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The director of the CIA says the US is “confident” that China is "considering" sending lethal aid to Russia but intelligence suggests there has been no final decision by Beijing.
"We're confident that the Chinese leadership is considering the provision of lethal equipment," CIA Director William Burns told CBS News.
"We also don't see that a final decision has been made yet, and we don't see evidence of actual shipments of lethal equipment,” Burns added.
Some context: CNN reported Friday that the US has intelligence that the Chinese government is considering providing Russia with drones and ammunition for use in the war in Ukraine, three sources familiar with the intelligence told CNN.
Ukrainian troops are standing their ground around Bakhmut despite a significant concentration of Russian forces near the eastern town, a Ukrainian commander said Saturday.
Cmdr. Yuriy Fedorovych Madyar, a colonel in Ukraine's military, published a video message on his Telegram channel about the state of the fighting around Bakhmut, which remains one of the most fiercely contested territories in the war.
"Ukrainian troops have retained their positions on all three suburbs of Bakhmut — the northern, eastern and southern-southwestern. The enemy had no territorial successes," Madyar said. "Enemy assault operations were unsuccessful."
The colonel said Ukrainian forces "don't see any additional accumulation" of Russian troops in these areas. Still, the concentration of Russian forces in Bakhmut is "already considerable," allowing the Russians "to launch assault operations several times a day."
Madyar said the situation in the southern suburbs of Bakhut is stable, and that it's the northern suburbs that are proving "the most difficult part of the front lines to hold on to."
"There is a large number of enemy troops and high intensity of enemy assault operations," Madyar said, describing the situation in the northern suburbs. "Appropriate forces were sent there to prevent the enemy from implementing its plan to surround the city and its outskirts."
Madyar said that over the past week, the number of remaining civilians seen in the streets of Bakhmut "has fallen to zero."
What Russia is saying: Russia state news agency RIA Novosti carried a report this week showing a Russian soldier walking through the outskirts of Bakhmut, saying that Ukrainian forces have been holding on to their lines but retreating "occasionally."
And the Russian private military company Wagner has claimed that it now controls the village of Yahidne. The village is in the northern suburbs of Bakhmut — the same area that Madyar, the Ukrainian colonel, said was proving the most difficult to hold.
CNN has not been able to independently verify either side's claims on recent troop movements around Bakhmut.
Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine has roiled global economies and made an impact even in countries far from the frontline horrors of the war.
In the United States, Americans have felt the effects at the gas pump, paying the price for a disrupted global energy markets and the sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and its allies.
From the day before Russia's full-scale invasion started, US gas prices shot up $1.48 a gallon, or 42%, to a record price of $5.02 by June 14.
That peak was short-lived — the national average price of gasoline, as tracked by the agency Oil Price Information Service for AAA, fell continually for 98 straight days from the day the record was set to September 20.
On Friday, the first anniversary of the invasion, the national average stood at $3.39 a gallon, compared to $3.54 on the day the war started.
Why prices shot up, then fell: To understand why gas prices are down, it’s important to understand why they went up so much — and so fast.
Crude oil prices are determined on global commodity markets. And to some extent, those markets overreacted to the start of the war.
“The market’s reaction was due to uncertainty,” said oil analyst Andy Lipow. He said that those trading oil futures thought the global market would have to find a replacement for all the Russian oil when there wasn’t an alternative available.
But Russian oil shipments continued even with the sanctions, although they were redirected elsewhere. Instead of sending much of its oil and refined products to Europe, Russia sent them to countries like China, India and Turkey.
And the sanctions never completely shut down the flow of oil to Europe, although a price cap limited the shipments and the amount that buyers in those countries would be willing to pay.
In addition, the United States and its allies announced in March they would start releasing oil from their stockpiles of crude, such as the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve, putting downward pressure on prices.
The economic outlook also drove oil prices: Few things take a bite out of gas prices like a recession, or even just the fear of one. People who lose their jobs don’t have to commute, and they pull back their spending on discretionary items like travel, too. Consumption falls, followed by prices.
Rising fears of a global and US recession roiled markets in late 2022, pushing down the price of oil futures. Fears of a US recession have receded recently, with very strong reports on US job growth and retail sales, but they’re not gone — particularly not with the Federal Reserve expected to continue raising interest rates.
That has only further helped tamp down prices at the pump.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday that the European Union’s 10th sanctions package would deal a significant blow to Russian enterprises.
“Now, new sanctions steps are in the 10th package, powerful, against the defense industry and the financial sector of the terrorist state and against the propagandists who drowned Russian society in lies and are trying to spread their lies to the whole world,” Zelensky said in his nightly address. "They definitely won't succeed.”
The package, which the EU approved Friday, includes:
- Targeted restricted measures against individuals and entities supporting the war, spreading propaganda or delivering drones used by Russia in the war
- Measures against Russian disinformation
- Tighter export restrictions regarding dual-use and advanced technology
Sanctions will continue to be introduced, Zelensky said.
He added that the Ukrainian government is working “to extend global and, in particular, European sanctions to the Russian nuclear industry, Rosatom, all those involved in the missile program and nuclear blackmail of the terrorist state.”
“The partners – the United States, the UK – have already made relevant steps. We expect the appropriate steps from the European Union,” he said.
Finance chiefs at a Group of 20 conference in India this weekend issued a joint statement condemning Moscow for its war in Ukraine, with only China and Russia declining to sign.
Nearly all countries in attendance agreed to condemn Russia's full-scale invasion, according to the chair summary and outcome issued as the meeting concluded Saturday. The countries signing the document said the war was adversely affecting the global economy and demanded Russia completely withdraw from Ukraine.
"Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy – constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks," it continued.
"There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognising that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy,” the document stated.
The statement said "today's era must not be of war," adding that the United Nations Charter and international humanitarian law should be upheld.
“The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue, are vital,” it added.
India, the current chair of the G20 economies, hosted the meeting in the city of Bengaluru.
As Reuters reports, Russia and China's holdout forced India to issue a summary document wrapping up the two days of talks, rather than reaching a consensus on an official end-of-meeting communique.
Key context on China: On Friday, China's foreign ministry issued a position paper calling for a resumption of peace talks and an end to unilateral sanctions, and stressing its opposition to the use of nuclear weapons.
But Beijing’s claim to neutrality has been severely undermined by its refusal to acknowledge the nature of the conflict – it has so far avoided calling it an “invasion” – and its diplomatic and economic support for Moscow.
Western officials have also raised concerns that China may be considering providing Russia with lethal military assistance, an accusation denied by Beijing.
China's top diplomat Wang Yi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
In the weeks leading up to the first anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the country's eastern Donetsk region has seen some of the most intense fighting.
Donetsk has been under "constant" shelling by Russian forces, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the regional government, said in a Telegram post this week. And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called the situation in the city of Bakhmut "the most difficult out of all" areas in Ukraine.
These satellite images from Maxar Technologies show the aftermath of recent shelling in the towns of Mykilske and Petrivka, both located in the eastern region.
This combination of satellite images shows a general view of the village Petrivka. The top image was taken in June 2022, and the bottom image was taken February 10, 2023, after heavy artillery shelling in the area.
This combination of satellite images shows the Svyato-Uspensky Mykolo-Vasilyivsky monastery in the town of Mykilske in the Donetsk region. The top image was taken in June 2022, and the bottom image was taken February 10, 2023, during fighting in the region.
CNN's Rebecca Wright contributed to this post.
Lt. Yevhenii Oropai, company commander of the Svoboda battalion of the National Guard of Ukraine, said on national television that the Russian military is "actively advancing" in Bakhmut and on the flanks in the area.
"Sometimes we lose our positions, and sometimes we have to attack and retake them. That is, the line of contact is constantly changing," Oropai said.
Oropai also said the military does not have "enough means" to push Moscow's troops back, with Russia ramping up its attack on the front line and the Ukrainians waiting for deliveries of Western weapons.
"We lack tanks, armored vehicles, airplanes and long-range artillery to make competent offensive actions without suffering heavy losses. It is very difficult to be an infantryman," he said.
The Ukrainian military said Saturday that Russia has made "several unsuccessful attempts" on settlements in the area surrounding Bakhmut.
The Ukrainian military said Russian forces have recently launched unsuccessful assaults on its defensive lines in several regions, including around the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut.
The Russian assaults have also targeted Kupiansk and Lyman, in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, respectively, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said late Saturday.
Bakhmut: Russia has made "several unsuccessful attempts" on a cluster of settlements in the area surrounding Bakhmut, the Ukrainian military said.
The areas that have seen recent fighting include Orikhovo-Vasylivka and Berkhivka to the northwest of Bakhmut, and Ivanivske and Pivnichne to the southwest.
Ukraine's military said "the enemy keeps trying to break through the defenses and take Bakhmut" and that the commander of Ukraine's Eastern Military Group, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, visited units that are defending the city and surrounding villages.
"The Russian occupiers have focused their main efforts on taking Bakhmut and its surroundings. Fighting is taking place around the city and on its outskirts," the Ukrainian Ground Forces said on Telegram.
The post included images from Syrskyi's visit.
Russian state news agency RIA Novosti carried a report showing a Russian soldier walking through the outskirts of Bakhmut. On video, he said, "The enemy is holding on, but their morale is low and occasionally they start to retreat. We have 1,740 meters (about a mile) left to go to frontline positions in the center of Bakhmut. The enemy is holding the defense but is exhausted."
CNN is unable to verify the soldier's claims on troop positioning.
Wagner claim: The head of the Russian private military company Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in a Telegram audio message that his fighters took control of the village of Yahidne, a northern suburb of Bakhmut, Saturday evening.
CNN could not immediately verify Prigozhin's claim.
Elsewhere in eastern Ukraine: The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian forces have also attacked defensive lines near Avdiivka, to the north of Donetsk city, and Mariinka, to the southwest.
The military gave no indication that Moscow's troops had made any ground.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk region's military administration, said on Telegram that Avdiivka was under heavy enemy fire.
He said that in less than 24 hours, "the Russians shelled the city twice with artillery, once with tanks, launched an anti-aircraft missile strike, and also struck with Grads (rockets)."
A recently renovated school in the city had been destroyed by an air strike, Kyrylenko said.