Ukraine war live updates: Heavy losses reported among Russian mercenaries in east Ukraine; global leaders to discuss more sanctions on Moscow

Putin’s old EU ally Viktor Orban is once again aggravating Brussels

Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban — a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — has said that ending Russian oil purchases would be an “atomic bomb” on Hungary’s economy.

Attila Kisbenedek | Afp | Getty Images

Hungary is blocking new financial support for Ukraine as the country attempts to wrestle free its own EU funds, with nationalist leader Viktor Orban once again ruffling feathers in the heart of Brussels.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, in November proposed an 18 billion euro ($18.9 billion) package for the war-torn nation. The funds are supposed to be disbursed regularly throughout 2023. But, Hungary was the only nation among the 27 EU states to veto the plan.

Hungary Prime Minister Orban, often seen as a scourge to EU politics with once-warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, took to Twitter on Tuesday. “Today’s news was all about Hungary vetoing financial assistance to Ukraine. This is fake news. Hungary is ready to give financial assistance to Ukraine, on a bilateral basis. No veto, no blackmailing,” he said.

But Brussels disagrees. Some EU officials believe Budapest’s vote was an attempt to force through its own EU funding. An EU official, close to the ministers’ talks and who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, told CNBC: “They [Hungary] will deny it, [but] they want to create leverage and are taking two files under hostage.”

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Russia’s strategy of bombing Ukraine ‘into talking’ isn’t working, former ambassador says

Tony Brenton, former British Ambassador to Russia, says he doesn’t think serious negotiations between Russia and Ukraine are a near-time prospect.

Russia accuses U.S. of not having ‘constructive approach’ to technical talks

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin was quoted by Russian state news agency Tass as saying that Istanbul is a convenient platform for talks between Russia and the U.S. but that talks have not been so fruitful.

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A top official in Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Monday that Moscow does not see a “constructive approach” from Washington in talks that have been held between the two sides in Istanbul in the last few days.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin was quoted by Russian state news agency Tass as saying that Istanbul is a convenient platform for talks between Russia and the U.S. but that talks have not been so fruitful.

“Istanbul is a convenient platform for such contacts. I can say that any contacts are useful, but, unfortunately, we do not see a constructive approach from the American side aimed at concrete results,” Vershinin told Russian journalists.

A meeting was held between U.S. and Russian officials on Friday, Reuters reported, to discuss technical points of difference between the countries, with discussions over the issuance of visas one of the talking points.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine steps up diplomacy amid fighting, power outages

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a working session of G7 leaders via video link, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine June 27, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

The United States is prioritising efforts to boost Ukraine’s air defences, President Joe Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart on Sunday, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stepped up efforts to secure international assistance over the Russian invasion that is dragging into a 10th month.

Heavy fighting in the country’s east and south continued unabated, while drone and missile strikes on key power infrastructure, notably in the Black Sea port city of Odesa, kept many Ukrainians in the cold and dark.

There are no peace talks and no end in sight to the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War Two, which Moscow describes as a “special military operation” and Ukraine and its allies call an unprovoked act of aggression.

“We are constantly working with partners,” Zelenskyy said after talking to Biden and the leaders of France and Turkey, adding that he expects some “important results” next week from a series of international events that will tackle the situation in Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will hold on Monday an online meeting with Group of Seven (G-7) leaders and the European Union foreign ministers will to try to agree on further sanctions on Russia and Iran and on additional aid or arms deliveries to Ukraine.

While Zelenskyy has held numerous talks with Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan since Russian forces invaded in late February, the accumulation of discussions in just one day is not a regular event.

— Reuters

Russia unlikely to be able to fully occupy ‘annexed’ parts of Ukraine, UK says

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

Sergey Pivovarov | Reuters

Russia’s apparent war aims of “liberating” eastern Ukraine and extending control over the southern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson are likely to fail, Britain’s Ministry of Defense stated Monday, with little gains expected over the winter.

“Russia is likely still aiming to extend control over all of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson Oblasts [regions]. Russian military planners likely still aim to prioritise advancing deeper into Donetsk Oblast,” the defense ministry said on Twitter.

“However, Russia’s strategy is currently unlikely to achieve its objectives: it is highly unlikely that the Russian military is currently able to generate an effective striking force capable of retaking these areas,” the U.K. added.

“Russian ground forces are unlikely to make operationally significant advances within the next several months.”

Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov rearticulated the main goals of the “special military operation” (as Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine) last week, stating that these were to fully occupy the four regions of Ukraine that Russia declared it had annexed back in September.

Peskov stated there was “a lot of work ahead” to “liberate” these territories that were “occupied” by Ukrainian forces.

— Holly Ellyatt

1.5 million people left without power in Odesa after drone strike

Zelenskyy said the Odesa region is still among the regions with the largest number of energy shutdown.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Energy operators are working to restore the power supply to the southern port city of Odesa after its energy network was targeted by Russian drones over the weekend.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 1.5 million people were left without power after Russia launched drones strikes on the city. The president said Ukraine had managed to shoot down 10 of 15 Iranian drones used to target Odesa.

Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Sunday that “restoration work continues in the south of our country – we are doing everything to restore the light supply to Odesa.”

“As of this time, we managed to partially restore the supply in Odesa and other cities and districts of the region. We are doing everything to achieve the maximum possible after the Russian hits,” he said.

He said the Odesa region is still among the regions with the largest number of energy shutdowns, and that the situation remains “very difficult” in Kyiv, the capital’s surrounding region, as well as Lviv, Vinnytsia, Sumy and Dnipropetrovsk, among others.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian mercenaries suffered ‘very significant’ losses in Luhansk, official says

A mural praises the Russian Wagner group and its mercenaries fighting in Ukraine on March 30, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia.

Pierre Crom | Getty Images

Russian mercenaries fighting in eastern Ukraine suffered heavy losses after the hotel they were using as their headquarters was hit by Ukrainian forces this weekend, according to an official.

There were “very significant” losses after the guest house in Kadiivka in Luhansk was hit, the head of the Luhansk Military Administration Serhiy Haidai said on his Telegram account on Sunday.

Haidai claimed the hotel was being used as the headquarters of the private military force, the “Wagner Group,” a state-sanctioned group founded by an ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Wagner soldiers, widely seen as mercenaries, are fighting alongside the regular Russian army in Ukraine, particularly in the east of the country, where fighting is intense as Russian forces try to occupy more of the region and Ukrainian forces try to reclaim more territory.

Haidai said Russian forces are looking to mobilize all the men in the region and that age or health is no barrier to being forcibly mobilized. CNBC was unable to immediately verify Haidai’s claims.

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