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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Feb. 3

Children stand atop of a destroyed Russian vehicle in the city center of Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 2, 2023.
Children stand atop of a destroyed Russian vehicle in the city center of Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 2, 2023.

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

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

10:13 p.m.: Ukraine's defense minister said on Friday that new tanks supplied by NATO countries would serve as an "iron fist" in a counteroffensive by Kyiv to break through Russian defensive lines, Reuters reported.

The official, Oleksii Reznikov, told a news briefing with his Polish counterpart that Western supplies of 155-mm artillery were vital for Ukraine to weather Russia's own attacks in the south and in the east.

"The new tank coalition with the main tanks of NATO countries — we need this for the counteroffensive, we will use it like an iron fist to break through their defensive lines," he said.

Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak, in Kyiv on Friday for talks with Reznikov, said Warsaw was helping to train Ukrainian soldiers to use Western tanks and that completing the training was a question of "weeks not days or months."

Kyiv secured pledges from the West last month to supply main battle tanks to help fend off Russia's invasion, with Moscow mounting huge efforts to make advances in the east.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said the government expects to receive 120 to 140 Western tanks from a coalition of 12 countries in a first wave of deliveries, including German Leopard 2, British Challenger 2 and U.S. M1 Abrams tanks.

9:02 p.m.: France and Italy have finalized technical talks for the joint delivery of a SAMP/T-MAMBA air defense system to Ukraine in spring 2023, the French Defense Ministry said.

"This will allow Ukraine to defend itself against Russian drones, missiles and plane attacks, through the coverage of a significant part of the Ukrainian territory," a ministry statement said after a call between French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu and his Italian counterpart Guido Crosetto.

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

Ukraine has asked its Western allies for more air defense systems and specifically requested the SAMP/T, known as Mamba, in November. Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

8:08 p.m.: EU countries agreed on Friday on a European Commission proposal to set price caps on Russian refined oil products, the Swedish presidency of the European Union said.

EU diplomats said the price caps agreed by ambassadors for the 27 EU countries are $100 per barrel on products that trade at a premium to crude, such as diesel, and $45 per barrel for products that trade at a discount, such as fuel oil. The proposal is that they apply from Sunday.

Poland and Baltic states Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia had pushed for the caps to be set at lower levels to curb Russia's revenues from fuel, diplomats had said, dragging on talks for days.

The price caps, together with an EU ban on Russian oil product imports, are part of a broader agreement among the Group of Seven countries. It follows a $60 per barrel cap imposed on Russian crude on December 5 as G-7 countries, the EU and Australia seek to limit Moscow's ability to fund its war in Ukraine.

7:05 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasized the importance of increasing sanctions pressure against Russia “so that the aggressor state does not have the opportunity to revive its defense production in full.” Zelenskyy made these comments at a meeting with media representatives following the 24th Ukraine-EU summit in Kyiv.

"We are extremely interested in Russia not having the opportunity to revive defense production. Sanctions slowed down all these processes. It's clear to us how many missiles were produced before the start of the full-scale invasion and what is happening now thanks to the sanctions of the EU, the United States, the UK, and other partners," Zelenskyy said.

6:16 p.m.: The head of Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency said Friday there has been a significant decrease in corruption in the country since the Russian invasion, AFP reports.

Fearing any loss of EU’s and Washington’s vital aid, Ukraine is seeking to reassure its allies that it is fighting corruption in the wake of a series of public embezzlement scandals, resignations and arrests.

"During the first months of the war, we saw that corruption had practically disappeared," Oleksandr Novikov, head of the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NAPC), told AFP in an interview.

But after the initial shock of the February 24 invasion, "some have returned to old ways," admitted Novikov, a former prosecutor who has headed the NAPC for three years.

Nevertheless, he was adamant that the country was now making an "irreversible" move away from the corrupt practices of the past.

"NATO and EU standards will require us to change state policies to leave no room for corruption," he told AFP.

At a summit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Friday, the EU said Ukraine had made "considerable efforts" in advancing toward membership in the 27-member bloc but urged Kyiv to implement more reforms.

5:42 p.m.: Ukraine's Elina Svitolina said on Friday that the ban on Russian and Belarusian players competing at Wimbledon must continue after they were excluded from last year's championships.

Wimbledon excluded players from the two countries because of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, a decision that was swiftly condemned by the men's and women's tours as well as Novak Djokovic and Martina Navratilova.

However, Svitolina, the 2019 Wimbledon semi-finalist, said nothing had changed from last year's reason for the ban.

"I hope they will do the same thing and keep the ban in place. I don't think it should change," the 28-year-old Svitolina was quoted as saying by the BBC on Friday.

"There are still people suffering and still Russian soldiers killing innocent Ukrainians. The war is still there. The decision should not be any different."

Wimbledon has yet to announce if the ban it imposed last year will continue. Wimbledon organizers were not immediately available to comment, Reuters reports.

4:57 p.m.:

4 p.m.: The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on the board of directors of Iranian drone maker Paravar Pars, the U.S. Treasury Department said, adding Iranian drones were being used by Russia to attack Ukraine's critical infrastructure, Reuters reported.

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated eight senior executives of Paravar Pars, the department said in a statement.

The drone maker was previously sanctioned by the United States and the European Union for making drones for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force.

3:15 p.m.: A new rocket that would double Ukraine's strike range in its war with Russia was included in a $2.175 billion U.S. military aid package, the Pentagon said on Friday, according to Reuters.

The new weapon, the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), will allow Ukraine's military to hit targets at twice the distance reachable by the rockets it now fires from the U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

The 151 km (94 mile) GLSDB will put all of Russia's supply lines in eastern Ukraine within reach, as well as part of Russian-occupied Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA news agency that it was important not to forget what President Vladimir Putin had said in Volgograd on Thursday. In a speech, Putin said "we have the means to respond, and it won't end with the use of armored vehicles, everyone must understand that."

2:30 p.m.: Across Lithuania and the other Baltic countries, thousands of activists are fighting Russian disinformation on social media. They called themselves elves — “because elves fight trolls.” VOA’s Oleksii Kovalenko has the story.

Lithuanian ‘Elves’ Fight Russian Disinformation About War in Ukraine
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2:00 p.m.: Traders are using Turkey, Kazakhstan and Armenia to evade European Union sanctions on Russia in a tactic that breaches these countries' compliance with the bloc's embargo, Latvia's prime minister said on Friday, according to Reuters.

Krisjanis Karins made the assertion following talks with counterparts from fellow EU members Estonia and Lithuania, which along with Latvia have been among the most vocal supporters of sanctions on Russia following its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

"It seems quite clear that traders are finding ways to legally trade goods, say with Turkey, Kazakhstan or Armenia which are then resent to Russia, because these countries are not adhering to the sanctions regime," Karins told reporters in the Estonian capital Tallinn.

Karins pointed to a rise in European trade with the three countries which he said was "disproportionate to where it has been in the past."

1:50 p.m.: Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) says it has uncovered a large-scale embezzlement scheme to siphon off public funds earmarked for the purchase of food for the military as it battles to repel Moscow's nearly yearlong invasion, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The SBU said in a statement posted on Telegram on February 3 that as a result of the fraud, the Defense Ministry incurred losses of more than 119.5 million hryvnyas ($3.24 million).

The findings are part of a scandal that broke on January 22 when allegations surfaced in local media that the ministry was overpaying suppliers for food for troops. The supplier has said a technical mistake was to blame and no extra money had actually changed hands. The ministry said the accusations were baseless.

Eradicating endemic corruption is one of the chief requirements presented by the European Union to Kyiv as Ukraine is pressing Brussels to speed up its accession into the 27-member bloc even as it is fighting Russian troops that invaded on February 24 last year.

1:20 p.m.: The United Nations’ Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator Marco Rotelli said on Twitter that a team with critical supplies like medicines, hygiene kits and water has reached war-affected Ukrainians in frontline areas in the Zaporizhzhia region this week.

1:05 p.m.: The head of the Paris 2024 Olympics Tony Estanguet said on Friday it was for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to decide whether Russian and Belarusian athletes can participate in the Games next year, Reuters reported.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the governing body to ban them from the sporting extravaganza, stating that allowing Russia to compete at the Games was tantamount to showing that "terror is somehow acceptable".

Three-time Olympic champion and President of the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee Estanguet told Reuters that he was "in favor of maintaining this symbol of universality for the Games" when asked about Russian and Belarusian participation.

Yet he said the decision rested with the Games' governing body.

12:50 p.m.: The prime ministers of the three Baltic countries urged the International Olympic Committee to ban Russian athletes from next year’s Paris Games because of the war in Ukraine, saying Friday a boycott was a possibility, The Associated Press reported.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said athletes from her country could be put in a situation where they are competing against Russians, claiming many of them “are soldiers.”

“I think that our efforts should be on convincing our other friends and allies that the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes is just wrong,” Kallas said, adding in Russia’s ally in the war. “So boycotting is the next step. I think people will understand why this is necessary.”

Ukraine is steadfastly opposed to letting Russians compete.

12:25 p.m.:

12:10 p.m.: Russian-installed authorities in Crimea said on Friday that they had nationalized around 500 properties in the peninsula including some belonging to senior Ukrainian politicians and business figures, Reuters reported.

In a statement on Telegram, Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean parliament, said that the decree targeted "accomplices of the Kyiv regime" and that the nationalized properties included banks and tourist and sport infrastructure.

According to a document published on a Crimean government website, properties belonging to former Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and businessmen Igor Kolomoisky, Rinat Akhmetov and Serhiy Taruta were among those confiscated.

Crimea, which is internationally recognized as part of Ukraine, has been controlled by Moscow since 2014, when Russia unilaterally annexed the peninsula.

11:45 a.m.: Norway said Friday it will buy 54 new generation Leopard 2 tanks to replace older versions, adding it faced "one of the most difficult security situations since World War II," Agence France-Presse reported.

Planned for several years, the order will enable Oslo to renew its fleet of 36 ageing Leopard 2A4 tanks, some of which are to be donated to Ukraine.

"We find ourselves ... in one of the most difficult security situations since World War II," Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told reporters at the Rena military base. "We have a serious situation due to the Russian invasion (of Ukraine). I call this a new 'Iron Curtain,' " he said.

Norway had been hesitating between the latest generation Leopard tank and the South Korean K2 Black Panther. The choice of Leopards will enable the Scandinavian country to align itself with its Nordic neighbors -- including Sweden and Finland which are vying to join Norway in NATO -- and Germany, the government said.

The first deliveries are expected as of 2026 and will run until 2031. Only 36 of the 52 Leopards Norway bought from the Netherlands in 2001 are still in service. The head of Norway's armed forces, Eirik Kristoffersen, has previously expressed his opposition to the purchase of new tanks, saying he would prefer to spend the money on the acquisition of other weapons such as missiles and long-range shells.

11:15 a.m.:

11:00 a.m.: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday Ukraine would fight to hold on to the eastern "fortress" city of Bakhmut for as long as it could, and urged the West to supply long-range weapons to help Kyiv push Russian forces out of the Donbas region, Reuters reported.

"Nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress," Zelenskyy told a news conference with top European Union officials following a summit in Kyiv.

"Ukraine would be able to hold Bakhmut and liberate occupied Donbas if it received long-range weapons," he said.

The city of Bakhmut has become the focal point of Ukrainian resistance to Russia's invasion and of Moscow’s drive to regain battlefield momentum.

Russian officials have said Russian forces are encircling Bakhmut from several directions and battling to take control of a road which is also an important supply route for Ukrainian forces.

10:50 a.m.: The European Union will unveil its 10th package of sanctions against Russia on February 24 to mark the anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a senior official from the bloc said in Kyiv on Friday. This comes as Ukrainian forces gird for an expected Russian offensive in the coming weeks, The Associated Press reported.

The sanctions will target technology used by Russia’s war machine, among other things, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference. The sanctions will take aim in particular at components used in the manufacturing of drones, she said, naming Iran as a key supplier of Russia.

Closing loopholes that the Kremlin uses to circumvent sanctions will also be a priority, according to Von der Leyen, who was on her fourth visit to the Ukrainian capital since the war began.

The exact measures in the next EU sanctions package must be agreed upon by the bloc’s 27 member countries — a process that can take weeks.

Top EU officials met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a show of support for the country as it battles to counter the Kremlin’s forces and strives to join the EU as well as NATO.

The last such summit was held in Kyiv in October 2021 — a few months before the war started. The highly symbolic visit is also the first EU political mission of its kind to a country at war.

10:20 a.m.: Top European Union officials met Friday in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a show of support for the country as it battles to counter Russia’s invasion and strives to join the EU as well as NATO.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, as well as 15 European commissioners, traveled to the Ukrainian capital for the summit meeting.

The leaders held a news conference following the talks and released a joint statement pledging solidarity with Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression and support for a rapid reconstruction of Ukraine once the war is over.

“The EU will support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people against Russia's ongoing war of aggression for as long as it takes,” the statement said. “We reiterated that the future of Ukraine and its citizens lies within the European Union,” it added.

“The EU reiterated its unwavering support and commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders,” according to the statement.

The statement went on to spell out the process for Ukraine to become a full member of the EU. Ukraine has already been granted the status of a candidate country.

“The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement has been and continues to be of essential importance in facilitating and promoting Ukraine’s further integration with the EU,” the statement said. “The EU will decide on further steps once all conditions specified in the Commission's opinion are fully met,” it added. Ukraine has pledged its commitment to meet all the requirements to start accession negotiations as soon as possible, it noted.

Von der Leyen shared video of the joint press conference following the EU-Ukraine summit on Twitter.

10:05 a.m.: The United States has stepped up pressure on Middle East allies to expel the Wagner Group, a military contractor owned by an oligarch with close ties to Russia’s president, from chaos-stricken Libya and Sudan where it has expanded in recent years, regional officials told The Associated Press.

The U.S. effort described by officials comes as the Biden administration is making a broad push against the mercenaries. The U.S. has slapped new sanctions on the Wagner Group in recent months over its expanding role in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The group is owned by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Pentagon has described it as a surrogate for the Russian Defense Ministry. The Kremlin denies any connection.

The Biden administration has been working for months with regional powers Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to pressure military leaders in Sudan and Libya to end their ties with the group, according to more than a dozen Libyan, Sudanese and Egyptian officials. They asked for anonymity to speak freely and because they were not authorized to discuss the issue with the media.

A senior Egyptian government official with direct knowledge of the talks said the Wagner group “is at the top of every meeting.”

9:35 a.m.: Ukraine unveiled a criminal case on Friday against the boss of Russia's Wagner mercenary company, and promised to track down and prosecute the company's fighters who try to flee abroad, Reuters reported.

Wagner, run by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, has recruited thousands of fighters, including convicts from Russian prisons, to wage war in Ukraine. Prigozhin says his group is pivotal in recent battles in the east of Ukraine, among the bloodiest of the war.

"The Prosecutor General's Office has served a notice of suspicion to the head of the private military company 'Wagner'," Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said in a statement on Facebook that did not identify Prigozhin by name.

"The head of this group is directly responsible for thousands of war crimes. He openly admits his role in the war against Ukraine and, with the Kremlin's permission, resolves staff issues by recruiting tens of thousands of prisoners."

9:10 a.m.:

8:40 a.m.: NATO allies on Friday threw their weight behind U.S. complaints that Russia is violating the New START nuclear arms control treaty and called on Moscow to come back into compliance, Reuters reported.

"NATO Allies agree the New START Treaty contributes to international stability by constraining Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear forces," the North Atlantic Council, NATO's top political body, said in a statement. "Therefore, we note with concern that Russia has failed to comply with legally-binding obligations under the New START Treaty."

The NATO statement came three days after the U.S. State Department also accused Russia of violating the treaty. NATO said Russia had failed to facilitate U.S. inspections on its territory since August last year.

The NATO statement said this "undermines the United States’ ability to adequately verify Russian compliance with the Treaty’s central limits."

Following the State Department's accusations, Russia insisted on Wednesday it wanted to preserve the treaty. "We consider the continuation of this treaty very important," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

8:15 a.m.: Ukraine could add old Leopard 1 battle tanks from German defense industry stocks to deliveries of modern tanks that Berlin and other governments pledged last week to counter Russian forces in the war, The Associated Press reported.

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit confirmed Friday that “export authorization has been granted” but declined to give numbers or other details, saying that they may become more concrete “in the coming days and weeks.” He told reporters in Berlin that the application from industry to permit delivery of Leopard 1 tanks had been made “some time” ago.

Hebestreit’s comments came after the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that the government had cleared the export of the tanks and that they could be sent as soon as the defense industry gets them in working order.

It said that two companies, Rheinmetall and FFG, want to prepare dozens of Leopard 1 tanks that could be delivered to Ukraine if it is interested. But it also said that there are issues so far with securing sufficient ammunition for the vehicles. It wasn’t immediately clear when any deliveries might be possible, but it appeared unlikely to be a quick process.

7:50 a.m.:

7:25 a.m.: Norwegian police said on Friday they intend to continue to interrogate former Wagner mercenary group commander Andrei Medvedev, who fled from Russia to Norway last month after fighting in the war in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Medvedev, who earlier this week told Reuters he was speaking out to help ensure the perpetrators of crimes are brought to justice, has handed "some digital material" to police, Kripos, Norway's national criminal police service, said in a statement.

The material was being examined, added Kripos. Kripos is the unit of the Norwegian police which has responsibility for investigating war crimes.

Medvedev remains a witness, and is not under any obligation to talk to investigators, Kripos said. Medvedev is not suspected of anything apart from the illegal border crossing.

"Medvedev gives the impression that he wants to continue to say more" about his time with Wagner, police said.

7:10 a.m.: The reconnaissance drones fly several times a day from Ukrainian positions deep inside the thick forest that marches across the border into Belarus, a close Russian ally, scouring sky and land for signs of trouble on the other side, The Associated Press reported.

Ukrainian units are monitoring the 1,000-kilometer (650-mile) frontier of marsh and woodland for a possible surprise offensive from the north, a repeat of the unsuccessful Russian thrust toward Kyiv at the start of the war nearly a year ago.

This time the Ukrainians are taking no chances. Since the summer they have been reinforcing defenses, building and expanding trenches and laying mines in the forest ahead of the springtime offensive military officials expect. Residents of villages in the region that were temporarily occupied last year are horrified by the prospect of it all starting again.

“We’re listening out for every small sound and noise. This isn’t a way to live,” said Valentina Matveva, 64, from the village of Ripke. “When you’re in constant fear, that’s not life.”

Concerns of a renewed military push were stirred in January after Russia and Belarus held joint air force drills, one month after a rare visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Minsk.

6:45 a.m.:

6:30 a.m.: The Kremlin on Friday rejected as a "hoax" media reports that U.S. CIA Director William Burns had travelled to Moscow with a secret peace proposal that involved Ukraine ceding a fifth of its territory to Russia, Reuters reported.

The Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung's report, which said Burns had made a secret trip to Moscow last month to put forward the plan on behalf of the White House, has also been dismissed by Washington.

Asked whether Burns had travelled to Moscow or put forward a plan that involved Ukraine ceding 20% of its territory, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: "That whole report is a hoax."

6:15 a.m.: Leaders of the European Union and Ukraine are holding a landmark meeting in Kyiv amid air-raid alerts in the capital and across Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The alerts on Friday were lifted after less than two hours, and there were no immediate reports of any air strikes by Russia. In recent months, Russian missile strikes have caused extensive damage to Ukraine's electricity grid in the depths of winter and claimed victims among civilians.

The top-level meeting in Kyiv between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the EU leadership is expected to discuss the European Union's support for Kyiv in the face of Russia's invasion and Ukraine's bid for membership in the 27-member bloc.

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council that groups the leaders of the 27 EU members, reassured Ukraine of the bloc's unwavering support both against Russia's aggression and on its path to eventual integration in the bloc.

"There will be no let up in our resolve. We will also support you every step of the way on your journey to the EU," Michel, who arrived in Kyiv on February 3, said on Twitter, where he posted a photo of himself in the Ukrainian capital.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who arrived in Kyiv on Thursday with a team of 15 commissioners, announced at a joint news conference with Zelenskyy that the EU will issue a fresh package sanctions against Russia -- the 10th since the start of its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine almost one year ago.

Von der Leyen and Michel went into a fresh round of talks with Zelenskyy on Friday. A joint EU-Ukraine statement seen by Reuters was also expected to reaffirm the bloc's support for Ukraine against Russia's invasion "for as long as it takes," the news agency reported.

6:00 a.m.:

5:40 a.m.: Western naval forces are having to adapt to a new threat as Russia and other military powers develop new capabilities to target critical undersea infrastructure such as pipelines and cables, VOA’s Henry Ridgwell reported.

The vulnerability of such infrastructure has long been recognized. Those concerns turned to reality in September last year, as the Nord Stream pipelines that carried gas from Russia to Germany ruptured spectacularly on the Baltic seabed near the Danish island of Bornholm, sending huge volumes of gas bubbling to the surface.

Swedish investigators found traces of explosives at the site. The West suspects Russia of sabotage. The Kremlin denies this and accuses Western nations of staging the attack.

“There has been a growing awareness of the vulnerability of critical national infrastructure, but the event in the Baltic Sea certainly brought the issue into sharp relief,” said analyst Sidharth Kaushal of Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, author of a recent report titled Navies and Economic Warfare.

5:25 a.m.: Russian troops are not slowing their push in several areas of the Donetsk region despite suffering heavy losses, the Ukrainian military said on Friday, amid indications that Moscow is preparing for a major push in the east to break months of stalemate, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The Russian attacks over the past 24 hours have been concentrated mainly on four directions -- Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, and Novopavlivka -- Ukraine's General Staff reported in its morning briefing on Friday.

At the same time, the General Staff said, Russia's continued attacks on Ukraine's civilian and infrastructure objectives had resulted in civilian deaths and damage.

"The Russian Federation does not abandon its intentions to destroy the critical infrastructure of our state, continues to strike civilian objectives and homes of the civilian population. Over the past day, the enemy launched four rocket attacks, two of which hit the civilian infrastructure of the city of Kramatorsk in Donetsk, as well as five air strikes," the military said.

A previous missile strike on an apartment block in Kramatorsk killed at least five people on February 1. Russian forces continued to launch rocket attacks on civilian targets in Kherson and Mykolayiv, the military said, adding, "Peaceful citizens were killed and injured by enemy strikes."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said later on February 2 in his nightly video address that the Russian Army still had the resources to attempt offensive actions, although "strategically, Russia's defeat is already clear." The Russian military is "looking for options to try to change the course of the war" and trying to "use the potential of the territory it currently controls to serve its aggression," Zelenskyy said.

5:12 a.m.: The U.S. Congress cannot support the $20 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey until Ankara ratifies the NATO memberships of Sweden and Finland, a bipartisan group of senators said Thursday, according to Reuters.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the trans-Atlantic defense pact after Russia invaded Ukraine but faced unexpected objections from Turkey and have since sought to win its support.

Ankara wants Helsinki and Stockholm in particular to take a tougher line against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is considered a terror group by Turkey and the European Union, and another group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.

The three nations reached an agreement on a way forward in Madrid last June, but Ankara suspended talks last month following protests in Stockholm in which a far-right Danish politician burned a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

It was the first time Congress explicitly and directly linked the F-16 sale to Turkey with the NATO accession bids of the two Nordic countries.

The Biden administration has repeatedly said it supports the sale and refused to link the two issues.

4:13 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russian officials are continuing efforts to frame the war in Ukraine as an existential threat to Russian audiences in order to set information conditions for protracted war and maintain domestic support for continued military operations. These efforts on the part of Russian officials are not succeeding in generating the likely desired effect of motivating Russians to want to participate in the war, however.

The assessment also said Russian and Ukrainian sources suggested that Russian forces may be preparing offensive actions in the Svatove area.

3:39 a.m.: Parliamentarians of 20 countries have urged Austria to bar Russian delegates from a gathering of the world's largest security body later this month, Agence France-Presse reported Thursday, citing a letter.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's parliamentary assembly is to be held in Vienna on Feb. 23-24, the one-year anniversary of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Members of national parliaments in 15 EU nations, alongside Canada, Georgia, Iceland, the U.K. and Ukraine itself have objected to Russia's participation at the meeting, urging Austria to prohibit their delegation's entry.

In a letter sent to Austria's government, they said Russia would use the meeting to "sow disinformation, fake news and hate speech."

"The participation of the Russian parliamentarians in the Vienna session ... would be read in Russia as its indirect legitimization and part of a return to 'business as usual,'" the letter said.

2:04 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said it appears that Wagner Group is using few convicts in its Russian paramilitary force.

12:02 a.m.: Czech president-elect Petr Pavel, a former NATO general, said Thursday there should be "no limits" on military aid to war-ravaged Ukraine, urging allies to show more courage, Agence France-Presse reported.

Pavel, who led the NATO military committee from 2015-18, won his country's presidential ballot over the weekend and will be sworn in next month.

In an interview with AFP, the 61-year-old said the West should provide Ukraine with all types of weapons except nuclear arms as it battles Russia's invasion.

"When it comes to conventional weapons, I really can see no reason for any limits," Pavel said.

"Ukraine cannot fight a tough opponent like this without armored technologies, unmanned aerial vehicles, artillery and longer-range rockets, but maybe also supersonic aircraft," he added.

Western allies have been providing Ukraine with substantial military aid since the full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

But Pavel said more courage was needed as "some countries have a bit of a reserved stance" on shipping over modern weapons.

"If we take a single standpoint, it gives us the best chance of success. We should act in unity on these issues," he told AFP.

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

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