Mon, 06 Feb 2023

The EU's executive arm on Wednesday proposed a ninth package of sanctions on Russia, adding nearly 200 new individuals and entities to the sanctions list. Read our live blog to see how all the day's events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

This live page is no longer being updated. For more of our coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

01:30am: Scholz: Risk of Russia using nuclear weapons has diminished, for now

The risk of Russian President Vladimir President Putin using nuclear weapons as part of his war in Ukraine has decreased in response to international pressure, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview published on Thursday.

The war was continuing with "undiminished brutality" though, for now, one thing had changed, Scholz told Funke media in an interview to mark his first year in office.

"Russia has stopped threatening to use nuclear weapons. As a reaction to the international community marking a red line."

Despite deep divisions, it was important that dialogue with the Kremlin continued, Germany's leader added.

10:34pm: Russians may want negotiations only to have a pause to get new recruits trained, says Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it is not a good idea to engage with the Russian's overtures towards negotiations and this chimes with what the Ukrainians are saying. Gulliver Cragg, FRANCE 24's correspondent in Kyiv, reports.

9:47pm: Ukraine conflict intrudes on UN biodiversity summit

The Ukraine conflict cast a shadow over a high-stakes UN summit on biodiversity in Montreal on Wednesday, as Western nations slammed the environmental destruction brought about by Russia's invasion.

The broadsides by the European Union and New Zealand - which spoke on behalf of other countries, including the United States - came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of "ecocide" and of devastating his country's dolphin population.

Russia fired back that the meeting was an inappropriate forum and accused its critics of attempting to sabotage a new global deal for nature.

"The war brings about pollution and long-term environmental degradation, destroying protected areas and natural habitats," Ladislav Miko, an EU representative at the meeting, known as COP15, said.

9:00pm: US slams 'loose talk' on nuclear weapons after Putin comments

The United States on Thursday denounced "loose talk" on nuclear weapons after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would only use an atomic weapon in response to an enemy strike.

Declining to respond directly to Putin, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, "We think any loose talk of nuclear weapons is absolutely irresponsible."

6:49pm: EU targets Russian armed forces, banks in new sanctions, says EU chief von der Leyen

The EU's executive arm on Wednesday proposed imposing sanctions on Russia's armed forces, three banks and scores of officials, in the latest salvo from Brussels against the Kremlin's war on Ukraine.

European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would also look to curb supplies of drones to Moscow and take four more Russian "propaganda" channels off the air.

6:43pm: Kyiv mayor brushes off Zelensky's criticism as 'politics'

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko on Wednesday dismissed criticism by Ukraine's president about his office's preparations for a winter of Russian air strikes, saying he believed it was driven by politics and that it looked "strange".

Klitschko was chided by President Volodymyr Zelensky in one of his nightly video addresses to Ukrainians last week, when he accused city authorities of failing to provide enough shelters despite the energy system being pounded by Russian attacks.

Officials are rolling out special "heating points" to provide people with warmth and electricity in case Russian missile strikes on critical infrastructure cause sweeping blackouts.

In an interview with Reuters, Klitschko responded to the accusations by saying Kyiv had considerably more heating hubs than any other city in Ukraine.

"It looks strange when we are united against a single enemy, but we start to fight within the country," he said.

6:42pm: Lawsuit against Russia's Wagner group seeks Ukraine reparations

A lawsuit in Britain against Russian private military contractor Wagner could help Ukrainians seek reparations for alleged crimes committed during Russia's invasion, a lawyer whose firm filed the suit said on Wednesday.

Jason McCue, of McCue Jury and Partners, said the lawsuit initiated in Britain's High Court last month on behalf of alleged Wagner victims would target what Kyiv says are the group's global assets, and aim to tie Moscow up in courts.

"Together we can shake and peel this Russian doll until its hidden layers reveal that its treasure is for us to claim and to give to Ukrainians for justice," he told reporters in Kyiv.

6:35pm: Canada, Netherlands to intervene in genocide case against Russia at ICJ

Canada and the Netherlands have filed a joint declaration of intervention in Ukraine's genocide case against Russia at International Court Of Justice (ICJ), the countries said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

"Canada and the Netherlands avail themselves of the right to intervene in this case ... in order to place their interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention) before the court," the countries said in the statement.

4:33pm: Putin says Russia may be fighting in Ukraine for a long time, evokes risk of nuclear war

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that his army could be fighting in Ukraine for a long time, but he saw "no sense" in mobilising additional soldiers at this point.

"As for the duration of the special military operation, well, of course, this can be a long process," Putin said, using his preferred term to refer to the Russian invasion, now in its 10th month.

In a televised meeting of his human rights council that was dominated by the war, Putin said Russians would "defend ourselves with all the means at our disposal", asserting that Russia was seen in the West as "a second-class country that has no right to exist at all".

He said the risk of a nuclear war was growing - the latest in a series of such warnings from Moscow - but that Russia would not threaten recklessly to use such weapons.

"We haven't gone mad, we realise what nuclear weapons are," Putin said. "We have these means in more advanced and modern form than any other nuclear country, that's an obvious fact. But we aren't about to run around the world brandishing this weapon like a razor."

4:05pm: Ukraine's Zelensky says at least six killed in Donetsk shelling

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday said that at least six people had been killed and five more injured in Russian attacks in the eastern Donetsk region.

"Terrorists attacked the peaceful city of Kurakhove. A market, a bus station, gas stations, and residential buildings came under fire. At least six civilians were killed, five were wounded," Zelensky said in a statement on social media

3:49pm: Putin says 150,000 mobilised Russians are deployed in Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said that half the Russians called up for military service in September have been deployed to Ukraine.

"Out of 300,000 of our mobilised fighters, our men, defenders of the fatherland, 150,000 are in the area of operations," the Russian leader said during a televised meeting of the Kremlin's human rights council, saying some 77,000 were in combat units.

3:44pm: Zelensky accuses Russia of 'ecocide' over damage to wildlife

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday accused Russia of "ecocide" for the devastation he said its invasion has wrought on Ukraine's wildlife.

Thousands of dead marine mammals had washed up on the shore of the Black Sea, he said, including tens of thousands of dolphins.

"And this is only a small part of the devastating consequences," he added.

"The Russian war has a huge impact on the wildlife of our country," Zelensky added, denouncing Russia's "ecocide in Ukraine".

3:34pm: Russia strengthens defence lines near Ukraine border

The governors of two Russian regions bordering Ukraine have said they inspected the construction of defence lines days after Ukrainian drone struck key military airfields.

The governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoyt, shared photos of pyramid-shaped concrete blocks that appear to be anti-tank fortifications.

His counterpart in the neighbouring Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, on Tuesday reported inspecting local fortifications "to ensure the safety of all residents who live in the Belgorod region".

2:01pm TIME magazine names Ukraine's Zelensky 'Person of the Year'

TIME magazine named President Volodymyr Zelensky as well as "the spirit of Ukraine" as its 2022 person of the year on Wednesday, for the resistance the country has shown in the face of Russia's invasion.

Calling Zelensky's decision to remain in Kyiv and rally his country amid the ongoing war "fateful," Time editor in chief Edward Felsenthal said this year's decision was "the most clear-cut in memory."

Since Russia's February 24 invasion, Zelensky has delivered daily speeches followed not only by Ukrainians but by citizens and governments around the globe.

He has appeared on the frontlines and recently celebrated in the streets of Kherson when Ukraine pushed Russia from the critical southern city.

"His information offensive shifted the geopolitical weather system, setting off a wave of action that swept the globe," Felsenthal wrote in announcing the winner.

12:55am: NATO chief says Russia trying to 'freeze' the war before spring assault

Russia is looking to stall the fighting in Ukraine over the winter in order to build up its forces for a renewed assault next year, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said.

"What we see now is that Russia is actually attempting to try to have some kind of freeze of this war, at least for a short period of time, so they can regroup, repair, recover and then try to launch a bigger offensive next spring," Stoltenberg told a public event hosted by the Financial Times.

Stoltenberg said NATO members were continuing their "unprecedented" supply of arms and support to Ukraine despite concerns that the conflict is draining Western stockpiles.

"As important as adding new systems, is to ensure that systems or weapons we have already delivered, are actually operational or working in an effective way," Stoltenberg said. "Meaning that they need a vast amount of ammunition, spare parts and also maintenance."

11:05am: Fears of new Ukraine front as Belarus moves military gear

Belarus plans to move military equipment and forces over the next two days in what it labels a counter-terrorism exercise - stoking fears that Russia may mount a new attack on Ukraine from the territory of its Belarusian ally.

"During this period, it is planned to move military equipment and personnel of the national security forces," the state BelTA news agency cited the country's Security Council as saying.

"The movement of citizens (transport) along certain public roads and areas would be restricted and the use of imitation weapons for training purposes is planned," the agency added, without specifying which parts of the country could be affected.

Belarus has said it will not enter the war in neighbouring Ukraine, but President Alexander Lukashenko has in the past ordered troops to deploy with Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, citing threats to Belarus from Kyiv and the West.

10:35am: Soldiers among 16 killed in Donetsk road accident

More than a dozen people have died in a road accident in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region, which is mostly controlled by Russian forces, the Moscow-installed region's head has said.

"A tragedy on the T-0517 highway claimed the lives of 16 people, among them were some of our defenders," the Russia-appointed head of Donetsk Denis Pushilin said on Telegram.

Four other passengers were injured in the accident that took place between Torez and Shakhtarsk, according to Pushilin.

He offered "sincere condolences" and wished a "speedy recovery" to the injured.

8:45am: 'I thought of Russians as our brothers - how could they commit such an abomination?'

The city of Nikopol in southern Ukraine lies just across the Dnipro river from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, exposed to daily Russian bombardment and unable to return fire.

Home to 115,000 people before the war, Nikopol has lost more than half its population since Russian forces took over the nearby nuclear plant in the first days of fighting, placing their artillery units around the facility.

Ukrainian forces say they cannot return fire for fear of causing a nuclear disaster. And for those left behind in Nikopol, life in the city has become a misery.

FRANCE 24's Robert Parsons, Pauline Godart and Raid Abu Zaideh spoke to residents of a gutted apartment block days after it was struck by Russian fire.

7:55am: Poland to place German Patriot missiles on its territory

Poland is preparing to deploy the German Patriot air defence system on its territory, after Berlin refused to place this system in Ukraine, Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Twitter.

Germany last month offered Poland the Patriot system to help secure its airspace after a stray missile crashed and killed two people in Poland. Polish Defence Minister later asked Germany to send the fire units to Ukraine instead.

"After talking to the German Defence Ministry, I was disappointed to accept the decision to reject Ukraine's support. Deploying the Patriots to the western Ukraine would increase the security of Poles and Ukrainians," Blaszczak tweeted on Tuesday evening.

"So we proceed to working arrangements for placing the launchers in Poland and connecting them to our command system," he added.

6:05am: US lawmakers authorise $800 million in additional security assistance for Ukraine

US lawmakers agreed to provide Ukraine at least $800 million in additional security assistance next year, according to a defense policy bill unveiled on Tuesday.

The Fiscal 2023 National Defence Authorisation Act, or NDAA, authorises the additional spending for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, an increase of $500 million over President Joe Biden's request earlier this year.

The overall bill authorises $45 billion more in defence spending than Biden requested, as congressional negotiators sought to address the effects of global inflation and provide additional security assistance for Ukraine.

3:10am: Latvia revokes licence for exiled Russian TV channel

Latvia announced Tuesday it was revoking the licence for exiled Russian independent channel Dozhd, or TV Rain, for multiple violations that included showing the annexed Crimean peninsula as part of Russia.

The channel, which moved to Latvia after Russian authorities blocked its broadcasts for critical coverage of the war in Ukraine, dismissed the accusations as "unfair and absurd", saying that it would remain on YouTube.

The network, which was founded in 2010 as the main opposition channel in Russia, is also accused of supporting Russian soldiers, which the channel denies, and failing to ensure Latvian language translation, the LETA news agency reported.

12:35am: President Zelensky meets troops near eastern front

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited troops close to front lines in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday and expressed thanks to everyone involved in the war effort to mark the country's Armed Forces Day.

Addressing servicemen later in the presidential palace in Kyiv, Zelensky said he had spent the day with troops in Donbas, theatre of the heaviest battles, and in Kharkiv region, where Ukrainians have retaken swathes of occupied territory from Russian forces who invaded more than nine months ago.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

Originally published on France24

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