Russia relishes Macron’s mistake and NATO disunity

A man makes a selfie photo in front of the Kremlin’s Spasskaya tower and St. Basil’s cathedral in downtown Moscow on September 11, 2023. Russia’s Elections Commission said that the pro-Kremlin United Russia part had won local elections in four regions of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces, in a vote dismissed by Kyiv. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Alexander Nemenov | Afp | Getty Images

Russian officials appear to be relishing the gaffe made this week by French President Emmanuel Macron after he suggested that NATO countries had discussed the possibility of Western ground troops being deployed in Ukraine, saying such an eventuality could not be “ruled out.”

Macron’s suggestion was widely and very publicly rejected by NATO member countries yesterday. Germany, the U.K., Spain, Poland and NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg were among those denying that sending ground troops into Ukraine was an option.

The Kremlin had warned earlier Tuesday that such a move would lead to an “inevitable” conflict between NATO and Russia. Since then, state-run Russian media has been dominated by Russian officials relishing the obvious division in NATO, and Macron’s apparent misreading of the NATO mood music.

“Macron made a number of loud statements, including the possibility of sending NATO troops to Ukraine, which horrified the residents of his country and the leaders of a number of European states,” Russian State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said on his Telegram channel.

“To maintain personal power, Macron came up with nothing better than to spark a third world war. His initiatives are becoming dangerous for French citizens,” Volodin added.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry claimed Wednesday that Ukraine is facing a “catastrophic” situation at the front Russia is currently enjoying a spate of small territorial gains in eastern Ukraine and that Macron’s statement had not helped the country.

“The situation at the front for the Kyiv regime is monstrous, catastrophic,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told the Sputnik radio station, Tass news agency reported.

She claimed NATO countries’ denials that they planned to send their ground troops into Ukraine showed the West had “betrayed Ukraine and will continue to use and betray it,” repeating Moscow’s baseless claims that Western countries are using Ukraine to destroy Russia.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine needs more weapons — not ground troops — former president says

Ukraine needs weapons urgently, rather than Western ground troops, Petro Poroshenko says

Ukraine desperately needs more military equipment in order to beat Russia, not Western troops on the ground — a controversial suggestion mooted by France this week the country’s former president told CNBC.

“I see with my eyes the position of Russian troops and heroic Ukrainian soldiers … we need up to date weapons for our troops … Now, in 2024, now urgently, we need F-16s [fighter jets] and instead we don’t have [them], we don’t have ammunition, we don’t have tanks, we don’t have drones” Petro Poroshenko told CNBC’s Silvia Amaro Tuesday.

“This war is not only about Ukraine … this is investment in European security,” he said.

Poroshenko thanked Ukraine’s Western allies for their military aid but said more was needed to prevent Russia from continuing its aggression toward Ukraine.

“The biggest military power is the U.S. and my appeal [to them] is to please demonstrate your leadership … without you, Putin would be stronger, Putin would go further, because the only language Putin understands is the language of strength. Every single hour of delay [in the supply of] artillery shells means human lives, and the lives of our civilians [are lost] this is too high a price,” he said.

— Holly Ellyatt

NATO countries scramble to deny ground troops will enter Ukraine after Moscow warning

French President Emmanuel Macron waits for guest arrivals for a conference in support of Ukraine with European leaders and government representatives on February 26, 2024 in Paris, France. 

Chesnot | Getty Images News | Getty Images

France’s suggestion that Ukraine’s allies could potentially send ground troops into Ukraine has caused indignation and outrage in Russia, with officials warning it could provoke a direct conflict between Russia and NATO member states.

Eyebrows were raised Monday when French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that European heads of state and Western officials, who met in Paris on Monday, had talked about the possibility of sending ground troops into Ukraine.

“There is no consensus today to officially, openly, and with endorsement, send troops on the ground. But in terms of dynamics, nothing should be ruled out. We will do everything necessary to ensure that Russia cannot win this war,” Macron said at a news conference Monday evening.

Moscow was quick to seize on the comments, with the Kremlin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, telling reporters Tuesday that if European NATO members sent troops to fight in Ukraine it would make a conflict between Russia and NATO inevitable.

Read more here: NATO countries scramble to deny ground troops will go into Ukraine after Moscow warns of ‘inevitable’ conflict

French troops could take up non-combat roles in Ukraine war, foreign minister says

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting ahead of the 2nd anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., February 23, 2024. 

Mike Segar | Reuters

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne on Tuesday said French troops could take on non-combat roles rather than active battle in Ukraine.

The comments come after French President Emmanuel Macron indicated that Western leaders had discussed sending ground troops to Ukraine, which was quickly played down by allies.

“We must consider new actions to support Ukraine. These must respond to very specific needs, I am thinking in particular of mine clearance, cyberdefence, the production of weapons on site, on Ukrainian territory,” he told lawmakers, Reuters reported.

“Some of its actions could require a presence on Ukrainian territory, without crossing the threshold of fighting. Nothing should be ruled out. This was and still is the position today of the president of the Republic,” he said.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Zelenskyy discusses Ukrainian ‘peace formula,’ prisoners of war with Saudi crown prince

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during ‘Ukraine. Year 2024’ conference, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 25, 2024.

Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he said in a post on social media platform X.

Zelenskyy said they discussed the so-called “peace formula,” a ten-point plan set out by Ukraine to end the war with Russia, and Saudi Arabia’s support in this.

“Last year in Jeddah, we held an effective advisors’ meeting to discuss its implementation. We are now nearing the first Peace Summit and rely on Saudi Arabia’s ongoing active support,” he said.

Prisoners of war were also discussed, Zelenskyy said, pointing to Saudi Arabia’s previous involvement in prisoner exchanges.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Russia claims to have captured another settlement near Avdiivka

Russia’s defense ministry said its forces had captured another settlement near Avdiivka, the industrial city it seized several weeks ago in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.

Posting on Telegram, Russia’s defense ministry said troops within its central units had “liberated the village of Severnoye, occupied more advantageous lines and positions, and also defeated concentrations of manpower and equipment” of several Ukrainian brigades in Donetsk.

Ukrainian soldiers fire the L119 artillery as the war’s second anniversary nears in the direction of Marinka, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on February 23, 2024. 

Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu | Getty Images

Ukraine conceded that its units had withdrawn “from the small settlements of Severne and Stepove,” emphasizing their small size by noting that before the war, the villages had less than a hundred inhabitants each.

The latest territorial gain comes after Ukrainian forces withdrew from the Donetsk industrial city of Avdiivka in mid-February, marking a significant loss for Ukraine. Its military said it had withdrawn their outgunned units in order to prevent them from being surrounded.

After Avdiicka, Russian forces have been looking to build on gains in a westward direction and have captured several settlements in the last week; on Monday, Ukraine confirmed its forces had withdrawn from the village of Lastochkyne.

Russia’s defense ministry said Tuesday that Ukraine’s forces had tried to mount counterattacks “in the areas of the settlements of Novgorodskoye, Pervomaiskoye and Petrovskoye of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” the name pro-Russian separatists gave to Donetsk, but that these had been repelled.

Russia claimed Ukraine had lost up to 485 military personnel, two tanks, including U.S.-made Abrams, three infantry fighting vehicles, including a Bradley, six armored combat vehicles, 13 vehicles, and two D-30 howitzers, in the process. CNBC was unable to verify the battlefield claims.

— Holly Ellyatt

Germany rules out sending ground troops to Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as he arrives to attend a conference in support of Ukraine with European leaders and government representatives on February 26, 2024 in Paris, France. 

Chesnot | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Berlin has dismissed the notion of sending ground troops to Ukraine, a day after France’s president suggested that some of Ukraine’s allies had not “ruled out” this possibility.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday rejected the idea, saying that there was no consensus over deploying ground troops among European leaders and officials from the U.K., Canada and U.S., who had met in Paris on Monday.

“Once again, in a very good debate, it was discussed that what was agreed from the outset among ourselves and with each other also applies to the future, namely that there will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European countries or NATO states,” Scholz said on the sidelines of an event, according to comments carried by Reuters.

Scholz reportedly added that European leaders now appeared more willing to procure weapons from third countries outside Europe, in order to accelerate military aid to Ukraine.

Germany is one of Ukraine’s biggest supporters in Europe, but it has been wary of escalating tensions with Russia, deliberating at length over whether to supply Ukraine with Leopard tanks and long-range Taurus missiles.

French President Emmanuel Macron raised eyebrows on Monday, when he suggested that “nothing should be ruled out” when it came to the prospect of “troops on the ground” in Ukraine. He further said that “we will do everything necessary to ensure that Russia cannot win this war,” but did not give any details on which countries might support the idea of sending ground troops into Ukraine.

Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck also commented with “advice” for France, saying that Paris would be more helpful by sending weaponry and tanks to Ukraine, Reuters reported. He likewise said that there would be “no German soldiers on Ukrainian soil.”

The Kremlin warned on Tuesday that conflict between Russia and NATO would become inevitable, if members of the military coalition send troops to fight in Ukraine.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia claims to have inflicted massive losses on Ukraine

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attends an expanded meeting of the Defence Ministry Board at the National Defence Control Centre in Moscow, Russia December 19, 2023. 

Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik | Reuters

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed Tuesday that Ukraine had lost 444,000 servicemen since the start of the war, or Russia’s “special military operation, as it describes its invasion of Ukraine.

“As a result of the decisive and active actions of our military personnel, the combat potential of the Ukrainian armed forces is decreasing. On average, since the beginning of the year, the enemy has been losing more than 800 personnel and 120 units of various weapons, including foreign-made ones, every day,” Shoigu claimed Tuesday in a speech made to the defense ministry, according to a NBC translation of his comments.

In total, during the operation, the Ukrainian armed forces had lost over 444,000 military personnel, he said, without presenting evidence to back up his comment.

“After the collapse of the counteroffensive, the military command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is trying to use the remaining reserves to stabilize the situation and prevent the collapse of the front,” Shoigu added.

Ukraine is certainly experiencing some setbacks on the battlefield, with the recent loss of Avdiivka and several other settlements to Russian forces in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, in the last week. Russia’s claims that Ukraine has lost over 444,000 personnel is wildly above Ukraine’s admission last weekend that it had lost 31,000 troops in the war so far.

“31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died in this war. Not 300,000 or 150,000, or whatever Putin and his lying circle are saying. But each of these losses is a great loss for us,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at a news conference Sunday.

Russia has been tight-lipped about its own losses since the start of the war although 315,000 Russians are estimated to have been killed or wounded, U.S. defense officials believe.
Ukraine’s military said last weekend that over 411,000 Russian personnel had been killed in the war.

Both Russia and Ukraine tend to exaggerate the losses they’ve inflicted upon each other and accurate figures are not likely to be achieved given the imprecise collection of data during the war.

— Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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