Ukraine war live updates: U.S. advances military aid bill; Russia accused of using Musk’s Starlink in occupied territories

Russia stays quiet after Trump’s NATO remarks

Former U.S. president Donald Trump pictured during a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at Winfield House, London on Dec. 3, 2019.

NICHOLAS KAMM | AFP | Getty Images

The Kremlin on Monday declined to comment after former U.S. President Donald Trump said he would not protect NATO countries from Russian attacks if they lagged on their membership payments.

“I am still [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s press secretary, but not Trump’s,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Reuters.

Speaking at a rally in South Carolina on Saturday, Trump said that, as president, he warned NATO allies that he “would encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to a member country that didn’t meet its defense spending guidelines.

U.S. lawmakers and top Western officials swiftly rebuked Trump’s comments.

Read the full story here.

— Sam Meredith

Putin: Special attention needed on containing Russian inflation

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a screen during a meeting with his confidants for the 2024 election at Gostiny Dvor in Moscow, Russia January 31, 2024. 

Maxim Shemetov | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday said special attention would be needed to contain inflation, Reuters reported.

Putin was speaking in a televised meeting with Russian Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina, who re-appeared Monday after an unexplained weeks-long absence from the public eye.

The Bank of Russia will hold its next monetary policy meeting on Friday and is expected to keep interest rates unchanged at 16%, having hiked rates by 85 basis points since July in a bid to combat persistent inflationary pressures.

– Elliot Smith

Ukraine to produce thousands of long-range drones in 2024, minister says: Reuters

Ukraine’s Digital Minister told Reuters on Monday that Kyiv plans to produce thousands of long-range drones in 2024 that are capable of reaching Moscow and St Petersburg.

In an interview in Kyiv, Mykhailo Fedorov reportedly told the news agency that recent strikes on Russian oil facilities reflected the progress made through the Ukrainian government’s rapid deregulation of the drone market and increased funding, for which the state acts as a venture investor.

Up to 10 companies are now capable of deep strikes into Russia after around $2.5 million in grants were allocated to military tech startups, Fedorov reportedly said, adding that the amount is set to rise around tenfold in 2024.

Ukraine needs $42 billion of funding to sustain the remarkable progress they have made, IMF says

Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF, says Ukraine needs $42 billion in funding this year to “sustain the remarkable progress they have made.”

“Let me state it as clearly as possible: Ukraine earned the support of the international community with very prudent actions domestically,” she told CNBC, commending Kyiv’s high domestic tax receipts, sharp reduction in inflation and resilient economic growth.

– Elliot Smith

IMF chief says Russian economy is in for very tough times

The Russian economy is in for very tough times, IMF's Kristalina Georgieva says

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told CNBC on Sunday that the Russian economy is in for “very tough times,” despite positive growth numbers.

Russia’s GDP rebounded by 3.6% in 2023, according to annual data published last week. This was driven by soaring military spending that fueled spikes in state-funded arms and ammunition production, and economists have noted that other issues are preventing improvements in living standards for ordinary Russians.

“If you look at Russia today, production goes up — military — consumption goes down, and that is pretty much what the Soviet Union used to look like: high level of production, low level of consumption,” Georgieva told CNBC’s Dan Murphy at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

“I actually think that the Russian economy is [in] for very tough times because of the outflow of people and because of the reduced access to technology that comes with the sanctions, so although this number looks like a good number, there is a bigger story behind and it is not a very good story.”

– Elliot Smith

Ukraine says it destroyed 14 of 17 Russian drones and one cruise missile

Ukraine’s Air Force said Monday that its defense systems shot down 14 out of 17 drones launched by Russia overnight and one Kh-59 cruise missile.

The Air Force said on Telegram that Russia had also launched long-range S-300 surface-to-air missiles, according to a Google translation, but did not clarify the scale of the attack or of the damage inflicted.

Kharkiv regional Governor Oleh Synehubov said late Sunday in a Google-translated Telegram update that the northeastern region was struck with missiles from S-300 systems stationed across the Russian border in the Belgorod region, but no casualties were reported.

CNBC was not able to independently verify the claims.

– Elliot Smith

Musk denies selling Starlink terminals to Russia after Kyiv alleges use in occupied areas

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket flies carrying a payload of 22 Starlink satellites into space after launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base on January 28, 2024 as seen from Los Angeles, California. 

Mario Tama | Getty Images

Ukraine’s main military intelligence agency on Sunday accused Russian forces of using Starlink terminals produced by Elon Musk’s SpaceX in occupied areas.

Starlink has been adamant that its satellite networks have never operated or been marketed in Russia, after its terminals were delivered to Ukraine after the February 2022 invasion in order to facilitate battlefield communications for Ukrainian forces.

“A number of false news reports claim that SpaceX is selling Starlink terminals to Russia. This is categorically false,” Musk posted Sunday on the X social media platform, which he also owns.

“To the best of our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia.”

Kyiv’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) claimed Sunday that there was mounting evidence of their use by Russian forces in the partially-occupied eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk.

“Yes, there have been recorded cases of use of these devices by the Russian occupiers. This is starting to take on a systemic nature,” GUR spokesman Andriy Yusov told RBC-Ukraine.

In a statement on its website, the GUR said radio interceptions of conversations between Russian forces showed that Starlink terminals had been installed in units of Russia’s 83rd Assault Brigade operating in Donetsk near the towns of Klischiivka and Andriivka.

– Elliot Smith

U.S. advances $95 billion funding bill for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during the weekly Democratic Caucus lunch press conference at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, U.S., February 6, 2024. 

Amanda Andrade-rhoades | Reuters

U.S. Senators on Sunday voted to advance a $95 billion aid package to fund UkraineIsrael and Taiwan, signaling that the vital funding will likely have the votes to pass after prolonged and fraught negotiations.

The proceedings will likely carry into next week before a final vote, which would spill into Senators’ two-week recess before the commencement of federal budget talks.

The process could be expedited if all 100 senators unanimously agree, but Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has openly expressed a desire to delay further.

Read the full story here.

– Elliot Smith

Ukraine accuses Russia of intensifying chemical attacks on the battlefield

Ukraine accused Russia on Friday of using toxic chemicals in more than 200 attacks on the battlefield in January alone, a sharp increase in what it said were recorded instances of their use by Russian forces since they invaded two years ago.

Russia has denied allegations of using chemical weapons in Ukraine and has accused Ukrainian forces of their use, which Kyiv denies. Neither side has produced evidence and Reuters has not been able to verify any use by either side.

Ukraine has previously accused Moscow of using chloropicrin, which was used as poison gas in World War I. The latest statement by Ukraine’s General Staff singled out CS, or tear gas, which it said Russia had used in various grenades.

CS gas, widely used by police forces, is banned on the battlefield by the international Chemical Weapons Convention, which states in Article 1: “Each State Party undertakes not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare.”

The Ukrainian general staff said: “815 cases of the use of ammunition loaded with toxic chemicals by the Russian Federation were recorded. Of these, only in January 2024 – 229 cases.” It did not name any other chemicals in its statement on the Telegram messenger app.

General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, commander of the “Tavria” operational grouping based in the south east, said separately on Telegram that enemy troops deliver chemical-loaded ammunition with drones. He mentioned chloropicrin in reference to chemicals he said had been used on Thursday.

A year ago, Russia accused Ukrainian forces of using unspecified chemical weapons in drones in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine.

— Reuters

Ukraine inflation slows to annual 4.7% in January

Ukrainian consumer price inflation slowed to an annual rate of 4.7% in January and 0.4% month-on-month, the country’s statistics service announced Friday.

Headline inflation has been moderating over the past year, having peaked at 26.6% following Russia’s invasion in 2022. Ukraine’s central bank expects it to remain within its 5% target over the next few months before spiking again in the second half of the year to finish 2024 at around 8.6%.

– Elliot Smith

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