The Polish president calls on NATO to urgently increase its spending

“If Russia is stopped in Ukraine, it will not attack again”: Polish President

Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Monday that NATO urgently needs to increase its defense spending to ensure it does not become the next target of a Russian attack.

Speaking to CNBC, Duda cited unspecified German research suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin is doubling down on his transition to a war economy to attack NATO in 2026 or 2027.

“The alarm bells are ringing,” he told Steve Sedgwick, according to a translation.

Duda said it was therefore more important than ever to increase the alliance’s military spending to 3%, calling his increased target “common sense.”

—Karen Gilchrist

Since he no longer has any money, the Pentagon chief is trying to convince his allies to commit to Ukraine

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will try to convince European allies on Tuesday that President Joe Biden’s administration remains committed to supporting Ukraine, even as Washington has virtually run out of money to continue arming Kiev, and it There is little sign that Congress will take steps to increase funding.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin attends a welcoming ceremony for Latvia’s Defense Minister Andris Spruds at the Pentagon in Washington, DC on March 14, 2024.

Almond Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has so far refused to vote on a bill that would provide $60 billion more to Ukraine, and the White House is scrambling to find ways to send aid to Kiev, with the Russian armed forces for more than two years.

Austin will chair the monthly meeting of the so-called Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG), held at Ramstein Air Base in Germany and attended by about 50 allies who have provided military support to Ukraine.

The Pentagon said Austin, making his first trip abroad since undergoing prostate cancer treatment, would reiterate Washington’s commitment to Ukraine. But officials say the lack of available funding is already having an impact on the ground in Ukraine and Ukrainian forces are having to deal with scarce resources.

Last week, the Biden administration said it would send $300 million in military aid to Ukraine, but added that it was an extraordinary step after unexpected savings from Pentagon military contracts.

Officials have not ruled out the possibility of finding additional savings, but say that amount would not be enough to make up for the lack of action from Congress. Experts believe Austin will find a skeptical audience in Europe.

—Reuters

Putin takes part in rally in Moscow after election victory

People take part in a rally and concert to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in Moscow’s Red Square on March 18, 2024.

Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin briefly attended an outdoor rally in Moscow on Monday evening, where he told the crowd that the annexation of Crimea and other regions of Ukraine was difficult but worthwhile.

The rally and concert in Red Square marked the 10th anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The annexation was a precursor to a simmering conflict between pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine’s armed forces in eastern Ukraine since 2014 and Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Since then, Russia has also illegally annexed four other partially occupied regions in Ukraine to “Russify” the regions and hold votes there ahead of last weekend’s three-day Russian presidential election, which Putin won. Ukraine condemned the votes held on its territory, calling them illegal.

Putin told a large, flag-waving crowd that the “return” of these other regions to Russia had proven “much more serious and tragic” than that of Crimea, but said it had been accomplished, as Reuters noted.

Putin also told the crowd that rail links from Rostov in southern Russia to Russian-occupied cities in eastern and southern Ukraine had been restored and would soon also provide a direct connection to Sevastopol in Crimea.

“Just this morning I was informed that the railway from Rostov through Donetsk to Mariupol and Berdyansk has been restored. We will continue this work. Soon trains will go directly to Sevastopol. And this will be another alternative road to the Crimean Bridge,” he said in comments translated by Reuters.

– Holly Ellyatt

Why Germany hesitates to send “Taurus” missiles to Ukraine

Chancellor Olaf Scholz gives a speech during the GermanDream Awards 2023 in Berlin, Germany, November 30, 2023.

Lisi Niesner | Reuters

The debate over military aid to Ukraine is deepening fissures in the German government – but despite “extremely unusual” public disagreements, Chancellor Olaf Scholz is expected to prevail.

At the heart of a months-long dispute is whether Germany will send Ukraine long-range Taurus missiles, which can independently locate and destroy a target after being fired from a carrier.

Scholz has firmly rejected Kiev’s demand for these missiles – but he appears increasingly isolated in this position.

A key concern is that Ukraine may need help on the ground from German soldiers to deploy the Taurus missiles – a red line for Scholz.

According to leaked discussions by senior army chiefs reported by German media, there are very few copies of the complex data required to program Taurus missiles. That means Germany itself would likely lose access to the material if it hands it over to Ukraine, making this a potentially risky move.

Read more about the story here: Germany’s refusal to send “Taurus” missiles to Ukraine is highly controversial – but will not break the government

— Sophie Kiderlin

Pictures show the destruction in Ukraine after the latest shelling

Images show the aftermath of the shelling of several Ukrainian cities that have been attacked by Russia in recent days.

On March 18, 2024, a fire broke out in a residential building on Vovchansk in Kharkiv, Ukraine due to a Russian airstrike.

State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout | Anadolu | Getty Images

An Oleh resident stands in his house that was damaged by Russian shelling in Khmelnytskyi Oblast, Ukraine, March 18, 2024.

Svitlana Krentovska/Suspilne Ukraine/JSC “UA:PBC” | Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images

A shell crater is seen near a Kriazh family home destroyed by Russian shelling in Makyshyn, Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine, March 17, 2024.

Oleksandr Tirok/Suspilne Ukraine/JSC “UA:PBC” | Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images

The wreckage of a car is seen amid rubble and debris at a Kriazh family home destroyed by Russian shelling in Makyshyn, Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine, March 17, 2024.

Oleksandr Tirok/Suspilne Ukraine/JSC “UA:PBC” | Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images

Putin mentions Navalny by name for the first time in years

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with the media at his campaign headquarters in Moscow on March 18, 2024.

Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed optimism after winning his fifth term in office in Russian presidential elections over the weekend.

He chose his victory speech to supporters and the Russian press to make his first public remarks on the death of his political nemesis, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, mentioning his name for the first time in years.

Asked by NBC’s Keir Simmons about the death, Putin responded by calling his death a “sad event” and claiming he had been willing to include Navalny in a prisoner swap with the West.

Click here to read more about this story: Putin speaks for the first time about the death of his arch-enemy Navalny as he celebrates an election victory

– Holly Ellyatt

EU says Russian voters were deprived of “a real choice”.

The EU headquarters in Brussels.

John Thys | Afp via Getty Images

The European Union said the Russian presidential election took place in an “ever-shrinking political space” that violated civil and political rights after Vladimir Putin was given another six-year term.

“Russian authorities have further increased systematic internal repression by targeting opposition politicians, civil society organizations, independent media and other critical voices with repressive laws and politically motivated prison sentences.” The EU announced this in a statement on Monday.

The circumstances under which the elections took place “deprived Russian voters of a real choice and severely limited their access to accurate information,” the bloc added, while condemning the presidential elections conducted by Russia in the occupied territories of Ukraine.

Ruxandra Iordache

The Kremlin praises Putin’s “unique” result in the presidential election

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow, Russia, on December 7, 2023.

Sergei Bobylev | Via Reuters

Vladimir Putin’s overwhelming victory in the Russian presidential election over the weekend was a “unique” result, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, defending the electoral process from Western accusations.

In Google translated comments reports the Russian state news agency TassPeskov said foreign statements questioning the legitimacy of the election were “absurd” and noted that he expected international congratulations for Putin’s victory to continue for more than a day.

The European Union criticized the circumstances in which Putin received over 87% of the vote, highlighting a restrictive political environment and a lack of real opposition in the election campaign. It also refused to recognize elections in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories.

Ruxandra Iordache

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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