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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Feb. 21

Ukrainian soldiers ride atop a tank in the frontline in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, 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 p.m.:

9:23 p.m.: For many Ukrainians young and old, perception of time, memories, and dreams are split between two worlds, that before February 24, 2022, and that which came after.

Even in cities far from the front lines, wartime Ukraine is a world of sirens, blackouts, curfews, donation drives, and an enduring wish for a military victory over Russia, The Kyiv Independent reports.

Now, it can be difficult to remember the world before, when Ukraine and Ukrainians had the same aspirations as any other peaceful nation: to grow, develop, and prosper; to live a life where extra income goes towards a holiday or festival rather than a drone or thermal imager for friends fighting in Donbas.

8:34 p.m.: Poland will provide Ukraine with 14 Leopard 2 tanks in the “next two to three weeks” after Ukrainian troops finish their training, Poland’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said Tuesday, according to The Kyiv Independent.

Polish Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Lukasz Jasina said work remains in reaching a consensus among NATO countries, despite Poland’s support for the provision of fighter jets to Ukraine.

7:14 p.m.: A survey by the sociological group Rating shows 95% of Ukrainians say they believe in Ukraine’s victory in Russia’s full-scale war.

The survey said that 63% of Ukrainians say they believe a victory against Russia would require at least six months, according to The Kyiv Independent.

In January 2022, just 56% of Ukrainians said they were confident in Ukraine’s ability to defeat Russia.

6:22 p.m.: Eleven explosions were heard in Russian-occupied Mariupol on Tuesday night, the Mariupol City Council reported, The Kyiv Independent reports.

The first explosion was reportedly heard at around 10:30 p.m. Local time.

The city council says preliminary info indicates that Mariupol’s Zhovtnevyi and Kalmiuskyi districts were probably hit, and the extent of the damage is being verified.

4:35 p.m.: The U.S. is leaning toward sending long-range missiles and fighter jets to Ukraine, Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, according to Reuters.

McCaul said the Biden administration and the National Security Council have yet to decide “how fast and what weapons” to deliver to Ukraine.

3:10 p.m.: The owner of the Russian private military company Wagner has accused Russia’s defense minister and chief of general staff of starving his fighters in Ukraine of ammunition, the AP reports. Yevgeny Prigozhin is accusing them of trying to destroy his force, underscoring long simmering frustrations between the Russian military and Wagner.

2:20 p.m.: House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, Mike McCaul, leads a delegation to meet with Zelenskyy in Kyiv, AP reports.

1:00 p.m.: At least one Russian rocket slammed into a busy street in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, killing six people, Reuters reported. Ukraine's military and city authorities said 12 others were wounded in the attack. Local authorities said Kherson came under fire from multiple rocket launchers.

11:43 a.m.: President Joe Biden said “One year ago the world was bracing for the fall of Kyiv. Well, I’ve just come from a visit from Kyiv, and I can report Kyiv stands strong. It stands tall. And most important, it stands free.”

Biden delivered a speech in Warsaw, a day after making an unannounced visit to the Ukrainian capital.

“Our support for Ukraine will not waver. NATO will not be divided. And we will not tire,” Biden said in Warsaw, marking the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The backdrop of Biden’s speech was Warsaw’s Royal Castle, whose construction began in the 1300s and has witnessed many notable events in Poland's history, including the drafting of the first constitution of a European state in 1791. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the castle was destroyed by Nazi Germany during World War II and later rebuilt.

10:41 a.m.: The White House says President Joe Biden and his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda “reflected on their shared efforts to support Ukraine, impose consequences on Russia, and strengthen NATO” during talks in Warsaw Tuesday.

“President Biden praised the generous support of the people of Poland for welcoming over 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees into their communities. In addition, the leaders discussed their countries’ growing cooperation in the energy sector, including civil nuclear energy, our strong bilateral defense relationship, and the importance of the democratic values that underpin the transatlantic alliance,” a White House statement said.

9:37 a.m.: Ukrainian forces were confronted by a fresh wave of Russian attacks across the front line in the east over the past 24 hours as Moscow struck civilian and infrastructure targets, killing at least six civilians, Kyiv said, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to do "everything" to defeat Russia's aggression this year, RFE/RL reported.

Ukrainian forces repelled 11 attacks in three eastern regions -- Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv -- the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said in its daily report on Tuesday, adding that the main targets of Russia's offensive remain the Donetsk towns of Bakhmut, Lyman, and Avdiyivka, and Kupyansk in Kharkiv.

In Kupyansk, a missile strike damaged a hospital, a factory, and residential buildings.

The Russians carried out six missile and 28 air strikes on the civilian infrastructure of Donetsk, Zaporizhzya, and Kherson regions and executed 86 attacks from rocket-launcher systems, Kyiv said.

Russian shelling of residential areas in Kherson killed six civilians and wounded 12 others, regional Governor Oleksandr Prokudin wrote on Telegram.

8:42 a.m.: U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk says Russia’s war in Ukraine has killed at least 8,006 civilians and injured more than 13,000 in the past year.

“These numbers, which we are publishing today, lay bare the loss and suffering inflicted on people since Russia’s armed attack began on 24 February last year; suffering I saw for myself first hand when I visited Ukraine in December. And our data are only the tip of the iceberg. The toll on civilians is unbearable. Amid electricity and water shortages during the cold winter months, nearly 18 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Some 14 million people have been displaced from their homes,” Türk said in a statement issued Tuesday.

7:30 a.m. : Fresh off his dramatic visit to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, U.S. President Joe Biden was in Poland Tuesday to deliver a highly anticipated speech from Warsaw’s historic Royal Castle, marking the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion by highlighting how the United States has unified NATO and the West in support of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s effort to defend his country. VOA’s Patsy Widakuswara is traveling with the president and has the details.

6:05 a.m.: Financial leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) will meet on February 23 to discuss measures against Russia that will put pressure on it to end the Ukraine war, Japan's Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

Japan will chair the meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the G-7 nations in the Indian city of Bengaluru. The meeting will come almost a year since Russia invaded Ukraine, calling it a "special military operation."

The war has raged on despite a slew of punitive measures G-7 and other countries have taken against Russia.

"Support for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia will be the main topics of discussion," Suzuki told a news conference. "We will continue to closely coordinate with G-7 and the international community to enhance the effect of sanctions to achieve the ultimate goal of prompting Russia to withdraw."

5:45 a.m.: Reuters reported that twelve countries are calling on the European Union to stop companies and third countries from circumventing EU sanctions on Russia by using trade with the 27-nation bloc and access to the European single market as leverage, as a document showed on Tuesday.

The document was prepared by Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Spain and The Netherlands for talks of representatives of EU governments who are discussing their 10th sanctions package against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

5:25 a.m.: President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday vowed to continue with Russia's year-long war in Ukraine and accused the U.S.-led NATO alliance of fanning the flames of the conflict in the mistaken belief that it could defeat Moscow in a global confrontation, Reuters reported.

Flanked by four Russian tricolor flags, Putin told Russia's political and military elite that Russia would "carefully and consistently resolve the tasks facing us."

Putin said Russia had done everything it could to avoid war, but that Western-backed Ukraine had been planning to attack Russian-controlled Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.

The West, Putin said, had let the genie out of the bottle in a host of regions across the world by sowing chaos and war.

"The people of Ukraine have become the hostage of the Kyiv regime and its Western overlords, who have effectively occupied this country in the political, military and economic sense," Putin said.

"They intend to translate the local conflict into a global confrontation, we understand it this way and will react accordingly," Putin said.

Defeating Russia, he said, was impossible. The 70-year-old Kremlin chief said Russia would never yield to Western attempts to divide its society, adding that a majority of Russians supported the war.

5:15 a.m.:

5 a.m.: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday, her spokesman told Agence France-Presse, where she is expected to hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The Italian premier has repeatedly expressed a desire to visit Ukraine to demonstrate her government's support following Russia's invasion almost a year ago.

4:40 a.m.:

4:30 a.m.: Belarus said on Tuesday that there was a significant grouping of Ukrainian troops massed near its border and warned that this posed a threat to its security.

"At present, a significant grouping of the Ukrainian army is concentrated in the immediate vicinity of the Belarusian-Ukrainian section of the state border," the defense ministry said in a post on Telegram.

"The probability of armed provocations, which can escalate into border incidents, has been high for a long time," it said, adding that it would take "measures to adequately respond" but would act in a restrained way.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify the situation at the border.

Belarus allowed Russia to use its territory as a launchpad for the invasion of Ukraine a year ago, and President Alexander Lukashenko said last week it was ready to do so again.

Kyiv has voiced concerns for months that Belarus could join the war on Russia's side, a potential threat that has forced it to divert troops to defend the north of Ukraine while waging war with Russia in the east and south.

Lukashenko says Belarus would only enter the war if attacked by Ukraine.

His army has been training with Russian forces for months. Tuesday's statement said more than 150 joint events were planned this year, including a major exercise called "Union Shield 2023" in September.

4:05 a.m.: Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner group, on Tuesday accused the Russian defense minister and the chief of the general staff of depriving his fighters of munitions and trying to destroy Wagner — actions he said were equivalent to treason.

Reuters reported that, a onetime catering entrepreneur who once shunned the public spotlight, Prigozhin has assumed a more public role since the start of the war in Ukraine a year ago, with his Wagner Group spearheading Russia's months-long battle for the town of Bakhmut in Ukraine's Donetsk region.

"There is simply direct opposition going on," Prigozhin said in a voice message posted on his Telegram channel. "This can be equated to high treason."

It is the second such message published by Prigozhin in two days. On Monday, he complained that unnamed officials were denying Wagner supplies out of personal animosity to him.

Apparently angry, and speaking at times with a raised voice, Prigozhin blamed Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, the country's most senior soldier, of deliberately causing the arms shortages, which he said were causing heightened losses among Wagner troops fighting around Bakhmut.

"The chief of the general staff and the defense minister are giving orders right and left not just not to give Wagner PMC ammunition, but not to help it with air transport," Prigozhin said.

Prigozhin has for months criticized senior commanders for what he has called their incompetence. Prigozhin has said that the defense ministry is trying to take credit for Wagner successes around the Donetsk region town of Bakhmut.

The defense ministry could not be immediately contacted for comment.

3:45 a.m.: Reuters reported that the Australian government said on Tuesday it was aligned with 34 other nations on the call for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from its competitions, despite not being marked as a signatory to the statement.

The British government issued the joint statement on Monday on behalf of "more than 30 like-minded nations," which held a summit addressed by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this month.

Australia was a signatory to two statements on the matter which were agreed by "35 like-minded nations" last year but was the only one of those countries not represented in Monday's new pledge.

A spokesman for the Australian Sports Ministry told Reuters that Australia's absence was an administrative error and that the government was in accord with the sentiments expressed in the statement.

3:35 a.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden and his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda will discuss reinforcing Poland's security and increasing the NATO presence in the country on Tuesday, Reuters cited the Polish president's foreign affairs adviser as saying.

"(We will discuss) the security of the Polish state and allied cooperation with the USA, also within NATO, what can we do to make the eastern flank, including Poland, safer," Marcin Przydacz told private broadcaster TVN 24. "It is no secret that we will talk about increasing the presence, also in terms of infrastructure, of NATO."

3:10 a.m.: China is "deeply worried" that the Ukraine conflict could spiral out of control, foreign minister Qin Gang said on Tuesday, and called on certain countries to stop "fueling the fire" in an apparent dig at the United States, Reuters reported.

Beijing, which last year struck a "no limits" partnership with Moscow, has refrained from condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The United States has warned of consequences if China provides military support to Russia, which Beijing says it is not doing.

"China is deeply worried that the Ukraine conflict will continue to escalate or even spiral out of control" Qin said in a speech at a forum held at the foreign ministry.

"We urge certain countries to immediately stop fueling the fire," he said in comments that appeared to be directed at the United States, adding that they must "stop hyping up 'today Ukraine, tomorrow Taiwan'."

Qin's comments came as Russia's news agency TASS said China's top diplomat Wang Yi was due to arrive in Moscow on Tuesday and ahead of a "peace speech" President Xi Jinping is expected to deliver on Friday, the anniversary of the Ukraine invasion.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Wang's visit to Russia would be an opportunity to further promote ties between the two countries.

"China is willing to take the opportunity to work with Russia to promote bilateral relations along the direction set by the two heads of state," Wang Wenbin said at a regular news briefing.

Also on Tuesday, China released a paper on the Global Security Initiative (GSI), Xi's flagship security proposal which aims to uphold the principle of "indivisible security," a concept endorsed by Moscow.

Russia has insisted that Western governments respect a 1999 agreement based on the principle of "indivisible security" that no country can strengthen its own security at the expense of others.

On Monday, Wang called for a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine war during a stopover in Hungary.

2:30 a.m.: Agence France-Presse reported that Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused Russia of committing a "war crime" with a missile attack that killed some 60 fleeing civilians at a railway station in eastern Ukraine.

The attack on the Kramatorsk train station in April is one of the deadliest targeting civilians since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 last year.

Russia has denied responsibility.

"The evidence strongly indicates that the missile that killed and injured civilians at Kramatorsk train station was launched from Russian-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine," the US-based rights watchdog said in a joint report with SITU Research, a visual investigations practice.

"The attack was a violation of the laws of war and an apparent war crime," it said after an HRW team visited Kramatorsk and studied relevant photo, video and satellite imagery.

HRW said it identified a "possible launch location for the attack" near a formerly Russian-controlled village of Kunie in the eastern Kharkiv region.

On the morning of April 8, 2022, as thousands of civilians rushed to flee the region, a Tochka-U ballistic missile, according to experts armed with cluster munitions, hit the Kramatorsk station, a major hub for evacuations in the region.

The attack left 61 people dead and injured over 160, according to local officials, while HRW says at least 58 people were killed.

Moscow denied it was behind the attack, instead accusing Kyiv of firing at the station to disrupt the evacuation.

But HRW said it "found no evidence to support" Russia's claims.

"On the contrary, all evidence points to Russian forces having fired the Tochka-U missile with cluster munitions on the Kramatorsk train station," it said.

2 a.m.: President Vladimir Putin will update Russia's elite on the war in Ukraine on Tuesday, nearly one year to the day since ordering an invasion that has triggered the biggest confrontation with the West since the depths of the Cold War.

Putin will focus on what he casts as the "special military operation" in Ukraine, give his analysis of the international situation and outline his vision of Russia's development after the West slapped on the severest sanctions in recent history.

"At such a crucial and very complicated juncture in our development, our lives, everyone is waiting for a message in the hope of hearing an assessment of what is happening, an assessment of the special military operation," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state television, according to Reuters.

The speech, to members of both houses of parliament and to military commanders and soldiers, is due to begin at 0900 GMT in central Moscow.

1:30 a.m.:

1:10 a.m.: Russia poses a clear military threat in Sweden's immediate area but its forces are largely tied up in the war in Ukraine, the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service said on Monday, according to Reuters.

"The European Security Order as we know it has ceased to exist...and with that the risks for Swedish security have also increased," Lena Hallin, head of the intelligence unit, told a news conference.

Hallin also said she expected Russia to strengthen its military capability in Sweden's immediate area when it was possible, in response to Sweden and Finland applying for NATO membership.

She said the unit judged that Russia wants to avoid current tensions escalating into an armed conflict with NATO.

12:35 a.m.:

12:01 a.m.: Poland announced more curbs to road traffic with Belarus on Monday, hours after saying Minsk was expelling three Polish diplomats, as relations between the two nations deteriorate.

Citing "state security," Poland said on February 9 it was closing a border crossing into Belarus at Bobrowniki, Reuters reported.

On Monday the Polish Interior Ministry said freight traffic for Belarusian vehicles at the Kukuryki-Kozlowicze border crossing will be suspended as of 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The decision was linked to Minsk curbing traffic for Polish road freight on Belarus' borders with Latvia and Lithuania, the ministry said.

Earlier on Monday, two consuls from Grodno and the go-between of the Polish border guard in Minsk were told to leave Belarus "by the end of the day on Wednesday," spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry Lukasz Jasina said.

"We are thinking about a good and proper response to this," he said.

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