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Live updates: Russian troops ready to advance in Donetsk, official says; U.S. responds to recent airbase strikes

The war shows no signs of slowing down with heavy missile attacks continuing overnight in the south and east of the country.

The latest wave of strikes comes after three Russian airbases experienced attacks this week. Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the attacks, some of which have been located hundreds of miles within Russia.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that Washington has neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia but said the U.S. is determined to ensure Kyiv has the equipment it needs to defend itself.

Pro-Russian official Denis Pushilin, the acting head of the separatist “Donetsk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine, told Russian state media Tuesday that Russian troops are in a position to advance in Donetsk, arguably the most hotly-contested region in the Ukraine war at the moment.

Fighting there has descended into bloody trench warfare with fierce battles over local settlements as Russian troops attempt to encircle and capture Bakhmut and Ukrainian forces try to hold them back.

Pro-Russian official claims conditions are ripe for the capturing of Bakhmut

Pro-Russian official Denis Pushilin, the acting head of the separatist “Donetsk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine, has claimed that Russian forces in the region — arguably the most hotly-contested region in the Ukraine war at the moment — could soon be in a position to advance and capture Bakhmut.

Denis Pushilin (C), leader of the separatists in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) arrives to deliver a press conference in Donetsk, on April 11, 2022.
Alexander Nemenov | AFP | Getty Images

Pushilin told the TASS news agency that the “liberation” of Mayorsk near Horlivka, just to the south of Bakhmut, “created the prerequisites for advancing to Dzerzhinsk [known as ‘Toretsk’ in Ukrainian] and the subsequent encirclement of Artemovsk” — the Russian name for Bakhmut.

He said units of the Russian state-sanctioned private military company, the Wagner Group, were working “in Bakhmut” and were seeing “certain successes,” echoing comments by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu who said on Tuesday that a number of settlements near Bakhmut had come under the control of the Russian armed forces.

Fighting in Donetsk has descended into bloody trench warfare in recent months with fierce battles over every mile of territory and settlement surrounding Bakhmut.

Russia is believed to see the city as a key target, believing that capturing it will enable it to sever Ukrainian supply lines and allow its forces to advance toward Sloviansk and Kramatorsk to the north of Bakhmut.

CNBC was unable to verify Pushilin’s claims. The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Wednesday morning that Russian forces continued to focus their efforts on “conducting offensive operations” in the area around Bakhmut.

It’s not the first time that Pushilin has claimed that Bakhmut is close to encirclement, having said the same thing last week. Ukraine vehemently denies it is even close to being semi-encircled, with one official telling CNBC that Russia is seeing masses of personnel losses in the area, and little gains, although the official admitted the fighting was intense.

— Holly Ellyatt

Blinken says U.S. neither encourages nor enables Ukraine to strike inside Russia

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken attends the Freedom of Expression Roundtable, in New York, U.S., September 19, 2022. 
Craig Ruttle | Reuters

The United States has neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, but repeated Washington’s determination to make sure Kyiv has the equipment it needs to defend itself.

A third Russian airfield was ablaze from a drone strike, a day after Ukraine demonstrated an apparent new ability to penetrate hundreds of miles (km) deep into Russian airspace with attacks on two Russian air bases. Kyiv did not directly claim responsibility for the strikes, but nonetheless celebrated them.

— Reuters

At U.N., U.S., Russia accuse each other of no interest in Ukraine talks

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia addresses journalists regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., April 4, 2022. 
Andrew Kelly | Reuters

The United States and Russia accused each other of not being interested in Ukraine peace talks as calls grow at the United Nations for a ceasefire and diplomacy to end the war started by Moscow’s invasion nine months ago.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told a U.N. Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine that Moscow had noted “interest from a significant majority” of U.N. member states in a diplomatic settlement.

“We are reacting to this very seriously. We confirm our willingness to conduct negotiations,” he said, but added that the aim would be to “eradicate the root causes that forced us to start our special military operation (SMO).”

— Reuters

Turkey says Finland must end arms embargo to join NATO

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a press conference with in Istanbul, Türkiye, on Nov. 3, 2022.
Shadati | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Finland must publicly declare that it’s lifting an arms embargo on Turkey to win Ankara’s approval for its membership to NATO, the Turkish foreign minister said.

Mevlut Cavusoglu made the comments ahead of visit by Finland’s Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen, who will be discussing his nation’s bid to join the military alliance with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Thursday.

“The Finnish defense minister’s visit to Turkey is important because we have not yet heard a statement from Finland saying they’ve lifted their arms embargo against us,” Cavusoglu told reporters. “We’re expecting such a statement from there.”

Sweden and Finland abandoned their longstanding policies of military nonalignment and applied for membership in the alliance after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, amid concerns that Russia might target them next.

— Associated Press

Hungary vetoes 18 billion euro EU aid package for Ukraine

Hungary vetoed an 18 billion euro ($18.9 billion) EU aid package for Ukraine, meaning it cannot go forward and the European Commission will have to find other ways to continue providing aid to Ukraine into 2023.

“Orban is going into full escalation,” a Green Party member of the European Parliament tweeted in response to the news.

The move is seen as a way for Hungarian President Viktor Orban, a longtime ally of Putin, to force the EU into giving Hungary its share of recovery funds, some of which have been blocked by the EU because of breaches of the bloc’s laws.

The European Commission will now examine ways to “provide the necessary solution to Ukraine already as of January,” EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn said.

Czech Finance Minister Zbynek Stanjura said he asked his EU colleagues to work toward “a solution supported by 26 member states” that could bypass Hungary’s veto.

“We were not able to adopt the package as a whole but we will not be discouraged,” Stanjura said. “Our ambition remains that we will start disbursements to Ukraine in January.”

— Natasha Turak

Kremlin says no prospect for peace talks with Ukraine at the moment

Moscow says it agrees with the U.S. in that lasting peace is needed in Ukraine, but that it sees no prospect for talks in that direction at the present time.

“That the outcome should be a just and durable peace, one can agree with this,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told press, in reference to remarks U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made on Monday. Blinken said that the Ukraine war “would end almost certainly with diplomacy” and that a “just and durable peace” was essential.

“But as for the prospects for some sort of negotiations, we do not see any at the moment,” Peskov said.

He added that for talks to take place, Russia would need to have completed the objectives of its “special military operation,” the term the Kremlin has used since February to describe its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

— Natasha Turak

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