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Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Russia’s spring offensive appears to be sputtering out, says ISW

A Ukrainian tank fires at Russian positions near Kreminna, Luhansk, in January. Kreminna is one of several areas where Russian troops have “failed to make more than incremental tactical gains,” according to ISW.

Anatolii Stepanov | AFP | Getty Images

Russia’s much-anticipated spring offensive against Ukraine has likely reached its high-water mark, leaving Ukraine’s defenders “well positioned to regain the initiative and launch counteroffensives,” according to research released late Sunday.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said in a new assessment that Russia’s 2023 attacks have yielded few gains and left Moscow planners desperate to reconstitute hard-hit military units.

The failures have come about despite the 300,000 soldiers mobilized by Russia late last year explicitly for the spring offensive.

“If 300,000 Russian soldiers have been unable to give Russia a decisive offensive edge in Ukraine it is highly unlikely that the commitment of additional forces in future mobilization waves will produce a dramatically different outcome this year,” the research said.

CNBC is unable to independently verify ISW’s assessment, though it aligns with others’ analysis including that of Ukrainian commanders. Russia’s Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

ISW is a research firm whose board members are mostly retired U.S. military personnel, diplomats and political leaders.

—Ted Kemp

Xi and Putin praise each other’s leadership as state visit begins

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have praised each other’s leadership and their countries’ alliance as a three-day state visit by Xi to Moscow begins Monday.

Lauding Russia-China relations in an article released by several Russian and Chinese news agencies ahead of the visit, Xi said “both countries uphold an independent foreign policy and see our relationship as a high priority in our diplomacy.”

“Russia was the first country I visited after I was elected President 10 years ago. Over the past decade, I have made eight visits to Russia. I came each time with high expectations and returned with fruitful results, opening a new chapter for China-Russia relations together with President Putin,” Xi said.

Xi added that there was a “clear historical logic and strong internal driving force for the growth of China-Russia relations” that had come a long way in the last decade.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Chinese President Xi Jinping while visiting the Moscow Zoo in Russia on June 5, 2019. Xi is now on a three-day state visit to Russia.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Meanwhile, Putin said in an article that he considers President Xi a “good old friend” with whom he has developed the “warmest relations.”

Putin said the “significant” visit by Xi “reaffirms the special nature of the Russian-Chinese partnership, which has always been built on mutual trust, respect for each other’s sovereignty and interests,” in comments published on the Kremlin’s website and in the Chinese People’s Daily newspaper.

The leaders are expected to discuss a deepening of Sino-Russian political and economic cooperation during the visit, with a number of unspecified bilateral agreements expected to be signed.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said ahead of the meeting that the presidents are also “likely to discuss sanctions evasion schemes and Chinese interest in mediating a negotiated settlement to the war in Ukraine.”

China has called for a cease-fire to the war in Ukraine but has refused to condemn Moscow’s unprovoked invasion.

— Holly Ellyatt

Putin visited Russian-occupied port city of Mariupol

Russian President Vladimir Putin (seen here in a grab taken from video released by Russian broadcaster VGTRK on March 19, 2023) driving with Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin as he visits the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

– | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the occupied city of Mariupol at the weekend, visiting several districts of the city that was largely destroyed by Russian forces earlier on in the war.

In a carefully choreographed visit, Putin traveled to the port city in southern Ukraine by helicopter before he was seen driving and inspecting parts of the city and talking to local residents. On Saturday, he had reportedly visited Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

While there, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin was seen reporting to Putin on construction work in the city, with the Kremlin issuing a statement noting that Putin was informed on “the construction of new residential microdistricts, social and educational facilities, housing and communal service infrastructure, and medical institutions.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin look at reconstruction illustrations during a visit to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 18, 2023.

– | Afp | Getty Images

The visit has been seen as a show of defiance by the Kremlin after the International Criminal Court issued on Friday an international arrest warrant for the Russian president over alleged war crimes carried out during the invasion of Ukraine.

Kyiv accuses Moscow of carrying out a number of war crimes in Mariupol, including the bombing of a theater in which hundreds of civilians were sheltering, as well as the shelling of a maternity hospital. Russia claimed the theater had been bombed by Ukraine’s Azov battalion and said the hospital was being used as by Azov fighters as a base, despite evidence to the contrary.

After a prolonged and bloody siege between Russian forces and fighters from the Azov battalion, who had holed themselves up in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine’s forces finally surrendered and Russia declared it had complete control of the city in May.

Mykhaylo Podolyak, an aide to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, slammed Putin’s surprise trip to Mariupol on Twitter, saying the president had come to “admire the ruins of the city” and that the visit showed “cynicism and a lack of remorse.”

— Holly Ellyatt

China’s Xi visits ally Putin in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to China’s President Xi Jinping during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization leaders’ summit in Samarkand on Sept. 16, 2022.

Sergei Bobylyov | AFP | Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping is making a landmark three-day state visit to Moscow on Monday as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to shake global relations between the East and the West.

China has become Russia’s most important ally in recent years, but Beijing has tried to avoid any overt show of support for Moscow’s ongoing war in Ukraine or — “special military operation” — as Putin calls it, instead calling for a cease-fire and offering to broker a peace deal.

Xi’s visit to Moscow is nonetheless a political coup for Putin, who has looked increasingly isolated on the global stage following the invasion of Ukraine that has not been as simple as Moscow is believed to have expected it to be.

In the meantime, international sanctions have been piled on Russia, forcing it to look further afield to its erstwhile trading partners in Asia for business. And last Friday, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin over alleged war crimes committed during the invasion of Ukraine.

— Holly Ellyatt



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