news

Russian Court Extends Evan Gershkovich's Detention; U.S. Asks for Access to WSJ Reporter

Alexander Nemenov | Afp | Getty Images

This was CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev arrive for a working breakfast of the leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Moscow, Russia May 9, 2023. See here for the latest updates. 

The governor of Russia's Belgorod border region said Tuesday that a "counter-terrorism operation" was ongoing following an armed attack Monday that Russia blamed on Ukraine, calling it the work of "saboteurs."

Kyiv has denied any involvement in the incident, noting that anti-Putin militias known as the "Freedom of Russia" Legion and the "Russian Volunteer Corps" have claimed responsibility for the raid on the district of Grayvoron that lies on the border with Ukraine.

Several people were injured and several houses and a local administrative building were damaged in what Vyacheslav Gladkov, the region's governor, described on Telegram as shelling and drone attacks. One woman died in the evacuation of the district, he said.

Images were also posted on Russian social media channels purportedly showing a plume of smoke after an alleged strike near an FSB security service building in Belgorod, although CNBC and NBC have not been able to verify the footage.

Gladkov said that a "clean-up" operation was being carried out by the Russian Defense Ministry and law enforcement agencies, telling residents of the area that they could not return to their homes yet.

Also on Tuesday, a Russian court extended Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich's detention by three months, a move the U.S. embassay decried.

Ukraine says its working to remove Russian troops from Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

A Russian serviceman guards an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, in southeastern Ukraine, on May 1, 2022.
AP
A Russian serviceman guards an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, in southeastern Ukraine, on May 1, 2022.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on his official Telegram channel that Kyiv is working to remove Russian forces from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

"We are working with all our partners to force Russia to leave the ZNPP and create a demilitarized zone around the plant," according to an NBC News translation.

The nuclear facility, Europe's largest, was seized by Russian forces in the weeks following Russia's full-scale invasion.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, has previously called on Russia and Ukraine to create a demilitarized zone around the facility in order to mitigate a nuclear disaster.

— Amanda Macias

'The more weapons are supplied, the more dangerous the world will be,' Kremlin says of Western support for Ukraine

Dmitry Astakhov | AFP | Getty Images
Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev (seen here with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2020) told Russian media on Thursday that the West's "desire is very simple — to destabilize the political situation, divide the country into several parts that would be large enough, make agreements with each of these parts, denuclearize and demilitarize all of them and then offer its [security] services," state news agency Tass reported.

The Kremlin placed blame on Western governments providing Ukraine with weapons, saying it's contributing to global security instability.

"The more weapons are supplied, the more dangerous the world will be," Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chief of the Russian Security Council, told reporters, according to a TASS report.

"The more destructive these weapons are, the more likely the scenario of what is commonly called a nuclear apocalypse becomes," he added.

Over the weekend, the Biden administration announced its 38th weapons package for Ukraine worth approximately $375 million.

— Amanda Macias

Estonian defense minister calls on allies to accelerate weapons procurement for Ukraine

A member of the Ukrainian special force engages in zeroing his weapon prior to a mission, amid Russia?s attack on Ukraine, in the region of Bakhmut, Ukraine, April 6, 2023. 
Kai Pfaffenbach | Reuters
A member of the Ukrainian special force engages in zeroing his weapon prior to a mission, amid Russia?s attack on Ukraine, in the region of Bakhmut, Ukraine, April 6, 2023. 

Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur galvanized his European Union counterparts to accelerate defense procurements for Ukraine in order to expel Russia's full-scale invasion.

"Military aid to Ukraine – arms, ammunition and training – must continue intensively and we must continue seeking out new opportunities, which also means considerably speeding up defense procurements," Pevkur said before European defense ministers attending a Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, according to an Estonian government release.

"For Ukraine to be able to push Russia out of its territory, military aid must be sustainable," he added.

Pevkur also called for the approval of an eighth weapons package for Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

U.S. Embassy in Moscow calls for regular consular access to detained WSJ reporter

US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his arrest at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on April 18, 2023. 
Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images
US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his arrest at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on April 18, 2023. 

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow slammed a Russian court's decision to extend the pretrial detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich by three months.

The embassy also called for regular consular access to Gershkovich, adding that so far there have been two attempts that were denied.

The most recent incident came last week.

"We reiterate that the claims against him are baseless and call for Mr. Gershkovich's immediate release," the U.S. Embassy in Moscow wrote in a statement.

— Amanda Macias

No ships have sailed under Black Sea grain deal in the past four days

A Ukrainian serviceman stands in front of silos of grain from Odesa Black Sea port, before the shipment of grain as the government of Ukraine awaits signal from UN and Turkey to start grain shipments, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine July 29, 2022. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Nacho Doce | Reuters
A Ukrainian serviceman stands in front of silos of grain from Odesa Black Sea port, before the shipment of grain as the government of Ukraine awaits signal from UN and Turkey to start grain shipments, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine July 29, 2022. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

No ships have left Ukrainian ports for four days following an extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, according to the latest figures provided by the U.N.-backed organization tracking the export activity.

The last ship to leave under the agreement was carrying 6,800 metric tons of wheat and departed Ukraine's port of Chornomorsk for Italy on May 19.

The deal, which reopened three Ukrainian ports and established a humanitarian sea corridor for agricultural exports, was extended last week, one day before it was set to expire.

— Amanda Macias

Nearly 9,000 killed in Ukraine since start of war, UN says

Most graves of people who died in the Kyiv region as a result of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine are mostly unmarked near the city of Brovary, Ukraine, on May 17, 2023.
Maxym Marusenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Most graves of people who died in the Kyiv region as a result of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine are mostly unmarked near the city of Brovary, Ukraine, on May 17, 2023.

The United Nations has confirmed 8,895 civilian deaths and 15,117 injuries in Ukraine since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights added though that the figures in Ukraine could be higher because the armed conflict can delay fatality reporting.

The international organization added that the majority of civilian casualties reported were caused by explosive weapons, shelling and airstrikes with a wide impact area.

— Amanda Macias

Russian court extends detention of Wall Street Journal reporter by three months

US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his arrest at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on April 18, 2023. 
Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images
US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his arrest at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on April 18, 2023. 

A Russian court decided to extend Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich's detention by three months, according to a report from NBC News in Moscow.

Gershkovich, a reporter based in Moscow, was arrested in March by Russian authorities on espionage charges.

The decision from the Lefortovsky District Court of Moscow comes on the heels of a request by Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, to keep Gershkovich detained.

The Biden administration and The Wall Street Journal deny Russian allegations that Gershkovich was operating as a spy in Russia.

— Amanda Macias

An exiled mayor in Ukraine vows to rebuild his city after Russia’s reign of destruction

Vadym Boychenko, mayor of Mariupol, at his office in the city hall of Mariupol, Ukraine, on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.
Christopher Occhicone | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Vadym Boychenko, mayor of Mariupol, at his office in the city hall of Mariupol, Ukraine, on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.

Vadym Boychenko, the exiled Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol, vowed to rebuild his decimated former city as he marked one year on Saturday since it fell to Russian forces.

The seaside city of Mariupol, whose steel industry was once an economic powerhouse for the nation, now lies in ruins following Russia's full-scale invasion last February.

"Mariupol is one of the most destroyed cities in Ukraine today. The occupation forces damaged more than 90% of the city's infrastructure," the mayor, who now lives elsewhere in Ukraine, told CNBC.

"We are working hard to prepare the necessary plans and recovery strategies so that when the city is liberated, we are fully prepared and do not waste time," Boychenko told CNBC.

Read the full story here.

— Amanda Macias

Hungary's Orban says Ukraine cannot win war, calls on Washington to find solution

Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban arrives to the venue on the last day of the NATO Summit in Madrid, Spain on June 30, 2022.
Jakub Porzycki | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban arrives to the venue on the last day of the NATO Summit in Madrid, Spain on June 30, 2022.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban spoke out against continued fighting in Ukraine, claiming that Ukraine itself cannot win the war and that the West needs to step in to end the conflict.

"Looking at the reality, looking at the figures, looking at the surroundings, looking at the fact that NATO is not ready to send troops, it's obvious that there is no victory for poor Ukrainians on the battlefield," Orban said during the Qatar Economic Forum.

"That's my position ... Escalation should be stopped and we should argue in favor of peace and negotiations." He added that the war was the result of a "failure of diplomacy."

The right-wing, populist Orban is on good terms with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has not directly condemned him for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. He has also openly criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, calling him an "opponent" and pushing back against sanctions on Russia and certain European Union aid packages to Ukraine.

"As a state, Ukraine is of course very important but in the longer term, strategically thinking, what is at stake is the future security of Europe," Orban said at the forum.

"It is obvious that, without the United States, there is no security architecture for Europe. And this war cannot be stopped ... unless the Russians can make an agreement with the United States. As a European, I am not happy with that. But it is the only way out."

— Natasha Turak

Pope's envoy for Ukraine slams war as a 'pandemic'

Pope Francis holds the Ukrainian flag that was sent to him from the town of Bucha, where tied bodies of civilians who were shot at close range, a mass grave and other signs of executions were found, during the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, April 6, 2022.
Vatican Media | Reuters
Pope Francis holds the Ukrainian flag that was sent to him from the town of Bucha, where tied bodies of civilians who were shot at close range, a mass grave and other signs of executions were found, during the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, April 6, 2022.

Pope Francis' envoy for Ukraine slammed Russia's war in the country as a "pandemic" that involved everyone, and called on Christians to be peacemakers.

"War is a pandemic. It involves all of us," Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, who was recently named by Pope Francis as peace envoy for Ukraine, said Tuesday. "The church and Christians believe in peace, we are all called to be peacemakers, even more so in the terrible storm of conflicts."

Zuppi called for a response to the "deep anxiety, sometimes unexpressed, often unheard, of peoples who need peace."

The Vatican described Zuppi's role as being on a mission "to help ease tensions in the conflict in Ukraine, in the never-ending hope by the Holy Father, that this can initiate paths of peace." 

Zuppi, the 67-year-old archbishop of Bologna, "helped mediate the 1990s peace deals ending civil wars in Guatemala and Mozambique and headed the commission negotiating a cease-fire in Burundi in 2000," news outlet The Hill reported Tuesday, citing an Italian Catholic charity.

Pope Francis has frequently expressed solidarity with Ukrainians, famously kissing a Ukrainian flag from the ravaged town of Bucha and calling the country's people "martyrs."

— Natasha Turak 

EU's Borrell discusses 'absolutely needed' F-16 fighter jet training for Ukrainian pilots

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet flies past during the second day of Aero India 2023 in Bengaluru on Feb. 14, 2023.
Manjunath Kiran | AFP | Getty Images
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet flies past during the second day of Aero India 2023 in Bengaluru on Feb. 14, 2023.

Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign affairs and security policy chief, said that training of Ukrainian pilots to fly the sophisticated F-16 fighter jets is "absolutely needed," as he spoke with EU defense chiefs about the recent U.S. decision to allow the instruction in NATO member states.

"You know, it's always the same thing, we discuss, at the beginning everybody is reluctant," Borrell said.

"And at the end — with the Leopards, with the F-16 at the end — the decision comes to provide this military support because it is absolutely needed," he said, referencing the powerful German-made Leopard tanks that Kyiv spent many months requesting.

Borrell said that Ukrainian pilots were already being trained on the aircraft in Poland, though Warsaw did not immediately confirm the news. Other countries, including Denmark and the Netherlands, may also begin providing F-16 training to the pilots, Borrell said.

Pro-Ukraine demonstrators protest as they call on U.S. President Joe Biden to send F-16 jets to Ukraine, outside Hotel Marriott where Biden stays during his visit to Poland to mark the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Warsaw, Poland, February 22, 2023.
Aleksandra Szmigiel | Reuters
Pro-Ukraine demonstrators protest as they call on U.S. President Joe Biden to send F-16 jets to Ukraine, outside Hotel Marriott where Biden stays during his visit to Poland to mark the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Warsaw, Poland, February 22, 2023.

Dutch defense minister Kajsa Ollongren was quoted by the AP as saying, "We can continue and also finalize the plans that we're making with Denmark and other allies to start these trainings. And of course, that is the first step that you have to take ... We will continue discussing with our allies and with countries that might have F-16s available about that next step. But that's not on the table right now."

The ability to train Ukraine's pilots on the fourth-generation NATO aircraft followed a decision by President Biden during the G7 summit, which was reportedly preceded by months of internal debate.

The green light to actually send F-16s to Ukraine has not yet been given, but pilots need several months to train on the aircrafts before being able to fly them at all. Kyiv has been asking for F-16s since shortly after Russia began its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

— Natasha Turak

Aerial views of destruction in the front-line city of Bakhmut

Images show an aerial view of destruction in the front-line city of Bakhmut, in Eastern Ukraine on May 23, 2023.

An aerial view showing destructions in the front-line city of Bakhmut, in Eastern Ukraine on May 23, 2023.
Defense of Ukraine | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
An aerial view showing destructions in the front-line city of Bakhmut, in Eastern Ukraine on May 23, 2023.
An aerial view showing destructions in the front-line city of Bakhmut, in Eastern Ukraine on May 23, 2023.
Defense of Ukraine | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
An aerial view showing destructions in the front-line city of Bakhmut, in Eastern Ukraine on May 23, 2023.
An aerial view showing destructions in the front-line city of Bakhmut, in Eastern Ukraine on May 23, 2023.
Defense of Ukraine | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
An aerial view showing destructions in the front-line city of Bakhmut, in Eastern Ukraine on May 23, 2023.
An aerial view showing destructions in the front-line city of Bakhmut, in Eastern Ukraine on May 23, 2023.
Defense of Ukraine | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
An aerial view showing destructions in the front-line city of Bakhmut, in Eastern Ukraine on May 23, 2023.

— Defense of Ukraine | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russia facing serious security threat in border regions, UK says

Russia's Belgorod region has been targeted before. Here, damage to a food market and a chemical plant is seen after an attack on the Belgorod town of Shebekino on November 4, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Russia's Belgorod region has been targeted before. Here, damage to a food market and a chemical plant is seen after an attack on the Belgorod town of Shebekino on November 4, 2022.

Russia is facing "an increasingly serious multi-domain security threat" in its border regions, the British Ministry of Defense said Tuesday after an attack on the Russian border region of Belgorod that Russian anti-Putin groups claimed to have carried out Monday.

"Russia is facing an increasingly serious multi-domain security threat in its border regions, with losses of combat aircraft, improvised explosive device attacks on rail lines, and now direct partisan action," the ministry said in an intelligence update on Twitter.

"Russia will almost certainly use these incidents to support the official narrative that it is the victim in the war," the ministry added.

Anti-Putin militias known as the "Freedom of Russia" Legion and the "Russian Volunteer Corps" claimed responsibility for the raid on the district of Grayvoron in Belgorod that lies on the border with Ukraine.

Belgorod's governor said Tuesday that a "counter-terrorism operation" was ongoing Tuesday. Russia blamed the attack on Ukraine, calling it the work of "saboteurs," but Kyiv has denied any involvement in the incident.

— Holly Ellyatt

Fighting subsiding in 'captured' Bakhmut, minister 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
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.

Ukraine said fighting appeared to have subsided in Bakhmut, a town that Russia's mercenary forces claimed to have captured last weekend, although Kyiv denied it had fallen.

"This day [the past 24 hours], the activity of the enemy's offensive actions in the Bakhmut direction decreased somewhat," Hanna Maliar, Ukraine's deputy defense minister, said Tuesday.

"In the city of Bakhmut, the fighting has subsided, the enemy continues to clear the areas under his control," she added, in a post on Telegram. At the same time, the amount of shelling remains significant, she added.

Ukraine still controlled parts of the southwest of the town, which has been largely reduced to ruins by months of attritional warfare, and fighting continues in the suburbs.

"We have a slight advance on the flanks to the north and south of Bakhmut," she said. CNBC was unable to verify the information in the post.

Russia's mercenary Wagner Group claimed last weekend to have fully captured Bakhmut, with footage showing Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin and mercenary troops raising Russian and Wagner flags in the town. Prigozhin said his force would hand over the town to regular Russian units in a matter of days.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said Monday that Russia's "hyperfocus on claiming victory in Bakhmut distracts from the precarious Russian military situation in and around Bakhmut."

"The Russian military situation in Bakhmut is particularly vulnerable as the Russian offensive effort in the area has likely culminated, granting Ukrainian forces the opportunity to launch further counterattacks on Bakhmut's already-weakened flanks."

"Wagner's withdrawal in contact will also likely result in the Russian MoD manning defensive lines with poorly trained and provisioned conventional units similar to those that retreated from their positions while defending against Ukrainian counterattacks earlier in May," the analysts said.

— Holly Ellyatt

'Counter-terrorism operation' in Russia's Belgorod region continues, governor says

The governor of Russia's Belgorod region said on Tuesday the "counter-terrorism operation" in the region was ongoing, with the defense ministry and law enforcement agencies continuing "to clean up" the territory on the border with Ukraine.

"On the situation in the Graivoron district: the cleaning of the territory by the Ministry of Defense together with law enforcement agencies continues," the governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said on the Telegram messaging app.

"I now appeal to the residents of the Graivoron district, who ... temporarily left their homes, it is not possible to return yet."

Gladkov said Monday that at least three people had been injured and three houses and a local administrative building damaged during a cross-border attack from Ukraine.

A senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Kyiv had nothing to do with the armed operation in the Belgorod region.

"Ukraine is watching the events in the Belgorod region of Russia with interest and studying the situation, but it has nothing to do with it," presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.

"As you know, tanks are sold at any Russian military store, and underground guerrilla groups are composed of Russian citizens." In a written statement to Reuters, Podolyak said Ukraine's military operates only on Ukrainian territory and echoed Ukrainian military intelligence in blaming Russian partisans for the incursion.

— Reuters

Power restored to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Energoatom said on Telegram that the latest outage at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (seen here in March), the seventh since the start of the war, was due to Russian shelling of an external power line.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Energoatom said on Telegram that the latest outage at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (seen here in March), the seventh since the start of the war, was due to Russian shelling of an external power line.

Power has been restored to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine following an outage earlier today that Ukraine's state-owned nuclear energy company blamed on Russian shelling.

Energoatom said earlier Monday that the plant was forced to go into "blackout mode" and that back-up diesel generators were operating at the plant to make sure nuclear fuel was kept cool.

Later this morning, Energoatom and Ukraine's national grid operator Ukrenergo said power had been restored to the plant, which is occupied by Russian forces. The outage was the seventh the plant has experienced, Energoatom said.

Ukraine and Russia continuously accuse each other of endangering the nuclear plant, Europe's largest, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly called for the facility to be "demilitarized."

— Holly Ellyatt

Fighting continues in Bakhmut, Kyiv says, with Russia bulking up forces

Ukrainian soldiers on the Donetsk front line as the Russia-Ukraine war continues in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on April 24, 2023.
Muhammed Enes Yildirim | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Ukrainian soldiers on the Donetsk front line as the Russia-Ukraine war continues in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on April 24, 2023.

Kyiv says Ukrainian troops are advancing around Bakhmut while Russia is bulking up forces, rebuffing claims by Russia that its fighters have fully seized the town in eastern Ukraine.

"Now the fiercest battles are taking place in the Mariinka, Avdiivka and Bakhmut directions. The enemy is concentrating most of its forces in the direction of Bakhmut," Ukrainian deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar said on domestic television, NBC reported.

"The situation has not fundamentally changed since yesterday ... You remember that yesterday we remained in control of certain infrastructural facilities, as well as private houses in the southwestern part of the city. Today we still control this, albeit small, part of the city," she said.

"Fighting continues. Last night, the enemy carried out a sweep of the territories he took under control; that is, they checked whether any of our sabotage groups remained there," Maliar said.

She said Russian forces in the city which are made up largely of mercenary fighters were being forced to go on the defensive in parts of the city.

"Due to the fact that we moved along the flanks from the north and south and occupied certain heights there, we made it very difficult for the enemy to stay in the city. And we continue to advance [on the flanks]. The intensity is somewhat reduced, but we keep moving. In the north, there are much less action now. In the south, we are moving forward," she said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Wagner mercenary group head says his forces will leave Bakhmut soon

Maxar satellite imagery of homes and buildings in Bakhmut, Ukraine.
2022 Maxar Technologies. | Getty Images
Maxar satellite imagery of homes and buildings in Bakhmut, Ukraine.

The head of Russia's prominent private military company, the Wagner Group, said Monday that his fighters will soon leave the town of Bakhmut his fighters claimed to have captured.

Commenting on his business' Telegram channel, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said "there are lines of defense on the western outskirts [of Bakhmut] now therefore, PMC Wagner is going to leave Artemovsk from May 25 to June 1," he said, using the Soviet-era name for Bakhmut.

The Wagner Group claimed to have wholly captured Bakhmut in Eastern Ukraine on Saturday, after months of bloody combat in and around the town. Ukraine has denied Russia's claims that the town has fallen, saying it continues to hold positions on the outskirts of the town.

Prigozhin said his group would hand over control of the city to the regular Russian army and made a another dig at the Russian Defense Ministry, with which he has a very fractious relationship, saying it could send its generals whom he has frequently disparaged as lacking the requisite skills for their positions to defend the town.

"If there are not enough personnel in the ministry of defense [to replace Wagner], we have thousands of generals [in Russia], so we just need to make up one general's regiment, put everyone under arms — and everything will be fine," he said wryly.

— Holly Ellyatt

Extensive Russian defenses revealed ahead of Ukrainian counteroffensive

A BBC investigation has revealed extensive Russian defenses and fortifications that have been prepared in occupied parts of the country ahead of Ukraine's much-awaited counteroffensive.

BBC Verify, a new unit within the British broadcaster charged with investigating and verifying information, video, and images, said it had examined hundreds of satellite images of Ukraine and had "identified some key points in the significant build-up of trenches and other fortifications in southern Ukraine since October."

The images showed a 15-mile section of Crimean coastline "littered with defence structures installed by Russian troops" as well as defensive lines of antitank trenches and dragon's teeth (pyramid-shaped concrete blocks designed to block military vehicles) near the potential area of Ukraine's counteroffensive, in southern Ukraine.

Antitank defenses are commonplace in Ukraine.
Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Antitank defenses are commonplace in Ukraine.

Investigative journalists and analysts at the BBC also found that a line of anti-tank ditches and trenches now runs alongside a major highway near the potential counteroffensive site and that the route is likely to be heavily mined; Ukraine has understandably not said where or when it will launch its counteroffensive. Read BBC Verify's article here.

The report echoes concerns voiced by British defense analysts last Friday when they said Russia's large-scale defense-building could prove a challenging obstacle for Ukraine to overcome, warning onlookers not to dismiss Russia's military as incompetent, as it had been labeled early on in the invasion after previous mistakes.

Read more here: Russia’s military has adapted and is now a more formidable enemy for Ukraine, defense analysts say

— Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC's previous live coverage here:

Ukraine refuses to accept loss of Bakhmut; Wagner mercenary boss downplays army's role in 'capture'

Copyright CNBC
Contact Us