The EU-Ukraine summit is underway, with top EU leaders in Kyiv to discuss cooperation in Ukraine’s fight against Russia and its bid for EU membership.
EU officials are likely to pour some cold water on Ukraine’s membership hopes, however, as many reforms are still required in order to meet the bloc’s conditions for joining.
Rescue workers are still trying to recover bodies from a deadly missile strike on a residential complex in the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office is pressing criminal charges against the founder of the Russian mercenary firm Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
FRI, FEB 3 20236:09 PM EST
NATO urges Russia to respect nuclear pact with the U.S.
NATO called on Russia to respect the only treaty it has with the United States aimed at keeping a lid on nuclear weapons expansion and urged Moscow to allow on-the-ground inspections of military sites to resume.
The so-called New START Treaty was signed by Russia and the U.S. in 2010. It caps at 1,550 the number of long-range nuclear warheads they can deploy and limits the use of missiles that can carry atomic weapons. It allows short-notice inspections of each other’s nuclear bases and support facilities.
“We note with concern that Russia has failed to comply with legally-binding obligations under the New START Treaty,” NATO ambassadors said in a statement. The 30-nation U.S.-led military alliance supports the treaty and believes that it helps to limit the expansion of nuclear forces.
The envoys said that Russia’s refusal to hold consultations or to allow U.S. inspections since last August “prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the Treaty, and undermines the United States’ ability to adequately verify Russian compliance with the Treaty’s central limits.”
“We call on Russia to fulfil its obligations under the Treaty by facilitating New START inspections on Russian territory, and by returning to participation in the Treaty’s implementation body,” the forum in which the two sides could consult, NATO said.
— Associated Press
FRI, FEB 3 20235:13 PM EST
Zelenskyy calls for negotiations for Ukraine to join the EU this year
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he aims to start the negotiations for Ukraine to join the European Union this year.
“We have become stronger this year, Ukraine and all of Europe,” Zelenskyy said. “This year, we can further speed up relevant important integration processes,” he added.
Ukraine has been an EU candidate country since June 2022.
— Amanda Macias
FRI, FEB 3 20233:24 PM EST
White House approves nearly $2 billion for Ukraine in security assistance
The Biden administration announced a new security assistance package for Ukraine worth $425 million and an additional $1.75 billion in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds.
“Today’s announcement includes critical air defense capabilities to help Ukraine defend its people, as well as armored infantry vehicles and more equipment that Ukraine is using so effectively, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, artillery ammunition, and conventional and long-range rockets for U.S.-provided HIMARS,” the Pentagon wrote in a statement.
Below is what is included in the $425 million Presidential Drawdown Authority, the 31st such package:
- Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS)
- Additional 155mm artillery rounds
- Additional 120mm mortar rounds
- 190 heavy machine guns with thermal imagery sights and associated ammunition to counter Unmanned Aerial Systems
- 181 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles
- 250 Javelin anti-armor systems
- 2,000 anti-armor rockets
- Claymore anti-personnel munitions
- Demolitions munitions
- Cold weather gear, helmets, and other field equipment
The Pentagon will also seek the following items from U.S. defense industry for Ukraine:
- Two HAWK air defense firing units
- Anti-aircraft guns and ammunition
- Equipment to integrate Western air defense launchers, missiles, and radars with Ukraine’s air defense systems
- Equipment to sustain Ukraine’s existing air defense capabilities
- Air defense generators
- Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems
- Four air surveillance radars
- 20 counter-mortar radars
- Spare parts for counter-artillery radars
- Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems
- Precision-guided rockets
- Secure communications equipment
- Medical supplies
- Funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment.
— Amanda Macias
FRI, FEB 3 20231:48 PM EST
Ukrainian Olympian urges IOC to reverse decision allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete
Ukraine’s Marta Fedina, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist and resident of Kharkiv, called on the International Olympic Committee to reverse its decision of letting Russian and Belarusian athletes compete in the upcoming Olympic Games.
“Why at this point in time did the question about the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to the Olympic Games to the competitions in general arise,” Fedina said, according to an NBC News translation.
“The war is not over, Ukrainian civilians, including athletes, continue to die. And those dead athletes will no longer be able to compete,” added Fedina, who is also a member of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine.
— Amanda Macias
FRI, FEB 3 202311:44 AM EST
Italian urban Artist Tvboy paints murals in Kyiv region with messages of hope and peace
Italian urban Artist Tvboy paints murals in Kyiv region with messages of hope and peace.
-Oleksii Chumachenko | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
FRI, FEB 3 202310:50 AM EST
Along Ukraine-Belarus border, a war of nerves and drones
The reconnaissance drones fly several times a day from Ukrainian positions deep inside the thick forest that marches across the border into Belarus, a close Russian ally, scouring sky and land for signs of trouble on the other side.
Ukrainian units are monitoring the 1,000-kilometer (650-mile) frontier of marsh and woodland for a possible surprise offensive from the north, a repeat of the unsuccessful Russian thrust toward Kyiv at the start of the war nearly a year ago.
This time the Ukrainians are taking no chances. Since the summer they have been reinforcing defenses, building and expanding trenches and laying mines in the forest ahead of the springtime offensive military officials expect. Residents of villages in the region that were temporarily occupied last year are horrified by the prospect of it all starting again.
“We’re listening out for every small sound and noise. This isn’t a way to live,” said Valentina Matveva, 64, from the village of Ripke. “When you’re in constant fear, that’s not life.”
Concerns of a renewed military push were stirred in January after Russia and Belarus held joint air force drills, one month after a rare visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Minsk.
— Associated Press
FRI, FEB 3 20239:50 AM EST
Up to 40 countries could boycott Olympics if Russian and Belarussian athletes allowed: Polish minister
As many as 40 countries could boycott the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris if the International Olympic Committee lets Russian and Belarusian athletes compete, Poland’s Sport Minister Kamil Bortniczuk said.
Debate over the topic began after the IOC said last week it was going to “explore a pathway” to allow Russian and Belarussian athletes to take part.
Bortniczuk believes he could bring together a group of 40 countries including the U.S., UK and Canada to halt the IOC’s plans for such a pathway.
“If we were to boycott the Games, the coalition we will be a part of will be broad enough to make holding the Games pointless,” the Polish minister said.
The IOC said that no plans for the inclusion of athletes from Russia or Belarus have been made yet, and has warned that boycotting the games is a breach of the Olympic Charter. The U.S., UK and Canada have not yet expressed a willingness to boycott the games.
— Natasha Turak
FRI, FEB 3 20238:51 AM EST
Germany will send older Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine, but necessary refurbishments will take time
Germany announced it will send Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine, just a week after agreeing to send 14 of its much more modern Leopard 2 tanks to the embattled country on the back of pressure from allies.
The Leopard 1 tanks were made in Germany after the end of World War II, but were phased out in 2003. According to local German reports, the tank’s manufacturer, Rheinmetall, has some 88 tanks in stock. But the deliveries may take several months at least, as they need to be fully refurbished and the right ammunition for them must be sourced, which may be a difficult feat.
Berlin did not specify how many of the Leopard 1 tanks would be going to Ukraine, nor did it outline a specific timeline.
— Natasha Turak
FRI, FEB 3 20238:25 AM EST
EU announces 25 million euro de-mining program for Ukraine
The EU announced a 25 million euro ($27.3 million) demining effort in Ukraine, to help rid it of the many mines laid there since Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country nearly a year ago.
“Demining action is crucial to safe the lives of civilian population, to allow them return to a normal life, to prevent the random walk of the death in the forest,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote in a post on Twitter.
As much as 30% of Ukraine is estimated to be contaminated with landmines and unexploded ordinances. They have terrorized the civilian population, causing death and injury long after Russian soldiers have left the areas.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in a post on Telegram that the initiative was an “important component of our recovery, which will allow us to return normal life.”
— Natasha Turak
FRI, FEB 3 20235:42 AM EST
Zelenskyy urges EU allies to impose 10th sanctions package on Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged EU allies to deploy a 10th sanctions package against Russia as top officials from the bloc meet in Kyiv for a summit between the EU and Ukraine.
He warned that Russia was adapting to sanctions, while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that a new sanctions package would be ready by Feb. 24, the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
“We see today that the pace of sanctions in Europe has slowed down a little,” Zelenskyy told a joint press conference, speaking next to Von der Leyen. “The terrorist state increases the pace of adaptation to sanctions instead. It should be resolved. We believe that we can do it together.”
Von der Leyen said Thursday that “Russia is paying a heavy price, as our sanctions are eroding its economy, throwing it back by a generation… By 24 February, exactly one year since the invasion started, we aim to have the 10th package of sanctions in place.”
— Natasha Turak
FRI, FEB 3 20235:37 AM EST
Air raid sirens heard across Kyiv as EU-Ukraine summit begins
Air raid sirens rang out across Kyiv and other parts of the country as EU leaders arrived for a summit in the capital with Ukrainian officials. It’s first such summit since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country nearly a year ago.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is hosting European Council President Charles Michel and EU President Ursula von der Leyen to discuss their partnership and Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership.
Kyiv was granted candidacy status at a record speed in June of last year, but EU officials warn there is a fair way to go and a slew of important reforms to make — especially over corruption, which has long been endemic in Ukraine — before progress can be made in terms of membership to the bloc.
— Natasha Turak
FRI, FEB 3 20235:40 AM EST
Kyiv presses criminal charges against Wagner Group chief
Ukraine’s government is pressing criminal charges against Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner group, the Russian private mercenary firm whose fighters have been engaging in combat operations in Ukraine.
According to Ukrainian state news outlet Ukrinform, Prigozhin “was charged with encroaching on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine (Article 110 Part 3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine) and of waging an war of aggression against Ukraine (Article 437 Part 2).”
Prigozhin, formerly Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal chef and a longtime ally of the Russian leader, has been sanctioned by the U.S. and plays a key role in his country’s operations in Ukraine.
The U.S. estimates Wagner group has some 50,000 men deployed in Ukraine, many of whom are convicted criminals. The Biden administration designated the mercenary firm as a transnational criminal organization in late January with the aim of limiting its power around the world. Wagner has been active in battlefields in the Middle East and Africa as well.
— Natasha Turak
THU, FEB 2 202310:36 PM EST
Ukraine hopes to join EU quickly may clash with bloc’s timeline, says former U.S. envoy to Russia
Ukraine wants to fast-track its membership application for the European Union, but that could clash with the bloc’s timeline, according to a former U.S. ambassador to Russia.
“With respect to fast track, the Ukrainians are very set on this. They think that these long timelines don’t apply to them because they’ve done so many of the reforms necessary before they got on the track,” Michael McFaul, now a director at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, at Stanford University, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”
“I think Brussels has a somewhat different view and let’s wait to see what they come out with tomorrow, in terms of the update where Ukraine is,” he added.
His comments come ahead of the Ukraine and EU summit due to take place in Kyiv on Friday.
It will host European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other top EU officials, with hopes high in Kyiv that its application to join the EU will progress quickly.
— Sumathi Bala
THU, FEB 2 20235:08 PM EST
Backlog of 27 ships with Ukrainian agricultural goods wait to depart for global destinations
The organization overseeing the export of Ukrainian crops said there is a backlog of 27 vessels loaded with agricultural goods that are waiting to depart for their global destinations.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered in July among Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the United Nations, eased Russia’s naval blockade and saw the reopening of three key Ukrainian ports.
Since the deal was signed, more than 690 ships carrying 19.2 million metric tons of grain and other food products have left Ukrainian waters.
Kyiv has previously blamed Moscow for holding up inspections and delaying vessel movements.
— Amanda Macias
FRI, FEB 3 20234:22 AM EST