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Germany approves 88 Leopard tanks for Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen in armoured vehicles take part in a drill at the border with Belarus - Reuters
Ukrainian servicemen in armoured vehicles take part in a drill at the border with Belarus - Reuters

Germany has given the green light for the export of Leopard 1 battle tanks to Ukraine in a €100 million deal to bolster Kyiv’s defences.

Rheinmetall, the German arms manufacturer, needed the approval to refurbish and sell 88 of the older Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

The vehicles, which first entered into service in 1965 and are no longer manufactured, will come on top of the dozens of Leopard 2s being shipped to Ukraine in the coming months.

“I can confirm that an export license has been issued,” German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said on Friday.

Berlin is also considering plans to buy back 15 Gepard anti-aircraft tanks from Qatar, which were purchased by Doha to secure its World Cup stadiums, in order to deliver them to Ukraine.

03:07 PM

That's all for today

The live blog is now closed. Today's top stories included:

  • EU leaders were in Kyiv for a meeting with the Ukrainian government, where sanctions against Russia and Ukraine's EU membership bid were among the key issues on the table

  • The German government approved the delivery of 88 Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine

  • Russia is no longer able to rely on 'human wave attacks' in Ukraine as supplies of recruits from Russian prisons dwindle, according to the UK Ministry of Defence

  • Sanctions pushed Russia's energy revenues in January to the lowest level since 2020

  • Kyiv's rights commissioner accused Russians of selling Ukrainian children for sexual abuse

  • A car bomb in Enerhodar in Russia-occupied southern Ukraine killed a police officer who was accused of collaborating with the Russian army

  • US officials believe that nearly 200,000 Russian soldiers have now been killed or wounded in Ukraine, the New York Times reported

02:50 PM

'No rigid timelines' for Ukraine's EU accession

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday there were no rigid timelines for Ukraine to join the European Union and that there were goals for Kyiv to meet as part of its membership push.

However, in a statement on Friday, the EU "acknowledged the considerable efforts that Ukraine demonstrated in the recent months".

Kyiv has been pushing to fast-track accession talks but the process is likely to take years.

02:47 PM

Ukraine will fight to hold 'fortress' Bakhmut as long as it can

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that Ukraine would fight to hold on to the eastern "fortress" city of Bakhmut for as long as it could, and urged the West to supply long-range weapons to help Kyiv push Russian forces out of the Donbas region.

"Nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress," Zelensky told a news conference in Kyiv alongside top EU officials.

"Ukraine would be able to hold Bakhmut and liberate occupied Donbas if it received long-range weapons," he said.

Bakhmut has been at the centre of intense fighting for months.

02:43 PM

Russia running out of prisoners for 'human wave' attacks

Russia is no longer able to rely on crude "human wave" attacks in Ukraine as its recruitment of convicts has plummeted, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

The callous tactic requires large numbers of soldiers and there is "anecdotal evidence" that Russia is cutting back on "human wave style assaults" as it no longer has a sufficient supply of fighters coming in from prisons, according to the Ministry of Defence.

In its morning intelligence update on Friday it pointed to figures which suggest that mercenary group Wagner is no longer recruiting convicts in such high numbers - which had been critical to boosting Russian troops - in part due to tensions with the Kremlin.

Human wave assaults see an attacker attempting to flood the battlefield with a wave of densely packed soldiers who are sent directly towards enemy lines in a bid to overwhelm the opponent. It can lead to great loss of life, with a Ukrainian commander saying Russia was treating its conscripts as "single-use soldiers".

02:38 PM

Former Wagner mercenary has 'given material' to Norwegian police

A former commander in Russia's notorious Wagner mercenary group who fled to Norway last month has given police "some digital material" and will continue to be interrogated, Norwegian authorities said on Friday.

Andrei Medvedev is being treated as a witness as part of war crimes investigations, according to police. Earlier this week he told Reuters that he was speaking out to help ensure the perpetrators of crimes are brought to justice.

He said he had witnessed two people who did not want to fight being shot dead in front of newly released convicts who had enrolled in Wagner.

Police say they will continue to interrogate him, since "Medvedev gives the impression that he wants to continue to say more" about his time with Wagner.

Meanwhile, Wagner accused Medvedev of being "very dangerous" and said he had "mistreated prisoners".

02:21 PM

EU stumps up €25 million for demining

The EU is offering Ukraine €25 million to support demining efforts in areas that have been recaptured from the Russians, it announced on Friday.

“A large spread of mines and other explosive ordnances is being found in territories liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces... Protecting civilians and their livelihoods is a priority," said the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who is in Kyiv today for talks with the Ukrainian government.

01:44 PM

In pictures: Damage from overnight shelling across Ukraine

Photos are emerging of the damage in various parts of Ukraine from overnight assaults.

A man writes a woman's name on her forehead after she was injured in a rocket attack in Kramatorsk - Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy / Avalon
A man writes a woman's name on her forehead after she was injured in a rocket attack in Kramatorsk - Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy / Avalon
A destroyed apartment block in Kramatorsk - Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy/Ukrinform/ZUMA Press
A destroyed apartment block in Kramatorsk - Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy/Ukrinform/ZUMA Press
A local resident speaks to a police officer in front of damaged apartment block in Kherson - Genya SAVILOV/AFP
A local resident speaks to a police officer in front of damaged apartment block in Kherson - Genya SAVILOV/AFP
A Ukrainian firefighter works to put out a blaze at a shopping mall in Kherson - Genya SAVILOV / AFP
A Ukrainian firefighter works to put out a blaze at a shopping mall in Kherson - Genya SAVILOV / AFP

01:17 PM

Ukrainian drones monitor Belarus border

Reconnaissance drones are flying several times a day from Ukrainian positions inside the thick forest that marks the border with Belarus, scouring for signs of trouble on the other side.

Ukrainian units are monitoring the 1,000-kilometer (650-mile) frontier of marsh and woodland for a possible surprise offensive from the north, a repeat of the unsuccessful Russian thrust toward Kyiv at the start of the war nearly a year ago.

This time the Ukrainians are taking no chances. Since the summer they have been reinforcing defences, building and expanding trenches and laying mines. Residents of villages in the region that were temporarily occupied last year are horrified by the prospect of it all starting again.

"We're listening out for every small sound and noise. This isn't a way to live," said Valentina Matveva, 64.

Ukrainian servicemen stand at a position close to the border with Belarus - AP Photo/Daniel Cole
Ukrainian servicemen stand at a position close to the border with Belarus - AP Photo/Daniel Cole
A Ukrainian serviceman lands a drone during a demonstration close to the border with Belarus - AP Photo/Daniel Cole
A Ukrainian serviceman lands a drone during a demonstration close to the border with Belarus - AP Photo/Daniel Cole

01:09 PM

Kyiv accuses Russians of selling Ukrainian children for sexual abuse

Kyiv's human rights commissioner yesterday accused Russians of kidnapping his country's children and selling them for sex.

"Telegram channels revealed that Russians are kidnapping Ukrainian children and making sexual videos with them," the Ukrainian parliament's rights commissioner Dmytro Lubinets said in a social media post.

Lubinets posted an excerpt from an exchange on WhatsApp between two people allegedly discussing using a young boy to make child pornography.

"He has been brought from Ukraine, from an orphanage, has no relatives," one of the two people says in the exchange, adding that "They ordered a series of videos with him".

Lubinets did not say how he obtained the copy of the exchange, which The Telegraph has not independently verified. He called on Ukraine's police and prosecutors to take "appropriate measures to find and punish the guilty."

12:50 PM

Ukraine presses charges against Wagner boss

Ukraine is pressing criminal charges against Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, according to Ukrainian national news agency Ukrinform.

Prigozhin has been charged with violating Ukraine's territorial integrity and waging a war of aggression, Ukrinform reports, citing a statement in the government gazette.

The notice summons Prigozhin to the Prosecutor General's Office for interrogation later this month.

12:32 PM

Sanctions push Russia's energy revenues to lowest level since 2020

Russia's monthly budget revenues from oil and gas fell in January to their lowest level since August 2020 under the impact of Western sanctions on Russian exports, Finance Ministry data showed on Friday.

Monthly tax and customs revenue from energy sales was down 46 per cent in the space of a year.

International restrictions, including a $60 a barrel price cap imposed by the G7, mean that Russian oil is now selling at a heavy discount.

Moscow relies on its multibillion-dollar earnings from oil and gas sales to fund its budget, and has been forced to start selling down some international reserves to cover the shortfall.

12:20 PM

Russia rushes for battlefield advances before Ukraine gets new tanks

Determined to make progress before Ukraine receives new battle tanks and armoured vehicles from the West, Russia has picked up momentum on the eastern front and announced advances around Bakhmut, Reuters reports.

Russian forces are pushing from both the north and south to encircle Bakhmut, using superior troop numbers to try and cut it off from re-supply and force the Ukrainians out, Ukrainian military analyst Yevhen Dikiy said. The town has suffered persistent Russian bombardment for months.

Meanwhile Ukrainian national news agency Ukrinform reported that Russia is attempting to advance in four directions, towards Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Novopavlivka.

12:05 PM

In pictures: Missiles strike Kherson shopping centre

Firefighters were battling a major blaze at a shopping centre in Kherson, it was reported on Friday, after the building was struck by missiles.

The strikes also hit a shipyard, a school and residential buildings in the city, according to local authorities.

Plumes of smoke rise above the shelled out shopping centre, which is lit by orange flames - AP Photo/LIBKOS
Plumes of smoke rise above the shelled out shopping centre, which is lit by orange flames - AP Photo/LIBKOS
Emergency workers attend the blaze - AP Photo/LIBKOS
Emergency workers attend the blaze - AP Photo/LIBKOS

11:38 AM

EU promises fresh sanctions for anniversary of invasion

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised that the EU will introduce a new round of sanctions against Russia in time for the one-year anniversary of its invasion of Ukraine on February 24th.

The EU's 10th sanctions package is expected to be a key part of talks being held between EU and Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv today.

However, the package is widely expected to disappoint Ukraine's expectations.

Ms von der Leyen promised that the bloc would introduce a new price cap on Russian petroleum products in addition to sanctions.

11:17 AM

EU vows to train 15,000 more Ukrainian soldiers

The EU pledged yesterday to ramp up military support for Ukraine by doubling its initial target of training 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers, taking the total to 30,000.

One focus will be training the crews of tanks that Western countries have offered Ukraine.

The pledge came ahead of a summit of Ukrainian and EU leaders in Kyiv today.

11:06 AM

Car bomb kills accused collaborator

A car bomb in Russia-occupied southern Ukraine has killed a police officer who reportedly was collaborating with the Russian army, The Telegraph's Nataliya Vasilyeva writes.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russia-appointed official in the occupied town of Enerhodar, posted a video on Friday morning showing plumes of black smoke rising over a fire-ravaged vehicle parked near a block of flats, describing it as a Ukrainian terror attack against a police officer.

Ivan Fyodorov, the exiled mayor of nearby occupied Melitopol, said the former police officer had been collaborating with the Russian administration and was killed after a bomb planted in the car went off.

Ukrainian news agency UNIAN identified the victim as Evhen Kuzmin who worked on the Ukrainian police force in town before switching sides.

Ukraine did not take responsibility for the attack. It bears the hallmarks of previous attacks against Ukrainian officials who were accused of collaborating with the Russian army.

10:52 AM

Russia seizes properties of Ukrainian politicians and businessmen in Crimea

Russian-installed authorities in Crimea said on Friday that they had "nationalised" around 500 properties, including some belonging to senior Ukrainian politicians and business figures.

In a statement on Telegram, Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean parliament, said that the decree targeted "accomplices of the Kyiv regime" and that the nationalised properties included banks and tourist and sport infrastructure.

According to a document published on a Crimean government website, properties belonging to former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and businessmen Igor Kolomoisky, Rinat Akhmetov and Serhiy Taruta were among those confiscated.

Crimea, which is internationally recognised as part of Ukraine, has been controlled by Moscow since 2014, when Russia unilaterally annexed the peninsula.

10:19 AM

Next six months will be 'critical', says CIA director

The next six months will be "critical" for Ukraine in its fight against Russia's invasion, according to CIA Director William Burns, as Russian President Vladimir Putin bets on fatigue kicking in.

"Putin, I think, is betting right now that he can make time work for him," Mr Burns said. "The key is going to be on the battlefield in the next six months, it seems to us."

Key will be "Puncturing Putin's hubris, making clear that he's not only not going to be able to advance further in Ukraine, but as every month goes by, he runs a greater and greater risk of losing the territory that he's illegally seized from Ukraine so far," he continued. "This next period, I think, is going to be absolutely crucial."

He added that the CIA does not believe that Putin is serious about negotiations.

10:05 AM

Air raid sirens in Kyiv before EU-Ukraine summit

Air raid sirens rang out in Kyiv and across Ukraine on Friday morning.

Some of the EU's top officials are in Kyiv today for a summit with Ukrainian leadership.

There were no immediate reports of fresh missile strikes following the air raid warning.

A woman sits on the stalled escalator of a metro station in Kyiv during an air raid alert - AP Photo/Daniel Cole
A woman sits on the stalled escalator of a metro station in Kyiv during an air raid alert - AP Photo/Daniel Cole

09:58 AM

In pictures: Ukrainian soldiers prepare at Belarus border

Ukrainian soldiers move in a convoy of armoured vehicles through the dense woods on the border between Belarus and Ukraine, as part of drills - REUTERS
Ukrainian soldiers move in a convoy of armoured vehicles through the dense woods on the border between Belarus and Ukraine, as part of drills - REUTERS
The view from the top of a tank as it points towards the woods - REUTERS
The view from the top of a tank as it points towards the woods - REUTERS
Ukrainian servicemen and tanks in the woods - REUTERS
Ukrainian servicemen and tanks in the woods - REUTERS

09:38 AM

Zelensky presses for fast-track talks on Ukraine's EU membership

President Volodymyr Zelensky wants to hold talks "this year" on Ukraine's EU accession.

"I believe that Ukraine deserves to start negotiations on EU membership this year," Zelensky said yesterday after talks with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.

EU leaders granted candidate status to Ukraine in June last year, after Russia's invasion. But the path to full membership could take years.

While the EU backs Ukraine, it has declined to offer a fast track to membership while the country is still at war.

EU officials have listed multiple entry requirements, from political and economic stability to adopting various EU laws.

"Some may want to speculate about the end game but the simple truth is that we are not there yet," an EU official said.

09:27 AM

European Council chief arrives in Kyiv

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, has arrived in Kyiv for talks with President Zelensky, vowing to support Ukraine's EU membership bid.

"There will be no let up in our resolve. We will also support you every step of the way on your journey to the EU," Michel wrote on Twitter.

Charles Michel walks with Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv - European Council/Anadolu Agency
Charles Michel walks with Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv - European Council/Anadolu Agency

09:06 AM

Russia has lost 200,000 soldiers, US officials estimate

Nearly 200,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in Ukraine, according to the latest estimate from US officials.

In November, the US's top general Mark Milley estimated that more than 100,000 troops had been lost. But officials believe that figure has since soared, according to the New York Times, on the back of the intense, months-long battle around Bakhmut and Soledar in Eastern Ukraine and the increasing tendency to send poorly trained new recruits to the front lines.

08:51 AM

EU leaders in Kyiv for talks

EU leaders will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv today, promising new sanctions against Russia but likely dashing Ukraine's hope for swift EU membership.

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and president of the European Council, Charles Michel, are set to convene talks with Mr Zelensky.

Senior commission officials met their counterparts in the Ukrainian government yesterday.

"We reached a very important mutual understanding," Mr Zelensky said of Thursday's talks.

"That only together - a strong Ukraine and a strong European Union - can we defend the life that we value, and through our further integration, provide energy and motivation for our people to fight on regardless of obstacles and threats."

08:38 AM

Wagner prisoner recruitment slows amid Kremlin tensions

The UK Ministry of Defence has pointed to tensions between the Kremlin and mercenary group Wagner as being behind a drop-off in prisoner recruitment for the fight in Ukraine.

The latest figures suggest that the Russian prison population has dropped by 6,000 since November, compared with a drop of 23,000 between September and November, with Wagner recruitment "likely a major contributing factor", it said.

"Significant tensions between Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defence are playing out in public; competition between factions in the Russian elite is likely to be partially responsible for the reduced supply of convicts," the MoD added.

Wagner had previously been recruiting heavily from Russian prisons, offering freedom for those who signed up to fight - but no mercy for those who later changed their mind. The recruitment drives had been a key part of efforts to boost Russian troops on the battlefield.

08:27 AM

Russia moves away from human wave assaults that were reliant on Wagner convicts, says MoD

There is "anecdotal evidence" that Russia is reducing its reliance on "human wave style assaults" by Wagner convict fighters, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

A human wave assault is an unsophisticated tactic that sees an attacker attempting to flood the battlefield with a wave of densely packed soldiers in a bid to overwhelm its opponent. It can lead to great loss of life.

It requires large numbers of soldiers and the MoD pointed to figures which suggest that Wagner has slowed its recruitment drive in Russian prisons, which it had been using to boost numbers.

08:01 AM

Germany approves Leopard 1 delivery to Ukraine

The German government has approved the delivery of Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine from industrial stocks, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday.

The government is also in talks over purchasing back 15 Gepard tanks from Qatar to send to Kyiv.

The delivery of the Leopard tanks to Ukraine could happen anytime once the tanks are repaired, the newspaper reported.