Ukraine war live updates: Tucker Carlson reportedly seen leaving Putin’s office; tensions rise at Russian-held nuclear plant


Russia says it could withdraw from Arctic Council

Russia said it could consider withdrawing from the Arctic Council if its activities do not meet the interests of Moscow, marking the latest souring of relations between Arctic states.

Russian Foreign Ministry Ambassador at Large Nikolai Korchunov told Russian media that “we proceed from the fact that we must have all the options for foreign policy maneuver, including withdrawal from the Arctic Council, if its activities do not correspond to Russian interests,” the diplomat told RIA Novosti.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gesture as they arrive for a meeting at the Harpa Concert Hall, on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial summit, in Reykjavik, Iceland, May 19, 2021.

Saul Loeb | Reuters

The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States. The council includes Russia, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, as well as Iceland, Canada, the U.S. and Norway.

Russia was handed the two-year revolving chairmanship of the council in May 2021, but after its invasion of Ukraine in 2022, other council members suspended their participation in any council events in protest against the invasion. Norway took up the chairmanship in May 2023.

As Norway took the helm of the council, Korchunov, a senior official in the Arctic Council, said it remained to be seen whether the country could find ways “to act in the interests of all Arctic countries.”

“Whether it will be possible to come back to full-fledged cooperation is difficult to say at the moment,” he said last May.

Tensions in the Arctic have been brewing over a number of years, particularly in light of Russia’s quiet expansion of its political, economic and military influence there.

— Holly Ellyatt

Car allegedly used by Tucker Carlson in Moscow seen leaving Putin’s office, media reports

The reported presence of U.S. journalist Tucker Carlson in Moscow continues to feature in pro-Kremlin media coverage as his movements, and motives for being in Moscow, are closely followed.

Speculation is rife over Carlson’s reasons for being in Russia — there are rumors that he could be in the country to interview President Vladimir Putin — and Russian state media agency RIA Novosti reported late Wednesday that the car allegedly being used by the former Fox News host to travel around Moscow had been spotted leaving the president’s office.

Former Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson attends the Turning Point Action Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, July 15, 2023.

Marco Bello | Reuters

Earlier on Monday, Russian news outlet Izvestia published footage of a black van carrying an American journalist allegedly heading to the presidential administration. A black van with the same license plate left the protected area at about 18:10, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.

Other Russian media reported that Carlson, a right-wing media personality who has expressed support for Russia and criticism of the U.S.’ support for Ukraine, was seen at the Bolshoi Theater. 

Izvestia also published a video on Telegram Monday which appeared to show a Russian man chatting to the journalist in a hotel in Moscow. When asked about the purpose of his trip to Russia, Carlson told the man, “I wanted to look at it. I read so much about it, I wanted to talk to people, see how everything works. And everything is very good here.” The video comments were translated by Tass news agency.

The Kremlin declined to say Monday whether or not Putin would grant an interview to Carlson — or to confirm whether he was in Moscow.

“We can hardly be expected to provide information on the movement of foreign journalists,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said when asked about speculation that Carlson was in Russia to interview Putin.

— Holly Ellyatt

IAEA chief Grossi says to examine contract standoff at Zaporizhzhia, media reports

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi (not seen), visits Ukraineâs Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in Russian-controlled Energodar, on March 29, 2023. 

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Around 100 of the thousands of Ukrainian staff at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine are refusing to sign contracts with Russian nuclear company Rosatom, U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi told RFI radio on Tuesday.

Grossi told the French radio station in an interview that he would examine any impact on operations at the plant, where the six reactors are in shutdown, when he visits it on Wednesday.

The plant says it will no longer grant these holdouts access to the site, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

— Reuters

NATO allies attend Hungarian parliament to push for Sweden membership

A general view taken on February 5, 2024 shows empty seats (R) in the plenary hall of the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest during an extraordinary sitting at the opposition’s request to debate Sweden’s NATO bid. Representatives of the governing Fidesz party led by Hungarian Prime Minister Orban and the right-wing Christian Democratic party stayed away from today’s session. Budapest remains the last holdout to ratify the Nordic country’s bid to join the military alliance, following Turkey’s ratification in January. 

Attila Kisbenedek | Afp | Getty Images

Representatives from more than a dozen NATO countries, including the U.S. and Poland, made a surprise appearance at a Hungarian parliamentary session Monday to push lawmakers to approve Sweden’s accession into the allied group.

Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, led by Viktor Orbán, boycotted the vote on ratifying Swedish membership, which was called by the opposition. That meant the session did not meet quorum.

David Pressman, U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, said that while 16 NATO ambassadors were in attendance, no members of Hungary’s ruling party were.

“This is about the security of Hungary, of the United States, and of the entire NATO Alliance. We look forward to Hungary’s urgent action,” Pressman said on social media platform X.

Sweden applied for NATO membership in May 2022 in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Turkey, which had been the other holdout country, approved the move in January.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the third Belt and Road forum in Beijing.

Grigory Sysoyev | Afp | Getty Images

The following day, Orbán said that the Hungarian government supported Swedish accession and would push for it at the earliest opportunity. Officials have expressed confusion about the precise nature of the Hungarian government’s apparent reluctance to approve membership.

Orbán has increasingly become a thorn in the side of multilateral institutions which are seeking to show unified support for Ukraine.

The prime minister met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Chinese investment summit in October, and is in an ongoing spat with the European Union over the approval of funding for Ukraine.

— Jenni Reid

Netherlands pledges six more F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine

The Netherlands will deliver six more F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, taking the total number it has pledged to 24, Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren said on Monday.

“The Netherlands is readying six additional F-16 fighter aircraft for delivery to Ukraine,” Ollongren said in a post on social media platform X.

“Ukraine’s aerial superiority is essential for countering Russian aggression.”

— Reuters

War critic’s election bid set to be rejected by Russia’s electoral authorities

The supporters of anti-war presidential election hopeful Boris Nadezhdin said a working group from the Russian Central Electoral Commission (CEC) has recommended that Nadezhdin’s candidacy for the Russian election be rejected because of signature defects on his nomination papers.

Nadezhdin, a former Russian lawmaker and outspoken critic of Russia’s war in Ukraine, submitted 105,000 signatures to the CEC last week that were in support of his candidacy.

Boris Nadezhdin, a representative of Civil Initiative political party who plans to run for Russian president in the March 2024 election, talks to journalists as he visits an office of the Central Election Commission to submit documents and signatures in support of his candidacy, in Moscow, Russia January 31, 2024. 

Shamil Zhumatov | Reuters

His campaign said the signatures were carefully chosen to avoid the possibility that the CEC would reject a significant proportion of them, meaning that he would be barred from running in the March vote.

But according to Nadezhdin’s campaign, the CEC concluded in a meeting held Monday that 15.4% of Nadezhdin’s signatures are defective and, therefore, have recommended Nadezhdin should not be included on the ballot, NBC News reported.

Nadezhdin’s campaign say they will challenge the CEC working group’s findings during a full meeting of the Electoral Commission on Wednesday Feb. 7. NBC has reached out to the CEC for comment.

Nadezhdin’s spokesman Pavel Burlakov said “we do not agree with the decision of the working group. The whole world saw that we honestly collected signatures. The campaign team is ready to prove the unfoundedness of the working group’s decision.”

Political analysts said that in Russia’s tightly controlled and orchestrated “democracy,” it was extremely unlikely that the Kremlin would let Nadezhdin stand in the election and risk him garnering a lot of votes, a scenario that the Kremlin would like to avoid at all costs. For its part, the Kremlin told CNBC last week that it was “not inclined to exaggerate the level of support for Mr. Nadezhdin.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Plot thickens over Tucker Carlson’s supposed trip to Moscow

Speculation over why American journalist Tucker Carlson is now in Moscow (or at least believed to be in Moscow) have been fueled further after news outlet Izvestia published a video on Telegram which appeared to show a Russian man chatting to the journalist in a hotel in Moscow.

Asked about the purpose of his trip to Russia, Carlson told the man: “I wanted to look at it. I read so much about it, I wanted to talk to people, see how everything works. And everything is very good here.” Carlson said he thought Moscow was a “beautiful” city. The video comments were translated by TASS news agency.

There has been speculation that Tucker Carlson is in Russia ahead of a possible interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who rarely gives interviews to foreign journalists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via video link at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, December 22, 2023. 

Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik | Reuters

Earlier, the Kremlin declined to say whether or not Putin would grant an interview to the former Fox News host Carlson — or to confirm whether he was in Moscow.

“We can hardly be expected to provide information on the movement of foreign journalists,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked about speculation that Carlson was in Russia to interview Putin.

— Holly Ellyatt

Kremlin gives nothing away about why Tucker Carlson might be in Russia

The Kremlin on Monday declined to say whether or not Russian President Vladimir Putin would grant an interview to U.S. journalist Tucker Carlson or whether he was in Moscow.

“We can hardly be expected to provide information on the movement of foreign journalists,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked about speculation that Carlson was in Russia to interview Putin.

“Many foreign journalists come to Russia every day, many continue to work here, and we welcome this,” Peskov said. “We have nothing to announce in terms of the president’s interviews to foreign media.”

Former Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson speaks during the Turning Point Action Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, July 15, 2023.

Marco Bello | Reuters

Carlson is a former Fox News host who launched a new subscription-based streaming video service in December to capitalize on his popularity among conservative voters. An interview he posted on X with Donald Trump last August has drawn more than 267 million views, according to the social media platform.

The Mash Telegram channel on Saturday published a picture of Carlson and said he had arrived in Moscow.

— Reuters

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