Russia says its forces would respond to delivery of longer-range Western weapons to Kiev by trying to push Ukrainian forces further away from its borders to create a safe buffer zone as fighting continues on day 344.

EU pledges more financial, military and political aid for Ukraine.
EU pledges more financial, military and political aid for Ukraine. (Reuters)

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Kiev deserves EU entry talks 'this year': Zelenskyy 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said his war-torn country deserved to start EU accession talks "this year".

"I believe that Ukraine deserves to start negotiations on EU membership this year," Zelenskyy said after talks with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.

He said further integration with the European bloc would inspire Ukrainians and give them "motivation" to fight against Russian troops.

READ MORE: Russia's Putin draws parallels between WWII and Ukraine fight

Here are the other developments: 

2300 GMT — US backs Russians competing as neutrals in Olympics

The United States backs moves to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to take part at the 2024 Olympics as neutral athletes provided they are prevented from displaying their national flags or emblems, the White House said.

"The United States has supported suspending Russia and Belarus' sport national governing bodies from international sports federations," Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

However, if athletes are invited to an international event, such as the Olympics, "it should be absolutely clear that they are not representing the Russian or Belarussian states," she said.

"The use of official state Russian, Belarussian flags, emblems and anthems should be prohibited as well."

1500 GMT — Zelenskyy wants more economic curbs on Russia

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has said Russia's defeat depends on the swiftness in reducing Moscow’s attempts to circumvent sanctions.

"It is a common European task to reduce Russia's ability to circumvent sanctions, and the faster and better this task is carried out, the closer we will be to the defeat of the Russian aggression," Zelenskyy said during a press conference, adding that talks were held on the 10th sanctions package against Russia.

Earlier on Thursday, EU chief, together with a team of EU commissioners, arrived in the Ukrainian capital to take part in the 24th EU-Ukraine Summit in Kiev, scheduled to take place on Friday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the West wants to inflict a lasting defeat against Moscow and lashed out against EU officials.

1430 GMT — Former Russian officer who fled said he witnessed Ukrainian torture

In an interview with the BBC, Konstantin Yefremo, the most senior Russian officer, said he tried to resign from the army but was dismissed for refusing to return to Ukraine. 

According to his interview, he said Ukrainian men were tortured, shot and threatened with rape.

1400 GMT - Center for prosecution crimes in Ukraine to be in The Hague

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has said that an international center for the prosecution of crimes in Ukraine would be set up in The Hague.

"It will coordinate the collection of evidence, it will be embedded in the joint investigation team which is supported by our agency Eurojust", von der Leyen said during an official visit in Ukraine. 

1200 GMT - Two killed by Russian shelling in Kherson region

The Kherson regional military administration said the residents of Kherson city woke up to explosions.

Here is what the Telegram message said:

Two people have been killed by Russian shelling in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, according to local officials. Residents in Kherson city “woke up to explosions”, the Kherson regional military administration posted to Telegram. It said: Despite the danger of repeated attacks, the locals went to the most damaged house where a 25-year-old man lived. The body of the young Kherson resident was lying in the open air. The medics who arrived at the scene could do nothing to help – a fragment of a Russian shell had taken his life instantly. A 44-year-old woman was killed after Russian forces shelled a residential area in the village of Komyshany in Kherson region, it added. In a separate post on Telegram, it said: In the morning, Russian troops opened fire on the residential sector of Komyshany village, there is a victim.


0814 GMT - Austria expels four Russian diplomats 

Austria's government said it has ordered four diplomats based in Vienna, including two at Moscow's mission to UN agencies in the city, to leave the country. 

The Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement that two diplomats at the Russian Embassy had "engaged in acts incompatible with their diplomatic status" and two at the permanent mission to the United Nations in Vienna "committed acts incompatible with the Headquarters Agreement." It didn't elaborate. 

The diplomats were given a week to leave Austria.

2200 GMT (Feb 1) - Deaths as missile hits building in Ukraine's Kramatorsk

Ukrainian authorities have said that at least two people were killed when a Russian missile struck a residential building in the eastern city of Kramatorsk.

"Two hours ago, the Russian occupiers hit a residential building in the centre of the city with a rocket," said regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko. 

The AFP news agency saw two bodies at the scene as rescue workers were clearing the rubble.

2000 GMT (Feb 1) - Zelenskyy says eastern Ukraine situation getting tougher

The situation on the front lines in eastern Ukraine has become tougher as Russian forces step up an offensive, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said in another gloomy military assessment from Kiev.

"A definite increase has been noted in the offensive operations of the occupiers on the front in the east of our country. The situation has become tougher," Zelenskyy said in his fresh video address.

Zelenskyy said the Russians were trying to make gains that they could show on the first anniversary of the war on February 24.

1930 GMT (Feb 1) - US firm offers Ukraine advanced drones for $1

A leading US maker of advanced military surveillance drones has announced that it was willing to sell two to Ukraine for just $1, and called on the US government to approve the deal.

General Atomic Aeronautical Systems said it had been urging Washington for months to provide Ukraine its powerful Grey Eagle and Reaper drones, which US forces have used in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and other countries.

It said the drones, which can fly long distances at mid-altitudes, are one of the most obvious, force-enhancing technologies that Ukraine needs in its war against Russian forces.

For live updates from Wednesday (February 1), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies