This was CNBC’s live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that the European Union’s approval of a 50 billion euro ($54 billion) aid package for the country sent a “clear signal” to Moscow about unity — and also to the United States, where the passage of further aid has stalled.
In his nightly address, Zelenskyy thanked EU leaders and said the four-year program would provide Ukrainians with financial guarantees for “social stability.” The first two tranches of delivery require a larger amount of 18 billion euros per year to shore up state resilience, he said.
“Europe has demonstrated exactly the kind of unity that is needed … This is a clear signal to Moscow that Europe will withstand and that Europe will not be broken by any destructive waves that the Kremlin always comes up with,” he added.
“But at the same time, it is a clear signal across the Atlantic that Europe is taking on commitments. Security commitments. Strong commitments. We are waiting for America’s decisions.”
U.S. President Joe Biden’s government has been pushing for congressional approval for $61 billion in fresh funding for Ukraine for months. However, a bill to secure it — which also includes funds for Israel and U.S. border security — failed to move through a political deadlock at the end of 2023.
The U.S. has been Ukraine’s biggest military supporter by far, but the Pentagon in December said it had delivered its last security assistance until new funds are released.
A redrafted version of the bill is expected to be released in the coming days, but still faces an uncertain passage through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Elsewhere, the World Court on Friday ruled that the case from Ukraine accusing Russia of violating international law by accusing Kyiv of genocide can move forward.
Meanwhile, France’s Foreign Ministry confirmed Friday that two French humanitarian volunteers were killed in a Russian drone strike on Ukraine’s Kherson region.
Three other French nationals and a Ukrainian national were reported wounded.
The World Court on Friday ruled that the case from Ukraine accusing Russia of violating international law by accusing Kyiv of genocide can move forward.
Ukraine brought the case to the International Court of Justice days after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.
The judges granted some of Russia’s objections but allowed Ukraine’s request for the court to rule that there was no “credible evidence that Ukraine is committing genocide in violation of the Genocide Convention” in eastern Ukraine.
— Karen Gilchrist
Russia’s election commission said it has found irregularities in the signatures submitted to back the presidential bids of two candidates for the election of March, including those for war critic Boris Nadezhdin, Russian state-owned news agency Tass reported Friday.
“There are mistakes that cause surprise,” electoral official Nikolai Bulaev said about the dismissed submissions, according to a Google translation.
Bulaev said that it had seen “more than a dozen” people “who are in this world no longer, but they gave a signature.”
“The question arises about the integrity of the ethical standards that are used, including by the signature collectors. To some extent, the candidate is directly involved in this,” Bulaev added.
Nadezhdin is running as a candidate for the Civic Initiative party, which CNBC has approached for comment.
Russia’s election is essentially a one-horse race for President Vladimir Putin, following decades of oppression of political opposition in Russia.
Nadezhdin submitted a bid to run for the presidency on Wednesday with signatures from more than 100,000 supporters. Analysts say the well-known political figure has become a concern for the establishment, amid quiet but growing support for his platform, which includes peace with Ukraine and friendly global relations.
Bulaev said the candidates would be notified of the commission’s findings on Monday.
Read more about Nadezhdin here.
— Jenni Reid, Holly Ellyatt
France’s Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said Russia would have to “answer for its crimes” after two French humanitarian volunteers were killed in a Russian strike on Ukraine.
“Russian barbarity has targeted civilians in Ukraine … France stands by their side. Russia will have to answer for its crimes,” Sejourne said on social media platform X, according to a CNBC translation.
French President Emmanuel Macron called it a “cowardly and unworthy act.”
“I think of their injured loved ones and colleagues. My solidarity goes to all volunteers who are committed to helping people,” Macron said via X.
France confirmed the deaths on Friday. The strikes on the southern region of Kherson also injured three French nationals and one Ukrainian national.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered condolences to the loved ones of the victims, and said Ukraine would always be grateful for the “humanity” of the volunteers.
— Jenni Reid
Repatriating the remains of Ukrainian prisoners of war reportedly killed in an air crash last week is “now in the hands of investigative authorities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state news agency RIA on Friday.
“The investigation is ongoing. And during the investigation, naturally, all regimes are determined only by the investigation,” according to a Google translation.
On Thursday, the spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said that Russia was ignoring its repeated requests to return the bodies.
The two countries continue to exchange accusations over the incident.
Russia says one of its military transport planes was carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war and nine Russian citizens to a prisoner exchange last Thursday, when it was shot down by Ukrainian air defenses in the Russian border region of Belgorod, killing all those on board.
Ukraine says it still lacks comprehensive information and any proof about what occurred and who was on board. Both sides have called for an international investigation.
On the day of the crash, Ukraine’s Air Force said it was continuing to defend the area from Russian strikes and had not been informed about the need to ensure the safety of the airspace over a set period, as has happened in the past. It did not confirm any involvement in the incident.
— Jenni Reid
U.S. President Joe Biden called top European Union leader Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday to praise the institution’s approval of a 50 billion euro ($54 billion) package of aid for Ukraine.
Biden commended the EU’s “steadfast support for Ukraine,” while European Commission President von der Leyen stressed the importance of sustained U.S. support for the country.
White House spokesperson John Kirby separately told reporters that the European Union’s support is “not a substitute for American leadership when it comes to security assistance,” and said it was critical that the U.S. Congress approves additional funding.
— Jenni Reid
Russia launched strikes on various Ukrainian targets, including infrastructure facilities in the southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region, with 24 Shahed drones overnight, the Ukrainian air force said.
It said it destroyed 11 drones across the Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, Kirovohrad and Kharkiv regions. Another seven drones missed their targets and were lost, it said.
National grid operator Ukrenergo said electricity was cut off in the city of Kryvyi Rih in Dnipropetrovsk following the strikes.
— Jenni Reid
Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said on Thursday that financial aid from the European Union and the United States was “critically important” for maintaining macroeconomic stability and ensuring growth.
“It is very important for us to maintain macroeconomic stability. It is a prerequisite for economic growth,” Svyrydenko, who is also the economy minister, told Reuters in an interview.
“Partners’ aid is critically important to maintain this stability,” she said, adding that she expected the United States to follow the example of the EU, which approved a 50 billion euro four-year aid package for Ukraine earlier on Thursday.
Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban took to social media Thursday afternoon to break his silence over the European Union’s earlier agreed 50 billion euro ($54 billion) support package for Ukraine, saying that the deal would not include funds from Budapest.
Orban said on Facebook, according to a translation, that a “control mechanism” had been negotiated for the use of funds, which guarantees that “Hungary’s money can’t end up in Ukraine.”
Orban has been a sole holdout in passing the funding package for Ukraine, blocking the plans at the group’s last meeting in December.
His political director, Balázs Orbán (no relation) said in a social media post that the funding agreement would be renegotiated after one year, and that it would be reconsidered full after two years, “in the context of the EU budget for the next period.”
— Karen Gilchrist
EU member states on Thursday agreed on an additional aid package totaling 50 billion euros ($54 billion) for Ukraine, European Council President Charles Michel said on social media.
“All 27 leaders agreed on an additional €50 billion support package for Ukraine within the EU budget,” he said. “This locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding for #Ukraine. EU is taking leadership & responsibility in support for Ukraine; we know what is at stake.”
EU leaders have been struggling to reach a consensus over the support package, amid opposition from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban who vetoed the aid deal in December. Hungary wants to have an annual review that would allow it a right to veto the disbursements each year, Reuters has reported.
— Ruxandra Iordache
EU agrees $54 billion aid package for Kyiv; Orban says Hungary’s funds excluded from deal