Ukrainian troops near Avdiivka before the fall of the town to Russia on February 17, 2024 (Vlada Liberova/Libkos/Getty)

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Monday’s Coverage: Zelenskiy Dismisses Pope’s “Virtual Mediation”

Map: Institute for the Study of War


At least three civilians have been killed and 38 wounded by a Russian missile strike on a nine-story residential building in Kryvyi Rih in south-central Ukraine.

Ten children are among the injured. Five of the wounded underwent surgery in serious condition.

The strike on the building was one of three hits on the city in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy posted:

Every day our cities and villages are subjected to such attacks. Every day, Ukraine loses people to Russian evil. And there can be no pause in support for a day, a week — let alone months — when it comes to protecting lives and simply saving people from terror.


The US Pentagon is providing about $300 million in weapons to Ukraine after finding cost savings in its contracts.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced the assistance, amid a five-month blockade by Trumpists and hard-right Republicans of $60.1 billion in budget authorization to help Ukraine’s resistance of Russia’s 24 1/2-month invasion.

The US military still needs at least $10 billion to replenish stocks.

Sullivan said, “When Russian troops advance and its guns fire, Ukraine does not have enough ammunition to fire back.”

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reacted:


The Freedom of Russia Legion is claiming the capture of the town of Tetkino in the Kursk region in southwest Russia.

The Legion, the Siberia Battalion, and the Russian Volunteer Corps posted video footage of their cross-border ground assault this morning, with at least one tank and other armored vehicles involved. The footage from bodycams and drones showed the overrunning of Russian border checkpoints and fighting in settlements.

Kursk Governor Roman Starovoit confirmed the forces had approached Tetkino and shelled the town.

But he maintained, “There was an attempt by a sabotage and reconnaissance group to break through. There was a shooting battle, but there was no breakthrough.”

Starovoit’s testimony dismantled the claim of Russia’s State security service FSB that the pro-Ukraine forces had been stopped from crossing the border (see 1037 GMT). The service declared that 100 fighters were killed and multiple armored vehicles destroyed.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian drones knocked out half of the output at the NORSI refinery in Nizhny Novgorod, about 1,000 km (621 miles) from the Ukraine producer. The complex produces 6% of Russia’s total of refined crude.

An oil depot was also set ablaze in Oryol in western Russia.


The Vatican has hastily retreated from Pope Francis’s statement that Ukraine should have “the courage to raise the white flag” and negotiate over Russia’s invasion, occupation, and mass killing.

The Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said on Monday that the first condition for peace in Ukraine is for Russia to cease its hostilities.

Parolin said Francis sought to “create the conditions for a diplomatic solution in search of a just and lasting peace”: “In this sense, it is obvious that the creation of such conditions does not depend on only one party, but on both, and the first condition, in my opinion, is the cessation of aggression.”

The cardinal repeated the line of Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni, after criticism from Ukraine and other countries of Francis’s remarks, that the Pope spoke about “the courage to negotiate”. This was not a call for surrender.

He said that there was always a possibility to reach a diplomatic solution, but “only human will that had caused the tragedy” could help end Russia’s all-out war against Ukraine.


Authorities have closed schools in the Russian city of Kursk after this morning’s cross-border incursion by the Free Russian Legion and the Siberian Battalion.

Students will now be taught online.


Switzerland’s Parliament has authorized the government to develop a mechanism to seize and transfer Russian assets to fund reparations for Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by summoning Swiss Ambassador Krystyna Marty Lang, complaining that the measure “grossly violates international law regarding state immunity”.,/p.

The Ministry said Russia will retaliate if the Swiss plan is implemented.

Switzerland has frozen an estimated 7.7 billion Swiss francs ($8.81 billion) in financial assets belonging to Russians, as part of sanctions over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.


European Union leaders are planning to change the rules of the European Investment Bank so it can finance defense projects.

Draft conclusions of next week’s EU summit reinforce the European Commission’s call on the EIB last week to alter its lending policy.

Some EU governments, especially neutral countries, had been reluctant. They argued that finance of defense projects could hurt the EIB’s top credit rating, and that the problem is not a lack of funding but of long-term contracts.


The Russian State security service FSB has denied that the Free Russia Legion and Siberia Battalion are carrying out cross-border raids into Russia’s Kursk and Belgorod regions.

The FSB claimed it killed 100 people and destroyed multiple armored vehicles as it repelled attempted incursions.


Production has been halved at the NORSI refinery in the Nizhny Novgorod region in central

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Russia, following this morning’s Ukrainian drone attacks.

The main crude distillation unit at the refinery has been damaged.


The Free Russian Legion and the Siberian Battalion say they are carrying out cross-border raids into Russia’s Kursk and Belgorod regions.

Like all our fellow citizens, in the Legion we dream of a Russia freed from Putin’s dictatorship. But we don’t just limit ourselves to dreaming: we do everything we can to make these dreams come true.

Russians will sleep soundly, will no longer be afraid of the ringing of the doorbell and will be able to say what they think without fear.

Russians will vote for who they want, not who they dictate.

Russians will live freely.


Senior US intelligence officials have warned legislators of the consequences of cutting aid to Ukraine.

In a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Monday, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said it is “absolutely critical” that Congress pass a bill including $60.1 billion to Kyiv. She said it is “hard to imagine how Ukraine” can hold liberated territory without the assistance.

Trumpists and hard-right Republicans have blocked the funding since last October. The Senate passed the measure last month, but House Speaker Mike Johnson, installed by the faction last autumn, is refusing to call a vote in the lower chamber.

On Sunday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán cheered that Donald Trump will “not give a penny” to Ukraine if he returns to the White House, following a meeting last week at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Wannabe Autocrats: Trump Hosts Hungary’s Orbán

Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns said Putin is not serious about negotiating an end to his invasion, even as the consequences are “fast making Russia the economic vassal to China”.

Intelligence agencies said in their 2024 Annual Threat Assessment that China is propping up the invasion by support of Russia’s industrial base.

However, Burns said Beijing had been chastened by Putin’s failure to conquer Ukraine.

It is our assessment that [Chinese leader] Xi Jinping was sobered, you know, by what happened….He didn’t expect that Ukraine would resist with the courage and tenacity the Ukrainians demonstrated.


European Union officials say the EU is accelerating a plan to give Ukraine €2 billion to €3 billion this year from profits accruing from Russia’s frozen assets.

The plan is to seize profits, dating from February onwards, earned at the central securities depository Euroclear. A first tranche of money could be disbursed as early as July if the EU can secure approval from its 27 member states.

The proposal is expected to be tabled before a summit of EU leaders next week.

About €190 billion in Russian sovereign assets have been frozen at Euroclear during Vladimir Putin’s 24 1/2-month invasion. They generate an annual €3.85 billion in profits.

Officials said the total drawn from Euroclear could reach €20 billion by 2027.

Some countries and US legislators have backed handing over to Ukraine all €260 billion in Russian central bank assets frozen by western sanctions. The EU balked and then proposed the use of the profits.

The Ukrainian Finance Ministry says only about half of the $37 billion (€33.9 billion) needed in financial support from international partners this year has been committed by the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

The EU could also use the profits to buy weapons for Ukraine through an existing fund, or could invest in the Ukrainian defense industry.


Activists are pressing the International Federation of the Red Cross to act over the Russian Red Cross’s links with the Kremlin and its propagandists.

Evidence cited includes the central role of the Russian Red Cross President in a pro-Putin “patriotic” organization; senior RRC staff who have spoken of the impossibility of peace with “Ukrainian Nazis”; and RRC participation in military training for children.

Leaked Kremlin documents, obtained by Estonia’s Delfi, set out plans to replace the international Red Cross on Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine with new, puppet Red Cross outlets.

The IFRC said it is “reviewing the claims closely”.

RRC head Pavel Savchuk, 29, is on the central staff of the All-Russian People’s Front (ONF), created by Putin. The organization holds the trademark for “Z”, the symbol of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In January, Savchuk signed a memorandum of understanding between the RRC and Artek, a children’s camp in Crimea sanctioned by western countries for involvement in the “patriotic re-education” of forcibly deported Ukrainian juveniles.

The ICRC said Savchuk had not “to our knowledge” been active in the ONF since March 2022 and was no longer a member. A photograph of him on the central staff disappeared from the ONF website last month after a media enquiry.


Ukrainian drones have attacked fuel refineries inside Russia.

Local governors and media said fuel facilities were ablaze in the Oryol region in western Russia and Nizhny Novgorod in the center, nearly 1,000 km (621 miles) from Ukraine. The Russian Defense Ministry said 25 drones had attacked.

Seven settlements in Russia’s Belgorod region, near the Ukrainian border, were blacked out after a drone dropped explosives, said Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov.

Roman Starovoit, governor of the Kursk region on the border, said six drones were downed and emergency services were checking for damage.

Local officials also reported downed UAVs near Moscow and in the Tula region to the north.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Russian advances in the east of the country have been stopped after the fall of the town of Avdiivka on February 17.

Moscow’s invaders followed the capture, only the second of a town or city since July 2022, with the seizure of a few small villages in the Donetsk region and marginal advances.

EA on France 24: Ukraine War — How Significant is Russia’s Capture of Avdiivka?

In an interview with France’s BFM television, Zelenskiy said, “We have recovered in our situation in the east.” The strategic position had improved despite shortages of weaponry.

But as US aid is still paralyzed by a blockade by Trumpists and hard-right Republicans, with Russian enjoyed a 5:1 advantage in artillery shells, the President warned the position could change without new supplies to Kyiv.

He spoke of a “Russian advance of 20km on us”: “We have had some difficulties because of shortages of artillery shells, an air blockade, Russian long-range weapons, and the great intensity of Russian drone attacks.”

Beyond the frontline, Zelenskiy noted Ukraine’s series of successful attacks on Russia’s navy and air forces, sinking warships and knocking warplanes out of action.

See also Ukraine War, Day 742: Kyiv Sinks Another Russian Warship

He referred to Russia’s deadly missile strike in Odesa last Wednesday, only about 500 meters from the convoy of the visiting Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. This showed that Vladimir Putin had “taken leave of the real world”.

Was he aiming at me? That’s not what matters now. When you make a cruise missile strike a few hundred metres from a European leader, I think you have to be truly ill.