Ukraine war live updates: Wagner Group claims village; China's top diplomat to visit Russia

JPMorgan signs deal with Zelenskyy: Reports

Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., speaks during the Institute of International Finance (IIF) annual membership meeting in Washington, DC, US, on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022.

Ting Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

JPMorgan signed a memorandum of understanding with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for a new investment fund, according to Fox Business.

The bank met with Zelenskyy and his senior staff in Ukraine last week to discuss the creation of a fund seeded with $20 billion to $30 billion in private capital, Fox said attributing the news to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Additional ideas discussed were the creation of a bank administered by Wall Street firms that would make investments in oil refineries, roads, bridges and other infrastructure destroyed by the war.

— Karen Gilchrist

Russia claims gains along Ukraine’s frontline

Moscow said Monday that its forces had pushed forward a few kilometers along Ukraine’s frontline, while Kyiv said its troops had repelled Russian attacks in various areas.

Much of the fighting was concentrated around the eastern city of Bakhmut, with 16 nearby settlements having been bombarded, according to Ukrainian military.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said Russian troops had managed to advance 2 km (1.2 miles) to the west in four days. However, it did not say which part of the long frontline, encompassing several Ukrainian regions in the south and east, had moved.

“The Russian servicemen broke the enemy’s resistance and advanced several kilometres deeper into its echeloned defence,” it said.

Ukraine’s military said that over the past day, its forces had repelled a number of attacks near Bakhmut, within the Donetsk region, as well as assaults in the Kharkiv, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

— Karen Gilchrist

Belarus to host three CSTO military drills this year

Belarus will this year host three drills of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-dominated alliance of former Soviet states, according to state-run Belta news agency.

The agency on Monday quoted the secretary general of the organization as saying the exercises would be code-named Cooperation, Echelon and Search.

— Karen Gilchrist

What to expect from Russia’s new offensive in Ukraine

A renewed Russian offensive in the east of Ukraine is underway. And while the scope of Russia’s plans remains uncertain, whatever happens, it comes at a tricky time for Kyiv.

Moscow is thought to be focused on creating a land corridor to Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsular that it annexed in 2014, by targeting Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, Zaporizhzhia in the south and Kherson in the south.

“The main objective has to be to have fully occupied the territory of the four provinces annexed by Russia with great fanfare last year,” Jamie Shea, a former NATO official and international defense and security expert at think tank Chatham House, told CNBC.

Ukrainian servicemen walk on the road toward their base near the front line in the Donetsk region on Feb. 4, 2023.

Yasuyoshi Chiba | Afp | Getty Images

“Russia is controlling about 50% of the territory of those four provinces so clearly, that has to be the objective because anything less than that — to annex them and not fully control them — would be a humiliation for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” he noted.

Shea, who was deputy assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges at NATO until 2018, said he did not expect a big bang start to the offensive. Instead, he expects Russia to “grind out these slow advances,” a tactic it has been employing in the Donbas in recent months.

“The Russians are going to make sure they’ve got overwhelming superiority, advance a couple of kilometers, capture a village, and keep going with that step-by-step kind of progress,” Shea said.

— Karen Gilchrist

China’s top diplomat to visit Russia

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi will visit Russia later this month during a tour of several European countries, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi will visit Russia later this month during a tour of several European countries, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday.

Wang, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, will be in Germany for the Munich Security Conference this weekend, the ministry said.

Following that, he will visit France, Italy and Hungary, spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing.

— Karen Gilchrist

Russian rouble steady near nine-month lows

The Russian rouble gained a steady footing in early deals in Moscow on Monday, hovering close to a nine-month low against the U.S. dollar following volatile trade for the under-pressure currency last week.

In early deals, the rouble was flat against the dollar at 73.35 and had gained 0.1% against the euro to trade at 78.39.

Analysts have said the rouble will remain under pressure until exporters begin converting their foreign currency earnings into roubles to meet local tax liabilities due later this month.

Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

At the end of last week the rouble slid through 73 versus the dollar for the first time since last April. It came as Russia’s central bank on Friday held interest rates at 7.5%, but indicated that it was readying to hike rates in the coming months.

Analysts have said the rouble will remain under pressure until exporters begin converting their foreign currency earnings into roubles to meet local tax liabilities due later this month.

— Karen Gilchrist

Wagner Group claims village of Krasna Hora

The head of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group said Sunday it had taken the village of Krasna Hora, on the northern edge of the embattled city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Yevgeny Prigozhin published a short video seemingly showing Wagner fighters next to the entrance sign to the village. 

He also said it could take two years for Moscow to control all of the two eastern Ukrainian regions, whose capture it has stated as a key goal of the war.

U.S. think tank the Institute for the Study of War said geolocated footage showed Russian forces have captured at least part of the village, according to its latest intelligence report.

However, Wagner’s claims have not yet been independently verified.

— Karen Gilchrist

Poland’s president says fighter jets decision ‘not easy’

Poland’s president has said the decision on whether or not to supply Ukraine with fighter jets is “not easy.”

Gints Ivuskans | Afp | Getty Images

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said the decision over whether or not to send fighter jets to Ukraine was “not easy to take.”

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Duda said responding to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request for F-16 aircraft is a “very serious decision,” but gave no further indication of whether it would happen.

— Karen Gilchrist

Russian spy service claims U.S. is grooming militants for attack

Russia’s foreign spy service said Monday that it had intelligence that the U.S. military was grooming Islamist militants to attack targets in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, whose head is an ally of President Vladimir Putin, claimed that 60 such militants from groups affiliated with Islamic State and al-Qaeda had been recruited and were being trained at an American base in Syria.

“They will be tasked with preparing and carrying out terrorist attacks against diplomats, civil servants, law enforcement officers and personnel of the armed forces,” the SVR said.

It added that special attention was being paid to recruiting immigrants from the Russian North Caucasus and Central Asia.

The agency did not publish the intelligence behind its assertion and the claims could not be immediately verified.

Karen Gilchrist

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