Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Negotiations ‘impossible’ while Zelenskyy in power, Russian official says

Russia’s Deputy Security Council Chairman Dmitry Medvedev on Friday said that negotiations with Ukraine are “impossible” as long as the Kyiv administration of Volodomyr Zelenskyy stays in power, in comments reported by Russian state news agency Tass.

“Everything always ends with negotiations, and this is inevitable, but as long as these people are in power, the situation for Russia will not change in terms of negotiations,” he said, according to a Google translation.

Ukraine has, likewise, previously said negotiations were not possible as long as Vladimir Putin stays at the helm of Russian leadership. Zelenskyy nevertheless presented a 10-point peace plan proposal to G20 leaders on Nov. 15.

Global powers — including close Russia trade partner China — have vied for a chance to mediate in the conflict.

Russia carried out intense overnight drone and missile attack, Ukrainian officials say

The Ukrainian air force said 10 missiles, 23 Iran-made Shahed drones and two reconnaissance drones were shot in an overnight attack by Russia, focused on the eastern parts of the country.

The strike began around 10:00 p.m. local time on May 25 and lasted until 5:00 a.m. on May 26, the Ukrainian air force said on Telegram, adding that several of Moscow’s attack hit targets in the regions of Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk.

Serhiy Lysak, Dnipropetrovsk regional governor, said on Telegram that it was a difficult night and that Russia had carried out a mass drone and missile incursion, damaging homes and private companies and starting a fire.

Air alert sirens also blared in Kyiv, according to the Kyiv City State Administration.

CNBC could not independently verify the situation on the ground.

Ruxandra Iordache

Russian official says Moscow to consider preemptive strike if Ukraine receives nuclear weapons

Russia will need to launch a preemptive strike if Ukraine is supplied with Western nuclear weapons, said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council.

“There are some irreversible rules of war. If it comes to [deliveries of] nuclear weapons [to Ukraine], a pre-emptive strike will have to be carried out,” he said, in comments carried by Russian state news agency Tass. He admitted that it was possible that NATO countries will provide Kyiv with warplanes and nuclear arsenal to assist Ukraine in hostilities against Russia.

Western powers have attempted to limit the risk of a nuclear escalation throughout the conflict — whether intentional or through negligent fire around nuclear facility sites, such as Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia plant.

Ruxandra Iordache

Russia moved ahead with plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signaled that Russia has moved ahead with plans to deploy Russian tactical nuclear weapons on Belarus’ territory, leaving open the possibility that some equipment may have already reached the country.

According to Belarus’ state news agency Belta, Lukashenko said he and his counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the topic ahead of the Eurasian Economic Forum that took place in Moscow from May 24-25.

“He told me he had signed a decree on our actions concerning the deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus. I mean a concrete document was discussed. A decision had been made in furtherance of a verbal discussion,” Lukashenko said.

“We had to prepare storage facilities and the rest over there [in Belarus]. We’ve done all of that. This is why the relocation of nuclear munitions began.”

When asked if Russian nuclear warheads were already present in Belarus, he said, “Maybe. I will go and take a look.”

Russia’s intention to station tactical nuclear weapons on Belarusian ground was announced on March 25. Washington has denounced the plan.

Ruxandra Iordache

Russia summons ambassadors over Nord Stream investigations

Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors of Germany, Denmark and Sweden to “strongly” protest against what it saw as a “complete lack of results” of their investigations into the causes of explosions that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines last September.

The ministry said in a statement that it had summoned the officials due to what Russia saw as their countries’ “inability to ensure transparency investigative actions.”

Germany, Denmark and Sweden launched their own investigations into what happened to the gas pipelines, which span the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, but said they were exchanging information. Russia has repeatedly asked for its own experts to be part of the investigations into explosions that severely damaged the pipeline. But Moscow has been rebuffed, a decision it has called “unthinkable.”

Investigators in Europe believe the pipelines were sabotaged but said it is difficult to establish and confirm exactly who carried out the attacks and whether it was a state-sponsored group or not and no definitive conclusions have been published yet. Kyiv denied any involvement in the incidents.

Gas emanating from a leak on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea on Sept. 27, 2022.

Swedish Coast Guard | Getty Images

On Thursday, the Russian foreign ministry again lambasted “the refusal of the authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany, Denmark and Sweden to cooperate with the Russian side in this case” and accused them of “clearly dragging out time and trying to hide the traces and true perpetrators of the crime, which, as we think, are well-known countries.” 

Russia said it would continue to press the countries’ authorities to “conduct an objective comprehensive investigation of sabotage on the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines with the obligatory involvement of Russia.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian soldiers replacing Wagner mercenaries in Bakhmut, official says

Smoke rises from buildings in this aerial view of Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battles with Russian troops, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on April 26, 2023.

Libkos | AP

Ukraine said Russian soldiers are replacing Wagner Group mercenary fighters who have begun to withdraw from Bakhmut in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

“In the suburbs of Bakhmut, the enemy replaced Wagner’s units with army regular units. At the moment, the Wagnerites remain in the city of Bakhmut,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Telegram Thursday.

She said Ukraine’s forces still controlled the southwestern outskirts of the town but that Russian forces were trying to stop Ukraine’s advances on its flanks and were “pulling up additional units to the flanks for reinforcement.”

The head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said earlier Thursday that his fighters were already starting to withdraw from Bakhmut, where they’ve been fighting for months. Prigozhin said the withdrawal process would take several days.

“Before June 1, most of the units are rebasing to rear camps, handing over to the military, ammunitions, positions, everything, including dry rations,” he said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian mercenaries begin withdrawal from Bakhmut

The entrance of the “PMC Wagner Centre,” associated with Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, during the official opening of the office block on National Unity Day, in St. Petersburg, on Nov. 4, 2022.

Olga Maltseva | AFP | Getty Images

The head of Russian private military company, the Wagner Group, said his fighters are beginning to withdraw from Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

Yevgeny Prigozhin said that the Wagner Group had fully captured Bakhmut in the heavily contested Donetsk region last weekend, adding that it would hand the town over to the regular Russian army units around May 25.

“PMC ‘Wagner’ began the withdrawal of units from Bakhmut,” a message posted on Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Concord Group Telegram channel said.

“We’re withdrawing our units from Bakhmut today, now it’s 5am, 25 May, “Prigozhin said, although NBC was unable to verify if the footage had been filmed in Bakhmut.

“Before June 1, most of the units are rebasing to rear camps, handing over to the military, ammunitions, positions, everything, including dry rations,” Prigozhin added, according to an NBC translation. He said his forces would have a “new objective” after having a rest following prolonged fighting in Bakhmut.

Ukraine has denied it has lost Bakhmut, with defense officials saying their forces still control a southwestern part of the town and have made progress in their bid to take back control of the flanks of the town to the north and south.

— Holly Ellyatt

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