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President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia demanding security guarantees from Ukraine demonstrates the failure of its invasion after eight months of fighting.
In his nightly address on Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader said: "252 days ago, Russia demanded security guarantees from the United States of America. After eight months of Russia's so-called 'special operation,' the Kremlin is demanding security guarantees from Ukraine. These are indeed striking changes."
"It shows both the failure of Russian aggression and how strong we are when we remain united," Zelensky added.
Earlier on Wednesday, Russia resumed its participation in the UN-brokered grain deal that it had left days earlier, saying it had received written security guarantees from Ukraine on demilitarizing the maritime corridor.
In televised comments, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “having received the necessary guarantees from the Ukrainian side that the humanitarian route will not be used for military purposes, Russia resumes the implementation of the grain deal."
The Biden administration approved the potential sale of approximately $535 million in Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems to Finland, the State Department announced Wednesday.
The approval comes as Finland awaits approval by Turkey and Hungary to join NATO. Helsinki’s move to join the defense alliance was prompted by Russia’s war in Ukraine — Finland shares shares an 800-mile border with Russia.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a trusted partner, which is an important force for political stability and economic progress in Europe. It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist Finland in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the notice from the State Department said.
“Finland intends to use these defense articles and services to increase its national stock, bolstering the land and air defense capabilities in Europe’s northern flank,” it said. “The increased national stock is critical to Finland’s defense and deterrence due to the deteriorated security situation in Europe.”
Ukrainian officials say that the military has struck an important target in the southern region Kherson, as the pro-Russian authorities continue to press civilians to leave.
Serhii Khlan, member of the Kherson Regional Council, said that Ukrainian forces hit Russian air defense systems close to the stadium in Kherson city. Those systems have also been used to shell Mykolaiv, sometimes with devastating effect.
Khlan posted a photograph purportedly showing the "remains of the equipment."
Khlan said there had also been further hits in the area of the Antonivskyi bridge, where Russian forces and the pro-Russian administration have been operating ferries and pontoon bridges to resupply the west bank, where thousands of Russian troops remain.
He said that in the city of Kakhovka —on the east bank of the river Dnipro — the three streets closest to the river were being forcibly evacuated. He said the Russians "in the city are digging in, setting up concrete trenches."
Khlan said the Russians "are digging in on the east bank, preparing for defense, thinking that this make our offensive impossible. But the resistance movement and the Armed Forces of Ukraine continue to fight."
Khlan repeated what other Ukrainian officials have asserted: that the Russian-backed authorities have left the city of Kherson — which is on the west bank — to set up office in the city of Skadovsk, much closer to Crimea.
"As for the urgent and mandatory "evacuation" called for by the Russians, our people are not going to go anywhere. If the locals did not have the opportunity to go to the de-occupied [Ukrainian-held] territory or decided to stay at home, they definitely do not want to go to Russia," Khlan said.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Iran has been informed through diplomatic channels of the consequences of Tehran sending new weapon deliveries of attack drones and ballistic missiles to Russia.
Kuleba said at a news conference in Kyiv that "the threat is real" of reported new weapon deliveries from Iran.
On Tuesday, CNN reported that Iran is preparing to send approximately 1,000 additional weapons, including surface-to-surface short range ballistic missiles and more attack drones, to Russia to use in its war against Ukraine, according to officials from a Western country that closely monitors Iran’s weapons program.
"I have said and will repeat again that when it comes to the complicity of any country in Russian aggression and the killing of our citizens, we will be absolutely ruthless in our actions in response, because it is about the protection of our state and our citizens," Kuleba said.
"A much wiser decision for Iran would be to completely curtail its military cooperation, supply to Russia of any weapons used against Ukraine," Kuleba added.
Iran has repeatedly denied sending weapons to Russia despite clear evidence to the contrary.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday said he thanked Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his "active participation in preserving the grain deal" after Russia said it would rejoin the agreement.
Zelensky said in a Telegram post that during the phone call with Erdoğan, he also thanked his Turkish counterpart for his "strong support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine."
Zelensky said that they also discussed "further steps for the return of our captured political prisoners."
"Turkey's support is important for us in this matter," he added.
Russia on Wednesday said its nuclear doctrine will only permit the use of atomic weapons in a way that is defensive in nature and that the strict guidelines "pursue solely defensive goals."
A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation said the Russian military is "strictly and consistently guided by the tenet that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."
"Russian doctrinal approaches in this sphere are defined with utmost accuracy" and do not allow room for "expansive interpretation," the ministry said.
"These approaches allow for Russia to hypothetically resort to nuclear weapons exclusively in response to an aggression involving the use of weapons of mass destruction or an aggression with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy," it added.
The statement comes amid a recent increase in concern among United States and Western officials that Russia was considering using a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukraine.
On Wednesday, CNN reported that Russian military officials have discussed how and under what conditions Russia would use a tactical nuclear weapon on the battlefield in Ukraine, according to a US intelligence assessment described to CNN by multiple sources who have read it.
The Russian foreign ministry in its statement said that it reaffirms its commitment to a joint statement signed on Jan. 3 by China, Russia, France, the UK and the US on preventing nuclear war and arms races.
"We urge other states of the 'nuclear five' to demonstrate in practice their willingness to work on solving this top-priority task and to give up the dangerous attempts to infringe on vital interests of each other while balancing on the brink of a direct armed conflict and encouraging provocations with weapons of mass destruction, which can lead to catastrophic consequences," the ministry said.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “warmly welcomes” Russia resuming participation in the Black Sea grain deal, his spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said on Wednesday.
“The Secretary-General warmly welcomes the announcement from the Russian Federation on its resumed participation in the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative to facilitate the safe navigation for exports of grain, foodstuffs and fertilizer from Ukraine,” Dujarric said in a news release.
Dujarric said that Guterres is “grateful” for the diplomatic efforts of Turkey, thanking “UN Coordinator, Amir Abdulla, and his team for their work to keep this vital food supply line open.”
“The Secretary-General continues his engagement with all actors towards the renewal and full implementation of the Initiative, and he also remains committed to removing the remaining obstacles to the exports of Russian food and fertilizer,” Dujarric added.
Russian military officials have discussed how and under what conditions Russia would use a tactical nuclear weapon on the battlefield in Ukraine, according to a US intelligence assessment described to CNN by multiple sources who have read it.
The assessment, drafted by the National Intelligence Council, is not a high confidence product and is not raw intelligence but rather analysis, multiple people who have read it told CNN. For that reason, some officials believe the conversations reflected in the document may have been taken out of context, and do not necessarily indicate that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.
The US has still not seen any signs that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to take the drastic step of using one, officials said, and Putin is not believed to have been involved in the discussions described in the NIC product.
But others within the administration who have viewed the document have reacted with concern, because it provides a rare window into conversations between senior Russian generals and reveals their intensifying frustration about Russia's losses on the battlefield in Ukraine. That frustration could turn into desperation, some officials fear. There are also questions about whether Russia's self-declared annexation of eastern Ukraine earlier this year means Russia is willing to take more extreme measures to protect that territory.
Some more context: The US has also been watching Russia's actions around the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces are trying to take back from Russian forces in a counteroffensive. In recent weeks, Russian officials have ordered the city to be evacuated, and the US is concerned that if Ukraine drives the Russians out in a humiliating defeat, it could be the kind of trigger that would lead Putin to resort to tactical nukes. It's among the scenarios envisioned by the intelligence assessment, although officials emphasized that Kherson is not the sole focus of the product.
The New York Times first reported on the intelligence assessment. But the internal divisions over the quality of the intelligence and how to interpret it has not been previously reported.
CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.
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