Sun, 05 Feb 2023

EU member states are close to agreement on a $60 dollar per barrel Russian oil price cap. Meanwhile, air raid alerts were issued across all of Ukraine on Thursday, as officials warned that Russia was preparing a new wave of missile and drone strikes. Follow our blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

9:10pm: Ukraine has lost between 10,000 and 13,000 soldiers in war, according to state toll

Ukraine's armed forces have lost somewhere between 10,000 and 13,000 soldiers so far in the war against Russia, presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak told a Ukrainian television network on Thursday.

8:21pm: Biden says he has no plans to contact Putin, prepared to talk about ending Ukraine war

US President Joe Biden said he has no immediate plans to contact Vladimir Putin but is prepared to speak with the Russian president if he shows an interest in ending the war in Ukraine, and only in consultation with NATO allies.

"I have no immediate plans to contact Mr Putin," Biden said at a White House news conference after talks with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

"I'm prepared to speak with Mr. Putin, if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he's looking for a way to end the war. He hasn't done that yet."

7:05pm: Biden and Macron pledge to support Ukraine 'as long as it takes'

US President Joe Biden and visiting French leader Emmanuel Macron declared Thursday that they would not let up on support for Ukraine's war against Russia and pledged to hold Moscow responsible for war crimes.

The two reaffirm "support for Ukraine's defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the provision of political, security, humanitarian, and economic assistance to Ukraine for as long as it takes," they said in a statement.

7:01pm: EU members near deal on $60 per barrel Russian oil price cap

European Union member states are close to agreeing a $60 dollar per barrel price cap on Russian oil, diplomats said Thursday, with just Poland left to give the final nod.

Europe will begin enforcing an embargo on Russian crude shipments from Monday, so the price cap will apply to oil exported by sea by Moscow to ports around the world.

Measures will be taken to prevent tankers from shipping Russian oil sold above this price, for example by refusing to allow British and EU insurers to cover vessels and shipments.

6:15pm: Kremlin says OSCE is losing its meaning

The OSCE's stance shows that Europe's top security and rights watchdog is losing its meaning, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday, according to Russian news agencies.

Peskov had been asked whether Russia might quit the pan-European body. He also said Moscow had no plans to contact the US administration before the end of the year, calling for discussions about possible prisoner exchanges between Russia and the United States to be conducted behind closed doors.

5:34pm: Ukraine power grid operator receives €300 million in loans

Ukraine's Ukrenergo grid operator secured 300 million euros ($315 million) in loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to restore power infrastructure damaged in Russian attacks and improve financial stability, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

Ukrenergo said 150 million euros of the loan and a 72 million euros grant from the Nerherlands will be used for the purchase of equipment needed for the repairs of substations damaged or destroyed in Russian missile strikes.

The remaining 150 million euros of EBRD funds will be allocated for the "company's financial obligations in the electricity market in terms of non-payments that arose on the market due to the war," Ukrenergo said in a statement on its website.

5:16pm: More than 1,300 prisoners of war returned to Ukraine, Zelensky says

More than 1,300 prisoners have been returned to Ukraine since Russian troops invaded the pro-Western country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday.

Zelensky was speaking following a new exchange of prisoners with Russian and pro-Russian forces.

"After today's exchange, there are already 1,319 heroes who returned home," Zelensky said on Instagram, posting a photo showing a few dozen men holding Ukrainian flags.

4:56: EU chief says Russia "will pay" for Ukraine war

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at regional security talks Thursday that he planned to discuss with his counterparts any available legal means to ensure that Russia pay for the reconstruction of war-torn Ukraine.

Borrell spoke at the start of this year's two-day ministerial conference of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the central Polish city of Lodz.

"I will meet with my colleague foreign ministers today... We will explore all legal possibilities to make sure that Russia will pay for the destruction it's causing in Ukraine," Borrell told reporters.

4:50pm: Too early for conclusions on Poland Patriot talks; NATO's Stoltenberg says

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that it was too early to make conclusions about ongoing talks on Poland's request to move Patriot systems offered by Germany to Ukraine.

"We all agree on the urgent need to help Ukraine, including with air defence systems," said Stoltenberg in Berlin at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

However, he added, "it is important to understand that this is not only about delivering new systems but ensuring the systems that are being delivered can operate," including having enough ammunition, spare parts and maintenance.

4:48pm: Kyiv mayor warns of major blackout

Kyiv's mayor told residents on Thursday to stock up on water, food and warm clothes in case of a total blackout caused by Russian air strikes, and said residents should consider staying with friends in the outskirts of the capital if they could.

Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko warned that the temperature in homes could drop rapidly in the event of "a blackout and the destruction of infrastructure and a total absence of electricity, water supply, drainage and heat supply".

"I appeal to the people...to have a supply of technical water, drinking water, durable food products, warm clothing," he said.

4:38pm: Serbia names pro-Russian politician new spy chief

Serbia's government on Thursday named a staunchly pro-Russian politician as the Balkan state's new spy chief.

Aleksandar Vulin, who served as Serbia's interior minister in the previous government and held the defence ministry portfolio prior to that is taking over as the director of BIA, Serbia's intelligence agency, the government said in a statement.

"Serbia is the only state in Europe that didn't introduce sanctions and was not part of the anti-Russian hysteria," Vulin said in a a rare visit by a European state official to Moscow in August.

3:33pm: Ukraine fires Russian-appointed Zaporizhzhia boss

Ukraine on Thursday formally sacked and branded a traitor the Ukrainian engineer appointed by Moscow to head Europe's largest nuclear facility, the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is under Russian occupation.

Yuri Chernichuk, the facility's chief engineer, said on Wednesday that he had agreed to take the post because it was "in my opinion the only correct decision."

On Thursday, Ukraine's nuclear agency Energoatom formally sacked Chernichuk for "collaborative and treasonous activities".

2:17pm: Ukraine and Russia each hand over 50 prisoners of war

Russia's Defence Ministry said Ukraine had handed over 50 captured Russian service personnel on Thursday in the latest prisoner exchange between the two sides.

Earlier on Thursday, the top Russian-installed official in Ukraine's partly-occupied Donetsk region said Moscow and Kyiv would each hand over 50 prisoners of war.

Russia said it would fly the released prisoners to Moscow for medical checks and rehabilitation.

1:57pm: Kherson loses power supply after Russian shelling

The recently liberated Ukrainian city of Kherson has lost its power supply after heavy shelling by Russian forces, the regional governor said on Thursday.

Kherson, which had endured weeks without basic utilities such as running water and electricity, partially regained its power supply last week after Ukrainian forces recaptured the southern city from Russian forces earlier in November.

Yaroslav Yanushevych, the governor of the Kherson region, blamed Russian shelling for the new power cut and said in a statement on the Telegram messaging platform that energy workers were working to fix the problem.

1:28pm: Air raid warning issued over all Ukraine, officials say

Air raid alerts were issued across all of Ukraine on Thursday following warnings by Ukrainian officials that Russia was preparing a new wave of missile and drone strikes.

"An overall air raid alert is in place in Ukraine. Go to shelters," the country's border service wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

1:14pm: Ukraine urges EU to sanction Russia's missile industry

Ukraine on Thursday urged the European Union to include in its new sanctions package measures that would target Russia's missile industry, after Moscow's systematic strikes on the country's energy grid.

Following military defeats on the ground, Russia began targeting Ukrainian energy facilities, causing severe damage and power shortages ahead of winter.

"I thanked the EU for its continued defence assistance and stressed that next EU sanctions should include those hitting Russia's missile production industry: it must be put to a halt," Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on social media.

After meeting EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell at regional security talks in Poland, Kuleba wrote on Twitter that they agreed that "total war against Ukraine means total support for Ukraine".

11:29am: Kremlin says Ukraine tribunals will not have 'legitimacy'

The Kremlin said Thursday that any tribunal established to prosecute alleged Russian crimes in Ukraine would lack legimitimacy and not be recognised by Moscow, after the EU said it was eyeing such a court.

"As for attempts to establish some kind of tribunals, they will not have any legitimacy, will not be accepted by us and will be condemned by us," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday.

10:51am: Ukraine sacks engineer at occupied nuclear plant, accuses him of collaboration

Ukraine dismissed the deputy chief engineer of its Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Thursday, accusing him of collaborating with Moscow's forces and treason, the Energoatom state nuclear energy company said.

The statement was published a day after Russia said it had promoted the engineer, Yuriy Chernichuk, to serve as the director of the vast nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine.

9:32am: Russia's Lavrov says West missed a chance to avoid Ukraine conflict

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that the West had a real chance to avoid conflict in Ukraine, but had chosen to spurn Russian proposals to halt the expansion of NATO and agree a special security status for Kyiv.

Lavrov made the comments during a news conference in Moscow.

The West says Russia's proposals made in the run-up to the Ukraine war were unrealistic and insincere.

8:34am: Intense fighting in Bakhmut is 'hell', Ukrainian soldiers say

Intense fighting which started five months ago is ongoing in the east Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the third largest Ukrainian-controlled city in Donestk.

"Whenever I speak to soldiers who have been fighting around Bakhmut they all use the same expression: it's hell," says FRANCE 24's Gulliver Cragg, reporting from Kyiv.

Yet experts are unsure as to why Russia is investing so much into capturing the city, which seems to have little strategic interest. Despite a "huge and bloody effort", Cragg says, "even if [Russia] ultimately succeed, it doesn't mean that it will change the course of the war".

6:03am: UN launches record humanitarian funding appeal for Ukraine, climate

The UN appealed for record funds for aid next year, as the Ukraine war and other conflicts, climate emergencies and the still-simmering pandemic push more people into crisis, and some towards famine.

The United Nations' annual Global Humanitarian Overview estimated that 339 million people worldwide will need some form of emergency assistance next year - a staggering 65 million more people than the estimate a year ago.

The annual appeal by UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations said that providing aid to the 230 million most vulnerable people across 68 countries would require a record $51.5 billion.

Climate events, food insecurity, forced displacement and conflict have taken a dire toll on a range of countries, not least on Ukraine, where Russia's full-scale invasion in February has left millions in dire need.

"Next year is going to be the biggest humanitarian programme" the world has ever seen, UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters in Geneva.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

Originally published on France24

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