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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Feb. 26

A woman walks her dog past her residential building destroyed as a result of shelling earlier in the war in the town of Izyum, in Ukraine's Kharkiv region, Feb. 26, 2023.
A woman walks her dog past her residential building destroyed as a result of shelling earlier in the war in the town of Izyum, in Ukraine's Kharkiv region, Feb. 26, 2023.

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

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

11:10 p.m.: The Kiev Independent reported that Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office has recorded over 71,500 Russian war crimes and crimes of aggression since Russia’s invasion last year.

10:30 p.m.:

9:30 p.m: The commander of Ukrainian ground forces Colonel general Oleksandr Syrskyi visited besieged Bakhmut to boost morale and talk strategy with units defending the town and surrounding villages in eastern Ukraine, the military said over the weekend, Reuters reports.

The 57-year-old commander, one of Ukraine's most experienced, has been regarded as the mastermind behind the defeat of Russian forces as they advanced on Kyiv early in the war and in the Kharkiv region in September.

7:25 p.m.: Russians around the world took to the streets of more than 100 cities, The New York Times reports, to voice their opposition to the grueling war initiated by the Kremlin against Ukraine a year ago, with rallies on Sunday culminating four days of protests.

The main point of the protests was twofold, participants said: to express solidarity with Ukraine for the widespread death and destruction and to underscore that not all Russians support President Vladimir V. Putin's war.

6:30 p.m.:

5:30 p.m.: In an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, CIA Director William Burns called the developing alliance between Russia and Iran "disturbing."

"It's moving at a pretty fast clip in a very dangerous direction right now, in the sense that we know that the Iranians have already provided hundreds or armed drones to the Russians, which they're using to inflict pain on Ukrainian civilians and Ukrainian civilian infrastructure. We know that they've provided, you know, ammunition for artillery and for tanks as well," Burns said.

Burns said the CIA is also seeing signs that Russia is proposing to help the Iranians on their missile program and considering the possibility of providing fighter aircraft to Iran, in exchange for military aid in their invasion on Ukraine.

5:20 p.m.:

5:07 p.m.: Ukraine could launch a major counteroffensive in the spring, which could include striking airfields and depots of rockets and artillery systems inside Russia, a top Ukrainian intelligence official said Sunday.

"It is one of our strategic military goals that we try to drive a wedge in the Russian front in the south – between (occupied) Crimea and mainland Russia," Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence, told the German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost.

“It is possible that we will also destroy arms depots or military equipment on Russian territory, for example around the city of Belgorod,” Skibitsky said.

The Kyiv Independent reports the anticipated spring counteroffensive is aimed to “liberate the entire country” and push out about 370,000 Russian soldiers fighting across Ukraine, according to Skibitsky.

The statement about an anticipated spring counteroffensive came after top defense officials said Ukraine was preparing for a major push to change the dynamic of the war. Currently, Russia is pushing on the eastern front trying to finally capture the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast after months of intense siege.

Ukraine said recently that its striking distance has increased. After a series of explosions were reported in the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine last week, the military said that the area was “no longer completely unreachable” for Ukrainian forces.

4:40 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday fired a senior military commander helping lead the fight against Russian troops in the country's embattled east but gave no reason for the move.

Reuters reports, in a one-line decree, Zelenskyy announced he dismissed Eduard Moskalyov as commander of the joint forces of Ukraine, which are engaged in battles in the eastern Donbas region.

Moskalyov had been in the post since March 2022, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine.

4:10 p.m.: During a visit to Kyiv Sunday by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud, the Head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak thanked Saudi Arabia for supporting the U.N. General Assembly resolution on sustainable peace in Ukraine adopted on February 23 in the context of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"We count on further practical support from the Kingdom for our Peace Formula. We spoke about this in great detail today. And we expect the involvement in the implementation of one or more points of our President's peace plan," he said, according to Ukraine's presidential website.

Yermak noted the significant assistance Ukraine has received from Saudi Arabia in the humanitarian sphere and, in particular, its decision to allocate a separate support package worth $400 million.

In this photo made available by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud shake hands during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 26, 2023.
In this photo made available by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud shake hands during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 26, 2023.

3:37 p.m.: “Crimea is Ukraine,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement to mark the nine-year anniversary of Russia’s occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula.

The statement also follows the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

“The United States does not and never will recognize Russia’s purported annexation of the peninsula,” Price stated. He called Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea “a clear violation of international law and of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."

He added “the United States welcomes the efforts of Ukraine’s Crimea Platform to focus global attention on Russia’s continued occupation,” said Price, referring to the Ukrainian government entity that coordinates Ukrainian efforts to recover the peninsula.

3:05 p.m.: In an interview Sunday on ABC This Week, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul urged President Joe Biden to provide more advanced weapons systems to Ukraine and said Congress would take steps to move the process along.

McCaul warned critics of U.S. support for Ukraine that "we can't put our head in the sand."

"We can certainly write into our appropriations bills, prioritizing weapons systems. We intend to do that," McCaul said.

The Texas Republican said he believes the U.S. could have already been doing more to speed up a conclusion to the conflict.

"I think with the right weapons, it shouldn't take so long," he added.

Biden and senior administration officials have said "for now" Ukraine doesn't require advanced fighter jets, and the U.S. has rebuffed Ukrainian appeals for long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems over concerns they could be used by Ukraine to hit targets deep inside Russia.

McCaul said he recently spoke with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and that nothing is off the table right now.

"I think with enough pressure from Congress on both sides of the aisle, we can get into Ukraine what they really need to win this fight," the lawmaker said, CNN reported separately.

2:30 p.m.: In his nightly video address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the international support Ukraine has received in its defense against Russia. He pointed to a significant number of visits by world leaders and diplomats this past week, starting with President Biden’s visit to Kyiv Monday, ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion on Ukraine. Zelenskyy said that the more Ukraine reaches out to the world and forms alliances, the more international support it receives in its struggle against Russian aggression.

“The more people know about Ukraine, the more they understand Ukraine, the more they support Ukraine, the closer our victory becomes,” he said.

1:36 p.m.: In an interview with Germany's Focus Magazine, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that the recent procurement scandal at the Defense Ministry does not point to a larger systemic issue of corruption in Ukraine.

Shmyhal said the Ukrainian society has changed as a result of the war and has "zero tolerance" for corruption, The Kyiv Independent reported.

He emphasized the swift response when the scandal broke, adding that "the rapid detention of people suspected of abuse indicates a change in Ukraine's approach to these issues."

On Jan. 21, the news outlet ZN.UA released an investigative report claiming that the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense was purchasing food for soldiers at prices that were higher than usual.

1:17 p.m.: Russian online bank Tinkoff, run by TCS Group Holding TCSq.L, said Sunday it would suspend trading in euros from Monday following the imposition of additional European Union sanctions.

The EU imposed additional punitive measures late Friday against Russia for invading Ukraine. The package includes cutting off more banks, among them Tinkoff and the private Alfa-Bank, from the SWIFT global payments system.

"Withdrawals in euros will be available. Euro trading will be suspended from Feb. 27, 2023," Tinkoff said in a statement, adding that trading in other currencies would not be affected.

In a separate statement, Tinkoff said it had prepared countermeasures to the sanctions which would allow a transfer of assets to a new non-sanctioned company within three weeks, Reuters reported.

Tinkoff Bank was set up by entrepreneur Oleg Tinkov, who has become an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Tinkov said last November he had renounced his Russian citizenship over the war in Ukraine.

12:55 p.m.: On the largely static front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces that stretches over hundreds of kilometers, Vuhledar has become one of the deadliest hotspots. Its ruins have joined Bakhmut, Mariinka and other cities and towns in the fiercely contested east that are now synonymous with grinding attritional warfare. They also have become symbols of Ukrainian resistance. In the rubble, civilians cling on, too. A mother and her daughter survive by collecting water from a drainpipe, exposing themselves to Russian artillery strikes, The Associated Press reported.

12:37 p.m.:

12:05 a.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will open the latest session of the Human Rights Council Monday as the world faces human rights concerns including the war in Ukraine, repression of dissent in Russia and Belarus, new violence between Palestinians and Israelis, and efforts to solidify a peace deal in Ethiopia that ended two years of conflict between the national government and rebels in the Tigray region. Iran's foreign minister, a senior Russian envoy, and the top diplomats of France and Germany among scores of leaders set to take part, The Associated Press reported.

11:05 a.m.: In an interview with Rossiya 1 state television, President Vladimir Putin presented the standoff with the West over Russia’s war in Ukraine as an existential battle for the survival of Russia and its people and said he was forced to take into account NATO's nuclear capabilities.

Reuters reported, a year since ordering the invasion of Ukraine, Putin is increasingly presenting the war as a make-or-break moment in Russian history arguing that the very future of Russia and its people is at stake.

"They have one goal: to disband the former Soviet Union and its fundamental part - the Russian Federation," Putin said.

NATO and the West dismiss such narrative, saying their objective is to help Ukraine defend itself against an unprovoked attack.

10:30 a.m.:

10:07 a.m.: China says Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus and a close ally of the Russian leader, will visit Beijing this week. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Lukashenko’s visit is scheduled Tuesday through Thursday but gave no details about his agenda. The visit comes as top U.S. officials warn China against providing military aid to Russia in its war on Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

CIA Director William Burns repeated those earlier statements in an interview on CBS on Sunday, saying, “We’re confident that the Chinese leadership is considering the provision of lethal equipment. Burns added that it appears no final decision has been made yet. Beijing Friday issued a proposal calling for a cease-fire and peace talks between Ukraine and Russia.

9:30 a.m.:

9:05 a.m.:

8:37 a.m.:

8:15 a.m.: German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius expressed doubts on China’s peace proposal for the war in Ukraine. "When I hear reports - and I don't know whether they are true - according to which China may be planning to supply kamikaze drones to Russia while at the same time presenting a peace plan, then I suggest we judge China by its actions and not its words," he told German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk in an interview Sunday.

Pistorius was echoing comments by NATO and the European Commission who both raised doubts on Friday about Beijing's credibility as a mediator after it published a ceasefire proposal.

Reuters reports, Beijing offered the proposal on Friday, the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed some elements of the Chinese proposal but said only the country where a war is being fought should be the initiator of a peace plan.

Pistorius underlined it was up to Kyiv to decide when and under what conditions to start talks with Moscow.

7:30 a.m.: There have been no discussions of possible NATO security guarantees for Ukraine, a German official said Sunday.

"At the recent meeting of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron with Ukrainian leader Zelenskyy, this issue played no role at all," the spokesperson said in a statement.

The statement follows a report by the Wall Street Journal saying that Germany, France and Britain explore a pact with Ukraine as a way to encourage Kyiv to start peace talks with Russia later this year. According to the article, some of Kyiv’s Western partners have growing doubts over its ability to reconquer all its territory.

5:15 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna.

Russian forces also made marginal territorial gains around Bakhmut and Avdiivka and continued to conduct ground attacks across the Donetsk Oblast front line.

Additionally, Russian forces continue to struggle to conduct effective combat operations on the Zaporizhzhia Oblast front line.

Russian forces are continuing to suffer significant losses on the battlefield, the assessment noted, prompting some military bloggers to criticize the Russian Ministry of Defense for failing to recognize the scale of the casualties.

4:13 a.m.: Dozens of crates are stacked in rows at what is said to be a hangar at Tolmachevo Airport in Novosibirsk, in Russia’s Siberia region, a video that has gone viral in recent days shows.

Zooming in, the footage indicates what appears to be death certificates tacked on to each wooden box, apparently serving as coffins. Each document contains a surname and initials.

One of those documents has the name “Gerbold. Buryatia” inscribed on it.

Relatives of Gennady Gerbold, 39, from Buryatia, in the Siberia region, confirmed to RFE/RL’s Siberia.Realities earlier this week that officials from Wagner had informed them two weeks earlier of his death while fighting with the mercenary group in Ukraine and later that his body had been returned to Novosibirsk.

Officials at Tolmachevo Airport, however, deny that the video was filmed there.

“This is false information. The premises, which are broadcast in this video, do not belong to and are not located on the territory of Tolmachevo Airport,” a spokesperson for the facility told Russian media.

3:10 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said Russia's elite 155th Naval Infantry Brigade appears to have suffered severe losses, including personnel and equipment. The brigade has had "some of the toughest tactical missions in the war and has suffered extremely high casualties," the update said. Russia's been reduced to backfilling the brigade with less-experienced personnel. These units are expected to be used in new assaults near Vuhledar.

2:08 a.m.: Ukraine plans no more outages to ration electricity and has been able to amass some power reserves, the energy minister said on Saturday, Reuters reported, citing a statement by the ministry on Telegram.

"Electricity restrictions will not be introduced, provided there are no strikes by the Russian Federation on infrastructure facilities," Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said. "Outages will only be used for repairs."

After multiple battlefield setbacks and scaling down its troop operation to Ukraine's east and south, Russia in October began bombing the country's energy infrastructure, leaving millions without power and heat for days at end.

The temperature in winter months often stays below freezing across most of Ukraine. Halushchenko said this heating season has been extremely difficult.

1:12 a.m.: The United States is "exerting unprecedented pressure" on African countries, including attempting to disrupt a planned Russia-Africa summit, Reuters reported, citing the state TASS news agency.

President Vladimir Putin will host the second Russia-Africa summit in July in St. Petersburg, an event intended to underline his attempts to curry favor in African nations after being shunned by the West over his invasion in Ukraine a year ago.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, quoted by TASS, reiterated Moscow's accusations of the "collective West" staging a campaign to isolate Moscow.

Since the start of the war, Moscow has turned to China, India, and African nations. Russia has been particularly keen to win over African nations — Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has visited the continent twice this year.

12:02 a.m.: Dozens of families in Central Asia have received the bodies of their loved ones killed in Ukraine fighting alongside Russian forces in the year since Moscow's full-scale invasion began, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.

In the past month, at least four families in Kyrgyzstan were told that a relative had died fighting in Ukraine after being recruited in Russian prisons by the mercenary fighting group Wagner.

Kyrgyz authorities say 1,077 Kyrgyz nationals are currently serving prison terms in Russia mostly on drug-trafficking charges.

There are thousands more from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and other Central Asian countries imprisoned in Russia, a key destination for migrant workers from those former Soviet republics.

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