Two-month old baby killed in Russian strike on Kharkiv hotel

A two-month old baby has died in a Russian missile strike on Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine, a regional official said Tuesday.

Oleh Synehubov, the head of the Kharkiv military administration, said Russian forces had attacked the village of Zolochiv in the Kharkiv region, hitting a three-story hotel.

“Rescuers removed the body of a two-month-old boy, who was born on December 4, 2023, from under the rubble,” Synehubov said on Telegram.

Three women, aged 21, 28 and 39, were hospitalized with blast injuries and shrapnel wounds, including the mother of the dead child, he added.

Synehubov said Russian forces had hit the hotel during the night using two S-300 missiles. CNBC was unable to immediately verify the information in the post.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine’s leadership shake-up will not hit relations with allies, minister says

Ukraine’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that a military and political shake-up that is expected soon will have no impact on Kyiv’s relations with its Western allies.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he is considering a “reset” to replace several senior officials that will go beyond the military sphere. There is intense speculation that Ukraine’s army chief will be fired.

“I do not think that any changes in the government can influence our relations with our partners,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told a joint news briefing in Kyiv alongside his Portuguese counterpart.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shakes the hand of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhny during the official celebration of Ukrainian Independence Day in August, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine. 

Alexey Furman | Getty Images News | Getty Images

He said it was the constitutional right of Zelenskyy to be able to dismiss the head of the army if he saw fit. Any shake-up would not be a sign of divisions in Ukraine’s war effort, he added.

“We can have discussions about tactics inside of the team but we are all united around our strategic goal which is the defeat of Russia in Ukraine and restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. And there are no discussions whatsoever on this strategic goal,” he said.

Speculation has gripped Ukraine for weeks over suggestions that the president was about to dismiss the highly popular army commander, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi. The two have been at odds over the conduct of the nearly two-year Russian invasion of Ukraine.

— Reuters

Russia claims it is now occupying ‘advantageous’ positions in Donetsk

Russian armed forces are occupying more advantageous positions in the Donetsk direction, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday.

“In the Donetsk direction, units of the Southern Group of Forces occupied more advantageous lines and positions,” the ministry said on Telegram, according to a Google translation.

It added that its units had “also repelled seven enemy attacks and defeated the manpower and equipment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the areas of the settlements of Kleshcheevka , Andreevka, Kurdyumovka, Novgorodskoe, Georgievka and Katerynivka of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” referring to the self-proclaimed “republic” declared by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow has since pronounced that the alleged “republic” and three other partially-occupied Ukrainian regions are a part of Russia. Russian authorities use Soviet-era spellings of Ukrainian place names in their statements.

Donetsk has been a hotspot for fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists since 2014, and Russian forces have attempted to further consolidate their territorial hold on the area since the 2022 invasion. They currently occupy around 57% of the region, Reuters says.

Ukrainian tank crews T64 battle tank fires on the Russian troops position on January 9, 2024 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. 

Roman Chop | Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images

Ukraine’s armed forces said on Tuesday that they had repelled 10 attacks in the Bakhmut area of Donetsk, including around the settlements of Bogdanivka, Ivanivka and Klishchievka. In an update on Facebook, the military said that Russian forces continued their attempts to surround war hotspot Avdiivka, but that their soldiers were holding the defense line.

Ukrainian Governor of Donetsk Vadym Filashkin told Reuters on Friday that Russia is firing between 1,500 and 2,500 shells and rockets at the region every day, targeting critical infrastructure in order to make it harder for people to take shelter there during winter.

CNBC was unable to verify the claims of both reports.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine’s Donetsk region pounded by up to 2,500 Russian strikes daily, governor says

Russia is firing between 1,500 and 2,500 shells and rockets at Ukraine’s war-ravaged Donetsk region every day and is targeting critical infrastructure to make it harder for people to remain there in winter, its governor told Reuters.

The eastern province, 57% of which is occupied by Russia, has been at the forefront of war since 2014, when Russian-backed proxies seized the region’s capital city, also called Donetsk, as well as many other large towns.

 A snowy field with traces of artillery and recently destroyed Russian heavy equipment on the outskirts of the city on January 25, 2023 in Avdiivka, Ukraine. Both Ukraine and Russia have recently claimed gains in the Avdiivka, where Russia is continuing a long-running campaign to capture the city, located in the Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk Region. 

Libkos | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Since Russia launched a full-scale invasion in 2022, this has been where many of the war’s most vicious and protracted battles have occurred.

“The enemy shells (the region) from 1,500 to 2,500 times a day,” Governor Vadym Filashkin said in an interview on Friday, adding he believed Moscow was still aiming to capture the entire region.

“The enemy’s shelling is this dense, this heavy, almost every day.”

The governor said the Kurakhove power plant, one of the region’s few remaining large-scale sources of electricity generation, had been forced to close a week ago due to Russian shelling. He said this was part of a wider campaign.

“The enemy is trying to destroy critical infrastructure objects so that people find it difficult to remain in the region in winter.”

A recently bombed residential area on Dec. 31, 2023, in Avdiivka, Ukraine.

Pierre Crom | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Filashkin said the town of Avdiivka, home to the largest coking plant in Europe and the target of a massive Russian assault since October last year, was “95-98% gone.”

“The enemy dropped about 200 guided aerial bombs on Avdiivka alone over the (last month). They are totally destroying it,” he said. Local authorities say the number of civilians in the town has dwindled to less than 1,000. Filashkin said he was pleading with those remaining to leave for their own safety.

— Reuters

Kremlin again declines to comment about Tucker Carlson

The Kremlin on Tuesday again declined to comment on U.S. conservative journalist’s Tucker Carlson’s whereabouts amid continuing speculation over a trip he has made to Moscow.

Pro-Kremlin media reported late Wednesday that the car allegedly being used by the former Fox News host to get around Moscow had been spotted leaving Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office, fueling rumors that an interview had, or could, take place.

When asked to comment on the report on Tuesday, Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said “I am not commenting in any way on the movements of an American journalist,” according to Reuters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his spokesperson Dmitry Peskov at the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council meeting at the Congress Hall in Bishkek on Dec. 9, 2022.

Vyacheslav Oseledko | Afp | Getty Images

Russian state media are closely following the story of Tucker Carlson’s trip to Moscow, with various sightings and officials commenting on the trip, which is being seen and framed as a further endorsement of Russia by Carlson, who has previously made comments in support of Russia.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian warships remain vulnerable after latest sinking

Russian warships operating around the occupied peninsula of Crimea remain vulnerable to attack, with the latest strike on a Russian missile corvette highlighting the threat posed by Ukraine, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Tuesday.

Six years on from the day Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty of accession to absorb Crimea in the Russian Federation on March 18, 2020 in Sevastopol, Ukraine.

Pierre Crom | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukrainian intelligence said it had sunk Russia’s “Ivanovets” vessel last week, with video footage showing “multiple uncrewed surface vehicles using swarming tactics to successfully strike the ship, resulting in a large explosion, almost certainly resulting in the ship sinking,” the U.K. noted in an intelligence update on X.

The vessel was patrolling Crimea’s western coast in support of Russia’s ongoing occupation of Ukraine, the defense ministry said, noting that the corvette’s “sophisticated ‘Light Bulb’ uplink allows it to send and receive targeting data to and from other ships, helicopters, and long-range patrol aircraft.”

Commenting on Ukraine’s apparent sinking of the vessel, the U.K. said the “success highlights the continuing vulnerability of Russian warships operating in the Black Sea.”

“It will highly likely have an impact on the Black Sea Fleet’s command and control elements, probably forcing them to re-evaluate their manoeuvrability near western Crimea. However, the Russian Navy is almost certainly still able to conduct its three main tasks in the Black Sea: long-range strike, patrol and support,” it noted.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia says it could withdraw from Arctic Council

Russia said it could consider withdrawing from the Arctic Council if its activities do not meet the interests of Moscow, marking the latest souring of relations between Arctic states.

Russian Foreign Ministry Ambassador at Large Nikolai Korchunov told Russian media that “we proceed from the fact that we must have all the options for foreign policy maneuver, including withdrawal from the Arctic Council, if its activities do not correspond to Russian interests,” the diplomat told RIA Novosti.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gesture as they arrive for a meeting at the Harpa Concert Hall, on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial summit, in Reykjavik, Iceland, May 19, 2021.

Saul Loeb | Reuters

The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States. The council includes Russia, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, as well as Iceland, Canada, the U.S. and Norway.

Russia was handed the two-year revolving chairmanship of the council in May 2021, but after its invasion of Ukraine in 2022, other council members suspended their participation in any council events in protest against the invasion. Norway took up the chairmanship in May 2023.

As Norway took the helm of the council, Korchunov, a senior official in the Arctic Council, said it remained to be seen whether the country could find ways “to act in the interests of all Arctic countries.”

“Whether it will be possible to come back to full-fledged cooperation is difficult to say at the moment,” he said last May.

Tensions in the Arctic have been brewing over a number of years, particularly in light of Russia’s quiet expansion of its political, economic and military influence there.

— Holly Ellyatt

Car allegedly used by Tucker Carlson in Moscow seen leaving Putin’s office, media reports

The reported presence of U.S. journalist Tucker Carlson in Moscow continues to feature in pro-Kremlin media coverage as his movements, and motives for being in Moscow, are closely followed.

Speculation is rife over Carlson’s reasons for being in Russia — there are rumors that he could be in the country to interview President Vladimir Putin — and Russian state media agency RIA Novosti reported late Wednesday that the car allegedly being used by the former Fox News host to travel around Moscow had been spotted leaving the president’s office.

Former Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson attends the Turning Point Action Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, July 15, 2023.

Marco Bello | Reuters

Earlier on Monday, Russian news outlet Izvestia published footage of a black van carrying an American journalist allegedly heading to the presidential administration. A black van with the same license plate left the protected area at about 18:10, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.

Other Russian media reported that Carlson, a right-wing media personality who has expressed support for Russia and criticism of the U.S.’ support for Ukraine, was seen at the Bolshoi Theater. 

Izvestia also published a video on Telegram Monday which appeared to show a Russian man chatting to the journalist in a hotel in Moscow. When asked about the purpose of his trip to Russia, Carlson told the man, “I wanted to look at it. I read so much about it, I wanted to talk to people, see how everything works. And everything is very good here.” The video comments were translated by Tass news agency.

The Kremlin declined to say Monday whether or not Putin would grant an interview to Carlson — or to confirm whether he was in Moscow.

“We can hardly be expected to provide information on the movement of foreign journalists,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said when asked about speculation that Carlson was in Russia to interview Putin.

— Holly Ellyatt

IAEA chief Grossi says to examine contract standoff at Zaporizhzhia, media reports

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi (not seen), visits Ukraineâs Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in Russian-controlled Energodar, on March 29, 2023. 

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Around 100 of the thousands of Ukrainian staff at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine are refusing to sign contracts with Russian nuclear company Rosatom, U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi told RFI radio on Tuesday.

Grossi told the French radio station in an interview that he would examine any impact on operations at the plant, where the six reactors are in shutdown, when he visits it on Wednesday.

The plant says it will no longer grant these holdouts access to the site, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

— Reuters

NATO allies attend Hungarian parliament to push for Sweden membership

A general view taken on February 5, 2024 shows empty seats (R) in the plenary hall of the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest during an extraordinary sitting at the opposition’s request to debate Sweden’s NATO bid. Representatives of the governing Fidesz party led by Hungarian Prime Minister Orban and the right-wing Christian Democratic party stayed away from today’s session. Budapest remains the last holdout to ratify the Nordic country’s bid to join the military alliance, following Turkey’s ratification in January. 

Attila Kisbenedek | Afp | Getty Images

Representatives from more than a dozen NATO countries, including the U.S. and Poland, made a surprise appearance at a Hungarian parliamentary session Monday to push lawmakers to approve Sweden’s accession into the allied group.

Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, led by Viktor Orbán, boycotted the vote on ratifying Swedish membership, which was called by the opposition. That meant the session did not meet quorum.

David Pressman, U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, said that while 16 NATO ambassadors were in attendance, no members of Hungary’s ruling party were.

“This is about the security of Hungary, of the United States, and of the entire NATO Alliance. We look forward to Hungary’s urgent action,” Pressman said on social media platform X.

Sweden applied for NATO membership in May 2022 in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Turkey, which had been the other holdout country, approved the move in January.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the third Belt and Road forum in Beijing.

Grigory Sysoyev | Afp | Getty Images

The following day, Orbán said that the Hungarian government supported Swedish accession and would push for it at the earliest opportunity. Officials have expressed confusion about the precise nature of the Hungarian government’s apparent reluctance to approve membership.

Orbán has increasingly become a thorn in the side of multilateral institutions which are seeking to show unified support for Ukraine.

The prime minister met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Chinese investment summit in October, and is in an ongoing spat with the European Union over the approval of funding for Ukraine.

— Jenni Reid

Netherlands pledges six more F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine

The Netherlands will deliver six more F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, taking the total number it has pledged to 24, Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren said on Monday.

“The Netherlands is readying six additional F-16 fighter aircraft for delivery to Ukraine,” Ollongren said in a post on social media platform X.

“Ukraine’s aerial superiority is essential for countering Russian aggression.”

— Reuters

War critic’s election bid set to be rejected by Russia’s electoral authorities

The supporters of anti-war presidential election hopeful Boris Nadezhdin said a working group from the Russian Central Electoral Commission (CEC) has recommended that Nadezhdin’s candidacy for the Russian election be rejected because of signature defects on his nomination papers.

Nadezhdin, a former Russian lawmaker and outspoken critic of Russia’s war in Ukraine, submitted 105,000 signatures to the CEC last week that were in support of his candidacy.

Boris Nadezhdin, a representative of Civil Initiative political party who plans to run for Russian president in the March 2024 election, talks to journalists as he visits an office of the Central Election Commission to submit documents and signatures in support of his candidacy, in Moscow, Russia January 31, 2024. 

Shamil Zhumatov | Reuters

His campaign said the signatures were carefully chosen to avoid the possibility that the CEC would reject a significant proportion of them, meaning that he would be barred from running in the March vote.

But according to Nadezhdin’s campaign, the CEC concluded in a meeting held Monday that 15.4% of Nadezhdin’s signatures are defective and, therefore, have recommended Nadezhdin should not be included on the ballot, NBC News reported.

Nadezhdin’s campaign say they will challenge the CEC working group’s findings during a full meeting of the Electoral Commission on Wednesday Feb. 7. NBC has reached out to the CEC for comment.

Nadezhdin’s spokesman Pavel Burlakov said “we do not agree with the decision of the working group. The whole world saw that we honestly collected signatures. The campaign team is ready to prove the unfoundedness of the working group’s decision.”

Political analysts said that in Russia’s tightly controlled and orchestrated “democracy,” it was extremely unlikely that the Kremlin would let Nadezhdin stand in the election and risk him garnering a lot of votes, a scenario that the Kremlin would like to avoid at all costs. For its part, the Kremlin told CNBC last week that it was “not inclined to exaggerate the level of support for Mr. Nadezhdin.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Plot thickens over Tucker Carlson’s supposed trip to Moscow

Speculation over why American journalist Tucker Carlson is now in Moscow (or at least believed to be in Moscow) have been fueled further after news outlet Izvestia published a video on Telegram which appeared to show a Russian man chatting to the journalist in a hotel in Moscow.

Asked about the purpose of his trip to Russia, Carlson told the man: “I wanted to look at it. I read so much about it, I wanted to talk to people, see how everything works. And everything is very good here.” Carlson said he thought Moscow was a “beautiful” city. The video comments were translated by TASS news agency.

There has been speculation that Tucker Carlson is in Russia ahead of a possible interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who rarely gives interviews to foreign journalists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via video link at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, December 22, 2023. 

Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik | Reuters

Earlier, the Kremlin declined to say whether or not Putin would grant an interview to the former Fox News host Carlson — or to confirm whether he was in Moscow.

“We can hardly be expected to provide information on the movement of foreign journalists,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked about speculation that Carlson was in Russia to interview Putin.

— Holly Ellyatt

Kremlin gives nothing away about why Tucker Carlson might be in Russia

The Kremlin on Monday declined to say whether or not Russian President Vladimir Putin would grant an interview to U.S. journalist Tucker Carlson or whether he was in Moscow.

“We can hardly be expected to provide information on the movement of foreign journalists,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked about speculation that Carlson was in Russia to interview Putin.

“Many foreign journalists come to Russia every day, many continue to work here, and we welcome this,” Peskov said. “We have nothing to announce in terms of the president’s interviews to foreign media.”

Former Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson speaks during the Turning Point Action Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, July 15, 2023.

Marco Bello | Reuters

Carlson is a former Fox News host who launched a new subscription-based streaming video service in December to capitalize on his popularity among conservative voters. An interview he posted on X with Donald Trump last August has drawn more than 267 million views, according to the social media platform.

The Mash Telegram channel on Saturday published a picture of Carlson and said he had arrived in Moscow.

— Reuters

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