Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Russia hit Ukraine with missiles from North Korea, Kyiv says

Mykhailo Podoliak, advisor to the head of the office of the President of Ukraine, gives an interview to the Ukrainian media on June 15, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russia has hit Ukraine with missiles supplied by North Korea, Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said Friday.

“There is no longer any disguise … as part of its outright genocidal war, the Russian Federation for the first time struck at the territory of Ukraine with missiles received from … North Korea,” Podolyak wrote in a post on social media.

The claims follow an earlier assertion by the White House Thursday, which said its intelligence shows Russia has begun using missiles supplied by Pyongyang.

Podolyk did not provide evidence to confirm that the missiles were from North Korea. Washington, in its comments, cited declassified information.

CNBC reached out to Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a request for comment on the claims and did not immediately receive a response.

In a statement responding to the White House’s claims, the U.K.’s foreign ministry condemned the reported use of North Korean missiles and urged Pyongyang to cease its arms supply to Russia.

— Karen Gilchrist

Ukraine says it downed 21 Russian drones in overnight attack

Ukraine’s air force said Friday that it downed 21 of 29 Shahed drones launched by Russia in an overnight attack.

The majority of the drones were shot down by mobile anti-drone squads across the Mykolaiv, Kherson, Dnipropetrovsk, Cherkasy, Kirovohrad and Khmelnytskyi regions, the air force said in a post on Telegram.

— Karen Gilchrist

White House says Russia has begun using missiles supplied by North Korea in Ukraine

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby speaks about alleged North Korean ballistic missiles fired by Russia into Ukraine during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 4, 2024. 

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Russia has used ballistic missiles supplied by North Korea in attacks on Ukraine, national security spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday.

North Korea recently supplied Russia with ballistic missile launchers and several dozen ballistic missiles, according to U.S. officials.

Kirby said that on Dec. 30, 2023, Russian forces launched at least one of those missiles into Ukraine, apparently landing in a field in the Zaporizhzhia region. That was followed by several more during an overnight aerial attack on Jan. 2, he said.

The missiles reportedly have a range of around 900 kilometers, or about 550 miles.

“We expect Russia and North Korea to learn from these launches, and we anticipate that Russia will use additional North Korean missiles to target Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians,” Kirby said in a briefing at the White House.

He called it a “significant and concerning escalation” in North Korea’s support for Russia. U.S. intelligence suggests Pyongyang is now seeking military assistance from Russia in return, which would have “concerning security implications” for the Korean Peninsula and Indo-Pacific region, Kirby said.

In response, the U.S. will raise the topic of the arms deals at the U.N. Security Council, impose additional sanctions on the facilitators of such deals, and release information publicly to expose them, Kirby added.

The U.S. believes Russia is also seeking to acquire close-range ballistic missiles from Iran, and may be advancing in its negotiations. Russian troops already use Iranian-made Shahed drones.

— Jenni Reid

Zelenskyy says strengthening air defense is top priority as strike onslaught continues

Communal services and volunteers helping to clear debris from the territory of a residential building that was partly destroyed after a missile attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Jan. 3, 2024.

Oleksandr Khomenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Ukraine’s top military priority is the delivery of new air defense systems and missiles, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday, as Russia continues to pound urban areas across the country with strikes.

“The entire team of our diplomats, all those responsible for communication with partners, and Ukrainian representatives abroad are doing everything they can to ensure the delivery of additional air defense systems and missiles. This is the number one priority,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

Front-line fighters also need supplies including artillery, drones and electronic equipment, he said, while thanking partners who are preparing support packages.

The delivery of more military supplies from the U.S., Ukraine’s top donor, remains uncertain with the release of further funds stuck in political deadlock.

— Jenni Reid

Ukraine pushes back in Avdiivka; Russia says 36 drones downed over Crimea

A recently bombed residential area on Dec. 31, 2023, in Avdiivka, Ukraine.

Pierre Crom | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Intense fighting continues in the eastern city of Avdiivka, which has remained a combat hot spot for months owing to its strategic location in the Donetsk region.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in an update posted to Facebook that its troops continue to hold back Russian attempts to encircle the city, and had repelled 16 attacks along front-line areas over the last 24 hours, while 59 combat clashes had occurred. CNBC has not verified the information on the ground.

It also said Russia had launched seven missile strikes, 36 air strikes and 27 attacks using rocket launchers across various areas.

The Russian Defense Ministry meanwhile said its air defense units had intercepted three U.S.-made high mobility artillery rocket system projectiles, and 37 Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles in various areas.

It also said 36 Ukrainian drones were intercepted and shot down over Crimea, state news agency Tass reported.

— Jenni Reid

Putin offers citizenship to foreigners who fight for Russia

This pool photograph distributed by Russian state agency Sputnik shows Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attending a virtual summit of the BRICS group of nations (the bloc that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to discuss the Israel-Hamas war, in Moscow on November 21, 2023.

Alexander Kazakov | AFP | Getty Images

President Vladimir Putin issued a decree on Thursday allowing foreign nationals who fight for Russia in Ukraine to obtain Russian citizenship for themselves and their families.

The order said people who have signed contracts during what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine can apply to get Russian passports for themselves and their spouses, children and parents.

They must provide documents showing that they signed up for a minimum of one year.

Those eligible include people who have signed contracts with the regular armed forces or other “military formations” – a description that could apply to groups such as the Wagner mercenary organisation.

The measure appeared to be aimed at creating additional incentives for foreigners with military experience to apply to join Russian ranks.

Moscow does not publish data on the number of foreigners fighting on its side in Ukraine. However, Reuters has reported previously on Cubans who signed up for the military in return for bonuses equivalent to more than 100 times the average Cuban monthly salary, and three Africans recruited by Wagner, of whom two were killed in action.

— Reuters

Russia goes ahead with plans to buy Iranian ballistic missiles — WSJ

In this pool photograph distributed by Russian news agency Sputnik on December 7, 2023, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow.

Sergei Bobylyov | Afp | Getty Images

Russia is planning to buy short-range ballistic missiles from Iran, a step that would enhance Moscow’s ability to target Ukraine’s infrastructure, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing U.S. officials.

Last year, the White House said it was seeing more indications that Russia and Iran were expanding an unprecedented defence partnership that would help Moscow prolong its war in Ukraine as well as pose a threat to Iran’s neighbours.

— Reuters

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