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Russia-Ukraine latest: Putin unleashes wave of drones as Kremlin death toll in Avdiivka ‘exceeds 17,000’

Russia unleashed a barrage of drone attacks on seven cities in Ukraine overnight as footage released by the Kremlin’s defence ministry showed the recently-occupied city of Avdiivka completely destroyed by five months of heavy bombardment.

Ukraine said they had destroyed all 23 drones Russia had launched at the country overnight. “As a result of combat operations, all 23 “shaheds” drones were shot down in Kharkiv, Poltava, Kirovohrad, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions,” the military said on Telegram messaging app.

It comes as television footage released by Russia’s defence ministry showed that almost every house in Avdiivka was branded with war.

In the footage, the cupola of a church was seen in pieces, roads were strewn with the detritus of war and whole apartment blocks hung broken.

More than 17,000 Russian soldiers were killed in the five months-long fight for Avdiivka, which ended over the weekend, according to Dmytro Lykhovii, spokesperson for Ukraine’s military. An additional 30,000 were wounded, he added.

If true, that means that Russia lost more personnel in the half a year fight for Avdiivka than during a decade-long occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.

Key Points

  • Russian forces 'take full control of Avdiivka coke plant'

  • Zelensky urges West to stop feeding ‘artificial deficit of weapons’ in Ukraine

  • Ukrainian forces pull back from Avdiivka to dodge encirclement, army chief says

  • Putin’s troops advancing along ‘entire front line’, Kyiv warns

Three big lessons from two years of war in Ukraine (that tell us what might happen next)

11:55 , Tom Watling

When Russia invaded Ukraine in the early hours of 24 February two years ago, nobody knew how it would play out. Here author and Russia expert Mark Galeotti sifts through the carnage of the bloody conflict for clues as to what will happen next

Three big lessons from two years of war in Ukraine

Canada sending more than 800 drones to Ukraine to support its fight against Russia

11:00 , Tom Watling

The Canadian government said Monday it will dispatch more than 800 drones to Ukraine starting as early as this spring.

The Department of National Defence said in a statement that drones have become a critical capability for Ukraine in its war with Russia. It said the drones are important for surveillance and intelligence gathering, and can also be used to move supplies, including munitions.

They will cost more than $95 million Canadian ($70 million) and are part of a previously announced $500 million Canadian ($370 million) in military help for Ukraine.

Canada sending more than 800 drones to Ukraine to support its fight against Russia

Kim Jong Un adds latest to his exotic car collection – a Putin limousine

10:30 , Tom Watling

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has gifted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a Russian made limousine to add to his exotic car collection.

The Russian-made car was delivered to Kim‘s top aides by the Russian side on February 18, official KCNA news agency said.

The gift was “for his personal use”, Russian state media reported, in what could be a violation of UN ban that Moscow had agreed to adopt against Pyongyang.

Kim Jong Un adds latest to his exotic car collection – a Putin limousine

Russian spy chief: killed Russian pilot was 'moral corpse' for defecting

10:08 , Tom Watling

Russia’s foreign intelligence chief has said that a Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine and was found shot dead in an underground garage in Spain last week was a “moral corpse” when he planned his crimes, Russian news agencies reported.

Spain’s state news agency EFE reported that a body found on 13 February in the town of Villajoyosa, near Alicante in southern Spain, belonged to pilot Maxim Kuzminov, who had landed in Ukraine with his Mi-8 helicopter last August.

“In Russia it is customary to speak either good of the dead or nothing at all,” Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), was quoted as saying when asked about Kuzminov.

“This traitor and criminal became a moral corpse at the very moment when he planned his dirty and terrible crime,” Naryshkin was quoted as saying by TASS news agency.

Ukraine‘s GUR military intelligence said Kuzminov had been found dead in Spain.

Kuzminov’s defection to Ukraine was presented last year as a major coup for Kyiv.

He had been living in Spain with a Ukrainian passport under a different name, EFE said. Ukraine‘s Ukrainska Pravda newspaper reported that Kuzminov had been found shot dead.

Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine with stolen military chopper shot dead in Spain

Russian forces lack ‘combat effectiveness’ to exploit Avdiivka takeover, says British MoD

09:31 , Tom Watling

Russian forces lack the “combat effectiveness to immediately exploit the capture of Avdiivka”, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has claimed in its latest intelligence update.

The Russian MoD announced it had taken over the city over the weekend after five months of costly mechanised and then infantry-led assaults.

The key eastern frontline city had been fought over for 10 years, and could unlock the rest of the Donetsk region in Russia’s bid to control the wider east.

But the British MoD suggested the heavy casualties suffered by Russian forces to seize the city will cap their ability to push on from their new positions.

“It is likely that Russian forces lack the combat effectiveness to immediately exploit the capture of Avdiivka and will require a period of rest and refit,” they wrote on X.

“In the coming weeks, Russia will likely seek to extend its territorial gain beyond Avdiivka.”

In the meantime, images have shown Ukrainian forces shoring up backward defensive positions in the town of Lastochkyne, northwest of Avdiivka.

Hungary set to ratify Sweden's NATO bid on Feb 26 after long delay

09:03 , Tom Watling

Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party has proposed that parliament should vote to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO on 26 February, a move that it would support.

“Our group wishes to support” Sweden’s NATO bid, the Fidesz party said in a document, asking the Speaker of parliament to include the vote in its agenda next Monday. Fidesz has a huge majority in parliament.

Sweden applied to join NATO nearly two years ago, in a historic shift in policy prompted by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

After a prolonged delay, Hungary will be the last NATO member to approve the Nordic country’s bid to become the bloc’s 32nd member.

Swedish Defence Minister Pal Jonson welcomed news of Hungary’s plans to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban had signalled on Saturday that parliament could soon ratify the Swedish bid when it convenes for its new spring session.

“It’s good news that our dispute with Sweden will soon be settled,” Orban told supporters, without providing details.

Hungary could discuss deepening economic and defence cooperation with Sweden if the latter’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson were to visit Budapest, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Monday.

Hungarian Prime Minister Orban delivers his annual State of the Nation speech, in Budapest (via REUTERS)
Hungarian Prime Minister Orban delivers his annual State of the Nation speech, in Budapest (via REUTERS)

Sweden donates another £540m in military aid to Ukraine

08:30 , Tom Watling

Sweden's defence ministry has announced they will donate military aid to Ukraine worth some 7.1 billion Swedish crowns (£541 million), including the transfer of equipment and fresh cash for arms procurement.

It will be Sweden's 15th round of aid for Ukraine and the Nordic country's biggest package to date, taking the overall aid since Russia's full-scale invasion in 2022 to around 30 billion crowns.

Putin gifts petrol head Kim Jong-un a new car for his collection

08:05 , Athena Stavrou

Russian president Vladimir Putin has gifted a car to his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un, the latest signal of deepening relations between two countries that are otherwise increasingly isolated on the global stage.

The Russian-made car was delivered for Mr Kim’s “personal use” on Sunday via a Russian delegation, North Korean state media outlet Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

Mr Putin’s present to Mr Kim is likely to be in violation of Moscow-backed United Nations Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang, which prohibit the supply of luxury goods including all “transportation vehicles” to the East Asian nation.

Read the full article below:

Putin gifts petrol head Kim Jong-un a new car for his collection

Ukraine downs 23 drones in overnight attack

08:03 , Athena Stavrou

Russia unleashed a barrage of drone attacks on seven cities in Ukraine as the country claimed said they had downed all 23 drones with their air defences.

“As a result of combat operations, all 23 “shahids” drones were shot down in Kharkiv, Poltava, Kirovohrad, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions,” the military said on Telegram messaging app.

Cheney warns that Trump has created the ‘Putin wing’ of the Republican party

07:01 , Andy Gregory

Former Republican conference chair Liz Cheney has argued that former president Donald Trump has created the “Putin wing” of the Republican Party, a section backing the Russian president.

Ms Cheney, 57, was on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday warning of the Putin wing possibly coming back to the White House in the form of former president Donald Trump.

She slammed the ex-president for his recent comments saying that he wouldn’t protect Nato countries who don’t pay their fair share, recounting how he told a fellow world leader that he would urge Russia to do “whatever the hell they want”.

John Bowden and Gustaf Kilander have more in this report:

Cheney warns that Trump has created the ‘Putin wing’ of the Republican party

Alexander Litvinenko's wife calls Vladimir Putin 'monster'

06:02 , Andy Gregory

Russia exploiting delays in Western aid, warns Zelensky

05:03 , Andy Gregory

Russia is exploiting delays in extending aid to Ukraine, and the situation in areas where Moscow’s troops are concentrated is “extremely difficult”, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has warned.

“There is now an extremely difficult situation in several parts of the frontline, precisely where Russian troops have concentrated maximum reserves,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly video address, after a visit to frontline areas in the northeast.

“They are taking advantage of delays in aid to Ukraine and this is a very sensitive matter. Artillery shortages, the need for frontline air defence and for longer-range weapons.”

 (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)
(UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

Canada to donate £55m-worth of drones to Ukraine

04:01 , Andy Gregory

Canada has announced that it will donate more than 800 SkyRanger R70 drones to Ukraine.

The drones, sourced from Teledyne in Ontario, have been valued at over C$95m (£55.9m), Canada’s defence ministry said, adding that the donation was funded by the C$500m in military assistance announced by prime minister Justin Trudeau during last year’s visit to Kyiv.

“Today’s announcement ensures that Ukraine has the drones it needs to detect and identify targets which are critical to Ukraine’s ongoing fight. Canada will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” said defence minister Bill Blair.

Canada has committed over C$9.7bn (£5.7bn) in aid to Ukraine since February 2022, including over C$2.4bn (£1.4bn) in military assistance, the country’s defence ministry said.

UK ministers facing questions over sudden closure of Ukraine family scheme

03:04 , Andy Gregory

Ministers are facing calls to “urgently explain” why a scheme offering visas to Ukrainians fleeing war was shut down at 3pm on Monday and is no longer accepting applications.

The Home Office closed the Ukraine family scheme at 3pm on Monday, which had allowed applicants to join family members or extend their stay in the UK.

The decision by the Home Office to close the Ukraine family scheme was among a series of changes to immigration rules set out in a policy document published without warning earlier in the day. It also confirmed a visa extension scheme will close on 16 May.

Labour said the move “sends the wrong message” about the UK’s “willingness” to stand by Ukraine while campaigners raised concerns that one of “few safe routes” created to allow families to reunite amid the conflict was “closing at such short notice”.

Ukraine seeking action to stop Russian use of Starlink, minister says

02:02 , Reuters

Ukraine has asked Elon Musk’s firm SpaceX Aerospace to prevent Russia from using its Starlink terminals for communications in areas occupied by Vladimir Putin’s troops, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has said.

Starlink terminals were rushed in to help Ukraine after Russia’s invasion and have been vital to Kyiv’s battlefield communications. Starlink says it does not do business of any kind with Russia’s government or military.

But Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov told the Wall Street Journal this month that Russian troops were using thousands of Starlink terminals, after acquiring them from private Russian firms that purchased them from intermediaries.

Deputy PM and minister of digital transformation Mykhailo Fedorov has now told public broadcaster Suspilne that Ukrainian authorities have sought action from SpaceX.

“We found an algorithm and made a proposal to SpaceX and are in communication with them to ensure that such cases do not occur,” said Mr Fedorov. “SpaceX has done something similar with the Israeli government.”

Mr Fedorov said Ukraine needed the terminals to work in all areas “because specific technologies are being used linked to drones. There are other ways so that our Starlinks work and others do not. We are working on this with SpaceX.”

EU moves closer to new sanctions against Russia

00:59 , Andy Gregory

The European Union has moved closer to new sanctions against Moscow over its war on Ukraine, as Alexei Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya met with the bloc’s 27 foreign ministers in Brussels.

Germany, Lithuania and Sweden were among EU countries calling at the meeting – scheduled before Navalny’s death – for specific new penalties against Russia in response to the suspected killing.

And in a development which will relieve Brussels, Hungary – the last EU country needed to pass the proposed new restrictions against nearly 200 more firms and people deemed involved in the war – said it would not stall or veto the bloc’s 13th package of Russia sanctions since Moscow invaded Ukraine.

The EU’s top diplomat suggested that Russian prison officials linked to Navalny’s death could be added to the list of those subjected to asset freezes and travel bans.

There was no immediate word of any more hard-hitting measures that could target Russia’s broader economy and an EU diplomat said so far it seemed any specific new sanctions related to Navalny’s death would be “symbolic” and come later.

Biden willing to meet with Republican US House speaker over Ukraine aid

00:01 , Alexander Butler

US President Joe Biden said he was willing to meet with House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson to discuss a funding bill for Ukraine’s war against Russia, saying that Republicans are making a mistake by opposing the aid package.

The Senate in a bipartisan vote earlier this month passed a £75billion aid package that includes funds for Ukraine, but Johnson so far has declined even to bring it up for a vote on the floor of the House, which Republicans control by a narrow 219-212 margin. He has been demanding a meeting with Biden.

“Sure I’d be happy to meet with him, if he has anything to say,” Biden said.

Speaking to reporters as he returned to the White House from a weekend in Delaware, Biden said Republicans are making a big mistake by opposing aid to Ukraine for use in its war to repel Russian invaders.

Zelensky thanks Japan for reconstruction conference

Monday 19 February 2024 23:00 , Alexander Butler

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed his “sincere gratitude” to Japan for hosting a conference on the reconstruction of his country.

Writing on X, Zelensky said Ukrainians would be “forever grateful” for Japanese support and welcomed the country’s “expertise and experience” on post-war resconstruction.

“As Tokyo hosts the Japan-Ukraine Conference for the promotion of economic growth and reconstruction, I express my sincere gratitude to prime minister Fumio Kishida his team, and the entire Japanese people for all their firm support for our country and people,” he said.

“Japan has been standing with Ukraine since the first days of this full-scale war. Japan’s ongoing long-term assistance has helped our people withstand this difficult time and saved many Ukrainian lives.

“Most importantly, we have seen how many Japanese people hold Ukraine dear to their hearts. We will be forever grateful for this.

“The Ukraine-Japan cooperation is gaining momentum and we are looking forward to further realizing its full potential in many areas, including recovery, where Japan has unique expertise and experience.”

Russia claims control of Avdiivka coke plant after most intense battle of war so far

Monday 19 February 2024 22:00 , Alexander Butler

Why is Japan hosting a conference for Ukraine reconstruction when it’s still at war?

Why is Japan hosting a conference for Ukraine reconstruction?

Monday 19 February 2024 21:00 , Alexander Butler

Why is Japan hosting a conference for Ukraine reconstruction when it’s still at war?

Three big lessons from two years of war in Ukraine

Monday 19 February 2024 20:00 , Alexander Butler

Three big lessons from two years of war in Ukraine

11 Ukrainian children taken to Russian-held territory to be reunited with families

Monday 19 February 2024 19:00 , Alexander Butler

Eleven Ukrainian children taken by Russia to be reunited with families

Ukrainian killed by rocket launcher in village skirmish

Monday 19 February 2024 18:01 , Barney Davis

The head of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration, Ivan Fedorov, reported that a local man was killed in an explosion.

“At about 12:00, the invaders shelled the village of Prymorske in the Vasylivka district, using Grad rocket launchers. A 57-year-old resident was killed. Someone’s son, husband, father,” the post on Telegram read.

Earlier it was reported that in the last 24 hours Russian forces struck 402 times in 12 towns and villages of the Zaporizhzhia region.

Russian forces are launching more attacks on territory to the west of Avdiivka as Vladimir Putin’s troops look to consolidate his biggest military gain since taking Bakhumut in May.

Patriots needed to donate blood in Kirovohrad region - Ukraine’s ministry of health demands

Monday 19 February 2024 17:01 , Barney Davis

Ukrainian doctors are asking for more support from people willing to donate blood to injured soldiers.

A Telegram post from the Ministry of Health said a “patriotic initiative from the educational department of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences needed attention and support”.

It added: “Moreover, the Ministry of Health emphasises that there is a significant need for donor blood throughout Ukraine.

“Needs are dynamic and change daily depending on circumstances. In particular, in the Kirovohrad region, blood of all groups is needed.”

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Ukrainian recruits will get proper training - commander vows

Monday 19 February 2024 16:01 , Barney Davis

No soldier will be sent to the frontline against Russia without training and equipment, Commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces Oleksandr Pavliuk said in an interview with Radio Liberty.

“I think that no mobilised person will go to the combat zone without being equipped, trained, or provided with supplies,” he said. “We are very meticulous about this, especially with regard to personnel training.”

On the issue of equipment and weapons, he said, “it’s not an issue at all”.

“The second issue is equipment and large-caliber ammunition. These are the issues we are studying and working on.”

It came as Russia claimed full control of the frontline city of Avdiivka after four months of intense bombardment.

 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)

Russian pilot of downed jet found floating face down in water

Monday 19 February 2024 14:44 , Barney Davis

A Russian pilot was found “drifting face down” in the sea of Azov the commander of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk, reported on Telegram.

It came after Ukraine’s military shot down two more Russian warplanes on Monday in the east.

“Russian rescuers have reported that the pilot of the Su-35 is drifting ‘face down’ in the Sea of Azov. And the Cospas-Sarsat system again tells us where to look for the crew of the Su-34. We are working on it,” he said.

According to Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi, the aircraft were a Su-34 fighter-bomber and a Su-35S fighter jet that attacked Ukrainian troops’ positions with guided bombs.

The force added the pilot of the downed Russian Su-35 fighter jet is likely dead, and the fate of the crew of the enemy Su-34 is being investigated.

Zelensky visiting frontline in Kupyansk amid Russian advances

Monday 19 February 2024 13:30 , Barney Davis

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky is visiting the frontline soldiers defending Kupyansk.

The Head of State listened to the report of the brigade commander Lieutenant Colonel Oleksiy Trubnikov about the experience of using various types of drones in the area of responsibility and about the peculiarities of combating enemy UAVs with electronic warfare systems.

The parties also discussed the supply of equipment, ammunition and other urgent needs of the warriors.

Volodymyr Zelensky told the battalion command post of the 14th separate mechanised brigade named after Prince Roman the Great: “I am glad to be here today to see you, to congratulate you.

“To express gratitude on behalf of all Ukrainians, all of Ukraine, for doing such a great job every day, for defending the state, our families, independence, and our sovereignty. I am confident in you. I wish you good health. Take care of yourself and your colleagues. This is very important. I wish you all victory.”

 (President.gov.ua)
(President.gov.ua)

School guard, 65, killed in Russian shelling -Sloviansk security claim

Monday 19 February 2024 12:30 , Barney Davis

A school guard was killed in the Russian shelling of Sloviansk, local security sources have claimed on Telegram.

“On Saturday evening, February 17, the enemy launched a massive rocket attack. One of the strikes hit the building of the Sloviansk school #18, which housed a social canteen, a point of invincibility and one of the points of distribution of humanitarian aid.

“Search operations have been completed. Under the rubble of the destroyed school, we found the body of a deceased man - a guard of the educational institution,” said Vadym Liakh, head of the Sloviansk city police.

According to the city administration, the school guard killed was 65 years old.

They added this brings the total number of civilian victims of Russian aggression in the Sloviansk community to 50.

Russia has insisted it doesn’t target civilians in shelling campaigns.

 (Telegram)
(Telegram)

Two more Russian warplanes downed - Kyiv claims

Monday 19 February 2024 11:52 , Barney Davis

Ukraine’s military on Monday shot down two more Russian warplanes used to drop highly destructive guided aerial bombs on Kyiv’s troops, army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said.

The destroyed planes were an Su-34 fighter-bomber and an Su-35 fighter, Syrskyi said on Telegram, not disclosing the area where they were downed. At the weekend, Ukraine said it shot down three Russian Su-34s and one Su-35 in eastern skies.

“In just three days, the enemy lost six aircraft,” Oleksandr Pavliuk, Ukraine’s new ground forces chief, said on Telegram on Monday.

Russia has not commented on the reported downing of warplanes and Reuters was not able to verify Ukraine’s version.

Moscow has aerial superiority over Kyiv, but Ukraine is using Western air defence systems to counter that.

Kyiv accuses Moscow of hitting civilian targets using Su-34s, in particular in southern Kherson region, as well as attacking Ukraine’s front lines. Russia has denied deliberately targeting civilians although many have been killed in its strikes.

Stock image of Russian Su-34s
Stock image of Russian Su-34s

Two years of war in Ukraine: Sign up to our exclusive expert panel event with Bel Trew

Monday 19 February 2024 11:30 , Barney Davis

To mark the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine breaking out, The Independent is bringing together a panel of experts who have been at the forefront of the coverage of the conflict.

Two years have passed since Russia invaded its European neighbour and the war has left Ukraine and its people in a state of utter devastation.

Hosted by Bel Trew, The Independent’s award-winning chief international correspondent, the panel will be looking back at key moments in the Russia-Ukraine war, as well as looking ahead to what is likely to happen next.

Two years of war in Ukraine: Sign up to our free expert panel event

'Delays in funding from the West helping Russian advances’

Monday 19 February 2024 10:50 , Barney Davis

Russian forces have completed their takeover of Avdiivka by eliminating the last pocket of resistance at the eastern Ukraine city’s huge coke plant, the Russian military said on Monday, after the sheer weight of its troop numbers and greater firepower drove out Kyiv’s forces.

For Ukraine, the loss underscored its reliance on the supply of Western weapons and ammunition, as hold-ups have left it short of provisions and handicapped in the fight.

However, some Western military analysts believe that Ukraine could counter Russia’s attempt to build up on its Avdiivka success by trying to erect new defence lines in that immediate area and deploying fresh units to hold back Kremlin’s forces.

“Delays in Western security assistance to Ukraine are likely helping Russia launch opportunistic offensive operations along several sectors of the front line in order to place pressure on Ukrainian forces,” the Institute for the Study of War said in an assessment.

Apart from Avdiivka, Russia is pushing harder in the northeastern Kharkiv region and in southern Zaporizhia, the Washington-based think tank said.

Probe into alleged shootings of unarmed Ukrainian soldiers ongoing

Monday 19 February 2024 10:15 , Barney Davis

Ukrainian authorities said on Sunday they had opened an investigation into alleged shootings by Russian forces of six unarmed Ukrainian soldiers in the city of Avdiivka, and two at a village in the same region, after Russia claimed full control of the city.

“An investigation into the shootings of unarmed Ukrainian prisoners of war in Avdiivka and Vesele has been launched,” the prosecutor’s office in Donetsk region said on its Telegram channel.

Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne quoted Ukrainian military spokesperson Dmytro Lykhoviy as saying: “There is still no possibility to confirm or refute” the killings at Avdiivka, as an investigation was ongoing. However, he added it would not be the first time Russia had committed war crimes.

Russia says its forces have gained 9km after taking Avdiivka

Monday 19 February 2024 09:11 , Barney Davis

Russian forces on Monday claimed full control of the vast Soviet-era coke plant in the ruined Ukrainian town of Avdiivka, cementing the biggest battlefield gain in nine months.

Russia’s defence ministry said its troops had advanced about 9 km (5 miles) in that part of the 1,000-km (620-mile) front line, and that Russian troops were pressing forward after an deadly urban battle.

Ukraine said it had withdrawn its soldiers to save troops from being fully surrounded after months of fierce fighting. Putin hailed the fall of Avdiivka as an important victory and congratulated Russian troops.

“The ‘Centre’ grouping of troops, taking the offensive, took full control of the coke plant in Avdiivka,” Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement alongside video showing a series of blasts in what appeared to be the plant.“Russian flags were hoisted on the administrative buildings of the plant,” the ministry said.

Russian state television showed blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags being taken down in Avdiivka and Russia’s white, blue and red tricolour flag raised, including over the coke plant.

Russia claims control of Avdiivka coke plant after most intense battle of war so far

‘EU needs to sharpen sanctions against Putin after Navalny’s death'

Monday 19 February 2024 08:32 , Barney Davis

Lithuania’s foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Monday the EU needs to “at least sharpen” sanctions against Russia after Alexei Navalny’s death, while “half-measures” are not enough to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“If Ukraine falls, everybody is very clear to understand: we will be next. Putin has no intention to stop, he wouldn’t be able to stop,” Landsbergis said ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, where they will be joined by the widow of Navalny.

Navalny, Putin’s most formidable domestic opponent, died on Friday at the “Polar Wolf” Arctic penal colony where he was serving a three-decade sentence.

Late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (AP)
Late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (AP)

Does Ukraine have enough artillery to repel Russian advances?

Monday 19 February 2024 08:05 , Barney Davis

Dwindling ammunition threatens Ukraine’s hold on the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line under withering assault by Russian artillery. Defensive lines are in jeopardy.

Ukrainian forces withdrew from the city of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region after daily Russian onslaughts from three directions for the last four months.

Dwindling supplies of Western-supplied long-range artillery in particular means Ukrainian forces are inhibited from striking high-value targets deep behind Russian lines, where heavy equipment and personnel are accumulated.

For weeks, Ukrainian forces across the frontline have complained about critical shortages in ammunition, with some artillery batteries fighting with only 10 per cent of supply they need. Desperate to economise shells, military leaders ordered units to fire at only precise targets. But commanders on the ground say this is barely enough to restrain their better supplied enemy.

Concerns are growing that without military aid the fall of Avdiivka may be repeated in other parts of the frontline.

Artillery system moves to firing positions on the road to the city, on the outskirts of Avdiivka (Getty Images)
Artillery system moves to firing positions on the road to the city, on the outskirts of Avdiivka (Getty Images)

Zelensky urges allies to send arms and warns ‘artificial shortage’ of weapons only helps Putin

Monday 19 February 2024 07:00 , Matt Mathers

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has urged allies to help plug Ukraine’s “artificial deficit of weapons” just hours after his military chief announced a withdrawal from the eastern city of Avdiivka, which Kyiv has been struggling to hold for months.

Addressing world leaders, diplomats and military officials gathered at the Munich Security Conference, Mr Zelensky warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatened not just Europe but every country, as it was “war against any rules at all”.

Full report:

Zelensky warns ‘artificial shortage’ of weapons only helps Putin

ICYMI: Three big lessons from two years of war in Ukraine

Monday 19 February 2024 06:00 , Matt Mathers

When Russia invaded Ukraine in the early hours of 24 February two years ago, nobody knew how it would play out. Here author and Russia expert Mark Galeotti sifts through the carnage of the bloody conflict for clues as to what will happen next:

Three big lessons from two years of war in Ukraine

Ukrainian commanders speak of artillery shortages before Avdiivka withdrawl

Monday 19 February 2024 05:40 , Arpan Rai

A dozen commanders in the Ukraine war’s most intense combat zones have spoken out about artillery shortages, an issue which has been present ever since Russia’s invasion two years ago and which is severely hampering Kyiv’s war effort.

The shortage of artillery ammunition grew particularly acute last autumn and in the weeks leading up to the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Avdiivka’s critical coke plant, they say.

For weeks, Ukrainian forces across the frontline have complained about critical shortages in ammunition, with some artillery batteries fighting with only 10 per cent of the supply they need.

Desperate to economise shells, military leaders ordered units to fire at only precise targets. But commanders on the ground say this is barely enough to restrain their better supplied enemy.

Concerns are growing that, without military aid, the fall of Avdiivka may be repeated in other parts of the frontline.

Dwindling supplies of Western-supplied long-range artillery in particular means Ukrainian forces are inhibited from striking high-value targets deep behind Russian lines, where heavy equipment and personnel are accumulated.

Ukraine had a tough choice to make over troops in Avdiivka. The West cannot afford for that to keep happening

Monday 19 February 2024 05:00 , Matt Mathers

Saving lives was the priority says Volodymyr Zelensky, as delays to military aid from the US will only add to pressures on the battlefield, writes Askold Krushelnycky in Kyiv

Read the full piece here:

Ukraine had an extremely tough choice to make over troops in Avdiivka

Russian forces 'take full control of Avdiivka coke plant'

Monday 19 February 2024 04:31 , Arpan Rai

Russia says its forces have taken full control of the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant, two days after Ukraine confirmed its withdrawal from the town.

Russia’s defence ministry said yesterday that Ukrainian units were still entrenched at the plant, which is on the northwestern edge of Avdiivka.

The sprawling plant complex was an important industrial asset before the start of the war, and has been the site of intense fighting as both countries battled for control of the strategically-placed town.

Ukrainian forces withdrew from the town on Saturday to protect its remaining soldiers from being encircled, and after daily Russian onslaughts from three directions for the last four months.

Avdiivka has been a frontline city ever since Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, and the fortified settlement with a maze of trenches and tunnels served to protect important – and less easily defended – logistical hubs further west.

ICYMI: Generational divide over the threats facing Britain, new polling suggests

Monday 19 February 2024 04:00 , Matt Mathers

There is a stark generational divide between how the public see the various threats and how they should be dealt with – but the majority agree that the world is a less safe place than five years ago, new polling suggests.

Younger people believe that the war in Gaza should be the top foreign policy priority for the government, while the rest of the population believe that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the most important issue to address.

Full report:

Generational divide over the threats facing Britain, new polling suggests

ICYMI: Russia, Ukraine and Gaza dominate as world leaders gather for Munich security conference

Monday 19 February 2024 03:00 , Matt Mathers

Two major wars and the death of Russian Putin critic Alexei Navalny hang heavy over the annual gathering, writes Bel Trew.

Full report:

Russia, Ukraine and Gaza dominate as world leaders gather in Munich

ICYMI: Biden says Navalny death is ‘proof of Putin’s brutality’

Monday 19 February 2024 02:00 , Matt Mathers

President Joe Biden on Friday said Russian president Vladimir Putin is responsible for the death of Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader who is reported to have died in a Russian penal colony in Siberia after several years of imprisonment for opposing Mr Putin’s regime.

In remarks delivered from the White House before he departed for an event in Ohio, Mr Biden said he was “not surprised” and “outraged” by reports that Navalny had died.

Full report:

Biden says Navalny death is ‘proof of Putin’s brutality’

ICYMI: Polish prime minister says his country and Finland want changes on EU border policies on migration

Monday 19 February 2024 01:00 , Matt Mathers

Poland’s prime minister said on Friday that his country will upgrade the wall on its border with Belarus to better insulate the frontier against unauthorized migration.

Donald Tusk also said that Poland and Finland both see the need for changes in the European Union’s asylum legislation, which he called “inadequate” in the face of the current migration challenges and threats posed by Russia‘s and Belarus’s policies that are pushing unauthorized migration into the EU.

Full report:

Polish prime minister says his country and Finland want changes on EU border policies on migration

Two years of war in Ukraine: Sign up to our exclusive expert panel event with Bel Trew

Monday 19 February 2024 00:01 , Matt Mathers

To mark the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine, The Independent is bringing together a panel of experts who have been at the forefront of covering the conflict to discuss how it has unfolded and what might happen next.

Sign up here:

Two years of war in Ukraine: Sign up to our free expert panel event

Editorial: Ukraine can still win this war – but it will need our help

Sunday 18 February 2024 23:00 , Matt Mathers

The foreign secretary’s surprising entreaty to the US Senate – that it should not show the kind of weakness displayed against Hitler in the 1930s – was as timely as it was powerful. The complacency many Western politicians have shown to Russia of late is astonishing: we cannot allow Putin to be appeased.

Read the full editorial here:

Editorial: Ukraine can still win this war – but it will need our help

ICYMI: ‘Neutral’ Switzerland forced to boost defence spending

Sunday 18 February 2024 22:00 , Matt Mathers

Switzerland, known for being neutral in wars, is planning to boost its defence spending by up to 19% over the next four years.

The Swiss government is citing a rise in global instability, including wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, and gaps created when Swiss authorities cashed in on a peace dividend from the fall of the Berlin Wall decades ago.

Full report:

‘Neutral’ Switzerland forced to boost defence spending

Russia will not intimidate me, Estonia’s Kallas says after arrest warrant issued

Sunday 18 February 2024 21:00 , Matt Mathers

Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas on Sunday dismissed a warrant issued by Russia for her arrest, saying it was just an attempt to intimidate her amid speculation she could get a top European Union post.

Once ruled by Moscow but now a member of both the European Union and NATO, Estonia has been a supporter of Kyiv and Kallas has been one of Moscow’s most vocal critics since the Russian invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.

Russian police placed her and several other Baltic politicians on a wanted list on Feb. 13 for destroying Soviet-era monuments.

"It is meant to intimidate and make me refrain from the decisions that I would otherwise make," Kallas told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

"But it’s Russia’s playbook. It’s nothing surprising and we are not afraid."

The Baltic politicians risk being arrested only if they cross the Russian border, otherwise declaring them wanted has no real consequences.

Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

ICYMI: Ukrainian forces pull back from Avdiivka to dodge encirclement, army chief says

Sunday 18 February 2024 20:30 , Matt Mathers

Ukraine is pulling back its soldiers from the embattled town of Avdiivka after the White House warned it was “at risk of falling into Russian control” due to an ammunition shortage.

Ukraine’s commander-in-chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said the troops were being withdrawn after four months of fight “to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of service personnel”.

Full report:

Ukrainian forces pull back from Avdiivka to dodge encirclement, army chief says

Ukraine accuses Russia of executing injured prisoners at Avdiivka, Vesele

Sunday 18 February 2024 19:59 , Matt Mathers

Ukrainian authorities said on Sunday they had opened an investigation into alleged shootings by Russian forces of six unarmed Ukrainian soldiers in the city of Avdiivka, and two at a village in the same region, after Russia claimed full control of the city.

"An investigation into the shootings of unarmed Ukrainian prisoners of war in Avdiivka and Vesele has been launched," the prosecutor’s office in Donetsk region said on its Telegram channel.

The prosecutors referred to information about "the execution of six prisoners" at a position in Avdiivka, adding that they were "seriously injured and awaiting evacuation." It said the information had been shared on Telegram but did not name the source.

von der Leyen and Sunak: Russia must be held to account for Navalny death

Sunday 18 February 2024 19:30 , Matt Mathers

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen spoke on Sunday about Ukraine, Gaza, the Red Sea and the death of Alexei Navalny, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

“The prime minister and president von der Leyen expressed their outrage at the death of Alexei Navalny, and underscored the utmost importance of holding those responsible within the Russian system to account,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Sunak and von der Leyen also condemned the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, the statement said, adding that the prime minister updated the EU commission head on his recent conversations with the Israeli prime minister and the King of Jordan about the situation in Israel and Gaza.

File photo: Sunak and von der Leyen (WPA Rota)
File photo: Sunak and von der Leyen (WPA Rota)

Three big lessons from two years of war in Ukraine

Sunday 18 February 2024 19:00 , Matt Mathers

When Russia invaded Ukraine in the early hours of 24 February two years ago, nobody knew how it would play out.

Here author and Russia expert Mark Galeotti sifts through the carnage of the bloody conflict for clues as to what will happen next:

Three big lessons from two years of war in Ukraine