LIVE – Updated at 13:16
Comments from French president come after Joe Biden said it was ‘not rational’ for Beijing to be negotiating a peace deal.
Macron welcomes Beijing engagement in peace process
France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has said China’s engagement in peace in Ukraine is a “good thing”.
Macron told reporters that he would visit China in early April, in part to seek Beijing’s help with ending the war.
China must help us put pressure on Russia so that it never uses chemical or nuclear weapons, (an effort) which China has already made, and that it stops its aggression as a precondition for talks.
Russia cuts oil supplies to Poland, says oil firm
Poland’s largest oil company, PKN Orlen, has stopped receiving oil via the Druzhba pipeline from Russia, its chief executive officer, Daniel Obajtek, has said.
Posting to Twitter, Obajtek said:
We’re effectively securing supplies. Russia has halted supplies to Poland, for which we are prepared.
Orlen said it could fully supply its refineries via sea and that consumers would not be affected by the halt.
The Druzhba pipeline, which supplies oil to Poland and Germany, as well as to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, was exempted from EU sanctions to help countries with limited options for alternative deliveries.
Russian oil accounts for about 10% of Polish supply after Warsaw cut imports after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
Three civilians have been wounded by Russian artillery shelling of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, a senior Ukrainian official said.
Posting to Telegram, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, wrote:
Today, due to artillery shelling of the city of Kherson, three local residents ended up in the hospital. Russian terrorists are fighting the civilian population.
In a separate Telegram, the Kherson regional military administration said two emergency and rescue workers had been injured by Russian shelling.
The two men suffered shrapnel injuries, it said, adding they had been hospitalised and were receiving medical assistance.
Russian troops on the east bank of the Dnipro River opened fire on Kherson region 83 times on Friday, hitting 34 settlements, according to Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of the regional military administration.
Belarus’s Lukashenko says he and Putin spoke ‘for a long time’ on anniversary of Ukraine war
Earlier we reported that the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, said he had held a long conversation with Vladimir Putin yesterday. We now have some more detail from Reuters.
Lukashenko, a close Putin ally , was quoted as telling reporters earlier today:
I’ll tell you a secret, last night he and I spoke for a long time on various topics.
The Kremlin has yet to provide any statement about the conversation.
Belarus, which shares a border with Ukraine and Russia, allowed Russia a year ago to use its territory as a launchpad for its attack on Ukraine. Earlier this month, Lukashenko said Belarus was ready to do so again.
Lukashenko’s remarks came as China’s foreign ministry confirmed that the Belarusian leader is expected to visit China on 28 February. A spokesperson for the ministry said:
At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko will pay a state visit to China from 28 February to 2 March.
EU approves tenth package of sanctions on Russia
The EU agreed late on Friday to slap a tenth package of sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, just in time for a self-imposed deadline to mark the first anniversary of the war.
Ambassadors met in Brussels after failing to finalise the sanctions package for several days. The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, had told Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, that the EU aimed to have the measures in place by 24 February.
The latest round of sanctions tackled the banking sector, Russia’s access to technology that can be used for civilian and military purposes, and advanced technologies, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said.
Borrell warned that the bloc would continue to apply more sanctions, adding that it would “do it for as long as needed, until Ukraine is liberated from the brutal Russian aggression”.
Von der Leyen said the EU was turning up the pressure on those trying to circumvent sanctions.
We now have the most far-reaching sanctions ever – depleting Russia’s war arsenal and biting deep into its economy.
The sanctions package will add electronic components used in Russian weapons systems retrieved on the battlefield – including drones, missiles, helicopters, as well as specific rare earth materials, electronic integrated circuits and thermal cameras – to the list of banned exports.
It also imposes tighter export restrictions on another 96 entities for supporting Russia’s military and industrial complex, including for the first time seven Iranian entities manufacturing military drones used by Moscow.
Additional restrictions are imposed on imports of goods which generate significant revenues for Russia, such as asphalt and synthetic rubber.
The Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, said he held a long conversation with Vladimir Putin yesterday, Reuters is reporting.
Lukashenko told reporters that he and his Russian counterpart touched on various topics in their conversation, without giving further details.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed some elements of a Chinese proposal for a ceasefire in Russia’s war on Ukraine, but said only the country where a war is being fought can be the initiator of a peace plan.
The Ukrainian president said, during a press conference in Kyiv on Friday, that the plan was “an important signal that they are going to participate in this topic”, but warned Beijing against providing Moscow with arms.
China considering supplying artillery shells to Russia, say US officials
The US has intelligence that the Chinese government is considering providing Russia with drones and ammunition for use in the war in Ukraine, according to US officials.
It does not appear that Beijing has made a final decision yet and there is no evidence that any weapon transfers have occurred, officials said.
However, negotiations between Russia and China about the price and scope of the equipment are ongoing, CNN has reported. It comes as the Russian army rapidly depletes its ammunition stocks more than a year into its invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow has repeatedly requested drones and ammunition from Beijing, the sources said, and Chinese leadership has been actively debating over the last several months whether or not to send the lethal aid, they added.
US intelligence officials believe China is now leaning towards providing the equipment, despite just yesterday calling for peace talks and urging all parties to end attacks on civilians.
The sources said the provision of drones and ammunition would likely be for small arms such as handheld weaponry rather than larger artillery.
The aid being considered consists of 122-millimetre and 152-millimetre rounds, which Russia has in dwindling supply as it prosecutes a war largely fought with artillery, the Washington Post has cited US officials as saying.
A senior US administration official said:
China has the capacity to be a game-changer.
If China were to go ahead with the transfer, it would mark the first time Beijing has provided lethal aid in the conflict despite repeated warnings from the US.
Joe Biden said on Friday that he does not “anticipate a major initiative” from China to provide weapons to Russia.
When asked if any future support would cross a red line, Biden said that the US “would respond.”
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, on Sunday said China may be about to provide lethal aid to help Russia in the war in Ukraine.
Blinken told US networks that the US had information China was considering whether to give Russia assistance, possibly including guns and weapons, for the Ukraine war.
Here are some of the latest images we have received from the frontline city of Bakhmut in Ukraine.
Here’s some more on the G20 meeting in India, where finance leaders of the world’s biggest economies have been unable to reach a consensus on how to describe the conflict in Ukraine.
Italy’s finance minister, Giancarlo Giorgetti, said it would be “unacceptable” to soften the wording approved in November at the G20 summit in Bali.
At the time, G20 leaders said “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine” but also acknowledged some countries saw the conflict differently.
In a statement, Giorgetti said:
We cannot call into question what was approved in Bali and any other solution would be an unacceptable setback.
G20 ‘failing to reach consensus on war in Ukraine’
A meeting of finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the Group of Twenty (G20) leading economies in Bengaluru, India, will likely end today without a joint communique, because there was no consensus on how to describe the conflict in Ukraine, according to delegates.
The US and its G7 allies have pushed to demand the communique squarely condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting, US treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, said:
I think there has to be a statement in the communique condemning Russia’s war. It’s something that I think is absolutely necessary.
Russia, which is a member of the G20, refers to its actions in Ukraine as a “special military operation”, and avoids calling it an invasion or war.
India has been reluctant to be caught between Ukraine’s western allies and Russia and other countries supporting Moscow, such as China. The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, kicking off the meetings on Friday, avoided mention of Ukraine.
India and China were also among the nations that abstained on a UN vote to call for Russia to immediately and unconditionally withdraw from Ukraine.
India is pressing the meeting to avoid using the word “war” in any communique, G20 officials have told Reuters. A senior source said negotiations over the communique were difficult, with Russia and China blocking proposals by western countries.
Zelenskiy adviser dismisses China’s peace plan and warns time running out
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has dismissed China’s “unrealistic” proposal to end the conflict.
Beijing should not “bet on an aggressor who broke [international] law and will lose the war”, Podolyak tweeted this morning.
The Chinese government’s 12-point position paper on Ukraine was released on Friday morning, on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion. In it, Beijing called for peace talks while urging all parties to avoid nuclear escalation and end attacks on civilians, in a statement which appeared to maintain its stance that the west was fuelling the conflict and which analysts dismissed as anodyne.
The paper, for which Ukraine was not consulted, was cautiously welcomed by Kyiv. “China started talking about Ukraine, and that’s not bad,” Zelenskiy said during a press conference yesterday.
It seems to me that there is respect for our territorial integrity, security issues.
Podolyak said yesterday that any plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine must involve the withdrawal of Moscow’s troops back to Ukraine’s 1991 borders at the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Explosions have reportedly been heard in the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine, according to Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the exiled city’s mayor.
The explosions were reported in the location of a large Russian military personnel cluster, he said.
Andriushchenko, posting on Telegram, wrote:
The sounds of explosions along the line of Yalta village / Yuryivka village (location of a large concentration of occupiers) in Mariupol district are reported. We verify the reports. Air raid alert was announced in Ukraine, but occupiers are struck.
“It’s a good trend,” he added.
Ukraine’s armed forces have in recent days claimed strikes on Mariupol, previously thought to be outside the effective range of Ukrainian missiles, Kyiv Post has reported.
Nataliya Humeniuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s armed forces, on Thursay said:
At this stage, we can only state that inaccessibility is a very relative concept. What is considered so remote that it is unreachable, is not always so. The direction of Mariupol is no longer completely unreachable for us.
Thousands of tickets for the Eurovision song contest are to be allocated to Ukrainians who have been forced from their homes and are living in the UK.
The international music show will take place at the M&S Bank Arena Liverpool in May after the city was chosen to host the competition on behalf of the 2022 winner, Ukraine, which is unable to host the event after the Russian invasion.
As part of the UK’s commitment to honour Ukraine at the song contest, about 3,000 tickets will be made available to displaced Ukrainians so they can attend the live shows.
The UK government has also announced £10m in funding to “help ensure the event truly showcases Ukrainian culture” on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the country.
The money will support Liverpool city council and the BBC’s partnerships with Ukrainian artists and performers to create a show “celebrating music and how it unites people from around the world”.
Polish Leopard tanks handed over to Ukraine
The New Voice of Ukraine’s Euan MacDonald has shared a clip showing the formal handover of the first Polish Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
The video shows Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, with his Ukrainian counterpart, Denys Shmyhal, attending the official transfer of Polish Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine in an undisclosed location in the country.
It comes after Morawiecki yesterday confirmed that four Leopard tanks had been delivered to Ukraine.
Standing alongside Volodymyr Zelenskiy during his visit to Kyiv, Morawiecki said:
Poland and Europe stand by your side. We will definitely not leave you, we will support Ukraine until complete victory over Russia.
Hello everyone. It’s Léonie Chao-Fong here again, taking over from Mark Gerts to bring you the latest developments from the Russia-Ukraine war. Feel free to drop me a message if you have anything to flag, you can reach me on Twitter or via email.
Welcome and summary
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.
Joe Biden, has said it was “not rational” for China to be negotiating the outcome of the Ukraine war, when asked about Beijing’s peace plan for the conflict.
“Putin’s applauding it, so how could it be any good?” the US president told ABC News on Friday.
Biden also ruled out “for now” sending American advanced fighter jets to Ukraine, telling the interview that Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy “doesn’t need F-16s now”.
The US president told the ABC “there is no basis upon which there is a rationale, according to our military now, to provide F-16s” to Ukraine.
We’ll have more on these stories shortly. In the meantime, here are the key recent developments:
The first Polish Leopard tanks have arrived in Ukraine, with the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, confirming that four tanks had been delivered. “Poland and Europe stand by your side. We will definitely not leave you, we will support Ukraine until complete victory over Russia,” he said, standing alongside the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, during his visit to Kyiv to mark the the first anniversary of the Russian invasion.
Zelenskiy has declared victory to be inevitable as his country marked the anniversary of the moment it was invaded by Russian troops. In a national address on Friday, Zelenskiy told Ukrainians they had been proven invincible over “a year of pain, sorrow, faith and unity”.
The US has announced that it will offer over $10bn in assistance to Ukraine. The secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said that the funds were crucial to Ukraine and ensured that the Ukrainian government could continue to meet “the critical needs of its citizens, including healthcare, education and emergency services”.
Washington has also announced an additional package of security assistance for Ukraine. In a statement, the Biden administration said it would include “several new unmanned aerial systems (UAS), counter-unmanned aerial systems (C-UAS) equipment to strengthen Ukraine’s air defences … and electronic warfare detection equipment to bolster Ukraine’s ability to repel Russia’s aggression”.
Sweden will send up to 10 Leopard tanks and anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine, the prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, and defence minister, Pål Jonson, said. “The Swedish tanks reinforce the Leopard 2 contribution that other European countries make. Coordination of support is ongoing with international partners donating Leopard 2 or other tanks,” the government said.
Canada will provide additional military support to Ukraine, prime minister, Justin Trudeau, announced. He said Canada would provide four additional Leopard 2 main battle tanks. The additional tanks will bring up the total number of tanks provided by Canada to eight.
The Group of Seven has announced a range of further economic, military and financial sanctions against Russia. It promised measures against Russian diamond exports, warning that third countries that help Russia evade sanctions would face “severe costs”. The G7 is understood to be setting up an “enforcement coordination mechanism” to stop evasion of its sanctions already imposed.
Zelenskiy has welcomed some elements of a Chinese proposal for a ceasefire in Russia’s war on Ukraine. China’s government called for peace talks while urging all parties to avoid nuclear escalation and end attacks on civilians. “China has shown its thoughts. I believe that the fact that China started talking about Ukraine is not bad,” Zelenskiy said.
Ukraine’s military said Russia had doubled the number of ships on active duty in the Black Sea on Friday and predicted this could be a preparation for more missile strikes.
Russia’s navy has regularly launched missiles from its Black Sea fleet as part of an effort by Moscow to target Ukrainian critical infrastructure and power-generating facilities.
“In the Black Sea, the fleet of warships has doubled compared to this morning – it is now eight ships,” the military command in the southern region said in a Facebook update.
“Against a background of enemy aviation activity of a certain kind, this may indicate that a missile attack as well as drone strikes are in preparation,” it said.
One of the vessels is a frigate armed with eight Kalibr missiles, it said. Last Saturday Ukraine said Russia launched four Kalibr missiles from the Black Sea, two of which were shot down.
Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based in the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
Emmanuel Macron has urged Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to “fight” Russian evasion of western sanctions via Turkey.
The French president “underlined the concern of fighting any evasion of the sanctions in place”, his office said, after he spoke to his Turkish counterpart by phone on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.
He added that “pressure on and isolation of Russia must be increased” to force Moscow to “give up” on its attack.
Erdoğan has been able to maintain relations with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, by refusing to join western sanctions on Russia and ramping up bilateral trade during the war.
The Turkish leader has used his good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv to try to mediate an end to the conflict.
Turkey hosted two early rounds of peace talks and helped strike a UN-backed agreement restoring Ukrainian grain deliveries across the Black Sea.
Erdoğan has also repeatedly tried to bring Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy to Turkey for truce talks.
His office said that he called for a “just peace” in Ukraine in a Friday phone call with Putin.
Ukraine has issued a postage stamp with a reproduction of a Banksy mural, of a boy defeating a grown man in judo, to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
It was painted by the British street artist on a demolished wall in the town of Borodianka, north-west of Kyiv, where many buildings were reduced to rubble by Russian aircraft at the start of the invasion.
The image draws inspiration from the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, known to be a black belt in judo, and depicts a young judoka representing Ukraine knocking down a grown man.
The phrase “Get lost Putin” has been added to the lower left part of the new stamp.
Residents of the capital flocked to buy the new stamps on Friday from Kyiv’s main post office.
Svetlana, a 50-year-old economist, was keen to get her hands on one “because I support the Ukrainian armed forces” and “the stamp is printed at a historic moment”, one year after the start of the Russian invasion.
Also buying the first-day issue, Maxime said she was delighted to see a “first stamp from one of Banksy’s works”.
“It’s a very cool gesture for the world to understand Ukraine, that we remain in the spotlight,” the 26-year-old said.
Belarus president to visit China
The Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, will arrive in China on 28 February for a state visit, the Chinese foreign ministry has said.
Spokesperson Hua Chunying said Lukashenko will visit until 2 March “at the invitation of Chinese president Xi Jinping”.
Lukashenko is a close ally of the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, and has backed Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Belarus is dependent on its neighbour financially and politically.
China is willing to work with Belarus to deepen mutual political trust, the Chinese foreign minister, Qin Gang, told his Belarusian counterpart, Sergei Aleinik, during a phone conversation on Friday, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement.
In September last year, Xi and Lukashenko announced an “all-weather” strategic partnership, when the two met in the Uzbek capital, Samarkand.
Russia appears to have run out of its current stock of Iranian-made drones and will seek to resupply, according to the latest update by the UK Ministry of Defence.
The MoD tweeted that Russia most likely sees the drones as “useful decoys which can divert Ukrainian air defences from more effective Russian cruise missiles”.
There have not been any reports of Iranian one-way-attack uncrewed aerial vehicles (OWA-UAVs) being used in Ukraine since around 15 February 2023.
Prior to this, Ukrainian armed forces reported shooting down at least 24 Shahed-136 OWA-UAVs between late January and early February 2023; and scores were destroyed in the first few days of the year.
This lack of OWA-UAV deployments likely indicates that Russia has run down its current stock. Russia will likely seek a resupply.
Although the weapons do not have a good record in destroying their intended targets, Russia likely sees them as useful decoys which can divert Ukrainian air defences from more effective Russian cruise missiles.
The UN security council held a minute of silence Friday for victims of the war in Ukraine as the secretary general, António Guterres, said Russia’s invasion had devastated the country.
“Life is a living hell for the people of Ukraine,” Guterres told the council as it met to mark the first anniversary of Moscow’s invasion.
The Russian invasion is a blatant violation of the United Nations charter and international law.
The war was condemned by most of the members of the security council in a symbolic ministers’ meeting to mark the anniversary.
On year ago, Russia “unleashed that war with no other justification than its obsessive desire to resurrect a past”, said the French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna.
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said “any peace that legitimises Russia’s seizure of land by force will weaken the charter and send a message to would-be aggressors everywhere that they can invade countries and get away with it”.
Yet, one day after the UN general assembly voted overwhelmingly to demand Russia withdraw its troops from Ukraine, Moscow’s envoy to the UN remained steadfast in blaming the war on Kyiv and the west.
“Ukraine is not a victim,” Vasily Nebenzya said. Kyiv and its allies “left us with no option other than to eliminate threats to Russia from the territory of Ukraine militarily”, he said.
Biden rules out sending Ukraine F-16s ‘for now’
Joe Biden has also ruled out “for now” sending American advanced fighter jets to Ukraine, telling an interview that Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy “doesn’t need F-16s now”.
The US president told the ABC on Friday “there is no basis upon which there is a rationale, according to our military now, to provide F-16s” to Ukraine.
Asked by interviewer David Muir if that meant “never”, Biden said: “I am ruling it out for now.”
“Look, we’re sending [Zelenskiy] what our seasoned military thinks he needs now. He needs tanks, he needs artillery, he needs air defence, including another Himar[s],” Biden said.
“There’s things he needs now that we’re sending him to put them in a position to be able to make gains this spring and this summer going into the fall.”
‘Not rational’ for China to be negotiating a peace, Biden says
The US president, Joe Biden, has said it was “not rational” for China to be negotiating the outcome of the Ukraine war, when asked about Beijing’s peace plan for the conflict.
“Putin’s applauding it, so how could it be any good?” Biden told ABC News on Friday.
“The idea that China is going to be negotiating the outcome of a war that’s a totally unjust war for Ukraine, is just not rational.”
China called for a ceasefire and peace talks between Ukraine and Russia on Friday, offering a 12-point proposal to end the fighting.
China’s plan urges both sides to agree to a gradual de-escalation and warns against the use of nuclear weapons.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy has cautiously welcomed China’s peace plan to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but said it would be acceptable only if it led to Vladimir Putin pulling his troops out from all occupied Ukrainian territory.
The Ukrainian president said he “wanted to believe” Beijing was interested in a “fair peace”. That meant not “supplying weapons to Russia”, he said, adding: “I’m doing my best to prevent that from happening. This is priority number one.”