Live Updates: How Russia’s Assault on Ukraine Affects the Middle East

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could become Europe’s biggest state-to-state conflict since World War II. But the effects of the war will not be limited to the continent.

Middle Eastern states maintain close ties with both sides in trade, tourism and defense. While North African countries like Egypt and Libya have military ties with Moscow, they also depend on imports of Ukrainian agricultural products. Russia’s exploitation of natural gas in the conflict also shone a spotlight on Arab Gulf states as oil surged above $100 on Thursday for the first time since 2014.

Turkey is at the geographic center of the conflict, as calls from Kiev grow for Ankara to close the Black Sea Strait to the Russian Navy.

Follow the latest updates for the region:

12:30 p.m., February 24: Lebanon condemns Russian invasion

  • The Lebanese Foreign Ministry condemned Moscow’s attack and called on the Kremlin to “immediately stop its military operation and withdraw its forces” from Ukraine.
  • The Beirut statement cited previous foreign invasions of Lebanon “which resulted in losses felt for many years.”

Read more here.

11:00 a.m., Feb. 24: Pentagon says Russia aims for regime change in Ukraine

  • The Kremlin “has every intention of decapitating the Ukrainian leaders,” a senior US defense official told reporters on Thursday morning.
  • Russia committed more than 100 missiles and around 75 fighter jets in the first wave of strikes last night, the official said.

10:10 a.m., Feb 24: AKP says Turkey considering Ukraine request to close straits

  • A spokesman for Turkey’s ruling political party said the government had weighed Kiev’s request to Ankara to close the Turkish strait to Russian ships, but provided no clarity on a decision.
  • Turkey has ‘assessed all scenarios’ that could arise from a decision to close the strait, and ‘will use its discretion in favor of peace instead of deepening the conflict’, AKP spokesman says , Omer Celik, at a press conference.
  • “Both legal and diplomatic preparations have been concluded. We will continue to follow the process. We certainly don’t want tensions to escalate further,” Celik said.

Learn more here.

9:51 a.m., Feb 24: Israeli PM softens tone on Ukraine invasion

  • Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett avoided condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in a speech late Thursday, adopting a more cautious tone than Foreign Minister Yair Lapid earlier in the day.
  • “These are difficult and tragic times, and our hearts go out to the citizens of Ukraine who have fallen into this situation without injustice on their part,” Bennett said.

Learn more here.

5:00 am, February 24: Israel condemns Russia’s assault on Ukraine

  • Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday broke his country’s silence on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, calling the attack a “serious violation of the international order”.
  • Analysts have speculated that Russia’s military influence in Syria, where the Kremlin has turned a blind eye to Israeli airstrikes against Iran-backed militias, could dampen Tel Aviv’s response to the Moscow’s aggression in Europe.

Read our coverage here.

4:30 a.m., Feb. 24: All eyes are on the Gulf as oil and gas prices soar

  • Brent crude broke $105 a barrel on Thursday after Russia launched attacks across Ukraine.
  • Futures on gas delivered to the Netherlands, a benchmark for European prices, jumped 30% today.
  • The Biden administration approached Qatar earlier this month about supplying gas to Europe amid an expected drop in Russian supplies. Doha’s energy minister hinted yesterday that his country could not cover the deficit.

2:30 am, February 24: Ukraine calls on Turkey to close the Black Sea Strait

  • Ukraine’s Ambassador to Turkey Vasyl Bodnar has called on Ankara to close the Black Sea Strait to Russian ships.
  • Russia has more than 10 naval landing craft in the Black Sea and landed troops on Ukraine’s southern coast last night, Pentagon officials said.
  • Ankara can close the strait in times of war under the 1936 Montreux Convention.

Edward N. Arrington