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Training Ukrainians to fly British jets would take too long, says No 10 

The quickest a Ukrainian pilot could learn to fly a British fighter jet is 35 months, Rishi Sunak’s spokesman has said, elaborating on an obstacle to sending warplanes to Kyiv.

The Prime Minister on Tuesday appeared to rule out sending jets to Ukraine, citing the complexity of the aircraft.

“We will continue listening to the Ukrainians and consider what is right for the long term, but – if helpful to understand the situation – the fastest training programme for a new pilot is approximately 35 months,” the spokesman told reporters.

On Wednesday, Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said Britain had not yet made a “solid decision” on sending fighter jets to Ukraine.

Today’s top stories

  • Three dead as Russian missiles rain down on Kramatorsk
  • The British soldier teaching Ukrainians how to fight
  • The United States may allow other countries to send their F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine
  • Vladimir Putin promised victory over Ukraine in a speech 80 years on from the battle of Stalingrad
  • EU officials who visited Kyiv today were warned not to dress up like Volodymyr Zelensky

Italian air defence system will be operational in Ukraine ‘in weeks’

An Italo-French SAMP/T air defence system will be up and running in Ukraine within the next seven or eight weeks, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani has said.

“I believe it will be operational within seven to eight weeks,” Antonio Tajani, who is also deputy prime minister, told a TV show in remarks confirmed by his spokesman.

The system can track dozens of targets and intercept 10 at once. It is the only European-made system that can intercept ballistic missiles.

Kyiv has asked its Western allies for more air defence systems and specifically requested the SAMP/T, known as Mamba, in November.

Moldova rejects Lavrov’s claims, saying it has chosen its own path

Moldova has chosen in own future as “part of the free world,” its foreign ministry has said, dismissing a suggestion by Russia’s Sergei Lavrov that the West was trying to turn the tiny country into Moscow’s enemy.

In an interview with Russian state television, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moldova was among former Soviet republics that he accused the West of trying to turn into enemies of Russia.

“We categorically reject the statement by the head of Russian diplomacy, which does not correspond to reality, and is part of the already well-known threatening rhetoric of Russian diplomacy,” Moldova’s foreign ministry said.

The European Union accepted Moldova and neighbouring Ukraine as candidate members last June.

“We would like to remind the Russian side that the path Moldova is following is the path of accession to the EU. Moldova has clearly chosen its future, and this future is part of the free world,” the ministry said in its statement.

Russian missile destroys Kramatorsk apartment block as EU leaders arrive in Kyiv

A Russian missiles struck a block of flats in eastern Ukraine last night killing at least three people and blowing out windows and doors of neighbouring properties, writes Roland Oliphant.

The missile might have had a specific target – perhaps one of the government and administrative buildings in the streets in Kramatorsk’s small grid-pattern centre.  

Instead, it hit a yellow-painted, four-storey block of flats. One witness said three families lived in the building.

Hundreds of rescuers including local civilians, police, soldiers and firemen spent hours moving the rubble brick-by-brick in a bid to dig out survivors.

2:56PM

Pictured: Putin lays wreath at Soviet war memorial

Vladimir Putin lays a wreath at the Hall of Military Glory in Volgograd CREDIT: Dmitry Lobakin/AFP
The Russian President then attacked the West’s arms deliveries to Ukraine CREDIT: Dmitry Lobakin/AFP

Putin promises victory over Ukraine in Stalingrad commemoration speech

Vladimir Putin has begun speaking at an event to mark the 80th anniversary of the Red Army’s victory in the battle of Stalingrad.

Speaking in Volgograd, as the city is now known, he compared the fight against Ukraine and its Western allies to Russia’s victory against Nazi Germany in World War Two.

Mr Putin said Russia was sure it would be victorious in Ukraine, as it had been 80 years ago.

He said Russia was once again confronting Germany, as he criticised Berlin’s promise to deliver Leopard 2 tanks to support Ukraine on the battlefield.

Finland and Sweden committed to joining Nato together, prime ministers say

Finland and Sweden remain committed to joining Nato at the same time, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told a joint news conference in Stockholm on Thursday.

“It’s in everybody’s interest that we join Nato together with Sweden,” Ms Marin said.

Pictured: Russia prepares to mark anniversary of Stalingrad victory

Participants wearing historical uniforms get ready for a parade marking the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad during World War Two CREDIT: Kirill Braga/Reuters
A Russian Communist party supporter holds a portrait of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin CREDIT: MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Russia’s patriotic Youth Army cadets assemble in the city of Volgograd, where Vladimir Putin is due to speak later CREDIT: AFP

Zelensky urges EU to quickly impose new sanctions on Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the European Union to quickly slap more sanctions on Russia as his country struggles to repel Moscow’s invasion.

“We see today that the pace of sanctions in Europe has slowed down a little,” Mr Zelensky said.

“The terrorist state increases the pace of adaptation to sanctions instead. It should be resolved. We believe that we can do it together.”

Russia to ‘significantly’ increase arms supplies in 2023, says Medvedev

Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president, on Thursday that Russia’s arms suppliers would “significantly” increase their deliveries of military hardware during 2023.

Mr Medvedev, who is now deputy head of the powerful Security Council and heads a government commission on arms production, said new supplies would help Russia inflict a “crushing defeat” over Ukraine on the battlefield.

Zelensky says Russia ‘concentrating’ its forces to take revenge

Moscow is re-grouping troops to take “revenge” on Europe and Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday, as Kyiv urges allies to provide longer range weapons to help fight Russia’s invasion.

“Now Russia is concentrating its forces. We all know that. It is preparing to try to take revenge, not only against Ukraine, but against free Europe and the free world,” Mr Zelensky said at a press conference attended by EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.

Ukraine restarts power stations repaired after Russian attacks

Ukraine has restarted several repaired power units at thermal power plants damaged in Russian missile attacks, easing the country’s power shortages, the energy ministry has said.

Officials have said about 40 per cent of the system has been damaged.

Russian attacks on energy facilities have led to widespread power shortages and blackouts for millions of people.

“The expected deficit at the evening peak will be about 19% of demand,” the ministry said on Telegram messaging app.
 

Two wounded in second missile attack on Kramatorsk

At least two civilians were wounded in the double missile strike on Kramatorsk today, writes Roland Oliphant.

Videos taken shortly after the strike show a man and a woman lying on the ground and being attended to by passers by.

The rockets, which have not yet been identified, destroyed a row of car garages in the courtyard of a residential block of flats and left a large crater in a nearby road.

It was not clear what, if anything, they were aimed at. Russia has now fired three missiles at the centre of Kramatorsk in the space of about 15 hours.

Kramatorsk is one of the most important towns in the Ukrainian-held part of Donetsk region. It is roughly 20 miles from the nearest section of the frontline and out of range of most artillery, but has repeatedly been targeted by long range missiles.

On April 8 last year a missile strike on the town’s railway station killed 60 civilians awaiting evacuation.

The town is likely to face further attacks if Russia succeeds in capturing Bakhmut, a strategic town on the frontline about 22 miles to the south-east. 

Belarus says joint air force drills with Russia finished

Belarus’ Defence Ministry has said its two-week long joint air force drills with Russia’s military have concluded.

A flurry of military activity in Belarus prompted fears in Kyiv and the West that Moscow could be preparing to drag its close ally further into the conflict in Ukraine.

Minsk said a wide range of tasks had been completed during the drills, which it added were “exclusively defensive in nature”.

EU chief hail’s Zelensky’s anti-corruption drive

Speaking in Kyiv alongside Volodymyr Zelensky, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen praised efforts to stamp out graft in the wake of several public probes and high-profile dismissals linked to embezzlement.

“I’m comforted to see that your anti-corruption bodies are on alert and effective in detecting corruption cases,” she said.

“I also commend you on reacting so rapidly at the political level to make sure that the fight against corruption is delivering tangible results and is further stepped up,” she added.

Ms von der Leyen visited Kyiv on Thursday to discuss EU support for Ukraine CREDIT: AFP

Zelensky calls for more Russia sanctions at EU meeting

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for more punitive measures against Russia by the European Union and said he had discussed a new EU sanctions package with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Mr Zelensky, speaking at a joint news conference in Kyiv with von der Leyen, said the speed of the EU sanctions campaign against Russia had “slightly slowed down” and should be stepped up.

Two more missiles hit Kramatorsk

Two more missiles have struck central Kramatorsk, writes Roland Oliphant.

The missiles landed in a residential area of the city centre, a few hundred metres away from the building destroyed in the overnight attack.

The Telegraph saw two large craters in the ground and extensive damage to nearby buildings.

No fatalities were initially reported. 

US may allow third countries to send American F-16 fighters to Ukraine

The United States may allow other countries to send their F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine but will likely stop short of donating its own warplanes to Kyiv, according to reports.

Ukraine will most likely receive F-16s from Denmark or the Netherlands, officials told the New York Times.

The Netherlands is believed to have around 40 F-16s in its inventory, while Denmark is preparing to phase out its F-16s in favour of more modern F-35 stealth jets.

US President Joe Biden has previously ruled out his country sending fighter jets to Ukraine.

Pentagon ‘doubts Ukraine will be able to retake Crimea in the near future’

Officials in the Pentagon reportedly have doubts that Ukraine’s forces will be able to recapture the Crimean peninsula.

Russian troops seized Crimea in 2014 and have begun digging trenches and preparing fortified defensive positions along its northern edge in anticipation of a possible Ukrainian attempt to capture it.

Ukraine has pledged to recapture Crimea in its entirety as part of its efforts to fight off Russia’s invasion.

But four US defence officials at a recent briefing said they thought it was unlikely that Ukraine would be able to oust Russia’s forces from the territory any time soon, Politico reported.

Don’t dress like Zelensky, EU officials told ahead of Ukraine trip

European Commission officials were warned not to dress in military green or khaki like Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to wartorn Ukraine, writes James Crisp.

Ursula von der Leyen, the commission president, and most of her commissioners are in Kyiv in a show of support ahead of Friday’s EU-Ukraine summit.

Ahead of the visit, the EU executive sent out dress code guidance, which called for “usual business attire” and ruled out “green, khaki or too bright colours”.

Ms von der Leyen dressed in Ukrainian colours for her annual state of the union speech last year.

The memo also warned the college of commissioners to steel themselves for less gourmet food than they are used to in Brussels, Politico reported.
 

Deadly Russian missile strike on Kramatorsk traps civilians under rubble

Russia now has twice as many troops in Ukraine as in the initial invasion, say Ukrainian spies

Russia now has twice as many troops in Ukraine than it did during the initial invasion, Ukrainian intelligence officials believe.

As many as 320,000 Russian troops are now inside Ukraine’s borders, the New York Times reported.

Around 150,000 troops are believed to have taken part in the invasion almost a year ago.

Western officials believe Russia may have as many as 250,000 soldiers in reserve, either training to fight in Ukraine or stationed near the border.

Russia will overshadow Ukraine invasion anniversary events, says Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow had plans to overshadow pro-Ukrainian events arranged by Western and allied countries around the world to mark the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Mr Lavrov said Russian diplomats were working on something to ensure Western-led events in New York and elsewhere were “not the only ones to gain the world’s attention”, without providing details.

Lavrov: ‘Russia does not need help from former Soviet allies in Ukraine’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow does not any need help from its ex-Soviet allies for its military campaign in Ukraine.

Lavrov said Russia had everything it needed for the conflict, and had not asked members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) – a Moscow-led alliance that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – to provide material support for what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Russia’s Lavrov says the United States was involved in Nord Stream explosions

The United States was directly involved in explosions that severely damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea last year, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, has said.

Mr Lavrov provided no evidence for his claim. President Vladimir Putin has previously accused Britain of blowing up the pipelines, accusations it has denied.

In an interview on state TV on Thursday, Mr Lavrov also said the West was lying about Russia’s refusal to negotiate over Ukraine and was trying to turn Moldova, Georgia and former Soviet states in Central Asia against Moscow.

EU’S von der Leyen arrives in Kyiv for talks

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has arrived in Kyiv for meetings intended to highlight support for Ukraine as the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion nears.

“Good to be back in Kyiv, my 4th time since Russia’s invasion. This time, with my team of Commissioners,” she wrote on Twitter under a photo of her arriving at a Kyiv railway station.

“We are here together to show that the EU stands by Ukraine as firmly as ever. And to deepen further our support and cooperation.”

Members of the executive European Commission will meet members of the Ukrainian government later today.

On Friday, von der Leyen and the chairman of the 27 European Union national leaders, Charles Michel, will meet President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Austria expels four Russian diplomats

Austria is expelling four Russian diplomats, including two accredited with the United Nations in Vienna, the foreign ministry has said.

The diplomats are alleged to have acted “in a manner incompatible with their diplomatic status,” the ministry said.

Diplomatic expulsions are rare in neutral Austria, which enjoyed close ties with Russia before Moscow invaded Ukraine.

Seven dead in construction site fire in Crimea

At least seven people died in a fire in Crimea after flames ripped through temporary accommodation housing construction workers, Russian-installed officials have said.

Citing local law enforcement agencies, the state-run TASS news agency said the fire, which broke out overnight on the outskirts of the city of Sevastopol, was the result of an electrical appliance short-circuiting.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Russian-appointed governor, said the fire had broken out in a two-storey dormitory housing construction workers for the Tavrida highway, a new road linking the Crimean cities of Sevastopol and Simferopol.

At the time of the fire, 185 people were inside the small two-storey building, the RIA news agency reported, citing the local emergency services.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said it had opened an investigation into the cause of the blaze and that investigators were working on the site.

Russia will ‘begin new offensive’ on invasion anniversary, says Ukraine

Russian forces are planning to begin a new offensive on February 24, the one-year anniversary of the initial invasion, Ukraine’s defence minister has warned.

Speaking to France’s BFMTV on Wednesday night, Oleksii Reznikov said: “We think that, given that they [the Kremlin] live in symbolism, they will try to try something around February 24.”

Mr Reznikov said it was possible Russian forces would attempt to advance along two axes, from the east and the south.

“We tell our partners that we too must be ready as soon as possible,” he said, repeating calls for more weapons.

Rescuers work in the rubble after Russian missile strikes Kramatorsk

The missile might have had a specific target – perhaps one of the government and administrative buildings in the streets in Kramatorsk’s small grid-pattern centre, writes Roland Oliphant.  

Instead, it hit a yellow-painted, four-storey block of flats. One witness said three families lived in the building.

Hundreds of rescuers including local civilians, police, soldiers and firemen spent hours moving the rubble brick-by-brick in a bid to dig out survivors.

About an hour after the strike a group of rescuers carried an adult out on a stretcher and laid it down on a grass verge across the road from the ruins.

Then they covered the patient with a foil blanket and walked away. They waited until most of the crowd was preoccupied elsewhere before putting the body, a woman, into a body bag.

The rescuers regularly called for silence and switched off generators and car engines so they could listen for voices beneath the rubble.

Several times they said they heard someone. People muttered to one another that it might be a woman. A group of female volunteers wondered aloud whether whoever was buried might have tried to call on a mobile phone if they had one.

Then the shout would go up “ok let’s work”. The lights came back on and the frantic human chains resumed passing bricks hand to hand to clear the pile.

Two men who climbed down from the pile after two hours of work told the Telegraph they did not know how many if any people were trapped.

Asked if they could hear voices in the ruins they said: “You could hear them at the beginning.”

By 1am, three hours after the strike, the regional governor said the death toll stood at three killed and 20 injured. It would take hours more digging to establish if there were more victims.

Meanwhile, police took notes for a criminal case. In short order fragments of missile had been collected and photographed.

Authorities later said it was an Iskander-K, one of Russia’s main ballistic missiles. 

Russians to mark Stalingrad anniversary amid Ukraine conflict

Vladimir Putin is set to preside over commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the bloodiest in World War II, on Thursday.

Putin is set to travel to Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, to undertake a wreath-laying ceremony at a war memorial and speak at a concert.

The battle of Stalingrad went for more than six months and ended with the surrender of German troops on February 2, 1943, after more than a million people were killed.

The 80th anniversary comes as Russia seeks to ramp up its offensive in Ukraine, bolstered by tens of thousands of reservists mobilised last autumn.

Zelensky vows to find Russians behind Kramatorsk strike

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the Russian strike.

“This is not a repetition of history; this is the daily reality of our country,” the president said.

“A country bordering absolute evil. And a country that has to overcome it in order to reduce to zero the likelihood of such tragedies happening again.”

He added: “We will definitely find and punish all the perpetrators. They do not deserve mercy.”

Ukrainians face ‘tougher’ situation in east

The situation on the front lines in eastern Ukraine “has become tougher” as Russian forces push for gains that they could show on the first anniversary of their invasion, Volodymyr Zelensky said in a sombre assessment.

Russian forces were manoeuvring to try to surround the eastern city of Bakhmut, where troops were fighting building to building for gains of barely 100 metres a night amid constant Russian shelling, a soldier in a Ukrainian unit of Belarusian volunteers said from inside the city.

On Wednesday, Russian sources claimed to have completed the encirclement of the city, which has been the focus of a gruelling offensive for several weeks.

But Ukrainian soldiers told The Telegraph the claims were premature and the vital lifeline into the city was still open.

Photos show devastation

The Daily Telegraph’s Julian Simmonds is at the scene of the missile strike in Kramatorsk. Here are pictures from the rescue operation: 

Rescue workers are hopeful they will recover survivors CREDIT: Julian Simmonds/Telegraph
It’s thought eight buildings were damaged CREDIT: Julian Simmonds/Telegraph
Police officers carry a body CREDIT: AP
Machinery is brought in to lift building debris CREDIT: Telegraph/Julian Simmonds

3:59AM

Good morning

Good morning and welcome to today’s Ukraine live blog.

We will be keeping you up to date with todays’ developments on Ukraine, including the Kramatorsk apartment strike which has killed at least three people.

SourceTelegraph
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