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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Feb. 6

People receive bread and milk and humanitarian aid at a distribution spot in Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine, Feb. 6, 2023.
People receive bread and milk and humanitarian aid at a distribution spot in Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine, Feb. 6, 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.: Britain must set out a new strategy to boost military production and overhaul wasteful procurement to better support Ukraine and signal to Russia that "things will get worse", opposition Labour's defense policy chief will say on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

With Labour commanding a healthy lead over the governing Conservatives, its top team of policy chiefs, who 'shadow' their equivalents in government, have been setting out their plans if they win power at an election expected next year.

9:35 p.m.: The European Union’s legislature was preparing plans Monday to host Volodymyr Zelenskyy should Ukraine's president decide to come to Brussels to attend an EU summit later this week, The Associated Press reported.

Two sources in the parliament, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said such plans are only meant to prepare the legislature to host Zelenskyy if security conditions permit him to attend Thursday’s meeting.

“When he would come, we would be ready,” said one of the sources, stressing that because of security concerns any decision could only come at the last moment.

8:43 p.m.: The United States is considering raising the tariff on Russian-made aluminum to 200%, but a decision has not been made yet, a U.S. official said, Reuters reported. "It's something we are considering," the official said, adding an announcement about any tariff increase was not expected this week, Reuters reported.

7:55 p.m.: After three years in pretrial detention in Kherson, Pavlo, a man who is accused of rape, was suddenly free one day last November: The Russians overseeing the jail where he was held “ran away,” he said, leaving the cell keys behind. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

As the Russian forces that had occupied the large southern city since March withdrew, in a major setback for Moscow in its war to subjugate Ukraine, the Russians administering the facility opted to release the hundreds of detainees being held there.

The jail employee who came to open the door of Pavlo’s cell told the inmates, “Go wherever you want,” he said.

After over eight months of frequent threats, violence, and abuse under Russian supervision, most of them did.

7:08 p.m.:

6:12 p.m.: The Guardian news site report that Ukraine’s general staff claims it has seen the arrival of medical reinforcements from Russia to treat wounded personnel in the occupied Luhansk Oblast, supporting assessments, including by the Institute for the Study of War, that Russian forces are preparing for a renewed offensive focused there.

5:20 p.m.: Women who have lost their partners in battle against Russian invaders say the word "widow" is too painful to accept. Coming together in a Facebook group, they offer the mutual support and understanding they say can only come from someone going through the same kind of grief. Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, has this report.

4:41 p.m.: Ukraine's main Catholic church said on Monday it would move to a new calendar that would see Christmas celebrated on December 25 rather than January 7, amid an effort by Ukrainian institutions to break cultural links to Russia, Reuters reported.

The move by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), which counts just under a tenth of Ukrainians as worshippers, was welcomed by culture minister Oleksandr Tkachenko.

"This decision is appropriate to the demands of our time and public opinion," he wrote on Facebook, citing the results of a national online survey conducted by the government.

That poll, held in December 2022, showed 59% of over 1.5 million respondents supported moving Christmas celebrations to December 25, when the feast is celebrated in Western Europe.

Last month, Tkachenko expressed hope that all of Ukraine's churches would agree to celebrate Christmas on December 25.

Monday's announcement by the UGCC made it the first to do so.

3:18 p.m.: Israel’s new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a close personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the same time, Israel has been providing extensive humanitarian assistance to Ukraine in its year-long battle against Russia’s invasion. Balancing relationships with both sides is a challenge for Israel’s new government. Linda Gradstein reports for VOA from Jerusalem.

2:30 p.m.: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday told fossil fuel producers they "should not be in business" unless they are credibly aiming for net-zero emissions and warned that the world is walking into a "wider war" over Ukraine, Reuters reported.

In a speech to the 193-member U.N. General Assembly presenting his 2023 priorities, Guterres also called for "a new Bretton Woods moment" - referring to the 1941 conference that led to the creation of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Guterres, who took office at the United Nations on Jan. 1, 2017 and is now in his second and final five-year term, has long been pushing for changes to favor developing nations in the global financial institutions and vocal about combating climate change.

2:15 p.m.: Russia’s finance ministry said Monday that budget revenue in January was 35% lower compared with the same month in 2022, the last month before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

The ministry also said the budget deficit for January was 1.77 trillion rubles ($23.9 billion), about 60% of the shortfall that had been planned for the entire year.

Oil and gas revenue, the backbone of Russia’s economy, was down 46% compared with January 2022.

Western countries have declared a $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian crude oil as well as ceilings on refined oil products like diesel fuel and gasoline.

Russia has said it won’t sell oil to countries observing the limit, but the cap and falling demand from a slowing global economy has meant customers in China, India and elsewhere can buy Russian oil at steep discounts, cutting into the Kremlin’s revenue.

2 p.m.:

1:50 p.m.: The leader of Russia's Republic of Tyva in Siberia, Vladislav Khovalyg, has sent his representatives to parts of Ukraine's Russia-occupied Donetsk region after a group of Tyvan men mobilized to fight with the Russian armed forces invading Ukraine complained of ill treatment, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

In a video posted on Telegram on Monday, the men said they had been mobilized in September and gone through poor military training in the Novosibirsk region, where they were told that they will serving in a patrolling unit.

According to the men, they were transferred to the Donetsk region in late December, where they had not been officially registered with any Russian military unit, while some of them were ordered to fight against Ukrainian forces on the line of contact, which is not what a patrolling unit does.

The men also said Russian-backed separatists from the Donetsk region, as well as military police, came to them and beat them severely while saying that they now belong to them. "In that case, we are not soldiers of the Russian Federation," the men said in the video.

Footage also showed two men in military uniform forcing a third man to kneel as they put the barrel of an assault rifle to his head. It is not clear who is in the footage and when the video was shot.

Khovalyg called the situation "a flagrant case that discredits the situation of mobilized men," adding that he already talked to the leader of Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk, Vitaliy Khotsenko, regarding the situation before sending his representatives to the Russia-controlled part of Donetsk.

1:35 p.m.: The founder of Russia's Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin on Monday published a video of himself in the cockpit of a military aircraft, challenging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to an aerial duel, Reuters reported.

The clip was release by Prigozhin's press service, which said it was filmed aboard a Su-24 bomber plane operated by Wagner.

It was the latest in a series of statements and videos in which Prigozhin has sought to promote himself and his private army as the spearhead of Russian military operations in east Ukraine.

"Volodymyr Oleksandrovych (Zelenskyy), we have landed. We have bombed Bakhmut," Prigozhin said in the short video. "Tomorrow, I will fly a MiG-29. If you so desire, let's meet in the skies. If you win, you take Artyomovsk (Bakhmut). If not, we advance till (the River) Dnipro."

Prigozhin acknowledged only last September that he was the founder of the Wagner group which has been active for years in the Middle East and Africa.

1:20 p.m.: Buda Munkhoyev and Vladimir Popov moved from the Siberian region of Buryatia to the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, to avoid mobilization and the war in Ukraine. In Kyrgyzstan, they started making videos about local life and culture there, notching up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, has this story.

1 p.m.: A Moscow court on Monday sentenced a popular cookbook author and blogger to nine years in prison after convicting her in absentia of spreading false information about the country’s military, The Associated Press reported. The trial was part of the Kremlin’s sweeping, months-long crackdown on dissent.

The charges against Veronika Belotserkovskaya, who lives abroad, were brought over her Instagram posts that the authorities alleged contained “deliberately false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to destroy cities and the civilian population of Ukraine, including children.”

Belotserkovskaya, whose Instagram profile says she was born in Odesa, a city in southern Ukraine, responded to the news of the sentencing by writing that she is, “on one hand, perplexed, and on the other hand, of course, proud.”

12:35 p.m.: When Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, award-winning Ukrainian filmmaker Alisa Kovalenko put down her camera to join the battles raging on the country's eastern front, Reuters reported.

Kovalenko returned to making films, driven by the belief that the silver screen can be an equally effective weapon to fight the enemy as she tells the story of five teenagers determined to pursue their dreams despite the carnage of war that envelops their worlds.

"This cultural front is really important," Kovalenko told Reuters. "It helps people around the world feel and understand what people are going through."

Kovalenko's documentary, "We Will Not Fade Away", opens in the Generation section of the Berlinale on February 22, forming part of a broader Ukraine focus at this year's festival.

The film is shot over three years in the villages of Zolote-4 and Stanytsia Luhanska, in the eastern Donbas region where fighting has taken place since 2014.

12:15 p.m.:

11:40 a.m.: U.S. farmers are planning to boost corn acreage in 2023, eyeing lower prices of fertilizer needed to grow the crop and hoping for a bumper crop after a late season drought withered last year's grain harvest and left U.S. corn supplies near a decade low, Reuters reported.

A big crop from the world's largest corn exporter, pared with more modest demand as global economic growth cools, could further ease prices for the staple used in fuel and animal feed that have come down after surging to a 10-year high when Russia invaded major corn producer Ukraine a year ago.

11:05 a.m.: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Monday urged the European Union to “reindustrialize” to end its reliance on energy, microchips and food from outside the bloc and to learn the lessons of shortages provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

Shortages triggered by dependence on countries outside the 27-nation EU highlighted “a serious threat to the competitiveness of our companies or to the security and welfare of our fellow citizens,” Sánchez said.

He pointed to microchips and personal protective equipment from Asia during the pandemic and Russian natural gas and grains during the war in Ukraine. Sánchez was giving a speech in Madrid to outline policy priorities before Spain assumes the rotating presidency of the EU council in the second half of 2023.

The solution, he added, was to “reindustrialize Europe” and “recover jobs and strategic capabilities that we should never have lost.” The focus would not be on traditional heavy manufacturing but “digitalization or ecological transition,” said Sánchez, noting that just 1% of solar panels were made in the EU or 20% of internet storage used by the bloc.

10:35 a.m.:

10:10 a.m.: Switzerland is close to breaking with centuries of tradition as a neutral state, as a pro-Ukraine shift in the public and political mood puts pressure on the government to end a ban on exports of Swiss weapons to war zones.

Buyers of Swiss arms are legally prevented from re-exporting them without Swiss permission, a restriction that some representing the country's large weapons industry say is now hurting trade.

Calls from Switzerland's European neighbors to allow such transfers to Kyiv have meanwhile grown louder as Russia's assault intensifies, and parliament's two security committees recommended that the rules be eased accordingly.

Lawmakers are divided on the issue.

"We want to be neutral, but we are part of the western world," said Thierry Burkart, leader of the center-right FDP party, who has submitted a motion to the government to allow arms re-exports to countries with similar democratic values to Switzerland.

9:50 a.m.: Kazakh Foreign Ministry officials have rejected a Russian court's summoning of editors of the news website over an article it published about Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Ministry officials told on Monday that the decision last month by the Lenin district court in Russia's Vladimir region "has no legal force in Kazakhstan." said last week that it had received a letter from the Russian court ordering its editors to show up at a trial in the city of Vladimir on February 17. At issue was the website’s article "Russia Occupiers Do Not Admit Defeat In Kharkiv," which was published in September.

Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry said in an official letter to that there are no bilateral agreements between Kazakhstan and Russia on mutual interference in media activities, adding that the media outlet did not violate any Kazakh laws, while Russian legal motions against Kazakh citizens have no power on the territory of Kazakhstan.

9:35 a.m.: Iraq will discuss with Washington this week how to pay dues owed to Russian oil companies despite sanctions, Reuters reported.

"We will discuss this problem with the American side. There are sanctions in place that should not be imposed on the Iraqi side because the cooperation with Russian companies is ongoing and there are active Russian companies in Iraq," Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said on Monday during a news conference with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Baghdad.

Russian investments in Iraq are believed to be worth more than $10 billion, mostly in the oil industry. Huessin said that one of the main issues he and Lavrov talked about was how to pay bills owed to Russian energy companies such as Lukoil and Gazprom that do business in Iraq even though Russia is under international sanctions.

The goal is to "protect Iraqi banks and central banks from sanctions."

9:05 a.m.: The war in Ukraine has left thousands of wounded soldiers, many of whom require the latest technologies to heal and return to normal life. VOA’s Anna Chernikova visited a rehabilitation center near Kyiv, where cutting edge technology and holistic care are giving soldiers hope.

 Technology Brings Hope to Ukraine’s Wounded
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8:40 a.m.: The Kremlin said on Monday that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi will not meet Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Moscow this week, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Grossi would meet officials from the state nuclear energy firm, Rosatom, and the Foreign Ministry. He also said that Moscow expected "a substantive dialogue."

The IAEA has repeatedly expressed concerns about the safety of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, which Russian forces seized last March soon after invading Ukraine. The plant has come under repeated shelling, with the two sides blaming each other.

8:25 a.m.: President Vladimir Putin offered Russian assistance on Monday to Syria and Turkey after a major earthquake of magnitude 7.8 killed more than 500 people and injured thousands in the two countries, Reuters reported.

Russia has strong relations with both Syria and Turkey: Putin backed President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war and has a strong rapport with President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a NATO member which has sought to mediate in the Ukraine war.

"Please accept my deep condolences on the numerous human casualties and large-scale destruction caused by a powerful earthquake in your country," Putin said in his message to Erdogan. "We are ready to provide the necessary assistance in this regard."

In a similar message to Assad, Putin said Russia shared "the sadness and pain of those who lost their loved ones" and said Russia was ready to provide help.

8:10 a.m.:

7:45 a.m.: Ukraine's defense ministry is in turmoil as Russia readies an offensive, Reuters reported Monday. Ukraine sent mixed messages over the fate of its defense minister, leaving a key post in its war effort in doubt even as it braces for a new Russian offensive.

The questions left dangling over Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov were the first public sign of serious disarray in Ukraine's wartime leadership, until now remarkably united during almost a year of all-out Russian military assault.

A day after announcing that Reznikov would be sidelined, a top ally of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared to row back for now, saying no personnel changes in the defense sector would be made this week.

David Arakhamia, chief of the parliamentary bloc of Zelenskyy's party, had said the head of military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, would take over the defense ministry, while Reznikov would be made minister of strategic industries.

But Zelenskyy remained silent on the issue, while Reznikov said on Sunday he had not been informed of any move and would reject the strategic industry job if offered it.

The confusion caps a two-week purge of the Kyiv leadership, the biggest shakeup since the Russian invasion. Central and regional officials have been swept from office, security forces raided the home of a billionaire, prosecutors announced a huge fraud case at the biggest oil company and refinery, and ex-officials have been stripped of citizenship.

Zelenskyy has touted the crackdown as an opportunity to demonstrate that Kyiv can be a safe steward of billions of dollars of Western aid. But it risks destabilizing the leadership after nearly a year in which Kyiv's political class had solidly united against Russia's invasion.

7:15 a.m.: Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied down with attacks in the eastern Donbas region as Moscow assembles additional combat power there for an expected offensive in the coming weeks, Ukrainian officials said Monday, according to The Associated Press.

Weeks of intense fighting continued to rage around the city of Bakhmut and the nearby towns of Soledar and Vuhledar, Ukraine’s presidential office said.

They are located in the Donetsk region, which with neighboring Luhansk region makes up the Donbas region, an industrial area bordering Russia.

“The battles for the region are heating up,” Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said in televised remarks, adding that “the Russians are throwing new units into the battle and eradicating our towns and villages.” In Luhansk, Gov. Serhii Haidai said shelling there had subsided because “the Russians have been saving ammunition for a large-scale offensive.”

6:40 a.m.:

6:20 a.m.: Patriot missile batteries that Poland acquired from the U.S. last year have been deployed to the country’s capital Warsaw as part of military exercise, The Associated Press reported, citing Poland’s defense ministry.

Poland is taking additional steps to strengthen its defensive capabilities as Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine enters its second year later this month. At least three ground-to-air missile launchers were seen Monday at Warsaw’s Bemowo airport.

Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Twitter over the weekend that the redeployment of the missile batteries from their base in Sochaczew, central Poland, to Warsaw was “an important element to the training” of the 3rd Warsaw Brigade of Missile Air Defense.

The Patriot batteries are part of Poland’s multibillion dollar armaments purchases from the U.S., South Korea and elsewhere. Poland has also received Patriot batteries from Germany, to boost its air defenses in the east, where a stray missile came from across the border with Ukraine and killed two civilians last year.

6 a.m.: The European Union is planning for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to attend a summit of its leaders this week, the Financial Times reported on Monday citing people briefed on the plans.

Zelenskyy will address a special session of the European Parliament under the proposed plan, which is subject to security concerns, the report said.

5:45 a.m.: Norway's prime minister will on Monday propose that his country provides aid to war-torn Ukraine of some 75 billion Norwegian crown ($7.3 billion) in total over a five-year period, newspaper Verdens Gang reported according to Reuters.

5:20 a.m.:

4:40 a.m.: Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said on Monday that the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, will visit Moscow this week, state media reported according to Reuters.

The meeting will focus on the creation of a safety zone around Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, he said, adding that Moscow was counting on a deep and professional discussion.

The IAEA — the United Nations' nuclear watchdog — has repeatedly expressed concerns over plant, which has come under repeated shelling since Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year.

Ryabkov also said that he discussed the New START nuclear arms control treaty with new United States ambassador Lynne Tracy last week, the Interfax news agency reported according to Reuters.

He added that Russia was committed to the treaty but that no date had been set for new talks, citing the conflict in Ukraine.

Talks between Moscow and Washington on the New START treaty were scheduled for last November but were called off at the last moment.

4:05 a.m.: Reuters reported that a senior Ukrainian official said on Monday that no personnel changes would be announced at the defense ministry this week, despite saying earlier that defense minister Oleksii Reznikov would be replaced.

David Arakhamia, head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's parliamentary bloc, said on Sunday that Reznikov would be transferred to another ministerial job. On Monday, he made clear there would not be an immediate reshuffle.

"There will be no personnel changes in the defense sector this week," he wrote on the Telegram messaging app, without giving further details.

3:30 a.m.: A drone has exploded outside the Russian city of Kaluga, Reuters reported regional governor Vladislav Shapsha as saying on Monday, adding that no-one was injured in the blast.

"It has been established that the drone exploded in the air at an altitude of 50 meters in the forest near the city at five o'clock in the morning," he wrote on Telegram.

Kaluga is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) southwest of Moscow and 260 kilometers (162 miles) from the Ukrainian border.

The governor did not make clear the source of the drone.

Russia has said in the past that Ukrainian drones have flown into its territory and caused damage to civilian infrastructure, an assertion that Kyiv denies.

3 a.m.: A former Israeli prime minister who served briefly as a mediator at the start of Russia’s war with Ukraine says he drew a promise from the Russian president not to kill his Ukrainian counterpart, The Associated Press reported.

Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett became an unlikely intermediary in the war’s first weeks, becoming one of the few Western leaders to meet President Vladimir Putin in a snap trip to Moscow.

Bennett’s mediation efforts appear to have done little to end the bloodshed that continues until today. But, his remarks, in an interview posted online late Saturday, shed light on the backroom diplomacy and urgent efforts that were underway to try to bring the conflict to a speedy conclusion in its early days.

2:45 a.m.: About 200,000 Russians have left their homeland for Serbia since the start of the war in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. Many are seeking a new life in a fraternal Slavic country free from Kremlin oppression.

The Balkan country is a close ally of Moscow and has historic, religious and cultural ties. And Russia backs Serbia’s claim over its former province of Kosovo. But it's a complex relationship. Serbia refuses to impose sanctions on Moscow over the invasion but also seeks to join the European Union.

Russians who fled their country have held protests against President Vladimir Putin in Belgrade. But they also see pro-Putin propaganda efforts.

2 a.m.:

1:30 a.m.: Reuters reported that Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that his country was ready to provide necessary assistance to "friendly" Turkish people in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck the country earlier on Monday.

"Shocked by the news about the death and injury of hundreds of people as a result of the earthquake in Turkey," Zelenskyy said on Twitter.

"We extend our condolences to the families of the victims and wish the injured a speedy recovery. We are in this moment close to the friendly Turkish people, ready to provide the necessary assistance."

12:35 a.m.: The UK Treasury has signaled that there is no money for defense despite recognizing the urgent need to rearm in the wake of Russia's war in Ukraine, Sky News reported on Sunday citing defense sources.

Britain will be unable to offer as many troops as NATO allies would expect to a major new force structure being drawn up by the alliance to bolster its defenses, the report added according to Reuters.

12:01 a.m.:

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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