Ukraine war live updates: Biden calls Putin a 'crazy SOB'; Russia signals it could try to capture Kyiv again

U.S. President Joe Biden stops to talk to journalists about new Russian sanctions as he departs the White House on February 20, 2024 in Washington, DC. 

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images News | Getty Images

President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “crazy SOB” during a fundraiser in San Francisco on Wednesday, warning there is always the threat of nuclear conflict but that the existential threat to humanity remains climate.

“This is the last existential threat. It is climate. We have a crazy SOB like that guy Putin and others and we always have to worry about nuclear conflict, but the existential threat to humanity is climate,” Biden told a small group of donors.

Biden has previously cursed “son of a bitch” at others. In January 2022, he was caught on the hot mic using the same term of abuse against a Fox News White House reporter.

Biden has a tendency to go off script during election fundraisers and in recent months has dug into the Chinese government, the Republican Party and U.S. ally Israel for its bombing of the Gaza Strip.

Biden’s verbal attacks against Putin have also sharply intensified at the White House and on the campaign trail. Last week, the U.S. President blamed Putin and “his thugs” for the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“We don’t know exactly what happened, but there is no doubt that the death of Nalvany was a consequence of something that Putin and his thugs did,” Biden said at the White House after Russian prison officials announced that Navalny had died.

The Kremlin has denied involvement in Navalny’s death and said Western claims that Putin was responsible are unacceptable.

Biden and Putin remain deeply at odds over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago, over which Russia has been sanctioned by the United States and other Western nations. Biden’s reactions have put a further chill into already bitter U.S.-Russian relations.

On Tuesday, Biden said the U.S. will announce a major package of sanctions against Russia over Navalny’s death and the Ukraine war.

— Reuters

Iran has provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, six sources told Reuters, deepening the military cooperation between the two U.S.-sanctioned countries.

Iran’s provision of around 400 missiles includes many from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons, such as the Zolfaghar, three Iranian sources said. This road-mobile missile is capable of striking targets at a distance of between 300 and 700 km (186 and 435 miles), experts say.

Iran’s defense ministry and the Revolutionary Guards – an elite force that oversees Iran’s ballistic missile programme – declined to comment. Russia’s defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The shipments began in early January after a deal was finalised in meetings late last year between Iranian and Russian military and security officials that took place in Tehran and Moscow, one of the Iranian sources said.

An Iranian military official – who, like the other sources, asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information – said there had been at least four shipments of missiles and there would be more in the coming weeks. He declined to provide further details.

Another senior Iranian official said some of the missiles were sent to Russia by ship via the Caspian Sea, while others were transported by plane.

“There will be more shipments,” the second Iranian official said. “There is no reason to hide it. We are allowed to export weapons to any country that we wish to.”

— Reuters

Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant on March 29, 2023.

Stringer | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has lost connection to its only remaining backup power line, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday, though the site remains connected to its one main line.

The nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, has been occupied by Russia since March 2022. While it is not generating power, it needs a continued supply of electricity to cool its reactors and conduct other essential functions.

The UN nuclear watchdog’s team stationed at the plant was told of the disconnection Tuesday afternoon. It was attributed to an unspecified “problem” on the other side of the Dnieper River. The Ukrainian grid operator has begun work on the line.

The plant is located in southeastern Ukraine, in one of the regions that has seen some of the fiercest frontline fighting and shelling.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the issue underscored “the fragile nuclear safety and security situation at the site.”

The plant is being powered by one 750 kilovolt (kV) line. Before the war with Russia, it had four 750 kV lines and six 330 kV lines available, according to the IAEA.

— Jenni Reid

Polish farmers with their tractors and vehicles block the expressway S3 during a demonstration. Polish farmers are staging protests against cheap Ukrainian grain flooding the market and EU regulations on pesticide and fertiliser usage. Tractors with Polish flags blocked motorways and major junctions in almost 200 locations in Poland. 

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had directed his “entire government” to arrive at the border with Poland by the weekend, as he called for top-level talks with Polish officials over farmers’ protests.

“I would like to address Polish society and express Ukraine’s gratitude to everyone who distinguishes between political manipulation and critical national security issues. I would also like to address the Polish government, specifically Prime Minister [Donald] Tusk and his ministers,” Zelenskyy said in a video posted to the social platform X.

Ukraine has been in dispute with several of its allied neighbors, including Poland, for months over the export of Ukrainian grain, which local farmers argue has been depressing prices.

Tensions escalated Tuesday as Polish farmers blocked the Ukrainian border and opened railway carriages to spill Ukrainian grain, according to a Reuters report.

“We are now witnessing an excessive and unfair politicization that threatens to dump common achievements,” Zelenskyy said, adding that he wanted to address the European Commission to “preserve Europe’s unity.”

— Jenni Reid

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is seen on a screen via video link from the IK-2 corrective penal colony in Pokrov before a court hearing to consider an appeal against his prison sentence, in Moscow, Russia May 17, 2022. 

Evgenia Novozhenina | Reuters

The U.K. imposed sanctions on six people in charge of the Arctic penal colony where political opposition leader Alexei Navalny was imprisoned and died last week.

The individuals, who held the positions of head or deputy heads of the prison, will be banned from the U.K., and their assets will be frozen, according to U.K. foreign secretary David Cameron.

“It’s clear that the Russian authorities saw Navalny as a threat and they tried repeatedly to silence him,” Cameron said in a statement. “Those responsible for Navalny’s brutal treatment should be under no illusion – we will hold them accountable.”

Russian authorities say that Navalny, who was already serving a combined sentence of 19 years, fell ill and died after taking a walk.

Western governments have widely blamed the Kremlin for Navalny’s death. Navalny, who called for democratic reforms in Russia, campaigned against corruption, and vocally criticized the government, was seen as the most formidable opponent to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia has refuted such criticism before forensic data is available.

— Natasha Turak

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