Ukraine war - latest: Secret 'CIA peace deal' is a 'hoax', Kremlin says; why are EU leaders in Ukraine? (2023)

Key points
  • Zelenskyy to make case for Ukraine joining EU in talks
  • Next six months of war will be 'absolutely crucial', says US
  • Why are European Union leaders in Ukraine?
  • Reports of secret peace proposal are 'hoax' - Kremlin
  • Dominic Waghorn: Race on to arm Ukraine before a spring offensive
  • Live reporting by Faith Ridler.Updates also from Deborah Haynesin Ukraine and Diana Magnay in Moscow


Ukraine opens criminal case against head of Wagner Group of mercenaries

Ukraine has opened a criminal case against the head of the Wagner Group of Russian mercenaries, which have been leading the fight on the eastern front.

Kyiv has also pledged to track down and prosecute any fighters who try to flee abroad.

The Wagner Group is run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin often known as "Putin's chef".

The group has recruited thousands of fighters,including convicts from Russian prisons, to wage war in Ukraine.

"The Prosecutor General's Office has served a notice ofsuspicion to the head of the private military company 'Wagner'," prosecutor general Andriy Kostin said.

"The head of this group is directly responsible forthousands of war crimes. He openly admits his role in the waragainst Ukraine and, with the Kremlin's permission, resolvesstaff issues by recruiting tens of thousands of prisoners."

Under Ukraine's criminal code, suspects in criminal casesmust be informed in a "notice of suspicion".

The statement didnot say how such a notice could have been served to Mr Prigozhin.

Mr Kostin listed accusations against Wagner, includingencroachment on Ukraine's territorial integrity and waging anaggressive war.

He said Wagner mercenaries of all ranks would beheld responsible, including those who fled abroad.

Ukraine would send Oslo a "request for investigativeactions" against a former Wagner commander arrested in Norwaylast month, Mr Kostin said.


Air raid sirens quiet in most of Ukraine

A bit of an update on news that air raid sirens were sounding across Ukraine this morning.

It appears the danger is largely over for now, with the map below showing that alerts are only active in the Crimean peninsula and the eastern Luhansk region.


A glimpse of the scene in eastern Ukraine

These are the latest images to emerge from the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk, where relentless fighting has continued into another month.

In the city of Horlivka, which had a pre-war population of 292,000, people were seen clearing debris and gathering goods from a bombarded market.


Estonia could boycott Paris Olympics if Russian and Belarusian athletes are not barred

Estonia could boycott the Paris 2024 Olympics if Russian and Belarusian athletes are not barred from competing, the country's prime minister said.

It comes after the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) said that athletes from the two countries, banned from competitions in Europe, might be allowed to earn slots for the Olympics by qualifying through Asian events.

However, the IOC later said it was standing by sanctions imposed against Russia and Belarus.

"Our efforts should be on convincing other friends andallies that participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes isjust wrong. Boycotting is the next step, " Kaja Kallas said.

Baltic and Polish sports ministers have also called oninternational sports bodies for a similar ban amid the war inUkraine, while Latvia and Kyiv have threatened to boycott thegames.

The three Baltic states and Poland, members of the EuropeanUnion and NATO which border Russia and Belarus, have been strongsupporters of Ukraine.

"Russia has been destroying Ukrainian nation, state andpeople for a year. Russia has killed hundreds of Ukrainianathletes, including Olympic and world champions," Ms Kallas said.

"To allow athletes to enter the Olympic arena at the priceof blood of Ukrainians - is that a fair play?"


Head of Paris 2024 Olympics says it is up to IOC whether Russian and Belarusians can compete

The head of the Paris 2024 Olympics has said it is for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to decide whether Russian and Belarusian athletes can participate.

The comments, made by Tony Estanguet, come after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the IOC to ban the athletes.

"I am in favour of maintaining this symbol of universality for the Games," Mr Estanguet said when asked about their participation.

"The priority is not about who will participate in 2024 but how and when this conflict and this war will end, that's the priority.

"That's not in the hands of Paris 2024."


Six killed and 19 injured in Russian strikes on Ukraine

Nine Ukrainian regions were hit by renewed Russian bombardment in the past 24 hours, killing six people and injuring at least 19.

There have been strikes in Donetsk, Kherson, Kharkiv, Sumy, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Luhansk since Thursday.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk region, said Russian forces killed two people in Kramatorsk and Bakhmut and wounded eight.

In Kharkiv, two were killed and one was injured when Russian troops fired on a residential building.

Around 65 missiles were launched at Kherson in the south, killing two people and wounding nine, including a five-year-old child.

A shipyard, school and residential buildings were damaged in the strikes.


Ukrainian drills take place near Belarus

The photographs below capture Ukrainian troops attending a drill of the armed forces at the border with Belarus on Thursday afternoon.

It comes as Western countries pledge to donate hundreds of battle tanks, including German-made Leopard 2s and US M1 Abrams tanks.


Germany approves exports of Leopard 1 tanks

Berlin has today approved the export of Leopard 1 battle tanks to Ukraine from its industry stocks, a spokesman said this morning.

It refused to comment on the number of tanks that will be transferred.

However, local media reported that 88 vehicles would be donated.

The Leopard 1 is an older model of the Leopard 2 tank which was previously donated to Ukraine after days of back and forth by Germany.

The country pledged to supply Ukraine with 14 Leopard 2 tanks and gave allies permission to send theirs too – despite threats from Russia.

In the same week, the US confirmed it would send over 31 M1 Abrams tanks and provide training to the country's troops.

The move from Germany permitted other countries - such as Poland and Spain - that have stocks of the Leopard 2 tank to supply them to Kyiv.


Norway 'intends to keep interrogating' Wagner Group defector

Norwegian police said today that they intend to continue to interrogate a former Wagner Group member who fled to the country in January.

However, Andrei Medvedev remains a witness and is not under any obligation to talk to investigators, officers said.

Mr Medvedev has said he wanted to speak out about his experiences in the war - and as a mercenary fighter in the private group owned by millionaire Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has ties to Russian PresidentVladimir Putin- so "the perpetrators are punished" for their crimes.

"Many consider me to be a scoundrel, a criminal, a murderer," he said. "First of all, repeatedly, and again, I would like to apologise, and although I don't know how it would be received, I want to say I'm sorry.

"I want to explain that I am not that person. Yes, I served in Wagner. There are some moments [in my story] that people don't like, that I joined them at all, but nobody is born smart."

The 26-year-old said in an interview in Oslo that he witnessed the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners taken toUkraineto fight for Wagner.

He said he fled over the Arctic border, climbing through barbed-wire fences and evading a border patrol with dogs, hearing guards firing shots as he ran through a forest and over the frozen river that separates the two countries.


NATO tells Russia to fulfil nuclear obligations

NATO has called on Russia to fulfil its obligations under the nuclear reduction treaty START, it said today.

The treaty, which has been extended to February 2026, was signed between the US and Russia to place "verifiable limits on all Russian deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons".

Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, said the alliance notes "with concern" that Russia has failed to comply with many of its obligations.

He said: "We note with concern that Russia has failed to comply withlegally-binding obligations, including on inspection and call onRussia to fulfil its obligations under the treaty."

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