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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Feb. 28

A female Ukrainian serviceman carries flowers in colors of the Ukrainian flag as she walks to take part in the funeral service of a lieutenant colonel killed in battle, at the Mykhaylo Gold Domes Cathedral in Kyiv on Feb. 27, 2023.

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

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

10:50 p.m.: Finland has begun construction of its planned 200-kilometer fence on the Russian border, the country's border guard said Tuesday, as Helsinki fears Moscow could use migrant flows at the frontier for political purposes, Agence France-Presse reported.

Terrain work would began Tuesday "with forest clearance and will proceed in such a way that road construction and fence installation can be started in March," the Finnish Border Guard said in a statement.

In total, Finland plans to fence 200 kilometers of its 1,300-kilometer border with Russia at a cost of around $400 million.

The fence will be more than 3 meters tall with barbed wire at the top, with particularly sensitive areas equipped with night vision cameras, lights and loudspeakers.

9:30 p.m.: The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia Daniel Kritenbrink said on Tuesday the United States has shared its concerns that China is considering providing lethal assistance to Russia's war in Ukraine and many U.S. partners share those concerns.

Kritenbrink made the remark at a U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on China.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier that if China provides lethal aid to Moscow for the conflict it will be a serious problem Beijing in its relationship with countries around the world.

8 p.m.: European imports of liquefied natural gas soared last year as nations sought to cover for drops in Russian pipeline supplies, a report from the International Energy Agency said Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

The jump in demand from European nations sent prices spiking higher, with global sales doubling in value to $450 billion even though volume rose only 5.5%, the IEA said in a quarterly report on the gas market.

It said it expects LNG volumes to rise by 4.3% in 2023.

"LNG import growth in 2022 was led by Europe with a sharp 63% increase, compensating for a significant drop in pipeline gas imports from Russia," the IEA said.

European imports of LNG rose by 66 billion cubic meters, with the United States supplying two-thirds of that increased consumption.

7:02 p.m.: The International Criminal Court's top prosecutor was in Ukraine on Tuesday to investigate Russia's campaign of missile and drone attacks on power and other infrastructure that killed hundreds of civilians and left millions with no electricity or water, Reuters reported.

Russia says they are legitimate strikes aimed at weakening the enemy's military, but Ukraine casts them as a means of intimidating ordinary people.

The Geneva conventions and additional protocols shaped by international courts say parties involved in a military conflict must distinguish between "civilian objects and military objectives" and that attacks on civilian objects are forbidden.

"Generally we see clearly a pattern, I think, in terms of the number, scale and breadth of attacks against the power grids of Ukraine and we need to look at why that's taking place; are they legitimate targets or not?" ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said.

6:33 p.m.: The United States does not expect Russia to make significant territorial gains in Ukraine in the near-term, a senior Pentagon official said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

"You may see small portions of territory change hands in the coming weeks and months. I do not think that there's anything I see that suggests the Russians can sweep across Ukraine and make significant territorial gains anytime in the next year or so," Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, told members of the House of Representatives.

Russian forces on Tuesday pressed forward their weeks-long drive to encircle and capture the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut where the commander of Ukraine's ground forces described the situation as "extremely tense."

5:29 p.m.: Members of Congress held a hearing Tuesday of the House Armed Services Committee Hearing on Oversight of U.S. Military Support to Ukraine. Here is what four of them had to say:

Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California: "The U.S. should start training Ukrainian pilots on advanced weapons systems, including fighter jets, whether or not the Biden administration or a NATO country decides right now to provide those weapon systems. ... If they don't want to do it now but want to do it, let's say two months from now, they wouldn't have to wait additional time to dedicate their training. So at least, let's get them trained first and give the flexibility to the United States and our NATO allies to make that decision later if they so want to."

Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida:Congressman, Florida: "I'm very concerned that there's not sufficient oversight over the resources and material that we're sending to Ukraine. I have questions about the end-use monitoring of equipment that we send there. We have certain legal requirements on that equipment and that's what I don't think we're complying with. I think we should wind down our support for Ukraine."

Michael Waltz, a Republican from Florida: "I'm not satisfied with the administration's answer on getting the Europeans to share the burden in terms of the cost of security assistance to Ukraine. We have already provided more than $30 billion, despite the fact that the United States and the EU have the same size economies and the EU countries provided less than half of that money. Germany, in fact, at a 10th of that."

John Garamendi, a Democrat from Northern California: "It is the most extensive oversight that the United States has ever conducted in any military operation anywhere in the world throughout the entire history of the U.S. military. It is extensive, and it is doing its job; it is clearly providing us with the information we need. And the most interesting thing is that there's very little if any, corruption and diversion of the materials. The military materials are getting into Ukraine, to the front line. And obviously being used very, very effectively and efficiently by the Ukrainians.

4:39 p.m.: There is "no evidence" Ukraine is misusing the tens of billions in aid provided since Russia invaded last year, a senior Pentagon official told lawmakers on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

Members of the House Armed Services Committee questioned Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, and two other officials for 2 1/2 hours, as Republicans seek to step up oversight of American aid to Ukraine after taking control of the lower chamber of Congress.

"There's no evidence that the Ukrainians are diverting it to the black market," Kahl told lawmakers of assistance to Kyiv.

The Defense Department's inspector general, Robert Storch, told the committee that there are a "significant number" of people in the region overseeing the Ukraine supply and training mission, and that information is also being obtained from U.S. military personnel at the embassy in Kyiv.

"We have not substantiated any such instances" of sensitive weapons being illicitly diverted, Storch said.

3:55 p.m.: One-third of Ukrainian refugees in the European Union ultimately wants to return home. A similar proportion would like to remain in their host countries, according to a new survey, Fleeing Ukraine: Displaced people’s experiences in the EU released on Tuesday by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), The Kyiv Independent is reporting.

The online poll was conducted between August and September 2022, with 14,685 Ukrainian refugees taking part. The participants are now living in 10n EU countries (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain).

According to the survey, only a third of respondents have a paid job, and 79% said they faced financial challenges.

3:10 p.m.: Russian troops targeted Kherson Tuesday morning, killing one person and wounding another, Presidential Office Head Andrii Yermak reported, according to The Kyiv Independent.

Yermak said the Russian attack destroyed a house.

Kherson has experienced continuous Russian strikes since it was liberated by Ukrainian forces in November 2022, along with other areas on the west bank of the Dnipro River.

2 p.m.: The loss of a Russian A-50 aircraft in an alleged partisan attack on a Belarusian airfield in Machulishchy will "likely leave six operational A-50s in service, further constraining Russian air operations," the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on Tuesday.

Belarusian anti-government organization BYPOL said Sunday a Russian A-50 MAINSTAY early warning and control aircraft had been damaged in a drone attack on the Machulishchy airfield near Minsk as part of BYPOL's so-called "Victory Plan."

The U.K. Defense Ministry cited in its latest intelligence update that the BYPOL group reported two explosions and damage to the front and middle sections of the A-50, along with the radar antenna.

10:40 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday the domestic FSB security service needs to increase activity to counter “sabotage groups” entering the country from Ukraine, reports Reuters. He also instructed the FSB to improve security in four eastern regions of Ukraine that Russia has partially seized and officially annexed – a move most countries have condemned as illegal.

7:55 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, according to RFE/RL.

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” is inscribed.

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.

7:10 a.m.: Russia's offensive in the east is increasingly targeting Bakhmut, the Ukrainian military said on February 28, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warning the situation is becoming "extremely difficult" for the defenders of the city, whom he called "heroes," RFE/RL reports.

Ukrainian forces repelled more than 60 attacks by Russian troops in the eastern region of Donetsk over the past 24 hours, Ukraine's General Staff said in its morning briefing on February 28.

Russian attacks continue to focus on the Lymansk, Avdiyivka, and Shakhtarsk directions, but the main vector of the Russian assault remains Bakhmut, it added.

6:15 a.m.: Russia's defense ministry on Tuesday accused Ukraine of launching attempted drone strikes against civil infrastructure targets in two southern Russian regions overnight, but said the attacks had failed.

There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian authorities, Reuters reported.

"Overnight, the Kyiv authorities attempted to use unmanned aerial vehicles to attack civilian infrastructure facilities in the Krasnodar and Adygea regions," the defense ministry said in a statement.

It said its anti-drone defense systems had repelled the attacks, causing the drones to veer off course and fail to inflict any damage.

"Both drones lost control and deviated from their flight paths. One fell into a field, the other, deviating from its trajectory, did not harm the intended target," it said.

Russian state news agencies had earlier reported a fire at an oil depot in the Krasnodar region, around 240 km (149 miles) south-east of the Crimean peninsula, after a drone was spotted flying overhead.

5:40 a.m.: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance in the "long-term" but stressed that the immediate issue is it remaining an independent nation in the face of Russia's invasion, Agence France-Presse reported.

"NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine will become a member of our alliance, but at the same time that is a long-term perspective," Stoltenberg told reporters during a visit to Finland's capital Helsinki.

5:10 a.m.: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will arrive in Beijing on Tuesday, kicking off a three-day trip in which he will meet Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

The state visit by Lukashenko — a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — comes after Beijing released a position paper on Russia's war in Ukraine insisting it is a neutral party and calling for dialogue between the two sides.

It also follows allegations by the United States and NATO that Beijing could be mulling sending arms to Russia as the conflict enters its second year. China has strenuously denied the claims.

Ahead of Lukashenko's visit, Beijing hailed its "all-weather and comprehensive" strategic partnership with Minsk.

In an interview with China's state-run Xinhua news agency, the Belarusian leader said he was looking forward to meeting with his "old friend" Xi.

Agence France-Presse had the full report.

4:30 a.m.: A hacking attack caused some Russian regional broadcasters to put out a false warning on Tuesday urging people to take shelter from an incoming missile attack, Reuters cited the emergencies ministry as saying.

"As a result of the hacking of servers of radio stations and TV channels, in some regions of the country information about the announcement of an air alert was broadcast," the ministry said in a statement.

"This information is false and does not correspond to reality."

Among the regions where the fake messages were broadcast was Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

On regional TV an image was shown with a symbol of a man running for cover from incoming missiles and a message reading "Everybody to the shelter, now," according to images posted on social media.

Radio stations played a loud siren sound with a message stating: "Attention, attention. An air alert is being issued. Everybody head to shelters now. Attention, attention. Missile threat."

Russian state media cited some local officials blaming Ukraine for the messages. There was no official comment from Kyiv.

Gazprom Media, which operates a number of regional TV stations, said its infrastructure had been "attacked" in a statement cited by RIA Novosti.

"Such attacks on our satellite network are becoming part of our everyday work," the company said.

Several radio stations put out similar warnings last week, and websites run by Russia's state TV conglomerate went down during President Vladimir Putin's annual state-of-the-nation address to Russian lawmakers on February 21 in what state media said was a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

3:55 a.m.: Germany's Rheinmetall has won an order in the double-digit million-euro range to supply Ukraine with automated reconnaissance systems, the industrial group said in a statement on Tuesday according to Reuters.

Rheinmetall is cooperating with the Estonian company DefSecIntel to provide the SurveilSPIRE systems, which consist of mobile surveillance towers with day and night-capable camera equipment, autopiloted mini drones and a control system.

Delivery has already commenced, the company added.

3:20 a.m.:

2:25 a.m.: The commander of Ukrainian ground forces Colonel general Oleksandr Syrskyi said on Tuesday that the situation around the besieged town of Bakhmut is "extremely tense," according to Reuters.

"Despite significant losses, the enemy threw in the most prepared assault units of Wagner, who are trying to break through the defenses of our troops and surround the city," Syrskyi was quoted as saying on the Ukraine's Media Military Center Telegram messaging platform.

2:05 a.m.: Finland, which has one of Europe's longest borders with Russia, on Tuesday kicks off a parliamentary debate aimed at accelerating the country's bid to join NATO, increasing the likelihood it will leave neighbor and military partner Sweden behind.

Spooked by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden dropped their decades-long policies of military non-alignment and applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in May last year.

But facing fewer diplomatic hurdles than Stockholm, Helsinki appears set to move forward even before Finland's April general elections, as public opinion also supports membership in the transatlantic military alliance.

The two countries have the support of all but two of NATO's 30 members, the holdouts being Hungary and particularly Turkey.

Many Finnish MPs have pushed for legislation affirming that Finland accepts the terms of the NATO treaty to be passed before the elections on April 2.

Finland will debate the bill on Tuesday, coinciding with a visit from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg — who will meet with Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinisto.

A vote is expected by Wednesday, and having the bill passed means that Finland can act swiftly even if the ratifications come in before a new government has been formed.

Agence France-Presse had the full report.

1:25 a.m.:

1 a.m.: Reuters reported that the Kremlin gave a lukewarm response to a Chinese plan to end the war in Ukraine, calling for a study of nuances of the proposal that urges both sides to agree to a gradual de-escalation and warns against the use of nuclear weapons.

China, which declared a "no limits" alliance with Russia shortly before Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine a year ago, called for a comprehensive ceasefire in Ukraine on Friday, touting its own peace plan.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in remarks published on Tuesday that Beijing's voice should be heard, but the nuances of the proposal are important.

"Any attempt to formulate theses for reaching a peaceful settlement of the problem is welcome, but, of course, the nuances are important," Peskov told the Izvestia daily.

Earlier, Peskov said any such initiatives that might bring peace closer were worthy of attention.

"We are paying a great deal of attention to the plan of our Chinese friends," Peskov told reporters on Monday. "Of course, the details need to be painstakingly analyzed taking into account the interests of all the different sides. This is a very long and intense process."

He said Russia was continuing to prosecute what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine, and for now didn't see any signs suggesting a peaceful resolution could be achieved.

Beijing has refused to condemn Russia's actions, most recently at a weekend meeting of the Group of Twenty (G20) major economies.

12:31 a.m.:

12:01 a.m.: Russia will not resume participation in the START nuclear arms reduction treaty with the United States until Washington listens to Moscow's position, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in remarks published on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

President Vladimir Putin last week delivered a warning to the West over the war in Ukraine and announced Russia's decision to suspend participation in the latest START treaty, after accusing the West of being directly involved in attempts to strike its strategic air bases.

Peskov told the daily Izvestia in an interview that the "attitude of the collective West," led by the United States needs to change towards Moscow.

"The security of one country cannot be ensured at the expense of the security of another," Peskov said.

He also said that NATO by arming Ukraine "acts as a single bloc no longer as our conditional opponents, but as enemies."

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