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Ukraine news – live: Zelensky vows to fight off Putin’s troops from ‘fortress’ Bakhmut

Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine would fight to hold on to the eastern “fortress” city of Bakhmut and urged the West to supply long-range weapons to help Kyiv push Russian forces out of the Donbas region.

Speaking at a news conference with EU officials following a summit in Kyiv, the Ukrainian president said: “Nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress.

“Ukraine would be able to hold Bakhmut and liberate occupied Donbas if it received long-range weapons.”

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.

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It comes as the number of Russian troops who have either died or were left wounded in the continuing war is nearing 200,000, according to Western officials.

Senior US officials and Western diplomats said Russian fatalities have climbed sharply above the 100,000 figure given in November last year and may since have close to doubled, The New York Times reported.

Key points

  • Zelensky vows to fight off Putin’s troops from ‘fortress’ Bakhmut

  • Nearly 200,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine, US officials say

  • Putin commemorates Stalingrad battle, echoing Ukraine fight

  • Nearly 500,000 troops likely in major new Russian offensive

  • Anti-missile system operational in Ukraine within 7-8 weeks, Italy says

KEY POST: Ukraine will fight to hold eastern ‘fortress’ city Bakhmut, says Zelensky

Friday 3 February 2023 15:38 , Joe Middleton

President Volodymyr Zelensky said today that 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.

“Nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress,” Zelenskiy 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.

Zelenskiy said Russia would continue to push in the east but that Ukrainian forces would be able to hold out until more Western weapons arrived.

Reuters

15:17 , Sam Rkaina

We’re pausing our live coverage of the war in Ukraine for the evening but keep checking independent.co.uk for the latest updates.

Overnight shelling in town near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

14:55 , Sam Rkaina

Regional Ukrainian officials reported overnight shelling by Russia of border settlements in the northern Sumy region.

The town of Marhanets, which neighbors the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, was also said to have been hit.

Kyiv has long accused Moscow of using the plant, which Russian forces seized early in the war, as a base for launching attacks on Ukrainian-held territory across the Dnieper river.

Three civilians killed in last 24 hours

14:26 , Sam Rkaina

At least three civilians have been killed in Ukraine over the past 24 hours as Russian forces struck nine regions in the country’s south, north and east, according to reports on Ukrainian TV by regional governors on Saturday morning.Two people were killed and 14 others wounded in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region by Russian shelling and missile strikes, local Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a Telegram update on Saturday morning.The casualty toll included a man who was killed and seven others who were wounded Friday after Russian missiles slammed into Toretsk, a town in the Donetsk region. Kyrylenko said that 34 houses, two kindergartens, an outpatient clinic, a library, a cultural centre and other buildings were damaged in the strike.Seven teenagers received shrapnel wounds after an anti-personnel mine exploded late on Friday in the northeastern city of Izium, local Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram. He said they were all hospitalized but their lives were not in danger.

Ukraine working to restore power to critical infrastructure

13:36 , Sam Rkaina

Prime Minister Shmyhal said authorities were now working to restore power supply to critical infrastructure and apartment blocks that needed electricity to heat homes.

The temperature in Odesa, Ukraine’s main southern port city on the Black sea with a pre-war population of one million, was at two degrees Celsius on Saturday and is due to dip below freezing for much of the next week.

Mr Shmyhal said he had ordered Ukraine’s energy ministry to scramble every available high-power generator in its nationwide inventory and deliver it to Odesa within a day.

He also ordered Ukraine’s foreign ministry to appeal to Turkey to send powerships-- vessels that carry power plants-- to come to the city’s aid.

Power outages in Odesa after ‘serious accident’

12:37 , Sam Rkaina

A serious accident at a high-voltage substation in Ukraine’s Odesa region has caused emergency power outages in the regional capital, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Saturday.

“The situation is difficult, the scale of the accident is significant, it is impossible to quickly restore power supply, in particular to critical infrastructure,” Shmyhal wrote on Telegram.

He said the substation had previously been damaged multiple times by Russian missile strikes.

Medvedev warns Russia ready to use all types of weapons - including nuclear

11:30 , Sam Rkaina

With the first anniversary of the invasion approaching on February 24, Russian forces have been on the back foot for the last eight months, and do not fully control any of the four Ukrainian provinces that Moscow has unilaterally declared part of Russia.

President Vladimir Putin casts Russia’s campaign in Ukraine as an existential defence against an aggressive West and has, like Medvedev, several times brandished the threat of a nuclear response, saying Russia will use all available means to protect itself and its people.

Asked what would happen if the weapons that Washington has promised Ukraine were to strike Crimea - which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 - or deep into Russia, Medvedev said Putin had addressed the matter clearly.

“We don’t set ourselves any limits and, depending on the nature of the threats, we’re ready to use all types of weapons. In accordance with our doctrinal documents, including the Fundamentals of Nuclear Deterrence,” he said. “I can assure you that the answer will be quick, tough and convincing.”

Russia’s nuclear doctrine allows for a nuclear strike after “aggression against the Russian Federation with conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is threatened”.

Former Russian President warns Ukraine ‘will burn'

11:00 , Sam Rkaina

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said the supply of more advanced US weaponry to Ukraine will only trigger more retaliatory strikes from Russia, up to the extent of Russia’s nuclear doctrine.

“All of Ukraine that remains under Kyiv’s rule will burn,” journalist Nadana Fridrikhson quoted him as saying in a written interview with her.

Fridrikhson asked Medvedev, who as deputy chairman of the Security Council has become one of Russia’s most hawkish pro-war figures since its invasion of Ukraine, whether the use of longer-range weapons might force Russia to negotiate with Kyiv.

“The result will be just the opposite,” Medvedev replied, in comments that Fridrikhson posted on her Telegram channel.

“Only moral freaks, of which there are enough both in the White House and in the Capitol, can argue like that.”

The Pentagon said on Friday that a new rocket that would double Ukraine’s strike range was included in a $2.175 billion U.S. military aid package.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (centre) (Sputnik)
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (centre) (Sputnik)

Portugal to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine

10:30 , Sam Rkaina

Portugal will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Saturday, without specifying how many will be shipped.

Costa added that Portugal is in talks with Germany to obtain parts needed for the repair of a number of inoperable Leopard tanks in Portugal’s inventory of the weapon.

“We are currently working to be able to dispense some of our tanks,” Costa told Lusa news agency during a trip to the Central African Republic. “I know how many tanks will be (sent to Ukraine) but that will be announced at the appropriate time.”

Costa’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Admiral Antonio Silva Ribeiro, the head of the Portuguese armed forces, said last month Portugal had 37 Leopard 2 tanks but it has been widely reported by local media that most are inoperable.

Portugal is working with Germany to get the parts needed to repair the tanks that are not operational, Costa said, adding he hoped to deliver them to Ukraine by the end of March.

The defence ministry said it would not comment on the “operability of weapons and equipment systems” for security reasons.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said earlier this week the country would receive 120 to 140 Western tanks in a “first wave” of deliveries from a coalition of 12 countries.

Kyiv secured pledges from the West to supply main battle tanks to help fend off Russia’s full-scale invasion, with Moscow mounting huge efforts to make incremental advances in eastern Ukraine.

War crimes claims come after von der Leyen said centre for prosecution would be set up

10:02 , Sam Rkaina

Ukraine is pushing for the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute Russian military and political leaders it holds responsible for starting the war.

The International Criminal Court has launched its own investigation into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes days after Moscow’s invasion, but it does not have jurisdiction to prosecute aggression in Ukraine.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who is visiting Kyiv, said on Thursday that an international centre for the prosecution of the crime of aggression in Ukraine would be set up in The Hague.

Moscow has rejected allegations by Kyiv and Western nations of war crimes.

German has evidence of war crimes in Ukraine 'in three digit range’

09:02 , Sam Rkaina

Germany has collected evidence of war crimes in Ukraine, the country’s prosecutor general said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday, adding that he saw a need for a judicial process at international level.

“Currently, for example, we are focusing on the mass killings in Bucha or attacks against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure,” Peter Frank told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

So far, prosecutors have pieces of evidence in the “three-digit range”, he added, without elaborating.

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian forces of committing atrocities in Bucha, a satellite town of Kyiv, soon after launching their invasion last February. Moscow has denied the charge. Russia has also targeted key infrastructure in Ukraine but denies deliberately targeting civilians.

Germany began collecting evidence in March 2022 to prosecute possible war crimes, including by interviewing Ukrainian refugees and evaluating publicly available information, Frank said, adding that German prosecutors were not yet investigating specific individuals.

“We are preparing ourselves for a possible later court case - be it with us in Germany, be it with our foreign partners, be it before an international court,” he added.

Asked who should be tried, Frank said Russian state leaders and those implementing decisions at the highest military level should be held accountable.

'Sixty three Russian POWs released’

08:02 , Sam Rkaina

Sixty-three Russian prisoners of war were released as a result of a complex negotiation process with Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported, citing Moscow’s defence ministry.

The group of released Russian servicemen includes “sensitive category” persons, whose exchange was made possible through the mediation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the agencies added.

Shell company directors earned enough in 2021 to pay 390 nurses, as firm sees record profits

07:01 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak’s government has been accused of letting fossil fuel giants “off the hook” by failing to target the “proceeds of war”, after Shell announced record profits this week.

While Shell is due to publish its 2022 pay data in March, the company’s declared figures for 2021 show that Shell paid the 12 members of its non-executive board at the time a total of €2,631,000, including taxable benefits (£2,345,000 at Friday’s exchange rate).

This is equivalent to 70 nurses, based on an average nursing salary estimate of £33,384 in 2021 by the Royal College of Nurses.

However, when including Shell’s two executive directors at the time, both of whom have now left the company, the total paid out by the firm to its board in 2021 rises to €14,638,000 (£13,049,376) – enough to employ 390 nurses.

The Independent has taken a look at who Shell’s directors are and what they are paid:

Shell company directors earned enough in 2021 to pay 390 nurses

Watch: Cats and dogs rescued from frontline by Ukrainian volunteers

04:51 , Andy Gregory

US imposes sanctions on directors of Iranian drone-making firm

03:42 , Andy Gregory

The United States has imposed sanctions on the board of directors of Iranian drone maker Paravar Pars, alleging that Iranian drones are being used by Russia to attack Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.

The US Treasury Department’s office of foreign assets control designated eight senior executives of Paravar Pars.

The drone maker was previously sanctioned by the US and EU for making drones for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“Iranian entities continue to produce UAVs for Iran’s IRGC and military. More broadly, Iran is supplying UAVs for Russia’s combat operations to target critical infrastructure in Ukraine,” said Brian Nelson, the Treasury’s top sanctions official.

No evidence Kremlin yet in position to launch anniversary offensive, say officials

02:30 , Andy Gregory

Our world affairs editor Kim Sengupta reports:

It may well be the case that the Russians will try to do something around the anniversary of the war. But Western intelligence and defence officials, as well as individual Ukrainian commanders privately, stress they have seen no evidence that the Kremlin is yet in a position to launch a major offensive.

The Russians are, however, likely to continue with operations in the Donbas, in the east, where it has had some incremental success: and there may be rounds of missile strikes with reports that Moscow has increased production of the weapons and are also securing parts from abroad.

France and Italy finalise plans to deliver powerful Mamba defence system to Ukraine

01:33 , Andy Gregory

France and Italy have finalised technical talks for the joint delivery of a SAMP/T-MAMBA air defence system to Ukraine in spring 2023, the French defence ministry has announced.

The defence systems are the only European-built system that can intercept ballistic missiles, and are capable of tracking dozens of targets and hitting 10 simultaneously.

“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.

What is the background to the EU’s Russian oil cap deal

00:28 , Andy Gregory

Reuters has more background on the Russian oil price cap proposal agreed by EU member states today, according to the presidency:

“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 (G7) countries. It follows a $60 per barrel cap imposed on Russian crude on 5 December as G7 countries, the EU and Australia seek to limit Moscow's ability to fund its war in Ukraine.

“Both caps work by prohibiting Western insurance and shipping companies from insuring or carrying cargoes of Russian crude and oil products unless they were bought at or below the set price cap.”

Analysis | Will Ukraine achieve its dream of being fast-tracked to the EU?

Friday 3 February 2023 23:31 , Andy Gregory

In a piece for Independent Voices, our world affairs editor Kim Sengupta writes:

The week ends with a meeting of great significance between European Union officials and the Zelensky government, with calls for Ukraine’s expedited membership under discussion.

The summit – attended by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and chairperson Charles Michel – is being held in Kyiv. It is the first such gathering to take place in a warzone and there will be much media coverage.

But Ukraine is highly unlikely to achieve its aim of being fast-tracked. There will, instead, be a show of further solidarity including the doubling of the training mission for Ukrainian troops to 30,000 and €25m to demine liberated territories, as well as the possible announcement of more Russia sanctions.

There is a case to be made that the European Union should consider Ukraine an exceptional case for membership. Brussels could perhaps have prevented what befell the country if it had been more flexible in the past.

Ukraine thought it was on its way to getting closer integration when Brussels and the IMF presented terms which many Western officials now agree were too strict. This led President Viktor Yanukovych, already pro-Moscow ,to turn to Vladimir Putin for economic bailout which arrived in the form of $ 15 billion investment in Ukraine’s national debt and a one-third reduction in gas prices.

The blocking of the path to the West led to turmoil. I remember being with colleagues at a conference in Yalta, in Crimea, in 2013 when the mood was euphoric with the prospect of closer European Union ties. We were back in Ukraine a few months later for the Maidan uprising in Kyiv. Crimea was lost to the Russians in the violent strife that followed.

Will Ukraine achieve its dream of being fast-tracked to the EU? | Kim Sengupta

What will Washington’s new military aid package include?

Friday 3 February 2023 22:26 , Andy Gregory

Washington’s announcement of a new $2.175bn package of military aid for Ukraine brings the total pledged by the United States so far since Russia’s invasion to $29.3bn, according to Jack Detsch, of Foreign Policy.

Here is more information on what the new package will include:

Training for Western tanks will take weeks, not months, says Polish defence minister

Friday 3 February 2023 21:32 , Andy Gregory

It is a matter of “weeks, not days or months” in which Ukraine’s troops will complete training to use Western tanks, Poland’s defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak has told a press conference in Kyiv.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has said that Kyiv 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 US M1 Abrams tanks.

Nato tanks will be ‘iron fist’ in Ukraine’s counteroffensive, says minister

Friday 3 February 2023 20:34 , Andy Gregory

New tanks supplied by Nato countries will serve as an “iron fist” in a counteroffensive by Kyiv to break through Russian defensive lines, Ukraine’s defence minister has said.

Speaking at a press conference alongside his Polish counterpart, Oleksii Reznikov said that Western supplies of 155-mm artillery would also be crucial 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.

You can read more about the tanks here.

US arms package includes HAWK air defence units and new rockets, says Pentagon

Friday 3 February 2023 19:29 , Andy Gregory

The United States has said that precision-guided rockets and HAWK air defence firing units will be part of a $2.175bn package of military aid for Ukraine.

EU agrees on proposal to set price caps on Russian oil from Sunday

Friday 3 February 2023 18:33 , Andy Gregory

European Union member states have agreed on a proposal to set price caps on Russian oil products, the Swedish presidency of the bloc has said.

EU diplomats said the price caps agreed by ambassadors for the 27 EU countries are $100 per barrel on premium oil products such as diesel and a $45 cap per barrel on discounted products such as fuel oil.

The proposal by the European Commission is that they apply from Sunday.

Next EU sanctions will hit trade and tech ‘supporting Russia’s war machine’, says von der Leyen

Friday 3 February 2023 17:38 , Andy Gregory

The European Union’s next package of sanctions against Russia will hit the trade and technology that supports its war against Ukraine, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said.

“Our 9 packages of sanctions are biting, and a 10th one is on its way. With our partners, we must deny Russia the means to kill Ukrainian civilians and destroy homes and offices,” von der Leyen tweeted from Kyiv.

“New measures will hit the trade and technology that supports Russia’s war machine.”

Cats and dogs rescued from frontline by Ukrainian volunteers

Friday 3 February 2023 16:38 , Joe Middleton

Animal rescue volunteers in Ukraine have made it their mission to save cats and dogs that have been abandoned on the frontline.

Zoopatrul shared footage of their latest trip to “ghost town” Bohorodychne where they rescued animals “on the verge of survival.”

Volunteers said the abandoned pets have no chance of surviving the conditions without help.

They say they have saved more than 1,000 cats and dogs from war and human cruelty, and have no intentions of stopping.

You can donate to the cause through their Patron page, and they also share updates on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

Cats and dogs rescued from frontline by Ukrainian volunteers

Ukraine may also get old Leopard 1 tanks from German stocks

Friday 3 February 2023 14:42 , Joe Middleton

Ukraine may be able to 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.

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.

Ukraine may also get old Leopard 1 tanks from German stocks

Ukraine steps up efforts to exclude Russia from Olympics

Friday 3 February 2023 14:02 , Joe Middleton

Ukraine stepped up efforts Friday to lobby international sports leaders against Russian participation in next year’s Paris Olympics as indications mount that the games could see the biggest boycott since the Cold War.

A meeting of the Ukrainian Olympic Committee did not commit to a boycott but approved plans to consult with and persuade sports officials around the world over the next two months.

The committee members voted for “consultations on preventing the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in all international competitions and a possible boycott.”

Ukraine steps up efforts to exclude Russia from Olympics

Russia is planning ‘maximum escalation’ on anniversary of invasion

Friday 3 February 2023 13:22 , Lucy Skoulding

Russia is planning a major escalation of the war on February 24 to mark the anniversary of his invasion, according to President Zelensky’s top security official.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, told The Times Russia is “obsessed by dates” and will try to tie anything they do to signifcant days “even at the cost of their own lives”.

Danilov said: “Starting with the revolution of 1917, they try to tie all their activities to special dates, to anniversaries. Even at the cost of their own lives, they will do everything to make these anniversaries. And the next they want to do it is February 24.”

President Putin (AP)
President Putin (AP)

Germany goes ahead with Leopard 1 tank deliveries

Friday 3 February 2023 13:13 , Lucy Skoulding

Germany has now approved the delivery of Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine as the war continues.

Government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit confirmed “an export licence has been issued” for delivery of its older Leopard 1 tanks.

Arms maker from Germany Rheinmetall’s hopes to sell 88 of its tanks for a total cost of 100 million euros.

German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that deliveries of the tanks could happen as soon as they are repaired. They are still having issues obtaining the required 105-millimetre ammunition, however.

Top European officials to meet in Kyiv today

Friday 3 February 2023 11:05 , Lucy Skoulding

Ukrainian President Zelensky is due to meet with Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, and Charles Michael, European Council President, in Kyiv on Friday along with 15 European commissioners. The meeting is being described as a summit.

The last time a similar meeting was held was in October 2021, a few months before Russia invaded Ukraine. Since then, assistance for the Ukraine from the EU has amounted to around €50bn (£44.6bn).

Currently the EU is providing Ukraine with both humanitarian and financial aid. It is also planning its 10th round of sanctions against Russia, but Zelensky has criticised the pace of action.

Ukraine is pushing to join the 27-country-strong EU on an accelerated timescale as the process usually takes years. In the meantime, von der Leysen said the European Commission would be willing to let Ukraine join some “key European programs” which will still have a similar benefit to membership.

This will be discussed during today’s meeting.

Criminal charges pressed on head of Wagner group

Friday 3 February 2023 10:36 , Lucy Skoulding

Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office has now pressed criminal charges on long-term Putin ally, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder and head of the Wagner group.

Grim footage shows Prigozhin at a basement filled with bodies of fighters near Ukraine’s eastern front. The people, many of who were convicts, had been killed in the fight for Bakhmut city.

He has been charged under Article 110 part 3 of the criminal code of Ukraine for encroaching on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine. He has also been charged with waging a war of agression on Ukraine.

Long-term Putin ally, Yevgeny Prigozhin (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Long-term Putin ally, Yevgeny Prigozhin (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Summary of last 24 hours

Friday 3 February 2023 10:01 , Lucy Skoulding

The state broadcaster of Ukraine, Suspline, has shared a summary of what’s happened in the last 24 hours.

It writes: “At night, the Russian military attacked the Barvinkove community in the Kharkiv region. A private house was destroyed and a 70-year-old man was rescued from the rubble. Two men died.

“Also at night, the Russian army shelled Kherson. They hit one of the shopping centres, a fire started there. People were not injured. Nikopol in the Dnipropetrovsk region also came under fire. There are no dead or injured.

“Over the past 24 hours, one person was killed by Russian shelling in Donetsk region, and eight others were injured. In the Kherson region, two people were killed in a day, nine more were injured, among them a five-year-old child.”

Trump bizarrely suggests halting military aid to Ukraine will end bloody conflict

Friday 3 February 2023 07:00 , Joe Middleton

Former president Donald Trump on Thursday suggested ending military aid to Ukraine would bring an end to the year-old war by encouraging negotiations that could be led by the United States.

Mr Trump made the bizarre claim during an interview with right-wing talk show host Hugh Hewitt for his eponymous radio programme when Mr Hewitt asked if the US should be sending Ukraine’s defence forces F-16 multirole fighters.

President Joe Biden has said the US would not be sending Kyiv the fighter jets. But rather than address the question he was asked, Mr Trump told Mr Hewitt the US should “negotiate peace” between Ukraine and the country that launched an unprovoked invasion on it last February.

Trump bizarrely suggests halting military aid to Ukraine will end bloody conflict

Nearly 200,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine, US officials say

Friday 3 February 2023 06:43 , Arpan Rai

The number of Russian troops who have either died or were left wounded in the continuing war in Ukraine is nearing 200,000, according to a report that cited US and Western officials.

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that senior US officials and Western diplomats said the number has climbed above the 100,000 figure given in November last year.

In that month, General Mark A Milley, chairman of the US joint chief of staffs, gave the last public estimate provided by the Biden administration.

Read the full story here:

Nearly 200,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine, US officials say

ICYMI: Russian state TV describes vulnerabilities of Nato tanks promised to Ukraine

Friday 3 February 2023 06:00 , Joe Middleton

Olympic bans and boycotts go back a century

Friday 3 February 2023 18:19 , AP

Ukraine has moved a step closer to boycotting next year’s Paris Olympics because of the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.

The International Olympic Committee plans to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete as “neutral athletes” despite their invasion of Ukraine, saying it can't discriminate athletes based on their citizenship. However, countries have been excluded in the past.

The Olympics also has a history of countries choosing to boycott rather than compete against athletes they believed should not have been invited. Here is a list of such occasions:

Olympic bans and boycotts go back a century

High-level Kyiv visit aims to deepen EU-Ukraine ties

Friday 3 February 2023 05:00 , Joe Middleton

Senior members of the European Union’s executive branch traveled to Ukraine on Thursday looking to boost relations with the war-torn country and pave the way for it to one day join the bloc, but concerns over corruption and democratic deficiencies remain.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen led a team of 15 policy commissioners who were to spend the day discussing Ukraine’s financial, business and energy needs, and how to bring the former Soviet state’s legislation into line with EU standards.

The highly symbolic visit is the first EU political mission of its kind to a country at war. Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs meetings of the bloc’s heads of state and government, will hold a summit in Kyiv on Friday with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

High-level Kyiv visit aims to deepen EU-Ukraine ties

Putin commemorates Stalingrad battle, echoing Ukraine fight

Friday 3 February 2023 04:00 , Joe Middleton

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday attended commemorations of the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi forces in the battle of Stalingrad, a long and grueling fight that resonates in the current conflict in Ukraine.

Putin laid a wreath at the eternal flame of the memorial complex to the fallen Red Army soldiers in Volgograd, the current name of the city, which stretches along the western bank of the Volga River. The memorial is dominated by an 85-meter (279-foot) sculpture of a sword-wielding woman, Europe’s tallest statue.

The Russian leader is set to speak at a memorial event and have a meeting with activists later in the day.

Putin commemorates Stalingrad battle, echoing Ukraine fight

Austria expels 4 Russian diplomats based in Vienna

Friday 3 February 2023 03:00 , Joe Middleton

Austria‘s government said Thursday that it has ordered four diplomats based in Vienna, including two at Moscow‘s mission to U.N. agencies in the city, to leave the country.

The Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement that two diplomats at the Russian Embassy had “engaged in acts incompatible with their diplomatic status” and two at the permanent mission to the United Nations in Vienna “committed acts incompatible with the Headquarters Agreement.” It didn’t elaborate.

The diplomats were given a week to leave Austria.

Austria expels 4 Russian diplomats based in Vienna