European Union member states, the G7 countries and Australia say they have reached an agreement on price caps for Russian petroleum products as fighting enters its 346th day.

"I've often had to say the situation at the front is tough, and is getting tougher, and it's that time again," Zelenskyy said. (Mustafa Ciftci / AA Archive)

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that the situation on the front lines in the east of the country was getting tougher and Russia was throwing more and more troops into battle.

"The invader is putting more and more of his forces into breaking down our defences," Zelenskyy said in a video address.

"It is very difficult now in Bakhmut, Vuhledar, Lyman and other directions," he continued.

Russian forces are slowly gaining ground in the Donbass region, encircling the city of Bakhmut north of Donetsk and battling to take control of a nearby road which is a major supply route for Ukrainian forces.

They are also trying to capture Vuhledar, southwest of Donetsk.

Here are the other developments: 

1630 GMT - 500,000 households in Ukraine's Odessa without power

An accident at an electrical substation, already damaged by Russian strikes, has left half a million households without power in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa.

Odessa region governor Maksym Marchenko described the accident as "serious," adding that the energy minister and the head of state-run electricity grid operator Ukrenergo had been sent to the city.

"A number of generators will be delivered to the region of Odessa within the next 24 hours," he said. "We expect the first generators to arrive tonight."

1452 GMT - WHO report sparks US, Russia row

The United States and Russia faced off over a World Health Organization report on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, with Moscow saying it was politically motivated and Washington calling for it to be swiftly updated.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus's report, which covered events in the first nine months of 2022, classed the situation in Ukraine as one of eight acute global health emergencies.

The report documented more than 14,000 civilian casualties, with 17.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and 7.5 million Ukrainian refugees displaced across Europe. Moscow denies targeting civilians in Ukraine.

Of 471 attacks with heavy weapons on healthcare facilities globally, 448 occurred in Ukraine, the WHO report said.

1440 GMT - Bodies of two UK aid workers killed in Ukraine recovered

The bodies of two Britons killed while trying to help people evacuate from fierce fighting in Ukraine have been recovered in a prisoner swap in which Kiev got 116 prisoners and Russia 63, Kiev officials said.

"We managed to return the bodies of the dead foreign volunteers," said Zelenskyy's chief of staff Andriy Yermak, naming them as the two British men.

Concern had grown about their fates after the head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, which helped capture Soledar from Ukrainian forces, said on January 11 that one of the missing men's bodies had been found there.

1450 GMT - Zelenskyy talks to UK's Sunak about expansion of army capabilities

Zelenskyy has discussed the "further expansion of capabilities" of Ukraine's military in a call with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Zelenskyy said he also thanked Sunak for the start of training of Ukrainian crews on Challenger 2 tanks, the supply of which to Ukraine the UK announced in January.

1415 GMT - More than 170 troops freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

Dozens of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war have returned home following a prisoner swap, officials on both sides said. Top Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak said in a Telegram post that 116 Ukrainians were freed.

He said the released POWs include troops who held out in Mariupol during Moscow’s months-long siege, as well as volunteer fighters from the Kherson region and snipers captured during the ongoing fierce battles for the eastern city of Bakhmut.

Russian defence officials, meanwhile, announced that 63 Russian troops had returned from Ukraine following the swap, including some “special category” prisoners whose release was secured following mediation by the United Arab Emirates.

1213 GMT - Major accident causes power outages in Odessa

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

"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.

0951 GMT — Russia's Medvedev says more US weapons supplies mean 'all of Ukraine will burn'

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 Kiev'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 attacks on Ukraine began, whether the use of longer-range weapons might force Russia to negotiate with Kiev.

"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."

 0935 GMT — Portugal to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine

Portugal will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Prime Minister Antonio Costa has said, 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."

0653 GMT — Gazprom to ship 29.3 mcm of gas to Europe

Russia's Gazprom has said it will ship 29.3 million cubic metres of gas to Europe via Ukraine on Saturday.

0600 GMT — Germany has evidence of war crimes in Ukraine

Germany has collected evidence of war crimes in Ukraine, the country's prosecutor general said in a newspaper interview, 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.

0324 GMT — US allows seized Russian money to go to Ukraine aid: report

Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that he authorised the United States to begin using seized Russian money to aid Ukraine, according to US media.

The announcement came during a meeting between Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin in Washington, nearly one year after Moscow began attacking its former Soviet neighbour.

"Today, I am announcing that I have authorised the first-ever transfer of forfeited Russian assets for use in Ukraine," Garland said, according to CNN.

The money will come from assets confiscated from Russian oligarch Konstan tin Malofeyev after his indictment on sanctions evasions in April, and will go to the State Department "to support the people of Ukraine."

2133 GMT — Price caps not intended to 'crash' Russia's economy

The Group of Seven industrialised countries and Australia have reached agreement on price caps for Russian petroleum products, the group said in a statement, after a similar announcement by the EU.

There are two price levels, $100 per barrel for more expensive fuel like diesel and $45 on lower-quality products such as fuel oil, the statement said, adding that the policy aims "to prevent Russia from profiting from its war of aggression against Ukraine" and support stability in energy markets.

The intent of Western price caps on Russian crude and oil product exports is to reduce revenues that Russia can use to fight war in Ukraine, not to "crash" Russia's economy, a senior US Treasury official told reporters.

For live updates from Friday (February 3), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies