Ukraine war briefing: US aid delays could force Ukrainian troops to ‘retreat step by step’, Zelenskiy warns | Ukraine

  • If Ukraine does not get promised US military aid blocked by disputes in Congress, its forces will have to retreat “in small steps”, Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said. “If there is no US support, it means that we have no air defence, no Patriot missiles, no jammers for electronic warfare, no 155-millimetre artillery rounds,” the Ukrainian president told the Washington Post. “It means we will go back, retreat, step by step, in small steps. We are trying to find some way not to retreat.”

  • Huge Russian missile and drone attacks hit thermal and hydro power plants in central and western Ukraine overnight, officials said on Friday, in the latest barrage targeting the country’s damaged power infrastructure. The Kaniv hydropower plant was among the targets along with the Dnister plant, located on the Dnister River, flowing through neighbouring Moldova, Zelenskiy said. Moscow “wants to repeat the environmental disaster in the Kherson region. But now not only Ukraine but also Moldova is under threat”, he said on Telegram.

  • Ukraine said it had imposed emergency blackouts on several regions after the Russian attacks. National grid operator Ukrenergo said its dispatch centre was “forced to apply emergency blackout schedules in the regions of Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kirovograd until the evening.” Restrictions were already in place in the cities of Kharkiv and Kryvyi Rih after a Russian strike last week.

  • The Polish prime minister has said Europe is entering a “prewar” era, cautioning that the continent is not ready and urging European countries to step up defence investment. In an interview with European newspapers reported by the BBC, Donald Tusk said: “I don’t want to scare anyone, but war is no longer a concept from the past. It’s real and it started over two years ago.” His comments came days after a Russian missile briefly breached Polish airspace during an attack on Ukraine, prompting Warsaw to put its forces on heightened readiness.

  • One person was killed and two injured in the Russian city of Belgorod from a Ukrainian drone attack, said the Belgorod region’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov.

  • Russia’s security services said they had arrested three people from “a central Asian country” who were plotting an attack in the south of the country, Russian news agencies reported. The trio “were planning to commit a terrorist act by blowing up a device in a public place in the Stavropol region”, the federal security service (FSB) said on Friday. Russian television showed images of several men pinned to the ground by FSB agents.

  • Russia is outgunning Ukrainian forces sixfold on the frontlines, causing losses of troops and positions, Ukraine’s recently appointed commander-in-chief, Oleksandr Syrsky, said in a rare interview published on Friday. He also said Ukraine’s military would need to mobilise fewer people than initially expected to fend off Russia’s invasion. Zelenskiy said in December that his military had proposed mobilising up to 500,000 more Ukrainians into the armed forces as Russia stepped up attacks along the 1,000-km (621-mile) frontline, but Syrsky said in an interview with Ukrainian media published on Friday that the figure had been “significantly reduced” after a review of resources.

  • Ukraine received a $1.5bn (£1.2bn) tranche of funding under a World Bank programme, said the prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, helping it pay for its budget and social spending amid the war.

  • Zelenskiy pressed on with changes to officials close to him, dismissing two deputy heads of his office and appointing a former top security official ambassador to neighbouring Moldova. A presidential decree on Friday announced the dismissal of Andriy Smyrnov, who was responsible for legal policy matters, and Oleksiy Dniprov, who headed the office’s “apparatus”. Zelenskiy said he had appointed Oleksiy Danilov, former head of Ukraine’s security and defence council, as ambassador to Moldova.

  • Nato member Romania said it had found fragments of what appeared to be a drone on a farm near the Danube river and the border with Ukraine.

  • Zelenskiy has declared his income for 2022 rose to 12.42m hryvnias ($316,000/£250,000) from 3.7m hryvnias ($94,000) the previous year, with the increase attributable to improved rent collection and the sale of some government bonds. Most of the income of Zelenskiy and his family came from his salary, bank interest and rent payable from his properties, the president’s website said. Zelenskiy has called for public officials to disclose their incomes as part of efforts to increase transparency.

  • Russian prosecutors have asked the justice ministry to consider labelling Alla Pugacheva, the queen of Soviet pop music, as a “foreign agent”, a move that would officially designate Russia’s most famous star a foe of the Kremlin. Pugacheva has expressed disgust with the Ukraine war.

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