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Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Ukraine doing ‘everything’ to boost defenses against Russian attacks, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday evening that Kyiv is doing everything it can to bolster Ukraine’s defenses against Russian strikes.

In his nightly address, Zelenskyy said “at the state level, everything is being done to increase the ability to defend against Russian strikes. Air defense systems and other weapons to protect the sky are already here in Ukraine, they are really powerful. But they should be – and, I am sure, will be – even more powerful,” he added.

There are many question marks over when and where Ukraine might begin its much-anticipated counteroffensive against Russia and whether it has actually begun, as one Ukrainian official claimed yesterday.

Artillerymen of the Ukrainian 80th separate airborne assault brigade fire from a BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher toward Russian positions on the front line near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, on April 18, 2023.

Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Wednesday that Ukrainian forces are already conducting some counteroffensive actions, noting that in any case, Ukrainian forces would not preemptively announce the start of the counteroffensive aimed at liberating Russian-occupied areas in the country.

“It is incorrect to speak narrowly about a counteroffensive because it is a huge complex of various actions and measures that the armed forces of Ukraine are currently carrying out,” Maliar said at a briefing, news outlet Ukrinform reported.

“First of all, this is about preparing personnel for the complex of actions – both defensive and offensive. Altogether, this can be referred to as counter-offensive measures,” she added.

Western officials said in a defense briefing earlier this week that Ukraine will be well aware of mounting expectations over when and where its counteroffensive will be focused, but that the officials had few details as to the specifics.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia’s top diplomat in Cuba for talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Cuba for talks as his tour of allied countries in Latin America continues Thursday.

Lavrov will meet his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla in Havana today as well as President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Cuba is the final destination of Lavrov’s whirlwind tour of the region this week. He has visited Brazil, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) leaves Miraflores Palace after meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (right) in Caracas, Venezuela, on April 18, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

While in Venezuela, Lavrov said Russia would share its experience with the country on how to minimize the impact of Western sanctions, and also disparaged the United States, saying it was a country that can “cheat at any moment,” claiming Russia experienced this when the Western military alliance NATO expanded eastward.

Russia has repeatedly claimed it was tricked by Western nations at the end of the Cold War into believing that NATO would not expand eastward toward its territory.

But analysts say the Soviet Union was never offered any formal guarantee on limits to NATO expansion and that the “betrayal narrative” is designed to provoke anti-Western sentiment.

— Holly Ellyatt

Austin and Milley to host the 11th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group this week

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley attend a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group on March 15, 2023, at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Andrew Caballero-reynolds | Afp | Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley will travel to Germany to host the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

The Ukraine Defense Contact Group is a coalition of nearly 50 countries supporting Ukraine’s military needs. Friday’s meeting at Ramstein Air Base will be the 11th time the group has met since it was formed last April.

— Amanda Macias

Two Russian bombers intercepted near Alaskan airspace

Russian Tu-95 Bear long rang bomber aircraft

U.S. Navy | Getty Images

The Alaskan Region of North American Aerospace Defense Command detected, tracked, positively identified and intercepted two Russian aircraft entering and operating within the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone, NORAD said in a release.

The Russian aircraft were TU-95 bombers and were escorted by NORAD aircraft on Monday, including F-16 fighter jets, F-22 fighter jets, KC-135 Stratotankers and E-3 AWACS.

“Russian aircraft remained in international airspace and did not enter American or Canadian sovereign airspace. This Russian activity in the North American ADIZ occurs regularly and is not seen as a threat, nor is the activity seen as provocative,” NORAD wrote in a release.

— Amanda Macias

Fans of FC Chernomorets Odesa mourn fallen football fan who died in Bakhmut

Fans of FC Chernomorets Odesa raise flares as they line the road during the funeral procession for Sergiy Fedik, a football fan and Ukrainian serviceman killed near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.

Bakhmut is the site of heavy recent fighting with the city a battlezone for more than eight months.

This photograph taken Chornomorets Stadium in Odesa on April 19, 2023, shows football fans of Chernomorets Odesa raising flares as they line the road during the funeral procession of Sergiy Fedik, a football fan and Ukrainian serviceman killed near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Oleksandr Gimanov | AFP | Getty Images

This photograph taken Chornomorets Stadium in Odesa on April 19, 2023, shows football fans of Chernomorets Odesa raising flares as they line the road during the funeral procession of Sergiy Fedik, a football fan and Ukrainian serviceman killed near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Oleksandr Gimanov | AFP | Getty Images

This photograph taken Chornomorets Stadium in Odesa on April 19, 2023, shows a friend mourning during the funeral ceremony of Sergiy Fedik, a football fan and Ukrainian serviceman killed near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Oleksandr Gimanov | Afp | Getty Images

Friends and relatives react as they attend a funeral ceremony for Sergiy Fedik, a football fan and Ukrainian serviceman killed near Bakhmut,at the Chornomorets Stadium in Odesa on April 19, 2023, amid Russia’s military invasion on Ukraine. (Photo by OLEKSANDR GIMANOV / AFP) (Photo by OLEKSANDR GIMANOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Oleksandr Gimanov | Afp | Getty Images

-Oleksandr Gimanov | AFP | Getty Images

Kremlin rejects media allegations on possible North Sea sabotage plans

The Kremlin rebuffed Western media reports alleging that Russia could be planning to sabotage wind farms and communications cables in the North Sea, saying they are baseless.

“These media of the mentioned countries [Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland] made a mistake in their investigation, they again baselessly prefer to blame Russia for everything,” Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday, state news agency TASS reported.

The comment come after a joint investigation by the public broadcasters of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland which claims that Russia has a fleet of vessels in the North Sea disguised as fishing trawlers and research vessels that are actually intended for surveillance, mapping and possibly, sabotage.

Wind turbines stand in a wind farm in the Sönke-Nissen-Koog at the North Sea in the sunrise.

Christian Charisius | picture alliance | Getty Images

The allegations are due to be aired in a TV series starting Wednesday evening and broadcast in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Peskov said Moscow would “prefer that they pay more attention to the topic of the terrorist attack on [the] Nord Stream” gas pipelines, saying “the need for a transparent, urgent and broad international investigation of these unprecedented terrorist acts, sabotage.”

Russia has repeatedly complained of being left out of separate investigations by Sweden, Germany and Denmark into the Nord Stream gas pipeline sabotage that damaged the Baltic Sea infrastructure last year.

— Holly Ellyatt

U.S. can ‘cheat’ at any moment, Russian foreign minister claims

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that “the United States can cheat at any moment,” claiming Russia had experienced this when the Western military alliance NATO expanded eastward.

“I want to emphasize that everyone knows very well that the United States can cheat at any moment, and much more often they cheat than they keep their own promises, their own proposals,” Lavrov said as he addressed a press conference following talks with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yvan Gil Pinto.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) leaves Miraflores Palace after meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (right) in Caracas, Venezuela, on April 18, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Lavrov claimed this deception was seen when former Soviet and Russian Federation Presidents Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin “were assured that NATO would not expand,” he added.

Russia has long complained that it was deceived by Western nations at the end of the Cold War and into the 1990s into believing that NATO would not expand eastward toward its territory.

Analysts say, however, that the USSR was never offered any formal guarantee on limits to NATO expansion and that the “betrayal narrative” is designed to provoke anti-Western sentiment.

Lavrov’s latest comments, reported by state news agency Tass and news outlet RIA Novosti, and translated by Google, come as he carries out a tour of Latin American countries this week, a trip seen as a way for Russia to cement its alliances with countries in the region.

Lavrov characterized Russia as the “world champion” in terms of the number of sanctions imposed by the West, and said Moscow would share its experience of avoiding their impact with Venezuela, a country that has been under Western sanctions for several years for a variety of reasons.

“I am convinced that our experience will also be useful to our Venezuelan friends, because we are now world champions in terms of the number of sanctions and we are accumulating experience quickly. So we will share it with our Venezuelan colleagues,” Lavrov said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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