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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Feb. 11

A Ukrainian serviceman fires a mortar shell towards Russian troops at the frontline position near the Vuhledar town, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Feb. 11, 2023.

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

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

8:50 p.m.: In the small village of Bakuskaya in southwestern Russia, fighters from the notorious Wagner Group of mercenaries are buried daily in a specially designated cemetery that continues to expand, highlighting the growing casualties the group is taking in Ukraine.

According to interviews, video footage, and a visit by a correspondent from a regional news outlet of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Russian Service, more than 300 fighters have been buried at the site since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, with the cemetery expanding rapidly in size in recent months. That growth has coincided with a bloody and costly Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine, where the mercenary group has played a key role.

About 50,000 fighters from the mercenary company are believed to be in Ukraine, with the U.S. government estimating that the group has suffered more than 10,000 casualties while fighting alongside the regular Russian military.

The Russian advocacy group Russia Behind Bars believes that as many as 40,000 prisoners have been recruited to fight for the group so far, with U.S. government estimates saying that 90 percent of Wagner’s mercenaries are inmates.

7:37 p.m.: The head of Russia's Wagner mercenary group said in a rare interview made public on Friday that Russian forces must capture the strategic city of Bakhmut to proceed with their campaign but faced fierce resistance from Ukrainian defenders, Reuters reported.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, interviewed by a Russian military correspondent, said Russia had to establish clear goals in its nearly year-old campaign: firmly establish its presence in eastern Ukraine or push forward to capture more of the country.

Wagner troops have played a large role, particularly last month in capturing the town of Soledar, outside Bakhmut.

"Bakhmut is needed so our troops can operate comfortably," Prigozhin said.

"It is probably too early to say that we are close. There are many roads out and fewer roads in. Ukrainian troops are well trained ... and like any large city it is impossible to capture it from head-on. We are managing very well.

"First we have to quietly take Artyomovsk and then we can say loud and clear that we have taken it," he added, referring to Bakhmut by the Soviet-era name used by Moscow.

Military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said the situation around Bakhmut probably remained the most difficult sector faced by Ukraine's forces as Russia deploys more and more conscripts.

6:26 p.m.: For weeks if not months, Ukrainian military and political leaders, along with some Western intelligence officials, have warned that Russia is preparing for a major new offensive, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Cold temperatures had dialed down the tempo of fighting while both sides replenished their manpower and materiel, positioning equipment, digging trenches, rebuilding units — preparing for the war’s next phase.

That new offensive now appears to be under way, with Russian forces in eastern Ukraine building on months of intense localized assaults in several places in an effort to regain momentum in their sputtering, yearlong invasion.

“The Russian military has likely begun offensive operations and these are early attacks and early efforts to seize positions,” Michael Kofman, a Russia director at the Center for Naval Analyses, a U.S.-based think tank, said in a podcast on February 7. “These look like the very early phases of it.”

5:40 p.m.: First reports indicate that three Russian S-300 missiles hit the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Saturday night, regional governor Oleh Sinehubov wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

"One infrastructure facility was damaged. Information about the victims and the scale of the destruction is being clarified," he said.

Russian missiles also struck power facilities in Kharkiv on Friday in an attack that injured eight people. Kharkiv is eastern Ukraine's largest city Reuters reports.

5:30 p.m.: Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Saturday that Ukraine would create a centralized demining hub. Serving as an analytical center, the hub will process data on the needs for demining provided by ministries, regional administrations, partner countries, and international organizations. the Kyiv Independent reports.

The "Ukrainian Center for Humanitarian Demining" will help improve coordination between all these actors and help to attract all possible resources for demining, a first step towards reconstruction, Shmyhal said.

Ukraine is “currently the largest minefield in the world,” Shmyhal said in a previous interview. Shmyhal has reported that approximately 250,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian land – nearly 40% of the country’s territory – have been mined since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion last year.

The large-scale mining of Ukrainian land makes it difficult and dangerous for local farmers to grow crops and harvest, putting at risk one of the country’s most vital industries.

During the summer harvest, several farmers were killed in the Kharkiv and Sumy oblasts when their tractors hit a landmine during fieldwork.

According to Ukrainian authorities, after the end of the war, Ukraine would need at least 10 years to demine its territory, The Kyiv Independent reports.

5:15 p.m.: There will be no power cuts on Odesa, the Dnipro regions as well as the capital Kyiv Sunday, leading energy producer DTEK said on Saturday as crews work to repair power grids damaged by a major Russian strike, Friday.

Ukraine's energy minister, German Galushchenko, said Russia had hit power facilities in six regions with missiles and drones, causing blackouts across most of the country.

Ukraine's armed forces said Russian forces had fired more than 100 missiles and mounted 12 air and 20 shelling attacks on Friday. It said 61 Russian cruise missiles were destroyed.

Russia has repeatedly attacked civilian infrastructure far from the front lines, leaving millions of Ukrainians without power, heat or water for days at a time in the middle of winter, Reuters reports.

4:45 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has dismissed Ruslan Dziuba as deputy commander of the National Guard, according to a brief decree issued by the presidential office. It did not give any reasons for the move, Reuters reports.

Separately, in his daily video address, Zelenskyy, who has stressed the need for the defense ministry to be cleaned up, said that his drive to reform the government would continue. He said he had met defense sector and law enforcement officials to discuss ways to protect institutions from what he called attempts from outside or inside to reduce their effectiveness and efficiency of the ministry. He did not provide any names.

Ukrainian authorities have dismissed dozens of officials in recent weeks and opened probes as part of a widespread drive against wrongdoing. The European Union says addressing corruption is a requirement for Ukraine joining the 27-member bloc.

Referring to the crackdown, Zelenskyy said: "All this activity is not just about certain episodes or criminal proceedings ... the state will continue to modernize the institutions themselves. The purity of the work of state structures must be guaranteed."

4:15 p.m.: The small coal-mining town of Vuhledar on Ukraine's eastern front line has become a bone of contention in the fight for Donetsk province. Securing the town would give both Ukrainian forces and Russian troops a tactical advantage in the greater battle for the Donbas region. Capturing it would give Russia the possibility of disrupting Ukrainian supply lines, while Ukrainians could use Vuhledar as a launching pad for future counter-offensives. Meanwhile, Vulhedar's pre-war population of 14,000 has dwindled to about 300. Most are longtime residents reluctant to leave the only home they have ever known, The Kyiv Independent reports.

3:15 p.m.: Members of the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group work with Serbian paramilitaries to smuggle weapons in Kosovo for a potential hybrid attack by Serbia to grab Kosovan territory, Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani told The Telegraph.

The secret operation is designed to lay the groundwork for a potential hybrid attack by Serbia to annex Kosovan territory, Vjosa Osmani claimed in the interview.

The alleged secret operation that includes smuggling unmarked military uniforms resembles Russia’s annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in 2014 when Russian soldiers invaded Crimea without chevrons on their uniforms, The Telegraph reports.

2:15 p.m.: The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported Saturday that Russian forces continue to focus their main efforts on offensive operations in the directions of Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Novopavlivsk in Ukraine's east and northeast.

General Staff said “despite significant losses,” Russia doesn’t give up its intention to occupy the entire Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and added Moscow is reinforcing its troops near Lyman and Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk Oblast.

Russian forces, along with the Kremlin-controlled mercenary group Wagner, have been attempting to seize Bakhmut for months.

Russian troops have recently captured settlements north and south of Bakhmut. Capturing Bakhmut would allow them to disrupt Ukraine’s supply lines in the area and open up the main road leading to the two key Ukrainian cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Feb. 3 that Ukraine “will not surrender” Bakhmut, The Kyiv Independent reports.

1:45 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday that Ukraine wants to be a member of the European Union in two years and should be part of the NATO alliance after the country’s victory over Russia.

Zelenskyy made these statements during a meeting with top managers of the investment funds company J.P. Morgan. He added that Ukraine would also need security guarantees.

In his address to the European Parliament on February 9 during a historic visit to Brussels, Zelenskyy stressed that Ukraine was fighting for the “European way of life” and vowed that his country would keep fighting as long as it takes, The Kyiv Independent reports.

1:10 p.m.: Yuriy Ihnat, spokesman of the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said the Russian military began using drones to attack Ukraine's infrastructure in the evening hours, after Russia’s massive airstrikes on Ukraine Friday, reports the Suspilne News, which is the national public broadcaster in Ukraine.

"This is the change in the tactics of using kamikaze attack UAVs, they are Iranian Shahedi-131 and 136, they are marked as "Geran," "Geran-2." There was an evening application after 19:00, when they took off from Azov sea, from the east coast, from where they now usually launch. We have seen such attacks only at night," said Ihnat.

During the evening attack, the Ukrainian military shot down 20 out of 24 drones. Air defense also destroyed Russian Kh-101 cruise missiles, said the spokesman.

"The work of our Air Defense Forces, the Air Commands "East", "South", "Center" is successful — we need to record these defeats of both UAVs and missiles. We will now publish the remains of the missiles found — it is the X-101. Because in Russia they very much doubt that we shoot them down. That's why we will publish more such videos, found evidence. We will show that they will not achieve anything with their missile terror," said the official.

12:22 p.m.: In a video address Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he held a series of meetings with military and defense leadership on the strengthening of state institutions.

"In the afternoon, I held several meetings with representatives of the defense sector and law enforcement agencies. The topic, one might say, is common to these meetings. It is the strengthening of state institutions of Ukraine and the protection of institutions from any attempts from outside or inside to reduce their effectiveness and efficiency," he said.

11:45 a.m.: First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska spoke about the situation in which Ukrainian children found themselves due to Russian aggression and the conditions in which they have to live and study.

"Danger. If I were to describe their situation in one word. They are constantly in danger. Living in danger is not something many adults can do, but our children have to do it every day. They feel and understand adult things. They become adults early. They cannot plan and dream freely. They miss many important things," the President's wife said in a TV interview.

The first lady said that she would not want Ukrainian children to carry the trauma of the war with them for the rest of their lives: "We in Ukraine do not want them to become a generation of war. We want them to become a generation of victory. I believe it will be so," she said.

11:05 a.m.: President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with senior members investment bank, JP Morgan. Zelenskyy took part via video link in the annual investment summit helmed by JP Morgan. The meeting was attended by 200 largest corporations, investors, and financial companies.

The parties discussed the creation of a platform for attracting private capital to rebuild Ukraine and promising directions of large investment projects in Ukraine, in particular in the sectors of green energy, IT, and agricultural technologies.

10:35 a.m.: Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas wrote in a tweet Saturday that the first batch of L-70 anti-aircraft guns and ammunition, “which will help defend critical infrastructure,” has already arrived in Ukraine. Anusauskas didn't specify the number of equipment delivered.

According to the Kyiv Independent, Lithuania pledged over dozens of L-70 anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine in January as part of its latest military aid package, which also includes two Mi-8 helicopters and ammunition.

On Feb. 9, Anusauskas also said Lithuania would provide Ukraine with 36 portable anti-aircraft systems to “effectively counter Iranian-made drones Russia is using to attack the country.”

15 Ukrainian instructors had already been trained to teach soldiers to use these anti-aircraft systems, Anusauskas added.

A Lithuanian campaign recently raised 6 million euros to buy multifunctional tactical radars for Ukraine in less than a week.

9:55 a.m.: Poland's President, Andrzej Duda expressed doubt on whether his country would be able to - supply President Volodymyr Zelenksyy with the fighter jets he says are needed to win the war with Russia.

Speaking exclusively to BBC’s radio program Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg – Duda said sending F-16 aircraft would be a "very serious decision" that was "not easy to take".

Poland has been one of Ukraine's most vocal supporters since Russia invaded.

Last month, Poland was one of several countries pledged to send more tanks, ammunition and equipment to the front line, BBC reports.

9:25 a.m.: The U.K. Defense Ministry said Saturday that data from the Russian Federal Penal Service suggested a drop-off in the rate of prisoner recruitment to Russian paramilitary group Wagner since December 2022, adding that news of the “harsh realities” of service in Wagner in Ukraine has probably “filtered through to inmates and reduced the number of volunteers."

8:45 a.m.: Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin criticized Saturday, calls from ministers of more than 30 countries to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympics as unacceptable, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

A group of 35 countries, including the United States, Germany and Australia, will demand that Russian and Belarusian athletes are banned from the 2024 Olympics, Lithuania's sports minister said on Friday, deepening the uncertainty over the Paris Games.

The move increases the pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that is trying to keep the international sporting event from been affected by the war in Ukraine.

"This is a direct interference of ministers in the activities of independent international sports organizations, an attempt to dictate the conditions for the participation of athletes in international competitions, which is absolutely unacceptable," Matytsin was quoted as saying by TASS.

The IOC has opened the door for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals Reuters reports.

8:15 a.m.:

7:45 a.m.: The head of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner said in an interview released late Friday, that the war could drag on for two more years before Russia fully secured control of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas. Yevgeny Prigozhin, added that the war could go on for three years if Moscow decides to capture broader territories east of the Dnieper River. The statement from Prigozhin marks an acknowledgement of the difficulties that the Kremlin has faced in the campaign, AP reports.

5:13 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russian missile overflights of NATO territory are highly unlikely to prompt an escalation, and ISW believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin won't risk a direct conflict with NATO.

Russian forces continued offensive operations northwest of Svatove and around Kreminna and in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka-Donetsk City areas, as well as in western Donetsk Oblast.

Local residents warm up in a shelter in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Feb. 10, 2023.
Local residents warm up in a shelter in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Feb. 10, 2023.

4:09 a.m.: International Monetary Fund staff will meet with Ukrainian officials in Warsaw next week, Reuters reported Friday, quoting a source familiar with the plans, as Ukraine presses for a multibillion dollar borrowing program to cover its funding needs given Russia's war.

The Interfax Ukraine news agency earlier this month quoted Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko as saying that Ukraine hopes to start negotiations with the IMF during the second quarter of 2023.

The IMF had no immediate comment on the staff mission, which comes two months after the IMF's board approved a four-month monitoring program for Ukraine that is aimed at maintaining economic stability following Russia's invasion, and at helping promote donor financing.

Ukrainian government officials have said the country will need $38 billion this year to cover the budget deficit and another $17 billion for urgent energy repairs and reconstruction of critical infrastructure.

Experts say the country's needs could be far higher, given the extent of damage caused by Russian attacks in recent months.

3:11 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said that the Russian military has already deployed most of the reservists they've recently called up. That, combined with Wagner Group's decision to stop recruiting convicts, leaves Russia in a manpower bind. They'll either have to continue to deplete their forces, change their objectives -- scaling them back -- or have another mobilization of reservists.

2:07 a.m.: Russia's Justice Ministry on Friday placed Zemfira, one of post-Soviet Russia's most popular singers, on a list of foreign agents on grounds that she supported Ukraine and criticized Russia's "special military operation" in that country, Reuters reported, quoting Tass new sagency.

The ministry statement said Zemfira, whose full name is Zemfira Ramazanova, "openly supported Ukraine, held concerts in unfriendly countries while speaking against the special military operation and received support from foreign sources."

Zemfira, an ethnic Volga Tatar born in the central Russian region of Bashkortostan, began performing in 1998 and gained popularity in Russia and other ex-Soviet states. She was known to oppose the conflict with Ukraine and for a time, her website featured the slogan "No to war."

She is reported by numerous websites to have left Russia to settle in France after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

1:09 a.m.: The International Energy Agency on Friday called a special meeting of energy ministers for urgent consultations on natural gas supplies, Agence France-Presse reported.

The meeting, to be held Wednesday by video conference, is the first such special IEA ministerial meeting recent history.

The IEA provides policy advice to energy consuming nations but also helps coordinate the use of the emergency oil stocks held by its 31 member nations.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said the measures taken following Russia's invasion of Ukraine helped European nations whether Russia cutting off most of its gas supplies.

"But the crisis is not over and more needs to be done, particularly to get ready for next winter," he said.

"We are convening this ministerial because there is a continued need for our members and other partners to show solidarity with one another and to take concrete steps to ensure security of supply," he added.

12:02 a.m.: Poland on Friday proposed including Russian and Belarusian athletes opposed to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in the Refugee Team for the 2024 Paris Olympics, Agence France-Presse reported.

The International Olympic Committee said last month it was exploring a way to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris, under a neutral flag, prompting a furious reaction from Ukraine.

Ukraine, supported most fervently by some Nordic and eastern European nations in the debate, has threatened to pull out of the Games.

Polish Sports Minister Kamil Bortniczuk said the "compromise solution" would avert a situation where some countries boycott the Olympics over the potential inclusion of Russians and Belarusians under a neutral banner.

Speaking after a virtual summit of sports ministers in London on Friday, he said the proposal was "the only possibility" for Russians and Belarusians to compete in Paris.

The group would not be a neutral team, but one made up of dissidents opposing the regimes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, Bortniczuk said.

Some information in this report came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters.