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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Feb. 2

A church is pictured in the town of Rivnopillya, Ukraine, Feb. 1, 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.: Poland believes it will be possible to build a coalition of about 40 countries, including the U.S., Britain and Canada, by Feb. 10 supporting the call to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympics, a Polish minister said Thursday.

The Baltic nations and Poland earlier Thursday called on international sports bodies to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in the Olympics and other events while the war in Ukraine continues.

"I'm convinced that a meeting that is planned for Feb. 10 will reach a conclusion of over 30 or maybe 40 sports ministers including those from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and Japan to decisively reject the idea to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to take part in the Games," Poland's Sport and Tourism Minister Kamil Bortniczuk told Reuters.

"Considering this I don't think we will face tough decisions before the Olympics and, if we were to boycott the Games, the coalition we will be a part of will be broad enough to make holding the Games pointless."

The International Olympic Committee announced last week that athletes from the two countries, banned from competing in Europe, might be allowed to earn slots for the Paris 2024 Games through Asian qualifying, although the IOC later said it was standing by sanctions imposed against Russia and Belarus.

9:29 p.m.: An Italo-French SAMP/T air defense system will be up and running in Ukraine within the next two months, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

"I believe it will be operational within seven to eight weeks," Antonio Tajani, who is also deputy prime minister, told a TV show in remarks confirmed by his spokesman.

The system can track dozens of targets and intercept 10 at once. It is the only European-made system that can intercept ballistic missiles.

Kyiv has asked its Western allies for more air defense systems and specifically requested the SAMP/T, known as Mamba, in November.

8:22 p.m.: President Vladimir Putin evoked the spirit of the Soviet army that defeated Nazi German forces at Stalingrad 80 years ago to declare on Thursday that Russia would defeat a Ukraine supposedly in the grip of a new incarnation of Nazism, Reuters reported.

In a fiery speech in Volgograd, known as Stalingrad until 1961, Putin lambasted Germany for helping to arm Ukraine and said, not for the first time, that he was ready to draw on Russia's entire arsenal, which includes nuclear weapons.

"Unfortunately we see that the ideology of Nazism in its modern form and manifestation again directly threatens the security of our country," Putin told an audience of army officers and members of local patriotic and youth groups.

"Again and again we have to repel the aggression of the collective West. It's incredible but it's a fact: we are again being threatened with German Leopard tanks with crosses on them."

Russian officials have been drawing parallels with the struggle against the Nazis ever since Russian forces entered Ukraine almost a year ago.

Ukraine - which was part of the Soviet Union and itself suffered devastation at the hands of Hitler's forces - rejects those parallels as spurious pretexts for a war of imperial conquest.

7:26 p.m.: The European Union's ban on imports of Russian refined oil products, including diesel and jet fuel, will disrupt global flows once it takes effect on Sunday and could hurt Moscow more than an embargo on crude oil, Reuters reported.

Although Western sanctions could force Russia to cut crude production and refining runs, which would further tighten global supplies, some analysts said the ban on products may ultimately have little impact on overall availability.

"Barrels will get out and find a market, logistical challenge but not a supply challenge," senior research associate Ian Moore at global brokerage firm Bernstein.

The bigger issue could be for Russia in finding alternative buyers as China and India, which have proved keen to snap up its discounted crude oil, have plenty of their own refining capacity and are exporters of fuel products.

"While the ban would leave Russia with more crude to export, there may not be enough destinations to export the surplus to, and hence Russia may need to cut production by 5%-10%," said DBS Bank energy analyst Pei Hua Ho.

To try to compensate for an absence of European buyers, Russia ramped up diesel supplies to African and Mediterranean ports in January.

But a lack of tankers to carry these products and a potential lack of demand could make it more challenging for Russia to divert refined fuels to third party markets.

6:29 p.m.: The European Union announced new military assistance for Ukraine ahead of the historic EU-Ukraine wartime summit, according to The Kyiv Independent.

The Council of the European Union adopted additional assistance measures under the European Peace Facility (EPF) to provide Ukraine with further military assistance. It consists of a seventh package worth $546 million and a new $49 million assistance measure supporting the Ukrainian military training efforts.

“Ukraine should get all the military equipment and training needed to defend their territory and their people from Russia’s war of aggression,” Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said.

Total EU military support for Ukraine under the EPF is $3.9 billion. Borrell, who visited Kyiv with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel, announced that the EU would double the number of Ukrainian soldiers to be trained this year to 30,000.

5:30 p.m.: The European Union should extend a target to cut gas demand in response to lost supply from Russia by at least six months to October this year to ensure there is enough for next winter, think tank Bruegel said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

EU countries agreed last year to reduce natural gas demand by 15% between August 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023, compared with the average of the same period in the previous five years.

This demand-reduction target should be extended, Bruegel, which provides analysis to policymakers in the EU, said.

These cuts would contribute to achieving an EU gas storage target requiring tanks to be 90% full by October 1 this year, the Bruegel analysts said.

EU gas storage is currently at an unusually high level of 71% full and is unlikely to be fully depleted by the end of this winter (2022/23), they added.

"Assuming limited Russian exports continue, and weather conditions are typical, demand up to October 1, 2023, must remain 13% lower than the previous five-year average," Bruegel said.

4:16 p.m.: After the recent German announcement of tank supplies to Ukraine, 96 mothballed Leopard 2 tanks set for decommissioning in neutral Switzerland are back in the public eye.

Shipping them to Ukraine is out of the question, because of Swiss neutrality, but mainstream Swiss politicians are now calling for the Leopards to be sold for as little as one symbolic franc to Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, replacing the tanks that their governments plan to send to Ukraine, Euromaidan Press reports, citing Bloomberg.

3:19 p.m.: Finland and Sweden remain committed to joining NATO at the same time despite Turkey's opposition to the Swedish candidacy, the two countries' prime ministers said in Stockholm on Thursday, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Turkey has said it could approve Finland's NATO membership application ahead of Sweden's, but the Finnish president and foreign minister have both rejected this idea, arguing that the security of the two Nordic countries is mutually dependent.

"I don't like this atmosphere, position, where Sweden is presented as a sort of trouble child in the classroom. I don't think this is the case," Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said.

2:30 p.m.:

2:10 p.m.: A Ukrainian court has ordered the detention of a former deputy defense minister suspected of corruption, the State Bureau of Investigation said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

The SBI did not name the former official but said he was suspected of involvement in ministry purchases of food at inflated prices and low-quality equipment for the military, which is fighting Russia's invasion.

The SBI statement follows the resignation of deputy defense minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov last month after a media report alleging that the defense ministry had purchased food at inflated prices.

Shapovalov and the ministry denied wrongdoing but he said he had resigned because doing so would help maintain public trust in the ministry. Shapovalov could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

2:00 p.m.:

1:45 p.m.: The Baltic nations and Poland on Thursday called on international sports bodies to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in the Olympics and other events while the war in Ukraine continues, Reuters reported.

The International Olympic Committee announced last week that athletes from the two countries, banned from competing in Europe, might be allowed to earn slots for the Paris 2024 Games through Asian qualifying, although the IOC later said it was standing by sanctions imposed against Russia and Belarus .

"Any effort by the International Olympic Committee to bring back Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, even under a neutral flag, should be rejected," sports ministers representing Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland said in a statement.

"Efforts to return Russian and Belarusian athletes to international sports competitions under the veil of neutrality legitimize political decisions and widespread propaganda of these countries," it added.

1:30 p.m.: The United States says Russia is violating the New START Treaty, the last remaining nuclear arms treaty between the two countries. In August, Russia suspended inspections of its nuclear facilities as required by the treaty. VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports.

1:15 p.m.: Kazakh rights activists sent Ukraine fresh bundles of aid this week including clothing, medicines - and three huge round multi-colored yurts - a not-so coded message of support from the citizens of a country traditionally close to Moscow, Reuters reported.

The folkloric nomad tents sent to give Ukrainians a place to keep warm are part of a steady stream of donations from Kazakh civic groups that has angered Moscow and tested the Kazakh government's so far guarded stance on Russia's invasion.

"To us, the yurt is a symbol of a hearth, home, warmth, comfort, providing shelter to the one who needs it... They asked us for tents and we decided to bring yurts," said activist Togzhan Kozhaliyeva.

She and fellow activists praise the Astana government for refusing to support Moscow's military operation, and believe that as private citizens they can go further and openly support Kyiv. Last month Kazakhstan snubbed a demand from Russia that it repudiate such initiatives.

1:00 p.m.: The U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that there have been hundreds of attacks on health care centers in Ukraine since the war began almost a year ago.

12:50 p.m.: British defense minister Ben Wallace said there was "no magic wand" that could help Ukraine in its fight against Russia, when asked on Thursday about the possibility of supplying British fighter jets to be used by Ukrainian forces, Reuters reported.

Wallace did not rule out the possibility of sending jets but said fighter aircraft were not what Ukraine needed right now and that there were practical issues to consider, such as the many months it would take to train Ukrainian forces to use them.

"There is no magic wand in this horrendous conflict," Wallace told reporters at Portsmouth in southern England, home to a naval base.

He was speaking at a news conference of British and Australian foreign and defense ministers following a meeting on trade and security.

12:35 p.m.:

12:20 p.m.: A former commander of Russia's Wagner mercenary group who fled to Norway told Reuters he wanted to apologize for fighting in Ukraine and was speaking out to bring the perpetrators of crimes to justice, Reuters reported.

Andrei Medvedev, who crossed the Russian-Norwegian border on Jan. 13, said he witnessed the killing and mistreatment by Wagner of Russian convicts taken to Ukraine to fight for the group.

"Many consider me to be a scoundrel, a criminal, a murderer," Medvedev, 26, said in an interview. "First of all, repeatedly, and again, I would like to apologize, and although I don't know how it would be received, I want to say I'm sorry.

"Yes, I served in Wagner. There are some moments (in my story) that people don't like, that I joined them at all, but nobody is born smart."

Medvedev added he had decided to speak out "to help to ensure that perpetrators are punished in certain cases, and I will try to make my contribution, at least a small bit".

He cited one incident in which he said he witnessed two people who did not want to fight being shot dead in front of newly released convicts who had been enrolled in Wagner.

12:05 p.m.: The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is collaborating with Ukrainian households to mitigate the danger of home fires caused by the use of alternative heating and lighting sources, in the absence of electricity.

11:55 a.m.: The Hungarian foreign minister accused the United States ambassador to Budapest on Thursday of trying to interfere in Hungary’s internal affairs, amid a growing diplomatic rift between the U.S. and the Central European country, The Associated Press reported.

At a news conference in Budapest, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto lashed out at comments in Politico this week in which Ambassador David Pressman referred to Hungary’s approach to the war in neighboring Ukraine as pushing “policies endorsed by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin.”

Szijjarto said it is “completely irrelevant what (Pressman) or any other ambassador thinks about the domestic political process in Hungary, because it has nothing to do with him.”

“It is not his place to interfere in Hungary’s internal affairs,” Szijjarto said.

Pressman, an appointee of the Biden administration who earlier served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs, has faced significant headwinds since taking office in Hungary in August last year.

Local media loyal to the right-wing government of populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban have accused the diplomat of meddling in Hungary’s judiciary, and of pushing American colonialism.

Since taking office, Pressman has been vocal about a growing wave of anti-American sentiment in Hungary, and on the reluctance of Orban’s government to join the European Union in imposing sanctions on Moscow for its war in Ukraine.

11:40 a.m.:

11:25 a.m.: Sweden said on Thursday it would tighten laws covering membership of terrorist organizations months after an agreement with Turkey on fighting terrorism aimed at overcoming its objections to Swedish NATO membership, Reuters reported.

The new law, which the government hopes will come into force in June, will give authorities much wider powers to detain and prosecute individuals who support terrorist organizations, either through financing or other means.

"We are talking about extremely far-reaching criminalization," Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer told reporters.

Until now it had been hard to prosecute people unless their actions could be coupled to a specific terrorist act, Strommer said. The new law would cover all forms of participation.

Strommer said that the need for tighter laws had been highlighted by the attack in central Stockholm in 2017 in which a man mowed down pedestrians on a busy shopping street, killing five.

11:10 a.m.:

10:50 a.m.: European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday that an international center for the prosecution of the crime of aggression in Ukraine would be set up in The Hague, Reuters reported.

"It will coordinate the collection of evidence, it will be embedded in the joint investigation team which is supported by our agency Eurojust," von der Leyen said during an official visit to Kyiv along with over a dozen other senior EU officials for two days of high-level talks.

An act of aggression is defined by the United Nations as the "invasion or attack by the armed forces of a state (on) the territory of another state, or any military occupation".

The International Criminal Court, also based in The Hague in the Netherlands, is already investigating alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The ICC can prosecute genocide in Ukraine but has no jurisdiction over alleged crimes of aggression by Russia there.

10:35 a.m.: High-ranking officials from the European Union are visiting Ukraine with the aim of enhancing ties and laying the foundation for its eventual membership in the EU. The German news agency DW shared on Twitter excerpts from a joint press conference Thursday between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

10:20 a.m.: Global energy giant Shell said Thursday that its annual profits doubled to a record high last year as oil and natural gas prices soared after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

London-based Shell Plc posted adjusted earnings of $39.9 billion for 2022 in its financial results for the final three months of the year. Adjusted earnings in the fourth quarter, which exclude one-time items and fluctuations in the value of inventories, rose by 50%, to $9.8 billion, from the same period a year earlier.

Shell is the latest oil company to report bumper profits, which risks reigniting public anger that the fossil fuel industry do more to offset high energy bills for households and small businesses as well as cut climate-changing carbon emissions. U.S.-based Exxon Mobil also posted record annual profits days earlier, while U.K. rival BP and France’s TotalEnergies reported huge quarterly profits last year.

The results demonstrate Shell’s “capacity to deliver vital energy to our customers in a volatile world,” new CEO Wael Sawan said in a statement.

It’s the first earnings report presented by Sawan since he took over as chief executive at the start of the year, replacing Ben van Beurden, who stepped down after nine years. Sawan also has reorganized the company’s core business units.

10:05 a.m.:

9:55 a.m.: Ukraine urged the European Union on Thursday to impose more sanctions on Moscow, as some of the bloc's top officials visited Kyiv in a show of solidarity that offered no quick path to membership during Russia's invasion, Reuters reported.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen led a delegation of more than a dozen officials that promised military, financial and political aid before the first anniversary of the February 24 invasion.

"Europe has been by Ukraine's side since day one because we know the future of our continent is being written here... this is a fight of democracies against authoritarian regimes," von der Leyen told a news conference in Kyiv.

"Today, we are proposing to Ukraine to join key European programs - this will give Ukraine benefits close to those of membership in many areas," von der Leyen said, without committing to any dates.

Zelenskyy, who greeted von der Leyen with kisses on the cheek, said they had discussed a 10th EU sanctions package against Russia. "We can see that the pace of Europe's sanctions has slightly slowed down while the terrorist-state, on the contrary, is increasing its pace of adapting to sanctions," he said, standing beside von der Leyen.

9:40 a.m.: Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre of Norway said Thursday that the oil-rich Scandinavian country will become one of the world’s top donors to Ukraine when his two-party center-left government presents another planned military and civilian aid package, The Associated Press reported.

Norway’s profits from oil will finance the additional aid, and there will be a temporary increase in the use of oil money, Gahr Støre told the Norwegian parliament. He did not reveal how large the contribution will be, but he said the government would make it soon.

“We are in a situation where we have room for action due to extraordinary income from the petroleum sector,” said the prime minister, who leads Norway’s Labor Party. He said the aid would be arranged in a way that has very little impact on the level of activity in the Norwegian economy.

Norway is one of Europe’s largest fossil-fuel exporters, and the conflict in Ukraine has boosted its gas revenues. However, Norway has fended off accusations that it’s profiting from the war in Ukraine. Last year, the country gave Ukraine more 10 billion kroner ($1 billion) in civilian and military aid.

“We are now stepping up this aid. We will contribute even more to the repair and reconstruction of damaged infrastructure,” Gahr Støre said.

9:25 a.m.:

9:10 a.m.: Ukraine has restarted several repaired power units at thermal power plants damaged in Russian missile attacks, easing the country's power shortages, Reuters reported, quoting the energy ministry.

Russian attacks on energy facilities have led to widespread power shortages and blackouts for millions of people.

Officials have said about 40% of the system has been damaged.

"The expected deficit at the evening peak will be about 19% of demand," the ministry said on Telegram messaging app on Thursday.

The power shortage reached 25% at the end of January.

The ministry said warm weather could also help reduce demand on the strained power system.

8:50 a.m.: Damian Duda is a military paramedic from Poland who has volunteered to save lives on the front line near the eastern Ukrainian city of Soledar. He volunteered to work in Ukraine in 2014 and returned in 2022. Sometimes, injured Russian soldiers end up in his vehicle. Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, has this report.

8:35 a.m.: President Vladimir Putin was expected to use an event on Thursday to mark the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in Stalingrad 80 years ago to rally Russians around his military campaign in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

He was due to give a speech during the afternoon in Volgograd, the city in southern Russia which until 1961 was called Stalingrad. It was the location of the bloodiest battle of World War Two when the Soviet Red Army, at a cost of over 1 million casualties, broke the back of advancing German forces.

The commemoration came as Russian forces in Ukraine are making incremental gains in the east as Moscow tries to step up what it calls its "special military operation" in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Thousands of people lined Volgograd's streets on Thursday to watch a victory parade as planes flew overhead and modern and World War Two-era tanks and armored vehicles trundled by.

8:20 a.m.:

8:05 a.m.: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Russian forces would respond to the delivery of longer-range Western weapons to Kyiv by trying to push Ukrainian forces further away from its borders to create a safe buffer zone, Reuters reported.

Lavrov told state TV that everybody wanted the conflict in Ukraine - which Moscow calls a "special military operation" - to end, but that the West's support for Kyiv was playing an important role in how Russia approached the campaign.

Two U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday that Washington was preparing a new package of military aid worth $2.2 billion which is expected to include longer-range rockets for the first time.

"We see how the whole of NATO is waging war against us," Lavrov said.

"We're now seeking to push back Ukrainian army artillery to a distance that will not pose a threat to our territories," he added. "The greater the range of the weapons supplied to the Kyiv regime, the more we will have to push them back from territories which are part of our country."

7:45 a.m.:

7:30 a.m.: Ukraine's military says there are clear signs that Russian forces are getting ready for a major push in the east, where a stalemate continues despite months-long heavy fighting and intensive daily shelling by Moscow's troops, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The shelling killed at least three people and wounded 20 others in Kramatorsk late on Wednesday. The head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said a Russian rocket struck a residential building in Kramatorsk.

"The enemy is actively conducting reconnaissance, preparing for an offensive in certain directions," Ukraine's General Staff said in its daily report early on Thursday. "Despite heavy losses, it continues to attempt offensive actions in the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, and Novopavlivka areas [of Donetsk region]," the General Staff said.

Russian forces launched six missile strikes on Ukrainian targets during the past 24 hours, four of which hit the civilian infrastructure in Slovyansk, Kramatorsk, and Druzhkivka in Donetsk, as well as four air strikes and 73 salvoes from multiple rocket launchers, the military said.

The situation on the front line has become more difficult, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday. "A definite increase has been noted in the offensive operations of the occupiers on the front in the east of our country. The situation has become tougher," Zelenskyy said in his evening video address.

Zelenskyy said the Russians were trying to make gains that they could show on the first anniversary of the war on February 24.

7:15 a.m.:

7:00 a.m.: Rescuers combed debris in a city in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, where an overnight Russian missile strike destroyed an apartment building and damaged nine others, killing at least three people, Reuters reported.

The police force said the apartments in the city of Kramatorsk were hit by an Iskander-K tactical missile at 9.45 pm local time (1945 GMT). Earlier reports had described it as an attack with a rocket.

“Ten apartment buildings were damaged, one partially collapsed. Search and rescue work, which continued all night, is still under way,” police said in a statement.

The dead include a husband and wife and a 61-year-old pensioner, whose daughter was still believed to be missing. Eighteen people were also wounded.

The city is close to the front line in eastern Ukraine and many residents have fled or regularly hide in cellars, which may have saved lives compared to similar attacks elsewhere.

6:50 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Thursday for more punitive measures against Russia by the European Union and said he had discussed a new EU sanctions package with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, according to Reuters.

Zelenskyy, speaking at a joint news conference in Kyiv with von der Leyen, said the speed of the EU sanctions campaign against Russia had "slightly slowed down" and should be stepped up.

6:40 a.m.:

6:35 a.m.: The Austrian government says it has ordered four diplomats based in Vienna, including two at Moscow’s mission to United Nations agencies in the city, to leave the country, The Associated Press reported.

The Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement on Thursday that two diplomats the Russian Embassy had “engaged in acts incompatible with their diplomatic status” and two at the permanent mission to the U.N. in Vienna “committed acts incompatible with the Headquarters Agreement.” It didn’t elaborate. The diplomats were given a week to leave Austria.

Western European nations and Russia have expelled each others’ diplomats on several occasions since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine started nearly a year ago.

6:20 a.m.: Over a dozen top European Union officials visited Kyiv on Thursday to promise military, financial and political aid and show support for Ukraine before the first anniversary of Russia's invasion, Reuters reported.

But unwilling to admit a country at war, the EU is set to dash Ukraine's hopes of being swiftly allowed membership, underlining the need for more anti-corruption measures.

It is the first gathering of members of the EU's executive European Commission in Kyiv since the war began last February 24 and follows new Western pledges of arms deliveries to help Ukraine resist an expected new Russian offensive. Moscow has criticized the pledges, saying new weapon deliveries will escalate the conflict but not change its course.

EU officials said talks would include discussion of more arms and money for Ukraine as well as more access for Ukrainian products to the EU market, helping Kyiv cover energy needs, sanctions on Russia, prosecuting Russia's leadership for the war and extending an EU no-roaming mobile calls zone to Ukraine.

"It is a very strong signal that we are in Kyiv during the war. It's a signal to the Ukrainian people. It's a signal to Russia. It's a signal to the world," said a senior EU official.

5:33 a.m.: Russians' deposits with non-resident banks increased by about 2.5 times between January and November last year to around $82 billion according to the exchange rate at the time, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing the central bank.

The bank said this did not mean that foreign currency deposits were necessarily flowing from Russian banks to foreign ones, however, as some deposits were converted into rubles or used to buy real estate.

Deposits held abroad by Russians have been on the rise since Moscow launched what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, with hundreds of thousands choosing to emigrate.

According to the central bank's monthly statistics, the biggest inflow of deposits to foreign banks was recorded in September last year at more than $9 billion, the month when Moscow launches a partial mobilization of troops.

5:04 a.m.: Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny said in a social media post published Wednesday that prison authorities have placed him in a one-person cell for six months, a move his lawyer described as part of authorities' efforts to damage Navalny's health, The Associated Press reported.

Navalny, 46, said on Instagram that he had been denied the opportunity to visit with his family for the past eight months. The move to solitary confinement means he will not see his wife and children for another half a year, he said.

"Even maniacs and serial killers serving life sentences have the right for meetings, but I do not," he said. "When such thing happens to you, you understand even more acutely how important it is to fight this unscrupulous government, how important it is to do at least something to free Russia from the yoke of these scoundrels from Russia and dispel the dope with which they have enveloped the heads of millions."

Navalny, who exposed official corruption and organized massive anti-Kremlin protests, is serving a nine-year fraud sentence in a maximum-security prison 250 kilometers east of Moscow.

4:15 a.m.: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrived in Kyiv on Thursday for meetings intended to highlight support for Ukraine as the first anniversary of Russia's invasion nears.

"Good to be back in Kyiv, my 4th time since Russia's invasion. This time, with my team of Commissioners," she wrote on Twitter under a photo of her arriving at a Kyiv railway station.

"We are here together to show that the EU stands by Ukraine as firmly as ever. And to deepen further our support and cooperation."

Members of the executive European Commission will meet members of the Ukrainian government Thursday.

On Friday, von der Leyen and the chairman of the 27 European Union national leaders, Charles Michel, will meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy.

4:06 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has taken a toll on its business as an arms exporter. Russia will almost certainly make supplying its own troops its top priority, and "a shortage of components is likely affecting the production of equipment for export, such as armoured vehicles, attack helicopters, and air defense systems," the update said.

3:05 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russian forces continued ground attacks northeast and southwest of Bakhmut along with limited ground attacks to regain lost positions on the Svatove-Kreminna line. Russian forces are also continuing to carry out unsuccessful disruption missions on islands in the Dnipro River delta in Kherson Oblast in an effort to prevent Ukrainian forces from gaining ground on the islands.

2:07 a.m.: The Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia have completed their withdrawal from two international development banks with majority Russian ownership and roots in the Soviet era, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing the Czech Finance Ministry.

The Czechs began to exit the Budapest-based International Investment Bank (IIB) and the Moscow-based International Bank for Economic Co-operation (IBEC) at the start of 2021 and vowed to speed up the process after Russia attacked Ukraine last February.

Poland and Slovakia have also completed their withdrawal, while Romania will exit in June and Bulgaria is expected to follow at some point this year, the Czech ministry said in a statement.

1:03 a.m.: Russia's car industry posted its worst showing in 2022 since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with production slumping 67% as Western sanctions and an exodus of global carmakers compressed the market, data showed Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Factories in Russia produced 450,000 passenger cars in 2022, according to the data from the Rosstat federal statistics service.

Prior to 2022, the worst year for Russia's car production since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union had been 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, when Russian factories produced almost 600,000 passenger cars, data from analytical agency ASM-Holding showed.

Russia's automotive sector has struggled under the weight of sanctions imposed by Western countries after Moscow's despatched tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine last February.

Meanwhile, global carmakers who had built factories in Russia in recent decades left the country in droves and terminated supplies in the process.

12:02 a.m.: Bulgaria on Wednesday approved a resolution declaring that the 1930s starvation of millions in Ukraine under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was an act of "genocide," Agence France-Presse reported.

The parliament of the EU member, where a large part of public opinion remains pro-Russian, adopted the resolution with 134 votes in favor and 26 against.

The resolution says that "any denial, justification or underestimation of this genocide flouts the memory of the millions of people who perished."

Victims of the 1932-33 Holodomor, Ukrainian for "death by starvation," will now be commemorated in Bulgaria, Moscow's closest ally under communism, each year on the last Saturday in February.

The Bulgarian Socialist party — heir to the former communist party — boycotted the vote, while the pro-Russian party Vazrajdane voted against it.

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