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Ukraine updates: Russia warns jets will prolong conflict

February 9, 2023

Russia says supplying Western jets will prolong the conflict and make it "more painful" for Ukraine as President Zelenskyy meets with European leaders in Brussels. Follow DW for more.

File picture of a F-16 fighter jet
Ukraine has been calling for Western fourth generation fighter jets such as the US F-16 as it continues trying to fight off Russia's invasionImage: Sgt. Joseph Swafford/abaca/picture alliance

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has warned that any delivery of advanced fighter jets would only result in a prolonged and painful conflict for Ukraine according to Reuters news agency.

"This is nothing more than the growing involvement of the United Kingdom, Germany and France in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine," Peskov told reporters.

Peskov said lines were beginning to blur when it came to the level of involvement NATO states had in the conflict.

"The line between indirect and direct involvement is gradually disappearing. One can only express regret in this regard, and say that such actions ... lead to an escalation of tension, prolong the conflict and make the conflict more and more painful for Ukraine," Peskov said.

The Kremlin spokesman said Russia would maintain course with its so-called "special military operation" until its objectives had been met.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been urging allies to send Kyiv warplanes to help it fend off Russia's invasion, after calls for battle tanks and other heavy weaponry resulted in various pledges from allied countries.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola expressed her support for providing Ukraine with fighter aircraft and long-range missiles.

"States must consider quickly, as a next step, providing long-range systems and the jets that you need to protect the liberty too many have taken for granted," Metsola said at a joint sitting with Zelenskyy.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Thursday, February 9.

Lithuania provides €3.6 million in aid for Ukraine's energy infrastructure

Lithuania's grid operator Litgrid said the first batch of equipment worth €3.6 million ($3.9 million) would be shipped to Ukraine in the coming weeks. 

Litgrid CEO Rokas Masiulis said the company had some usable equipment in its reserve stocks after upgrading its own infrastructure. 

Lithuania's Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys has said his country is among the few to still have the Soviet-design equipment used in Ukraine's energy sector.

"The devices will be very useful for Ukrainians in rebuilding the damaged energy infrastructure. As much as we can, we contribute to brighter and warmer days in Ukraine," Masiulis said in a statement. 

Russia has repeatedly targeted Ukraine's energy infrastructure, leaving millions of Ukrainians without light or power

Kyiv removes Soviet general monument

The Kyiv city administration announced that the statue of General Nikolai Vatutin, the commander-in-chief of Soviet troops during the during the defeat of Nazi forces in Kyiv in the Second World War, was removed from the Ukrainian capital's Mariinskyi Park to the Aviation Museum. 

The removal of the monument is part of Ukraine's effort against the glorification of memories of the Soviet past in public spaces. 

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said more than 30 streets and squares were also renamed. Victory Square, for instance, has been given back its historical name Galician Square, instead of commemorating the Soviet victory in WWII. 

Kyiv city officials dismantle the Soviet general Nikolay Vatutin's monument with cranes in Kyiv
Symbols of the Soviet era are being removed from the public sphereImage: Vladimir Shtanko/AA/picture alliance

IOC chief says call to boycott Paris Games is against Olympic 'principles'

Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said the Ukraine-led calls to boycott the 2024 Paris Games over the participation of Russian athletes was against the Olympic "principles."

Bach said in a letter to Ukraine's National Olympic Committee (NOC) that Kyiv's push to boycott the Olympics was "at the very least, extremely regrettable."

"Threatening a boycott of the Olympic Games which, as you inform me, the NOC of Ukraine is currently considering, goes against the fundamentals of the Olympic Movement and the principles we stand for," Bach said. 

Last month, the IOC said it was exploring the possibility of Russian and Belarusian athletes participating in the 2024 Games under a neutral flag. 

The proposal prompted Ukraine to threaten to pull out of the Olympics and urge its allies to join the boycott. 

Poland's Sports Minister Kamil Bortniczuk said he expected around 40 countries to oppose the participation of Russians and Belarusians in the Paris Olympics at a meeting of sports ministers in London on Friday. 

Russia threatens 'legal action' over Nord Stream pipeline blast

The Kremlin has threatened political or "legal action" following the publication of an unsubstantiated claim that the US was behind the September 26, 2022, blasts that damaged the Nord Stream pipelines, cutting delivery of Russian gas to Germany.

The claim was made by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh who published his report "How America Took Out The Nord Stream Pipeline" on his own blog and only cited one source. Reuters was unable to corroborate the claim and the US and Norway both rejected the claim as "utterly false" and "nonsense."

Hersch claims the CIA orchestrated an underwater attack on the Baltic Sea pipelines under orders from US President Joe Biden. Hersh is a Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist who has been responsible for major stories uncovering scandals in US politics and military affairs. But his credibility has taken a hit, with some of his more recent allegations attracting suspicions.

Nevertheless, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov praised the report's "depth of analysis" and said, "The world must find out the truth about who carried out this act of sabotage." 

He also called for "an open international investigation of this unprecedented attack on critical international infrastructure."  

Investigators in Sweden and Denmark have said last year's rupture was due to a blast but declined to assign blame. Europeans have suggested Russia itself may have undertaken the attack, whereas Vladimir Putin has spoken of an "Anglo-Saxon" plot to cripple Europe.

Zelenskyy says relations 'up and down' with Germany

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday described relations with Germany as "wavy," noting that they go "up and down" depending on the situation — especially those involving arms deliveries for his war-torn country.

The Ukrainian leader told the German weekly magazine Spiegel that things were the same with Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Zelenskyy praised his counterpart for his help but bemoaned the fact that the German had to be convinced anew for each delivery. 

"I have to pressure him to help Ukraine and constantly convince him that this help isn't for us but rather for the Europeans."

Zelenskyy warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin was insatiable, like "A dragon that has to eat," telling Spiegel, "When the Russians arrive at your border, you'll have to sacrifice your people's lives."

US and French troops hold NATO drills in Romania

US and French troops held military drills in Romania to test NATO's eastern flank defenses.

The drills took place at the Black Sea training range in Capu Midia and involved 350 troops who took part in live fire exercises with the HIMARS missile system.

Romania's Ministry of National Defense said the goal of the drills — held between February 2 and February 10 — is to test the alliance's "interoperability of artillery systems" in a fictitious Article 5 collective defense scenario on the alliance's southeastern territory.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty lays out the military assistance by the entire alliance, should one of the member states get attacked.

NATO has beefed up its presence along Europe's eastern flank since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Crew members of a Leclerc main battle tank stand during a joint French US exercise in Romania
US and French troops that are part of a NATO battlegroup in Romania held a military exercise to test the alliance's eastern flank defensesImage: Andreea Alexandru/AP/picture alliance

Russia must increase production of tanks — Medvedev

Russia's former President Dmitry Medvedev said the country must ramp up the production of tanks as a response to Ukraine being armed by Western countries.

"As we know, our adversary (Ukraine) has been begging abroad for planes, missiles, tanks. How should we respond? It is clear that in this case, it is natural for us to increase production of various armaments including modern tanks," Medvedev said in footage posted Telegram.

Some EU states ready to give aircraft — Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that several EU leaders were ready to provide Kyiv with fighter aircraft in the fight against Russia's invasion.

"Europe will be with us until our victory. I've heard it from a number of European leaders... about the readiness to give us the necessary weapons and support, including the aircraft," Zelenskyy told a press conference.

"I have a number of bilaterials now, we are going to raise the issue of the fighter jets and other aircraft," Zelenskyy added.

The Ukrainian president made the comments after joining all the 27 national EU leaders' talks in Brussels.

SpaceX must pick a side — Zelenskyy adviser

Mykhailo Podolyak, the political adviser to the Ukrainian president, said that Elon Musk's SpaceX should decide who it is supporting.

"A year of Ukrainian resistance & companies have to decide: Either they are on the side of Ukraine and the right to freedom, and don’t seek ways to do harm. Or they are on Russia's side and its 'right' to kill and seize territories," Podolyak said in a tweet.

"SpaceX (Starlink) and Mrs. Shotwell should choose a specific option," he said. 

The comments come after SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company had taken steps to prevent Ukraine's military from using the company's Starlink satellite internet service for controlling drones in the region.

Shotwell said the satellite service which has provided Ukraine's military with broadband communications in its defense against Russia's military, was "never never meant to be weaponized."

Kremlin dismisses MH17 findings

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia "could not accept" the findings of an investigation into the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

Prosecutors said there were "strong indications" President Vladimir Putin approved the transfer of missiles to Russian-backed forces that were used to shoot down the aircraft in 2014.

"Russia did not take part in this investigation, so we cannot accept these results – especially since no basis for these statements has been made public," Peskov told reporters.

Ukraine, EU fighting 'the most anti-European force' in the world

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in Brussels on Thursday for talks with European leaders.

In an address to the European Parliament, Zelenskyy said that Ukraine and the EU were fighting what he called "the most anti-European force" in the world

Zelenskyy has been visiting European countries as he continues efforts to strengthen support as the Russian invasion approaches one year since it began.

Ukraine's leader is looking for more advanced weaponry, particularly aircraft, as fierce fighting continues to rage in the eastern parts of Ukraine.

On Wednesday Zelenskyy met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak followed by meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and Scholz.

"France and Germany have the potential to be game changers and that's how I see our talks today," Zelenskyy said. "The sooner we get heavy long-range weapons and our pilots get modern planes ... the quicker this Russian aggression will end."

The visit comes as Sunak announced that Britain would train Ukrainian pilots on "NATO-standard fighter jets.'' Ukraine has urged its allies to send jets.

Zelenskyy renews appeal for weapons on UK trip

EU officials welcome Zelenskyy to Brussels

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel have welcomed Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Brussels.

"Welcome home, welcome to the EU," Michel said on Twitter.

"Welcome to Brussels," von der Leyen tweeted. "We will support Ukraine every step of the way towards our Union," she added. 

Germany providing 'most concrete support' — Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz highlighted the level of support Germany was providing for Ukraine as he arrived at an EU summit in Brussels.

Scholz said that Germany, as an EU state, was providing Ukraine with "the most financial and humanitarian support, but also with the most concrete support when it comes to arms deliveries."

Scholz's comments come ahead of an EU leaders' meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Brussels.

'Significant increase in attacks' — Luhansk governor

Governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Hayday said there has been a "significant increase" in Russian attacks and shelling in eastern Ukraine.

"I can confirm that there has been a significant increase in attacks and shelling. And it is in the direction of Kreminna that they are trying to build on their success by pushing through our defenders' defenses," Hayday told Ukrainian television.

Hayday said that there had been "no significant success" thus far and that "our defense forces are holding firmly there."

On Wednesday Hayday said there had been a "maximum escalation" in a tweet.

Kreminna, is situated around 100 km (62 miles) northwest of the regional capital Luhansk.

Wagner Group to stop recruiting prisoners

Russia's mercenary Wagner Group said that it would no longer recruit prisoners to fight in Ukraine.

"The recruitment of prisoners by the Wagner private military company has completely stopped," the group's founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said in comments published on social media.

"We are fulfilling all our obligations to those who work for us now," he said.

In a video which circulated online from September 2022, Prigozhin was seen addressing a crowd of convicts, promising that if they served in Ukraine for six months, their sentences would be commuted.

It's unclear just how many prisoners were recruited, but Reuters news agency has in the past cited the US intelligence community in reports that the group had as many as 40,000 prisoners deployed in Ukraine.

Wagner Group mercenaries - unfulfilled hopes for freedom

More on the war in Ukraine on dw.com

Read more about the German defense minister's surprise trip to Kyiv here.

And find out more about the investigation into the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 back in 2014 and the role investigators believe Russian President Vladimir Putin played.

ab, kb/es (Reuters, AP, AFP)