Ukraine-Russia news – live: US warns of ‘serious consequences’ if China arms Putin

The United States has warned China of “serious consequences” if Beijing were to provide Russia with weapons during Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Following a meeting with Wang Yi at a secret location on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said he had warned the top Chinese diplomat that arming Moscow “would have serious consequences in our relationship”.

Washington’s concerns about such a move come as Russia’s ambassador to the US hit out at Joe Biden’s administration following its declaration that Moscow’s troops were committing “crimes against humanity” in Ukraine.

“We regard such insinuations as an unprecedented attempt to demonise Russia in the framework of the hybrid war unleashed against us,” envoy Anatoly Antonov was quoted saying by Russia’s Tass state news agency.

Meanwhile, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg warned Mr Putin was “planning for more war”, as he joined Rishi Sunak and other Western leaders in calling for intensified support for Ukraine. Mr Sunak insisted the world must “hold Russia to account” for alleged war crimes.

Key Points

  • US warns China of ‘serious consequences’ if it provides Russia with weapons

  • Russia guilty of ‘crimes against humanity’, says Kamala Harris ...

  • ... As Moscow claims allegations are part of a ‘hybrid war unleashed against us’

  • Rishi Sunak addresses leaders at Munich Security Conference

  • Volodymr Zelensky urges West to ‘hurry up’ before Vladimir Putin ‘destroys many more lives’

  • Russian artillery slams in Bakhmut, killing five

US ‘planning new export controls'

19:50 , Katy Clifton

The Biden administration is planning to impose new export controls and a fresh round of sanctions on Russia, targeting key industries, Bloomberg News reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The new sanctions will target Russia’s defence and energy sectors, financial institutions and several individuals, the report said, adding that US and allies may also look into preventing the evasion and circumvention of sanctions in order to disrupt the support Russia receives from third countries.

A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council declined comment when contacted by Reuters.

The European Union’s proposal for new sanctions include Iranian entities seen to be providing Russia with drones and other military supplies, technologies, components, heavy vehicles, electronics and rare-earths, the report said.

18:55 , Katy Clifton

Russia said on Sunday that Ukraine was planning to stage a nuclear incident on its territory to pin the blame on Moscow ahead of a United Nations meeting, without providing evidence for the accusation.

Since the start of its invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago, Russia has repeatedly accused Kyiv of planning “false flag” operations with non-conventional weapons, using biological or radioactive materials. No such attack has materialised.

Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement that radioactive substances had been transported to Ukraine from a European country and Kyiv was preparing a large-scale “provocation”.

“The aim of the provocation is to accuse Russia’s army of allegedly carrying out indiscriminate strikes on hazardous radioactive facilities in Ukraine, leading to the leakage of radioactive substances and contamination of the area,” it said.

Top Republican ‘believes Biden administration will agree to train Ukrainians on F-16s'

17:34 , Andy Gregory

US politicians broadly support training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, Republican senator Lindsey Graham has said.

The politician said he believed the Biden administration would soon agree to do so.

Following talks between US and Ukrainian officials at the Munich security conference, Mr Graham said he did not worry that the F-16s would escalate the conflict.

“Don’t worry about provoking Putin, worry about beating him,” he told ABC.

Ukrainian officials lobby US delegation to push Biden on fighter jets

16:40 , Andy Gregory

Ukrainian officials have urged members of the US Congress to pressure Joe Biden’s administration to send F-16 jetfighters to Kyiv.

The lobbying came on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in talks between Ukrainian officials, including foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, and US Democrats and Republicans.

Four delegations from the Senate and House combined in what members said was the largest US delegation to attend Europe’s premier security gathering since it started in 1963, demonstrating clear bipartisan support for Ukraine.

“They told us that they want [F-16s] to suppress enemy air defenses so they could get their drones” beyond Russian front lines, senator Mark Kelly, a former astronaut who flew US Navy fighters in combat, told Reuters on Saturday evening.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the United States should focus on providing weapons that can be used immediately on the battlefield, rather than fighter jets which require extensive training.

Russia must be held accountable after war, says Estonia’s PM

15:41 , Andy Gregory

Once the war in Ukraine ends, Russia must be brought to justice for war crimes and the decision to invade its neighbor if it is to have any chance of developing a normal relationship with the West, Estonia’s prime minister has said.

Kaja Kallas, whose nation is the biggest per-capita contributor of military aid to Ukraine, told The Associated Press that the conflict cannot end with a peace deal that carves up the country and fails to hold Moscow to account.

“I don’t think there can be any relations as usual with a pariah state that hasn’t really given up the imperialistic goals,” she said on the sidelines of a major security conference in Munich. “If we don’t learn this lesson and don’t prosecute the crimes of aggression, the war crimes will just continue.”

Estonian leader: Russia must be held accountable after war

Kadyrov says he plans to one day set up Wagner-style group

14:48 , Andy Gregory

Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechnya region, has declared that he plans to one day set up his own private military company in the style of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group.

The rise of Wagner and other mercenary groups outside the traditional Russian and Soviet-era military command structures has raised concerns among diplomats that such groups could one day pose a threat to stability in Russia.

In a post on Telegram, Mr Kadyrov said that Wagner, which has been fighting alongside Russian troops in Ukraine, had achieved “impressive results” and said private military companies were a necessity.

“When my service to the state is completed, I seriously plan to compete with our dear brother Yevgeny Prigozhin and create a private military company. I think it will all work out,” said Kadyrov, who has served as head of the Chechen Republic since 2007.

Ukraine troops prepare for threat of Russia capturing Bakhmut

14:14 , Reuters

Ukrainian troops conducting weekend exercises near the small town of Siversk, in the country’s east, said they were preparing to defend one of the possible targets of a new Russian offensive.

Siversk, which had a pre-war population of 10,000, is 35 kilometres north of Bakhmut – the scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks – and on a direct road to another of the key towns in the Donetsk region, Sloviansk.

“If they occupied Bakhmut, then we would be semi-encircled, because on the left side we have the Siverskyi Donets river, and the enemy will advance from the right, and it is possible to cut us off if they reach the Bakhmut highway,” said the deputy Siversk battalion commander, who used the nom-de-guerre “Han”.

Ukrainian forces have appealed for more advanced weapons from Kyiv’s Western allies to help defend Bakhmut, which is being attacked by Russia’s Wagner mercenary group.

One soldier defending Siversk said their mostly Soviet-era artillery was outgunned by the enemy.

“We have one artillery attack from our side, and the Russians can do it five times more,” said 30-year-old Stefan. “It’s very difficult for the guys who are standing, especially at the first line [of defence], they feel it too much.”

Capturing Bakhmut would give Russian forces a stepping stone to advance on two bigger cities further west, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. But Ukraine and its Western allies say success there would be a largely Pyrrhic victory for Moscow, given the time taken and losses sustained.

Ukrainian soldiers fire a Pion artillery system at Russian positions near Bakhmut on 16 December (AP Photo/LIBKOS)
Ukrainian soldiers fire a Pion artillery system at Russian positions near Bakhmut on 16 December (AP Photo/LIBKOS)

Kremlin rages at US stance over attacks on Russian military targets in Crimea

13:34 , Andy Gregory

The Kremlin has sought to claim that the United States was a “major provocateur” of international tensions as hit out at Washington’s condonation of attacks on Crimea

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was responding to comments by US under secretary of state Victoria Nuland that Washington supports Ukrainian attacks on military targets in Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

“Nuland belongs to a very broad camp of the most aggressive ‘hawks’ in American politics. This is a point of view we know well,” Mr Peskov said in comments carried by the state-backed Tass news agency.

Mr Peskov warned that the remarks about the peninsula underscored the depth of disagreement between the two countries.

Italy’s Meloni to meet Zelensky in Kyiv on Monday, source says

12:48 , Andy Gregory

Italy’s premier Giorgia Meloni will travel to Kyiv on Monday to meet Volodymyr Zelensky, a political source has told Reuters.

Ms Meloni, who took office in October, has said she planned to visit Ukraine ahead of the anniversary of Russia’s invasion on 24 February – with Italy and France having recently finalised talks over the delivery of an advanced air defence system to Kyiv in the spring.

Despite friction on the issue within her ruling right-wing coalition and divided public opinion, Ms Meloni has been a firm supporter of Ukraine. Her coalition partner and predecessor Silvio Berlusconi said last week that – were he still premier – he would not seek a meeting with the Ukrainian president, who he blames for the war with Russia.

Russia likely using balloons to spy on Ukraine and use up ammo stocks, says UK

11:56 , Andy Gregory

Russia is likely using balloons in a “new tactic” to gather information about Ukraine’s air defence systems and force Kyiv to expend valuable stocks of surface-to-air missiles and ammunition, Britain’s Ministry of Defence has said.

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry noted that the sighting of a “balloon-shaped” object on Tuesday led to the closure of Moldovan airspace for several hours, adding: “There is a realistic possibility that this was a Russian balloon that had drifted from Ukrainian airspace.”

The following day, Ukrainian troops “spotted several balloons with radar reflectors suspended beneath them over Kyiv”, it said, adding: “Ukrainian officials reported that they shot down at least six of these.

Ukraine’s Air Force also reported balloons over eastern Dnipropetrovsk last Sunday, the ministry said.

“They likely represent a new tactic by Russia to gain information about Ukrainian air defence systems and compel the Ukrainians to expend valuable stocks of surface to air missiles and ammunition,” it added.

West has not shown willingness to engage in peace efforts, claims Kremlin

11:12 , Andy Gregory

The West has not yet shown it is willing to engage in peaceful initiatives to resolve Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Kremlin has claimed.

“So far, there is no readiness or openness for peace initiatives on the part of the collective West,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by the Tass news agency.

The Bell becomes latest news site to be blocked in Russia

10:44 , Andy Gregory

Russian outlet The Bell is the latest news site to have been taken offline by the Kremlin in its intensified crackdown on independent media coverage since invading Ukraine.

The site mainly covers business news and was one of the few remaining independent media websites accessible after the authorities blocked Mediazona, Meduza and Novaya Gazeta. It was founded in 2017 by Yelizaveta Osetinskaya, who formerly edited Vedomosti and the Russian edition of Forbes.

Both Ms Osetinskaya and The Bell had already been labelled “foreign agents” – entities subject to increased scrutiny by the authorities.

While the outlet said last year it was going to stop covering the conflict in Ukraine, citing the danger to its journalists, it continued to publish stories about the invasion’s effects on the economy.

Russia raises spectre of Napoleon in attack on Macron over his Moscow ‘regime change’ comments

09:58 , Andy Gregory

Russia has criticised “priceless” Emmanuel Macron over his remarks about regime change in the Kremlin, raising the spectre of France’s 19th century emperor, Napoleon.

On Friday, the French president urged allies to step up military support for Ukraine, but added: “Let’s be clear, I don’t believe for one second in regime change, and when I hear a lot of people calling for regime change I ask them, ‘For which change? Who’s next? Who is your leader?’”

Clarifying those comments, he told Le Journal du Dimanche that he did not believe a democratic solution from within civil society would emerge in Russia after years of a hardening of Moscow’s position and conflict, adding that he saw no alternative to Putin, who had to be brought back to the negotiating table.

“All the options other than Vladimir Putin in the current system seem worse to me,” Mr Macron said, telling the paper that while France wanted Russia to be defeated in Ukraine, it had never wanted to “crush” it.

But Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said: “About ‘never’: France did not begin with Macron, and the remains of Napoleon, revered at the state level, rest in the centre of Paris. France – and Russia – should understand.”

“In general, Macron is priceless,” she said, adding that his remarks showed the West had engaged in discussions about regime change in Russia while Macron had repeatedly sought meetings with the Russian leadership.

US warns China of ‘serious consequences’ if it arms Russia

08:50 , Andy Gregory

Washington is concerned that China is considering supplying weapons to Russia, US secretary of state Anthony Blinken has said – warning top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi of consequences in such an event.

The pair met at an undisclosed location on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, just hours after Wang described Washington as “hysterical” in a running dispute over the US downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon.

In an interview to be aired on Sunday morning on NBC News, Mr Blinken said the US was very concerned that China is considering providing lethal support to Russia and that he made clear to Wang that “would have serious consequences in our relationship.”

“There are various kinds of lethal assistance that they are at least contemplating providing, to include weapons,” Mr Blinken said, adding that Washington would soon release more details.

Blinken to raise Sweden and Finland Nato bids during Turkey visit

07:30 , Andy Gregory

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to arrive in Turkey for an official visit in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people.

Also topping the agenda will be the stalled Nato bids of Sweden and Finland, which Turkey has so far refused to ratify, saying Stockholm in particular has harboured individuals it alleges are members of terrorist groups. Ankara has recently indicated it would approve only Finland.

Mr Blinken will land at Incirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana, from where he will take a helicopter tour of the area devastated by the earthquakes. He will then hold bilateral talks on Monday with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and may meet with president Tayyip Erdogan, according to Reuters.

ICYMI: 'Russia must not win this war against Ukraine,' French president says

07:15 , Vishwam Sankaran

French president Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that Russia “cannot and must not win this war against Ukraine”.

“Accepting the normalization of the illegal use of force would mean calling European security and global security into question. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine must fail,” Mr Macron said.

He added that while France wants Russia to be defeated in Ukraine, it does not want to “crush” it.

“I do not think, as some people do, that we must aim for a total defeat of Russia, attacking Russia on its own soil,” the French president said.

Most of Ukraine has power despite Russian shelling, Zelensky says

06:45 , Vishwam Sankaran

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said most of the people in the country still have access to electricity despite another day of Russian missile attacks.

Russia had launched 16 missiles at Ukraine, according to Ukraine’s General Staff.

Mr Zelensky said sections of the country’s electrical infrastructure that were shut off in anticipation of the attack were being re-enabled.

“This is a very significant result for Ukraine. A result we achieved together,” he added.

US government, Elon Musk discuss about Starlink use in Ukraine

06:15 , Vishwam Sankaran

US secretary of state Antony Blinken had conversations with SpaceX chief Elon Musk about the use of his company’s Starlink satellite internet in Ukraine.

SpaceX had put in place measures earlier this month to prevent Ukraine’s Armed Forces from using the satellite internet service for controlling drones, Reuters reported.

“Well, I can’t share any conversations we’ve had other than to say we’ve had conversations,” Mr Blinken said in an interview with NBC News.

Netherlands to expel some Russian diplomats accused of spying

05:45 , Vishwam Sankaran

The Dutch government is reportedly expelling some Russian diplomats out of the country, accusing Moscow of “secretly” getting intelligence agents into the Netherlands.

“Russia keeps trying to secretly get intelligence agents into the Netherlands under cover of diplomacy. We cannot and shall not allow that,” Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said in a statement on Saturday.

“At the same time Russia refuses to give visas to Dutch diplomats who would work at the consulate in St Petersburg or the embassy in Moscow,” he added.

The Dutch government also said it would be closing its consulate in St Petersburg.

The Netherlands is the latest in a line of countries, including France, Denmark, and Austria that have expelled Russian diplomats following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

China is considering sending weapons to Russia, US claims

05:14 , Vishwam Sankaran

US secretary of state Antony Blinken has warned China of consequences if it provides weapons and material support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Blinken said following a meeting with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi that the US was concerned Beijing may supply weapons to Moscow.

“There are various kinds of lethal assistance that they are at least contemplating providing, to include weapons,” Mr Blinken said, adding that Washington would soon release more details, Reuters reported.

The Chinese diplomat told Mr Blinken that the US must “face up to and resolve the damage” to relations between the two countries “caused by the indiscriminate use of force,” referring to the recent shootdown of what the US suspected to be a Chinese spy balloon.

War crime allegations an 'attempt to demonise Russia', Russian envoy says

04:54 , Vishwam Sankaran

Russia’s US ambassador has said claims by the US that Russia is behind crimes against humanity in Ukraine are an “attempt to demonise Russia”.

Ambassador Anatoly Antonov accused the US of trying to justify its own actions in fomenting the crisis in Ukraine with the war crime allegations.

“We regard such insinuations as an unprecedented attempt to demonise Russia in the framework of the hybrid war unleashed against us,” Mr Antonov was quoted as saying by Russia’s TASS state news agency.

“There is no doubt that the purpose of such attacks by Washington is to justify its own actions to fuel the Ukrainian crisis,” he said.

Russia claims to have captured Hriankyivka

00:01 , Katy Clifton

Russia’s defence ministry has claimed that its forces have captured Hrianykivka, a village in Ukraine‘s eastern Kharkiv region that is well to the north of most significant fighting.

A briefing note from Ukraine‘s General Staff later on Saturday said the village was being shelled, but made no mention of an assault.

Hrianykivka is around 180 km (110 miles) north of Bakhmut, a city in the eastern Donetsk region that has seen fierce fighting in recent weeks.

Macron: ‘I do not think we must aim for a total defeat of Russia'

Saturday 18 February 2023 23:00 , Katy Clifton

France wants Russia to be defeated in Ukraine but it does not want to “crush” it, president Emmanuel Macron has told paper Le Journal du Dimanche.

“I do not think, as some people do, that we must aim for a total defeat of Russia, attacking Russia on its own soil. Those observers want to, above all else, crush Russia. That has never been the position of France and it will never be our position,” Mr Macron said.

Mr Macron has drawn criticism from some NATO allies for delivering mixed messages regarding his policy on the war between Ukraine and Russia, with some considering Paris a weak link in the Western alliance.

On Friday, Mr Macron urged allies to step up military support for Ukraine.

EU gives hope of more ammunition to Ukraine

Saturday 18 February 2023 22:00 , Katy Clifton

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said today she was confident the EU’s joint interest in getting more ammunition to Ukraine will trump individual national interests when it comes to common European defence procurement programmes.

The bloc is urgently exploring ways for its member countries to team up to buy munitions to help Ukraine, following warnings from Kyiv that its forces - which are firing up to 10,000 artillery shells daily - need more supplies quickly.

“As always in this atrocious war that Russia unleashed against Ukraine, we see that we can move mountains under pressure, and therefore here too,” she said in an interview with Reuters and other media at the Munich Security Conference.

“These are not normal times, these are extraordinary times. And therefore we should also look at extraordinary measures or procedures,” she added.

Moscow accused of smuggling spies into Netherlands

Saturday 18 February 2023 21:00 , Katy Clifton

The Dutch government has said “a number” of Russian diplomats will have to leave the Netherlands, accusing Moscow of trying to smuggle spies into the country that is home to institutions including the International Criminal Court and the global chemical weapons watchdog.

The announcement is the latest twist in a diplomatic dispute between the two countries that began shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago sparked a war on Europe’s eastern flank.“Despite numerous attempts by the Netherlands to find a solution, Russia continues to try to get intelligence officers into the Netherlands under diplomatic cover,” Foreign Affairs Minister Wopke Hoekstra said in a statement. “We cannot and will not allow that.”He added that it remains “important to keep the embassies open as a communication channel, even now that relations with Russia are more difficult than ever.”The Russian diplomats were given two weeks to leave the country. A Russian trade office in Amsterdam was ordered shut by Tuesday.

Orban accuses EU of fanning flames of war

Saturday 18 February 2023 20:00 , Katy Clifton

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has said that the European Union is partly to blame for prolonging Russia’s war in Ukraine, doubling down on his government’s insistence that supporting Kyiv was a mistaken strategy for Europe.Speaking at an annual state of the nation address in Budapest, Mr Orban claimed the EU had fanned the flames of the war by sanctioning Russia and supplying Ukraine with money and weapons, rather than seeking to negotiate peace with Moscow.“When Russia launched its attack, the West didn’t isolate the conflict but elevated it to a pan-European level,” Mr Orban said.

“The war in Ukraine is not a conflict between the armies of good and evil, but between two Slavic countries that are fighting against one another. This is their war, not ours.”

Finland could join Nato ahead of Sweden, defence minister says

Saturday 18 February 2023 18:54 , Karl Ritter

Finland’s defense minister said Saturday that his country will join Nato without waiting for Sweden if its Nordic neighbor’s accession is held up by the Turkish government.

Mikko Savola told The Associated Press on Saturday that Finland would prefer that that the two countries join the alliance together, but it wouldn’t hold up the process if Turkey decides to approve Finland, but not Sweden, as it has warned.

“No, no. Then we will join,” Savola said in an interview on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich.

Since they broke with decades of non-alignment in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Finland and Sweden have insisted they want to join Nato together. But Turkey’s reluctance to accept Sweden unless it steps up pressure on Kurdish exile groups has made it more likely the two will have to join the alliance at different speeds.

“Sweden is our closest partner,” Savola said. “Almost every week our defense forces are practicing together and so on. It’s a very deep cooperation and we also trust fully each other. But it’s in Turkey’s hands now.”

Defense minister: Finland could join NATO ahead of Sweden

Sunak says UK ready to support allies who can provide Ukraine with fighter jets

Saturday 18 February 2023 18:06 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak has been asked whether he has spoken to Poland about providing its MiG aircraft to Ukraine during his discussions in Germany today.

“What I’ve done is said to all allies that we stand ready to support them if they can provide fighter jets for Ukraine now,” the PM told broadcasters in Munich.

“And for our part, we’re also leading the world in training Ukrainian pilots on Nato-standard aircraft. That’s the right thing to do because this is about giving Ukraine the means to defend themselves and win this war.

“That’s about more air defence, that’s about armoured vehicles, it is about long-range weapons - the UK is out in front on all these things. And it is important we continue to do so and lead because we all want to see Ukraine succeed and this Russian aggression go ... completely checked and punished.”

Russia’s war has shown EU ‘can move mountains under pressure’, says von der Leyen

Saturday 18 February 2023 17:12 , Andy Gregory

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown that the EU “can move mountains under pressure”, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has said.

The bloc is urgently exploring ways for its member countries to team up to buy munitions to help Ukraine, following warnings from Kyiv that its forces – which are firing up to 10,000 artillery shells daily – need more supplies quickly.

“As always in this atrocious war that Russia unleashed against Ukraine, we see that we can move mountains under pressure, and therefore here too,” she told reporters at the Munich Security Conference, adding: “These are not normal times, these are extraordinary times. And therefore we should also look at extraordinary measures or procedures.”

In the past, the focus on national interests has often prevented closer defence cooperation between European countries, hampering and slowing down joint procurement programmes, but Ms von der Leyen expressed confidence that the bloc’s joint interest in providing Kyiv with ammunition will trump individual national interests when it comes to common European defence procurement programmes.

In her speech to the conference, Ms von der Leyen earlier suggested the EU join forces with the bloc’s defence industry to speed up and scale up the production of ammunition badly needed on the battlefield in Ukraine and to replenish stocks at home (see post at 10:46am).

Finland's prime minister Sanna Marin, left, and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen talk at the Munich Security Conference (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Finland's prime minister Sanna Marin, left, and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen talk at the Munich Security Conference (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Sunak and Harris agree Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ‘is a global war’, No 10 says

Saturday 18 February 2023 16:20 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak and Kamala Harris have agreed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a “global war”, Downing Street has said.

“The prime minister and Vice President Harris condemned those countries who have supported Putin’s efforts politically and militarily,” No 10 said in a statement, after their meeting at the Munich Security Conference.

“They agreed that Putin’s war in Ukraine is a global war, both in terms of its impact on food and energy security and in terms of its implications for internationally accepted norms like sovereignty,” the statement added.

'Justice must be served,’ Kamala Harris says

Saturday 18 February 2023 15:25 , Andy Gregory

Vice president Kamala Harris has said that “justice must be served” as she announced that the United States believes Russia is guilty of “crimes against humanity” in Ukraine.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Ms Harris said the international community has both a moral and a strategic interest in pursuing those crimes, pointing to a danger of other authoritarian governments taking advantage if international rules are undermined.

Ms Harris said that, as a former prosecutor and former head of California’s Department of Justice, she knows “the importance of gathering facts and holding them up against the law”.

“In the case of Russia‘s actions in Ukraine, we have examined the evidence, we know the legal standards and there is no doubt,” she said. “These are crimes against humanity.”


Sunak and von der Leyen agree on giving Ukraine ‘military momentum’ to secure victory

Saturday 18 February 2023 15:05 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen “agreed on the importance of giving Ukraine the military momentum” it needs to win against Russia.

In a readout of the Prime Minister’s meeting with Ms von der Leyen on the margins of the Munich security conference, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “President of the Commission von der Leyen and Prime Minister Sunak updated one another on their discussions with President Zelensky last week. They agreed on the importance of giving Ukraine the military momentum they need to secure victory against tyranny.

“The leaders welcomed the powerful alignment in EU and UK support for Ukraine over the past year, as exemplified both by our record military and economic aid to the country, and the co-ordination of the most substantial and unprecedented sanctions packages in response to Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

“They agreed EU and UK efforts to train Ukrainian troops will make a real difference on the battlefield.

“The President and the Prime Minister expressed their confidence that the spirit of co-operation with which we have responded to Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine should also be reflected across the full range of issues the EU and the UK face together.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Two civilians injured as Russia fires missiles from Black Sea, Ukraine officials say

Saturday 18 February 2023 14:44 , Andy Gregory

Russian missiles fired from the Black Sea today have wounded two civilians and shattered hundreds of windows in the west Ukrainian city of Khmelnytskyi, officials have said.

Ukraine’s air force said Russia launched four Kalibr missiles from the Black Sea, two of which were shot down by air defences. Two explosions were heard in Khmelnytskyi, which lies 170 miles (274 km) west of Kyiv, the regional governor said.

Oleksandr Symchyshyn, the mayor of Khmelnytskyi, said on national television that the explosions, for which he blamed Russia, had wounded two people, but their injuries were not serious.

“There are three damaged educational institutions, around ten damaged high-rise apartment blocks. Around five hundred windows and balconies have been destroyed,” he said.

Mr Symchyshyn did not say if the missiles had struck their targets, or what they were aiming for.

Russia claims capture of village in Kharkiv region

Saturday 18 February 2023 14:21 , Andy Gregory

Russia's defence ministry has claimed that its forces have captured the village of Hrianykivka, in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region.

A briefing note from Ukraine’s General Staff earlier on Saturday said the village was being shelled, but made no mention of an assault.

UK will ‘take steps’ to protect against ‘systemic challenge’ posed by China, says Sunak

Saturday 18 February 2023 13:56 , Andy Gregory

Britain will “take steps” to protect itself against the “systemic challenge” China presents to its values, Rishi Sunak has said when asked about Beijing’s role in Ukraine.

Appearing at the Munich Security Conference, the prime minister was questioned about whether he believed China could be a “sincere mediator” over matters relating to the Russian invasion.

“China has to play a responsible role when it comes to situations like this and that’s what I would urge and ask them to do,” he replied, adding: “When it comes to China more broadly, I’ve been very clear – China represents a systemic challenge to our values and our interests.

“We in the UK are alive to that and we’ll take the steps needed to protect ourselves against that, whether it’s with the power to block hostile investment ... whether it’s standing up for abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

“We will do what’s necessary to protect ourselves and engage with China on trying to resolve some of these pressing problems where we can.”

Whole world must hold Russia to account over war crimes, says Sunak

Saturday 18 February 2023 13:10 , Andy Gregory

The “whole world must hold Russia to account” for war crimes against Ukraine, Rishi Sunak has said, as the prime minister criticised the agreements of the “post-Cold War era” for failing Kyiv.

Calling for a strengthening of international law, he told the Munich security conference: “To win the peace, we also need to rebuild the international order on which our collective security depends.

“First, that means upholding international law. The whole world must hold Russia to account. We must see justice through the ICC for their sickening war crimes committed, whether in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol or beyond, and Russia must also be held to account for the terrible destruction it has inflicted.”

He added: “Second, the treaties and agreements of the post-Cold War era have failed Ukraine, so we need a new framework for its long-term security.

“From human rights to reckless nuclear threats from Georgia to Moldova, Russia has committed violation after violation against countries outside of the collective assurance of Nato.”

You can read our international correspondent Bel Trew’s dispatch from the shadow of the Russian retreat in Borodyanka, Bucha, Hostomel and Makariv last April here:

In the shadow of Putin’s war: Murder, mass graves and torture mark a Russian retreat

Britain working with allies to ‘build the air force Ukraine need’, says Sunak

Saturday 18 February 2023 13:04 , Andy Gregory

The UK is working with allies to give Ukraine “the most advanced air defence systems” and build the air force it needs to defend the country, Rishi Sunak has said.

Speaking at the Munich security conference, he said: “Together we must help Ukraine to shield its cities from Russian bombs and Iranian drones.”

He added: “It’s why we’re working with allies to give Ukraine the most advanced air defence systems and build the air force they need to defend their nation.

“Of course, the United Kingdom stands ready to help any country provide planes that Ukraine can use today. But we must also train Ukrainian pilots to use the most advanced jets.

“That’s exactly what Britain is doing so Ukraine has the capability to defend its security in the long term.”


Sunak opens speech by declaring victory for Ukraine is ‘only way’ to end ‘pain and suffering'

Saturday 18 February 2023 13:01 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak has kicked off his speech to the Munich security conference by saying the only way to stop pain and suffering inflicted by Russian forces is “for Ukraine to win”.

The prime minister told delegates: “Our collective efforts are making a difference. But with every day that passes, Russian forces inflict yet more pain and suffering.

“Now the only way to change that is for Ukraine to win.”

How does ‘crimes against humanity’ declaration differ to Washington’s past remarks?

Saturday 18 February 2023 12:54 , Andy Gregory

The United States had already concluded that Vladimir Putin’s forces were guilty of war crimes – as has a United Nations-backed investigation.

But the State Department’s conclusion that Russia’s actions amount to “crimes against humanity” (see post at 12:17pm) implies a legal analysis that acts from murder to rape are widespread, systematic and intentionally directed against civilians. In international law, it is seen as a more serious offence.

The UN-backed Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine has not yet concluded that the war crimes it says it has identified amount to crimes against humanity.

US formally concludes Russia is guilty of ‘crimes against humanity’ in Ukraine

Saturday 18 February 2023 12:17 , Andy Gregory

The United States has formally concluded that Russia has committed “crimes against humanity” during its war in Ukraine, vice president Kamala Harris has said.

“In the case of Russia’s actions in Ukraine we have examined the evidence, we know the legal standards, and there is no doubt: these are crimes against humanity,” Ms Harris, a former prosecutor, told the Munich Security Conference.

“And I say to all those who have perpetrated these crimes, and to their superiors who are complicit in those crimes, you will be held to account.”

The official determination carries with it no immediate consequences for the ongoing war but, according to Reuters, Washington hopes that it could help further isolate Vladimir Putin and galvanise legal efforts to hold members of his government accountable through international courts and sanctions.

Sunak and Scholz agree on need to sustain ‘record level of support for Ukraine'

Saturday 18 February 2023 11:40 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak’s first bilateral meeting after arriving at the Munich security conference has been with German chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The leaders greeted each other and shook hands before heading for talks ahead of the PM’s address to the summit.

The pair agreed on the need to sustain the “record level of international support for Ukraine” and that the recent offers of main battle tanks and other equipment would be “transformational on the ground”, the UK government said.

China believes ‘some forces’ do not want Ukraine peace talks to succeed, says top diplomat

Saturday 18 February 2023 11:30 , Andy Gregory

China believes there are “some forces” that do not want Ukraine-Russia peace talks to succeed, and Beijing will issue its own position on a political settlement to the crisis, China’s top diplomat has said.

To maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwanese independence forces must be resolutely opposed, Wang Yi told delegates at the Munich Security Conference.

EU must speed up production of weapons ‘desperately' needed by Ukraine, says Ursula von der Leyen

Saturday 18 February 2023 10:46 , Andy Gregory

The European Union aims to join forces with the bloc’s defence industry to speed up and scale up the production of ammunition badly needed on the battlefield in Ukraine and to replenish military stocks at home, Ursula von der Leyen has said.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, the European Commission president suggested the bloc should do what it did during the pandemic to prepare for the large-scale production of a Covid vaccine.

“We could think of, for example, advanced purchase agreements that give the defence industry the possibility to invest in production lines now to be faster and to increase the amount they can deliver,” she said.

Ms Von der Leyen underlined that the bloc could not wait for months and years to be able to replenish its own military stocks or send munitions such as 155mm artillery shells to Ukraine.

“It is now the time, really, to speed up the production, and to scale up the production of standardised products that Ukraine needs desperately, for example standardised ammunition,” she said.

Russian invasion has ‘likely failed to meet any of its strategic objectives’, says UK

Saturday 18 February 2023 10:29 , Andy Gregory

On day 358 of their invasion, Russia are not where they would like have to been in the Donbas region by day 10, Britain’s Ministry of Defence has said.

Writing a year to the day after warning of Vladimir Putin’s imminent invasion seven days later, the ministry said Russia’s campaign “has likely failed to meet any of its operational and strategic objectives”.

“358 days after Russia’s D-Day they continue a grinding offensive in the Donbas,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update, adding: “But at D+358 they’re not where they likely hoped to be in this sector by D+10. The campaign has likely failed to meet any of its operational and strategic objectives.”

Sunak touches down in Munich to urge allies to ‘double down'

Saturday 18 February 2023 09:27 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak’s plane has landed in Munich as he heads to a security summit in Germany to discuss the conflict in Ukraine.

The prime minister is expected to urge the West to give Ukraine “advanced, Nato-standard capabilities” to win its war against Russia, warning allies that they must “double down” on sending equipment, and that more needs to be done to ensure the country’s “long-term security”.

The intervention comes as the British government is investigating whether it could supply Ukraine with fighter jets, with Mr Sunak saying “nothing is off the table”.

Our policy correspondent Jon Stone has more details:

Rishi Sunak urges leaders to ‘double down’ and supply Ukraine with advanced weapons

Air raid sirens sound across Ukraine as explosions heard in western city

Saturday 18 February 2023 09:04 , Andy Gregory

Air raid sirens have been issued across Ukraine this morning, as several regions limited electricity supply as a precaution ahead of potential strikes on the grid.

Two explosions could be heard in the western city of Khmelnytskyi, which lies 170 miles west of Kyiv, the regional governor said.

Vitaliy Kim, the governor of the southern region of Mykolaiv, posted a picture on the Telegram messaging app of what appeared to be missile debris lying in a field.

He said it was likely to be part of a Ukrainian air defence missile, and indicated that at least one Russian missile had been shot down. “Let’s say this - the score for shot down missiles has been opened,” he said.

Britons joining Ukraine fighting must do so ‘very carefully’, says Starmer

Saturday 18 February 2023 08:14 , Andy Gregory

Labour’s leader has refused to criticise British people travelling to fight for Ukraine, saying that anyone getting involved in the conflict should do so “very carefully”, reports Patrick Daly.

Foreign Office advice is to stay away from the conflict zone, with eight Britons known to have died on Ukrainian soil since the war broke out almost a year ago.

Sir Keir Starmer, who has been visiting Ukraine in recent days, indicated that anyone from the UK joining the fighting needed to ensure they did “nothing that undermines” Ukrainian military efforts to defeat Russian troops.

Starmer: Britons joining Ukraine fighting must do so ‘very carefully’

Rishi Sunak en route to Munich for security conference

Saturday 18 February 2023 07:32 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak has boarded his flight from Stansted to Germany to attend the Munich Security Conference.

The prime minister will give a speech and meet with a number of world leaders while at the summit.

He is also expected to meet European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on the fringes to talk about a deal to fix the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Watch: Ukrainian soldiers take part in military exercise at Yorkshire training camp

Saturday 18 February 2023 07:00 , Emily Atkinson

Opinion: Russians who support the Ukraine invasion aren’t always ‘brainwashed’ by propaganda

Saturday 18 February 2023 06:00 , Emily Atkinson

Since Russia’s invasion began almost one year ago, the Ukraine war has rarely been out of the news anywhere in the Western world. But one dimension has been largely absent. What Russia thinks – as opposed to what we think about Russia – has featured at best as a very minor strand, writes Mary Dejevsky.

Russians who support the Ukraine invasion aren’t always ‘brainwashed’ | Mary Dejevsky

Key moments in a year of war after Russia invaded Ukraine

Saturday 18 February 2023 05:00 , Emily Atkinson

The war in Ukraine that began a year ago has killed thousands, forced millions to flee their homes, reduced entire cities to rubble and has fueled fears the confrontation could slide into an open conflict between Russia and NATO.

A look at some of the main events in the conflict:

Key moments in a year of war after Russia invaded Ukraine

Stop Russia now to prevent a wider conflict, Estonia warns

Saturday 18 February 2023 04:00 , Emily Atkinson

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearing the one-year mark, a top Estonian defense leader warned that if Vladimir Putin is not stopped now, he could entangle the region in a larger conflict, perhaps one with even greater security implications for the U.S.

That’s because Russia has shown it will keep trying to retake territories that were once part of the Soviet Union and, so far, economic sanctions and its significant military losses in Ukraine have not changed Putin’s larger goals, said Kristjan Mäe, the head of the Estonian Ministry of Defense’s NATO and EU department, as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited the Baltic nation on Thursday.

Stop Russia now to prevent a wider conflict, Estonia warns

Russia to test missile in drills with China and South Africa

Saturday 18 February 2023 03:00 , Emily Atkinson

Russia, China and South Africa are set to begin naval drills off South Africa’s Indian Ocean coast Friday in a demonstration of the three countries’ close ties amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s tense relationship with the West.

The 10 days of exercises, named Mosi II, will coincide with the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

A Russian frigate, the Admiral Gorshkov, arrived in Cape Town earlier this week sporting the letters Z and V on its sides, letters that mark Russian weapons on the front lines in Ukraine and are used as a patriotic symbol in Russia.

Russia to test missile in drills with China and South Africa

IMF and Ukraine reach staff-level deal

Saturday 18 February 2023 02:00 , Emily Atkinson

The International Monetary Fund says it has reached a staff-level agreement with Ukraine, setting the stage for talks on a full loan program that would support Kyiv’s economy and its bid to join the EU.

The IMF said the agreement on the first and final review of a Program Monitoring with Board Involvement (PMB) was subject to IMF management approval and showed positive results.

“Performance under the PMB has been strong. Due to the joint efforts of the government ... and the National Bank of Ukraine, all end-December quantitative and indicative targets have been met, as have all five end-January structural benchmarks,” the IMF said in a statement.

Watch: Moment spy David Smith is jailed for 13 years for passing secrets to Russia

Saturday 18 February 2023 01:00 , Emily Atkinson

Wagner Group ‘has suffered over 30,000 casualties in Ukraine'

Saturday 18 February 2023 00:00 , Emily Atkinson

The Russian mercenary company Wagner Group has suffered more than 30,000 casualties in Ukraine, the White House said on Friday.

The United States estimates that 90 per cent of Wagner Group soldiers killed in Ukraine since December were convicts, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

Top Russian spy colonel for Vladimir Putin and celebrated paratrooper killed in Ukraine

Friday 17 February 2023 23:00 , Emily Atkinson

A Russian intelligence colonel and a decorated paratrooper have been killed in Ukraine, in a setback for morale among Vladimir Putin’s troops.

And in a further blow, the White House says Russian mercenary company Wagner Group has suffered more than 30,000 casualties in Ukraine.

The exact circumstances of how army intelligence officer Lt Col Viktor Fursov died have not been disclosed.

My colleague Jane Dalton reports:

Top Russian spy colonel and celebrated paratrooper killed in Ukraine

Ukraine court gives Russia TV presenter jail term over call to drown children

Friday 17 February 2023 22:00 , Emily Atkinson

Anton Krasovsky, a pro-war Russian TV presenter who called for Ukrainian children to be drowned, has been given a five-year jail term in absentia by a court in Ukraine, officials say.

Ukraine‘s SBU security service said Krasovsky had been found guilty of two charges of calling for genocide and two charges of advocating the overthrow of Ukraine‘s constitutional system.

In October, Krasovsky told state-control led broadcaster RT that Ukrainian children who saw Russians as occupiers under the Soviet Union should have been “thrown straight into a river with a strong current”. Krasovsky, who has been sanctioned by the European Union, later apologised but was suspended for the remarks.

“Since last February, he publicly supported the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation, condoned crimes committed by the racists and called for the genocide of the Ukrainian people,” the SBU announced in a statement.

“At present the criminal is hiding from justice abroad. SBU employees, though, are aware of his whereabouts and are conducting a number of measures to bring the culprit to justice,” it said.A

UK has ‘consistently led the way in Ukraine conflict,’ says Sunak

Friday 17 February 2023 21:00 , Emily Atkinson

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has said that he will use the Munich Security Conference as an “opportunity” to talk to allies about defeating Russian aggression.

Mr Sunak was asked by BBC News what he wanted to get from the conference.

“As an opportunity for us to talk to, and for me to talk to, our partners and allies around the world about our efforts to increase our support to Ukraine so that they can defeat Russian aggression,” he said.

“We have consistently led the way in this conflict, most recently in being one of the first countries to provide main battle tanks to the Ukrainians, but also to start training their soldiers and aviators on Nato standard aircraft.

“I want to make sure other countries follow our lead and continue to support Ukraine in the way that we are.

“We want to make sure that Russia is defeated, and Saturday’s conference gives me an opportunity to talk to others about that.”

Ukraine not last stop of Putin’s invasion, warns Zelensky

Friday 17 February 2023 20:11 , Emily Atkinson

Ukraine will not be the last stop of president Vladimir Putin’s invasion, Volodymyr Zelensky warned in his latest bid for Western arms deliveries.

The Ukrainian leader told the Munich Security Conference that while the West was negotiating supplies of tanks to Kyiv, the Kremlin was thinking of ways to “strangle” the former Soviet republic of Moldova which lies west of Ukraine.

“It’s obvious that Ukraine is not going to be his last stop. He’s going to continue his movement all the way ... including all the other states that at some point in time were part of the Soviet bloc,” Mr Zelensky said.

He urged the West to maintain speedy weapons deliveries. Kyiv’s allies have promised battle tanks and talks are under way about securing longer-range missiles. Ukraine‘s partners though are hesitant about providing fighter jets.

“Delay has always been and still is a mistake,” Mr Zelensky said.

Biden won’t visit Ukraine during Poland trip to mark war anniversary

Friday 17 February 2023 20:00 , Emily Atkinson

President Joe Biden will not cross into Ukraine from Poland when he travels there next week to mark the one-year anniversary of the unprovoked war started by Russia last year.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Friday said Mr Biden’s trip would take him to Warsaw, Poland, where last year he delivered a speech at the city’s Royal Castle in support of Ukraine’s defence efforts.

Ms Jean-Pierre added that the president would meet with Polish president Andrzej Duda and leaders of Nato’s “eastern flank” nations to “reaffirm the United States unwavering support for the security of the alliance” and deliver remarks to commemorate a year of war.

Biden won’t visit Ukraine during Poland trip to mark war anniversary

A Putin cartoon in his locker and a Soviet hat, the British spy who made no secret of his love for Russia

Friday 17 February 2023 19:30 , Emily Atkinson

David Smith liked Russia. A lot. And he wasn’t shy about expressing his feelings to colleagues at the British embassy in Berlin.

The 58-year-old security guard kept a poster affixed to the inside of his work locker’s door so that every time he opened it, he was greeted with a cartoon of a muscled Vladimir Putin, who was holding a bayonet in one hand and using the other to drag Angela Merkel by the neck.

Our home affairs editor Lizzie Dearden reports:

The British spy with a Soviet hat who made no secret of his love for Russia

What nuclear weapons does Russia have?

Friday 17 February 2023 19:00 , Emily Atkinson

Not long after the invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February 2022, Russian president Vladimir Putin reminded the world of his country’s nuclear arsenal.

“Whoever tries to impede us, let alone create threats for our country and its people, must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to consequences you have never seen in history,” he said in remarks from the Kremlin.

“No one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor,” he added, emphasising that Russia is “one of the most potent nuclear powers and also has a certain edge in a range of state-of-the-art weapons”.

Josh Marcus reports:

What Russian nuclear weapons does Putin have in his war chest?

Moscow expels four Austrian diplomats

Friday 17 February 2023 18:30 , Emily Atkinson

Moscow has asked four Austrian diplomats to leave Russia in retaliation for the expulsion earlier this month of four Russian diplomats from Vienna.

Austria had accused the Russian diplomats of spying, and Chancellor Karl Nehammer on Friday defended their expulsion.

He said Austria would not watch idly “while espionage occurs in our country and hospitality is abused.”

In announcing the expulsion of the Austrian diplomats on Thursday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry called the earlier act by Austria “unfriendly and unreasonable,” calling into question Austria’s “previously positioning itself as an unbiased and neutral state.”

Nehammer rejected the claim that Austria isn’t neutral anymore.