Ukrainian President Zelenskyy urges European leaders visiting Kiev to pile more sanctions on Russia as fighting enters its 345th day.

EU-Ukraine summit was the first on Ukrainian soil since the start of Russian offensive.
EU-Ukraine summit was the first on Ukrainian soil since the start of Russian offensive. (AFP)

Friday, February 3, 2023

The European Union has offered strong support for Ukraine at a summit held in Kiev, but set "no rigid timelines" for its accession to the wealthy bloc.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had hoped the EU would put Ukraine on a rapid road to membership. 

But he used the summit to step up calls for his allies to deliver long-range weapons to help repel Russian forces besieging the city of Bakhmut and occupying much of the Donbass region in the east of the country.

"If weapons (supplies) are quickened, specifically long-range weapons, we not only will not leave Bakhmut, but we will also begin to deoccupy Donbass, which has been occupied since 2014," he told a joint news conference after the summit. 

Here are the other developments: 

1600 GMT - Ukraine says new tanks will serve as 'iron fist' in counteroffensive

Ukraine's defence minister said on Friday that new tanks supplied by NATO countries would serve as an "iron fist" in a counteroffensive by Kiev to break through Russian defensive lines.

The official, Oleksii Reznikov, told a news briefing with his Polish counterpart that Western supplies of 155-mm artillery were vital for Ukraine to weather Russia's attacks in the south and in the east. 

"The new tank coalition with the main tanks of NATO countries - we need this for the counteroffensive, we will use it like an iron fist to break through their defensive lines," he said. 

1500 GMT- Western sanctions push Russia's energy revenues to lowest since 2020

Russia's monthly budget revenues from oil and gas fell in January to their lowest level since August 2020 under the impact of Western sanctions on its most lucrative export, Finance Ministry data showed.

Monthly tax and customs revenue from energy sales declined 46 percent in a year - reflecting the fact that, while the price of the global benchmark Brent blend was little changed, the average monthly price of Russia's Urals blend was down 42 percent, according to the ministry.

Moscow relies on income from oil and gas - last year around 11.6 trillion roubles ($165 billion) - to fund its budget spending, and has been forced to start selling international reserves to cover a deficit stretched by the cost of its invasion of Ukraine. 

1350 GMT - More German tanks for Ukraine as EU heads gather for Kiev summit

Germany will be delivering Leopard 1 main battle tanks to Ukraine from industrial stocks, government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit has said. 

"An export licence has been issued,” Hebestreit confirmed.

The development comes as EU has pledged to support Ukraine "every step of the way" in its quest for bloc membership as top officials gathered in Kiev for a highly symbolic summit.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is hosting the meeting, is pressing the bloc for speedy membership as it battles to defeat a nearly year-long Russian offensive. 

The EU granted candidate status to Ukraine last June, but the path to full membership is likely to be fraught and could take years.

EU chief Charles Michel announced his arrival in the Ukrainian capital as air raid sirens sounded, vowing that there will be "no let up in our resolve." 

1340 GMT - Russia's Promsvyazbank buys more branches in annexed Ukraine

Russia's state-owned Promsvyazbank has said it had bought two credit institutions in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions, doubling its chain of branches in Ukrainian territory Russia moved to annex last year.

Promsvyazbank (PSB), one of Russia's 13 "systemically important credit institutions", offers a wide range of services but has focused on state employees and the defence sector since it was bailed out by the central bank in 2017.

It had already been targeted with Western sanctions last year over Russia's actions in Ukraine.

1200 GMT - Russia to 'nationalise' Ukraine assets in annexed Crimea

Russia has said it will nationalise "foreign" assets in annexed Crimea - including those with Ukraine-linked ownership - and funnel some of the funds to support people fighting in Ukraine.

"Deputies of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea adopted a resolution on the nationalisation of property of foreign citizens and states that commit hostile actions against Russia," their chairman Vladimir Konstantinov said on social media.

The regional parliament, created by Moscow after the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, said the bill targeted the property of Ukrainian individuals and businesses and was approved unanimously.

0848 GMT - Air raid sirens across Kiev before EU-Ukraine summit

Air raid alerts have sounded in Kiev and across Ukraine as a summit of European Union and Ukrainian leaders were due to begin in the country's capital.

Zelenskyy was hosting top European Union officials, who were visiting Kiev with promises to support Ukraine "as long as it takes" but denying the country at war with Russia a quick path to joining the Western bloc.

Zelenskiyy was hosting EU chairman Charles Michel and the bloc's chief executive, Ursula von der Leyen, ahead of the one-year anniversary of Moscow's attack that has devastated cities, killed tens of thousands of people, forced millions from their homes and shaken global food and energy supplies.

0950 GMT – Russia rejects reports that US offered Moscow secret Ukraine peace plan

The Kremlin has rejected as a "hoax" reports that US CIA Director William Burns had offered Moscow a secret peace deal that involved ceding Ukrainian territory to Russia.

The claim, reported by the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, has also been dismissed by Washington.

0957 GMT – Ukraine opens criminal case against head of mercenary group Wagner

The office of Ukraine's prosecutor general says it has launched a criminal case against Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the private military company Wagner.

Prigozhin is accused of "encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine" and "waging an aggressive war," according to a statement shared by the office on Telegram.

It also said two Wagner fighters located on the EU territory were interrogated, and another fighter in Norway is being checked for involvement in Wagner's activities.

0906 GMT - Crimea authorities nationalise properties

Moscow-supported authorities in occupied Crimea said that they had nationalised around 500 properties in the peninsula including some belonging to senior Ukrainian politicians and business figures.

In a statement on Telegram, Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Russian-backed Crimean parliament, said that the decree targeted "accomplices of the Kiev regime" and that the nationalised properties included banks and tourist and sports infrastructure.

According to a document published on the Kremlin-backed Crimean government website, properties belonging to former Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and businessmen Igor Kolomoisky, Rinat Akhmetov and Serhiy Taruta were among those confiscated.

0508 GMT - Ukraine’s allies push IMF to approve $14 bln-$16 bln loan

Ukraine's allies are pushing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to finalise plans for a multibillion-dollar lending programme, the Financial Times reported. 

IMF representatives are planning to meet Ukrainian officials in mid-February to advance discussions over a loan that could range from $14 billion to $16 billion, the report said, citing officials familiar with the talks. 

2300 GMT - CIA chief says next six months will be 'critical' for Ukraine

CIA Director William Burns has said the intelligence agency assesses that China's President Xi Jinping has been a little sobered by the war in Ukraine, but that it would be a mistake to underestimate Beijing and Moscow's commitment to partnership.

Burns, speaking at a foreign policy event at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, also said Xi maintains serious ambitions over Taiwan and warned that conflict over the island nation would be "deeply unfortunate" for all involved.

For live updates from Thursday (February 2), click here

Source: Reuters