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Russia-Ukraine live updates: Russia plans nuclear exercises to disrupt Biden Europe visit, Ukraine military says


(NEW YORK) — Almost a year after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion into neighboring Ukraine, the two countries are engaged in a struggle for control of areas throughout eastern and southern Ukraine.

Putin’s forces pulled out of key positions in November, retreating from Kherson as Ukrainian troops led a counteroffensive targeting the southern port city. Russian drones have continued bombarding civilian targets throughout Ukraine, knocking out critical power infrastructure as winter sets in.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Feb 19, 1:03 PM EST
Russia planning nuclear exercises to disrupt Biden’s Europe visit, Ukrainian military says

Ukraine’s military intelligence agency has accused Russia of planning to stage “large-scale nuclear exercises” to coincide with President Joe Biden’s visit to Europe next week.

The GUR said Russia is preparing for test launches of nuclear capable missiles from land and sea, the agency said in a statement Sunday on its official Telegram channel.

The GUR said a nuclear armed submarine has been placed on the “highest level” of combat readiness and that strategic bombers have been moved to a base in Tambov, Russia.

The agency claimed the exercises are intended disrupt President Joe Biden’s European trip.

“Such actions of the military and political leadership of the Russian Federation, in particular, are an attempt to hinder Joe Biden’s visit to Europe, which is scheduled for February 20-22, through direct nuclear blackmail and to weaken international support for Ukraine,” the GUR statement said.

– ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Feb 18, 11:41 AM EST
Harris meets with British, Finnish, Swedish PMs

Vice President Kamala Harris met with the British, Finnish and Swedish prime ministers before departing Munich on Saturday.

Amid concerns in Europe that Republican lawmakers could dampen U.S. aid to Ukraine, the Finnish prime minister, Sanna Marin, thanked Harris for saying U.S. support for Ukraine would persevere domestic political differences.

Both Marin and Swedish prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, spoke with hope about joining NATO. But in recent days, there have been signals from NATO, the Finnish and the Swedish that perhaps they will not join at the same time as they had hoped due to continued Turkish objections over Swedish membership.

-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson

Feb 17, 3:41 PM EST
White House previews Biden trip to Poland

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby provided a preview Friday of President Joe Biden’s upcoming trip to Poland, saying the president’s main message will be continued support from the United States in the face of Russian aggression.

“On Tuesday evening, local time, President Biden will deliver remarks in Warsaw on how the United States has rallied the world to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and democracy. President Biden will make it clear that the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine, as you’ve heard him say many times, for as long as it takes,” Kirby said of Biden’s major planned address.

“As we approach the one-year mark since this invasion, we can proudly say that our support for Ukraine remains unwavering and our alliances and our international coalition in support of Ukraine remain stronger than ever,” he added.

Biden is scheduled to arrive in Poland on Tuesday morning and meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda. On Wednesday, he’ll meet with leaders from the so-called Bucharest Nine –Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia — which are nine NATO countries in Eastern Europe.

Kirby was asked about Biden meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, or traveling anywhere besides Warsaw, like the border town of Rzeszow, but he shot down both ideas.

“There is no meeting with President Zelenskyy scheduled for the trip right now,” he said. “Right now, the trip is going to be in Warsaw.”

Feb 17, 2:11 PM EST
Harris meets allies amid pressure over Ukraine aid

Vice President Kamala Harris met with the leaders of France and Germany Friday as part of a U.S. diplomatic push in Munich to show strong, continued support for Ukraine.

Questions lingering over the leaders in Munich include how long the West can maintain its support for Ukraine –- amid declining public and political support at home –- and how Ukraine will withstand the expected Russian offensive.

A White House official said that at the meetings, the vice president planned to “recognize the courage and resilience shown by the people of Ukraine; reaffirm the support of American people for Ukraine; commend the international community on the historic actions taken since February 2022; celebrate Transatlantic unity and clarity of purpose; reaffirm our security commitments to our European allies; and condemn Russia’s continued illegal and brutal actions while calling for accountability and justice.”

She also planned to discuss “relations with China and actions to address the climate crisis,” the official said.

Feb 17, 1:20 PM EST
Belarus ready to make Russian attack planes, president says at meeting with Putin

Belarus is ready to make Russian attack planes, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.

“Belarus has been making up to a thousand components for MC-21 and Superjet 100 planes. There used to be repair plants, but now they also make component parts,” Lukashenko said.

“We are even ready to make it in Belarus with a little support from Russia,” Lukashenko said.

Feb 16, 5:28 PM EST
Ukrainian vice prime minister tells remaining civilians in Bakhmut to evacuate

Vice Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk called on the roughly 6,000 civilians still in Bakhmut to evacuate “immediately.”

Officials said they don’t want the people still in the city to put themselves and their children at risk and don’t want them to interfere with the Ukrainian army. Five civilians were killed and nine others were injured on Thursday, according to the vice prime minister.

“Frankly speaking, I am very surprised that 6,000 civilians are still working there,” Vereshchuk said in a statement.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

Feb 16, 3:25 PM EST
Belarus will fight alongside Russia if it is attacked, president warns

Belarus would only join the war in Ukraine, fighting alongside Russia, if it is attacked, President Alexander Lukashenko told state-run Belta news agency.

“We don’t want a war. And in no case are we going to send our troops into the territory of Ukraine. Unless you commit aggression against the territory of Belarus from there. Here is my answer. It was given a long time ago,” Lukashenko said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Lukashenko’s threat in an interview with the BBC.

“I hope [Belarus] won’t join [the war],” he said. “If it does, we will fight and we will survive.”

Allowing Russia to use Belarus as a staging post for an attack again would be a “huge mistake,” he added.

Russian forces launched part of their full-scale invasion from Belarus 12 months ago. They drove south toward Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, but were fought back and made to retreat within weeks, after suffering heavy casualties.

Lukashenko is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky and Tanya Stukalova

Feb 16, 3:11 PM EST
Zelenskyy rules out territorial deal with Putin in BBC interview

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has ruled out giving up any of his country’s territory in a potential peace deal with Russia.

In a BBC interview to mark a year since Russia’s full-scale invasion, he warned conceding land would mean Russia could “keep coming back,” while Western weapons would bring peace closer.

However, he does believe Ukrainian forces can keep resisting Russia’s advance until they are able to launch a counteroffensive — although he repeated his calls for more military aid from the West.

“Of course, modern weapons speed up peace. Weapons are the only language Russia understands,” Zelensky told the BBC.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

Feb 16, 12:13 AM EST
Russian strikes hit infrastructure in Lviv, Ukrainians shoot down eight Russian missiles: Officials

An infrastructure object was hit in Lviv in the early morning hours of Thursday, the head of the Lviv Regional Military Administration, Maksym Kozytskyi, said on Telegram.

There were no casualties, and the fire from the impact has since been put out, Kozytskyi said.

Six Kalibr missiles were also shot down over the Mykolaiv region, and two Kalibr missiles were shot down over the Kherson region overnight, Odesa Military Administration spokesman Serhii Bratchuk posted on Telegram.

All eight of the missiles were fired from a Russian ship in the Black Sea, Bratchuk said in the post.

Feb 15, 2:48 PM EST
6 ‘reconnaissance’ balloons shot down over Kyiv

Authorities in Kyiv are investigating who owns six balloons that were in Ukraine’s airspace and what the balloons were doing over Kyiv. The balloons were shot down by Ukrainian air defense.

After a preliminary assessment, authorities think the balloons had intelligence gathering equipment.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

Feb 14, 11:43 AM EST
If Bakhmut falls, won’t have ‘strategic impact’ on Ukraine war: White House

White House spokesman John Kirby said during a briefing Tuesday that the U.S. could not “predict one way or the other” whether Bakhmut will fall to the Russians and if it does fall, “on what timeline.”

“We’re watching this every day, and it is certainly true that the Russians are continuing to make incremental progress there,” Kirby said. “Again, I can’t predict one way or the other whether it falls or it doesn’t fall or on what timeline. They have made incremental progress again in just the last 24, 48 hours.”

He added that the U.S. did not think Russia obtaining control of Bakhmut would have any “strategic impact” on either the overall war or even fighting in that part of the country.

The U.S. thinks Russia — and specifically the Wagner Group and its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, which is doing much of the fighting for Bakhmut — wants to take over and benefit financially from gypsum and salt mines located in the area, Kirby said.

“Even if Bakhmut were to fall, it would not have a strategic impact on the overall war,” Kirby said. “I would go so far as to say it won’t even have, necessarily, a strategic impact on the fighting in that part of the country. We think one of the reasons why Prigozhin is so interested in Bakhmut is because there’s a gypsum mine there, and up in Soledar, there’s a salt mine. And it’s entirely possible that Mr. Prigozhin sees some economic benefit to him and his company to take Bakhmut and to take and hold Soledar.”

-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson

Feb 11, 9:43 AM EST
US surveillance data ‘crucial’: Ukrainian commander

Ukrainian Lt. Gen. Serhiy Nayev told ABC News in an interview that the U.S. provides “surveillance data,” allowing the Ukrainian Armed Forces to more accurately pinpoint Russian targets within Ukraine’s borders.

“This help is crucial for us,” he said.

Nayev said he was in “constant contact” with American generals stationed in other parts of Europe. An exchange of data between the Ukrainians and Americans helped the Ukrainian military to pinpoint targets using US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems.

“This work goes perfectly in real time,” he said.

-ABC News’ Tom Soufi Burridge, Dragana Jovanovic and Ale Pavone

Feb 10, 3:09 PM EST
Biden to visit Poland on eve of first anniversary of invasion of Ukraine

President Joe Biden will visit Poland on Feb. 20, on the eve of the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Biden will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda as well as the leaders of the Bucharest Nine, a group of our eastern flank NATO allies, and he’ll deliver remarks to mark the one-year anniversary, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday.

“President Biden will deliver remarks ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, addressing how the United States has rallied the world, to support the people of Ukraine, as they defend their freedom and democracy, and how we will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Jean-Pierre said.

-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson

Feb 10, 12:25 PM EST
Russian missile comes within 22 miles of Romanian border with Ukraine

Romania, a member of NATO, said Friday a Russian missile had come within 22 miles of its border but that it did not cross into the country’s territory, countering a claim made by the Ukrainian military.

“The Romanian Air Forces’ air surveillance system detected on Friday, February 10th, an aerial target launched by a Russian Federation’s ship, navigating in the Black Sea, nearby the Crimean Peninsula. The target is most likely a cruise missile, which flew over the air space of Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova and reentered the Ukrainian air space without ever infringing Romania’s air space,” Romanian Defense Minister Angel Tîlvăr said in a statement Friday.

Ukrainian officials had said earlier Friday that two Russian missiles crossed into the airspace of Moldova and Romania before entering Ukraine and being directed at targets in the country.

“Several Russian missiles passed through the airspace of Moldova and Romania. These missiles are a challenge to NATO and collective security. This is terror that can and must be stopped,” Zelenskyy said Friday.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

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