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Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

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U.S. probes firm linked with Russian oligarch Abramovich over hedge fund investments

Former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich looks on from the stands during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on April 16, 2016 in London, England. Abramovich announced on in March 2022 that he was selling the club due to the ongoing situation in Ukraine. The UK government froze Abramovich’s assets there days later due to his “close ties with (the) Kremlin.”

Paul Gilham | Getty Images

U.S. authorities are investigating investment advisory firm Concord Management, which oversaw hedge fund investments worth billions of dollars for Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The investigation, being conducted by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is partly focused on how Abramovich’s associates used several offshore shell companies to invest $8 billion in hedge funds and private equity firms, the report added, citing people close to the firm.

Abramovich is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s allies and has been sanctioned by nations across the world over his support of Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

— Reuters

State Department to provide $89 million to help clear land mines in Ukraine

Ukrainian bomb disposal workers carry unexploded ordnance during mine clearance work in the village of Yahidne, in the liberated territories of the Chernihiv region on June 7, 2022 amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

The State Department will provide $89 million to help clear land mines, improvised explosive devices and unexploded ordinances in Ukraine.

“Russia’s forces have used explosive munitions in an irresponsible and brutal manner, causing civilian casualties extensive harm to vital civilian infrastructure and contaminating a massive amount of Ukraine’s territory with unexploded ordnance and landlines,” a State Department official told NBC News.

The official added that Ukrainian authorities have found Russian booby traps and improvised explosive devices hidden in cars, toys and in dead bodies.

The official told NBC News that an area of approximately 160,000 square kilometers may be contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordinance.

— Amanda Macias

Approximately 2,200 education facilities have been damaged, Ukraine says

A destroyed classroom inside a school damaged by shelling russian army in the Kukhari village, Ukraine, Kyiv area, Ukraine, April 16, 2022.

Maxym Marusenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images

The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine said that approximately 2,200 education facilities have been damaged across Ukraine since Russia’s war began.

The ministry estimates that about 220 education facilities have been destroyed. The assessment comes as parts of Ukraine look to reopen the academic year next month.

“Due to ongoing hostilities, a back-to-learning campaign for the new academic year and university admissions may not be possible. In addition, if students continue to rely on online learning, additional equipment and services will likely be required,” the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs wrote in a statement.

— Amanda Macias

Biden ratifies Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids

US President Joe Biden, center, welcomes Sauli Niinisto, Finland’s president, left, and Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s prime minister, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., US, on Thursday, May 19, 2022.

Oliver Contreras | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Joe Biden signed ratification documents bringing Finland and Sweden one step closer to joining the NATO alliance.

“They will meet every NATO requirement, we are confident of that,” Biden said before signing the documents.

Biden’s signature follows a 95 to 1 Senate vote last week.

Following the U.S., the governments of the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey still have yet to sign the instruments of ratification. All 30 NATO allies must approve Finland and Sweden’s ascension to the alliance.

— Amanda Macias

At least 366 Ukrainian health-care facilities have been attacked since war started, WHO says

A couple wounded in a shopping mall hit by a Russian missile strike hold hands in a hospital as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kremenchuk, in Poltava region, Ukraine June 27, 2022.

Anna Voitenko | Reuters

Since the Kremlin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the World Health Organization’s Surveillance System for Attacks on Health Care estimates that there have been at least 434 attacks on vital health services in the country.

The organization reports that health care facilities were damaged 366 times, ambulances were targeted in 65 cases and at least 104 attacks affected crucial medical supplies. The group also estimated that attacks on health services led to at least 85 deaths and 101 injuries.

The Kremlin has previously denied that it targets civilian infrastructure like hospitals, schools and apartment buildings.

— Amanda Macias

Biden to sign Finland and Sweden ratification to join NATO

U.S. President Joe Biden walks with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto (left) and Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson along the Rose Garden colonnade before making statements to the press at the White House on May 19, 2022.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images News | Getty Images

U.S. President Joe Biden is set to sign the instruments of ratification for Finland and Sweden to join the NATO alliance at 2 p.m. ET.

Last week, the Senate voted 95 to 1 to ratify Finland and Sweden’s entrance into the military group.

In May, both nations began the formal process of applying to NATO.

Biden welcomed leaders from both countries to the White House and pledged to work with the Senate — which has to sign off on U.S. approval of NATO bids — and the other 29 members of the world’s most powerful military alliance to swiftly bring Sweden and Finland into the group.

— Amanda Macias

Russia has lost between 70,000 and 80,000 troops since start of invasion, Pentagon says

Service members of pro-Russian troops stand guard on a road before the expected evacuation of wounded Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged Azovstal steel mill in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in Mariupol, Ukraine May 16, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

The Pentagon estimates that Russia’s military has suffered between 70,000 and 80,000 casualties since the invasion of Ukraine began in late February.

The rare estimate shared by the Pentagon’s third-highest official comes as the U.S. prepares its largest security assistance package for Ukraine. Casualties include soldiers who were killed or injured.

On Monday, the Biden administration announced a $1 billion weapons package, the 18th such installment, bringing U.S. commitment to about $9.8 billion since the start of the war.

— Amanda Macias

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Milley meets French counterpart in Germany

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley speaks with members of the military before the Medal of Honor ceremony for US Army Sergeant Major Thomas Payne for conspicuous gallantry while serving in Iraq, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on September 11, 2020.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley met with the Pentagon’s top general overseeing Europe during a visit to Germany.

The two also met with French Chief of the Defense Staff Gen. Thierry Burkhard and “discussed items of mutual interest and shared assessments regarding the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine,” according to a Pentagon readout of the meeting.

“The long-standing alliance between the U.S. and French militaries plays a critical role in maintaining peace and stability in Europe and other regions around the world,” the readout added.

The meeting between Milley, U.S. European Command Gen. Christopher Cavoli and Burkhard comes as the U.S. readies its 18th weapons package for Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

U.K. says it has donated more than 100,000 Covid shots to Ukraine

There hasn’t been enough research on how much protection a fourth dose can offer, medical professionals told CNBC.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

The British Embassy in Ukraine said that it has donated 100,800 Covid shots vaccines to the war-weary country.

“We’re protecting those most in need by ensuring Ukrainians impacted by Russia’s invasion are able to access essential healthcare and get vital vaccinations,” the British Embassy wrote in a statement.

— Amanda Macias

U.S. imposes visa restrictions on 100 people affiliated with Putin-ally Lukashenka

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia September 9, 2021.

Mikhail Voskresensky | Kremlin Sputnik | via Reuters

The State Department is imposing visa restrictions on 100 people affiliated with the Alexander Lukashenka regime for their involvement in undermining the presidential election in Belarus in 2020.

Lukashenka, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has previously said that Belarus would support Russian forces amid the Kremlin’s so-called special military operation in Ukraine.

“When it was clear the election had been stolen by the Lukashenka regime, the Belarusian people bravely took to the streets, with reports of hundreds of thousands of people amassing to peacefully demand free and fair elections and a democratic transition,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in a statement.

— Amanda Macias

March was the deadliest month of Russia’s war in Ukraine, UN says

People stand amid newly-made graves at a cemetery in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the settlement of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol, Ukraine May 22, 2022. 

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner said that March was so far the deadliest month in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

There were more than 3,100 civilian casualties and 2,400 injuries due to the conflict in March, according to data compiled by the UN.

Total civilian casualties from 24 February to 31 July 2022 as compiled by the United Nations.

U.N. Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner

In total, the United Nations has confirmed 5,401 civilian deaths and 7,466 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects, including shelling from heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, missiles and air strikes,” the UN office wrote in a report.

The human rights office added that the majority of casualties and injuries were reported in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

— Amanda Macias

Chairman Milley meets with Arctic Chiefs amid Russia’s absence

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense in Washington, U.S., May 3, 2022. 

Win McNamee | Reuters

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley met with his counterparts from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden at the Arctic Chiefs of Defense meeting on Monday.

“The military leaders discussed lessons learned from ongoing Arctic operations, cooperation between nations and the shared commitment to the international rules-based order,” according to a Pentagon readout of the meeting.

“In coordination with allies and partners, the U.S. seeks to preserve the Arctic region as a space free of conflict, where nations act responsibly and where economic and energy resources are developed in a sustainable, transparent manner,” the readout added.

A meeting of the Arctic Council was postponed earlier this year due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia was previously slated to chair the international forum until 2023.

Earlier this year the Arctic Council’s seven other member countries – Canada, Finland, Denmark, the United States, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – agreed to boycott any meetings in Russia.

— Amanda Macias

‘Autocracy is on the march around the world,’ Secretary Austin warns

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin holds a news conference with U.S. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact group at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 15, 2022.

Yves Herman | Reuters

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin slammed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and warned that “autocracy is on the march around the world.”

“A military exists to serve its people and not the other way around. Militaries must play their legitimate role. That means defending human rights and protecting the rule of law, not toppling civilian governments or wallowing in corruption,” Austin said during a change of command ceremony in Germany.

“That’s especially important now when autocracy is on the march around the world,” he said, adding that Moscow has shown its willingness “to sow chaos and threaten the rules-based international order.”

— Amanda Macias

More than 10 million people have now fled Ukraine

A Ukrainian boy walks past temporary beds at a refugee center in Warsaw on April 19.

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

More than 10.5 million people have crossed Ukraine’s border and left the country since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, said.

Most are now elsewhere in eastern and central Europe, with Poland, Russia, Romania, Moldova, Hungary and Slovakia taking in some of the largest numbers of refugees.

Moscow says it has taken in many Ukrainians and claims none of the arrivals were forced, though Ukrainian and Western officials as well as some activist groups say that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, including children, were forcibly deported and taken into Russia against their will.

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine reports heavy Russian shelling in frontline cities

Pisky, a village on the outskirts of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, has been seized by pro-Russian forces, according to Russian state news agency Tass.

Gaelle Girbes | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukrainian officials reported heavy shelling across frontline towns in the country’s eastern Donbas region, particularly in Donetsk.

“The situation in the region is tense – shelling is constant throughout the front line … The enemy is also using air strikes a great deal,” Pavlo Kyrylenko, the regional governor of Donetsk, was quoted by The Guardian as saying on Ukrainian television. “The enemy is having no success. Donetsk region is holding.”

Russian forces have taken a majority of the Donbas region, including essentially all of Luhansk and roughly half of Donetsk, according to analysts and officials. They have seen success in their assault toward the eastern town of Bakhmut, the U.K.’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday, but have made relatively slow territorial gains elsewhere in the Donbas in the last 30 days.

— Natasha Turak

Russia halts U.S. inspections of its nuclear arsenal

Moscow announced the suspension of a setup that enabled Russian and American experts to inspect each other’s nuclear weapons facilities, which had been agreed upon as part of the 2010 New START treaty.

The mutual inspections had initially been suspended over safety precautions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Russia now says that U.S. sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine are the reason, as they prevented Russian inspectors from traveling to the U.S.

“There are no similar obstacles to the arrival of American inspectors in Russia,” a statement from Russia’s foreign ministry said. “The Russian Foreign Ministry raised this issue with the relevant countries, but did not receive an answer.”

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said: “The United States is committed to implementation of the New Start Treaty, but we keep discussions between the parties concerning treaty implementation confidential.”

Analysts say the decision to stop U.S. inspectors from traveling to Russia is a major blow to arms control efforts.

— Natasha Turak

Zelenskyy urges Western countries to ban all Russian citizens from entry

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is urging Western countries to ban entry for all Russians, as part of his call for broader sanctions on the country.

Zelenskyy called for the ban in an interview with The Washington Post, saying borders should be closed to Russians because they “are taking away someone else’s land.” He added that Russians should “live in their own world until they change their philosophy.”

Large numbers of Russians have left their country since the invasion of Ukraine began; some to escape the effects of sanctions, and some out of opposition to the war and fear of Moscow’s crackdown on dissent. Specific numbers of those who have fled Russia are not available, but estimates have placed the figure in the high hundreds of thousands, if not higher.

In this photo illustration, a screen showing president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech before the members of the international tribunal in The Hague. He accused the Russian authorities of war crimes and international terrorism.

Igor Golovniov | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Several Western countries offer asylum for Russian dissidents including journalists and activists, and asylum applications have soared since the war began. While North American and much of European airspace has been closed to Russian aircraft, Russian citizens can still apply for visas to any of those countries.

Moscow dismissed Zelenskyy’s demand as irrational, with the Kremlin saying that any attempts to isolate Russians will be futile and that Europe must decide whether it has to pay for Zelenskyy’s “whims.”

— Natasha Turak

Russia is stripping airplanes for parts amid sanctions-induced shortage

Aeroflot Russian Airlines and Rossiya Airlines jet aircrafts at Moscow-Sheremetyevo International Airport.

Leonid Faerberg | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Russia has started stripping jetliners of spare parts they can no longer obtain from overseas due to Western sanctions, Reuters reported, citing several anonymous sources.

The majority of Russia’s jetliner fleet is made up of Western passenger planes, and one fairly new Airbus 350 as well as a Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 are already being dismantled, Reuters wrote.

Sanctions imposed by Western countries after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February have cut many of Russia’s business links to the countries it previously traded with, and have prevented its airlines from being able to get maintenance and spare parts in the West.

— Natasha Turak

Russia launches Iranian satellite into space via Kazakhstan

A Soyuz-2.1b rocket booster with the Iranian satellite “Khayyam” blasts off from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan August 9, 2022, in this still image taken from video. 

Roscosmos | Reuters

Russia launched an Iranian Khayyam satellite into orbit from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which it operates. Some Western officials suspect that Moscow will use it to aid in its efforts for the war in Ukraine before allowing Iran to fully control it.

Tehran has rejected such assertions, and Iran’s space agency over the weekend said that Iran would be in charge of the satellite “from day one.”

The launch comes about three weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran.

— Natasha Turak

More ships carrying grain depart Ukraine, Turkish defense ministry says

An aerial view of the Turkish-flagged ship “Polarnet” carrying grain from Ukraine is seen at the Derince Port, Kocaeli, Turkiye on August 08, 2022. 

Omer Faruk Cebeci | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Two more ships carrying grain have left the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk, Turkey’s defense ministry said, in an incremental continuation of a deal brokered by Ankara to lift the Russian blockade on Ukraine’s ports.

One of the ships, which set sail for South Korea, is carrying 64,720 tons of corn, while the other is transporting 5,300 tons of sunflower meal to Istanbul, the defense ministry said, according to Reuters.

Four other vessels departed Ukraine in previous days and are anchored close to Istanbul awaiting inspection, the ministry added.

— Natasha Turak

Russia makes incremental gains in the Donbas, Britain’s defense ministry says

Russian forces continue to gain ground in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, though more slowly than likely planned, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence wrote in its daily intelligence update on Twitter.

“Over the last 30 days, Russia’s assault towards the town of Bakhmut has been its most successful axis in the Donbas; however, Russia has only managed to advance about 10km during this time,” it wrote.

“In other Donbas sectors where Russia was attempting to break through, its forces have not gained more than 3km during this 30 day period; almost certainly significantly less than planned,” the ministry added.

Russian and pro-Russian forces currently occupy the majority of the Donbas region.

— Natasha Turak

No indications of increased or abnormal radiation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, U.S. official says

A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine August 4, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

The U.S. has seen no indications of increased or abnormal radiation from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant following Russian missile strikes near the facility, a White House National Security Council official told NBC News.

The U.S. Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration are monitoring radiation sensors at the Zaporizhzhia facility, the official added.

“Fighting near a nuclear plant is dangerous, and we continue to call on Russia to cease all military operations at or near Ukrainian nuclear facilities and return full control to Ukraine,” the national security official said.

— Amanda Macias

U.S. sends $4.5 billion in budgetary support to Ukraine

Paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, assist with unloading humanitarian goods in support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in preparation of potential evacuees from Ukraine at the G2A Arena in Jasionka, Poland, on Feb. 25, 2022.

Robert Whitlow | U.S. Army via AP

The United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, will provide $4.5 billion in direct budgetary support to the government of Ukraine.

The funds are expected to alleviate Ukraine’s acute budget deficits caused by the Kremlin’s war.

“These funds provided by the United States, through the World Bank, allow the government of Ukraine to maintain essential functions to its people, including social and financial assistance to Ukrainians further pushed into poverty since the start of the war, children with disabilities and internally displaced persons,” wrote the U.S. Agency for International Development in a statement.

The agency wrote that Ukraine would begin receiving the money this month.

— Amanda Macias

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