The Ukrainian President says fierce battles are raging in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region as Russia intensifies pressure before the first anniversary of its invasion of Ukraine, as fighting enters its 347th day.

Zelenskyy earlier revealed that $278 million were raised as part of his United24 fundraising platform.
Zelenskyy earlier revealed that $278 million were raised as part of his United24 fundraising platform. (Reuters Archive)

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that fierce battles are raging in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region as Russia intensifies pressure before the first anniversary of its military campaign in Ukraine.

"Things are very difficult in Donetsk region - fierce battles," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

"But however difficult it is and however much pressure there is, we must endure ... We have no alternative to defending ourselves and winning."

Russia, he said, was applying increased pressure to "make up for its defeats last year. We see that on various sectors of the front and also pressure in terms of information."

Despite the flow of Western weapons to Ukraine, Russia has claimed gains in recent days around war-ravaged Bakhmut in the eastern region of Donetsk.

Here are the other developments:

1913 GMT - War could have been avoided had partners acted in advance: Ukraine defence chief

Ukraine’s defence minister has said his country’s war with Russia could have been avoided had Kiev’s international partners acted in advance.

"This war could have been avoided in principle if Nord Stream-2 had been stopped, if access to the SWIFT system had been cut off, if Russian ships had been banned from entering international ports, if Europe had stopped buying its gas, which they did anyway, if they had started to block assets of Russian oligarchs," Oleksii Reznikov told a press conference in Kiev.

Reznikov also expressed confidence that Kiev’s partners will provide Ukraine with aircraft, but the real question that needs answering is “which ones.” He added that Ukrainian forces will begin training on operating Leopard 2 tanks on Monday.

1612 GMT - Ukraine: Israel ex-PM’s claims on mediation "fiction"

A Ukrainian presidential aide has said comments made by Israel's former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on mediating between Kiev and Moscow are “fiction.”

“Ex-official's claims on ‘mediation’ that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin allegedly gave ‘guarantees not to kill’ and ‘the West interrupted promising negotiations’ are fiction,” Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter.

Podolyak said Russia’s “special military operation” is not about NATO expansion, security guarantees or sanctions, but rather based on Moscow’s desire to “destroy Ukraine and kill Ukrainians.”

1509 GMT - Russia: Ukraine planning to blow up buildings in false flag operation

Russia's defence ministry has accused Ukraine of preparing to blow up buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk and then accuse Moscow of carrying out war crimes and targeting civilians in a false flag operation.

The ministry said Kiev planned to detonate three medical buildings - dispensaries and a hospital - and "accuse Russia of an allegedly 'deliberate attack' on civilian objects".

"The bombing of the medical institutions will be presented as another 'atrocity' of Russian troops, requiring a response from the world community and accelerating the supply of long-range missiles to Kiev (to be used) for strikes on Russian territory," the defence ministry said.

1500 GMT - Ukraine expects a possible major Russian offensive this month

Ukraine expects a possible major Russian offensive this month, but Kiev has the reserves to hold back Moscow's forces even though not all the West's latest military supplies will have arrived in time, Ukraine's defence minister said.

At a news conference, Oleksii Reznikov said Russia could launch the new attack in February for symbolic reasons around the first anniversary of its military campaign, but that Moscow's resources were not ready from a military point of view.

1450 GMT - United24 raises $278M to support Ukraine: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has revealed that $278 million were raised as part of the government’s United24 fundraising platform, which was initiated to raise funds to support Kiev as it fights Russia.

Noting that the platform has been active for more than nine months, Zelenskyy said about 150 generators were purchased and have already been delivered to medical facilities in the country.

He said the funds from the initiative would be directed to three areas: Defence and demining, humanitarian and medical aid, and the reconstruction of Ukraine.

1445 GMT - Russia says EU forces have been stationed in Ukraine for a long time

Russia has claimed the military forces of EU member states were stationed in Ukraine for a long time.

“The military of the EU member states has long been sent to Ukraine in the form of instructors, in the form of special services, and in the form of mercenaries. Their dispatch began long before 2022,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a message on Telegram.

Zakharova’s comments came in response to remarks by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who said EU members have never considered and are not considering the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine to participate in the nearly year-long war with Moscow.

1424 GMT - West's reluctance to send planes will cost more lives: Ukraine

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has said that the reluctance of Kiev's Western allies to send jets to war-torn Ukraine would cost it "more lives."

"I am sure that we will win this war, I am sure we will liberate all the occupied territories," Reznikov told reporters in Kiev. But without the delivery of Western jets, "it will cost us more lives".

"We have to stop it right now," he added.

1333 GMT - Ukraine will not use longer-range weapons to hit Russian territory - defence minister

Ukraine's defence minister Oleksii Reznikov said at a news conference that Ukraine will not use longer-range weapons pledged by the United States to hit Russian territory, and will only target Russian units in Ukrainian territory.

"We always tell our partners officially that we will not use weapons supplied by foreign partners to fire on Russian territory. We only fire on Russian units on temporarily occupied Ukrainian territory," Reznikov said.

The United States confirmed on Friday that a new rocket that would double Ukraine's strike range was included in a $2.175 billion US military aid package to help Kiev fight back Russian forces.

1320 GMT — Ukraine: 5 injured in rocket attacks on 2nd-largest city of Kharkiv

Five people were injured in Russian rocket attacks in the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, officials said.

Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said four people were injured when a Russian S-300 missile fell near an apartment block and another was hurt when a missile hit a higher-education building. Local media reports said the building hit was the National Academy for Urban Economy, about 700 metres from the city's central square.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting continued in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, one of four regions that Russia illegally annexed last year even though its forces do not fully control the region. 

Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said five civilians were wounded in rocket attacks during the night in the city of Druzhkivka and that the town of Avdiivka and its outskirts were also fired on.

1315 GMT — Europe bans Russian diesel, other oil products over Ukraine

Europe imposed a ban on Russian diesel fuel and other refined oil products, slashing energy dependency on Moscow and seeking to further crimp the Kremlin 's fossil fuel earnings as punishment for attacking Ukraine.

The ban comes along with a price cap agreed by the Group of Seven allied democracies. The goal is allowing Russian diesel to keep flowing to countries like China and India and avoiding a sudden price rise that would hurt consumers worldwide, while reducing the profits funding Moscow's budget and war.

1000 GMT — Heavy fighting in north of Bakhmut: Wagner chief

Heavy fighting is underway in the northern parts of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, according to the head of Russia's mercenary group Wagner.

"In the northern quarters of Artemovsk, fierce battles are going on for every street, every house, every stairwell," Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a statement, referring to Bakhmut by its old name.

He said the Ukrainian army was not retreating. "The Ukrainian armed forces are fighting to the last," he said.

Also, in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, a missile strike hit a residential building, wounding four people. Another strike left a security guard injured when a missile hit an institute, officials say.

0958 GMT — Putin promised that he will not kill Zelenskyy: Israel ex-PM

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said he received a promise from Russian President Vladimir Putin not to kill his Ukrainian counterpart.

According to news reports, Bennett had asked Putin about whether he intended to kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the early days of the war.

"I asked 'what’s up with this? Are you planning to kill Zelenskyy?' He said 'I won’t kill Zelenskyy.' I then said to him 'I have to understand that you’re giving me your word that you won’t kill Zelenskyy.' He said 'I’m not going to kill Zelenskyy.'"

Bennett said he then called Zelenskyy to inform him of Putin's pledge.

"'Listen, I came out of a meeting, he’s not going to kill you.' He asks, 'are you sure?' I said '100 percent he won’t kill you.'"

The five-hour interview on Saturday was posted by Bennett on his personal YouTube channel and Twitter account.

0952 GMT — Battlefield strength swiftest way to Ukraine peace: UK

Helping to arm Ukraine so it can defend itself against Russia is the swiftest path to achieving peace, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said in an article.

Cleverly was writing in a Maltese newspaper ahead of a visit on Tuesday to the Mediterranean island, which assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council at the start of February.

"Like all authoritarian rulers, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin responds only to strength in his opponents," Cleverly wrote in the Times of Malta.

"Giving the Ukrainians the tools they need to finish the job is the swiftest — indeed the only  path to peace," he wrote.

0936 GMT — Ukraine defence ministry says development of drone market a key area of work

Ukraine’s defence minister has said the development of the Ukrainian drone market is a key area of his ministry's work, according to a statement on Telegram.

"I repeat, the independence of the military industry is one of the elements of the country's defence capability," Oleksii Reznikov said in a ministry statement following a meeting with the country's developers and manufacturers.

"And currently, one of the key directions of the Ministry of Defence is the development of and supporting the Ukrainian UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) market."

0917 GMT —  Russian missile hits residential building in Ukraine’s Kharkiv

At least four people have been injured in a missile strike on a residential building in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region.

"There is a hit in a residential building in the centre of the city. There was a fire. Currently, three victims are known: a 54-year-old woman and two men, 51 and 55 years old," Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synyehubov said in a message on Telegram.

Synyehubov noted that the woman was hospitalised with shrapnel wounds, while the two men were treated on the spot.

Later, he said another person was wounded by the second missile striking the city, increasing the number of the injured to four.

0734 GMT Germany's Scholz says Putin has not threatened me or Germany

Russian President Vladimir Putin in his telephone conversations with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz "has not made any threats against me or Germany," Scholz said in an interview with newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Former British prime minister Boris Johnson, speaking to the BBC for a documentary early this week, said the Russian leader had threatened him with a missile strike that would "only take a minute." The Kremlin said Johnson was lying.

Scholz also said the conversations he had with Putin made it clear they had very different views of the war in Ukraine, which Russia calls a "special military operation."

0315 GMT — Bodies of two British volunteers recovered

Officials in Kiev have said that the bodies of the two Britons killed while trying to help people evacuate from the eastern warzone had been recovered in a prisoner swap.

Chris Parry, 28, and Andrew Bagshaw, 47, were undertaking voluntary work in Soledar, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, when their vehicle was reportedly hit by a shell.

Their bodies were returned to Ukraine authorities as part of a wider exchange, in which Kiev got 116 prisoners and Russia 63.

2330 GMT — Scholz says 'consensus' with Zelenskyy that Western arms do not hit Russia

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy agrees that weapons supplied by the West will not be used on Russian territory, Germany's leader has said in an interview.

"There is a consensus on this point," Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview with the weekly Bild am Sonntag.

2300 GMT — Ukraine's strips citizenship of ex-politicians

President Zelenskyy has revoked the citizenship of several former influential politicians in the latest of steps to "cleanse" the country from pro-Russian influences.

"Today, I signed the relevant documents to take another step to protect and cleanse our state from those on the side of the aggressor," he said during his fresh video address.

Zelenskyy would not list the names, but said they had dual Russian citizenship.

According to Ukrainian state media, the list includes several top politicians from the office of Viktor Yanukovych, who served as Ukraine's pro-Russian president from 2010 until he was removed from office in 2014.

The list included Dmytro Tabachnyk, former minister of education and science, Andriy Klyuyev, former deputy prime minister and head of Yanukovych's administration and Vitaliy Zakharchenko, former interior minister, RBC-Ukraine news agency reported.

For live updates from Saturday (February 4), click here

Source: Reuters