Ukraine Latest: Putin Says Weapons Aid Makes NATO ‘Participant’

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Vladimir Putin said NATO arms supplies to Ukraine make the alliance a “participant” in the conflict. It’s not a new thought, but one Russia’s president hasn’t followed through on, even as Western allies provide Kyiv with more sophisticated armaments. In a TV interview taped last week, Putin said Russia faces an “eternal struggle” with the West.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed to retake Crimea on a day that marked nine years since Russia occupied the peninsula.

Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus will make a three-day state visit to China starting Tuesday, days after Beijing called for a Russia-Ukraine cease-fire in a 12-point position paper roundly dismissed by the US and Europe.

Russia’s War in Ukraine: Key Events and How It’s Unfolding

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Listen to our special conversations from last week, including our Twitter Space analyzing Zelenskiy’s press conference as it happened. We also discussed the military strategies of the war, the impact on energy and the environment, the effect of sanctions including on the wealth of Russia’s oligarchs and what the future holds for Ukrainian refugees.

Big Take Podcast: How Does Ukraine Continue to Beat Back Russia?

Key Developments

  • China to Host Belarus Leader After Seeking Cease-fire in Ukraine

  • Russia’s War Means G-20 Finance Meeting Ends Without Communiqué

  • Poland Says Russia Stops Oil Flows Via Key Druzhba Pipeline

  • Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: A Political Year in Photos

  • More Ukrainians Are Settling Abroad as War Grinds On

On the Ground:

Ukraine’s military staff said Russian troops are reinforcing defense in annexed Crimea, including building fortifications. Russia continues its offensive on Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Shakhtarske axes in Ukraine’s East, Kremlin forces launched 14 missile and 19 air strikes, 57 strikes from multiple launch rocket systems, with the shelling causing civilian casualties. Two people were killed and seven injured in Kherson oblast in the past day.

(All times CET)

Ukraine Aims to Divide Russian Troops in South (12 p.m.)

Ukraine’s goal in a renewal of its counteroffensive this spring will be to divide Russian troops in the nation’s south, Vadym Skibitskyi, a top defense official, told Germany’s DW in an interview.

Skibitskyi, deputy chief of defense intelligence, said the timing of Ukraine’s next moves would depend in part on the arrival if Western weapons supplies. One of the main goals will be “to drive a wedge in Russia’s front in the south, between Crimea and Russia’s mainland,” he said.

China to Host Lukashenko on Heels of Cease-Fire Plan (11 a.m.)

China will host the president of Belarus in a state visit from Tuesday, welcoming an ally of Vladimir Putin as the US expresses concerns that Beijing may yet decide to provide weapons support to Russia that would assist it in its war in Ukraine.

Alexander Lukashenko is visiting at the invitation of President Xi Jinping, China’s foreign ministry said.

The visit comes days after China called for a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine in a position paper on ending the war. But several of the 12 points outlined by Beijing offer clear benefits to Putin, and were dismissed by US and European officials.

Croatia Will Send 14 Helicopters to Ukraine (10:34 a.m.)

NATO member Croatia is preparing 14 transport helicopters to send to Ukraine, via Poland, with delivery expected in March, Zagreb-based Juranji List reported, citing people it didn’t identify.

The Soviet-designed aircraft will be being stripped of Croatian insignia to become part of Ukraine’s force. Seven will be transported by land, and the rest will fly to a destination in Poland before reaching Ukraine, according to the report.

Ukraine Hopes to Resume Electricity Exports (10:23 a.m.)

Ukraine is no longer facing power shortages, prompting speculation that the war-torn nation may soon resume electricity exports to the European Union.

After months of regular Russian missile attacks, the electricity situation is improving due to lower consumption, higher production and repairs, according to the grid operator NPC Ukrenergo.

“This issue is on the table now,” Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said in a TV interview. “If we see a stable surplus of electricity in our system, no doubt, the question of exports will be considered.”

Putin Says Arms Supplies Make NATO a ‘Participant,’ Tass Reports (8:48 a.m.)

President Vladimir Putin said arms supplies to Ukraine by NATO countries make the alliance a “participant” in the conflict, reiterating his allegations that the US and its allies are seeking to destroy Russia, Tass reported.

In an interview on a weekly state TV program, Putin said the US-led West is attempting to break up his country, warning that the “Russian people” may not survive: “They have one goal: to disband the former Soviet Union and its fundamental part – the Russian Federation.”

The US and its allies reject such a characterization, which the Kremlin has turned to as it tries to muster public support for the year-long invasion. Moscow has threatened direct retaliation against NATO if the alliance joins the fight, but so far has targeted only Ukrainian forces amid Western warnings of a massive response to any attack.

Three NATO Members Float Defense Pact With Ukraine: WSJ (8 a.m.)

The UK, France and Germany are floating the idea of a defense pact with between NATO and Ukraine as a way to prod Kyiv to start peace talks with Moscow, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing officials with the three governments.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reportedly laid out a blueprint for ways to give Ukraine broader access to advanced military equipment, and wants the proposal to be discussed at NATO’s July meeting, the newspaper said.

The reported plan “falls far short of the protections Ukraine would receive from NATO and could reflect a desire to press Ukraine to accept a negotiated settlement on unfavorable terms,” said the US-based Institute for the Study of War.

French Defense Company on Hiring Spree as Orders Climb (12:30 a.m.)

The multinational French defense company Thales SA plans to hire 12,000 new workers this year — for a net headcount gain of 4,000 – as demand is driven higher by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

France’s Thales Plans to Hire 12,000 As Defense Orders Surge

CIA Head Reinforces Warning to China (12:08 a.m.)

CIA Director William Burns said the Biden administration is confident that China’s leaders are considering providing lethal equipment to Russia in its war against Ukraine, echoing comments by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Joe Biden over the past week.

China hasn’t made a decision yet and the US hasn’t seen evidence of such shipments, Burns said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” recorded Friday. That’s why Blinken and Biden “have thought it important to make very clear what the consequences of that would be as well,” Burns said.

Ukrainian General Visits Embattled Bakhmut (4:21 p.m.)

Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskiy, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, visited the contested city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region on Saturday, the forces said on Facebook.

Russian troops have been trying since August to capture the city as a springboard to wider territorial gains in Ukraine’s east. Fighting continues on the outskirts of Bakhmut, which had a pre-war population of about 70,000, and around it, the Ground Forces said.

Kremlin forces likely made “marginal territorial gains” in the area on Friday, according to the Institute for the Study of War, which noted that Russian sources are again claiming the capture of nearby villages.

G-20 Finance Chiefs Fail to Reach Agreement (2:44 p.m.)

Group of 20 finance chiefs failed to agree on a consensus statement at their meeting in Bengaluru due to an impasse over language on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The issuance of a chair’s summary, as opposed to a traditional communiqué, was a backtrack after a joint statement had been agreed at November’s leaders’ summit in Indonesia.

A Russian Foreign Ministry statement responding to the meeting called for the recognition of “new centers of power,” including Russia.

Read more: Russia’s War Sees G-20 Finance Chiefs End With No Communiqué

Hungary’s NATO Expansion Vote Seen in Late March (2:30 p.m.)

Hungary may not cast its final vote to ratify Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership bids until the second half of March, following separate talks with each country, said Cabinet Minister Gergely Gulyas.

The nation is the only European Union member that hasn’t yet nodded to the NATO enlargement plans. Turkey is the other member of the North Atlantic treaty that so far hasn’t approved the accession of the Nordic countries.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday he supports NATO enlargement.

Poland’s Says Russia Cuts Oil Deliveries (1:36 p.m.)

PKN Orlen SA, Poland’s biggest oil company, stopped receiving oil via the Druzhba pipeline from Russia, Chief Executive Officer Daniel Obajtek said in a tweet. Orlen said consumers won’t be impacted by the halt, which it said it prepared for. No reason was given for the halt.

Read more: Poland’s Orlen Says Russia Cuts Oil Supply Via Key Pipeline

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