European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell arrived in Kyiv with a delegation of EU leaders on Thursday. In an interview with FRANCE 24, Borrell said the EU plans to double the number of Ukrainian soldiers it is training to 30,000. Follow our live blog below for all the latest developments. All times are in Paris time (GMT+1).
10:49am: Norway to raise spending from wealth fund to aid Ukriane, says PM
Norway will increase the spending from its sovereign wealth fund in the coming years to fund military and civilian aid to Ukraine, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told parliament on Thursday.
The Nordic country’s $1.3 trillion wealth fund, one of the world’s largest investors, has seen a sharp rise in revenue inflows as the price of Norwegian oil and gas exports soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The prime minister did not specify how much money Norway would spend on Ukraine aid, but said it would be a multi-year commitment. “This will lead to a temporary increase in spending from the sovereign wealth fund,” Stoere said. He added that the extra spending should not impact the Norwegian domestic economy, avoiding any impact on interest rates.
9:51am: Russia says it does not need help from ex-Soviet allies in Ukraine
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday 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.
9:40am: Top diplomat Josep Borrell announces EU plan to train 30,000 Ukrainian soldiers
In an interview with FRANCE 24, the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell said the EU plans to double the number of Ukrainian soldiers it is training to 30,000.
9:09am: Russian FM Lavrov says ‘we want Ukraine conflict to end, but are responding to West’
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Russian forces would respond to the delivery of longer-range Western weapons to Kyiv by trying to push Ukrainian forces further away from its borders to create a safe buffer zone.
In an interview on state TV, Lavrov said everybody wanted the conflict in Ukraine – which Moscow calls a “special military operation” – to end, but that the West’s support for Kyiv was playing an important role in how Russia approaches the campaign.
9:00am: Austria expels four Russian diplomats
Austria is expelling four Russian diplomats for behaving in a manner inconsistent with international agreements, a reason often invoked in spying cases, the Austrian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday without giving specifics.
Two of the four diplomats declared personae non gratae and ordered to leave the country by February 8 are stationed at the Russian Embassy to Austria while the other two work at the Russian mission to the United Nations in Vienna, the ministry said in a statement.
8:46am: EU chief arrives in Kyiv, says bloc ‘stands by Ukraine’
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said she had arrived in Kyiv with a team of commissioners on Thursday, a day before a Ukraine-European Union summit in the war-torn country.
“Good to be back in Kyiv, my 4th time since Russia’s invasion … We are here together to show that the EU stands by Ukraine as firmly as ever. And to deepen further our support and cooperation,” she wrote in a tweet.
Good to be back in Kyiv, my 4th time since Russia‘s invasion.
This time, with my team of Commissioners.
We are here together to show that the EU stands by Ukraine as firmly as ever.
And to deepen further our support and cooperation. pic.twitter.com/zf8fvoNKnG
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) February 2, 2023
8:37am: Frontline hotspot Bakhmut braces for Russian advance
Russian forces have been trying to seize control of Bakhmut in the eastern region of Donetsk for months in what has become the longest and bloodiest battle since Russia invaded Ukraine last February.
Despite the flow of Western weapons, Russia has in recent days claimed gains in the region.
The fight for Bakhmut has turned the town with a pre-war population of roughly 75,000 into a ghost town dotted with hedgehog anti-tank defences and burnt-out cars. There is no gas, no electricity, no running water. Around 7,000 people, many of them elderly, still live in the town despite the constant sound of artillery exchanges, gunfire and drones flying overhead.
7:53am: Ukraine targets oligarch, ex-minister in graft clampdown
Ukraine expanded a clampdown on corruption on Wednesday, launching coordinated searches of residences linked to a divisive oligarch and former interior minister as well as tax offices in the capital.
FRANCE 24’s Andrew Hilliar, reporting from Kyiv, discusses the searches in the video below.
The searches came ahead of a key summit with the EU and appeared to be part of a push by Kyiv to reassure military and financial donors in European capitals and Washington that Ukraine is tackling systemic graft.
The searches have targeted influential billionaire Igor Kolomoisky and former interior minister Arsen Avakov, said the head of Zelensky’s party, David Arakhamia. Law enforcement also raided tax offices in the capital and senior customs officials were fired.
FRANCE 24’s Fraser Jackson takes a closer look at Ukraine’s bid to stamp out corruption in the video below.
5:00am: Top EU officials gather in Ukraine
More than a dozen top European Union officials arrive in Kyiv on Thursday with promises of more military, financial and political aid, a symbolic trip meant to highlight support for Ukraine.
But the EU is set to dash Ukraine’s hopes of being swiftly allowed membership, stressing the need for more anti-corruption measures and unwilling to admit a country at war, the biggest armed conflict in Europe since World War II.
“It is a very strong signal that we are in Kyiv during the war. It’s a signal to the Ukrainian people. It’s a signal to Russia. It’s a signal to the world,” said a senior EU official.
Top members of the EU’s executive European Commission will meet their counterparts in the Ukrainian government on Thursday. The head of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and president of the EU Council Charles Michel will meet President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday.
4:51am: Russians mark anniversary of Stalingrad victory
President Vladimir Putin is set to preside Thursday over commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the bloodiest in World War II.
The high-profile celebrations in the southern city of Volgograd come as the Kremlin is drumming up support for its offensive in Ukraine, launched nearly a year ago to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, whose soldiers fought alongside Russia against Nazi Germany.
Putin is expected to travel to Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at a war memorial and speak at a concert, the Kremlin said.
The battle of Stalingrad lasted more than six months, ending with the surrender of German troops on February 2, 1943, after more than a million people were killed.
>> Read more: ‘They would have preferred hell’: The Battle of Stalingrad, 80 years on
1:33am: Strike on residential building in Ukraine’s Kramatorsk leaves at least 3 dead
Ukrainian authorities said Wednesday that at least three people were killed when a Russian rocket 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.
“Two hours ago, the Russian occupiers hit a residential building in the centre of the city with a rocket and completely destroyed it,” regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on the Telegram messaging app.
The regional police said on their official website that it was “preliminarily known that there are three dead civilians and 20 wounded”.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)
Source : https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20230202-live-top-eu-officials-gather-in-ukraine-as-kramatorsk-rescue-efforts-continue