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Secretary Austin speaks with Israeli counterpart about Russia’s war in Ukraine

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing on “Department of Defense’s Budget Requests for FY2023”, on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 7, 2022.

Sarah Silbiger | Reuters

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with his Israeli counterpart on a wide range of security challenges, according to a Pentagon readout of the call.

“Secretary Austin and Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant also discussed Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine, including Russia’s brutal missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and against civilian targets,” Pentagon Press Secretary U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder wrote in a release.

Austin also discussed Iranian destabilization actions in the region and reaffirmed the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Austin also invited the Gallant to visit Washington, D.C. for an in-person meeting at the Pentagon.

— Amanda Macias

Putin orders cease fire in Ukraine over Orthodox Christmas

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks on the phone with David Shmelev, a seven-year-old child from Stavropol Krai region, who took part in the New Year Tree of Wishes nationwide charity campaign, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow on January 5, 2023.

Mikhail Klimentyev | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a cease fire in Ukraine over Orthodox Christmas, the Kremlin said.

Russian troops must hold fire for 36 hours starting on Jan. 6, the Kremlin said.

Many Orthodox Christians, including those living in Russia and Ukraine, celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6 to 7. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, called for both sides of the war in Ukraine to observe a Christmas truce, a step dismissed by Kyiv as a cynical trap.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia conducts a service in a church in Moscow, Russia November 18, 2022.

Yulia Morozova | Reuters

“Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation to introduce a ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact of the parties in Ukraine from 12.00 on January 6, 2023 to 24.00 on January 7, 2023,” Putin said in the order.

“Proceeding from the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the areas of hostilities, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and allow them to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on Christmas Day,” Putin said.

— Reuters

UN says at least 6,900 killed in Ukraine since start of war

A woman kisses a cross on a grave of her mother killed by shelling during Ukraine-Russia conflict, in the besieged southern port of Mariupol, Ukraine March 23, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

The United Nations has confirmed at least 6,919 civilian deaths and 11,075 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay fatality reports.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects, including shelling from heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, missiles and air strikes,” the international organization wrote in a release.

— Amanda Macias

Three family members reportedly killed as Orthodox Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas

Kyiv residents light candles during a service at a St. Michael’s Gold-domed monastery in Kyiv. The Orthodox church of Ukraine allows its adherents to celebrate Christmas on December 25th as well as on January 7th.

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

A married couple and their 12-year-old son have been killed during shelling of the town of Beryslav in the southern Kherson region as they were preparing to celebrate the Orthodox Christian Christmas, according to the deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office.

“Tragic news in the city today. The shelling of the occupiers and a shell hitting the house killed the family,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko wrote on Telegram Thursday in comments translated by Google.

“This is all the baseness and meanness of Russia. In the morning they talk about the “Christmas truce”, and already at lunch they kill the whole family. What did the husband, wife and their 12-year-old son do? Because they are simply Ukrainians?,” he added.

“People were preparing to celebrate Christmas together, but a cynical attack by the Russians killed them in their own home,” he wrote.

Earlier this morning, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill (who has been supportive of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine) called for a Christmas truce to begin on the Orthodox Church’s Christmas Eve on Jan. 6.

Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians but there are daily instances of residential buildings and civil infrastructure being attacked by its forces. CNBC was unable to verify the information in Tymoshenko’s post.

— Holly Ellyatt

Putin tells Erdogan the West has ‘destructive role’ in Ukraine war

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin speaks on the phone during a conversation with Agatha Bylkova from the Kurgan region, an 8-year-old participant of a New Year’s and Christmas charity event, in Moscow, Russia, January 3, 2023. 

Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik | Via Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed once again that the West is playing a “destructive role” in the Ukraine war.

Speaking to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday, Russia’s leader touched upon economic ties between the two countries, specifically in the energy sector, as well as the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

“The situation around Ukraine was touched upon. On the Russian side, the destructive role of Western states is emphasized, pumping up the Kyiv regime with weapons and military equipment, providing it with operational information and target designation,” the Kremlin said on its Telegram channel, according to a Google translation of the comments.

“In the light of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s readiness for Turkish mediation for a political settlement of the conflict, Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Russia’s openness to a serious dialogue, provided that the Kyiv authorities comply with the well-known and repeatedly voiced demands and take into account new territorial realities,” the Kremlin added, alluding to Russia’s insistence that Kyiv recognize territories it has illegally annexed from Ukraine.

While Russia’s relations with the West and, specifically, NATO, has declined steeply since the war in Ukraine began last February, Turkey has managed to maintain diplomatic and business links with Russia despite being a member of NATO itself. Ankara has helped to broker prisoner swaps and a grain export deal between the warring countries, for example, and has offered to mediate peace talks.

— Holly Ellyatt

Erdogan tells Putin ceasefire needed in Ukraine peace efforts

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan arrive for a news conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia March 5, 2020.

Pavel Golovkin | Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Vladimir Putin in a phone call that peace efforts in the Russia-Ukraine war should be supported by a unilateral ceasefire and a “vision for a fair solution”, the Turkish presidency said on Thursday.

It said in a statement the two leaders discussed energy and the Black Sea grains corridor and that Erdogan told Putin concrete steps needed to be taken to clear Kurdish militants from the Syrian border region.

— Reuters

Russians shelling ‘the entire front line’ in Donetsk, official says

A destroyed residential building in the city of Lyman in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on Jan. 4, 2023.

Dimitar Dilkoff | Afp | Getty Images

Intense shelling is taking place along the entire front line in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, according to one official, who said residential buildings and a hospital had been damaged during the attacks last night and this morning.

“At night and in the morning, the Russians intensely fired along the entire front line,” Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, posted on Telegram Thursday.

Kurakhove, Maryinka and Avdiivka in Donetsk had been targeted, with houses, shops and equipment at an infrastructure facility damaged during the latest round of shelling.

He said two people had been killed around Horlivka and another was injured in Bakhmut, the epicenter of fighting in the Donetsk region. In Chasiv Yar, a high-rise building was destroyed, and four more houses and a hospital building were damaged, he said, while in Soledar a five-story building was damaged, although no one was injured.

In the Lysychansk area in neighboring Luhansk, Kyrylenko said Russian forces had fired an S-300 missile at Lyman.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine’s economy estimated to have shrunk by 30.4% in 2022

Firefighters conduct search and rescue operations after Russian forces hit a cultural center in Chuhuiv, Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine, on July 25, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Ukrainian economy contracted 30.4% in 2022, according to a preliminary estimate from the Ukrainian economy ministry.

Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said in a statement Thursday that Ukraine had suffered its largest economic losses and damage since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began in February 2022.

The economy ministry noted that the estimated contraction in 2022 was smaller than previously forecast, noting “this is objectively the worst result since independence, but better than most experts expected at the start of the full-scale invasion, when estimates ranged from 40-50% drop in GDP and beyond.”

Svyrydenko said Ukraine’s successes on the battlefield, the coordinated work of government and business as well as “the indomitable spirit of the population” and the speed of restoration of destroyed or damaged critical infrastructure as well as financial support from international partners had enable Ukraine to maintain the economic front during wartime.

Last September, the Ukrainian government, European Commission and World Bank, in cooperation with partners, estimated that the cost of reconstruction and recovery in Ukraine amounted to $349 billion; that figure is now likely much higher as the war continues.

— Holly Ellyatt

Kyiv given more light combat vehicles — but it wants heavy tanks

Ukraine is continuing to press its international partners to provide it with heavier tanks to fight Russia, having been offered more armored fighting vehicles by its allies this week.

On Wednesday, France announced that it was giving Kyiv light tanks, AMX-10 RCs, and President Joe Biden hinted that the U.S. could provide Ukraine with Bradley Fighting Vehicles (armored troop carriers) — but both still fall short of the modern, heavy tanks that Ukraine has been seeking, such as the U.S.’ M1 Abrams battle tanks and Germany’s Leopard 2s.

A U.S. soldier near a Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

Delil Souleiman | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy on Wednesday thanked President Emmanuel Macron “for the decision to transfer light tanks and Bastion APCs [armored personnel carriers] to Ukraine,” but in his nightly address, Zelenskyy again questioned why its allies have been reluctant to supply Ukraine with modern Western armored vehicles and tanks.

“We will receive more armored vehicles, in particular wheeled tanks of French production. This is what sends a clear signal to all our other partners: there is no rational reason why Ukraine has not yet been supplied with Western-type tanks,” Zelenskyy said.

An AMX-10 RC tank deployed in Bosnia in 1995.

Gabriel Bouys | Afp | Getty Images

“This is very important in order to restore security for all Ukrainians and peace for all Europeans,” he added.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s allies should “not delay any of those defense opportunities that can speed up the defeat” of Russia, adding that “modern Western armored vehicles, Western-style tanks are just one of these key opportunities.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Biden says Bradley Fighting Vehicles are on the table for Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks prior to signing railroad legislation into law, providing a resoluton to avert a nationwide rail shutdown, during a signing ceremony in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 2, 2022. 

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden said that sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine was being considered to help the Ukrainians in combating Russia’s invasion.

“Yes,” Biden said when asked if the option was on the table.

— Reuters

Claims that war pits Russia against NATO are ‘a bunch of BS,’ White House spokesman says

White House National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, November 28, 2022.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Russian claims that Moscow’s war in Ukraine is really a fight against NATO and Western countries are “a bunch of BS,” a Biden administration spokesman said.

“This is about a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” said U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. “And Russia is the one who started it. Russia is the one who’s visited violence on the Ukrainian people at a scale.”

Kirby added that the U.S. will “continue to provide [Ukraine] the kinds of systems and assistance they need to defend themselves,” including the coveted High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.

— Jacob Pramuk

Heavy fighting likely to persist in Ukrainian-held Bakhmut, U.S. official says

Ukrainian soldiers with the 43rd Heavy Artillery Brigade sit atop 2S7 Pion self propelled cannon on the battlefield, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, during intense shelling on the front line in Bakhmut, Ukraine, December 26, 2022.

Clodagh Kilcoyne | Reuters

Heavy fighting around the largely ruined, Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut is likely to persist for the foreseeable future, with the outcome uncertain as Russians have made incremental progress, according to a senior U.S. administration official.

— Reuters

Russian torture chambers uncovered in Kherson, Ukraine

Kherson police said local residents were held in cells and rooms for days, tortured with electricity and batons and forced to write Russian patriotic texts. Kherson was the only regional capital captured by Russia since the invasion, and Ukraine liberated it late last year.

KHERSON, UKRAINE – JANUARY 04: Officers of the War Crimes Prosecutor office and police officers investigate war crimes committed by the Russian occupying forces on the local civilian population in the basements and rooms of Ukrainian penitentiary buildings on January 4, 2023 in Kherson, Ukraine. According to the Kherson police, local residents were held in cells and rooms for days, tortured with electricity, batons and forced to write Russian patriotic texts. Kherson was the only regional capital captured by Russia since the invasion and it was liberated by Ukraine late last year. (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)

Pierre Crom | Getty Images

A burnt bed within a room as officers of the War Crimes Prosecutor office and police officers investigate war crimes committed by the Russian occupying forces on the local civilian population in the basements and rooms of Ukrainian penitentiary buildings on January 4, 2023 in Kherson, Ukraine. 

Pierre Crom | Getty Images

A general view of the basement and rooms as officers of the War Crimes Prosecutor office and police officers investigate war crimes committed by the Russian occupying forces on the local civilian population in the Ukrainian penitentiary buildings on January 4, 2023 in Kherson, Ukraine. 

Pierre Crom | Getty Images

KHERSON, UKRAINE – JANUARY 04: Russian patriotic written letters as officers of the War Crimes Prosecutor office and police officers investigate war crimes committed by the Russian occupying forces on the local civilian population in the basements and rooms of Ukrainian penitentiary buildings on January 4, 2023 in Kherson, Ukraine. According to the Kherson police, local residents were held in cells and rooms for days, tortured with electricity, batons and forced to write Russian patriotic texts. Kherson was the only regional capital captured by Russia since the invasion and it was liberated by Ukraine late last year. (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)

Pierre Crom | Getty Images

Walls are marked with the Russian war symbol Z as officers of the War Crimes Prosecutor office and police officers investigate war crimes committed by the Russian occupying forces on the local civilian population in the basements and rooms of Ukrainian penitentiary buildings on January 4, 2023 in Kherson, Ukraine.

Pierre Crom | Getty Images

A general view of the basement and rooms as officers of the War Crimes Prosecutor office and police officers investigate war crimes committed by the Russian occupying forces on the local civilian population in the Ukrainian penitentiary buildings on January 4, 2023 in Kherson, Ukraine.

Pierre Crom | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A calendar marked on a wall in a cell as officers of the War Crimes Prosecutor office and police officers investigate war crimes committed by the Russian occupying forces on the local civilian population in the basements and rooms of Ukrainian penitentiary buildings on January 4, 2023 in Kherson, Ukraine.

Pierre Crom | Getty Images

— Pierre Crom | Getty Images

Zelenskyy and Macron discussed aid to boost Ukraine’s air defenses

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron during a news briefing following their talks in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 8, 2022.

Gleb Garanich | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and French President Emmanuel Macron had a “long and detailed conversation” about efforts to boost Ukraine’s defenses against Russian attacks.

“We agreed on further cooperation to significantly strengthen our air defense and other defense capabilities,” Zelenskyy said in a post on his Telegram channel.

France and other European nations have funneled aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor last year. Zelenskyy has pleaded for air defenses in particular as Russia pummels his country with missile strikes.

— Jacob Pramuk

Russia blames use of mobile phones for deadly Makiivka attack

Russia has been left reeling as the death toll rises following a Ukrainian strike on newly conscripted soldiers in Makiivka, a town in the partially Russian-occupied eastern Donetsk region in east Ukraine.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday night that the death toll from the attack, which took place on New Year’s Eve, had risen to 89, according to reports by Russian state news agencies.

It had previously said 63 soldiers had died in the attack, which struck a college for conscripts in Makiivka, in a rare admission of multiple losses.

It blamed the unauthorized use of cellphones for the strike, saying their use had allowed Ukraine to locate and strike its personnel.

“This factor allowed the enemy to locate and determine the coordinates of the location of military personnel for a missile strike,” the ministry said in a statement, reported by RIA Novosti.

Mourners gather to lay flowers in memory of Russian soldiers who were killed in a Ukrainian strike on a college for newly conscripted Russian soldiers in the occupied city of Makiivka in eastern Ukraine on New Year’s Eve.

Arden Arkman | Afp | Getty Images

The ministry said Ukraine had struck the building in Makiivka using missiles from a HIMARS rocket system and claimed that Russian forces had intercepted four of six rockets. It claimed it had destroyed the HIMARS rocket system from which the attack was carried out. CNBC was unable to verify the defense ministry’s claims.

The attack has caused consternation in Russia, with mourners gathering in Samara, the region where the majority of the mobilized soldiers reportedly came from.

— Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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