For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.
The latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. All times EST.
2:10 a.m.: The conflict in Ukraine “has given NATO renewed purpose” and spurred Eastern Europe to ditch Soviet-era equipment, but China’s military modernization remains the United States’ chief concern, a British think tank said Wednesday, according to Agence France-Presse.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said in its annual Military Balance report that “the invasion … impelled Finland and Sweden to apply to join the Alliance; and has led states in Eastern Europe to sharpen their focus on defense.”
However, thanks to inflation the European defense outlay has increased only 0.8% in real terms last year.
Russia’s invasion has also led to Eastern European states updating their inventories with “more modern Western military systems,” with South Korea also emerging as a major defense supplier in Europe.
Despite the general focus on Russia, it is China that has the attention of the U.S. in the long-term, added the IISS.
“China’s defense spending increase of 7.0% in the 2022 budget, over 2021 figures, is its largest in absolute terms,” it added.
1:09 a.m.: European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen hailed Wednesday what she said was Ukraine’s “tangible progress” toward securing membership talks with the bloc, despite Russia’s brutal invasion, Agence France-Presse reported.
Kyiv wants to join the 27-nation union as soon as possible and has called for formal accession talks to begin as early as this year, much faster than any recent candidate has managed.
There is skepticism in several EU capitals that this will be possible, amid demands that Ukraine first pass anti-corruption reforms and clean up its political and economic life.
Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, von der Leyen said she had heard heartening news from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Brussels last week and earlier on a visit with her commission to Kyiv.
“Ukrainians are making tangible progress despite the war, despite fighting the aggressor,” she said to applause.
“They know that the accession to our union is a merit-based process. They have passed legislative reforms that others thought would take years,” she said.
12:02 a.m.: A group of Democratic and Republican senators said Wednesday they would try again to pass legislation that would require the State Department to designate Russian mercenary company Wagner Group as a foreign terrorist organization, Reuters reported.
Led by Democrat Ben Cardin and Republican Roger Wicker, the senators said they had reintroduced the Holding Accountable Russian Mercenaries (HARM) act, which was introduced but not passed before the end of the previous.
The Treasury Department last month designated Wagner, which is fighting on the Russian side in some of the most intense battles of the Ukraine war, as a transnational criminal organization responsible for widespread human rights abuses.
Some information in this report came from Reuters and Agence France Presse.