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Ukraine updates: Moldova — Russian missiles crossed airspace

February 10, 2023

Moldova says two Russian missiles crossed its airspace. Missile strikes have hit several cities across Ukraine as Russia renews its assault on civilian infrastructure. DW has the latest.

Rescuers work at a site of a residential building damaged by an earlier Russian missile strike in Kharkiv
Rescuers at a site of a building damaged by an earlier Russian missile strike in KharkivImage: Vitalii Hnidyi/REUTERS

Moldova said a Russian missile had violated its airspace on Friday morning and summoned the Russian ambassador to make a formal protest.

The country's foreign ministry said Moscow's ambassador would be summoned "to indicate to the Russian side the unacceptable violation of our airspace by a Russian missile that today flew over the sovereign territory of the Republic of Moldova."

The foreign ministry of the country, wedged between Ukraine and Romania, added that "the Russian side continues its war of aggression against Ukraine and the missile attacks against our neighboring country affects directly and negatively our country."

Ukraine's top general, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, had earlier said two Russian Kaliber missiles had crossed into Romanian and Moldovan airspace before entering Ukraine, he said. 

Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces, said the missiles had been launched from the Black Sea and had entered Moldovan airspace. They then flew into Romanian airspace, before entering Ukraine. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated that Russian missiles had flown over Moldova and NATO member Romania on Friday, saying they were a challenge to the collective security of the military alliance.

"The enemy launched at least 70 rockets in another massive attack [on Ukraine] this morning," Zelenskiy said. "Several Russian missiles passed through the airspace of Moldova and Romania. These missiles are a challenge to NATO and collective security. This is terror that can and must be stopped."

However, the Romanian defense ministry said the missile flew some 35 kilometers (about 22 miles) northeast of its border.

"The Romanian Air Force's surveillance system detected on Friday an air target, most likely a cruise missile launched from a Russian ship in the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula," the ministry said in a statement.

"The closest the target trajectory got to Romania's airspace was recorded by the radar at roughly 35 kilometers northeast of the border."

A pro-Russian breakaway regime has ruled part of Moldova's territory, Transnistria, since the early 1990s after a separatist conflict. Moldova's intelligence service on Thursday warned that Russia was acting to destabilize the country, which was formerly part of the Soviet Union.

Zelenskyy appeals for Ukraine EU membership

The country's government collapsed on Friday as pro-Western Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita resigned, after a series of crises since Russia invaded Ukraine

The Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper quoted a Ukrainian air force spokesperson saying separately that Ukraine had the ability to shoot down the missiles. However, it did not do so for fear of endangering civilians in foreign countries.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Friday, February 10.

Russia lists ex-Putin speechwriter as 'foreign agent' over war criticism

Russia's Justice Ministry said it added Abbas Gallyamov, a former speechwriter for President Vladimir Putin, to its list of "foreign agents." 

The ministry said Gallyamov "spoke out against" what Moscow dubbs a "special military operation in Ukraine." 

He also "distributed materials created by foreign agents to an unlimited circle of people," and had "participated as an expert and respondent on information platforms provided by foreign structures," the ministry added.

Gallyamov recently suggested in remarks to CNN that Putin could face a military coup.

Moscow said pop star Zemfira Ramazanova, who had criticized Russia's invasion of Ukraine, was also added to the list. 

US says Russia likely lost half of its main battle tanks

Celeste Wallander, the US assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said half of Russia's main battle tanks have likely been destroyed in Ukraine or captured by Ukrainian forces. 

The estimate comes as Ukraine is set to receive tanks from its Western allies

The British Challenger 2 tanks are to be deployed in Ukraine in March, according to London, while the German Leopard 2 tanks are expected to arrive by April. 

The US has also pledged to give Ukraine 31 of its M1 Abrams tanks, but they are expected to take longer to arrive as they require more training. 

Ukraine to get at least 100 Leopard tanks

Biden to visit Poland 

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said US President Joe Biden was planning to travel to Poland on February 20, four days before the anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Biden is scheduled to deliver a speech focusing on Washington's support for Ukraine.  

The US president is due to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda and the leaders of the Bucharest Nine, which are NATO allies in Eastern Europe, to discuss his "unwavering support" for the alliance, Jean-Pierre said.

It wasn't clear whether Biden would try to visit Ukraine after Poland, like first lady Jill Biden did last year. 

Zelenskyy calls for Russian athletes to be barred from Olympics

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Russian athletes have "no place" at the Olympic games during a summit of world sports leaders.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it wants to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to join the games in a neutral capacity, without any national symbols, as qualifications begin in the run-up to the 2024 Paris Games.

"While Russia kills and terrorizes, representatives of the terrorist state have no place at sports and Olympic competitions," Zelenskyy told the officials from 35 countries over video link.

"And it cannot be covered up with some pretended neutrality or a white flag. Because Russia is now a country that stains everything with blood — even the white flag. It must be recognized. And this must be recognized, in particular, at the level of the International Olympic Committee," Zelenskyy said.

"The International Olympic Committee needs honesty. Honesty it has unfortunately lost. Honesty that will help stop Russian terror and bring peace closer."

Russia's 'window of opportunity is closing' expert tells DW

DW spoke with defense expert Marina Miron from King's College London about the warnings of an impending renewed Russian offensive in Ukraine.

"For Russia, the window of opportunity is closing, knowing that the tanks will eventually arrive in Ukraine," Miron said, adding, "I think we will be seeing more intensified fighting in the next weeks as Russia is approaching a one-year mark of its invasion in Ukraine."

The defense expert told DW that as the anniversary of the invasion approaches, Russia will likely highlight "whatever advances they have made throughout the year to make it look like they are winning the war" aimed both at the domestic audience in Russia as well as the international community.

Miron suggested Russian forces may push for the symbolically important capture of the city of Bakhmut. "But it remains to be seen if they're able to do that on time or not. And either way, they will claim victory regardless of what happens," she said.

Switzerland rejects request from Spain to send anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine

Switzerland says it rejected a request from Spain to allow the export of Swiss-made anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine.

Spain made the request in January.

Switzerland had previously rejected previous requests made by Germany and Denmark.

Swiss law does not allow the export of war materials if the destination country is involved in an armed conflict.

World Bank approves $50 million transport restoration package for Ukraine

The World Bank has approved an initial $50 million (€46.7 million) grant to help restore Ukraine's transport network.

The bank said it expected that added funding of up to $535 million would follow "shortly."

Anna Bjerde, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, said: "Ukraine needs urgent investments to repair damaged essential transport routes."

The World Bank said the project "will help to restore essential bridges and railways to relink communities and improve westward transport linkages to mitigate impacts of Black Sea shipping disruption."

Air raid warnings as missiles hit

Officials warned of possible missile strikes from Russian forces on Friday, urging citizens to take cover as air raid sirens sounded across the country. Several cities reported already being targeted. 

"There is a big threat of the missile attack. I want to stress again — do not ignore the air alert sirens," said the head of Kyiv city military administration, Serhiy Popko.

The alarm was raised after warnings that Russia had launched Tu-95 strategic bombers. There were reports that other planes had been launched from Belarus.

"Enemy aviation is in the air and ships which can carry Kaliber missiles are in the sea. The enemy launched the missiles. The air alert will be long," said Maksym Marchenko, governor of the southern region of Odesa. "Please do not ignore the air alert sirens, and go to the shelters."

The Kyiv Independent said that several explosions have been reported in the Dnipropetrovsk region and that seven more missiles have been fired at the Kryvyi Rih area, according to Oleksandr Vilkul, head of that city's military administration. 

This is part of "Russia's latest massive missile attack in Ukraine, using cruise missiles launched both from the air and from the sea," according to the governor of the Mykolaiv region, Viitaliy Kim, who said that some 20 missiles were launched in the first wave of attacks.

The warnings came after Moscow's military struck critical infrastructure in Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, and launched multiple strikes on energy infrastructure in Zaporizhzhia in the early hours of Friday.

Polish PM says NATO must decide on jets to Ukraine

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says any decision on supplying fighter jets to Ukraine must come from the NATO defensive alliance.

"There would have to be a decision on the part of NATO, and Poland will eventually decide what to do when there is an unequivocal decision that fighter jets can be transferred to Ukraine," Morawiecki told a press conference in Brussels.

Russia making gains, and some losses

The UK Ministry of Defense says Russian forces appear to have made tactical gains this week in two key sectors — but abandoned a large number of armored vehicles in one incident.

The ministry's daily report said Wagner Group forces on the northern outskirts of the Donbas city of Bakhmut have pushed two to three kilometers (about a mile-and-a-half) further west, controlling countryside near the main route to the city. It added that Russian forces are increasingly dominating the northern approaches to Bakhmut.

To the south, Russian units have made advances around the western edge of the town of Vuhledar, where they re-launched offensive operations in late January 2023.

However, London says Russian units have likely suffered particularly heavy casualties around Vuhledar where inexperienced units have been committed. 

It added that Russian troops likely fled and abandoned at least 30 mostly intact armored vehicles in a single incident after a failed assault.

Polish president met Zelenskyy 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met his counterpart in Poland, Andrzej Duda, the office of the Polish president said on Friday on Twitter.

The meeting, in the southwestern logistic hub of Rzeszow, took place at the end of Zelenskyy's whirlwind tour of Europe, taking in London, Paris and Brussels. 

"The President of Ukraine reported on his recent diplomatic activity in Brussels and other European capitals; the talks also focused on security in the region," it said.
The office said the pair discussed the current situation at the front and the need for further joint actions for military support.

On his tour, Zelenskyy continued to push for more Western military aid came as evidence mounted of an anticipated offensive by Russia as the war enters a second year.

Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv report infrastructure strikes

At least 17 missiles hit the city of Zaporizhzhia within a single hour on Friday, the city's acting mayor Anatolii Kurtiev said.

Kurtiev said the missiles targeted energy infrastructure.

The Zaporizhzhia region is home to Europe's largest nuclear power plant, which was shut down due to threats posed by Russian attacks.

Russian strikes also knocked out power supplies in parts of Kharkiv, Ukraine's
second city.

Authorities were still trying to establish information on the scale of the destruction and any casualties. Mayor Ihor Terekhov said there may be disruptions to heating and the electricity and water supply.

Macron mulls rescinding Putin's medal

French President Emmanuel Macron is considering stripping Vladimir Putin of his French Legion of Honor medal after bestowing the same honor on Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday, which symbolized France's "immense" recognition of Ukraine's valor.

Late French President Jacques Chirac awarded Putin the medal in 2006. Some French activists and lawmakers have called on Macron to revoke the honor because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

On Friday, Macron said such a decision "has serious meaning, and it should be taken at the right moment."

He noted that he has previously rescinded the honor from certain individuals, such as in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Zelenskyy to speak on Olympics ban

Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to address a meeting of some 30 sports ministers on Friday to discuss the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The International Olympic Committee is working on a plan to allow athletes who haven't actively supported the war to participate under a neutral flag, but Zelenskyy previously said any such banner would still be "stained with blood."

Zelenskyy's push for a total ban has met some support from the likes of Poland and the United Kingdom, among others.

"We must make clear there are consequences to this illegal invasion," said British Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, who is chairing the meeting.

"We cannot allow Russian athletes to line up alongside Team GB (the British Olympic team) and everyone else on the world stage."

The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has also called for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be barred from the 2024 Olympics in her city if the war is still going on by then.

More on the war in Ukraine on dw.com

After Western powers agreed to send main battle tanks to Ukraine as part of a "tank coalition," Ukraine is now asking for fighter jets. DW looks at Zelenskyy's lastest requests during his recent trip to three European capitals.

Several European nations have supported a Ukrainian proposal to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from next year's Olympic Games in Paris. DW looks at how Russia's invasion of Ukraine looms over the global sporting event.

ab,zc/ar,kb (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)