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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Feb. 20

A wreath of flowers placed by U.S. President Joe Biden is seen at a memorial wall dedicated to Ukrainian soldiers killed in Russia's war against its neighbor, in Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2023.

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

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

11:05 p.m.: A Ukrainian soldier compared Germany's Leopard 2 tanks to a Mercedes as he underwent training with them ahead of their arrival on the battlefield, saying he hoped they would bring a breakthrough in the war.

Reuters reported that he is among dozens of Ukrainian troops Germany is training on Leopard 2 simulators and then the tanks themselves at its largest military training ground, in Munster, before sending them to Ukraine.

"It is crucial that we use this modern weapon wisely, it will bring the breakthrough and we will win in the end," said the 57-year-old soldier.

Asked about the difference between Western and Soviet systems, he said: "You can imagine it like the difference between a Mercedes and a Zhiguli," referring to a Soviet car sold under the brand name Lada in the West.

In all, Germany is training several hundred troops on various aspects of warcraft as part of a European effort to instruct some 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

Another soldier, who was being trained on the Marder infantry fighting vehicle, said the Western systems were not that far removed from those of Soviet-built vehicles the Ukrainians have been using.

"We have experience with similar weapons systems. ... The logic is the same, sometimes we don't even need the interpreters to understand the instructors," said the 33-year-old, like his colleague wearing a scarf pulled up over his face and orange-tinted ballistic glasses to hide his identity.

10:15 p.m.: China doubled its purchases of Urals oil in the first half of February compared with the same period of January amid more attractive pricing and as Chinese demand rebounds after COVID-related lockdowns, Reuters reported, citing traders and Refinitiv Eikon data.

Urals oil supplies to China are rising as freight rates soften and the Brent-Dubai spread narrows, making Brent-related Urals oil more competitive compared to Dubai-related grades in Asian markets, traders said.

China and India are buying at deep discounts amid Western sanctions on Russian oil and more recently, embargoes and price caps.

Traders said that Chinese companies are becoming more active in the Urals market as business in China rebounds from COVID-related lockdowns last year.

About 0.8 million metric tons of Urals oil loading from Russian ports during February 1-15 are heading to China compared with about 0.4 million metric tons of the grade during the same period of January, according to traders and Refinitiv Eikon data.

"Buyers from China are getting more and more active, competing more with Indian refineries," one of the traders said adding that this may support prices for March-loading Urals oil.

9:18 p.m.: Allies and family members of an opposition politician imprisoned in Russia say he is being held in a restricted housing unit in a penal colony in the northwest of the country, isolated from most inmates and not allowed to make phone calls, The Associated Press reported.

Andrei Pivovarov, who was sentenced to four years in prison last year, was transferred from a detention center in southern Russia in late December, and his allies, family and lawyers lost touch with him three weeks later, not knowing anything about his whereabouts or well-being for a month.

Russian prison transfers are notorious for taking a long time, sometimes weeks, during which there's no access to prisoners, and information about their whereabouts is limited.

Pivovarov's ally and partner Tatyana Usmanova said on Monday that the politician's mother was able to confirm that he arrived at the IK-7 penal colony in Russia's northwestern region of Karelia on Jan. 24. He has been placed in a restricted housing unit for nearly three months over undisclosed violations he allegedly committed, she said.

8:43 p.m.: Russia's economy contracted 2.1% last year, Reuters reported Monday, citing the federal statistics service, compared with a 5.6% year-on-year rise in 2021, hurt by the fallout from Moscow's decision to send tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine last February.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, the Russian government had expected GDP growth of 3% in 2022.

Manufacturing industries and wholesale and retail trade were among the sectors that declined in 2022, while agriculture, hospitality, construction and mining all registered growth.

Public administration and "military security" gained 4.1% in 2022, the statistics agency said, adding to a 3.3% rise in 2021. Increased military spending is smoothing out a drop in Russia's industrial production, analysts say.

Net exports increased to 12.8% from 9.3%, "due to the prices of exported fuel and energy products being significantly above imports."

Russia's current account surplus hit a record high in 2022, as a fall in imports and robust oil and gas exports kept foreign money flowing in despite Western efforts to isolate the Russian economy over the conflict in Ukraine.

8 p.m.: His army has made three humiliating retreats in Ukraine in the past year and nearly 200,000 of his men have been killed or wounded, according to U.S. officials, but Russia's defense minister still has his job thanks to President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian leader has various reasons for keeping Sergei Shoigu, 67, in the post, according to Western officials, veteran Kremlin watchers and former Western military commanders: he's ultra loyal, helped Putin become president, and decision-making on Ukraine is not his preserve alone.

"Loyalty always trumps competence in the Putin inner circle," said Andrew Weiss, a Putin specialist at the Carnegie Endowment think-tank, Reuters reported.

The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on Shoigu or its own performance in Ukraine where its forces are pushing hard to try to capture the city of Bakhmut and the town of Vuhledar in the east.

7:09 p.m.: Germany said Monday that customs issues are holding up its plans to set up a repair and maintenance site in Slovakia for weapons used by Ukraine to repel Russian troops, Agence France-Presse reported.

"We would like things that come in for repair to flow back to Ukraine more quickly. ... That is not the case at the moment," a German defense ministry spokesman said.

The delay has caused frustration in Berlin, sources close to the issue said, because it has meant that equipment had to be transported back to Germany for repairs, making the process inefficient.

Contacted by AFP, Slovakia ministry of defense spokeswoman Martina Koval Kakascikova said: "In Michalovce, everything is ready to receive equipment for repairs. We are ready from both technical and personnel point of view."

The Slovak town of Michalovce is about 35 kilometers from the Ukraine border.

Martina Rybanska, a spokeswoman for the Slovak customs authority however said Ukraine is treated as a "third country from the point of view of custom regulations."

6:17 p.m.: Deserted since the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986, the exclusion zone surrounding the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant in northern Ukraine is one of the most inhospitable places on the planet.

But for Ukrainian troops resisting invading Russian forces, it has become a crucial training ground.

With a signal, a group of soldiers launch a practice assault and make their way toward the forest.

"I am a math teacher. I did not have military training," Vasily, one of the servicemen taking part in the drills, told Agence France-Presse.

"On the 24th, I was putting my affairs in order and on February 25, I signed up for the territorial defense," he added.

He said he has no doubts that Ukraine's border with nearby Belarus, an ex-Soviet country that last year allowed Russian troops to use its territory as a launchpad for its invasion, is securely guarded.

"Our border is locked down and no one will fly through here," Vasily said.

5:20 p.m.:

4:55 p.m.: Biden on Kyiv train to Poland.

4:50 p.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed U.S. President Joe Biden’s surprise visit in Kyiv a few days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine.

“Today was a symbolic day. The 362nd day of a full-scale war, and we, in our free capital of our free country, are hosting a visit from our powerful ally, the President of the United States of America, and talking to him about the future of Ukraine, our relations, the whole of Europe and global democracy. This is an indicator of how resilient Ukraine is. And how important Ukraine is to the world,” said Zelenskyy.

Biden’s visit also marked the ninth anniversary since Russia’s attack in Crimea and the attacks on Ukrainian protesters in Maidan square fighting for democracy.

“The ninth anniversary of the most horrific days of Maidan, the anniversary of the beginning of Russian aggression against our country, when there was very little time left before the occupation of our Crimea. And now, nine years later, we are more confident than ever that justice will be served," said the Ukrainian leader. “We will prevail in this historic confrontation.”

4:15 p.m.: After their talks in Kyiv, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President of the United States Joe Biden visited the Walk of the Brave on Constitution Square and took part in the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to the American leader.

"Today, on the Walk of the Brave in Kyiv, we are unveiling a plaque dedicated to Mr. President Biden. The first call on the night of February 24 last year, our negotiations, the constant strong attention to our struggle and defense of Ukrainian democracy, as well as Mr. President Biden's personal contribution to strengthening the position of freedom in the world — this is something that will forever remain in history," Zelenskyy said.

"Ukraine is grateful to you, Mr. President, Ukraine is grateful to the United States of America — to all Americans in all cities and communities who cherish freedom as much as we do," Zelenskyy added.

3:47 p.m.: Belarus' authoritarian president says the ex-Soviet nation will create a new territorial defense force while fighting continues in neighboring Ukraine. President Alexander Lukashenko has cultivated close military ties with Russia, which used Belarusian territory as a springboard to send troops into Ukraine nearly a year ago at the start of what the Kremlin calls its "special military operation."

Speaking during a meeting with officials Monday, Lukashenko said the country needs to form paramilitary units in every town or village to serve as territorial defense and complement the country’s 45,000 military "in case of aggression." Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said Belarus will form a force of up to 150,000 volunteers who will be given weapons but will keep their civilian jobs, AP reports.

3:15 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden's surprise visit in Kyiv on Monday, on the eve of the anniversary of the Russian invasion, emphasized that "the Russian Federation, in this form, is undoubtedly an aggressor, a threat to a global democratic system and accordingly, this threat must be dealt with radically," the adviser to the Head of the Ukraine’s President’s office, Mykhailo Podolyak, told VOA's Mykhailo Komadovsky. Podolyak characterized Biden's visit in Kyiv as "a slap" on the Russian Federation's face.

"This looks like a nullification of the traditionally global role that Russia has played over the past twenty years," Podolyak said. "Mr. Biden very clearly placed emphasis on what modern global politics is, what role the United States plays, what role Ukraine plays, what role the EU as a whole plays, and what a worthless new role the Russian Federation plays," he added.

Podolyak told VOA, "The President of the United States has come to a country under attack, where there is a war, and where the United States military is not present. Biden demonstrated that when fundamental values are at stake, the President of the United States clearly takes all the risks and is ready to bear them in full."

2:42 p.m.: Kyiv expects the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to launch a new multi-year program for Ukraine amounting to $15 billion, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Telegram after a Monday meeting with the IMF head Kristalina Georgieva.

"It is planned that the program with the IMF will consist of two parts: immediate financial support and support for structural reforms that will contribute to (Ukraine's) recovery," Shmyhal said.

Georgieva and her team met with Ukrainian officials in Kyiv and discussed "the mechanisms of financial support for Ukraine," according to the prime minister.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also met with the IMF chairwoman.

"The IMF's support creates an opportunity for Ukraine to remain strong. It is also a weapon — an economic weapon that enables us, our society, and our business to develop," said the Ukrainian leader.

Ukraine’s external financing needs in 2023 would be around $3 billion to $4 billion a month in a best-case scenario but could reach $5 billion as Russia targets the country’s critical infrastructure, the Kyiv Independent reports.

2:05 p.m.: In a statement, the U.K. government said more than 30 countries, including the United States, Britain and France, on Monday pledged their support "for a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes competing in international sporting competitions as long as the war in Ukraine continues." The statement comes after the International Olympic Committee had announced that it might allow the participation of competitors from Russia and Belarus.

However, Ukraine and its western allies have pushed for a ban.

"There are serious concerns about how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete on a neutral basis given they are directly funded and supported by their states," the statement on Monday said.

The British government added that Russia and Belarus can "pave the way for their athletes' full return to the international sports community by ending the war they started."

Earlier this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took part in an online meeting attended by 35 ministers and chaired by the U.K. to discuss the call for the ban.

He pointed out that 228 Ukrainian athletes had died as a result of Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, Reuters reports.

1:15 p.m.: Russian troops attacked the village of Ivanopillia in Donetsk Oblast, killing one person and injuring two, The Kyiv Independent reports.

Russia also hit Toretsk and Avdiivka with artillery and a missile, and used multiple launch rocket systems to target the village of Novyi Komar, according to Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

The attacks destroyed a school, and damaged an "invincibility center," shops, a cafe, industrial enterprises, and cars, Kyrylenko added.

Earlier, Kyrylenko said that Russian forces had attacked 12 settlements and one community in the region over Feb. 19, killing three civilians and wounding one more.

With the Russians intensifying attacks on civilian infrastructure in Donetsk Oblast, Kyrylenko urged the remaining residents to evacuate.

1:05 p.m.:

12:25 p.m.: Russian officials and state media downplayed President Joe Biden’s surprise visit to Ukraine, portraying Kyiv as a U.S. puppet and maintaining Russia will prevail against Ukraine despite Washington’s pledges to send more weapons to Ukraine.

Biden met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv Monday, announcing America’s solidarity days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

As the Associated Press reports, pro-Kremlin pundits on state TV also alleged that Biden received security guarantees from Moscow ahead of the visit. White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that the U.S. government notified Moscow of Biden’s visit to Kyiv shortly before his departure from Washington “for deconfliction purposes,” averting any miscalculation that could bring the two nuclear-armed nations into direct conflict.

“Everyone knows that if Russia said that it wouldn't hit Kyiv during a visit of some statesmen there, it means this will never happen, because we are the ones who keep their word, those who are on the side of the good and the civilized," pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov said in a political talk show on Russia 1 state TV channel.

12:13 p.m.: Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Russia's mercenary group Wagner, accused Russian officials of deliberately denying his fighters sufficient ammunition as part of an ongoing rivalry between himself and parts of the Russian elite, Reuters reports.

In a seven-minute long audio message published on Monday by his press service, an apparently angry and emotional Prigozhin said he was required to "apologize and obey" in order to secure ammunition for his troops.

Speaking at times with a raised voice and occasionally swearing, he said: "I'm unable to solve this problem despite all my connections and contacts."

Prigozhin said Russia's military production was now sufficient to supply the forces fighting at the front, and that the supply difficulties his fighters were experiencing were the result of retributions.

"Those who interfere with us trying to win this war are absolutely, directly working for the enemy," he said.

Since the outbreak of the conflict, Prigozhin has publicly feuded with generals and Kremlin officials, accusing them of insufficient zeal in the war against Kyiv. He has reserved his harshest criticism for Russia's Defense Ministry, which he has accused of trying to take credit for Wagner's achievements on the battlefield.

11:30 a.m.: The U.S. Defense Department announced Monday the authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. The authorization includes more ammunition for U.S.-provided HIMARS and Howitzers that Ukraine is using to defend itself, as well as more Javelins, approximately 2000 anti-armor systems, and four air surveillance radars.

This is the Biden administration’s thirty-second drawdown of equipment from Defense Department inventories for Ukraine since August 2021 and it is valued at up to $460 million.

Other aid includes additional 155mm artillery rounds, additional 120mm mortar rounds, four Bradley Infantry Fire Support Team vehicles, two tactical vehicles to recover equipment, Claymore anti-personnel munitions, demolition munitions, night vision devices, tactical secure communications systems, medical supplies, spare parts and other field equipment.

11:15 a.m.:

11:10 a.m.:

11:05 a.m.: Germany's Rheinmetall AG RHMG.DE expects 20 combat-ready Marder fighting vehicles to be sent to Ukraine by the end of March, and munitions for Gepard air defense to be ready by July, its chief executive Armin Papperger said on Monday at press briefing, Reuters reported.

At the same briefing, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said he wanted Germany to expand its defense production capacity quickly.

Shares of Rheinmetall rose earlier on Monday after the German arms maker's talks with Ukraine's foreign minister on future tank supplies.

10:32 a.m.: Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny said Monday that Moscow's forces had committed war crimes in Ukraine, and he accused President Vladimir Putin of destroying Russia's future for the sake of his own personal ambition, Reuters reports.

In a post on social media ahead of the first anniversary of the February 24, 2022, Ukraine invasion, Navalny said Russia could only recover once the "Putin dictatorship" had been dismantled and Moscow started to "reimburse" Kyiv for the damage inflicted during the war.

"Tens of thousands of innocent Ukrainians have been murdered and pain and suffering have befallen millions more. War crimes have been committed," Navalny said via a Twitter feed maintained by his associates, in which he also called for an international investigation into allegations of atrocities.

Despite serving an 11 1/2-year prison sentence in Russia seen as political retribution for his years spent railing against the Kremlin, Navalny continues to speak out against the regime from jail.

This month he said he had been moved to a harsher "cell-type" regime of solitary confinement for the next six months where he would be denied visits.

10:27 a.m.:

10:07 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine a year ago has no wielded the results the Russian strongman expected. According to AP the war against his neighbor has exposed some of his own weaknesses and those of Russia's military, intelligence services and economy.

In interviews with The Associated Press, British journalist Philip Short, who authored the biography, “Putin,” as well as other analysts along with a former Kremlin insider describe the 70-year-old Russian president as an erratic, weakened leader, rigid and outdated in his thinking — as someone who overreached and is in denial about the difficulties he himself created.

They say he seems concerned about waning, though still strong, domestic public opinion — albeit from unreliable polls. Putin speaks with a small set of advisers, but they appear reluctant to provide honest assessments.

Observers see a long, grinding war that Putin is determined to win, with his way out hard to predict.

Giving up is unlikely, Short said, recalling that “his character was always to double down and fight harder.”

Fiona Hill, who served in the past three U.S. administrations and is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, believes Putin wanted to win quickly in Ukraine, install a new president in Kyiv and force it to join Belarus in a Slavic union with Russia. A successor would run Russia, she said, with Putin elevating himself to lead the larger alliance.

But now, “It feels like there is not any hope that the conflict can be solved any other way than militarily. And this is scary,” says Tatiana Stanovaya, senior fellow of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

9:30 a.m.: Nearly one year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s diplomatic role in the drawn-out conflict remains questionable.

As the Associated Press reports, China has refused to criticize Russia for its actions or even to describe the invasion as such, in deference to Moscow. At the same time, it insists that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations be upheld.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said American intelligence suggests China is considering providing arms and ammunition to Russia and added, such involvement would provoke “real consequences."

9:05 a.m.: China's top diplomat Wang Yi called on Monday for negotiations and peace for the sake of the world and Europe in particular, Reuters reports.

Speaking during a visit to Hungary, Wang said "we would like a political solution to provide a peaceful and sustainable framework to Europe."

Wang will visit Russia this week in a trip that will coincide with the one-year anniversary of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

China, which regards Russia as an ally, has so far refrained from condemning the Feb. 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine while repeatedly urging peace.

"Let me echo what we have just heard (from you) and jointly declare to the world that China and Hungary gladly work together with other peace-loving countries to bring the current hostilities to a halt as soon as possible," Wang reportedly told Hungarian Foreign Minister Szijjarto during their meeting.

8:45 a.m.: Presidents Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy took a walk together down St. Michael’s Square in the heart of Kyiv where the U.S. leader paid tribute to the fallen defenders of Ukraine.

As VOA’s Anna Chernikova reports from Kyiv, Biden's visit comes as Ukraine marks nine years since its Revolution of Dignity which toppled a Russia-backed government in Kyiv, but resulted in the deaths of scores of protesters in the capital's Maidan Square. The events triggered Russia's subsequent invasion and annexation of Ukraine's Crimea, and a Moscow-fomented conflict in the country's east.

At a joint press conference, Biden said, a year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine “Kyiv stands, and Ukraine stands, democracy stands. America stands with you and the world stands with you.”

During the press conference Biden announced another $500 million military aid package for Ukraine to include HIMARS, ammunition, anti-tank systems, and radars. Also, this week, the U.S. will introduce new sanctions against Russia.

“This is the largest land war in Europe in three-quarters of the century. And you are succeeding against all and every expectation, except your own,” Biden told Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian nation. The the U.S. leader also expressed confidence in that Ukraine will continue to prevail.

Biden said he made the surprise visit to Ukraine because it's "critically important" that no one has "any doubt" about U.S. support for Kyiv.

Zelenskyy, for his part, said this meeting with Biden will show results that will have an impact on the battlefield. He also thanked Biden for undertaking the historic visit to Kyiv and for the support of the United States in these difficult times of struggle for Ukraine.

8:05 a.m.: Speaking to reporters from Kyiv, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan described President Joe Biden’s visit to Kyiv as “a historic visit, unprecedented in modern times, to have the president of the United States visit the capital of a country at war where the United States military does not control the critical infrastructure.”

Sullivan said that despite surmounting logistical issues surrounding the visit, “President Biden felt that it was important to make this trip because of the critical juncture [at which] we find ourselves as we approach the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.”

"With this visit,” he added, “President Biden wanted to send “a clear, unmistakable message of enduring American support for Ukraine. A clear unmistakable message of the unity of the West and the international community and standing behind Ukraine and standing up to Russian aggression.”

7:30 a.m.: The White House released a statement on President Joe Biden’s surprise visit to Kyiv Monday.

“As the world prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, I am in Kyiv today to meet with President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy and reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.

When Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. He thought he could outlast us. But he was dead wrong.

Today, in Kyiv, I am meeting with President Zelenskyy and his team for an extended discussion on our support for Ukraine. I will announce another delivery of critical equipment, including artillery ammunition, anti-armor systems, and air surveillance radars to help protect the Ukrainian people from aerial bombardments. And I will share that later this week, we will announce additional sanctions against elites and companies that are trying to evade or backfill Russia’s war machine. Over the last year, the United States has built a coalition of nations from the Atlantic to the Pacific to help defend Ukraine with unprecedented military, economic, and humanitarian support and that support will endure.”

Biden will travel to Poland next to meet President Andrzej Duda and allied leaders. He will deliver remarks on how the United States will continue to rally the world to support the people of Ukraine and “the core values of human rights and dignity in the U.N. Charter that unite us worldwide.”

7:06 a.m.: Russian forces kept pounding military positions and civilian settlements in eastern and southern Ukraine, Kyiv said on Monday, despite what President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called "extraordinarily significant" Russian losses in key disputed areas of the Donetsk region, RFE/RL reported.

Russia carried out 10 missile strikes and 25 air strikes in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk region as well as the southern Zaporizhzhia region, the General Staff of the Ukrainian military said in its daily report, adding that 62 attacks from multiple-rocket launchers were also registered along the front line.

Zelenskyy on February 19 said Ukrainian forces had inflicted heavy losses on Russia’s military in the fighting in Donetsk around Bakhmut and Vuhledar, a town that is close to the dividing line between the eastern and the southern theaters of the war.

6 a.m.: Japan will offer Ukraine fresh financial support worth $5.5 billion, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Monday, Agence France-Presse reported.

"There is still a need to assist people whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the war, and to restore destroyed infrastructure. We have decided to provide additional financial support of $5.5 billion," he said in a speech at a think-tank symposium.

5:30 a.m.:

5:20 a.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden arrived in Kyiv in Ukraine on Monday, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine nears the one-year mark.

During his visit, he will announce delivery of critical equipment, including artillery ammunition, anti-armor systems, air surveillance radars to Ukraine, Reuters cited a White House statement as saying on Monday.

Biden said during his visit that Washington would provide Kyiv with a new military aid package worth $500 million.

Biden said the package would be announced on Tuesday and that Washington would also provide more ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems in Ukraine's possession.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram that Biden's visit was an "extremely important sign of support for all Ukrainians" and posted a photo of the two leaders shaking hands.

5 a.m.:

4:55 a.m.: According to Reuters, Dutch intelligence agencies said on Monday that Russia appeared to be preparing for the disruption and sabotage of critical offshore infrastructure in the Dutch part of the North Sea.

"Dutch vital maritime infrastructure in the North Sea, such as internet cables, gas pipes and windmill farms, can be vulnerable for sabotage," the Dutch military and general intelligence agencies AIVD and MIVD said in a joint report.

"Russia is secretly charting this infrastructure and is undertaking activities which indicate preparations for disruption and sabotage."

The agencies said covert threats by Russia to water and energy supplies in the Netherlands were also conceivable.

4:35 a.m.: The European Union needs to ensure that Ukraine has enough ammunition to continue its fight against the Russian invasion, the EU's top diplomat said on Monday, according to Reuters.

"It is the most urgent issue. If we fail on that, the result of the war is in danger," Josep Borrell said before a meeting with foreign affairs ministers from the EU countries in Brussels.

"The Russian artillery shoots about 50,000 shots a day, and Ukraine needs to be at the same level of capacity. They have cannons but they lack ammunition."

4 a.m.: Beijing lashed out on Monday against what it said were "false" claims by the United States that China is considering arming Russia in its war against Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported.

"It is the United States and not China that is endlessly shipping weapons to the battlefield," China's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said when asked about the US claims.

"We urge the United States to earnestly reflect on its own actions, and do more to alleviate the situation, promote peace and dialogue, and stop shifting blame and spreading false information."

The statement came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS in an interview that China was now "considering providing lethal support" to Moscow ranging "from ammunition to the weapons themselves".

He made similar comments in a series of interviews from Germany, where on Saturday he attended the Munich Security Conference and met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

Blinken's accusations came as relations between the two powers were further strained after Washington shot down what it said was a Chinese spy balloon.

There have been concerns China is deepening ties with Russia despite the conflict — but Wang Yi said that Beijing was playing a constructive role and stood firmly on the side of dialogue.

"We do not accept the United States' finger-pointing on China-Russia relations, let alone coercion and pressure," spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

"China's direction on the Ukraine issue can be summed up in one phrase, which is urging peace and promoting dialogue."

3:35 a.m.: Reuters reported that foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that Turkey is not selling products that could be used in Russia's war effort, after U.S. warnings earlier this month about exports of chemicals, microchips and other products.

Speaking after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ankara, Cavusoglu said Turkey will not allow U.S. and European sanctions to be violated in or via Turkey, and Ankara is taking steps to prevent it.

A top U.S. Treasury official visited Turkish government and private sector officials earlier this month to urge more cooperation in disrupting the flow of goods that can be used by Moscow's defense industries.

3:05 a.m.:

2:50 a.m.: China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, has arrived in Moscow for talks on a possible peace plan for Ukraine, Reuters cited the Kommersant newspaper as reporting.

"The main purpose of his trip is to increase the role of Beijing in the Ukrainian settlement," Kommersant said.

At the annual Munich Security Conference, Wang accused the United States of violating international norms with "hysterical" behavior.

Wang reiterated a call for dialog and suggested European countries "think calmly" about how to end the war.

Wang also said there were "some forces that seemingly don't want negotiations to succeed, or for the war to end soon," without specifying to whom he was referring.

China's Xi Jinping will deliver a "peace speech" on the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, Italy's foreign minister said on Friday.

2:10 a.m.: Turkish and Russian leaders may soon discuss a U.N.-backed initiative that has enabled the export of grain from Ukrainian ports, but there is no date set yet, a source familiar with the negotiations on the deal told RIA Novosti on Monday, according to Reuters.

Broader negotiations on extending the Black Sea Grain Initiative that has allowed grain to be exported from three Ukrainian ports are expected this week, Ukraine said.

The agreement is for renewal in March, but Russia has signaled that it is unhappy with some aspects of the deal and has asked for sanctions affecting its agricultural exports to be lifted.

"The topic of the grain deal, proposals in this regard are always on the agenda of the leaders. Therefore, it should not be ruled out that the leaders will touch on this topic at talks in the near future," state-owned RIA news agency quoted its source as saying.

When asked when these negotiations could take place, the source said that he "does not have exact data on the date."

1:30 a.m.:

1:15 a.m.: A hairdresser by day and a "drone hunter" by night, Oleksandr Shamshur, 41, is among the tens of thousands of volunteers helping to defend the skies over Ukraine against Russian attacks, Reuters reported.

As the February 24 first anniversary of Russia's invasion nears, Ukraine is becoming increasingly adept at shooting down Russian missiles and drones fired at cities far from the front lines, and Shamshur takes pride in his role.

Members of his territorial defense unit, including a lawyer and a businessman, respond to air raid alerts in and around Kyiv by seeking to down Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones with a restored World War II machine gun.

"I am a very happy person. Why? Because I am defending my country, I am defending our Ukrainian people," Shamshur said as he combed the capital's moonlit skyline through a thermal camera with a range finder from his position on a rooftop.

Nearby, a fellow fighter was adjusting the green barrels of the Soviet-made "Maxim" machine gun.

During the night of December 29-30, Shamshur said, his rooftop unit shot down two drones over Kyiv. His team have also passed on the skills they have learned to other units.

12:40 a.m.:

12:01 a.m.: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview published on Sunday that Ukraine would maintain its months-long defense of the eastern city of Bakhmut, mindful of the price paid in human lives.

Zelenskyy was quoted in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera as debate rages over whether Kyiv's outnumbered forces should remain in the eastern Ukraine city, which Russian shelling has all but destroyed.

Bakhmut, in the front-line Donetsk region, had a prewar population of 70,000 but now Ukrainian officials estimate fewer than 5,000 civilians remain.

"Yes, it is not a particularly big town. In fact, like many others in Donbas, (it's been) devastated by the Russians. It is important for us to defend it, but not at any price and not for everyone to die," Zelenskyy told the daily, Reuters reported.

Zelenskyy said Russian commanders were bent on pushing on to the cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, farther west in Donetsk region "and as far as (the central city of) Dnipro."

"We will resist and meanwhile prepare the next counter-attack."

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