Ukraine takes back dozens of towns in ‘annexed’ regions; Putin is ‘out of moves,’ ex-CIA chief says

Ukraine takes back dozens of towns in 'annexed' regions; Putin is 'out of moves,' ex-CIA chief says

UNESCO and Google donate 50,000 computers to Ukrainian teachers

Pupil Marharyta (l) sits next to her German classmate Milena (r) during geography lessons in a classroom at Lorup primary and secondary school (Werlte municipality).

Friso Gentsch | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

UNESCO and Google have begun distributing 50,000 computers to Ukrainian teachers to help with distance learning amid Russia’s ongoing war.

“Education is a fundamental right for every child. As ongoing fighting damaging education facilities continues to prevent many Ukrainian students from returning to school, we must provide distance learning tools ensuring learning continuity,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.

The first 10,000 computers have been distributed to teachers in Chernihiv, Dnipro and Sumy regions.

“This is a great example of how the private sector can join forces with public institutions to build and provide sound solutions in times of crisis,” Azoulay added.

— Amanda Macias

Russia’s defense ministry concedes it’s under pressure from Ukraine’s advances

Wreckage of a car marked with a Russian military symbol “Z” at a Russian military base, which Ukrainian forces destroyed by HIMARS during a counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast, on Sept. 26, 2022 in Balakliia, Ukraine. Balakliia was under Russian occupation for half a year. On Sept. 10, Ukraine’s armed forces liberated the city.

Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russia’s Ministry of Defense said it continues to hold positions in the regions of Kherson in southern Ukraine despite advances from Ukrainian forces.

The MOD acknowledged that its units have been able to maintain their positions toward the south of the country despite “repelling superior enemy forces’ attacks.” 

In its latest update on Telegram, Russia’s MOD said its forces had conducted attacks on Ukrainian units in Kharkiv, Donetsk (in the east) and Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south, claiming to have killed several hundred Ukrainian troops and destroyed a variety of weaponry in its various attacks.

Nonetheless, it acknowledged that in the Kherson region, where Ukraine has reported a number of significant advances in recent days, it was under pressure with Russian units maintaining their positions in the Andriivka-Kyrvyi-Rih direction (in the south) despite attacks from “superior” Ukrainian forces. It’s unclear whether the ministry was referring to the quality or size of the Ukrainian units it described.

CNBC was unable to verify the details in the report.

— Holly Ellyatt

The liberation of Luhansk region has begun, top Ukrainian official says

A Ukrainian armored personnel carrier transports troops toward a pontoon bridge crossing of the Oskil River on September 30, 2022 in Kupiansk, Ukraine. Ukraine has recaptured thousands of square miles of its northeast Kharkiv region from Russian forces in recent weeks.

Scott Peterson | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine’s forces are making gains in the Luhansk region in the east of the country, according to a prominent Ukrainian official.

If verified, the advances will mark further progress for Ukraine as it fights to reclaim territory that Russia claims to have annexed.

“Well, now it’s official. The de-occupation of Luhansk region has begun,” Luhansk Regional Military Administration Head Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram Wednesday in comments translated by news agency Ukrinform.

Several settlements have already been liberated from the Russian army, and there the Armed Forces of Ukraine are already raising the Ukrainian flag there,” Haidai said without specifying where.

Haidai said that the de-occupation of the region would continue, saying: “I thank our Armed Forces for wonderful news. Let’s help them, don’t get tired, we believe in our victory. Luhansk region is Ukraine, it has been and will be so. Carry on.”

Ukraine’s counteroffensives in southern and eastern parts of the country have made headlines with the country’s armed forces making rapid advances and reclaiming dozens of settlements around Kherson in the south and Donetsk and Kharkiv in the east and northeast.

If Haidai’s comments are verified it will confirm that Ukraine is now pushing into Luhansk from Donetsk, both of which are regions where Russia was seen to have a strong foothold and where two pro-Russian, self-proclaimed “republics” have now been incorporated into the Russian Federation (as have Kherson and Zaporizhzhia).

Ukraine and its allies completely reject the annexation of Ukrainian territory, saying they will never recognize the illegal seizure of Ukrainian territory.

— Holly Ellyatt

What we’ve learned today about Russia’s ‘annexation’ of parts of Ukraine:

Cadets attend an event marking the declared annexation of the Russian-controlled territories of four Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, after holding what Russian authorities called referendums in the occupied areas of Ukraine that were condemned by Kyiv and governments worldwide, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, September 30, 2022.

Sergey Pivovarov | Reuters

We’re learning more about the plans Russia has for four regions it illegally annexed from Ukraine last week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed laws today formally annexing four Ukrainian regions that are only partially controlled by the country’s occupying forces. The “annexations” come after sham referendums were held in the regions of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk.

Russian news agencies have been reporting more detail about what the annexations mean for the regions themselves. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve heard:

  • The borders of the Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics” and those of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions will be defined by the borders of territories which “existed on the day of their establishment and accession to Russia,” news agency Tass reports.
  • The new regions will be integrated during a transitional period due to last until 2026.
  • The Ukrainian hryvnia will be allowed for cash and non-cash payments until 2023. Then, the Russian ruble will be the sole currency there.
  • The armed forces of the new regions (present in the Donetsk and the Luhansk “people’s republics”) are to become part of Russia’s armed forces.
  • Until the heads of the new regions are elected according to Russian law, they will be governed by acting heads, who will be appointed by Putin.
  • Regional parliamentary elections will be held in Sept. 2023.

Needless to say, the annexations are not recognized by Ukraine and its allies and Kyiv has said it will fight until it has reclaimed all its lost land.

Whether Russia will be able to hold on to the “annexed” regions is very much in doubt with Ukraine’s forces making advances in the south, around Kherson, and in the east in Donetsk and the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

— Holly Ellyatt

Berlin official accuses U.S. of ‘astronomical’ natural gas prices

17 May 2021, Saxony-Anhalt, Griebo: Gas is burned off at a mobile flare system at the station of the long-distance pipeline operator Ontras Gastransport in Apollensdorf. Ontras has been renewing the Neugattersleben (Nienburg) – Trajuhn gas pipeline northeast of Wittenberg since August 2019. This pipeline is an important transport route for the energy supply of Saxony-Anhalt and neighbouring regions. Before work can begin on the relevant section of the pipeline, the pressure across the downstream network is lowered as far as possible. Instead of blowing out the residual gas into the atmosphere in a controlled manner, it is burned off via a flare. This produces ten times less CO2 equivalent than blowing it out. The flare is operated under constant, expert supervision. A total of around 35,000 cubic meters of gas will be burned. The total length of the pipeline is 74 kilometers and it has a diameter of 40 to 50 centimeters. Photo: Hendrik Schmidt/dpa-Zentralbild/ZB (Photo by Hendrik Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Germany’s economy minister accused the U.S. and other “friendly” gas supplier states of astronomical prices for their supplies, suggesting they were profiting from the fallout of the war in Ukraine.

“Some countries, including friendly ones, sometimes achieve astronomical prices [for their gas]. Of course, that brings with it problems that we have to talk about,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck told regional German paper NOZ in an interview published Wednesday which was translated by NBC News.

He called for more solidarity from the U.S. when it comes to assisting its energy-pressed allies in Europe. The comments by Habeck come at an anxious time for the EU as it scrambles to increase its gas reserves ahead of the winter.

CNBC has contacted the U.S. State Dept. for comment and is awaiting a response.

Read the whole story here

Ukrainian soldiers greeted with flowers and tears after liberating village

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and deputy foreign minister have shared a video of Ukrainian soldiers being greeted by cheering residents of Bohuslavka in the Kharkiv region, after the village was liberated.

The footage shows a small crowd of residents gathered with flags and having given flowers for the soldiers, singing the Ukrainian national anthem while wiping tears from their eyes.

In the video, one of the soldiers tells residents that Ukrainian forces have pushed back the enemy, with Russian forces having “retreated to a certain distance.”

“You are no longer threatened by their artillery fire today,” the soldier says, according to comments translated by NBC News’ Ukrainian fixer Artem Grudinin.

“Representatives of the military-civilian administration will arrive here tomorrow and will provide assistance. I hope you have some leaders who can develop a list of questions for them from your community. There is a car with an antenna there, they will give you internet there,” he says, with the crowd replying with “thank you.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian leaders likely concerned as Ukraine’s forces approach Luhansk borders, UK says

Russian leaders are highly likely to be concerned that leading Ukrainian units are now approaching the borders of Luhansk region which Russia claimed to have formally annexed last week, the British Ministry of Defense said Wednesday.

In its latest intelligence update on Twitter, the ministry said Ukraine continues to make progress in offensive operations along both the northeastern and southern fronts.

“In the north-east, in Kharkiv Oblast [or province], Ukraine has now consolidated a substantial area of territory east of the Oskil River,” it said, with its formations advancing up to 12 miles beyond the river “into Russia’s defensive zone towards the supply node of the town of Svatove.”

An aerial view of Svatove city, in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine. The British Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian formations can now approach the city to strike Russian supplies.

Future Publishing | Future Publishing | Getty Images

It is highly likely that Ukraine can now strike the key Svatove-Kremina road with most of its artillery systems, the ministry added, “further straining Russia’s ability to resupply its units in the east.”

Ukraine’s progress meant it was approaching the borders of Luhansk, one of four regions Moscow “annexed” last week following sham referendums. President Vladimir Putin signed the annexations into law on Wednesday, undeterred by Ukraine’s vow to fight to reclaim all occupied territory.

— Holly Ellyatt

Putin signs law formally annexing four Ukrainian regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets the Moscow-appointed heads of four Ukrainian regions, partially occupied by Russia, at the Grand Kremlin Palace on Sept. 30, 2022, in Moscow, Russia.

Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed laws formally annexing four Ukrainian regions that are partially controlled by Russian forces, Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported Wednesday.

The move comes after sham referendums were held in the regions of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk. The results, widely seen as faked and illegitimate, showed a majority of people wanting to join the Russian Federation.

Both Russia’s upper and lower houses of parliament (the Duma and Federation Council, or Senate) approved legislation ratifying the annexations earlier this week, leaving President Vladimir Putin to put his signature to the laws formally annexing the territories.

Ukraine and the vast majority of the international community do not recognize the annexation, slamming it as illegal and farcical.

Russian forces have varying levels of control over the regions, with Ukrainian forces making gains in the south (around Kherson) and east, and its forces advancing in Donetsk and towards Luhansk.

— Holly Ellyatt

Putin is ‘literally out of moves,’ ex-CIA chief says

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces look increasingly ill-equipped and outmaneuvered on the battlefield, is running out of options in the war in Ukraine, according to David Petraeus, a former CIA director and retired U.S. Army general.

When asked what Putin’s next move could be in Ukraine, whose armed forces are making significant gains in counteroffensives in the south and east of the country, Petraeus told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble he believes Putin is “literally out of moves.”

“He’s trying all these different desperate actions. But the fact is the reality that confronts Russia on the battlefield is that Ukraine has a vastly more capable and larger force than the country [Russia] that is more than three times their size. The reality on the battlefield now is desperate for Putin,” he added.

“There’s literally nothing he can do. It is irreversible,” he said, noting that even sham referendums staged by Russia in four regions, with the fake votes leading to those regions being “annexed,” had not changed anything.

“The Ukrainians are already taking back … The momentum on the battlefield, is very much against Russia, they’re scrambling just to establish new defensive positions.”

The former CIA chief warned against getting carried away with Ukraine’s recent advances, warning that Russia is unpredictable.

“Don’t misinterpret this, there’s still an enormous amount of damage and destruction that Russia can do, they can punish. And they will continue to punish Ukraine on a daily basis with missiles and rockets and bombs and so forth. But at the end of the day, they cannot reverse the situation on the battlefield, which is going to see Ukraine, taking back the territory that Russia has taken since 24 February, and perhaps taking back everything that Russia has taken from them since 2014,” he said.

In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, an act that accompanied the creation of pro-Russian separatist blocs in eastern Ukraine (with the so-called “people’s republics” in Luhansk and Donetsk) and which led to February’s invasion.

— Holly Ellyatt

There are signs that Russia is falling apart, says Munich Security Conference chair

Christoph Heusgen, chair of the Munich Security Conference, says, however, that it’s difficult to say how long the situation will play out.

Lukashenko is a ‘cheap partner’ to Putin, says leader of Belarusian Democratic Movement

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Aleksandr Lukashenko are in a “fake friendship” with both sides just using each other, according to Belarusian Democratic Movement leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

“They use each other because … Lukashenko is a loyal partner … very cheap partner, I would say, who gives [Putin] territory to attack Ukraine,” she told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Tuesday.

In February, Lukashenko hosted Russian troops and equipment, and permitted Russia to use Belarus as a staging post for its invasion of Ukraine.

The opposition leader described the relationship of the two leaders as a symbiotic one.

“Without Putin, Lukashenko won’t survive the events of 2020. So they need each other, and they use each other.”

Lukashenko claimed victory in the 2020 Belarusian presidential election, which was contested by Tsikhanouskaya at that point in time.

The victory of Ukraine against Russia is “crucial for Belarus,” the democratic leader emphasized, “because this victory will give us opportunity, one movement of opportunity to apprise and to get rid of the [Putin’s] regime.”

“That’s why it’s so important for [everyone] to support Ukrainians as much as we can.”

— Lee Ying Shan

‘Good news from the front lines’: Ukraine’s forces count significant gains in counteroffensives

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine’s military has made swift and significant progress in its counteroffensives in the south and east of the country, recapturing dozens of settlements in regions Russia claims to have annexed.

“We have good news from the front lines,” the president said in his nightly address Tuesday, “the Ukrainian army is making pretty fast and powerful movements in the south of our country as part of the current defense operation.”

“Dozens of settlements have already been liberated from the Russian pseudo-referendum this week alone. This is in Kherson region, Kharkiv region, Luhansk region and Donetsk region together,” he said, referring to the regions where sham votes on joining Russia were held in late September.

Ukrainian soldiers adjust their national flag atop a personnel armored carrier on a road near Lyman, in the Donetsk region, on Oct. 4, 2022.

Anatolii Stepanov | AFP | Getty Images

Naming a series of settlements that had been liberated in Kherson in southern Ukraine, Zelenskyy said that “this is far from a complete list. Our soldiers are not stopping. And it’s only a matter of time before we expel the occupier from all of our land.”

Ukraine’s continuing advances into Russian-occupied territory has prompted concerns that President Vladimir Putin might resort to using nuclear weapons as his army suffers defeats on the battlefield.

Those concerns rose Tuesday on reports online that Putin had sent a convoy of vehicles, belonging to the Russian unit in charge of the country’s nuclear arsenal, to Ukraine. But experts have said such reports should be viewed with caution.

— Holly Ellyatt

World Bank estimates Ukraine’s war-torn economy will sink 35% in 2022

Destruction after an apartment building hit by Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 14, 2022.

Alejandro Martinez | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Devastated by Russia’s invasion eight months ago, the Ukrainian economy will plunge 35% this year, the World Bank forecast.

The war has destroyed factories and farmland and displaced millions of Ukrainians. The World Bank, a 189-country anti-poverty agency, estimates that rebuilding the country will cost at least $349 billion, 1.5 times the size of Ukraine’s prewar economy.

“Ukraine continues to need enormous financial support as the war needlessly rages on as well as for recovery and reconstruction projects,” said Anna Bjerde, World Bank vice president for Europe and Central Asia.

Still, the bank’s assessment for Ukraine’s economy marks an upgrade from the 45.1% freefall it forecast in June. And it expects that the Ukrainian economy will return to growth in 2023, expanding 3.3% — though the outlook is highly uncertain and will depend on the course of the war.

Meanwhile, the Russian economy, hammered by Western sanctions, is expected to shrink both years — by 4.5% in 2022 and 3.6% next year. In June, however, the bank had predicted the Russian economy would fare even worse this year, shrinking by 8.9%. The energy-producing Russian economy has proven surprisingly resilient, helped by a surge in oil and natural gas prices.

— Associated Press

Latest U.S. weapons package for Ukraine brings commitment to $16.8 billion since Russia invaded

Pro-Russian separatist forces are seen in the Donetsk Oblast in eastern Ukraine on May 28, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Biden administration announced another $625 million military aid package for Ukraine on Tuesday, bringing the U.S. commitment to more than $16.8 billion since Russia invaded the country in late February.

The latest weapons package includes four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, as well as munitions for those systems, 16 155mm and 105mm Howitzers, 75,000 155mm artillery rounds, 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds, 1,000 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine, or RAAM systems, 200 mine-resistant armored vehicles and 200,000 rounds of small arms ammunition.

“Recent developments from Russia’s sham referenda and attempted annexation to new revelations of brutality against civilians in Ukrainian territory formerly controlled by Russia only strengthens our resolve,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in a statement announcing the 22nd weapons installment.

“The capabilities we are delivering are carefully calibrated to make the most difference on the battlefield and strengthen Ukraine’s hand at the negotiating table when the time is right,” Blinken added.

— Amanda Macias

Lack of training and supplies will continue to plague Russian troops and mobilized recruits

Service members of pro-Russian troops load ammunition into an armoued personnel carrier during fighting in Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 12, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

The British Ministry of Defense said Russia likely will have difficulty training and equipping the hundreds of thousands of troops recently mobilized to fight in Ukraine.

Since the early days of the war, Russian forces on the ground in Ukraine have been beset with a slew of logistical problems on the battlefield, including reports of fuel and food shortages.

“The challenges of accommodating, training, equipping and deploying mobilized and conscripted personnel are significant,” the Ministry of Defense wrote in an intelligence update.

“Deficiencies within the Russian administrative and logistical systems will continue to undermine these efforts,” the update added.

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine unlikely to be able to join NATO while war ongoing, former commander says

Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) from 2013-2016, Philip Mark Breedlove attends a session at the Warsaw Security Forum in 2016.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukraine applied for a fast-track entry to the NATO military alliance last week after Russia annexed more of its territories following a set of sham referendums, but a top former military commander has said Ukraine is very unlikely to be able to join the bloc while the war is ongoing.

“The demonstrated history of NATO is that they’re not going to bring a nation in that is in the middle of a border dispute or has occupied land,” Philip Breedlove, former commander of U.S. European Command, 17th Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Allied Command Operations, told CNBC Tuesday.

“They’re not going to bring them in because then the whole alliance is committed to go straight to Article 5 [the principle that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all members] and so until this issue with Russia occupying Ukrainian land is over I don’t think there’s going to be a fast-track” to NATO membership, he said.

“I support it, I applaud Mr. Zelenskyy but I’m just being a realist,” he told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on the sidelines of the Warsaw Security Forum.

Breedlove said Ukraine’s successes on the battlefield in recent weeks represent a “fundamental shift” in the war, but that the nuclear threat posed by Russia is greater than ever.

Breedlove said Russian President Vladimir Putin was now facing an existential fight “as he starts to lose ground” and that the nuclear threat posed by Russia had grown as the war was not going Russia’s way.

“Two months ago I would’ve told you that [the threat] was credible but highly unlikely. Now I would tell you that it’s credible and the possibility is more than it was two months ago,” he said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here