US President Joe Biden and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv, February 20, 2023
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1913 GMT:
The head of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has again attacked the Russian Defense Ministry.
Prigozhin, vying for influence in Moscow, said of ammunition supplies, “This is a major problem,” in an emotional seven-minute audio message on his official Telegram channel.
He said he had to “apologize and obey” tsomeone “high up” with whom he has a “difficult relationship with” to get ammunition for his fighters.
“I’m unable to solve this problem despite all my connections and contacts,” he complained.
Prigozhin said Russia’s military production is sufficient to supply forces on the frontline, so the conscious decisions of officials were to blame for Wagner’s problems.
The individuals responsible were “eating breakfast, lunch and dinner off golden plates” and sending their relatives on holiday to Dubai, said the Wagner Group head.
“Those who interfere with us trying to win this war are absolutely, directly working for the enemy,” he asserted.
UPDATE 1912 GMT:
Another emotive scene from President Joe Biden’s visit to Kyiv on Monday….
UPDATE 1858 GMT:
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has also met the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, in Kyiv on Monday.
“The IMF’s support creates an opportunity for Ukraine to remain strong,” Zelenskiy wrote. “It is also a weapon – an economic weapon that allows us, our society, and our business to develop.”
Volodymyr Zelenskyy also met today with Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. pic.twitter.com/bHMFLYE0Ud
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) February 20, 2023
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said he and Georgieva discussed mechanisms of financial support, with the expectation of a new long-term program of more than $15 billion.
UPDATE 1449 GMT:
La Repubblica reports that Italy is prepared to send up to five fighter jets to Ukraine as part of provision by an international coalition.
However, Italy does not want to be the first ally to send fighter jets “for political reasons”, said the newspaper.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is due in Kyiv tomorrow.
UPDATE 1403 GMT:
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has avoided a question about whether, in his meeting with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Joe Biden discussed the supply of F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv.
I think the two presidents both laid out their perspectives on a number of different capabilities that have been thrown around in the press, both recently and over the course of several months, and I will leave it at that.
UPDATE 1325 GMT:
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has announced another $5.5 billion financial aid package for Ukraine.
Speaking at a global forum in Tokyo, Fishida said he will makr the first anniversary of the Russian invasion by hosting an online G7 summit alongside Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on February 24.
Japan has also imposed sanctions on Russia and provided humanitarian and economic support for Kyiv.
UPDATE 1235 GMT:
At a joint press conference, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy praised US President Joe Biden’s trip to Kyiv as “the most important visit of the whole history of US-Ukraine relations”.
Zelenskiy hailed “the results we have already achieved” and the “historic achievements we might gain together with the whole world”, saying this would “surely have a reflection on the battlefield”.
Without giving details, Zelenskiy said he and Biden discussed long-range weapons and the arms “that may still be supplied to Ukraine”.
Biden proclaimed, “One year later, Kyiv stands. Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”
He cautioned that the “brutal and unjust war” is not won, and there will be “very difficult days and weeks and years ahead”.
But he assured Vladimir Putin’s “war of conquest is failing”. Putin had counted on the world not sticking together, “but he’s just been plain wrong”.
“Freedom is priceless. It’s worth fighting for for as long as it takes. And that’s how we’re going to be with you,” Biden said.
UPDATE 1033 GMT:
In their first press appearance, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — speaking in English — thanked President Joe Biden and the US for support.
He recalled that when Russia invaded almost a year ago, the first phone he received from overseas was from the White House.
He said it was important for the US to support Ukraine’s 10-point plan, presented by Zelenskiy last autumn to the UN General Assembly, to end the conflict. Russia must also be held accountable for war crimes and pay reparations.
Biden emphasized the importance of being in Kyiv on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion war with no doubt — none whatsoever — about US backing.
For all the disagreement we have in our Congress on some issues, there is significant agreement on support for Ukraine. It’s not just about freedom in Ukraine, it’s about democracy at large.
Biden repeatedly stressed the international dimension of support for Ukraine, with more than 50 countries providing economic and/or military assistance.
UPDATE 1029 GMT:
US President Joe Biden travelled on train for 10 hours from Poland to Kyiv this morning.
He and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy strolled in a park and visited St Michael’s Monastery, even as an air raid siren sounded.
Biden has been presented with options such as a meeting with Zelenskiy in Lviv in western Ukraine or at the Polish-Ukrainian border. He insisted that he should go to Kyiv to honor Ukrainian resistance.
To maintain security, US officials repeatedly denied any plans apart from the public schedule of Biden’s arrival in Warsaw on Tuesday morning for a two-day visit.
On Sunday night the White House issued a revised schedule for Monday showing Biden still in Washington and leaving in the evening for Warsaw.
The US notified Russia that Joe Biden was going to Kyiv. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, “We did so some hours before his departure for deconfliction purposes.”
UPDATE 1022 GMT:
US President Joe Biden has issued a statement about his trip to Kyiv to meet with President Zelenskiy and reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity”.
When Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the west was divided. He thought he could outlast us. But he was dead wrong.
Biden said he will “announce another delivery of critical equipment, including artillery ammunition, anti-armor systems, and air surveillance radars to help protect the Ukrainian people from aerial bombardments”.
He confirmed that the US will announce additional sanctions this week “against elites and companies that are trying to evade or backfill Russia’s war machine”.
UPDATE 1002 GMT:
US President Joe Biden is in Kyiv.
Biden was seen walking alongside Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy soon after his arrival in the capital.
— Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk) February 20, 2023
Biden’s here — on walkabout in central Kyiv. pic.twitter.com/l9uus74Dke
— Oliver Carroll (@olliecarroll) February 20, 2023
UPDATE 0935 GMT:
The US has again warned China not to provide military assistance to Russia for the invasion of Ukraine.
In a series of TV interviews yesterday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he issued the warning in a discussion with China’s senior foreign policy official Wang Yi on Saturday night at the Munich Security Conference.
Blinken said he communicated American intelligence that Beijing is “considering providing lethal support to Russia in its efforts in Ukraine.”
He added, “I was able to share with him, as President Biden had shared with President Xi, the serious consequences that would have for our relationship.”
The US has periodically signalled to China that any military aid to Moscow is unacceptable. Last March, weeks after Vladimir Putin’s invasion, US officials told reporters that Russia had asked China for assistance. The disclosure was timed for the eve of the meeting between National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, and Wang Yi’s predecessor Yang Jiechi.
In January, the US imposed sanctions on a Chinese company for giving satellite imagery to the mercenaries of Russia’s Wagner Group. Other Chinese companies have been blacklisted for violating export controls.
However, the Russian military is still able to get Chinese-made commercial drones to use in the war.
Last Thursday Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said, “China stands ready to work with Russia to further advance our comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era.”
Wang Yi is expected to go to Moscow in coming days.
UPDATE 0851 GMT:
The US-based Institute for the Study of War assesses that Russia does not have the resources to step up its offensive in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine.
The analysts assess that Russia “lacks sufficient uncommitted reserves” to widen the offensive or escalate its intensity. It cites the absence of several critical tank units as a sign that Russia cannot replace its losses in previous failed operations.
They cite studies that Russia has lost about 16 tank regiments, with the identified destruction of 1,000 Russian tanks and capture of 500 captured — half of Russia’s pre-invasion stock of tanks.
The Russian offensive will very likely continue for some time and may temporarily gain momentum as the final reserves are committed — if they are — but will very likely culminate well short of its objectives and likely short of achieving operationally significant gains.
UPDATE 0839 GMT:
Visiting Turkey, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pressed the Erdoğan Government to approve the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO.
Alongside Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Ankara, Blinken, “The US has strong support for the Nordic accession as quickly as possible….Sweden and Finland’s NATO expansion is not a bilateral issue.”
Facing re-election in May, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has demanded that Stockholm and Oslo take action against Kurdish groups, claiming they have links with the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.
Çavuşoğlu responded to Blinken that all parties in NATO must convince Sweden in particular to address Erdoğan’s concerns.
— Saana-Maria Jokinen (@Um_Samira) February 18, 2023
UPDATE 0833 GMT:
The latest Russian shelling of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine has killed three civilians and injured another.
Shelling of the Kharkiv region in northeast Ukraine this morning wounded two people, with a woman believed to be under the rubble of a private residential building.
Russian forces shelled settlements in the Kherson region in southern Ukraine 75 times on Sunday with multiple-launch rocket systems, mortars, artillery, tanks, and drones. Residential buildings were damaged.
UPDATE 0821 GMT:
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has enacted sanctions against 333 Russian financial actors.
The President approved the recommendations of the National Security and Defense Council to blacklist members of supervisory boards and deputy heads of Russian banking institutions.
The Moscow Stock Exchange is also sanctioned.
UPDATE 0810 GMT:
The new Prime Minister of Moldova, Dorin Recean, has said, “The Russian troops in Transnistria must be expelled.”
Russia has occupied Moldova’s Transnistria region, west of Ukraine, since 1992.
Moldovan President Maia Sandu warned earlier this month that Russia and its proxies are plotting a coup to replace the Government in Chișinău.
UPDATE 0731 GMT:
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says French President Emmanuel Macron is wasting his time in any pursuit of dialogue with Vladimir Putin.
On Friday, Macron urged allies to step up military support for Ukraine. But he then said that Russia should be “defeated but not crushed”, with resolution of its invasion of Ukraine through negotiations.
After speaking with Macron on Sunday, Zelenskiy told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera:
It will be a useless dialogue. In fact Macron is wasting his time. I have come to the conclusion that we are not able to change the Russian attitude.
UPDATE 0723 GMT:
Meeting in Brussels on Monday, European Foreign Ministers will discuss the joint production, purchase, and provision of ammunition for Ukraine.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, European Union foreign policy head Josep Borrell supported a proposal by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, but said more must be done immediately with supplies:
This cannot be solved by going into joint procurement …because any procurement that comes to the market will come at the end of a queue of a long list of orders already passed by the member states….
We have to use what member states have.
Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcome the initiative:
I thank Estonia for proposing a joint direct procurement of arms and ammunition, which could start with the EU members providing 1 million 155mm rounds to Ukraine. Even though I can’t join today's FAC in person, we strongly endorse the initiative and urge to put it into action.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 20, 2023
ORIGINAL ENTRY: The US and Ukraine are still in discussions about provision of American F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CNN of the talks “on the ground with the Ukrainians”, with the Biden Administration “very closely and directly” with Kyiv to identify “what their needs are and when they need them”.
She continued, “We have to ensure…that they have the training necessary and the capacity to use weapon systems that we provide to them. Discussions will continue over the course of the next few weeks and months, as we determine how best to support them.”
Asked on Sunday if the US would endorse the supply of fighter jets from third countries, Secretary of State Antony Blinken put out a holding statement:
What we’re focused on is trying to the best of our ability to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs, when it needs it, to deal with the challenge it faces in the moment. And all along, we’ve been very clear that we shouldn’t fixate or focus on any particular weapons system, because it’s not just the weapon system.
You’ve got to make sure that the Ukrainians are trained to use it, you’ve got to make sure they have the capacity to maintain it, because if they’re not trained to use it, it’s not going to do them a lot of good.
Polish President Andrzej Duda repeated last week that Warsaw would provide F-16s as part of supply by an international coalition. However, he expressed a preference for the delivery of Soviet-era MiG-29 jets, saying these could be put into service quickly while the F-16s would require “months” for logistics and training.
Momentum Building In Congress
US legislators are stepping up calls for the Administration to send the F-16s.
On Friday morning Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the head of US European Command, told a closed-door briefing of more than 10 senators and House representatives that the F-16s would help Ukraine win the war against Russia.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, attending the Munich Security Conference, said he believed “a decision will be imminent here when we get back to Washington that the administration will start training Ukrainian pilots on the F-16”.
On Thursday five House members — three Democrats and two Republicans — urged the Administration to act as the F-16s “could prove decisive for control of Ukrainian airspace this year”.
The legislators wrote President Joe Biden:
The provision of such aircraft is necessary to help Ukraine protect its airspace, particularly in light of renewed Russian offensives and considering the expected increase in large-scale combat operations….
F-16s or similar fourth generation fighter aircraft would provide Ukraine with a highly mobile platform from which to target Russian air-to-air missiles and drones, to protect Ukrainian ground forces as they engage Russian troops, as well as to engage Russian fighters for contested air superiority.