Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken announced Thursday that the US has approved an additional aid package for Ukraine and neighbouring countries as multilateral talks on the crisis took place in Germany. It came as Ukraine’s military claimed the recapture of more than 20 settlements in the Kharkiv region. Read our blog to see how the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2). 


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5:07 am: EU energy ministers meeting to find solution to energy crisis

EU energy ministers on Friday will attempt to forge a united response to the energy shock from Russia’s war on Ukraine that has sent prices for electricity and heating skyrocketing.

Moscow’s invasion has seen the price of natural gas hit record levels, throwing the EU economy into deep uncertainty with all eyes on whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will cut off the energy flow entirely.

Before the war, 40 percent of the EU’s gas imports came from Russia, with most of the supply going to Germany, the bloc’s economic powerhouse that is now scrambling to come up with new ways to heat homes and power factories.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, will ask the ministers meeting in Brussels to consider a series of highly complex proposals designed to ease the burden.

6:20pm: Ukraine’s troops making ‘clear and real progress’, says Blinken

Ukrainian forces are making “clear and real progress” on the battlefield against Russia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said after announcing fresh military aid on a visit to Kyiv.

“It’s very early, but we are seeing clear and real progress on the ground, particularly in the area around Kherson, but also some interesting developments in the Donbas in the east,” the top US diplomat told reporters.

Blinken, who met for two hours with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, said that he saw a “real effectiveness” in the counter-offensive launched by Ukraine.

“We are proud of the fact that our support and the support of so many other countries is helping to enable what the Ukrainians are doing – working to liberate territory seized by Russia in this aggression,” Blinken said.

5:30pm: Ukraine has struck ‘more than 400’ Russian targets with US-supplied HIMARS

Ukraine has struck over 400 Russian targets with US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems, General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said.

“We are seeing real and measurable gains from Ukraine in the use of these systems. For example, the Ukrainians have struck over 400 targets with the HIMARS and they’ve had devastating effect,” he told reporters at Ramstein air base in southern Germany after a meeting of US-allied ministers to discuss how to give Kyiv long-term support in countering Russia’s invasion.

2:39pm: Ukraine army says it has recaptured over 20 settlements in Kharkiv

The Ukrainian military said Thursday it had recaptured more than 20 towns and villages in the northeastern Kharkiv region as part of a counter-offensive against Moscow’s forces. 

Ukrainian “military units have penetrated 50 kilometres (31 miles) beyond the enemy lines. During active operations in the Kharkiv area, more than 20 settlements have been liberated”, said Oleksiy Gromov, a senior official in the Ukrainian armed forces.

12:35pm: Turkey’s Erdogan says wants grain from Russia to be exported too

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday he wanted grain from Russia to be exported too, and its president Vladimir Putin was right about grains exported from Ukraine under a UN-backed deal going to wealthy countries, not poor ones.

Speaking at a news conference with his Croatian counterpart, Erdogan said Putin was uncomfortable with these grains going to countries that sanction Russia. On Wednesday, Putin floated adding limits to Ukrainian grain exports.

11:41am: Blinken unveils $2 billion in new US military aid for Europe

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday announced major new military aid worth more than $2 billion for Ukraine and other European countries threatened by Russia.

Blinken said the Biden administration would provide $2 billion in long-term military assistance to Ukraine and 18 of its neighbours, including NATO members and regional security partners “most potentially at risk for future Russian aggression”. 

That’s on top of a $675 million package of heavy weaponry, ammunition and armoured vehicles for Ukraine alone that Defence Secretary Llloyd Austin announced earlier Thursday at a conference of allied defence ministers in Germany.

The contributions bring total US aid to Ukraine to $15.2 billion since the administration took office. Officials said the new commitments were intended to show that American support for the country in the face of Russia’s invasion is unwavering. 

11:15am: US says Moscow is forcibly deporting Ukrainians to Russia 

The United States told a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday it has evidence that “hundreds of thousands” of Ukrainian citizens have been interrogated, detained and forcibly deported to Russia in a “series of horrors” overseen by Russian officials. 

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said estimates from a variety of sources, including the Russian government, indicate that Russian authorities have interrogated, detained and forcibly deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainians. 

Ukrainians voluntarily fleeing the war in their homeland or those being forcibly moved to Russia are passing through a series of “filtration points” where treatment allegedly ranges from interrogations and strip searches to being tortured or sent to a detention centre in Russia and never seen again.

“There is mounting and credible evidence that those considered threatening to Russian control because of perceived pro-Ukrainian leanings are ‘disappeared’ or further detained,” Thomas-Greenfield said. Russia’s presidency is not only coordinating filtration operations but is providing lists of Ukrainians to be targeted for filtration, she added.

Russia immediately dismissed the allegation as “fantasy,” calling it the latest invention in a Western disinformation campaign.


>> Accounts of interrogations, strip-searches emerge from Russian ‘filtration’ camps in Ukraine

10:37am: Russia expels Romanian diplomat in tit-for-tat move

Russia said on Thursday it was ordering a Romanian diplomat to leave the country in response to the expulsion of one of its diplomats from Bucharest. Romania, like other European Union member states, was designated an “unfriendly country” by Moscow after it imposed sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

9:53am: US approves $675 million in additional weapons for Ukraine as defence ministers meet in Germany 

US President Joe Biden has approved an additional $675 million in weapons to Ukraine, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday. The United States gathered its allies in Ramstein airbase in Germany for a new round of talks on bolstering Kyiv militarily, as Ukraine reported “good news” in recapturing several sites in the east.

Noting that Ukrainian forces have begun their counter-offensive in the south of the country, Austin said: “Now, we’re seeing the demonstrable success of our common efforts on the battlefield.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will be among the attendees, who include ministers and military chiefs from more than 40 countries.

The fifth round of talks under the “Ukraine Defence Contact Group” format came as President Volodymyr Zelensky said his forces had recaptured several settlements in the northeastern Kharkiv region from the Russians. Ukraine has also been waging a counter-offensive in the south of the country since last week, where it has claimed to have recaptured several villages.

Kyiv has repeatedly urged allies for more heavy weapons as it pursues its push-back. Prime Minister Denys Shmygal reiterated the request when he visited Germany on Sunday. 

Among the issues to be raised at Ramstein are the challenges of producing and restocking arms, as “there is a significant consumption of munitions in the conduct of this war that’s occurring in Ukraine”, said top US General Mark Milley.

9:39am: Zelensky claims army has made advances around Kharkiv

“Ukrainian President Volodymyr didn’t want to name any places, but everyone is talking about Balakleiia, northwest of Izyum in the south of Kharkiv region, which appears to have been retaken by Ukrainian forces.  . . . That is a surprise counter-offensive that is advancing faster than the one in the south, in Kherson region.”  FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg reports from Kramatorsk, Ukraine.

6:49am: Meeting of the defence ministers of Ukraine allies

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will meet later today at the US base in Ramstein, western Germany, with his counterparts from allied countries to discuss the situation in Ukraine and organise support for Kiev’s forces. 

2:50am: Ukraine hails advances in the east

Ukraine remained guarded about its counter-offensive in the east but presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych, in a video posted on YouTube, said Ukrainian troops had surprised Russian defenders at Balakleiia.

“The Russians are saying that Balakleiia is encircled when in fact (our troops) have gone much further … they’ve cut off the road to Kupiansk,” he said, referring to the main transport hub supplying Russian forces in Izyum to the east. Yuri Podolyak, a Ukrainian often quoted by pro-Russian officials, also said Russian troops were surprised by the Ukrainian advance.

But another pro-Russian official from the region, Rodion Miroshnik, said on Telegram that Balakleiia remained in Russian hands although there was fighting north of the town. FRANCE 24 is unable to verify the claims.

“The enemy had considerable success near Balakleiia with a relatively small force … It would appear that Russian forces slept through this advance and were expecting it elsewhere,” he wrote on Telegram.

“Everything would seem to depend now on the speed with which reserves are brought into the fight … there have been significant losses.”

Asked about the war’s progress at the forum in Vladivostok, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “We have not lost anything and will not lose anything.”

12:04am: Shelling resumes near Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Shelling resumed near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, with the warring sides trading blame again on Wednesday, a day after the UN atomic watchdog agency pressed for a safe zone there to prevent a catastrophe.

Russian forces fired rockets and heavy artillery on the city of Nikopol, on the opposite bank of the Dnieper River from Europe’s largest nuclear plant, regional Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said.

“There are fires, blackouts and other things at the (plant) that force us to prepare the local population for the consequences of the nuclear danger,” Reznichenko said. Officials in recent days have distributed iodine pills to residents to help protect them in the event of a radiation leak.

In Enerhodar, where the power plant is located, Dmytro Orlov, the pre-occupation mayor, reported the city had come under Russian attack for a second time Wednesday and was without power. “Employees of communal and other services simply do not have time to complete emergency and restoration work, as another shelling reduces their work to zero,” he said on the Telegram messaging app. The Russian side blamed the Ukrainians.

Earlier: Russia threatens to halt energy supplies to Europe

Putin said in a speech on Wednesday to an economic forum in Russia’s Far East that Russia would not lose what he calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

He threatened to halt all supplies of energy to Europe if Brussels went ahead with its proposed price cap on Russian gas, the latest Western step to deprive the Kremlin of funds to finance the war.

“We will not supply gas, oil, coal, heating oil – we will not supply anything” if that occurs, he said. Europe usually imports about 40% of its gas and 30% of its oil from Russia.

The United States and France says Moscow is already using energy as a “weapon” to weaken Europe’s opposition to its invasion, with the main conduit for Russian gas into Europe, Nord Stream 1, shut for maintenance.

Read more analysis on the war in Ukraine
Read more analysis on the war in Ukraine © Studio graphique France Médias Monde

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters, AP and AFP)