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Live: Zelensky arrives in Brussels to rally EU leaders

09 Feb 2023, 19:08 GMT+10

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Brussels on Thursday to rally EU leaders to step up support for his war-ravaged country on the third leg of his European tour, officials said. Follow our liveblog for all the latest developments on the war in Ukraine. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

9:40am: Russia steps up eastern Ukraine attacks, local governor says

Russian forces have significantly stepped up attacks in eastern Ukraine and are trying to break through Ukrainian defences near the town of Kreminna, a regional governor said on Thursday.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said Ukraine's military were holding their ground near Kreminna,

which Russian forces have held for months, but said they needed more weapons and ammunition to hold out.

"I can confirm that there has been a significant increase in attacks and shelling. And it is in the direction of Kreminna that they are trying to build on their success by pushing through out defenders' defences," he told Ukrainian television. "So far they have had no significant success, our defence forces are holding firmly there."

9:17am: Estonia says EU countries should jointly buy arms and ammunition for Ukraine

EU member states should jointly buy arms and ammunition for Ukraine, Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told reporters on Thursday ahead of an EU summit in Brussels.

"It is very important that we speed up the military aid to Ukraine," she also said.

7:20am: Russia's Wagner halts prisoner recruitment campaign, founder says

Russia's Wagner mercenary group has stopped recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine, Wagner's founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Thursday.

"The recruitment of prisoners by the Wagner private military company has completely stopped," Prigozhin said in a response to a request for comment from a Russian media outlet published on social media. "We are fulfilling all our obligations to those who work for us now," he said.

Wagner began recruiting prisoners in Russia's sprawling penal system in summer 2022, with Prigozhin, a catering entrepreneur who served nine years in prison during the Soviet Union, offering convicts a pardon if they survived six months in Ukraine.

6:58am: Russian rouble slumps to weakest vs dollar since late April

The Russian rouble slid to its weakest level against the dollar since late April on Thursday, driven down by market demand for foreign currency and Russia's lower export earnings.

At 05:50 GMT, the rouble was 1.1% weaker against the dollar at 73.10, after hitting its lowest point since April 27, 2022 at 73.3850 earlier in the session. It had lost 1.2% to trade at 78.35 versus the euro and shed 0.9% against the yuan to 10.77.

Russia is now selling 8.9 billion roubles ($121.83 million) worth of foreign currency per day, compensating for lower oil and gas revenues, down 46.4% year-on-year in January. Slumping energy revenues and soaring expenditure pushed Russia's federal budget to a deficit of about $25 billion in January, as sanctions and the cost of Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine weigh on the economy.

6:41am: Zelensky, Macron to travel together to EU summit in Brussels

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron will fly together on Thursday morning from Paris to a summit of EU heads of state and government in Brussels, the Elysee Palace announced.

The two leaders will leave Villacoublay, near Paris, at around 08:30am (07:30 GMT). They are expected to arrive in Brussels at 10:00am (09:00).

The Ukrainian president, who is on a surprise tour of Europe, is leaving his country for the second time since the beginning of the Russian offensive on February 24, 2022. He travelled to Washington in December.

On Wednesday, he went to London, his closest ally after the United States in terms of military aid, and then to Paris, where he dined at the Elysee Palace with Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz before spending the night.

4pm: SpaceX curbs Ukraine's use of Starlink internet for drones

SpaceX has taken steps to prevent Ukraine's military from using the company's Starlink satellite internet service for controlling drones in the region during the country's war with Russia, SpaceX's president said Wednesday.

SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service, which has provided Ukraine's military with broadband communications in its defence against Russia's military, was "never never meant to be weaponised", Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and chief operating officer, said during a conference in Washington, DC

"However, Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement," she said.

Russia has attempted to jam Starlink signals in the region, though SpaceX countered by hardening the service's software, Elon Musk, the company's chief executive, has said.

3am: Australia vows to hold Russia accountable for MH17 disaster

Australia on Thursday pledged to hold Russia accountable for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, after a team of international investigators halted its probe into the disaster.

The team said there were "strong indications" Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved supplying the missile system that eventually downed the flight - but halted the investigation because there was no "conclusive evidence".

The Boeing 777 was shot down over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 passengers on board, including 196 Dutch, 43 Malaysians and 38 Australian residents.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on Thursday said Russia had repeatedly tried to thwart the investigation, making it "impossible" to collect proof.

They added that Australia would "hold Russia to account for its role in the downing of the civilian aircraft".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

Originally published on France24

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