US Attorney General Merrick Garland authorized the United States to begin using seized Russian money to aid Ukraine, according to US media.
The announcement came during a meeting between Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin in Washington on Friday.
"I am announcing that I have authorized the first-ever transfer of forfeited Russian assets for use in Ukraine," Garland said, according to CNN.
The money will come from assets confiscated from Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev after his indictment on sanctions evasions in April, Garland added. The money will go to the State Department "to support the people of Ukraine," CNN reported Garland as saying.
Kostin welcomed the move, which he said would see $5.4 million (€5 million) of confiscated assets go toward "rebuilding Ukraine."
"Delighted to see the new legislation aimed at seizing the Russian oligarchs' illicit assets in action," he posted on Twitter, along with a picture of himself and Garland during the meeting.
"The inherent part of accountability is that the perpetrator pays for the harm inflicted," Kostin added at the end of his tweet thread.
Russian millionaire Malofeyev is considered one of the main sources of funding for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. In April, the US Treasury blacklisted a network of some 40 individuals and entities led by Malofeyev that it said were used to facilitate sanctions evasion.
Here are other updates on the war in Ukraine on Saturday, February 4:
Germany waiting for partners to take part in tank deliveries — reports
After its decision to deliver modern Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks to Ukraine, the German government is still waiting for specific offers from partner countries before sending the tanks, according to a report in Der Spiegel magazine.
While there are already offers of the older Leopard model 2A4, the supply situation for the newer type 2A6 is thin, the government circles in Berlin said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had tried in several phone calls to win government leaders for delivery commitments, the magazine reported.
According to Spiegel, no EU country wanted to make any concrete commitments about participating in the tank package at a video conference with German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius last week.
In January, Germany agreed to send to Ukraine 14 modern Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its military's current stocks.
Major accident causes power outages in Odesa
A serious accident at a high-voltage substation in Ukraine's Odesa region has caused emergency power outages in the regional capital, Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.
According to Shmyhal, the substation had previously been damaged multiple times by Russian missile strikes.
"The situation is difficult, the scale of the accident is significant, it is impossible to quickly restore power supply, in particular to critical infrastructure," Shmyhal wrote on Telegram.
He also asked the Ministry of Energy to bring powerful power generators to Odesa within 24 hours.
Russia and Ukraine exchange prisoners of war
116 POWs returned to Ukraine as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia. According to Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine's presidential office, the released prisoners of war include defenders of Mariupol and captured partisans from the Kherson region.
Yermak also added that Ukraine managed to recover the bodies of two foreign volunteers and a Ukrainian soldier.
At the same time, 63 Russian prisoners of war were released, Russia's Defense Ministry said. The group of released soldiers includes people from the "sensitive category," whose exchange was made possible through the mediation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the ministry added.
Portugal to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine
Portugal will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said, without specifying how many will be shipped.
"We are currently working to be able to dispense some of our tanks," Costa told the Lusa news agency during a trip to the Central African Republic. "I know how many tanks will be (sent to Ukraine) but that will be announced at the appropriate time."
Admiral Antonio Silva Ribeiro, the head of the Portuguese armed forces, said last month Portugal had 37 Leopard 2 tanks, but it has been widely reported by local media that most are inoperable.
Portugal is working with Germany to get the parts needed to repair the tanks that are not operational, Costa said, adding he hoped to deliver them to Ukraine by the end of March.
US warned Turkey over exports seen to boost Russia's war effort
The United States warned Turkey in recent days about the export to Russia of chemicals, microchips and other products that could be used in Moscow's war effort in Ukraine, and Washington could move to enforce existing bans, according to a senior US official.
Brian Nelson, the US Treasury Department's top sanctions official, visited Turkish government officials and representatives of the private sector on Thursday and Friday to urge more cooperation in disrupting the flow of such goods. In the meetings in Ankara and Istanbul, Nelson and a delegation highlighted tens of millions of dollars of exports to Russia that raised concerns, the official said.
In talks with Turkish firms this week, Nelson "urgently" flagged the way Russia is believed to be dodging Western controls to resupply plastics, rubber and semi-conductors found in exported goods and used by the military, the official said.
Nelson also visited the United Arab Emirates and Oman to reiterate that Washington will continue aggressively enforcing its sanctions, the Treasury said last week.
Germany has evidence of over 100 war crimes in Ukraine
Germany has collected evidence of war crimes in Ukraine, the country's prosecutor general said, adding that he saw a need for a judicial process at the international level.
"Currently, for example, we are focusing on the mass killings in Bucha or attacks against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure," Federal Prosecutor General Peter Frank told Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper in comments released ahead of publication. So far, prosecutors have pieces of evidence in the "three-digit range," he added, without elaborating.
Germany began collecting evidence in March 2022 to prosecute possible war crimes, including by interviewing Ukrainian refugees and evaluating publicly available information, Frank said, adding that German prosecutors were not yet investigating specific individuals.
"We are preparing ourselves for a possible later court case — be it with us in Germany, be it with our foreign partners, be it before an international court," he added. Asked who should be tried, Frank said Russian state leaders and those implementing decisions at the highest military level should be held accountable.
No evidence yet of Russian sabotage of Baltic pipelines — Germany
German investigators have no evidence at this stage that Russia was behind the explosions on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines.
"This cannot be proven at the moment; the investigations are ongoing," Federal Prosecutor General Peter Frank told the Welt am Sonntag.
With the help of two research vessels, water and soil samples as well as remnants of the pipelines had been taken, and the crime scene had also been comprehensively documented, he said. "We are currently evaluating all of this forensically," he added.
At the end of September, a total of four leaks from the two pipelines had been discovered after explosions near the Danish Baltic Sea island of Bornholm. The Swedish safety authorities had stated in November that it had been a case of serious sabotage — without, however, naming a culprit.
More DW coverage on the war in Ukraine
The G7 and EU price cap on Russian diesel follows a price cap on Russian crude oil. The measures are intended to make Russia's invasion of Ukraine unviable.
dh/sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)