Putin says Russia is going through ‘difficult times’

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Supreme Court chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 22, 2023.

Mikhail Klimentyev | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin told an audience Tuesday that Russia was going through “difficult times” as its invasion of Ukraine continues, but said national pride was growing.

“Yes, Russia is going through difficult times now; things have never been easy, but, still, today we are seeing a moment of our common consolidation, with our national pride being sharpened,” Putin told an awards ceremony Tuesday, according to comments reported by state news agency Tass.

Putin said Russia was “striving at all costs to strengthen the foundations of our spirituality, to create the conditions in the economy, manufacturing, and education of our young people in order to ensure the unconditional future of our country.”

Putin said Russia had become more self-sufficient in recent years, although he did not cite international sanctions as a reason for this.

“We have become much more self-sufficient. Without self-sufficiency, there can be no sovereignty, and self-sufficiency is being achieved in all areas: in art, in science, in industry and, of course, in the military,” he said.

Russian officials have frequently tried to look on the bright side of a raft of international sanctions, imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine as well as earlier misconduct, ranging from 2016 U.S. election interference to the nerve agent poisoning of a former spy in the U.K.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused mass destruction in the country and the deaths of thousands of civilians (the U.N. estimates the number at almost 9,000, although the real number is likely to be far higher) and possibly several hundred thousand deaths among soldiers from both sides.

— Holly Ellyatt

There are no conditions for peace in Ukraine, Kremlin says

A Russian National guard serviceman stands guard at an embankment of the Moskva river opposite the Kremlin on the morning of the Victory Day military parade.

Alexander Nemenov | Afp | Getty Images

The Kremlin said Wednesday that it’s premature to talk about a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov saying the preconditions for an end to the conflict did not yet exist.

When asked by reporters which peace proposals were closest to Russia’s position, Peskov said:

“It is premature to talk about this as long as there are no prerequisites for a peaceful settlement. The special military operation continues,” he said in comments reported by Russian state news agency Tass.

Russia’s “special military operation,” as it calls its invasion of Ukraine, would be accomplished, Peskov added.

“Russia is taking under consideration only the completion of its special military operation: ensuring its interests, achieving Russia’s goals either through the special military operation, or by other available means.”

When asked to clarify whether the Kremlin was ready for negotiations with their counterparts in Kyiv, Peskov said, “It is unlikely that this can be discussed, because any negotiations with the Russian Federation are prohibited [in Ukraine].”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last year that Kyiv would not negotiate with Russia while Putin was in office.

Both Russia and Ukraine have “red lines” that they say they will not cross when it comes to any possible, future peace deal. Kyiv says Russia must remove all of its troops from occupied areas and says it wants all of its territory returned, including Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.

Moscow wants all Ukrainian regions it has annexed illegally to be recognized as Russian territory and wants guarantees Ukraine won’t join NATO. On this latter point, there may be room for compromise, Ukraine said, if it can receive security guarantees from its international allies.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia and China are in an ‘alignment of convenience,’ not a ‘deep alliance,’ says professor

Russia and China are in an “alignment of convenience” — not a deep alliance that will “last 10 or 20 years,” said Joseph Nye, Harvard University distinguished service professor emeritus.

Both countries see the U.S. as a “common irritant” rather than a “common enemy,” Nye told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”

China has positioned itself as a peace broker for the war in Ukraine, sending representatives to Russia, Ukraine and other European countries last week in an attempt to set up negotiations. It released a 12-point peace plan in February calling for a de-escalation of the war.

The peace plan is not realistic because “the Chinese don’t want to irritate the Russians,” Nye said. But if Ukraine’s planned spring offensive achieves a degree of success, Putin may feel that a ceasefire makes sense and China might “press him to accept” something more serious, Nye explained.

Beijing wants to “pose as the peacemaker” to regain its position in Europe, the professor said. “China cares about its soft power, its attractiveness in Europe, and it’s lost a good deal through the strong support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

But to reduce its reputational damage, he added, China will have to “push Russia a little bit harder.”

— Audrey Wan

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.


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

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.

Dmitry Astakhov | AFP | Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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