Russian economy shrugs off sanctions; militia owner blames Kremlin for soldiers' deaths: Ukraine live updates

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What we know after one year of Russia’s war in Ukraine

Here’s what we know about the state of the war in Ukraine one year after Russia’s invasion.

Just the FAQs, USA TODAY

The global economic sanctions fueled by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago have slowed but not crippled the Russian economy, experts say.

Russia’s economy did shrink 2.2% in 2022 – far short of predictions of 15% or more that Biden administration and other western economists had forecast. This year, its economy is projected to outperform the U.K.’s, growing 0.3% while the U.K. faces a 0.6% contraction, according to the International Monetary Fund. 

EU Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell said Russia’s economy survived because of high energy prices.

“But this is over,” he said. “We have gotten rid of our dependency on Russia’s hydrocarbons and the prices are going down. Russia is selling its oil at $40 a barrel – half the price of the Brent in international markets.”

TRUMP WARNS OF WWIII: Russia can’t produce enough arms for its needs


►Ukraine issued a decree halting all transactions involving assets owned by Russian financial institutions. The decree, to last 50 years, prohibits establishing business relations, transactions and investments with Russian banks.

►The International Federation of Journalists suspended the membership of the Russian Union of Journalists. Federation President Dominique Pradalié said efforts by Russian journalists to establish union branches in annexed Ukrainian territories have “clearly shattered … solidarity and sown divisions among sister unions.”

►Investigators have so far identified at least 91 Russian soldiers involved in war crimes in and around the town of Bucha, where more than 1,700 civilians were killed, Ukraine Prosecutor General Andrey Kostin said Wednesday.

►Wang Yi, the Chinese Communist Party’s most senior foreign policy official, held meetings with high-ranking Russian officials Wednesday in Moscow as political ties between the two nations continued to strengthen. U.S. officials have expressed concern that China could provide weapons that Russia badly needs.

The founder of a Russian mercenary militia stepped up his social media attacks on  Moscow’s military leadership Wednesday, publishing a photo of his dead soldiers and blaming the Kremlin for failing to provide his Wagner Group with adequate ammunition.

“If every Russian at his own level … would simply say ‘give ammunition to Wagner,’ as is already going on social media, then this would already be important,” Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy entrepreneur and close associate of President Vladimir Putin, said Wednesday on Telegram.

The posting came one day after Prigozhin released an audio statement claiming “direct resistance” from the Russian military was an attempt to destroy Wagner. He added that the behavior of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov “can be likened to high treason in the very moment when Wagner is … losing hundreds of its fighters every day.”

The Defense Ministry scolded Prigohzin in a statement late Tuesday, saying equipping the mercenary group properly has been a priority.

“Attempts to sow rifts in the tight mechanism of cooperation and support among the units of Russian forces are counterproductive and are only aiding the enemy,” the ministry said.

Authorities in Finland will decide as soon as Thursday on a proposal to provide German-built Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Finland is believed to own about 200 tanks, but it also has an 800-mile border with Russia to defend. Finland has sought but not yet been granted NATO membership, thus NATO would not be committed to fully support Finland’s defense should Russia invade.

Finland and Sweden are seeking membership but have been blocked by Turkey and Hungary. Hungary’s parliament is expected to ratify NATO membership for both nations as early next month, Hungarian media has reported. Turkey adopted a more conciliatory stance this week – after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu discussed possible purchase of U.S. F-16 aircraft with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

Ukrainian military officials say U.S. weapons are making a major difference in their efforts to repel the Russian invasion. To highlight the value of the weapons, a senior Ukrainian military intelligence officer and several special forces soldiers guided a USA TODAY reporter in mid-February to a secret location on a ridge a few miles outside the frontline town of Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s mineral-rich eastern Donbas region.

A Ukrainian lieutenant colonel stood on frozen ground near what he regards as one of the Ukrainian military’s most prized possessions: an American-made M777 howitzer. It’s a powerful, towable and easily hidden long-range artillery weapon.

“This weapon changed the trajectory of the war for us,” he said. Read more here.

Kim Hjelmgaard

IT’S HARD BUT THEY’RE HOLDING ON: On the ground in Ukraine, the war depends on U.S. weapons

President Biden will wrap up his historic trip to Ukraine and Poland on Wednesday after holding talks in Warsaw with leaders from the Bucharest Nine, a collection of nations on the eastern edge of the NATO alliance that came together in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The alliance members – including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia – are concerned they could be next if Russia is successful in Ukraine. The White House has consistently lauded Poland and several other eastern flank nations for supporting Ukraine with weapons and economic aid and taking in refugees.

Contributing: The Associated Press

A deeper dive

‘It’s hard, but they’re holding on,’ On the ground in Ukraine, the war depends on U.S. weapons

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