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March 24, 202200:58

NATO head: ‘We are in a very dangerous situation’

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg refused to speculate on how the Western alliance might respond to Russia’s use of chemical weapons in Ukraine, explaining that he did not want to make the international crisis even more precarious.

“We are in a very dangerous situation,” Stoltenberg told NBC News’ Lester Holt, “so if I started to speculate about the different options, I would only make an unpredictable, dangerous situation even more dangerous and even more unpredictable.”

He went on to say that NATO member countries are “there to protect and defend all allies, protect and defend every inch of NATO territory.”

Holt’s full interview with the NATO head airs Thursday on “NBC Nightly News.”

March 24, 202202:15

Zelenskyy accused Russia of using phosphorus bombs. What does that mean?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces of using phosphorus bombs in their latest wave of attacks on his country, telling NATO leaders in Brussels that “people were killed,” including children.

He did not provide evidence in his address, and the Pentagon said it was not able to confirm the Ukrainian leader’s allegation when contacted by NBC News. It is difficult to verify the claims without U.S. personnel on the ground, three U.S. defense officials said.

But if true, the use of white phosphorus bombs would add a disturbing new dimension to Russia’s military assault on Ukraine.

Here’s a general overview of their destructive potential.

UK sending thousands of missiles to Ukraine

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday the country will send an additional 6,000 missiles to the Ukrainian military to help fight off Russian invaders. 

NATO and G7 leaders have also agreed to figure out ways to wean themselves off Russian oil and gas and reshape global energy security, he said. Johnson’s comments came during the NATO summit in Brussels.

“We are bolstering our support for the NATO countries on the frontline, sending a new deployment of UK troops to Bulgaria on top of the doubling our troops both in Poland and in Estonia,” Johnson said. “This is just the beginning. We must support a free and democratic Ukraine in the long term. This is a fellow European democracy fighting a war of national defense.”

Biden says he believes Russia should be removed from the G-20

Biden said Russia should be removed from the G-20, but it will depend on the entirety of the member countries. 

Biden told reporters at a press conference Thursday the issue was raised today “and I raised the possibility if that can’t be done— Indonesia and others do not agree — we should” allow Ukraine to attend the meetings as well.

March 24, 202201:18
March 24, 202201:05

United Nations calls for an immediate end to Russian war

The United Nations General Assembly, in an emergency meeting Thursday, adopted a resolution blaming Russia for a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and called for a peaceful and immediate end to the war.

France and Mexico proposed the resolution, which was supported by dozens of other member states regarding the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion a month ago.

The resolution said it “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine” and “urges the immediate peaceful resolution of the conflict.”

Russia and Ukraine should engage in political dialogue, negotiations, mediation and other peaceful means in hopes of ending the war, according to the resolution.

“It is a strong humanitarian resolution. It does identify the cause of the humanitarian crisis. Russia is the cause of the humanitarian crisis,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Wednesday.

U.S. missionary in Ukraine abducted by Russian troops, wife says

A U.S. citizen working as a missionary in southern Ukraine was abducted by Russian troops and has not been heard from in several days, his wife told NBC News on Thursday.

Dmitry Bodyu, 50, was kidnapped six days ago in Melitopol, his wife, Helen Bodyu, said by phone. She said she and other family members were in a home at the time, when about eight or 10 armed troops arrived. They were not aggressive, she said, but spoke with her husband and did not give a reason why they took him, although they seemed to know he was a pastor in the area.

“They just came in in the morning,” Helen Bodyu said. “They took our phones, gadgets, computers, documents and took him somewhere. I don’t know where.”

She said her husband is a U.S. citizen and that the troops took his U.S. passport. His U.S. driver’s license lists an address in Burleson, Texas, near Fort Worth.

A spokesman for Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said her office was not aware of the alleged abduction. The U.S. State Department said it is “aware of these reports, but due to privacy considerations have no further comment.”

The Rev. Nery Duarte, a humanitarian aid worker in Ukraine who has run international missions, said he and others were frantically working to find Bodyu.

Ukraine tells Russia ‘die or surrender’ as its Kyiv counterattack pushes back invaders

KYIV, Ukraine — As Russian missile strikes continued to cause fires, terrorize residents and turn buildings to rubble here Wednesday, Ukrainian forces seemingly managed to push back Vladimir Putin’s invading army from the capital’s outer edges.

Inside a city administration building, two Ukrainian generals helping to lead the counterattack pored over a map detailing the movement of their country’s forces and the areas they had apparently recaptured. This is where officials from the city’s police, military and local government are meeting, planning and monitoring the war.

Gen. Andrea Kryshenko and Gen. Serhii Knyazev said Wednesday that Ukraine regained significant territory around Kyiv in the past two days — a potential sign that the war, which enters the second month, could undergo a shift as Russian forces struggle to advance on the country’s capital.

A U.S. defense official corroborated the claim, saying that the Russian military had pushed from the east to as close as 12 miles from Kyiv. After the counteroffensive, those forces had retreated to about 34 miles away from the city, the official added.

But some military experts have cautioned that it’s hard to tell whether the gains Ukraine claims to have made in the past 48 hours are real. Even if they are, they say, the coming days will be incredibly important as Putin could deploy even more lethal weapons in his bid to break Kyiv’s defenses and as Ukraine struggles to hold the southern port city of Mariupol.

Read the full story here.

4 Eastern European nations call for blocking of Russian transport routes

The leaders of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland said in a joint letter Thursday that the European Union must be more aggressive against Russia, calling on the union of member nations to prohibit road freight transport with Russia and Belarus, as well as block those countries’ vessels from entering European Union ports.

“As the transport sector is international by its very nature, we believe that measures in both modes need to be adopted simultaneously at the EU level in order to be truly effective,” the leaders wrote.

“We must together put maximum pressure on Russia to stop the war,” they added. “This will only happen when Russia’s actions meet with unanimous and powerful response from the EU, including new sanctions.”

World Trade Organization calls Belarus unfit for membership

The World Trade Organization has denied Belarus’ application to become a member, citing the county’s involvement in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“Belarus is unfit for WTO membership,” the organization said in a statement. “We will not further consider its application for accession.”

The organization said Belarus has shown complicity in Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked war of Ukraine.

It “is incompatible with the values and principles of the WTO and of a just rules-based order,” the WTO said. “We collectively strongly condemn Russia’s unjustifiable and unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine, which is enabled by Belarus.”

Zelenskyy says Russia has used phosphorus bombs in Ukraine war

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of using phosphorus bombs in attacks on Ukraine Thursday.

“This morning we had phosphorus bombs from Russia, people were killed, children were killed,” he said in an address to NATO members gathered for an emergency summit in Brussels.

When asked about the potential use of white phosphorus in Ukraine on Wednesday, the Pentagon said it wasn’t able to confirm that allegation.

White phosphorus munitions “operate in the same way as incendiary weapons” by “setting fires and causing burns” with the capability to cause fire to spread over a wide area, according to Human Rights Watch. The use of air-dropped incendiary weapons in populated areas is prohibited under Protocol III to the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons, though it allows “the use of ground-delivered models in certain circumstances,” it says on its website.

March 24, 202201:27

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden had warned that the possibility of Russia using chemical weapons was a “real threat.” Biden had previously warned that the U.S. believed Russia was falsely accusing Ukraine of using biological or chemical weapons to possibly justify its own attack on the country.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had refused to rule out the possibility that Russia could use even nuclear weapons in the conflict, telling CNN that his country would consider doing so if it were facing an “existential threat.”

Peskov did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News. 

Family members of Boris Romanchenko attend the funeral of the Holocaust survivor in Kharkiv on Thursday as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, Ukraine. Romanchenko was a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor, who was killed at his apartment during a shelling.

Image: Family members of Borys Romanchenko attend the funeral of the Holocaust survivor in Kharkiv as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues
Family members of Borys Romanchenko attend the funeral of the Holocaust survivor in Kharkiv as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, Ukraine, March 24, 2022. Romanchenko was a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor, who was killed at his apartment during a shelling.Thomas Peter / Reuters

U.S. prepared to give more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid

The U.S. is prepared to offer more than $1 billion in new funding toward humanitarian assistance, a senior administration official said.

This funding will be in addition to money the U.S. has already provided and will cover food, shelter, clean water, medical supplies and other forms of assistance. 

The U.S. also announced a commitment to global food security given the disruptions caused to Russian and Ukrainian food exports, including providing over $11 billion over the next five years to address food security threats and malnutrition across the globe.

Separately, the U.S. is launching an initiative with $320 million in funding that will focus on efforts to document and preserve evidence of potential war crimes being committed in Ukraine. 

 

U.S. announces plan to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees

The U.S. plans to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russia’s aggression, with a focus on those who are most vulnerable.

The U.S. is “considering the full range of legal pathways to the United States that includes U.S. refugee admissions program, parole, and immigrant and non-immigrant visas,” a senior administration official said Thursday. 

This won’t affect the current cap on annual refugees, which is set at 125,000 for fiscal year 2022, because not all refugees will come in that year and not all will come in as refugees, the official said.

Read the full story here.

March 24, 202201:10

U.S. announces new sanctions against Russia

The White House has announced a new package of sanctions against Russia.

The U.S. will place new sanctions on Russia’s elite, including the country’s Duma and over 300 of its members, as well as more than 40 Russian defense companies, according to a senior administration official. 

The Group of Seven nations and the European Union will also announce a new initiative that’s designed to prevent the circumvention or evasion of sanctions, said the official. The news comes as President Biden meets with world leaders for emergency talks in Brussels.

Read the full story here.

Putin holds operational meeting Russian Security Council

Russian President Vladimir Putin held an operational meeting with permanent members of the Russian Security Council, the Kremlin said in a statement Thursday.

Held via videoconference, the Kremlin said the meeting included discussion on the progress of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. 

“Regret was expressed in connection with the slowness of the Ukrainian side,” it said. 

The Kremlin said “anti-sanctions” issues were also touched upon, as well as the macroeconomic situation in Russia. 

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also provided updates on Russia’s “ongoing special military operation,” the Kremlin said.

Russia has reached ‘next level of terror’ by ‘forcibly deporting’ Mariupol residents, Ukraine says

Russian forces have moved to “the next level of terror” by “forcibly deporting” thousands of residents from the besieged city of Mariupol to Russia, Ukraine’s ministry of foreign affairs has said.

“Ukrainians (are) already now in Russian camps where they may be used as hostages,” Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said in a tweet on Thursday. “This barbarity must end,” he said. 

His comments came after Mariupol’s city council accused Russian forces of deporting thousands of residents in the port city “en masse to Russia.” 

In total, it said as many as 15,000 people were being “deported illegally.” NBC News has not verified the claims.

Armies must agree for civilians to be evacuated from besieged cities safely, Red Cross chief says

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday that agreement between the Russian and Ukrainian armies was needed before civilians could be evacuated properly from Ukraine.

“We think we are confronted with a very complex frontline at the present moment in Ukraine which sees a lot of people trapped and people caught people in between frontlines,” Red Cross chief Peter Maurer told a news conference after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

“It’s not possible to think about access or evacuation, either in Mariupol or another place, if we don’t have a solid … and detailed agreement between the militaries on the ground.”

Street fighting and bombardments have raged in the besieged city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov as residents remain trapped inside buildings with no access to food, water power or heat. 

Zelenskyy calls on NATO for swift military support to Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged NATO to supply it with weaponry and tanks as the Russian invasion in Ukraine entered its second month.

Addressing NATO leaders in Brussels via a video link on Thursday, he said, “Ukraine does not have powerful air defense system, we have far less aviation than Russians do.” He said that Ukraine has been asking NATO for military planes and tanks for weeks and only needed “one percent” of NATO’s arsenal.

“I ask you to reassess your positions and think about security in Europe and in the whole world. You can give us just one percent of all of your airplanes, just one percent of your tanks,” he said.

In besieged cities in Ukraine, including Mariupol, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been held hostage by Russian forces, without access to food or water, creating an “artificial famine”, he said.

March 24, 202200:57

White House sets up team to plan response if Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine

BRUSSELS — The White House has set up a team of national security officials to plan for what happens if Russia uses chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, a senior administration official said.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan sent a memo Feb. 28 detailing how the so-called “Tiger Team” would look at what might happen over the next three months of conflict, the senior administration official told NBC News.

Scenarios under discussion have included: Russia using chemical or biological weapons, Russia targeting U.S. convoys carrying weapons to Ukraine, a disruption to the global food supply, and the refugee crisis as millions of Ukrainians flee the country, the official said.

The creation of the team was first reported by the New York Times.

Read the full story here.

U.K. to double up lethal military aid to Ukraine

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce a major military package to Ukraine at Thursday’s NATO and G7 leader’s meeting.

A total of 6,000 missiles including anti-tank weapons and high explosive weapons will be provided in addition to £25 million ($33 million) in financial aid to the Ukrainian military, the prime minister’s office said, doubling up the total lethal aid provided to more than 10,000 missiles.

The U.K. government also announced additional £4.1 million ($5.4 million) funding for BBC World Service “to tackle disinformation in Russia and Ukraine.”

“We cannot and will not stand by while Russia grinds Ukraine’s towns and cities into dust,” said Johnson. “The United Kingdom will work with our allies to step up military and economic support to Ukraine, strengthening their defences as they turn the tide in this fight,” he said.

NATO chief Stoltenberg’s term expected to be extended 1 year

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s term is widely expected to be extended for a year as early as today, two people with knowledge of the matter confirm to NBC News.

Stoltenberg’s term is set to expire in September, an inopportune time given NATO’s central role in responding to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

A formal decision on extending Stoltenberg’s term could come as early as today during the urgent NATO summit that President Biden is attending, the individuals said.

The process requires that an extension be put on the table, all allies agree, and then Stoltenberg formally accept the extension. No objections are expected to be raised, they said.

Separately, a U.S. official confirms that there has been discussion among the allies of extending Stoltenberg’s term and says that the U.S. government supports it.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan hinted at that yesterday on Air Force One, telling reporters: “The president thinks very highly of Secretary General Stoltenberg. … We think that Jens Stoltenberg has been doing a fantastic job and, day in and day out, has played a critical leadership role for NATO.”

President Joe Biden listens as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses the floor during the summit in Brussels on Thursday. 

President Joe Biden listens as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses the floor during a summit in Brussels on Thursday.
Evelyn Hockstein / AFP – Getty Images

U.S. expected to announce plans to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians

The United States is expected to announce plans to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing the war in Ukraine, a source familiar with the administration’s thinking said.

The admissions would be facilitated through a range of pathways, including through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, and other means, including a focus on welcoming Ukrainians who have family members in the United States.

A timeline and further details on the expected announcement have yet to be established. 

So far, more than 3.6 million people have fled Ukraine, with more than 2 million fleeing to Poland, while hundreds of thousands have made their way to other neighboring nations.

March 24, 202201:14

Russian forces accused of ‘forcibly deporting’ thousands of Mariupol residents to Russia

Mariupol’s city council has accused Russian forces of “forcibly deporting” thousands of residents to Russia.

The city council said on Telegram that residents of the besieged port city were being “deported en masse to Russia,” adding that they were forcing people “already exhausted by the war to get on buses.”

In total, it said as many as 15,000 people were being “deported illegally.” 

Mariupol has faced weeks of bombardment, with residents trapped in dire conditions amid ongoing efforts to evacuate people from the besieged city. 

U.K. announces new wave of sanctions against Russia

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has announced 65 new sanctions against a range of strategic Russian industries and individuals on Thursday, adding to the growing list of over 1,000 already sanctioned.

Russian Railways, Kronshtadt, the main producer of Russian drones, Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond producer, and the Wagner Group, which the British government says were “tasked with assassinating President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy,” are among those sanctioned.

Six banks and multiple individuals including Sberbank CEO Herman Gref, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s stepdaughter Polina Kovaleva and Galina Danilchenko, who the U.K. said was “installed by Russia as the ‘mayor’ of Melitopol,” were also sanctioned.

“All those sanctioned today will have their assets in the U.K. frozen which means no U.K. citizen or company can do business with them, and individuals subject to travel bans are also prohibited from traveling to or from the U.K.,” Truss said.

 

Biden arrives for urgent NATO talks

President Joe Biden has arrived for urgent talks with NATO, the G7 leaders and the European Council Thursday. 

The president was pictured with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as the pair prepared for discussions on the international response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Ahead of the talks, Stoltenberg said leaders would “address this crisis together,” calling the war in Ukraine “the most serious security crisis in a generation.” 

NATO heads of state pose for a group photo during an extraordinary summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday.
Thibault Camus / AP

As leaders meet over Ukraine, North Korea launches new ICBM in biggest test since 2017

North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time since 2017, Japan said Thursday, in a major escalation of tensions over its weapons program at a time when the world is focused on Ukraine.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the missile was believed to be a new kind of ICBM, and condemned the launch as an “unforgivable outrage” in comments from Brussels, where he landed Thursday to meet with world leaders about Russia’s war.

The dramatic move, which officials in the United States had warned might be coming, is the latest in a series of weapons tests that experts say are meant to force the international community to recognize Kim Jong Un’s regime as a nuclear power and lift sanctions that have devastated the country’s economy.

Read the full story here.

French carmaker Renault suspends activities at Moscow plant

French carmaker Renault has announced it is suspending “activities at the Renault Moscow plant” with immediate effect.

The Wednesday night move came hours after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke virtually to the French parliament, calling on Renault and other French companies with a Russian presence to stop indirectly supporting the war against Ukraine.

The Renault Group board of directors met Wednesday to decided to halt production at the plant that produces Arkana, Kaptur, Duster and Nissan Terrano SUVs amid mounting criticism of its foothold in the Russian Federation.

However, the lion’s share of the group’s Russian presence goes through its subsidiary AvtoVAZ, through which it sold nearly 500,000 vehicles in Russia in 2021.

Renault said that AvtoVAZ is not immediately withdrawing, but “assessing the available options, taking into account the current environment, while acting responsibly towards its 45,000 employees in Russia.”

Smoke rises near a seaport in Berdyansk, Ukraine, on Thursday after the Ukrainian navy reported that it had destroyed the Russian ship Orsk in the Sea of Asov. 

Smoke rises near a seaport in Berdyansk, Ukraine on Thursday after Ukraine's navy reported that it had sunk the Russian ship Orsk in the Sea of Asov.
AP

Putin has made ‘big mistake’ launching war in Ukraine, NATO chief says

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has announced plans of bolstering the alliance’s eastern front, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a ‘big mistake’ of waging a war in Ukraine.

Ahead of the NATO meeting in Brussels on Thursday, he said that Putin underestimated the strength of Ukrainian people, “meeting much more resistance than they expected.” In the longer term, NATO is establishing four new battlegroups in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia, he said.

While he ruled out the declaration of a no-fly zone and deployment of NATO troops in Ukraine, he said that the alliance is supplying advanced air defense systems, anti-tank weapons, ammunitions, and fuel to the Ukrainian army. NATO allies will also bolster investment in defense, said Stoltenberg.

U.S. says Russia has rejected its calls amid Ukraine war

Russia’s defense minister has refused to speak with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the Pentagon has said.

“Over the past month, Secretary Austin and (Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley) have sought, and continue to seek, calls with their Russian counterparts,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

He said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov have “so far declined to engage.”

“We continue to believe that engagement between U.S. and Russian defense leaders is critically important at this time,” Kirby said. 

Four dead in Luhansk after Russian attacks

Russian attacks in the eastern Ukraine region of Luhansk have left four dead, including two children, and six wounded, governor Serhiy Haidi said in a Telegram post on Thursday morning.

“Missile strikes were inflicted on Lysychansk and Novodruzhesk,” he said.

Haidi said dozens of buildings were destroyed during the attack, which occurred on Wednesday night with thousands out of electricity and gas supply. Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson boards a plane to Brussels to take part in a NATO summit to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at London Stansted airport, on Thursday. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson boards a plane to Brussels to take part in a NATO summit to discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at London Stansted airport, on Thursday.
Henry Nicholls / Reuters

Ukraine says it destroyed Russian large landing ship Orsk

Ukraine’s navy said Thursday it has destroyed Russia’s large landing ship Orsk, near the port city of Berdyansk. 

In a short statement shared on Facebook, the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said the vessel had been “destroyed.” 

Video shared by the Navy showed thick black smoke appearing over Berdyansk after explosions on Thursday morning. 

Thick black smoke appears over the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk, after explosions on Thursday morning.
Armed Forces of Ukraine / Facebook

U.S. calls Russian stock market opening a ‘charade’

The White House has called the partial reopening of the Moscow Stock Exchange a “charade” after Russia allowed only 15 percent of its listed shares to trade after a month of complete closure.

“What we’re seeing is a charade: a Potemkin market opening,” Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh said in a statement on Thursday.

“Russia has made clear they are going to pour government resources into artificially propping up the shares of companies that are trading,” Singh said.

On Wednesday, The Bank of Russia had announced its decision of resuming trading of 33 shares of Russian Stock Exchange Index. Short selling is banned for these securities and foreigners are not allowed to sell their shares.

“This is not a real market and not a sustainable model—which only underscores Russia’s isolation from the global financial system,” he said.

Russian stock market partially reopens

Russia is reopening its stock market for limited trading nearly one month after shares plunged and the exchange was shut down following the invasion of Ukraine.

There will be heavy restrictions on trading Thursday to prevent the kind of massive selloff that took place on Feb. 24 in anticipation of crushing financial and economic sanctions from Western nations.

The reopening of the Moscow exchange has only minimal significance for investors outside Russia and scant economic impact compared with the barrage of U.S.-led sanctions and withdrawals by foreign corporations.

Stocks last traded in Moscow on Feb. 25.

Russia scrambling to mobilize reservists amid casualties, U.K. says

Russian forces have suffered thousands of casualties during their invasion of Ukraine and are looking to mobilize its reservist corps, according to the British defense ministry. 

“Russia is likely now looking to mobilise its reservist and conscript manpower, as well as private military companies and foreign mercenaries, to replace these considerable losses,” the ministry said in an intelligence update Thursday.

The ministry said it was not clear how the groups would integrate with the Russian forces on the ground and what impact it would have on their “combat effectiveness.” 

Estimates of the number of Russian soldiers killed and injured in the conflict have varied, and NBC News has not independently verified the number of casualties. 

Source: This post first appeared on NBC News

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