Zelenskyy on European mission for aid, fighter jets; Russian forces close in on Bakhmut
Russian forces advance on strategic city of Bakhmut
Ukrainian artillery teams fire a Pion toward Russian positions in Bakhmut.
Madeleine Kelly | Lightrocket | Getty Images
Ukraine could soon face a critical decision over tactically withdrawing from Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, as the fate of the city hangs in balance.
Russian and Ukrainian forces have fought ferociously over Bakhmut for months, with Moscow viewing its capture as a strategic goal and a way to cut Ukrainian supply lines in Donetsk. Russian officials recently claimed that Moscow’s forces have almost entirely encircled Bakhmut.
Ukraine disputes how far Russia has advanced into Bakhmut, although, in line with Western defense analysts, it concedes that Russian forces are closing in on the city, after making small but incremental advances in the surrounding area.
Still, Kyiv is vowing to fight on for now, with Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy stating last week that “nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress.”
Read the full story here.
— Holly Ellyatt
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy in Brussels to request more aid from European leaders
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses parliamentarians in Westminster Hall on Feb. 8, 2023, in London, England.
Wpa Pool | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is meeting European leaders on Thursday as he continues his second major trip abroad since Russia invaded Ukraine.
The Ukrainian leader is expected to address the European Parliament Thursday morning and then attend an extraordinary meeting of the 27 EU heads of state later in the day.
The discussions in Brussels come after a surprise visit to the United Kingdom on Wednesday and a last-minute meeting with French and German leaders in Paris that evening. It is the second time that Zelenskyy is known to have left Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24 last year.
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— Silvia Amaro
Zelenskyy arrives in Paris after surprise trip to U.K.
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, February 8, 2023.
Sarah Meyssonnier | Reuters
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived at Paris Orly Airport in France and was greeted by the Minister of the French Army Sebastien Lecornu.
Zelenskyy is slated to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron as well as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Elysee Palace.
Earlier in the day, Zelenskyy made a surprise visit to the United Kingdom and met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and King Charles III.
Ahead of this trip, Zelenskyy had previously only left his war-weary country once before since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago.
— Amanda Macias
Russia’s 2022 economic fall seen in lower incomes, slumping consumer demand
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a press conference at the Rus Sanatorium, Oct. 31, 2022, in Sochi, Russia.
Contributor | Getty Images
This content was produced in Russia, where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.
MOSCOW — Russian consumer demand contracted at its fastest pace in seven years in 2022 and real disposable incomes fell, new data shows, as the country’s population felt the effects of its dimming economic prospects.
Russia’s export-dependent economy has withstood the impact of sanctions better than first expected, but still suffered a GDP contraction of around 2.5%, as the West imposed restrictions in an effort to punish Moscow over its actions in Ukraine.
Although its economic outlook this year is not so gloomy, Russia faces a labor market shortage, lower oil and gas revenues as price caps and embargoes kick in, as well as a sharply widening budget deficit, 2023 looks set to present new challenges for the government.
Real disposable incomes fell 1% in 2022, preliminary data from the Rosstat federal statistics service showed. Real wages, which are adjusted for inflation, rose 0.3% year-over-year in November, just the second positive reading since March.
Retail sales, a key gauge of consumer demand, slumped by 6.7% in 2022, the poorest showing since 2015, while in December they were down 10.5% year-over-year, the worst monthly performance since May 2020 and the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Strong indications’ Putin involved in MH17 downing, prosecutors say as probe ends
Wreckage of MH17 near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine.
Dominique Faget | AFP | Getty Images
THE HAGUE — International prosecutors said they had found “strong indications” Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the use in Ukraine of a Russian missile system which shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) over the east of the country in 2014.
However, evidence of Putin’s and other Russian officials’ involvement was not conclusive enough to lead to a criminal conviction, they said, ending their probe for now.
MH17 was shot down by a Russian BUK missile system as it flew over eastern Ukraine from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew, including 196 Dutch citizens.
“There are strong indications that the Russian president decided on supplying the BUK,” the prosecutors said in a statement on Wednesday.
But prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer told a news conference in The Hague the investigation had now “reached its limit”.
“The findings are insufficient for the prosecution of new suspects,” she said.
The Kremlin, which has repeatedly denied any Russian state involvement in the past, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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