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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Feb. 12

Church members distribute food to local residents after a mass at the Ark of Salvation Church, in Kramatorsk, in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region, Feb. 12, 2023.
Church members distribute food to local residents after a mass at the Ark of Salvation Church, in Kramatorsk, in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region, Feb. 12, 2023.

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

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

11:10 p.m.: Russian forces attacked Sumy Oblast over 50 times on Sunday, The Kyiv Independent tweeted.

According to regional officials, Russian troops attacked the communities of Esman, Yunakivka, Krasnopillia, and Znob-Novhorodske. No casualties were reported.

10:30 p.m.:

9:25 p.m.: Hundreds of Russians are fighting on the side of Ukraine in the battle for Bakhmut, The New York Times reported.

Ukraine in August approved the formation of the Free Russia Legion, which is made up of Russian citizens. Some of the members had already been living in Ukraine prior to Russia's invasion, while others came to Ukraine following the start of the year out of moral conviction or disgust with Russia's regime.

8:13 p.m.: The founder of Russian’s private mercenary group Wagner said his forces have captured a village in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region just outside Bakhmut, a key objective for the Russian military, as Kyiv says Moscow’s latest offensive is struggling, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

"Today the settlement of Krasna Hora was taken by the assault troops of the Wagner private military company," Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said in an audio message posted on Telegram on Sunday.

7:37 p.m.: In January it was announced that Pavel Zaifidi, an educator in the central Kostroma region in Russia and the local coordinator of the pro-Kremlin All-Russia Popular Front (ONF), who specializes in work with children who have learning disabilities, had won a $30,250 federal grant to develop a “youth organization” called Health Guarantee.

The Russian word for “guarantee” is spelled with the Latin letter Z.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches the one-year mark on February 24, the Kremlin and its proxies in local government and government-friendly political and social organizations have stepped up efforts to insinuate the pro-war symbols into every facet of the lives of ordinary Russians, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Just weeks before the invasion, the government announced it would spend $4.4 billion on state media in 2022-24. In addition, the Kremlin’s program of presidential grants expects to hand out $59 million “to support socially oriented nonprofit organizations” like Zaifidi’s.

7:09 p.m.:

6:45 p.m.: Russian online streaming services will lose access to Disney’s library of films when their current contact with the U.S. entertainment firms expires in March, Vedomosti, a Russian-language business newspaper reported, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

6 p.m.: Iran has used boats and a state-owned airline to smuggle new types of advanced long-range armed drones to Russia for use in its war on Ukraine, sources inside the Middle Eastern country have revealed.

At least 18 of the drones were delivered to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s navy after Russian officers and technicians made a special visit to Tehran in November, where they were shown a full range of Iran’s technologies.

The Guardian reports, Iran smuggled at least 18 long-range Mohajer-6 combat drones to Russia in November for the war against Ukraine shortly after a Russian delegation visited Tehran, The Guardian said, citing sources in Iran.

For this, the country used its state-owned airline and boats, according to sources.

Drones of this type can fly up to 200 kilometers and carry two missiles under each wing, along with 12 Shahed 191 and Shahed 129 drones, which can also carry air-to-ground missiles.

Russia has been using Iranian-made kamikaze drones to attack Ukraine since September, launching attacks against civilians and destroying energy facilities across the country.

In November, the U.S. imposed sanctions against companies and individuals involved in the production and transfer of Iranian drones to Russia, The Kyiv Independent reports.

The EU and Canada followed with their own sanctions against Iran over its supply of kamikaze drones to Moscow.

5:25 p.m.: Austria has come under heavy criticism for granting visas that will allow sanctioned Russian lawmakers to attend a Vienna meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The event underscores the delicate balancing act of the European country while trying to maintain its longstanding position of military neutrality during the war in Ukraine. The Austrian government condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago but also stressed the need to maintain diplomatic relations with Moscow.

Moscow plans to send delegates to the Feb. 23-24 meeting of the OSCE’s parliamentary assembly, including 15 Russian lawmakers who are under European Union sanctions. Among them are Deputy Duma Chairman Pyotr Tolstoy and fellow parliament member Leonid Slutsky, The Associated Press reports.

5 p.m.: The future of Poland itself depends on how effective the assistance of Poland and other allies will be now for Ukraine said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Moravetskyi. "We help Ukraine, because our future depends on our neighbor in the East; we do more than others because we have more to win and more to lose," the Polish leader emphasized.

According to Ukrinform, Moravetskyi said that just a few months ago, Ukraine received the status of a candidate country for joining the EU and expressed support for its efforts on the way to full membership.

"Receiving candidate status... was a great success. But we cannot stop halfway. Ukraine is paying a huge and bloody price today for trying to free itself from the Russian boot.” Moravetskyi added “the Ukrainians' vision of joining the EU motivates them to stay on this path, on this extremely difficult and dangerous road." The Polish Prime Minister stressed that Ukraine will not be able to defeat Russia without the solidarity of the West, including sanctions, financial, humanitarian and military aid.

4:45 p.m.: Ukraine’s need for Western arms is urgent and will determine the outcome on the battlefield, Polish President Andrzej Duda said in an interview with the French media outlet Le Figaro, The Kyiv Independent reports.

“If we don’t send military equipment to Ukraine in the coming weeks, Putin may win. He may win, and we don’t know where he’ll stop,” Duda said.

Speaking about the possibility of a Russian attack on Poland, Duda said such a move would be an attack on NATO, and all of its members.

“When the United States came under attack in 2001, all allies sided with the Americans to fight the terrorists. We believe that if there were an attack on a NATO country, the response would be the same – swift and decisive,” he said.

4:15 p.m.: In his nightly video address Sunday, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised everyone who helped restoring the energy capabilities of the country. He said that in the past couple of days, most Ukrainians spent without many shutdowns despite Russia’s massive airstrikes on the country’s energy grid.

“This week proves the professionalism of our power engineers and the extraordinary dedication of everyone who works on the provision of our energy system,” he said.

Zelenskyy cautioned, as consumption increases, some outage schedules are inevitable with the start of the new week.

Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude to all Ukrainian power engineers, all repair crews, employees of the State Emergency Service, utility workers, regional and local authorities who helped as well as to the businesses that have been involved in the relevant work.

“We must realize that this is not yet a decisive victory on the energy front. Unfortunately, there may be new terrorist attacks from Russia. There may be new restrictions if there is new destruction and consumption growth. But today and yesterday are yet another proof that by working together and helping each other, Ukrainians are doing great things,” he said.

3:30 p.m.: International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach denied Sunday, that the organization was on the wrong side of history by helping Russians and Belarusians qualify for the 2024 Paris Summer Games. Bach said sports have to respect the human rights of all athletes, ESPN reports.

Bach and the IOC have faced a widespread backlash from Ukraine and its allies, including comments directed at him by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, since setting out a path last month for some athletes from Russia and Belarus to return to international competition despite the war waged by their countries.

Asked Sunday at the Alpine skiing world championships if the IOC could be on the wrong side of history, Bach dismissed the suggestion.

"No, history will show who is doing more for peace. The ones who try to keep lines open, to communicate, or the ones who want to isolate or divide," the IOC leader said.

2:45 p.m.: Swiss bank Credit Suisse blocked over $19 billion in Russian money, according to SonntagsZeitung newspaper, The Kyiv Independent reports.

By doing so, Credit Suisse alone reportedly froze a third of all declared Russian assets in Switzerland.

According to the publication, out of the $19 billion, only $4.32 billion belong to people from the Swedish sanctions list. The remaining $14.7 billion are that of people under other countries’ sanctions.

Credit Suisse also reportedly froze funds of the Russian Central Bank or the Russian state.

The State Secretariat for the Economy of Switzerland previously announced the freeze of Russian assets worth $8.1 billion and 15 real estate properties as part of sanctions the country imposed on Russia for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

2:10 p.m.: Russian forces recruited Kurdish drone operators in addition to Iranians to conduct attacks against Ukraine, including the massive airstrikes of February 10.

According to The Kyiv Independent, in a conversation intercepted by the Ukrainian military intelligence agency, two Iranian-made Shahed 136/131 kamikaze drone operators discuss target coordinates using Kurdish with a dash of Farsi, a language spoken in Iran.

The interception may indicate “Kurdish mercenaries with experience in the combat use of Shahed drones are also fighting” for Russia, the intelligence report said.

The Kurds, around 30 million, are mainly dispersed among Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq.

Ukraine’s military intelligence also said Russia has already recruited Kurdish mercenaries in the war in Syria.

1:10 p.m.: Several uncensored anti-Kremlin headlines about Russia's war against Ukraine were briefly published on the website of Russian propaganda tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda on Feb.12, according to The Kyiv Independent. The headlines posted on the site included "Putin orders the killing of civilians in Ukraine" and "EU creates tribunal in The Hague for trial of Putin."

The news items were taken down by administrators less than ten minutes after being published.

Some of the items included information about prisoner recruitment by the Wagner Group and opposition figures' treatment in Russian prisons, including imprisoned leading opposition figure Alexey Navalny.

The news items were published by Komsomolskaya Pravda's 24-year-old news reporter Vladimir Romanenko, who had worked at the outlet for half a year. In a statement to the independent Russian news outlet, Prodolzheniye Sleduyet Romanenko said he posted the articles as a protest to mark the upcoming anniversary on February 24 of the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

12:15 p.m.: NATO should hold an emergency meeting to discuss recent findings about September explosions at the Nord Stream gas pipelines, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said late on Saturday.

According to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1970, U.S. navy divers had destroyed the pipelines, with explosives on the orders of President Joe Biden.

The White House dismissed as "utterly false and complete fiction" the claim that the United States was behind explosions of the Nord Stream gas pipelines, which send Russian gas to Germany.

Sweden and Denmark, in whose exclusive economic zones the blasts occurred, have concluded the pipelines were blown up deliberately, but have not said who might be responsible, Reuters reported.

The United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have called the incident "an act of sabotage." Moscow has blamed the West for the unexplained explosions that caused the ruptures. Neither side has provided evidence.

"There are more than enough facts here: the explosion of the pipeline, the presence of a motive, circumstantial evidence obtained by journalists," Zakharova said on the Telegram messaging platform.

NATO did not immediately respond to Reuters request for a comment.

11:15 a.m.: Two former Wagner recruits recall horrors of war in Eastern Ukraine. In an interview with CNN they spoke of their ghastly experiences on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine, and how anyone who faltered was immediately shot by their own commanders.

“We couldn’t retreat without orders because if we don’t comply with the order, we will be killed,” said one of the prisoners.

“One man stayed at a position, he was really scared, it was his first assault. We received an order to run forward. But the man hid under a tree and refused. This was reported to the command and that was it. He was taken 50 meters away from the base. He was digging his own grave and then was shot.”

The recruits, who remained anonymous for their safety, spoke of hideous losses of prisoner recruits by the Wagner paramilitary organization.

10:45 a.m.: Russian soldiers are dying in greater numbers in Ukraine this month than at any time since the first week of the invasion, according to Ukrainian data tweeted by U.K. Ministry of Defense.

10:15 a.m.: Ten nations have joined forces to train Ukrainian recruits in the UK, providing them with skills to defend their country.

9:30 a.m.: Adviser to the Head of the Office of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted “3 key solutions to bring the world back to stability.”

9:10 a.m.: One person was killed, and another was wounded Sunday, morning, from Russian shelling on Nikopol, a city in the southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region, Gov. Serhii Lysak reported. In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, one person was wounded after three Russian S-300 missiles hit infrastructure facilities overnight, regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said. Ukrainian officials say that Moscow is having trouble mounting a broad offensive in the area, as Russian forces try to occupy more territory in the eastern industrial heartland of Donbas, which comprises the partially occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions, The Associated Press reported.

8:30 a.m.: Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of Russia's Wagner Group, said on Sunday that the mercenary force had taken the village of Krasna Hora on the northern edge of the embattled Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

In an audio message published by his press service on the messaging app Telegram, Prigozhin said: "Today the settlement of Krasna Hora was taken by the assault troops of the Wagner private military company."

Prigozhin also posted a short video, apparently showing Wagner fighters at the entrance sign to Krasna Hora, which had a pre-war population of 600.

Bakhmut, a city in the eastern Donetsk region, has been the epicenter of brutal battles for months. Kyiv's top military commander, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said on Saturday that Ukraine continues to hold Bakhmut, trying to "stabilize" the frontline around it, Reuters reported.

7:45 a.m.: British arms and military vehicles could be manufactured in Ukraine under license, easing the country's dependence on supplies of arms from Western allies, the Telegraph newspaper reported on Sunday.

Reuters citing the Telegraph reports British defense industry executives visited Kyiv to discuss plans on joint ventures to manufacture weapons and vehicles locally.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked for more Western arms including modern fighter jets and heavy long-range weapons to repeal the Russian invasion.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told him that "nothing is off the table" when it comes to supplying Ukraine with jets to fight Russia, after he announced a plan to start training Ukrainian pilots to fly NATO-standard fighter jets.

Western countries, however, have not committed so far jets or weapons that can strike deep inside Russia.

In response, news agency TASS cited Russia's embassy to Britain as warning that any delivery of British fighter jets to Ukraine would have serious military and political ramifications.

Any joint venture between a defense manufacturer and Ukraine would likely need British government sign-off, and such a move would further antagonize Moscow, the Telegraph said.

Sunak's press office at Number 10 Downing Street declined to comment on the report.

The Ministry of Defense also declined to comment.

5:21 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russian forces continued offensive operations near Svatove and Kreminna. Russian forces are also focused on Donetsk Oblast operations.

4:04 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said that over the past two weeks, Russian casualties are at their highest rate since the invasion of Ukraine began. There are a number of reasons for this, the update said, including inexperienced soldiers and a lack of resources.

3:09 a.m.: Ukraine's forces held the front lines in Donetsk, including around town of Bakhmut, with the fiercest battles raging for the cities of Vuhledar and Maryinka, Kyiv's top military commander said Saturday.

Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine's Armed Forces, said Russia carries out about 50 attacks daily in Donetsk, a region in Ukraine's southeast that Moscow has been trying to occupy fully.

"Fierce fighting continues in the area of Vuhledar and Maryinka," Zaluzhnyi said in a Telegram message after a call with U.S. General Mark Milley.

"We reliably hold the defense. In some areas of the front, we have managed to regain previously lost positions and gained a foothold."

Zaluzhnyi did not specify where the gains were. He added that Ukraine continues to hold Bakhmut, trying to "stabilize" the front line around the town.

The head of Russia's Wagner mercenary group said Saturday that his forces are facing fierce resistance around Bakhmut from Ukrainian defenders.

Reuters is unable to verify battlefield reports.

2:09 a.m.: Russia appears to be draining an enormous reservoir in Ukraine, imperiling drinking water, agricultural production and safety at Europe's largest nuclear plant, NPR reported, citing satellite data it obtained.

Since early November 2022, water has been gushing out of the Kakhovka Reservoir, in southern Ukraine, through sluice gates at a critical hydroelectric power plant controlled by Russian forces. As a result, the water level at the reservoir has fallen to its lowest point in three decades. Separate images provided by the commercial companies Planet and Maxar show water pouring through the gates and shoreline along the giant reservoir emerging as a result of the rapidly falling water levels.

At stake is drinking water for hundreds of thousands of residents, irrigation for nearly half-a-million acres of farmland, and the cooling system at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Late last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it was aware of the potential risk posed by dropping water levels at the reservoir.

1:04 a.m.: "From the patriotic standpoint, we are not afraid, of course," said Serhiy Yarmak, the mayor of the town of Hulyaypole on the southern Ukrainian steppe, standing in front of what remains of the city council garage — a pile of rubble covered with fresh snow.

The brick building was destroyed in a missile strike that killed his deputy and a local utility company director in October, he told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

"But, of course, in reality, everybody is worried that soon we might become another Bakhmut," he added, referring to a city in the eastern Donbas region where Ukrainian forces have held out for months against a relentless Russian onslaught in some of the fiercest fighting in Russia’s war on Ukraine.

As Ukraine braces for a renewed offensive in the Donbas, the southern front remains relatively stable, despite daily barrages of artillery fire and an intense Russian bombardment of energy infrastructure in the city of Zaporizhzhia on Feb. 10.

12:02 a.m.: WNBA star Brittany Griner attended the WM Phoenix Open golf tournament Saturday in her second public appearance since her release from a Russian prison, The Associated Press reported.

Last month in her first appearance, Griner was at the Martin Luther King Jr. march in downtown Phoenix.

Griner is skipping the USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota so she can be with her wife and recover from her time in jail in Russia. She was traded in a dramatic prisoner swap in December.

Griner has said she'll play for the Phoenix Mercury again this season, although she's still an unsigned free agent. She hasn't talked about her international future and potentially playing in the Olympics next year in Paris.

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

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