Ukraine war updates: Putin claims Russia has no interest in wider war; UAE mediates prisoner exchange


Putin claims Russia has no intention of expanding war to Poland, Latvia

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an expanded meeting of the Defence Ministry Board at the National Defence Control Centre in Moscow, Russia December 19, 2023. 

Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed Moscow has no interest in expanding the war beyond Ukraine to the likes of Poland and Latvia.

Putin made the comments in a two-hour interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and spoke in Russian, with Carlson’s team providing the dubbed translation. It was his first interview with an American media outlet since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.

In the translated recording, Putin says he could only imagine a scenario in which Russia would send troops into Poland, a NATO member, if “Poland attacks Russia.”

“Why? Because we have no interest in Poland, Latvia or anywhere else. Why would we do that? We simply don’t have any interest,” he added, according to the translation.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul noted on the X social media platform that “Putin said the same thing about Crimea in 2008, right after he had invaded Georgia.”

Russia went on to invade Crimea in 2014.

The Russian leader also claimed Russia was ready for “dialogue” with Ukraine and the West over how to end the war, and for the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia for almost a year while awaiting trial on spying charges, which the U.S. claims are fabricated.

The Kremlin said Putin only agreed to the interview because Carlson’s views differed from other major media outlets, in that he has been a vocal critic of U.S. support for Ukraine and consistently repeated falsehoods, misinformation and conspiracy theories.

CNBC has not been provided any details about the circumstances under which the interview was recorded.

Elliot Smith

UAE brokers swap of 100 war prisoners between Russia and Ukraine

The United Arab Emirates announced on Thursday that it mediated an exchange of 100 prisoners of war between Russia and Ukraine.

Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed the transfer on the Telegram messaging app and noted that the UAE “provided humanitarian mediation,” while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also confirmed that the exchange had taken place.

The UAE Foreign Ministry said “the success of the mediation, which is the third since the beginning of this year, is a reflection of the continuity, moderation and wisdom of the UAE’s relationships with countries.”

“These relations are leveraged to find common ground for resolving regional and international challenges and disputes, contributing to the continued success of diplomatic efforts,” it added.

Elliot Smith

Ukraine claims it shot down 10 of 16 Russian drones overnight

Ukraine’s military said it shot down 10 of 16 Russian drones launched into Ukrainian territory overnight.

Those that got through inflicted damage on “exclusively civilian infrastructure” in the eastern Kharkiv region and injured one person, the air force said.

CNBC could not independently verify the claim.

— Elliot Smith

Zelenskyy appoints new army chief

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced a new top team for the Ukrainian Armed forces Thursday, writing in a post on Telegram.

General Oleksandr Syrskyi was named as the new commander-in-chief.

See the full post below translated by NBC News:

I am grateful to General Zaluzhnyy for two years of defense. I am thankful for every victory we have achieved together and thanks to all Ukrainian soldiers who heroically bear this war on themselves. We openly discussed today what changes are needed in the army. Urgent changes. I proposed to General Zaluzhny to continue together in the team of the Ukrainian state. I will be grateful for his consent.

Starting today, a new management team is taking over the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. I want the vision of the war to be unified among our soldiers in Robotyne or Avdiivka, as well as in the General Staff and at the Headquarters. I have had dozens of conversations with commanders of various levels. In particular, today I spoke with Brigadier Generals Andriy Hnatov, Mykhailo Drapaty, Ihor Skybiuk, and Colonels Pavlo Palysia and Vadym Sukharevskyy. They are all considered for leadership positions in the army and will serve under the leadership of the most experienced Ukrainian commander. He has successful experience in defense – he led the Kyiv Defense Operation. He also has successful experience in offense – the Kharkiv Liberation Operation. I have appointed Lieutenant General Syrskyy as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Today, I also spoke with Generals Moisyuk and Zabrodskyy. Their experience is in service to the state.

2024 can be successful for Ukraine only if effective changes are made in the foundation of our defense, which is the Armed Forces of Ukraine

-Matt Clinch

Zelenskyy says changes in the military are needed

Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy took to X Thursday to say he had asked his Army Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi to stay as part of his leadership team.

He added that both had agreed that changes in the military were needed.

See the full post below translated by NBC News:

I met with General Valerii Zaluzhnyi.

I thanked him for the two years of defending Ukraine.

We discussed the renewal that the Armed Forces of Ukraine require.

We also discussed who could be part of the renewed leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The time for such a renewal is now.

I proposed to General Zaluzhnyi to remain part of the team.

We will definitely win!

Glory to Ukraine!

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 16th, 2024.

Adam Galici | CNBC

US Senate to vote on $95 billion Ukraine, Israel aid bill after failed border deal

The U.S. Senate was due to vote on Thursday on a $95.34 billion bill that includes aid for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific, after Republicans blocked compromise legislation that also included a long-sought overhaul of immigration policy.

Democrats and Republicans spent hours discussing next steps on Wednesday after the broader effort failed, until Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sent lawmakers home with plans to consider on Thursday a revised package that strips out the immigration provisions but leaves the foreign aid intact.

“We will be coming back tomorrow at noon and, hopefully, that will give the Republicans the time they need,” Schumer said on Wednesday. “We will have this vote.”

The security aid bill includes $61 billion for Ukraine as it battles a Russian invasion, $14 billion for Israel in its war against Hamas and $4.83 billion to support partners in the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan, and deter
aggression by China.

Supporters of Ukraine have been struggling for much of the year to find a way to send more money to help Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s government. While lawmakers have approved more than $110 billion for Ukraine since the invasion began in February 2022, Congress has not passed any major aid
for Kyiv since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in January 2023.

It’s unclear whether the new bill would win the support of House Republicans.

— Reuters

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:


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