Oligarch Igor Kolomoisky was among those targeted in anti-corruption raids in Ukraine on Wednesday
Wednesday’s Coverage: US Sending Longer-Range Rockets to Kyiv
Source: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1904 GMT:
Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has announced an agreement with the European Union over participation in the bloc’s Single Market Program.
Under the Program, Kyiv will obtain support to businesses, access to markets, a favorable business environment, sustainable growth, and internationalization.
We have also signed the agreement on 🇺🇦's participation in 🇪🇺 Single Market Programme. Its budget amounts to €4.2 billion. Our participation will contribute to additional support for 🇺🇦 entrepreneurs, who are the foundation of the economy. 2/2 pic.twitter.com/CMZkEMgFiy
— Denys Shmyhal (@Denys_Shmyhal) February 2, 2023
UPDATE 1858 GMT:
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has repeated that Warsaw is ready to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets if the step is taken by an international coalition.
Morawiecki told the German newspaper Bild, “If this was a decision of the whole of NATO, I would be for sending these fighter jets.”
UPDATE 1512 GMT:
In a 489-36 vote, the European Parliament has approved a roadmap for Ukraine’s accession to the European Union.
The resolution stipulates that the EU will “work on the start of accession negotiations and support a roadmap outlining further steps to ensure Ukraine’s accession to the EU single market”.
The MEPs also stressed the need for Ukraine to show “compliance with relevant procedures and to “carry out significant reforms as soon as possible”.
The resolution also said EU member states should “increase and speed up military aid to Kyiv, including the provision of weapons, but also provide the necessary political, economic, infrastructural, financial and humanitarian support”.
MEPs called for an “immediate and complete” embargo on the import of fossil fuels and uranium from Russia into the EU, and the complete abandonment of the Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia to Germany.
UPDATE 1500 GMT:
Appearing alongside European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen in Kyiv, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has asked the European Union to impose more sanctions on Russia.
Zelenskiy said the EU sanctions against Russia have “slightly slowed down” while Moscow has been “increasing its pace of adapting to sanctions”: “It’s worth catching up and fixing. We believe that we can do it.”
Von der Leyen said a new sanctions package will be ready for the first anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s invasion on 24 February and that the EU will “keep on turning up the pressure further”:
We are making Putin pay for his atrocious war. Russia is paying a heavy price as our sanctions are eroding its economy, throwing it back by a generation.
Von der Leyen also said an international center for the prosecution of crimes in Ukraine will be set up in The Hague in the Netherlands.
She explained, “It will coordinate the collection of evidence, it will be embedded in the joint investigation team which is supported by our agency Eurojust.”
The future of the EU is being written, right now, in Ukraine.
This is a fight for freedom, sovereignty and democracy. 🇪🇺 🇺🇦@vonderleyen pic.twitter.com/L6UNdkdFg4
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) February 2, 2023
UPDATE 1458 GMT:
The latest Russian shelling of the Kherson region in southern Ukraine has killed two people.
A 25-year-old man in Kherson city was slain when his home ws damaged. A 44-year-old woman was killed in a residential area in the village of Komyshany.
UPDATE 1146 GMT:
Two more Russian missiles have hit Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine, following the destruction of an apartment block on Wednesday night which killed three people and injured 20 (see 0725 GMT).
Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko says there are casualties in the residential buildings in the city center.
UPDATE 0929 GMT:
Deputy Finance Minister Olga Zykova says Ukraine will need about $3 billion of international financing per month throughout 2023.
Zykova said Kyiv has secured about $30 billion in funding for the year from the European Union and the US. That leaves about $10 billion that Ukraine will have to seek from other countries and international organizations.
UPDATE 0918 GMT:
Olesya Krivtsova, 19, faces more than 10 years in a penal colony for social media posts opposing Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
A first-year university student from Arkhangelsk, Krivtsova is accused of “justifying terrorism” and “discrediting the Russian armed forces” over the posts on VKontakte and Instagram.
She has circulated recommendations, originally published by the Ukrainian authorities, for Russian soldiers in Ukraine wanting to surrender and photographs of Ukrainian civilians killed by the invaders.
Fellow students at the Northern (Arctic) Federal University, who participated in a group Telegram chat with Krivtsova, reported her.
UPDATE 0845 GMT:
Russian army officer Konstantin Yefremov says, “Our troops tortured Ukrainians.”
Yefremov, part of a mine clearance unit, recalled an incident at an airbase in Melitopol in southeast Ukraine, overrun by Russia in May.
The Ukrainian [soldier] had a blindfold on. The colonel put a pistol to the prisoner’s forehead and said, ‘I’m going to count to three and then shoot you in the head.’
He counted and then fired just to the side of his head. On both sides.
“The interrogations, this torture, continued for about a week,” Yefremov told the BBC. “Every day. At night. Sometimes twice a day.”
During another interrogation, the colonel shot the prisoner in the arm and in the right leg. Under the knee, and the bone.
I went to the commanders and said, “The Ukrainian needs to go to hospital. He’ll be dead by morning from blood loss.” We dressed him up in a Russian uniform and took him to hospital. We told him, “Don’t say you’re a Ukrainian prisoner of war. Because either the doctors will refuse to treat you or the injured Russian soldiers will hear you and shoot you.”.
Yefremov tried to resign from the army and was dismissed for refusing to return to Ukraine.
I decided to quit. I went to my commander and explained my position. He took me to a senior officer who called me a traitor and a coward…A colonel had promised to put me in prison for up to 10 years for desertion and he’d alerted the police.
The officer then fled Russia.
I apologize to the entire Ukrainian nation for coming to their home as an uninvited guest with a weapon in my hands. Thank God I didn’t hurt anyone. I didn’t kill anyone….
I don’t even have the moral right to ask for forgiveness from the Ukrainians. I can’t forgive myself, so I can’t expect them to forgive me.
“I have no moral right to ask Ukrainians for forgiveness. I can’t forgive myself, so I can’t expect them to forgive me.” A former Russian army officer tells us about crimes he says he saw Russian soldiers committing in Ukraine, including torture & looting. Producer @BBCWillVernon pic.twitter.com/vNDOjKGpBW
— Steve Rosenberg (@BBCSteveR) February 2, 2023
UPDATE 0831 GMT:
Ukrainian soldiers have told CNN of Russia’s “cannon fodder” tactics in the assault on Bakhmut in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.
Two of the soldiers, Andriy and Borisych, spoke from the frontline southwest in the city about the Wagner Group mercenaries — some of them pardoned convicts — used for the assaults.
We were fighting for about 10 hours in a row. And it wasn’t like just waves, it was uninterrupted. So it was just like they didn’t stop coming….
It was about 20 soldiers on our side. And let’s say 200 from their side.
Andriy explained, “They make the group – let’s say from 10 soldiers – reach 30 meters, then they start digging in to keep the position.”
Then another group tries to claim 30 more meters: “That’s how, step by step, [Wagner# is trying to move forward, while they lose a lot of people in the meantime.”
He says the battle is like a scene out of a zombie movie, “They’re climbing above the corpse of their friends, stepping on them.”
UPDATE 0819 GMT:
Austria has ordered four Russian staff to leave over intelligence operations.
Two of the four are in Russia’s permanent mission to the UN in Vienna. The other two are based at the Russian Embassy.
Hundreds of Russian personnel were expelled from other countries, particularly in Europe, soon after the launch of Vladimir Putin’s invasion. The expulsions dealt a significant blow to Russia’s intelligence network.
UPDATE 0811 GMT:
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has arrived in Kyiv for European Union meetings with the Zelenskiy Government.
Commission members will meet Ukrainian counterparts on Thursday, and Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel will see Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday.
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
UPDATE 0732 GMT:
Ukrainian soldier Viktor Pylypenko, on the frontline in the town of Vuhledar in eastern Ukraine, reports on the fighting amid the sounds of Russian shelling.
Vuhledar is in the Donetsk region, about 90 miles southwest of Bakhmut.
UPDATE 0725 GMT:
In the latest Russian missile strike demolishing an apartment block, three people have been killed and 20 wounded in Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine.
Authorities said an Iskander-K tactical missile struck at 9:45 pm local time: “At least eight apartment buildings were damaged. One of them was completely destroyed. People may remain under the rubble.”
Kramatorsk — where 60 civilians were killed last April 8 by a Russian missile on a railway station — is about 25 miles northwest of the frontline near Bakhmut.
Zelensky commented on the shelling of a residential building in Kramatorsk:
"A residential building, a missile strike, civilians killed and trapped under the rubble. This is not a repetition of history this is the daily reality of our country. A country bordering absolute evil." pic.twitter.com/zxdRtuSaEH
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) February 1, 2023
UPDATE 0651 GMT:
The Zelenskiy Government and Ukrainian military are preparing for a renewed major Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.
Zelenskiy said in his nightly address to the nation on Wednesday, “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.”
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, meeting French President Emmanuel Macron and senior official in Paris, said Vladimir Putin is relying on his mass mobilization from last autumn: “We do not underestimate our enemy. Officially, they announced 300,000, but when we see the troops at the borders, according to our assessments it is much more.”
Reznikov said the offensive could be pursued in both the east and south on the first annivesary of the invasion, “We think that, given that [Russia] lives in symbolism, they will try to try something around February 24.”
Months of Russian attacks in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine have only succeeded in the capture of the small town of Soledar.
However, analysts are noting that Russia is putting specialist conventional forces on the frontline, alongside the Wagner Group mercenaries who have led the assault since the autumn.
That could mark a push to surround the city of Bakhmut, attacked by the Russians since May.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: At the end of a day of anti-corruption raids, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has told the nation of the need to “change as much as necessary to ensure that people do not abuse power”.
Zelenskiy spoke of Wednesday’s “dozens of searches and other actions in different regions and against different individuals in the framework of open criminal proceedings”:
The movement towards justice is tangible. And justice will be ensured.
The purity of processes within the Ministry of Defense and the defense forces in general is especially important. Any internal supply, any procurement — everything must be absolutely as clean and honest as the external supply for our defense.
Those who interfere with this will not remain in the relevant structures.
Among those targeted by searches on Thursday were oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, former Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, and the head of the Kyiv tax authority.
Kolomoisky, one of the country’s wealthiest people, is being investigated for financial crimes including evasion of customs payments on oil products worth 40 billion hryvnias ($1.08 billion).
Avakov, the Interior Minister from 2014 to 2021, said his investigation was prompted by this month’s helicopter crash in Brovary, near Kyiv. Fourteen people including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi and eight other Ministry staff, perished.
Avakov denied any impropriety over Airbus contracts.
The Ukraine Security Service also says it has discovered embezzlement of more than $1 billion from two oil companies.
The Battle Against Corruption
Less than two weeks ago — trying to reassure partners over financial and military aid and seeking accession to the European Union — the Zelenskiy Government stepped up the campaign against entrenched corruption.
The Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Development, Vasyl Lozynskiy, was arrested as he allegedly received a $400,000 bribe. Authorities claimed he was part of a network of 150 officialstaking kickbacks, including a scheme to keep part of the $46 million that Ukraine allocated for the purchase of generators and other equipment last summer.
Zelenskiy announced a ban on State personnel leaving the country under martial law, except for official business trips, after Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symoneko — accused of blocking corruption cases — reportedly vacationed in Spain in December-January.
The Defense Ministry is under scrutiny, with journalists and corruption watchdogs reporting purchases of military rations at inflated prices in a $355 million contract.