Ukraine war live updates: Moscow's defeat a matter of life or death for democracy, Kyiv says; Russia strikes Ukrainian capital

European Union leaders will on Thursday discuss a plan to use billions of euros in profits from frozen Russian financial assets to buy arms for Ukraine as they try to bolster Kyiv in its fight against Moscow’s invasion.

The bloc’s 27 national leaders will also debate how Europe can do more to defend itself and boost its arms industry, reflecting fears that Russia may not stop at Ukraine and the U.S. may not be such a staunch protector of Europe in future.

“For decades, Europe has not invested enough in its security and defence,” Charles Michel, president of the European Council of EU leaders, wrote in his invitation letter for the summit.

“Now that we are facing the biggest security threat since the Second World War, it is high time we take radical and concrete steps to be defence-ready and put the EU’s economy on a ‘war footing’.”

In a two-day summit in Brussels due to start at 1200 GMT on Thursday, the EU leaders will also tackle topics as diverse as the war in Gaza, the prospect of opening membership talks with Bosnia and farmers’ protests. But Ukraine will top the agenda, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy joining the leaders via video link.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s president, right, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, depart a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday, May 9, 2023.

Andrew Kravchenko | Bloomberg | Getty Images

EU leaders have voiced increasing alarm about the state of the war in recent weeks, with ammunition-starved Ukrainian forces struggling to hold back Russian troops and a $60 billion military aid package for Kyiv stuck in the U.S. Congress.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, this week proposed taking profits from Russian assets frozen in Europe after Moscow’s invasion and transferring some 90% to an EU-run fund used to finance arms for Kyiv. The Commission estimated the profits on the assets – various Russian central bank securities and cash – could be between 2.5 billion euros ($2.73 billion) and 3 billion euros per year.

Russia on Wednesday described the EU plan as banditism and theft.

— Reuters

Russia’s defeat in the war is a matter of life and death for democracy, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

“We have to be resilient against various challenges, we have to be long-range to defeat Putin, and not be in a situation where doubts about the strength of the West help this madman,” the president said Wednesday night.

“Putin must lose and this is a matter of life and death for the democratic world. When he loses, the democratic world will have a good perspective for generations to come,” he added.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 12, 2024. 

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Zelenskyy said he’d met earlier with Jake Sullivan, the U.S.’ national security advisor, with the officials having a “very meaningful, very specific conversation about defense cooperation and about the joint political results that we have to achieve.”

During his trip to Kyiv, Sullivan said that a major U.S. aid package worth $60 billion that has been blocked by Republicans for months would “get to Ukraine,” Reuters reported.

— Holly Ellyatt

Firefighters try to extinguish the fire after a fire broke out residential buildings and conduct search and rescue operations after Russian attacks in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 21, 2024. 

Ukraine State Emergency Service/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

Explosions have been reported in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv overnight, with city officials stating that a missile attack is now known to have injured at least 12 people.

Missile fragments fell on a kindergarten in one part of the city, and several industrial and residential buildings were damaged in other parts of the capital. Falling missile fragments, shot down by Ukrainian air defenses, set cars on fire in another district. A fire was reported at a transformer substation and in a two-story non-residential building in the Podilskyi district as a result of falling missile debris.

“The number of victims increased to ten. Two of them were hospitalized. Others were treated by medics on the spot. In particular, six people were injured in the Shevchenkiv district of the capital. Four [were injured] in Svyatoshynsk,” Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said on Telegram.

Firefighters try to extinguish the fire after a fire broke out residential buildings and conduct search and rescue operations after Russian attacks in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 21, 2024. 

Ukraine State Emergency Service/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv regional military administration, said the number of injured people has since risen to 12.

Official information from Ukraine’s air force suggested, he said, that Russia had launched ballistic and cruise missiles against the city but that all 31 missiles had been shot down over the city. He posted images on his Telegram account showing burned-out cars, craters in the ground and damaged buildings. CNBC was not able to verify all the information in the officials’ posts.

— Holly Ellyatt

At least five people were killed and more were injured in Ukraine’s Kharkiv on Wednesday as a fire broke out in an industrial building following Russian shelling in the area. Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional state administration, shared the figures on Telegram.

CNBC was not able to independently verify the report.

Pictures published via Getty Images showed the aftermath of the missile attack.

On the afternoon of March 20, 2023, Russia launched a missile attack on Kharkiv, damaging a civil production building.

Pavlo Pakhomenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images

This photograph taken on March 20, 2024 shows the burning industrial facility following a missile attack in Kharkiv, amid the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Sergey Bobok | Afp | Getty Images

On the afternoon of March 20, 2023, Russia launched a missile attack on Kharkiv, damaging a civil production building.

Pavlo Pakhomenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskiy (R) meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) as he attend G7 Leaders’s Summit in Hiroshima, Japan on May 20, 2023. 

Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday said he discussed Ukraine’s peace formula and bilateral relations with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a post on social media platform X, Zelenskyy said he expressed his gratitude for India being supportive of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, humanitarian aid and meetings about the peace formula.

“It will be important for us to see India attend the inaugural Peace Summit, which is currently being prepared in Switzerland,” he said.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskiy (R) meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) as he attend G7 Leaders’s Summit in Hiroshima, Japan on May 20, 2023. 

Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu | Getty Images

Zelenskyy said Ukraine was keen to develop its trade and economic relationship with India.

“Ukraine is interested in strengthening our trade and economic ties with India, particularly in agricultural exports, aviation cooperation, and pharmaceutical and industrial product trade,” he said.

It comes just hours after Russian media reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin and India’s Modi discussed Ukraine, as well as their own trade relations which have remained close throughout the war.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Radoslaw Sikorski, Foreign Minister of Poland, gestures during an interview with journalists from the German Press Agency. 

Kay Nietfeld | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Ukraine succeeding against Russia in the war has become a question of U.S. credibility, Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, told CNBC.

“The success of Ukraine is now a matter of U.S. credibility. And if U.S. support for Ukraine were to stop, I think U.S. allies around the world would notice and would start hedging,” he told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick Tuesday.

Aid for Ukraine has become a highly contested topic among U.S. lawmakers in recent months, with an aid package that would see around $61 billion worth of support for the country currently being stuck in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Read the full story here.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Russia shot down 419 Ukrainian drones and 67 missiles during the presidential election that took place last weekend, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday.

“During the election events, 419 unmanned aerial vehicles and 67 missiles were shot down,” Shoigu said at a ministry meeting, news agency Interfax reported. Shoigu did not present evidence to support his claims.

“To prevent terrorist attacks, Russian troops have strengthened the security of government and social facilities and strengthened the air defense system,” Shoigu said.

Residents of Avdiivka, who now stay in a temporary accommodation centre, vote at a polling station during the Russia’s presidential election, in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in the town of Kirovske in the Donetsk region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, March 15, 2024. 

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Shoigu accused Ukraine of trying to disrupt voting by targeting sites where polls were taking place from Friday to Sunday. Russian media reports said there had been several instances in which Ukrainian drones targeted polling stations in partially-occupied regions in Ukraine, including Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

Russia declared that it had annexed the regions in Sept. 2022, along with Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. It has since made efforts to “Russify” the regions, including by handing out Russian passports and holding elections there. Ukraine and its allies have said such moves are illegal.

— Holly Ellyatt

Lloyd Austin, US Secretary of Defense, speaks at the final press conference after the US-led Ukraine Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base. 

Uwe Anspach | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Ukraine’s survival is at stake amid an ongoing funding impasse in the U.S. Congress, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned Tuesday. He said additional aid for Ukraine was a matter of “honor” for the United States.

“Today, Ukraine’s survival is in danger and America’s security is at risk. They don’t have a day to waste, and we don’t have a day to spare either,” Austin said at a press conference after a meeting of the Ukraine defense contact group meeting at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Tuesday, with representatives from Ukraine and around 50 allied countries attending.

“I leave here today fully determined to keep U.S. security assistance and ammunition flowing. And that’s a matter of survival and sovereignty for Ukraine. And it’s a matter of honor and security for America. And make no mistake, Putin is watching. The world is watching and history is watching,” Austin said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and General Charles Q. Brown Junior talk to the media at the seventh gathering of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group at Ramstein air base on March 19, 2024 in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany.

Thomas Niedermueller | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Speaking to CNBC separately Tuesday, Poland’s foreign minister called on America to act, warning that the success of Ukraine in the war against Russia was now a matter of U.S. credibility.

“We wouldn’t be on the backfoot if the American supplemental came through, and I again, appeal to Speaker Johnson to let it go to the vote. And let democracy take its course,” Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told CNBC Tuesday.

— Holly Ellyatt

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual end-of-year press conference and the Direct Line question and answer session, at Gostiny Dvor Exhibition Centre in Moscow, Russia December 14, 2023. 

Sputnik | Via Reuters

The Kremlin criticized on Wednesday the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban Russians from the opening parade of the Paris Olympics this summer.

“We perceive this negatively. Of course, this is the destruction of the ideas of Olympism, this is an infringement of the interests of athletes, Olympians. Of course, this is absolutely contrary to the entire ideology of the Olympic movement. This does not look good on the IOC,” Peskov told reporters, news agency Interfax reported Wednesday.

Olympic Rings are seen in front of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters on December 5, 2017 in Pully near Lausanne.  


The IOC announced on Tuesday that Russian and Belarusian athletes, who are competing in the Olympic Games in late July-early August as neutral competitors, will not be allowed to participate in the opening ceremony of the competition.

In a statement, the IOC said “an opportunity will be provided for them to experience the event” but did not provide further details. It said it has not yet made a decision regarding participation in the closing ceremony.

Min Maddison

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