Russia repeatedly accusing each other of shelling it.

Members of the delegation were seen by CNN reporters at their hotel in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv early Tuesday, the network reported.

The mission, led by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, set off on Monday, the agency tweeted.

CNBC has contacted the IAEA for confirmation of the mission’s arrival in Kyiv and is awaiting a response.

— Holly Ellyatt

EU foreign policy chief eyes green light for Ukraine training mission

European Union defense ministers, at a meeting in Prague, are set to pave the way for the establishment of an EU training mission for Ukrainian forces, the bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said Tuesday.

“The situation on the ground continues to be very bad. Ukraine needs our support, and we will continue providing support,” Borrell told reporters as he arrived for the talks in Prague.

“A general, overall political agreement (on the training mission) is what I think we have to get today … I hope we will have a political green light for this mission,” he added, without giving details of the mission. “That’s the moment to act, that’s the moment to take decisions.”

— Reuters

Kharkiv city center shelled, leaving at least 5 dead, officials say

Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, came under heavy shelling on Tuesday morning, according to local officials.

Kharkiv’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov, said the city center had been shelled, leaving at least five people dead and seven wounded.

“Artillery shelling of the central part of the city” the mayor said on Telegram, adding that a large square and surrounding houses had been hit. Kharkiv is located in northeastern Ukraine, near the border with Russia.

Terekhov said more information was being gathered about the victims and wounded. In a subsequent post, he said a five-story residential building had been hit and there was a fire in a residential building. It’s uncertain if he was referring to the same building.

Kharkiv’s regional governor, Oleh Synehubov, also posted on Telegram about the strikes. He urged civilians to seek shelter, saying more attacks are possible. CNBC was unable to verify the information in the reports.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian units around Kherson are ‘likely undermanned,’ UK says

Russian servicemen in the Kherson region on May 19, 2022. Russian units in and around Kherson are likely to be undermanned and could lack cohesion, according to the latest intelligence from the U.K.

Olga Maltseva | AFP | Getty Images

Russian units in and around Kherson — a southern Ukrainian city currently occupied by Russian forces and one which Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive to reclaim — are likely to be undermanned and could lack cohesion, according to the latest intelligence from the U.K.

“The Southern Military District’s (SMD) 49th Combined Arms Army has highly likely been augmented with components of the Eastern Military District’s (EMD) 35th Combined Arms Army. Most of the [Russian] units around Kherson are likely under-manned and are reliant upon fragile supply lines by ferry and pontoon bridges across the Dnipro,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Tuesday on Twitter.

The ministry said the integration of SMD and EMD units “suggests a significant reorganization of Russia’s force in Ukraine.”

The ministry added that “there is a realistic possibility that Russia has moved to rationalise the several, semi-independent, operational commands which contributed to its poor performance early in the invasion” and that if Ukraine succeeds in undertaking sustained offensive operations in the Kherson direction, “the cohesion of this untested structure will likely be a key factor in the sustainability of Russian defences in the south.”

— Holly Ellyatt

‘We will chase them to the border,’ Zelenskyy says

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has expressed confidence that Ukraine’s military will push the occupying Russian forces back to pre-2014 borders after a counteroffensive in southern Ukraine began earlier this week.

“The occupiers must know: we will chase them to the border. To our border, which line has not been changed,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Monday.

“If they want to survive – it’s time for the Russian military to run away. … If they do not hear me – they will have to deal with our defenders, who will not stop until they free everything that belongs to Ukraine,” he added.

Soldier Volodimyr stationed on the front line at an undisclosed position in Mykolaiv Oblast. Ukrainian forces have launched a counteroffensive in southern regions, including around Mykolaiv, which is strategically located close to the Black Sea.

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Ukraine has appeared to grow in confidence in recent weeks with the targeting of Russian-occupied territory in southern Ukraine including Crimea, which was annexed in 2014. Kyiv’s officials have said they will now fight to reclaim the peninsula, which is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, as well as the city of Kherson, which fell to Russian forces at the start of the war.

“Does someone want to know what our plans are? You will not hear specifics from any really responsible person. Because this is the war. And so it goes at war,” Zelenskyy said.

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern military command told NBC News on Monday that Russian troops were retreating from some areas in the south of the country already as the counteroffensive begins, although some experts have expressed caution, saying it’s too early to start drawing conclusions from Ukraine’s counterattack.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine claims Russians are retreating from some positions in south

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern military command told NBC News that Russian troops were retreating from some areas in the south of the country, where Kyiv claims it started a counteroffensive against Russian troops.

Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for the southern military command, said in a telephone interview that “under the pressure of our actions, the enemy began to retreat. It is currently recorded that the enemy has withdrawn from some of its positions,” NBC News reported.

NBC News was unable to verify the spokesperson’s claims, and both Humeniuk and outside observers expressed caution about drawing early conclusions.

The British Ministry of Defense said Tuesday morning local time that Ukraine increased artillery fire along the front in southern Ukraine starting on Monday, but “it is not yet possible to confirm the extent of Ukrainian advances.”

Neil Melvin, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told NBC News that early reports indicated “that Ukrainian forces have broken through the first set of Russian defenses in places around Kherson.”

— Ted Kemp

Putin using Zaporizhzhia to hold Ukraine’s energy supply hostage, White House says

A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022. The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station, seized by Russian forces in March, is in southeastern Ukraine and is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and among the 10 largest in the world.

Andrey Borodulin | Afp | Getty Images

The Biden administration welcomed news that the International Atomic Energy Agency would soon inspect the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The White House also contended that Russia is using its control of the facility to compromise Ukraine’s energy supply.

“This would require knowing exactly what he has in mind and that’s difficult for us to ascertain on any day, particularly on any issue with respect to Ukraine,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on a conference call when asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions.

“What we can piece together, based on their activities and their actions, is that at the very least we ascertain that by holding that plant, he can hold Ukraine hostage with respect to their own electrical power capability,” Kirby said.

“The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant basically controls all the electrical power for much of southern Ukraine and even beyond, so he can hold that power hostage. He … could actually potentially use some of that power inside Russia if he wanted to,” Kirby added.

— Amanda Macias

Nearly 7 million Ukrainians have become refugees from Russia’s war

Nearly 7 million Ukrainians have become refugees and moved to neighboring countries since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the U.N. Refugee Agency estimates.

More than 3.9 million of those people have applied for temporary resident status in neighboring Western countries, according to data collected by the agency.

“The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance,” the U.N. Refugee Agency wrote.

— Amanda Macias

IAEA inspectors will begin work at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant ‘in the coming days’

A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine August 4, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

 Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors are expected to arrive in Kyiv today and will begin their work at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant “in the coming days.”

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi will lead the team of 14 international experts, the ministry said.

“Ukraine’s position is clear: the occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by Russian troops and the importation of a large amount of military equipment and ammunition into its territory in violation of all international rules exposes the nuclear plant to extreme danger, including provoking a nuclear incident,” the ministry wrote in a statement, according to an NBC News translation.

— Amanda Macias

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