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The latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. All times EST.
8:40 p.m.: In a letter obtained by the Financial Times, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov appealed to his counterparts in the 27 member states on Friday to provide Kyiv with 250,000 artillery shells a month to ease a critical shortage that limits the country’s progress on the battlefield, the Kyiv Independent reported.
Reznikov writes that his country’s forces are “only firing a fifth of the rounds they could” because of a lack of supplies. The request far exceeds the help the EU is discussing sending.
Reznikov writes that artillery plays a “crucial role in eliminating the enemy’s military power.” On average, Ukraine was firing 110,000 155mm-calibre shells a month, he says — a quarter of the amount used by Russia.
“Ammunition availability might be the single most important factor that determines the course of the war in 2023, and that will depend on foreign stockpiles and production,” U.S. defense experts Michael Kofman and Rob Lee wrote in December for the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
7:49 p.m.: Nearly 10,000 Russian soldiers have willingly surrendered themselves to the Ukrainian army via the “I want to live” hotline, Ukraine’s Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War reported, according to the Kyiv Independent.
Launched in September 2022 by Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, the 24-hour hotline allows Russians to willingly surrender themselves or their units to the Ukrainian army. Russian military personnel are held in compliance with the Geneva Conventions.
In addition to the hotline, there is also a chatbot and a website in Russian run by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry with information about the program.
7 p.m.: In the $400 million military aid package for Ukraine the U.S. announced on Friday are — for the first time — armored vehicles that can launch bridges, The Associated Press reported.
The war had largely slowed to a stalemate during the winter, with both sides firing at each other across the Dnieper River. Both sides are expected to launch offensives as temperatures warm.
The Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge is a portable, 18-meter folding metal bridge that is carried on top of a tank body. Providing that system to Ukraine now could make it easier for Ukrainian troops to cross rivers to battle with Russian forces.
6:19 p.m.: A few people rip up readily available posters of Moldovan President Maia Sandu, scatter the shreds to the ground, and stomp on them, all to the delight of onlookers in the Moldovan capital on February 28, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.
The latest anti-government protest in Chisinau was organized by a group calling itself the Movement for the People and backed by members of Moldova’s Kremlin-friendly Shor Party, whose founder and leader, Ilan Shor, was convicted of fraud in 2017 for the theft of $1 billion from three Moldovan banks in 2014.
Sandu recently revealed chilling details of an alleged coup plot that comes amid fears Russian President Vladimir Putin could widen his war in Ukraine to Moldova by exploiting his troops on the ground in the breakaway pro-Russian Transnistria region. The Kremlin might not go that far, experts say, but nevertheless Moscow is eager to not only exploit Chisinau’s current vulnerability but to try to distract Kyiv and its Western backers as well.
5:30 p.m.: Ukraine is using mobile DNA labs to rapidly process DNA samples of the dead in under 100 minutes, The Independent reports. The cutting-edge labs provided by Western donors including the French authorities and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation in the United States, are being driven around the country in police vans allowing teams to process evidence in real time.
The use of the DNA machines will speed up the identification of thousands of dead and the collection of war crime evidence for tens of thousands of cases that Ukraine is building against Russia since the invasion of February 2022, say Ukraine’s authorities.
There currently are four such laboratories in the Kharkiv Oblast, one of them in Izium.
Ukraine’s top war crimes prosecutor, Yuriy Belousov, warned there could be as many as 100,000 Ukrainian civilians killed since the Russian invasion, and that they still have 3,300 bodies that are yet to be identified.
Ukraine is building over 24,600 war crime cases against Russia, according to Vasyl Maliuk, head of Ukraine’s Security Service.
5:15 p.m.: Top diplomats from the Group of 20 industrialized and developing nations could not reach a consensus on Ukraine during their meeting in New Delhi. Discussions of the war and China’s widening global influence dominated much of the talks. Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said there were “divergences” on the subject of the war in Ukraine “which we could not reconcile as various parties held differing views.” Host India had appealed for all members of the fractured Group of 20 to reach an agreement on issues of deep concern to poorer countries even if the broader East-West split over Ukraine could not be resolved. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned that “multilateralism is in crisis today,” the Associated Press reports.
5:00 p.m.: The U.S. Department of Defense announced a new military aid package of $400 million for Ukraine.
4:10 p.m.: Meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House on Friday, President Joe Biden said Germany’s support for Ukraine has “made a world of difference” during the war.
“You stepped up and provided critical military support and you know, I would argue that beyond your military support, the moral support you gave to Ukrainians has been profound,” he said. “And you’ve driven historic changes at home — increase in defense spending and diversifying away from Russian energy sources — I know that has not been easy, very difficult for you,” Biden said, noting they had moved in “lockstep” in supporting Kyiv.
According to CNN, Scholz said Germany will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. “It’s really important that we acted together, that we organized in lockstep, and that we made it feasible that we can give the necessary support to Ukraine during all this time,” said Scholz. He added he felt the transatlantic partnership was in “very good shape.”
3:35 p.m.: In an interview with VOA White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said that President Joe Biden’s meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will focus on the ways to ensure peace for Ukraine. “For a peace that is just, and fair, and sustainable. A peace that supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and maintains their independence. And also, and this is important, and they both agree, that it’s got to be a peace that President Zelenskyy can sign on to, it’s got to be done in full consultation, full coordination with Ukrainians, otherwise there’s no way it’s going to ever really get off to a start, and it’s not going to be sustainable.”
Kirby also said that the Allies remain united in supporting Ukraine and added that any Chinese aid to Russia will have ramifications.
“China has a choice to make. President Xi has a choice to make, and we strongly urge him to make the right choice here and not make it easier for Mr. Putin to kill innocent Ukrainian people,” he added.
3:10 p.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the visits in Lviv of attorneys general and justice ministers from various countries within the framework of the United for Justice Conference. The conference focused on the restoration of justice for Ukraine by holding Russia accountable to war crimes there.
“We are gathering as much as possible support for the Tribunal over Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. For the draft of our resolution on the protection of international law, which will be put to a vote in the U.N. General Assembly. We are doing everything to ensure that the International Criminal Court is successful in punishing Russian war criminals,” said Zelenskyy.
“The accountability of Russia and its leadership is personal! For aggression and terror against our state and people. And when there is their accountability, justice will be restored,” he added.
2:35 p.m.: If China provided weapons to Russia, it would be an absolute “red line,” a senior European Union official said Friday, adding that the EU would respond with sanctions.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also warned Beijing on Thursday against providing such aid to Moscow while it continues its invasion of Ukraine.
“Don’t deliver any weapons to the aggressor Russia,” Scholz said in a speech to the German parliament ahead of his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington later Friday.
Scholz and Biden are expected to discuss the situation in Ukraine as well as China at their meeting Friday in the White House.
China has denied any intention to arm Russia, Reuters reports.
2:05 p.m.: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland made an unannounced visit to Lviv, Ukraine, on Friday at the invitation of the Ukrainian prosecutor general, a Justice Department official said. The trip was not announced for security reasons, the official said. “The attorney general held several meetings and reaffirmed our determination to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed in its unjust and unprovoked invasion against its sovereign neighbor,” the official said.
CNN cited the official saying that Garland “held several meetings and reaffirmed our determination to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed in its unjust and unprovoked invasion against its sovereign neighbor.”
12:45 p.m.: The United States announced a new military aid package Friday for Ukraine of $400 million. The package will include ammunition, but for the first time will incorporate tactical bridges to move tanks and armored vehicles.
“Assault bridging is essential for combined arms operations. It allows armored vehicles to cross narrow rivers and ditches that would otherwise cause a whole force to slow down,” said Jack Watling, a Senior Research Fellow for Land Warfare at the London-based Royal United Services Institute.
“Importantly, assault bridges are only critical for offensive operations showing that the US is preparing Ukraine to continue retaking its territory,” Watling added.
The bridges could be used by Ukrainian troops who have been training in “combined arms maneuver” warfare, which is the coordinated use of artillery shelling, alongside tank and armored vehicle attack movements, to retake territory seized by Russian forces since they invaded Ukraine a year ago, Reuters reports.
Additional ammunition is being sent to help boost stocks in anticipation of a spring offensive.
12:05 p.m.: Russia could find itself with no money as soon as next year and needs foreign investment, outspoken Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska has said, according to CNN.
“There will be no money already next year, we need foreign investors,” he said at an economic conference Thursday in Siberia, according to comments reported by TASS, a Russian state-owned news agency.
The remarks from the billionaire — who called for an end to the war in Ukraine in the early days of the conflict last year — are antithetical to a more upbeat assessment of Russia’s economic shape by President Vladimir Putin last week. Putin praised the resilience of the country’s economy in the face of unprecedented Western sanctions imposed in the past year.
But Russia’s reduced oil production this month amid Western sanctions could dampen Russian economy. Foreign investors, especially from “friendly” countries, also have a big role to play, Deripaska said. Whether they will come depends on whether Russia can create the right conditions and make its markets attractive, he was quoted as saying.
In a bid to starve Russia of funds for its aggression, Western countries have announced more than 11,300 sanctions since the February 2022 invasion and frozen some $300 billion of Russia’s foreign reserves.
But China has thrown the Kremlin an economic lifeline by buying Russian energy, replacing Western suppliers of machinery and base metals among other products, and providing an alternative to the U.S. dollar.
11:35 a.m.: European Union countries will be delivering thousands of shells to Ukraine under a 1-billion-euro program.
Particularly significant will be the delivery of 155mm NATO-standard howitzer rounds, which are urgently needed in advance of an intense spring campaign in the war, according to the Financial Times citing anonymous EU officials. This ammunition is crucial to keep up the fight along the front line in Ukraine, where Russia fires an estimated four shells for every Ukrainian shell fired on average.
“I think this will go fast, very fast. And I think we’re talking about a matter of days, weeks, rather than a matter of months,” one of the officials cited said.
According to the Financial Times, EU defense ministers will refine the proposed system ahead of a planned defense summit later in March.
As a more long-term solution, a unified EU procurement system also proposed would enable Brussels to purchase arms and ammunition directly from European manufacturers, without going through the stocks and budgets of individual nations, the Kyiv Independent reports.
11:05 a.m.: Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of the Ground Forces of Ukraine, went to Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast Friday, to visit the command posts in the besieged city.
“The enemy does not give up hope of capturing Bakhmut and continues accumulating forces to occupy it, “Ground Forces wrote on Telegram.
“The Russian occupiers threw the most prepared units of the Wagner mercenary group and other regular units of the Russian army to capture the city,” reads the post. “Intense fighting is taking place in the city itself and around it.”
Syrskyi’s visit comes on the same day when Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner Group founder, said in a video address that Bakhmut was “practically surrounded” by his forces and called on Zelensky to withdraw Ukrainian troops from the city.
The Ukrainian military’s National Resistance Center called Prigozhin’s address “a disinformation campaign designed to create panic among the population,” The Kyiv Independent reports.
10:30 a.m.: As of March 1, Russian occupying authorities forcibly took 200 residents of the village of Boiove near Henichesk “to an unknown destination” for so-called filtration, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported Friday.
The “filtration measures” are interrogation procedures conducted by Russian forces with civilians on occupied Ukrainian territories, which may lead to torture and kidnapping.
According to the General Staff, Russian mercenaries were moving into the houses of village residents, who had refused to give up their plots to the Moscow-installed proxies in the region, The Kyiv Independent reports.
Ukraine liberated the southern regional capital of Kherson and its surrounding areas amid a long-anticipated counteroffensive in November. However, Kherson Oblast’s settlements located on the east bank of the Dnipro River are still occupied by Russian troops.
According to a Conflict Observatory hub that collects and analyses evidence of Russian war crimes released a report on Aug. 25, providing proof of forced deportation and filtration camps in occupied parts of Ukraine.
Using open-source information and remote sensing data, the researchers identified at least 21 filtration system locations in and around the partially occupied Donetsk Oblast alone. The “filtration camps” are reportedly used for processing Ukrainian civilians before they are forcibly sent to Russia.
9:45 a.m.: Russian troops and mercenaries pummeled the last access routes to the besieged Ukrainian city of Bakhmut Friday with Moscow inching closer to its first major victory in half a year after the bloodiest fighting of the war.
The head of Russia’s Wagner private army said the city was now almost surrounded, with only one road still open for Ukraine’s troops.
Reuters watched intense Russian shelling of routes leading west out of Bakhmut, an apparent attempt to block Ukrainian forces’ access in and out of the city. A bridge in the adjacent town of Khromove was damaged by Russian tank shelling.
Ukrainian soldiers were working to repair damaged roads and more troops were heading towards the frontline in a sign that Ukraine was not yet ready to give up the city. To the west, Ukrainians were digging new trenches for defensive positions.
Victory in Bakhmut would be a steppingstone to capturing the surrounding Donbas region, an important strategic goal.
Ukraine says the city has little intrinsic strategic value but that the huge losses there could determine the course of the war.
9:05 a.m.: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is holding a private meeting with President Joe Biden after concerns that China supply weapons to Russia. Such a step could dramatically change the war’s trajectory by allowing Moscow to replenish its depleted stockpiles.
China is Germany’s top trading partner, and European nations have generally been more cautious than the United States in taking a hard line with Beijing. However, there are signs that may be changing as global divides grow more deeper.
In a speech to Germany parliament Thursday, Scholz called on China to “use your influence in Moscow to press for the withdrawal of Russian troops, and do not supply weapons to the aggressor Russia.”
While the U.S. and Germany have worked closely together to supply Ukraine with military and humanitarian assistance, there has also been friction over issues such as providing tanks. Washington has occasionally grown frustrated with Berlin’s indecision, AP reports.
8:45 a.m.: Russia is seeking an official explanation from its ally Serbia after media reports said the Balkan country has delivered thousands of rockets to Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said late Thursday that the possible arming of Ukraine represented a “serious question” for Serbian-Russian relations.
According to media reports that first came from pro-government Russian media last month say a Serbian state arms factory recently delivered some 3,500 missiles for the Grad multiple rocket launchers used by both the Ukrainian and Russian armed forces.
Serbia’s defense minister has denied the country exported the 122 mm rockets but left open the possibility they could have gotten there via a third party, AP reports.
8:15 a.m.: A Belarusian court sentenced 2022 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Ales Bialiatski, Belarus’ to 10 years in prison.
Bialiatski a lead human rights advocate, and three other top figures of the Viasna human rights center he founded were convicted of financing actions violating public order and smuggling, Viasna reported Friday. All four activists have maintained their innocence.
Bialiatski and two of his associates were arrested and jailed after massive protests over a 2020 election that gave authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko a new term in office.
Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet country with an iron fist since 1994, unleashed a brutal crackdown on the protesters, the largest in the country’s history. More than 35,000 people were arrested, and thousands were beaten up by police, AP reports.
7:45 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday told his Security Council that they needed to discuss additional “anti-terrorism measures” to safeguard facilities controlled by law enforcement bodies.
Putin said on Thursday Russia had been hit by a “terrorist attack” in the southern Bryansk region bordering Ukraine and vowed to crush a sabotage group that had fired at civilians. Ukraine accused Russia of staging a false “provocation,” Reuters reports.
5:11 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russian authorities appear to be concerned over a growing loss of leverage in Serbia, which Russia has worked to integrate into the Russian sphere of influence for many years. Russian ultranationalists continue to debate the appropriateness of criticism of Russian war efforts and to react to proposed increased punishments for “discrediting” the war in Ukraine.
4:14 a.m.: The United States is hosting war planning exercises in Germany for Ukrainian military officers to help them think through upcoming battlefield decisions, officials said Thursday, Reuters reported.
The multiday, table-top exercises have been carried out at a war-gaming facility at a U.S. Army base in Wiesbaden, Germany, where the top U.S. military officer, Army General Mark Milley, visited Thursday.
U.S. officials declined to talk through the potential battlefield scenarios that Ukrainian military staff were examining during the drills, which involve thought exercises to evaluate potential military courses of action.
“No one is sitting there telling the Ukrainians, go left or go right or do this or do that. That is not the job of the international community,” Milley told reporters traveling with him to Germany.
General Darryl Williams, the U.S. Army commander in Europe, praised the dozens of Ukrainian military staff who attended the drills, saying they were “really, really good.”
3:12 a.m.: Washington is to announce a new $400 million military aid package for the Kyiv government, Reuters reported, and it is expected to be a major topic between U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz when they meet at the White House, officials said.
The aid is expected to comprise mainly ammunition including Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) for HIMARS launchers, ammunition for Bradley Fighting Vehicles, as well as armored vehicle launched bridges, two U.S. officials and a person familiar with the package said.
The United States has provided nearly $32 billion in weaponry to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia, which invaded its pro-Western neighbor on more than a year ago.
2:05 a.m.: Two Americans were arrested on Thursday, in an alleged scheme to send aviation-related technology to Russia in violation of U.S. export controls, Reuters reported.
Cyril Buyanovsky, 59, and Douglas Robertson, 55, are accused of conspiring to circumvent U.S. export laws by selling avionics to customers around the world that operate Russian-built aircraft, according to an indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Kansas.
The pair allegedly repaired and shipped technology from their firm, KanRus Trading Company, submitting false export information, such as a fraudulent invoice that showed Germany as the end destination for repaired equipment bearing a sticker for Russia’s Federal Security Services (FSB).
On Feb. 28, 2022, after U.S. authorities detained a shipment of avionics, the U.S. Commerce Department told the men they needed a license to export the equipment, the Justice Department said in a statement. In May, June and July, they illegally shipped the electronics through Armenia and Cyprus.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy, exporting controlled goods without a license, falsifying and failing to file export information, and smuggling goods contrary to U.S. law. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison for each count of smuggling.
Buyonovsky and Robinson could not immediately be reached for comment.
1:09 a.m.: A Russian regional politician will appear in court next week to face accusations that he discredited the armed forces by posting a video of himself listening to President Vladimir Putin’s state of the nation speech with spaghetti draped over his ear.
The video referred to the Russian saying that when noodles have been hung on someone’s ear, that person has been strung along or deceived.
Mikhail Abdalkin, a Communist party lawmaker in the Samara regional parliament, said on social media on Thursday that the Novokuybyshev city court would hear his case Tuesday. His party had previously reprimanded him.
“We will fight to prove our non-involvement and innocence,” he added.
When Abdalkin posted his video shortly afterward Putin’s speech on Russia’s equivalent of Facebook, he added a caption saying he had been asked to watch the speech by the deputy chair of the Samara parliament.
“I’m in full support, totally agree, great performance,” he added. “I haven’t heard anything like it in the last 23 years. Pleasantly surprised.”
12:02 a.m.: Poland and Ukraine on Thursday called for international sanctions against Russia’s nuclear energy sector, saying they feared their neighbor may hurt energy security and economies in Europe if attacks on Ukrainian power facilities continue, Reuters reported.
Last week, the European Union adopted the 10th package of sanctions targeting Russia but did not include its nuclear energy sector because of opposition from some EU member states.
“We need to end any nuclear cooperation with Russia … and I believe Europe will manage to do so,” Anna Moskwa, the Polish climate and environment minister, said at an energy conference in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. “Nuclear sanctions next package — this is our future challenge we need to face no matter how difficult it is.”
Russia occupied Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station exactly one year ago after launching its invasion. The plant, Europe’s largest with six reactors, remains near the front line, with each side accusing the other of shelling it and risking a nuclear accident.
“We are neighboring countries, every day we are analyzing what may happen,” she said.
Some information in this report came from Reuters.