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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Feb. 1

Children's drawings, the bottom one reading "Ukraine in the Heart" are presented at a UNICEF organized exhibition of drawings by Ukrainian refugee children and Romanian children in Bucharest, Romania, Jan. 31, 2023.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. All times EST.

10 p.m.: A new bust of Soviet leader Josef Stalin has been unveiled in Volgograd ahead of Wednesday's 80th anniversary of the Red Army's defeat of Nazi invaders in the bloodiest battle of World War II, Reuters reported, citing local news outlet V1.RU.

The bust is flanked by two others, Soviet commanders Georgy Zhukov and Alexander Vasilyevsky, beside the Museum of the Battle of Stalingrad, Volgograd's name from 1925-61.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to visit Volgograd on Wednesday for anniversary celebrations at Mamayev Kurgan, the hilltop war memorial whose 85-meter statue of Mother Russia dominates the city.

The battle, fought between 1942 and 1943 and estimated to have claimed 2 million casualties, is widely seen as the moment when the Nazi German forces that had captured most of Europe were finally forced onto the defensive.

9:27 p.m.: Family and friends of Ukrainian decathlete Volodymyr Androshchuk bid farewell on Wednesday to the promising sportsman turned soldier killed in combat with Russia, weeping as they lined up at his open coffin, Reuters reported.

At his funeral in the western Ukrainian town of Letychiv, friends of the 22-year-old, who volunteered for the military and was hit by shrapnel in Bakhmut last week, were vehement that Russians should be excluded from the Olympics. They were bitter that Androshchuk lost the chance to compete on the world's most prestigious sports stage.

As mourners laid bouquets near Androshchuk's feet or kissed his forehead, fellow decathlete Dmytro Korbenko described his friend as a strong-willed athlete.

"He was supposed to live a long and happy life," Korbenko said, his voice cracking. "He had everything to be successful in training and in competitions."

Ukrainian officials are furious at the International Olympic Committee for opening to the door to athletes from Russia and Belarus returning to international competition as neutrals for the 2024 Paris Games.

8:59 p.m.: The European Union is doubling the number of Ukrainian troops it aims to train to 30,000 as it seeks to bolster Kyiv's fightback against Russia, EU officials said Wednesday, according to Agence France-Presse.

The 27-nation bloc set up a program for Ukrainian forces in November with the initial target of training 15,000.

"This will be reached probably before the end of the second quarter of this year and there will be a new additional target of a further 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers trained by various European countries," an EU official said.

"So that will bring the number of Ukrainian soldiers trained in this scheme to 30,000."

The increased figure — to be formally announced at an EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv on Friday — comes as European allies step up their military support.

Several EU nations have pledged to provide German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv and are already training Ukrainian troops to use them. It is unclear if that training is covered by the EU program.

The EU training is being carried out across multiple European countries, with its headquarters in Ukraine's neighbor Poland.

8:25 p.m.: Ukraine has sufficient gas reserves to see it through the winter with 11 billion cubic meters in storage as of February 1, Reuters reported, citing the energy minister, on Wednesday.

The country also has about 1.2 million metric tons of coal for its power plants, German Galushchenko said in a statement.

"These are sufficient volumes to get through and complete this very difficult heating season for our country," the minister said.

Ukrainian oil and gas company Naftogaz oil said in a separate statement that it would receive about $218 million in a "non-repayable grant" from the Norwegian government to buy gas.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal last month said the situation in the energy sector remained difficult but under control after a months-long Russian campaign of drone and missile strikes on critical infrastructure that damaged about 40% of Ukraine's energy system.

8 p.m.: Russia on Wednesday warned Israel against supplying weapons to Ukraine after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was considering military aid for Kyiv and was willing to mediate in the conflict, Agence France-Presse reported.

"We say that all countries that supply weapons (to Ukraine) should understand that we will consider these (weapons) to be legitimate targets for Russia's armed forces," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters.

Since the beginning of the Russian offensive in Ukraine in February last year, Israel has adopted a cautious position toward Moscow, seeking to maintain neutrality.

Israel has particularly emphasized the special ties between the two nations, as Israel has more than a million citizens from the former Soviet Union.

The Kremlin has warned of an escalation in the conflict as Ukraine's Western partners vow more weapons for Kyiv.

7:22 p.m.: A Russian rocket destroyed an apartment building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk late on Wednesday and at least two people were killed and seven injured, Reuters reported, citing a statement by regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko on Telegram.

"Rescuers, law enforcement and public utilities are working at the scene to go through the rubble of the destroyed building. It is likely that people are still underneath," he said.

At least 44 people were killed last month when a Russian missile hit an apartment building in the eastern city of Dnipro.

Kyrylenko posted a picture which appeared to show a four-story building that had suffered major damage.

Ukraine accuses Russian forces of indiscriminately shelling civilian infrastructure, a charge Moscow routinely rejects.

Last April, Ukraine said 57 people died when a Russian missile hit the train station in Kramatorsk. Moscow denied responsibility, saying the missile was Ukrainian.

6:37 p.m.: EU countries will seek a deal on Friday on a European Commission proposal to set price caps on Russian oil products, after postponing a decision on Wednesday amid divisions between member states, Reuters reported, citing diplomats.

The European Commission proposed last week that starting February 5, the EU would apply a price cap of $100 per barrel on premium Russian oil products such as diesel and a $45 cap per barrel on discounted products such as fuel oil.

The price cap numbers have to be approved by all 27 European Union member states. Their ambassadors will meet on Friday to attempt to reach a deal, three EU diplomats told Reuters.

Poland and the three Baltic states are still pushing for the caps to be set at lower levels to curb the revenues Moscow receives from selling fuel following its invasion of Ukraine, the diplomats said.

One noted, however, that the EU has limited ability to change the price cap since it is a broader agreement among the Group of Seven countries.

The February 5 price caps and EU ban on Russian oil product imports follow a $60 per barrel cap imposed on Russian crude on December 5 as G-7 countries and the EU seek to limit Moscow's ability to fund its war in Ukraine.

Both caps work by prohibiting Western insurance and shipping companies from insuring or carrying cargoes of Russian crude and oil products unless they were bought at or below the set price cap.

6:10 p.m.: Germany needs to order new Leopard tanks quickly to replace those going to Ukraine, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Wednesday, adding he did not care where the money came from, Reuters said.

"For me, the crucial fact is that we have to order new tanks, not in a year, but swiftly, so that production can begin," he told reporters on a visit to a tank battalion in the western town of Augustdorf, which has been chosen to supply 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv.

"Where will the money come from? Let me casually put it like this: Frankly, I don't care. It is essential that we can provide them (the tanks) quickly," Pistorius said.

The minister was responding to the question of whether he was pushing for an increase in a 100-billion-euro special fund set up for the modernization of the military following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Pistorius aims to accelerate arms procurement and ramp up ammunitions supplies in the long term after almost a year of arms donations to Ukraine has depleted German military stocks.

Even before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Germany was 20 billion euros short of reaching NATO's target for ammunitions stockpiling.

5:27 p.m.: Britain has not made a "solid decision" not to send its fighter jets to Ukraine but does not think it is the right approach at the moment, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

"I've been involved with this for a pretty long time. And I've learned two things; never rule anything in and never rule anything out," he told reporters when asked why Britain would not send Ukraine jets.

"This is not a solid decision," he added. "For now, I don't think that's the right approach. ... What's going to move on this conflict this year is going to be the ability for Ukrainians to deploy Western armor against Russia."

"I think we'd have to be pretty sure that (jets) is going to be the next battle winning requirement. But for now, I think we're focused on the tanks, the land battle."

4:50 p.m.: Ukraine a Year After the Russian Invasion: A Look Ahead

As the calendar turns to February, Ukraine approaches the one year mark of Russia’s all out invasion. The country endured the initial offensive, stopping the Russian advance short of Kyiv and reversing many Russian gains. Since October and through the winter, Ukrainians have endured an onslaught of Russian missiles aimed at making their lives miserable.

Join us for a special panel discussion with regional experts that will talk about the one year mark of Russia’s invasion of #Ukraine on Wednesday, February 1, starting at 4:30 p.m.

4 p.m.: Freddy Versluys does not like to be called an arms dealer. But he does have a big warehouse full of second-hand tanks for sale, Reuters reported.

Standing next to dozens of German-made Leopard 1 tanks and other military vehicles in the chilly warehouse in eastern Belgium, Versluys stressed he is the CEO of two defense companies with a broad range of activities, such as making sensors for spacecraft.

But buying and selling weapons is part of his business too. And it’s the tanks that have brought him into the spotlight over the past few days, as he has engaged in a public battle with Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder over the possibility of sending them to Ukraine.

While other Western nations have pledged in recent weeks to send main battle tanks to help Ukraine repel Russia’s invasion, Belgium has not joined that group, for one reason above all: It doesn’t have any tanks left. It sold the last of them – a batch of 50 – to Versluys’s company more than five years ago.

Asked why he bought the tanks, Versluys, a silver-haired man in his mid-60s, said that was his company’s business model – it bought unwanted military equipment in the hope that someone else would want it in future.

3:11 p.m.: Ukraine’s defense minister said Wednesday that Ukrainian lives will be saved by a sophisticated air-defense radar that France is supplying and which is powerful enough to spot incoming missiles and exploding drones in the skies over all of Ukraine’s capital and its surrounding region, The Associated Press reported.

The minister, Oleksii Reznikov, was so enthusiastic about what he called Ukraine’s new “electronic eyes” that he quickly coined a nickname for the Ground Master 200 radar — the “Grand Master.”

Speaking through an interpreter at a handover ceremony for the radar with his French counterpart, Reznikov described the French-made GM200 as a “very effective” improvement for Ukraine’s network of about 300 different types of air-defense radars.

Thales, the manufacturer, says the radar detects and tracks rockets, artillery and mortar shells, missiles, aircraft, drones and other threats.

“Because of your support, Ukrainian lives will be saved,” the minister said at the ceremony in Limours, where Thales makes the equipment.

“This radar will be the cherry on the cake,” he added. “That’s why it will be called ‘Grand Master.’”

2:30 p.m.:

2:05 p.m.: Bulgarian President Rumen Radev and his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, have launched the construction of a gas pipeline that will link the two countries and help ease the region's dependence on Russian supplies, which have become less reliable amid Moscow's war against Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Attending a groundbreaking ceremony in the Bulgarian town of Kostinbrod on February 1, the two leaders shook hands where one end of the 170-kilometer link -- 109 kilometers of which will run through Serbia -- will be built.

"This is a big thing, a European project. We will supply other countries via our country," Vucic said.

The link, which will have a capacity of 1.8 billion cubic meters of gas annually, will allow gas from Azerbaijan to flow all the way to Western Europe, while also giving Serbia access to liquefied natural gas coming through from ports in Greece.

1:40 p.m.: Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed his views on the situation in Ukraine, following a recent visit there.

1:15 p.m.: President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia's military must stop the shelling of Russian regions from Ukrainian territory, which he said had left many people homeless or without power, Reuters reported.

Putin was addressing a government meeting about restoring destroyed housing and infrastructure in regions of southwest Russia that border Ukraine.

"Of course, the priority task is to eliminate the very possibility of shelling. But this is the business of the military department," Putin said in remarks published on the Kremlin website.

Ukraine does not claim responsibility for strikes inside Russian territory but has described them as "karma" for Moscow's invasion, which has razed Ukrainian cities and systematically targeted the country's energy infrastructure, leaving people frequently without power and water in the depths of winter.

Putin cited the Russian regions of Belgorod, Bryansk and Kursk, as well as Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine and annexed in 2014, as areas where housing had been damaged or destroyed.

12:50 p.m.:

12:35 p.m.: Paris 2024 organizers insisted they would abide by the International Olympic Committee’s decision on Russian and Belarusian athletes’ participation in the Games after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the governing body into banning them from the sport’s extravaganza, Reuters reported.

“As the conflict continues, Paris 2024 would like to express its full solidarity with Ukraine, its people and the Ukrainian Olympic and Paralympic movements, who are faced with an unimaginable crisis,” Paris 2024 told Reuters in a written statement on Wednesday, stressing that the IOC had taken several measures against Russia and Belarus.

“In response to this, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has taken a number of sanctions since February 2022 including: No international sports event is organized or supported by an International Federation or National Olympic Committee in Russia or Belarus;

“No flags, anthems, colors or any other identification of these countries are displayed at any sporting event or meeting, including at all venues;

“No representative of the Russian government or state shall be invited or accredited to any international sporting event or meeting.”

According to Paris 2024, those sanctions “directly or indirectly affect the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in certain qualifying events for Paris 2024”.

Paris 2024 explained that their hands were tied on who could qualify for the next Summer Games.

12:05 p.m.:

11:40 a.m.: Belarus said on Wednesday that its armed forces were now in autonomous control of Russian-supplied nuclear-capable Iskander mobile guided missile systems after completing training in Russia as well as exercises on home soil, Reuters reported.

The missiles are capable of hitting targets at a range of up to 500 km (310 miles), Minsk's defense ministry said.

The commander of Belarusian rocket and artillery forces told Minsk's Military TV that they had until now lacked a strike weapon with a range of more than 300 km.

In comments posted on Military TV's Telegram channel, Ruslan Chekhov praised the Iskander for its "simplicity of use, reliability, maneuverability and firepower".

Russian forces used Belarus as a launch pad for their abortive attack on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in February last year, and a recent flurry of joint military activity in Belarus has fanned speculation that Moscow may be leaning on Minsk to join its war in Ukraine - something Minsk has ruled out.

11:25 a.m.: The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says it is working with mobile teams of psychologists to reach Ukrainian children adversely affected by the war.

11:10 a.m.: Russia on Wednesday criticized comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, who refused this week to rule out delivering fighter jets to Ukraine, while warning against the risk of escalation, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Forgive me but this is absurd," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters during a press briefing. "Is the president of France really certain that if arms, heavy weapons and aircraft are supplied to the Kyiv regime to conduct combat operations, this will not lead to an escalation of the situation?" she said.

"I refuse to believe that an adult person is guided by this kind of logic. Such statements only increase the already irrepressible appetite of the Zelenskyy regime," she said, referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Macron said Monday he would not rule out the delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine, telling Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the Netherlands that, "Nothing is excluded in principle." But he also said that any arms would "not be escalatory" and should only be "to aid the resistance effort" rather than targeting Russia itself.

Ukraine is expecting to receive up to 140 modern tanks from its Western allies, and Zelenskyy is now urging the West to send fighter jets and long-range missiles.

10:45 a.m.:

10:30 a.m.: News that the United States could soon send rockets nearly doubling the firing range of Ukrainian forces gave Kyiv a big lift on Wednesday, even as its troops were being pushed back by a relentless Russian winter offensive in the east, Reuters reported.

In the capital Kyiv, authorities raided the home of one of Ukraine's most prominent billionaires and a former interior minister, the boldest moves so far in a war-time anti-corruption campaign launched last week by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Two U.S. officials said a new $2 billion package of military aid to be announced as soon as this week would for the first time include Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs, a new weapon designed by Boeing.

The cheap gliding missiles can strike targets more than 150 km (90 miles) away, a dramatic increase over the 80 km range of the rockets fired by HIMARS systems which changed the face of the war when Washington sent them last summer.

It would mean every inch of Russian-occupied Ukraine, apart from most of the Crimea peninsula, could soon be in range of Ukrainian forces, forcing Moscow to shift some ammunition and fuel storage sites all the way back to Russia itself.

10:15 a.m.:

10:00 a.m.: On Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government continued its crackdown on alleged corruption, reportedly targeting the head of the Kyiv tax service, customs officials, a former government minister and an oligarch, The Associated Press reported.

Zelenskyy was elected in 2019 on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption platform in a country long gripped by graft, and the new allegations come as Western allies are channeling billions of dollars to help Kyiv fight against Moscow.

Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating corruption, said it had found evidence making it suspect the head of the Kyiv tax service is guilty of embezzlement.

Meanwhile, David Arakhmaia, the head of the parliamentary faction of Ukraine’s Servant of the People party to which Zelenskyy belongs, said the entire leadership of the Ukrainian customs service would be fired.

Local media reported that police also carried out anti-corruption raids on a Ukrainian oligarch and a former interior minister.

9:50 a.m.: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has traumatized many adults and children in the war-torn country. To help, Nataliya Vyetrova created the Ukraine Volya Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps Ukrainian children cope. VOA’s Mykhailo Komadovsky has the story.

US-Based Nonprofit Helps Ukrainian Children Deal With War-Related Trauma
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9:35 a.m.: Russia said on Wednesday it wanted to preserve its last remaining nuclear treaty with the United States despite what it called a destructive U.S. approach to arms control, Reuters reported.

The United States on Tuesday accused Russia of violating the New START treaty by refusing to allow inspections on its territory.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters it was necessary to preserve at least some "hints" of continued dialogue with Washington, "no matter how sad the situation is at the present time."

"We consider the continuation of this treaty very important," he said, describing it as the only one that remained "at least hypothetically viable."

"Otherwise, we see that the United States has actually destroyed the legal framework" for arms control, he said.

New START came into force in 2011 and was extended in 2021 for five more years. It caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia can deploy, and the deployment of land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them.

9:20 a.m.:

9:05 a.m.: Turkey looks positively on Finland's application for NATO membership, but does not support Sweden's bid, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

"Our position on Finland is positive, but it is not positive on Sweden," Erdogan said of their NATO applications in a speech to his AK Party deputies in parliament.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the trans-Atlantic defence pact after Russia invaded Ukraine, but faced unexpected objections from Turkey and have since sought to win its support.

Ankara wants Helsinki and Stockholm in particular to take a tougher line against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is considered a terror group by Turkey and the European Union, and another group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.

The three nations reached an agreement on a way forward in Madrid last June, but Ankara suspended talks last month as tensions rose following protests in Stockholm in which a far-right Danish politician burned a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

8:50 a.m.:

8:25 a.m.: The Kremlin on Wednesday welcomed a Russian company's offer of "bounty payments" for soldiers who destroy Western-made tanks on the battlefield in Ukraine, saying it would spur Russian forces to victory, Reuters reported.

The Russian company Fores this week offered 5 million roubles ($72,000) in cash to the first soldiers who destroy or capture U.S.-made Abrams or German Leopard 2 tanks in Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian troops would "burn" any Western tanks that were delivered to Ukraine, adding the bounties were extra encouragement for Russian soldiers.

"This testifies to the unity and the desire of everybody to contribute as best they can, one way or another, directly or indirectly, to achieving the goals of the special military operation," Peskov told reporters.

"As for these tanks, we have already said they will burn. With such incentives, I think there will be even more enthusiasts."

8:10 a.m.:

7:55 a.m.: Russia is mustering its military might in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, local officials said Wednesday, in what Kyiv suspects is preparation for an offensive in the eastern area in coming weeks as the anniversary of Moscow’s invasion approaches, The Associated Press reported.

On the battlefront, the Kremlin’s forces are expelling local residents from their homes near the Russian-held parts of the front line so that they can’t provide information about Russian troop deployments to Ukrainian artillery, Luhansk Gov. Serhii Haidai said.

“There is an active transfer of (Russian troops) to the region and they are definitely preparing for something on the eastern front in February,” Haidai said.

Military analysts anticipate a new push soon by Moscow’s forces, with the Institute for the Study of War saying in an assessment late Tuesday that “an imminent Russian offensive in the coming months is the most likely course of action.”

A new offensive might also coincide with the invasion anniversary on Feb. 24.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported Wednesday that Russia is also concentrating its efforts in neighboring Donetsk province, especially in its bid to capture the key city of Bakhmut.

7:45 a.m.:

7:30 a.m.: The longest battle of the war in Ukraine has turned Bakhmut into a ghost city, The Associated Press reported.

Despite bombing, shelling and trying to encircle the city since the summer, Russia’s forces have not conquered it. But their scorched-earth tactics made it impossible for civilians to have a life there.

A Ukrainian soldier who arrived in the area in August saw Bakhmut gradually turned into a wasteland but says the city “has already become a symbol of Ukrainian invincibility.” Military analysts say the months of close combat have produced heavy casualties on both sides.

For now, Bakhmut remains under Ukrainian control, albeit more as a fortress than the place where tourists used to sample sparkling wine.

7:05 a.m.: Former Ukrainian interior minister Arsen Avakov said his home was searched by security officials on Wednesday as part of an investigation into a purchase of Airbus helicopters, the Ukrainska Pravda media outlet reported.

An Airbus helicopter crashed on January 18, killing 14 people including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi and other top ministry officials.

The State Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the Ukrainska Pravda report.

6:45 a.m.: Japan is preparing to host a Group of Seven (G-7) summit meeting online timed with the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed officials.

Russia has called the attack a "special military operation."

6:25 a.m.: Ukrainian police staged a risky rescue mission in the besieged eastern city of Bakhmut this week to evacuate a six-year-old girl who had become separated from her pregnant mother, Reuters reported.

Young Arina was found living with her grandparents in a run-down apartment building in Bakhmut, which has been pummeled by Russian forces in heavy fighting.

After trudging through snow to reach Arina, with artillery fire echoing in the distance, policeman Pavlo Dyachenko and two colleagues in combat gear drove Arina to the nearby city of Sloviansk to be reunited with her mother, Halyna Danylchenko.

"A shell exploded in our yard!" Arina, clutching a large white teddy bear, told her mother after they hugged.

"I heard that a shell exploded in your yard, that's why I got so worried," said Danylchenko, who is 24 and eight months pregnant.

They are among millions of people who have been displaced since Russia's invasion on February 24 last year.

Dyachenko said there were still about 200 children living in Bakhmut. The city was home to about 70,000 people before the war, but officials say only a few thousand residents now remain.

"We're meeting the families that are still there and talking to them, trying to convince them to agree to be evacuated, either the whole family or the children. Because children must live in a peaceful environment," he told Reuters.

He had to gently coax Arina into leaving Bakhmut, calmly explaining the dangers of remaining.

"Are there any other children you can play with here?" Dyachenko asked the young girl after finding her in Bakhmut.

"No," she replied, and started to cry.

"You're supposed to be in a safe place. Do you understand?" another officer said. "Do they shoot and shell a lot here?"

Arina nodded in reply.

One of the officers then put a bright orange helmet on her head, explaining: "This is for when we go outside, so that nothing can hit your head."

They left the building to the sound of shelling, got into a waiting van and left for safety.

6 a.m.: The Polish ruling party leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, has made a donation to the Ukrainian army to settle a defamation case with a political rival, The Associated Press reported.

Kaczyński was ordered by a court in December to pay Radek Sikorski more than $162,000 (700,000 zlotys) to cover the costs of publishing an apology for calling him a “diplomatic traitor.”

Kaczyński made the comment in 2016 in connection to the 2010 plane crash near Smolensk, Russia, that killed Kaczynski’s brother, then-President Lech Kaczyński, and 95 others. Sikorski was foreign minister at the time of the disaster.

Kaczynski said Tuesday that he had paid a smaller sum to the Ukrainian army to settle the dispute.

5:25 a.m.: State security officials searched the home of billionaire businessman Ihor Kolomoiskiy on Wednesday as part of an investigation into possible financial crimes, several Ukrainian media outlets reported, citing an unnamed official source, according to Reuters.

The State Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the reports. Kolomoiskiy could not be reached for comment.

Kolomoiskiy is one of Ukraine's richest men and a one-time ally of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who launched a crackdown on wealthy businessmen known as "oligarchs" in late 2021, before Russia invaded its neighbor last year.

Kolomoiskiy, who is from the central city of Dnipro and owns an array of assets including one of Ukraine's most influential television channels, backed Zelenskyy's election campaign in 2019.

Ukrainska Pravda, one of at least three outlets reporting the raid on Kolomoiskiy's home, said the move related to an investigation into the alleged embezzlement of oil products and evasion of customs duties.

The search was carried out by officials from the SBU and the Economic Security Bureau of Ukraine.

5 a.m.: Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen arrived in Kyiv on Wednesday and was expected to hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

4:50 a.m.: Reuters reported that prominent Russian journalist Alexander Nevzorov was sentenced in absentia to eight years in jail by a Moscow court on Wednesday after it found him guilty of spreading "fake news" about the Russian army.

Investigators opened a case against Nevzorov last year for posts on social media in which he accused Russia's armed forces of deliberately shelling a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, an assertion Moscow said was false.

The court said in a statement that he would serve his term in a penal colony if he ever returned to Russia, and was banned from managing internet content for four years.

Nevzorov, who runs a YouTube channel with close to 2 million subscribers, called the investigation against him ridiculous and left the country with his wife in March last year.

He was granted Ukrainian citizenship in June after publicly denouncing Russia's invasion, calling the war a "crime" and Ukraine its victim.

Eight days after invading Ukraine last February, Russia passed a law setting jail terms of up to 15 years for those convicted of intentionally spreading "fake" news about Russia's military.

Russia has since blocked access to news sites publishing content at odds with Moscow's official line on the conflict, while dozens of Russian and international news outlets have left the country.

4:05 a.m.: Reuters reported that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday stressed the importance of NATO's working closely with partners in the Indo-Pacific, saying Europe could not ignore what happens in East Asia because the global security is interconnected.

"Working with partners around the world, especially in the Indo-Pacific, is part of the answer to a more dangerous and unpredictable world," Stoltenberg said at an event hosted by Keio University.

"The war in Ukraine demonstrates how security is interconnected. It demonstrates that what happens in Europe has a consequence for East Asia, and what happens in East Asia matters to Europe," he said, adding that "the idea China doesn't matter for NATO doesn't work."

Stoltenberg made the comments as part of a visit to Japan, during which he pledged to strengthen ties with Tokyo to navigate an increasingly tense security environment triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its growing military cooperation with China.

Although he said China was not an adversary, the NATO chief said the country was becoming a "more and more authoritarian power" that was displaying assertive behavior, threatening Taiwan, and developing military capabilities that could also reach NATO countries.

"We are more than ready to further strengthen and expand the partnership with countries in this region," he added.

China rejected the claims by Stoltenberg, saying that it has always been a defender of peace and stability.

"On the one hand, NATO claims that its position as a regional defensive alliance remains unchanged, while on the other hand, it continues to break through traditional defense zones and areas, continuously strengthen military security ties with Asia-Pacific countries and exaggerate the threat of China," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in a regular briefing held Wednesday.

"I want to emphasize that the Asia-Pacific is not a battlefield for geopolitical rivalry and confrontation between the camps with Cold War mentality is not welcomed," she added.

Before his stop in Japan, Stoltenberg visited South Korea and urged Seoul to increase military support to Ukraine, giving similar warnings about rising tensions with China.

China has criticized NATO's efforts to expand its alliances in Asia. Russia, which calls its invasion of Ukraine a "special operation," has repeatedly cast NATO's expansion as a threat to its security.

3:30 a.m.: A former member of the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group who's seeking asylum in Norway has apologized to Ukrainians living in the Scandinavian country, who object to his presence there, The Associated Press reported.

"I'm a scoundrel to you, but I only ask you to take into account that I have come to realize that, albeit belatedly, and I spoke against all that," Andrey Medvedev said in an excerpt from his interview to Norwegian broadcaster NRK that was posted online Tuesday. "I ask you not to condemn me, and in any case I apologize."

Medvedev who has said that he fears for his life if he returns to Russia, lives in a center for asylum-seekers in Oslo. He illegally crossed into Norway, which has a 198-kilometer-long border with Russia, earlier this month.

Medvedev has said that he left the Wagner Group after his contract was extended beyond the July-November timeline without his consent. He said he's willing to testify about any war crimes he witnessed and denied participating in any himself.

3 a.m.:

2:20 a.m.: Spain plans to send between four and six Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine, newspaper El Pais reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified government sources, according to Reuters.

2 a.m.:

1:40 a.m.: Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune plans to visit Russia in May, his office said Tuesday after he spoke on the phone with his counterpart in Moscow, Vladimir Putin, Agence France-Presse reported.

Algeria has had warm ties with Moscow for decades, but Africa's biggest gas exporter has also become crucial for Europe's energy supplies in the fallout of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Tebboune and Putin discussed "bilateral relations between the two countries, especially energy cooperation," the Algerian presidency said in a statement.

Algeria, which pumps gas directly to Spain and Italy via undersea pipelines, has in recent months hosted a string of top European officials, including French President Emmanuel Macron in August, seeking to find alternatives to Russian energy supplies.

1:10 a.m.: Lithuania's foreign minister on Tuesday urged European Union countries not to host Russian ambassadors, as diplomatic tensions between the Baltics and Moscow rise following the invasion of Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported.

"There is little use in having an ambassador, a Russian ambassador, in any European capital," Gabrielius Landsbergis told a press conference in Riga.

"In most cases it's no longer a diplomatic institution, it's an institution of propaganda, covering up crimes of war and in general promoting a genocidal agenda," he said.

Lithuania downgraded diplomatic relations with Russia, which included expelling Moscow's ambassador, in April last year after the massacre in the Ukrainian town of Bucha was discovered.

Last week, Estonia said it would expel the Russian ambassador in a tit-for-tat move after the Kremlin ordered Estonia's ambassador to leave.

Fellow Baltic state Latvia said it was also expelling the Russian ambassador in solidarity with Estonia, adding that it would withdraw its own ambassador from Moscow.

12:55 a.m.: The Slovak parliament approved on Tuesday plans to shorten its four-year term by five months and to hold an early election on September 30 after the center-right Cabinet lost a no-confidence vote and parties failed to form a new majority administration, Reuters reported.

The government of Prime Minister Eduard Heger lost the no-confidence vote in December after a former coalition party joined the opposition, which accuses the Cabinet of not doing enough to help people with the rising cost of living.

The election will see a clash between pro-Western liberal and conservative parties and two leftist formations including the Smer party of ex-prime minister Robert Fico who opposes sending weapons to neighboring Ukraine and has adopted a skeptical stance on Western sanctions against Russia similar to that of Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Slovakia, a NATO and EU member, has so far been a strong backer of Ukraine, supplying infantry vehicles, artillery and a battery of the S-300 air defense system.

12:40 a.m.: The United States is readying more than $2 billion worth of military aid for Ukraine that is expected to include longer-range rockets for the first time as well as other munitions and weapons, two U.S. officials briefed on the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

The weapons aid is expected to be announced as soon as this week, the officials said. It is also expected to include support equipment for Patriot air defense systems, precision guided munitions and Javelin anti-tank weapons, they added.

One of the officials said a portion of the package, expected to be $1.725 billion, would come from a fund known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, or USAI, which allows President Joe Biden's administration to get weapons from industry rather than from existing U.S. weapons stocks.

The USAI funds would go toward the purchase of a new weapon, the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb, or GLSDB, made by Boeing, which have a range of 150 kilometers. The United States has rebuffed Ukraine's requests for the 297 kilometers the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, a surface-to-surface long-range missile system.

The longer range of the GLSDB glide bomb could allow Ukraine to hit targets that have been out of reach and help it continue pressing its counterattacks by disrupting Russia further behind its lines.

12:20 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday said he was not finished shuffling the ranks of senior officials and that anyone failing to perform according to strict standards faced dismissal, Reuters reported.

Last week Zelenskyy responded to reports of official corruption, 11 months into the war, by firing more than a dozen functionaries. He vowed there would be zero tolerance for wrongdoing or mismanagement.

Zelenskyy was elected by a landslide in 2019 on pledges to change the way Ukraine was run and eliminate corruption, an endemic problem in post-Soviet society.

In his latest remarks, the president said his administration was planning to introduce changes as part of attempts to proceed with unusually rapid and complex negotiations to secure European Union membership.

"What is very important is that we are preparing new reforms in Ukraine," he said. "These are reforms which in many aspects will change the social, legal and political realities by making them more humane, more transparent and more effective."

12:01 a.m.: The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation has launched an initiative to mobilize $250 million to boost access to capital for Ukrainian small- and medium-sized enterprises during the war, CEO Scott Nathan said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Ukrainian SMEs have struggled to get access to finance because of security risks that have deterred private investment in Ukraine since Russia's invasion almost a year ago. Ukraine's economy shrank by about one third last year.

Nathan said DFC would provide financing to Ukrainian commercial banks for lending to SMEs.

"I am here in Kyiv today because we are investing now to help keep Ukrainian businesses moving forward despite difficult circumstances. I am convinced that new DFC investments here will mobilize well over $1 billion in private sector capital to support the economy of Ukraine," Nathan said during his second visit to Ukraine in two months.

Some information in this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.