Russia’s pledge to scale back in Ukraine met with skepticism; EU to put pressure on China

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Sanctions on Russia to continue until we see de-escalation, Italy’s Di Maio says

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Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” that sanctions on Russia will continue until Italy sees military de-escalation in Ukraine.

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— Chloe Taylor

Japan skeptical over Russian pledge to cut military operations

Japan has expressed skepticism over Russia’s pledge to reduce its military operations in and around the Ukrainian capital.

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“We are aware that during the ceasefire negotiations between Russia and Ukraine on March 29, both sides made certain concessions, with the Russian side indicating its intention to drastically reduce military operations in and around the capital, Kyiv,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday.

He noted that US President Joe Biden and other US government officials were taking a wait-and-see approach to Russia’s stated intentions, with some saying this is merely a repositioning of Moscow’s troops and not an actual withdrawal.

“Japan shares the belief that it is important to achieve a concrete cease-fire as soon as possible, and we will continue to monitor the situation with great interest, and at the same time, we will provide the various types of support to Ukraine that we have already announced in a prompt and steady manner,” Matsuno said. “In order to immediately stop Russia’s aggression and ensure the withdrawal of its troops it is important for the international community to work together and continue to take strong measures against Russia.”

— Chloe Taylor

EU to pressure China over stance on Russia-Ukraine war

The European Union wants to put pressure on China to be neutral with its stance over Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine, sources with knowledge of the matter told CNBC ahead of a virtual meeting between Brussels and Beijing on Friday.

There is concern among western officials regarding the role that China might play in the war between Russia and Ukraine. The Chinese authorities have so far refused to fully denounce Russia’s unprovoked invasion of its neighbor — having abstained during a vote for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Moscow.

China has also supported Moscow’s complaints about NATO expansion and US officials have also said that Russia has asked China for military and economic support — something that the Kremlin and Beijing have both denied.

European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are speaking Friday with China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang at 10 am Brussels time and then with Chinese President Xi Jinping at 2 pm

The goal of the summit is “ensuring, in a way, the neutrality of China so they don’t help Russia,” an EU official, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the discussions, told CNBC Tuesday.

Read the full story here.

, Silvia Amaro

Ukrainian official says Russia will target Kyiv ‘until the end of the conflict’

Oleksiy Arestovtch, an advisor to the Ukrainian President’s Office, said Wednesday morning that ongoing talks between Russia and Ukraine would do nothing to decelerate the war.

“Negotiations will in no way slow down the war and will not cancel it,” he said on Telegram in the early hours of Wednesday morning. “This is a separate line that prepares a future peace agreement, because any war, even a hundred years’ war, ends with a peace agreement.”

He noted, however, that “serious success” had been achieved at Tuesday’s talks in Istanbul.

“Ukraine has improved its pre-war position in all areas of consultation,” Arestovtch said. “At some point the negotiating and military lines will converge and this will definitely be a victory for Ukraine.”

But he expressed skepticism over the pledge Russia made at the meeting to scale back its military activity near Kyiv and the city of Chernihiv.

“Russian troops will be targeting the cities until the very end of the conflict,” he said. “Including Kyiv.”

— Chloe Taylor

Russian attacks continue in Ukraine

Ukraine’s armed forces said in an update Wednesday morning that more than 1,000 Russian troops had been transferred from occupied Georgia to reinforce Russia’s military presence in Ukraine.

“The enemy continues to conduct full-scale armed aggression against our state,” officials said in the update, adding that Russian troops “continue to loot the homes and apartments of local residents, detain pro-Ukrainian aggressions and government officials in Ukraine.”

CNBC has not been able to independently verify these reports.

A spokesperson for the Russian government was not available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials said on Telegram Wednesday morning there had been shelling attacks in Kyiv’s Brovary district yesterday, which resulted in a fire. It was not specified if there were any casualties.

Officials also said Russian troops had fired on residential neighborhoods in the Luhansk region early this morning. Authorities said there were “victims” in the attack, and were clarifying the information on casualties resulting from the attack.

“Rescuers are trying to save the living,” Luhansk Governor Serhii Haidai said,

— Chloe Taylor

Russian military is suffering ‘heavy losses’ but will likely continue with attacks, the UK says

Russian units are suffering “heavy losses” and have been forced to return to Belarus and Russia to reorganize and resupply, according to the UK Defense Ministry.

“Such activity is placing further pressure on Russia’s already strained logistics and demonstrates the difficulties Russia is having reorganizing its units in forward areas of Ukraine,” showed the ministry’s latest intelligence report,

However, Russia is likely to continue mass artillery and missile strikes to compensate for its “reduced ground manoeuvre capability,” it said in a Twitter post. The US previously warned that Russia’s pledge to move troops away from Kyiv is “not a real withdrawal.”

“Russia’s stated focus on an offensive in Donetsk and Luhansk is likely a tacit admission that it is struggling to sustain more than one significant axis of advance,” the UK Defense Ministry added.

— Goh Chiew Tong

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

You can read Tuesday’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine here:

Russia claims it will curb attacks around Kyiv; Ukraine calls for security guarantee in latest talks

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