Ukraine war live updates: Putin heaps praise on Xi while in China; Russia says forces advancing 'in all directions' in Ukraine

The Kremlin repeated its stance that a peace summit set to be held in Switzerland in June is useless without Russia’s participation, and said that even if China does participate in the event, it won’t make it more effective.

“It is unlikely that this conference itself, from our point of view, can be regarded as some kind of serious attempt to find ways to a settlement,” Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told the Izvestia newspaper Thursday.

Switzerland’s President Viola Amherd said Wednesday that delegations from more than 50 countries will be attending the peace summit it’s holding on June 15-16, although she said Switzerland wants to persuade more countries from the so-called “Global South,” as well as China, to sign up.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a prayer of peace for Ukraine in Lviv on July 8, 2023.

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Beijing has appeared to be lukewarm about the conference, however, saying it should include Russia. China has already proposed a 12-point peace plan that got a muted reception in the West and was accused of lacking a tangible plan to end the war.

Although Moscow has not been invited to the latest summit, having repeatedly signaled it would not attend in any case, Switzerland has said Russia must be involved in the peace process.

When asked about Beijing’s potential participation in the conference, Peskov said “China’s balanced approach can only ennoble any conference, from our point of view, but this will not add to the effectiveness of this particular event.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia’s relationship with superpower China is in the spotlight as President Vladimir Putin meets his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing.

Both countries’ ties with the West have become increasingly tense while their own alliance has seemed to blossom.

Analysts say the relationship is complicated, however, with interests and needs that bring them together, such as trade and investment and a shared animosity toward the West, and others that keep them further apart, like Russia’s unpredictability on the global stage and the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Like it or not, Russia and China’s relationship is “inescapable,” Sam Greene, director of the Democratic Resilience Program at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), told CNBC.

In this pool photograph distributed by the Russian state agency Sputnik, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping attend an official welcoming ceremony in front of the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on May 16, 2024. 

Sergei Bobylyov | Afp | Getty Images

“It would be probably too much to call them strategic partners, but they are strategically aligned in a lot of respects, maybe not entirely within their own making and maybe not entirely to their own liking, but inevitably as a result of decisions they’ve made and decisions that Western governments have made that really have pushed them together,” Greene said Wednesday.

“Neither Putin nor Xi can achieve what they want to achieve, both domestically and internationally, without the support of the other. Having said that, it’s not symmetrical and China has many, many more options and much, much more flexibility than Russia does,” he added.

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— Holly Ellyatt

Russian President Vladimir Putin heaped praise on his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a two-day state visit to China.

After the two leaders and their delegations held around 45 minutes of talks, Putin said at a press conference that discussions had been “warm and comradely” and had shown the importance of the relationship, in comments reported by Reuters.

In this pool photograph distributed by the Russian state agency Sputnik, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping attend an official welcoming ceremony in front of the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on May 16, 2024. 

Sergei Bobylyov | Afp | Getty Images

He said it was “logical” that his first foreign trip after being re-elected to a fifth term in office was to China, Russia’s most important ally globally.

Putin thanked Xi for the warm welcome at the start of the trip. Earlier, the leaders had held talks in which Putin said they had discussed trade and investment, deepening energy cooperation and the thorny subject of Ukraine.

Putin said Russia was grateful to China for trying to solve what Beijing describes as the Ukraine “crisis,” and said he would brief Xi on the situation in Ukraine where Russian forces have been making daily gains during a new offensive in the northeast.

The leaders earlier signed a joint statement on deepening their “strategic partnership of cooperation for a new era,” Chinese state media agency Xinhua said. Other Russian and Chinese officials are reportedly set to sign 10 other documents, though it’s uncertain what those likely bilateral agreements pertain to.

— Holly Ellyatt

Sergei Shoigu, the new secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said Russian forces are advancing in all directions in Ukraine.

“As the Supreme Commander-in-Chief [Vladimir Putin] said, this is visible and obvious, the offensive is underway in all directions and is going quite well,” Shoigu said in an interview with VGTRK journalist Pavel Zarubin, reported by RIA Novosti.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that its forces had taken control of two more settlements in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, building on daily gains in the northeast as a new offensive builds momentum.

Shoigu spoke to pro-Kremlin journalist Zarubin on Thursday as part of Russia’s delegation to China, where Russian President Vladimir Putin is making a two-day state visit. Former Defense Minister Shoigu is part of the delegation to Beijing that also includes Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, new Defense Minister Andrei Belousov, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Central Bank head Elvira Nabiullina.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) talk during a bilateral meeting on May 16, 2024, in Beijing, China. Russian President Vladimir Putin is in China for a two-day state visit. 

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Shoigu was replaced by Belousov following a government reshuffle by President Vladimir Putin last week. The move to the Security Council was seen as a demotion. Shoigu said Thursday that his main focus in his new role remains the “special military operation.”

“It’s difficult to single out any [one task], but the main task remains a special military operation – the production of ammunition, weapons and military equipment. I think that for all of us this is the main task,” he commented.

— Holly Ellyatt

The Estonian parliament on Wednesday passed an act enabling Russian-owned assets which have been frozen under international sanctions to be used to compensate Ukraine for war damages.

In a statement, Estonia’s Constitutional Committee said the country could take a pioneering role in creating a legal framework for the use of such assets for reparations.

Under the act, a foreign state that has sustained damage which has been proven by international law — such as Ukraine — could submit a compensation claim in Estonia.

Conditions on the use of assets as an “advance payment for compensation for damage” would then be agreed with the state making the claim. The link between the owner of the assets to the illegal acts would have to be proven.

TALLINN, ESTONIA – MARCH 22: Estonia’s parliament building stands on Toompea hill in the historic city center at twilight on March 22, 2017 in Tallinn, Estonia.

Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images

“Russia is an aggressor state, and the burden of compensating the war damage caused by it cannot be left to Ukraine and its allies. Russia is responsible for causing the damages and must bear that responsibility,” said Hendrik Johannes Terras, chair of Estonia’s Constitutional Committee.

“Estonia is proposing a mechanism that provides for the liability of the people and companies directly involved in or contributing to the aggression,” Terras added.

It comes after European Union ambassadors last week struck an agreement over using the profits from frozen Russian assets to support Ukraine. Details have not yet been released and the law has not been approved by EU leaders.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday said Washington has the power to seize Russian assets in the U.S. to use them to help rebuild Ukraine, and that it plans to do so.

— Jenni Reid

Russia’s defense and security spending could total as much as 8.7% or more of its gross domestic product this year, President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday in a meeting with military commanders, state media agency RIA Novosti reported.

“This is a big resource, and we are obliged to use it very efficiently and effectively,” Putin said, according to a Google-translation of quotes published by the state news agency.

Social obligations to citizens such as education and healthcare must also continue despite the added expenses, Putin said.

Russia’s president said the increasing amount of funds used for defense was a key reason for appointing Andrei Belousov as new defense minister.

Belousov was appointed earlier this week, replacing former defense minister Sergei Shoigu, who has in turn been made Secretary of Russia’s security council.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba shakes hands with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken prior to their talks in Kyiv, on May 15, 2024. 

Brendan Smialowski | Via Reuters

The U.S. will provide Ukraine with an additional $2 billion worth of military funding, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday, adding that a security agreement between the U.S. and Ukraine may not be far off.

“We will provide an additional $2 billion of foreign military financing for Ukraine,” Blinken said in a joint press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. The funds have been put together in a “first of it’s kind defense-enterprise fund,” which aims to provide weapons imminently, boost Ukraine’s defense-industrial base and help the country buy military equipment from elsewhere, he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a joint press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, May 15, 2024. 

Alina Smutko | Reuters

“We’re rushing ammunition, armored vehicles, missiles, air defense, rushing them to get to the front lines,” Blinken said.

A security agreement between the U.S. and the Ukraine is expected to be signed within weeks as the “heavy lifting” has been done, he said.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday instructed to postpone all of his scheduled foreign visits for several days, a spokesperson announced on social media.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky waits to greet US Secretary of State prior to their meeting in Kyiv on May 14, 2024. 

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

“Volodymyr Zelenskyy has instructed that all international events involving him scheduled for the coming days be postponed and new dates coordinated. We are grateful to our partners for their understanding,” Serhii Nikiforov said in a post on Facebook.

Nikiforov indicated that this came as Zelenskyy was updated on the developments in the Kharkiv region, where Russia launched a fresh offensive in recent days.

Zelenskyy was due to travel Spain and Portugal later this week.

— Sophie Kiderlin

The Russian defense ministry on Wednesday said its army had taken control of three further settlements in Ukraine.

Two of these settlements,  Lukyantski and Hlyboke are in the Kahrkiv region, and another is in the Zaporizhzhia area, the ministry said in several Google-translated posts on Telegram.

In the Kharkiv region, Russian forces “also advanced into the depths of the enemy’s defense” and resisted several counterattacks, according to the ministry.

CNBC could not independently verify developments on the ground.

Fighting in the Kharkiv region in the north-east of Ukraine has intensified in recent days, after Moscow launched an offensive in the area earlier this month. Russia has made territorial gains and seized several settlements in the region since.

— Sophie Kiderlin

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