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Russia-Ukraine war updates from March 21, 2024

Hungarian Prime Minister Orban congratulates Putin on reelection, state media reports

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection, state news agency MTI reported on Thursday.

According to the agency, Orban wrote in a letter that cooperation between Hungary and Russia was “based on mutual respect, allowing the discussion of important issues even in the current very difficult geopolitical situation.”

— Reuters

Russian production of artillery and weapons surges significantly, defense ministry says

Russia’s production of artillery and weapons has grown substantially, the defense ministry said on Thursday following an inspection of several factories by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

In a Telegram post translated by CNBC via Google Translate, Shoigu was quoted as having said that artillery production has grown by nearly two and a half times since existing factories were expanded and new ones were opened.

The production of components for ammunition has increased close to 22 times, Shoigu further said, while one factory he visited produced five times more artillery and aviation weapons now than they did previously, according to the ministry.

Russian defense spending has soared since the war began, boosting the country’s economy which has fared far better than many observers previously expected. This may however not last, Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s minister of foreign affairs, told CNBC Tuesday.

Success in Ukraine is now a matter of U.S. credibility, Polish foreign minister says

“If you put your economy on a crisis or war footing, your GDP rises because you are producing more shells and tanks and all the things that are going to get destroyed, but you’re also wasting the resources and the wealth of your country, and this has limits,” he said.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Russian missile kills one, injures four in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv, officials say

A Russian missile attack on Ukraine’s southern city of Mykolaiv on Thursday killed at least one person and injured four others, a local official said.

It was not immediately clear what was being targeted. The regional governor Vitaliy Kim said that rescue work was continuing at the site. City mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych added that a ballistic missile was used. Residential buildings were not damaged, he said.

The afternoon strike on the southern region follows a massive overnight attack on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and surrounding region that injured at least 17 people and damaged civilian and industrial facilities.

— Reuters

Russian anti-Kremlin rebel groups say they intend to carry out more border raids

The commander and founder of the Russian Volunteer Corps, Denis ‘Whiterex’ together with his soldiers wait after a press conference on behalf of the Russian Liberation Forces fighting along side Ukranian forces, in Kyiv on March 21, 2024, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images

Pro-Ukrainian Russian rebel groups on Thursday said they intend to carry out more cross-border raids in the future.

Several anti-Kremlin and anti-war rebel groups have undertaken cross-border raids targeting Russian regions, including Belgorod and Kursk, in recent weeks and months.

It’s difficult to ascertain how successful such raids have been: Russia’s defense ministry said they repelled all attacks involving the factions, known as the Siberian Battalion, Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps, respectively. The groups say their activities are ongoing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week instructed Russia’s security service to root out such rebel fighters, calling them “traitors.”

Oleksiy Baranovsky ‘Lyutik’, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Operator (UAV) operator, and ‘Freedom of Russia’ legion volunteer (L), ‘Holod’ a fighter in the ‘Siberian Battalion’ (C), and the commander and founder of the Russian Volunteer Corps, Denis ‘Whiterex’ (R), take part in the press conference on behalf of the Russian Liberation Forces fighting on the Ukrainian side, in Kyiv on March 21, 2024, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images

Volunteers within the groups said in a Thursday statement that they intended to try to capture more settlements in the areas bordering Ukraine.

“Soon we will advance to other settlements as well. We call on Russians from all countries, people of all nationalities to join us and fight together against Putin’s dictatorship,” a Siberian Battalion fighter, who has the callsign “Kholod,” said at a conference hosted by Ukraine’s state-owned news outlet Ukrinform.

“Only up in arms and together will we win and create a new Russian Federation – a strong, a peaceful country that is respected, where there’s no shame in being its citizen,” he added, in comments reported by Ukrinform.

“Together with our allies, we proved to the whole world that Putin is losing control of the situation, more and more every day, and is no longer able to protect even the borders of his own country. Power is slipping out of his hands. He controls fewer and fewer processes going on in the Russian Federation. The Russians are seeing this so more and more compatriots are joining our ranks,” “Kholod” added.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia says Ukraine’s idea of $30 oil price cap ‘beyond all bounds’

Russia said on Thursday that the United States was unlikely to agree to a Ukrainian proposal to lower the price cap on Russian oil to $30 a barrel because it would roil global energy markets and damage the U.S. economy.

After Russia sent troops into Ukraine in 2022, the West sought to sink the Russian economy by imposing a myriad of sanctions and in 2022 slapped a $60 a barrel price cap on Russian oil, which is currently traded at around $68 per barrel.

Before the cap was set, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in November 2022 urged a limit between $30 and $40 per barrel.

The $60 cap has so far been maintained despite fluctuations in the oil price and calls by some countries for a lower cap to further restrict Moscow’s revenues.

The United States has imposed sanctions on dozens of tankers suspected of carrying oil above the price cap agreed by G7, the EU and Australia.

A pump jack on an oil field owned by Bashneft company near the village of Nikolo-Berezovka, northwest from Ufa, Bashkortostan, Russia, in 2015. The Group of Seven’s price cap of $60 for Russian seaborne oil and a ban on Russian crude kicked in on Monday.

Sergei Karpukhin | Reuters

President Vladimir Putin says Russia’s wartime economy — which grew 3.6% last year — has thrived despite the sanctions, and that Russia, the world’s second largest oil exporter, has plenty of buyers for its oil.

“The other day I read that Ukraine was trying to convince the United States to lower the cap price on Russian oil to $30 a barrel,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview published on the Foreign Ministry website. “This goes beyond all bounds.”

“It is significant that the United States is unlikely to go along with Ukraine,” Lavrov said. He argued that such a lowering of the cap would have a serious impact on both the global oil market and on the U.S. economy.

— Reuters

Despite gains in eastern Ukraine, Russian advances have slowed, UK says

Ukrainian military vehicles are seen on a road in the vicinity of Novoselivka Persha nearby Avdiivka as fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian troops rages on in the eastern of Donetsk region in Donbas, Ukraine, March 04th, 2024.

Anadolu | Anadolu | Getty Images

Russian forces’ gains in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk have slowed in recent weeks, according to the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence, and that’s likely partially due to heavy losses sustained in the campaign to seize Avdiivka.

Nonetheless, the situation remains unstable and Ukrainian shortages of personnel and munitions are likely limiting their ability to hold positions, the ministry said in an intelligence update on social media platform X.

“Russian forces continue to focus operations in Donetsk Oblast [region], eastern Ukraine, making minor gains,” the ministry said, adding that “they have attempted to expand areas of control north-west of Donetsk city and are highly likely contesting a string of villages including Orlivka, Tonenke, Pervomaiske, and Nevelske.”

Russians armed forces have claimed this week that they have captured Orlivka, Tonenke and Nevelske. Ukraine has not yet commented on the claims and purported losses of territory.

— Min Maddison

Russia says it has captured another village in Donetsk

Russia says its forces have captured the village of Tonenke in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, marking the latest territorial claim for the army.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement, reported by news agency TASS, that “through the coordinated actions of units of the ‘Center’ group of forces, the settlement of Tonenkoye [Tonenke] of the Donetsk People’s Republic was liberated,” it said.

Service members of pro-Russian troops are seen atop of an armoured vehicle with the symbols “Z” painted on its sides in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in Dokuchaievsk in the Donetsk region, Ukraine March 25, 2022. 

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Russia annexed the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” in Sept. 2022 but only partially occupies it, although its forces are looking to claim the whole territory.

Russian forces have made a number of small but incremental advances in the region since capturing the industrial city of Avdiivka in February. On Wednesday, the defense ministry announced that the village of Orlivka, to the west of Avdiivka, had been captured.

— Holly Ellyatt

Kremlin will retaliate if the EU uses profits from Russian assets to arm Ukraine

Russia will take retaliatory measures in accordance with its own interests and use every legal mechanism at its disposal if the European Union uses profits from frozen Russian assets to buy arms for Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Thursday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the comments ahead of a meeting of EU leaders at which the matter is due to be discussed.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov looks on during a visit of CIS heads of state to the Catherine Palace at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum and Reserve in Saint Petersburg, Russia December 26, 2023. 

Sputnik | Via Reuters

“Naturally, we will use all possible judicial mechanisms, those that are available now, and all those that become available in the future,” Peskov told reporters.

“And on the basis of reciprocity we will not retaliate in kind, but choose different methods in a way that corresponds to our own interests,” he said.

— Reuters

Five people injured in attack on Russian border region Belgorod

Five people were injured in Ukrainian shelling of the Russian border city of Belgorod Thursday morning, according to the region’s governor.

Two women and three men sustained injuries, including head injuries and shrapnel wounds, in the attack that targeted the region’s capital, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram.

He said more than 30 apartments in six apartment buildings were damaged “as a result of an air attack” by Ukraine’s armed forces. Ukraine has not commented on the strike and CNBC was unable to immediately verify the information. Both Ukraine and Russia deny targeting civilian infrastructure.

“There is damage to the power line in the city; about 5,000 residents are temporarily without power. An operational team is working on the spot and has already begun to eliminate the consequences [of the attack]. According to preliminary data, 10 cars were damaged.” He said property in several other villages in the wider region had also been damaged by shelling.

A damaged car is seen in front of a kindergarten following fresh aerial attacks in Belgorod on March 20, 2024. 

Stringer | Afp | Getty Images

Belgorod has frequently found itself at the center of Ukrainian attacks against Russian border territory. On Wednesday, a civilian was killed and two others were injured in an attack on the region in which residential buildings, cars, kindergartens and a school were hit. 

On Thursday, Gladkov posted images of damaged buildings in his post although it’s uncertain when the images were taken.

— Min Maddison

EU leaders to discuss using profits from Russian assets to arm Ukraine

European Union leaders will on Thursday discuss a plan to use billions of euros in profits from frozen Russian financial assets to buy arms for Ukraine as they try to bolster Kyiv in its fight against Moscow’s invasion.

The bloc’s 27 national leaders will also debate how Europe can do more to defend itself and boost its arms industry, reflecting fears that Russia may not stop at Ukraine and the U.S. may not be such a staunch protector of Europe in future.

“For decades, Europe has not invested enough in its security and defence,” Charles Michel, president of the European Council of EU leaders, wrote in his invitation letter for the summit.

“Now that we are facing the biggest security threat since the Second World War, it is high time we take radical and concrete steps to be defence-ready and put the EU’s economy on a ‘war footing’.”

In a two-day summit in Brussels due to start at 1200 GMT on Thursday, the EU leaders will also tackle topics as diverse as the war in Gaza, the prospect of opening membership talks with Bosnia and farmers’ protests. But Ukraine will top the agenda, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy joining the leaders via video link.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s president, right, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, depart a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday, May 9, 2023.

Andrew Kravchenko | Bloomberg | Getty Images

EU leaders have voiced increasing alarm about the state of the war in recent weeks, with ammunition-starved Ukrainian forces struggling to hold back Russian troops and a $60 billion military aid package for Kyiv stuck in the U.S. Congress.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, this week proposed taking profits from Russian assets frozen in Europe after Moscow’s invasion and transferring some 90% to an EU-run fund used to finance arms for Kyiv. The Commission estimated the profits on the assets – various Russian central bank securities and cash – could be between 2.5 billion euros ($2.73 billion) and 3 billion euros per year.

Russia on Wednesday described the EU plan as banditism and theft.

— Reuters

Russian defeat a matter of life and death for democracy, Zelenskyy says

Russia’s defeat in the war is a matter of life and death for democracy, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

“We have to be resilient against various challenges, we have to be long-range to defeat Putin, and not be in a situation where doubts about the strength of the West help this madman,” the president said Wednesday night.

“Putin must lose and this is a matter of life and death for the democratic world. When he loses, the democratic world will have a good perspective for generations to come,” he added.

Zelenskyy said he’d met earlier with Jake Sullivan, the U.S.’ national security advisor, with the officials having a “very meaningful, very specific conversation about defense cooperation and about the joint political results that we have to achieve.”

Jake Sullivan (L), US National Security Advisor, and Andrii Yermak (R), Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, during a joint press conference on March 20, 2024 in Kyiv, Ukraine. During his visit to Ukraine, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has stated that Washington believes in Ukraine’s victory in the war against Russia. 

Viktor Kovalchuk | Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images

During his trip to Kyiv, Sullivan said that a major U.S. aid package worth $60 billion that has been blocked by Republicans for months would “get to Ukraine,” Reuters reported.

— Holly Ellyatt

Explosions rock Kyiv, with missile attack injuring at least 12 people

Firefighters try to extinguish the fire after a fire broke out residential buildings and conduct search and rescue operations after Russian attacks in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 21, 2024. 

Ukraine State Emergency Service/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

Explosions have been reported in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv overnight, with city officials stating that a missile attack is now known to have injured at least 12 people.

Missile fragments fell on a kindergarten in one part of the city, and several industrial and residential buildings were damaged in other parts of the capital. Falling missile fragments, shot down by Ukrainian air defenses, set cars on fire in another district. A fire was reported at a transformer substation and in a two-story non-residential building in the Podilskyi district as a result of falling missile debris.

“The number of victims increased to ten. Two of them were hospitalized. Others were treated by medics on the spot. In particular, six people were injured in the Shevchenkiv district of the capital. Four [were injured] in Svyatoshynsk,” Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said on Telegram.

Firefighters try to extinguish the fire after a fire broke out residential buildings and conduct search and rescue operations after Russian attacks in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 21, 2024. 

Ukraine State Emergency Service/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv regional military administration, said the number of injured people has since risen to 12.

Official information from Ukraine’s air force suggested, he said, that Russia had launched ballistic and cruise missiles against the city but that all 31 missiles had been shot down over the city. He posted images on his Telegram account showing burned-out cars, craters in the ground and damaged buildings. CNBC was not able to verify all the information in the officials’ posts.

— Holly Ellyatt

Pictures show aftermath of Russian strike on Ukraine as official says five dead

At least five people were killed and more were injured in Ukraine’s Kharkiv on Wednesday as a fire broke out in an industrial building following Russian shelling in the area. Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional state administration, shared the figures on Telegram.

CNBC was not able to independently verify the report.

Pictures published via Getty Images showed the aftermath of the missile attack.

On the afternoon of March 20, 2023, Russia launched a missile attack on Kharkiv, damaging a civil production building.

Pavlo Pakhomenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images

This photograph taken on March 20, 2024 shows the burning industrial facility following a missile attack in Kharkiv, amid the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Sergey Bobok | Afp | Getty Images

On the afternoon of March 20, 2023, Russia launched a missile attack on Kharkiv, damaging a civil production building.

Pavlo Pakhomenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Zelenskyy discusses Ukrainian peace formula with India’s Modi

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskiy (R) meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) as he attend G7 Leaders’s Summit in Hiroshima, Japan on May 20, 2023. 

Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday said he discussed Ukraine’s peace formula and bilateral relations with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a post on social media platform X, Zelenskyy said he expressed his gratitude for India being supportive of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, humanitarian aid and meetings about the peace formula.

“It will be important for us to see India attend the inaugural Peace Summit, which is currently being prepared in Switzerland,” he said.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskiy (R) meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) as he attend G7 Leaders’s Summit in Hiroshima, Japan on May 20, 2023. 

Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu | Getty Images

Zelenskyy said Ukraine was keen to develop its trade and economic relationship with India.

“Ukraine is interested in strengthening our trade and economic ties with India, particularly in agricultural exports, aviation cooperation, and pharmaceutical and industrial product trade,” he said.

It comes just hours after Russian media reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin and India’s Modi discussed Ukraine, as well as their own trade relations which have remained close throughout the war.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Success in Ukraine has ‘now a matter of U.S. credibility,’ Polish foreign minister says

Radoslaw Sikorski, Foreign Minister of Poland, gestures during an interview with journalists from the German Press Agency. 

Kay Nietfeld | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Ukraine succeeding against Russia in the war has become a question of U.S. credibility, Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, told CNBC.

“The success of Ukraine is now a matter of U.S. credibility. And if U.S. support for Ukraine were to stop, I think U.S. allies around the world would notice and would start hedging,” he told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick Tuesday.

Aid for Ukraine has become a highly contested topic among U.S. lawmakers in recent months, with an aid package that would see around $61 billion worth of support for the country currently being stuck in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Read the full story here.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Russia shot down 419 drones and 67 missiles during election, minister claims

Russia shot down 419 Ukrainian drones and 67 missiles during the presidential election that took place last weekend, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday.

“During the election events, 419 unmanned aerial vehicles and 67 missiles were shot down,” Shoigu said at a ministry meeting, news agency Interfax reported. Shoigu did not present evidence to support his claims.

“To prevent terrorist attacks, Russian troops have strengthened the security of government and social facilities and strengthened the air defense system,” Shoigu said.

Residents of Avdiivka, who now stay in a temporary accommodation centre, vote at a polling station during the Russia’s presidential election, in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in the town of Kirovske in the Donetsk region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, March 15, 2024. 

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Shoigu accused Ukraine of trying to disrupt voting by targeting sites where polls were taking place from Friday to Sunday. Russian media reports said there had been several instances in which Ukrainian drones targeted polling stations in partially-occupied regions in Ukraine, including Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

Russia declared that it had annexed the regions in Sept. 2022, along with Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. It has since made efforts to “Russify” the regions, including by handing out Russian passports and holding elections there. Ukraine and its allies have said such moves are illegal.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine’s survival is in danger, Pentagon chief says

Lloyd Austin, US Secretary of Defense, speaks at the final press conference after the US-led Ukraine Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base. 

Uwe Anspach | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Ukraine’s survival is at stake amid an ongoing funding impasse in the U.S. Congress, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned Tuesday. He said additional aid for Ukraine was a matter of “honor” for the United States.

“Today, Ukraine’s survival is in danger and America’s security is at risk. They don’t have a day to waste, and we don’t have a day to spare either,” Austin said at a press conference after a meeting of the Ukraine defense contact group meeting at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Tuesday, with representatives from Ukraine and around 50 allied countries attending.

“I leave here today fully determined to keep U.S. security assistance and ammunition flowing. And that’s a matter of survival and sovereignty for Ukraine. And it’s a matter of honor and security for America. And make no mistake, Putin is watching. The world is watching and history is watching,” Austin said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and General Charles Q. Brown Junior talk to the media at the seventh gathering of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group at Ramstein air base on March 19, 2024 in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany.

Thomas Niedermueller | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Speaking to CNBC separately Tuesday, Poland’s foreign minister called on America to act, warning that the success of Ukraine in the war against Russia was now a matter of U.S. credibility.

“We wouldn’t be on the backfoot if the American supplemental came through, and I again, appeal to Speaker Johnson to let it go to the vote. And let democracy take its course,” Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told CNBC Tuesday.

— Holly Ellyatt

Kremlin slams IOC decision to ban Russians from Olympic parade

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual end-of-year press conference and the Direct Line question and answer session, at Gostiny Dvor Exhibition Centre in Moscow, Russia December 14, 2023. 

Sputnik | Via Reuters

The Kremlin criticized on Wednesday the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban Russians from the opening parade of the Paris Olympics this summer.

“We perceive this negatively. Of course, this is the destruction of the ideas of Olympism, this is an infringement of the interests of athletes, Olympians. Of course, this is absolutely contrary to the entire ideology of the Olympic movement. This does not look good on the IOC,” Peskov told reporters, news agency Interfax reported Wednesday.

Olympic Rings are seen in front of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters on December 5, 2017 in Pully near Lausanne.  


The IOC announced on Tuesday that Russian and Belarusian athletes, who are competing in the Olympic Games in late July-early August as neutral competitors, will not be allowed to participate in the opening ceremony of the competition.

In a statement, the IOC said “an opportunity will be provided for them to experience the event” but did not provide further details. It said it has not yet made a decision regarding participation in the closing ceremony.

Min Maddison

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