- EU officials are backing the idea that proceeds from more than $230 billion in frozen Russian assets should finance Ukraine’s war effort and reconstruction. But the European Central Bank cautioned the European Commission against the move because it could harm the euro and hurt financial stability, Financial Times reports.
- A joint statement issued by U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said both leaders “have expressed their deep concern over the conflict in Ukraine and mourned its terrible and tragic humanitarian consequences.” The statement also said they are calling for “respect for international law, principles of the UN charter, and territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
- President Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, is heading to Denmark this weekend to “to discuss basic principles of peace," in Ukraine, a U.S. official said Friday. Some of the participating countries have refused to condemn Russia’s invasion.
Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said Friday the Kremlin's reasoning for invading Ukraine is based on lies fabricated by the army's top brass. Prigozhin has for months been openly accusing Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russia's top general, Valery Gerasimov, of gross incompetence.
In a video clip released on the Telegram messaging app by his press service, Prigozhin said, "The Defense Ministry is trying to deceive society and the president and tell us a story about how there was crazy aggression from Ukraine and that they were planning to attack us with the whole of NATO." He went on to accuse Shoigu: “the war was needed ... so that Shoigu could become a marshal ... so that he could get a second 'Hero' [of Russia] medal,” he added. “The war wasn't needed to demilitarize or denazify Ukraine.”
The Wagner chief also attacked the ruling elite, saying greed fueled its desire to absorb the assets from Ukraine’s Donbas region.
"The task was to divide material assets [in Ukraine]," he said. "There was massive theft in the Donbas, but they wanted more."
Ukraine government shakeup
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said officials responsible for unfit bomb shelters in Ukraine would be punished. In a Telegram video post Friday, Zelenskyy said there would be personnel changes after an inquest revealed that a quarter of the bomb shelters in the country, a third of them in Kyiv, are unfit for use.
Three people were locked out on the street in Kyiv and killed during an air raid, which prompted a public outcry.
Prosecutors put the head of Kyiv's Municipal Department for Security under house arrest following an audit of air raid shelters. After the bomb shelter incident, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko admitted some responsibility but said others were also to blame, especially appointees of the president.
Additionally, Zelenskyy on Friday ordered the creation of a special commission headed by General Oleksandr Pavliuk to audit the heads of military draft offices across the country. He said Ukraine’s top security chiefs and top government officials discussed how to implement judicial and anti-corruption reforms that are a prerequisite to Ukraine’s accession into the European Union.
Zelenskyy said he had ordered the urgent dismissal of the head of a draft office whose family was reported by the Ukrainska Pravda media outlet to own property and cars worth millions in Spain.
"I gave an urgent order to create a commission ... and together with law enforcement units and the National Agency for Corruption Prevention to check all the heads of military draft offices in all regions of Ukraine so that they do not disgrace our state and the memory of heroes who die at the front," Zelenskyy said on Telegram.
In his statement, he said he also discussed the situation on the front lines, weapons supplies and the pace of production of Ukrainian defense companies.
Zelenskyy said Thursday he believes Russia may be preparing for an attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, involving a release of radiation.
On Friday Russia urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure Ukraine does not shell the nuclear power plant, saying it was otherwise operating safely.
Alexei Likhachev, chief executive of the Russian state nuclear energy firm Rosatom, made the comments at a meeting in Kaliningrad with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, who visited the plant last week.
The IAEA said this week the power plant was "grappling with ... water-related challenges" after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam emptied the vast reservoir.
It also said the military situation in the area had become increasingly tense as Kyiv launched a counteroffensive against the Russian forces in eastern and southern Ukraine.
Moscow and Kyiv have regularly accused each other of shelling Europe's largest nuclear power station, while international efforts to establish a demilitarized zone around it have so far failed.
Overall, the counteroffensive appears to be slow-moving. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Ukraine's army had advanced 7 kilometers and had retaken territory that included eight villages during the past two weeks.
"As the president of Ukraine said yesterday, the counteroffensive is not a Hollywood movie. It's not an easy walk," Shmyhal told reporters at a Ukraine Recovery Conference in London.
"The counteroffensive is a number of military operations,” he said. “Sometimes it's offensive, sometimes it's defensive. Sometimes it could be tactical pauses. Unfortunately, during our preparation for this counteroffensive, Russians were preparing, too. So, there are so many minefields, which really make it slower."
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.