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Ukraine war: Zelenskyy pleads for EU membership; US and UK sanction Russian cybercrime outfit.

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Russian invasion has harmed children’s nutrition, Ukrainian first lady says
Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska attends a “Special Dialogue with CEO’s” meeting during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2023.

Arnd Wiegmann | Reuters

First Lady Olena Zelenska said the devastation caused by the Russian invasion has taken a year of healthy nutrition away from Ukraine’s schoolchildren.

“It is often said that the war took a year of life from each of us, Ukrainians. In this case, we can say that it took away a year of healthy nutrition from our children,” Zelenska said during a meeting in Kyiv on school nutrition reform.

The purpose of the meeting was to draft a strategy to attract foreign investment to help rebuild the country’s education institutions, according to the Ukrainian president’s office.

More than 2,000 educational facilities have been damaged and more than 300 have been destroyed since the Russian invasion began nearly a year ago, according to Ukrainian authorities. In July, Ukraine’s education ministry said that 2.8 million children were internally displaced.

— Spencer Kimball

U.S. announces $33 million in security assistance for Georgia
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a meeting with Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles and British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., December 7, 2022.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The Defense Department has announced a $33 million tranche of security funding for the Eastern European nation of Georgia.

“We’ve approved Georgia for the risk-assessed payment schedule, so Georgia will be able to request and acquire vital military capabilities more easily,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon.

Georgia is part of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a Pentagon initiative aimed at coordinating and enhancing international security assistance to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian invasion.

Austin announced the funding alongside his Georgian counterpart, Defense Minister Juansher Burchuladze, who is visiting Washington for meetings with U.S. officials.

“Georgia’s participation in the contact group helps us all strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself and to bolster the rules-based international border that keeps us all secure. And that’s crucial as Ukraine continues to fight bravely against Russia’s unprovoked and unjust invasion,” Austin said.

— Christina Wilkie

Zelenskyy asks Europe for more weapons, admission to EU
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, left, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s president, center, and Charles Michel, president of the European Council, at the end of a news conference following an extraordinary European Union leaders summit at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023.

Valeria Mongelli | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told European leaders gathering in Brussels that his nation needs more fighter jets, armored vehicles and air defense equipment in its fight against Russia.

“Zelenskyy emphasized that the timely provision of the necessary equipment in the right amount would help restore a just peace as soon as possible and protect the interests and values of Europe,” his office said in a statement on his web site.

Zelenskyy also called for a decision to begin negotiations on Ukraine being admitted to European Union membership in 2023. Ukraine had applied for membership four days after Russia launched its invasion almost a year ago.

— Dan Mangan

Rep. Meeks: U.S. must ensure ‘Ukraine has what it needs to win’
Leader of the U.S. Congressional delegation and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Gregory Meeks (D-NY), speaks at a news conference, in Kyiv, Ukraine, January 28, 2022.

Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters

Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-NY, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said wouldn’t outright say the U.S. should supply Ukraine with fighter jets, noting that it was imperative the country receive the supplies it needs to beat Russia.

“We’ve got to continue to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs to win,” Meeks said on MSNBC’s “Jose Diaz-Balart Reports” when asked if the U.S. send warplanes to Ukraine.

Meeks said Ukraine should be considered as part of the 2023 budget process and Congress should seek to fill gaps in funding.

“You have both the military equipment that has to go there, as well as the humanitarian concerns,” Meeks said, referring to infrastructure destroyed by Russia.

— Emma Kinery

Zelenskyy: Ukraine caught Russian plan to ‘destroy’ Moldova
Prime Minister of Moldova Natalia Gavrilita speaks in the Treaty Room at the State Department in Washington, DC, on July 19, 2022, ahead of a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Manuel Balce Ceneta | AFP | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country has intercepted plans by Russian secret services to destroy Moldova, and Moldovan intelligence confirmed the claim.

Speaking to European Union leaders in Brussels, Zelenskyy said he recently told Moldovan President Maia Sandu about the alleged scheme.

“I have informed her that we have intercepted the plan of the destruction of Moldova by the Russian intelligence,” Zelenskyy said through a translator. He said the documents showed “who, when and how” the plan would “break the democracy of Moldova and establish control over Moldova.”

Zelenskyy said the plan was very similar to the one devised by Russia to take over Ukraine. He added that he did not know whether Moscow ultimately ordered the plan to be carried out.

After Zelenskyy’s comments, Moldova’s Intelligence and Security Service released a statement confirming it has received “respective information from our Ukrainian partners” and said it has also identified “subversive activities, aimed to undermine the Republic of Moldova, destabilize and violate public order.”

“At the moment, we cannot provide more details as there is a risk of jeopardizing various ongoing operational activities,” the statement read, adding that all of Moldova’s state institutions “are working at full capacity and will not allow these challenges to happen.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov charged last week that the West was considering turning Moldova into “another Ukraine.” He alleged that the West backed the 2020 election of the pro-Western Sandu, claiming that she is eager to take the country into NATO, merge Moldova with Romania and “practically is ready for anything.”

— Associated Press

The U.S. and the U.K. issue historic joint sanction against Russian-based cybercrime gang
The U.S. government and United Kingdom jointly sanctioned seven individuals working with Trickbot, a Russia-based cyber-crime gang with ties to Russian Intelligence Services.

The sanctioned individuals used Trickbot, a trojan virus, to steal financial data by infecting millions of computers worldwide, including those of U.S. businesses. Trickbot recently evolved into a malware suite which that gave the Trickbot group the ability to target hospitals and healthcare centers during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Three Minnesota medical facilities were among those attacked.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and the U.K.’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office; National Crime Agency; and His Majesty’s Treasury to disrupt Russian cybercrime and ransomware partnered together to sanction Vitaly Kovalev, a senior member of the Trickbot Group, and six others. The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey unsealed an indictment on Thursday charging Kovalev with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and eight counts of bank fraud for offenses that occurred in 2009 and 2010.

All property belonging to the sanctioned individuals in possession or in control of people in the U.S. will be blocked and must be reported to OFAC.

“Cyber criminals, particularly those based in Russia, seek to attack critical infrastructure, target U.S. businesses, and exploit the international financial system,” said Treasury’s Under Secretary Brian E. Nelson. “The United States is taking action today in partnership with the United Kingdom because international cooperation is key to addressing Russian cybercrime.”

— Chelsey Cox

Zelenskyy speech to European Parliament met with standing ovation, gift of EU flag
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a standing ovation following his speech to European Parliament lawmakers in Brussels, during which he made an impassioned call for Ukraine’s membership to the EU and for the continued fight for European values in the face of Russia’s invasion.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gifted Zelenskyy with an EU flag, and the parliament’s members stood for the Ukrainian anthem followed by the European Union anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

The event was part of a surprise visit by Zelenskyy to Europe, as he seeks to secure more Western aid for Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

— Natasha Turak

EU announces new Russia sanctions package, export ban worth more than 10 billion euros
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen speak after a joint press conference after talks in Kyiv on February 2, 2023.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

New EU sanctions against Russia will implement export bans worth more than 10 billion euros ($10.78 billions), European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday in a joint press conference with visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Brussels.

“In the next days, we will propose the tenth package of sanctions. We will impose sanctions on a number of political and military leaders,” von der Leyen said. “We will target Putin’s propagandists, because their lies are poisoning the public space in Russia and abroad.”

The European alliance has already implemented financial and energy sanctions targeting Moscow’s industry and Russian individuals.

Von der Leyen reiterated the EU’s ongoing support for Ukraine, on whose territory Russia has carried out a devastating full-scale invasion for nearly a year.

“We are one family, we have one vision. And family members help each other. You can count on us,” she said. “We will continue to provide our full support.”

Zelenskyy is on his second major international trip since the start of the war, following a one-day visit to both London and Paris on Wednesday. The Ukrainian head of state, who has been urging allies for additional military aid and fighter jets, is attending an extraordinary meeting of the 27 EU leaders on Thursday.

— Ruxandra Iordache

EU must continue providing maximum support for Ukraine: European Council president
The European Union must provide Ukraine with everything it needs as the stakes rise higher than ever ahead of an anticipated major spring offensive by Russia, European Council President Charles Michel said during a press conference in Brussels.

“We understand that the coming weeks and months will be of decisive importance,” Michel said, speaking to members of the press alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“We must remain open-eyed, we must continue to provide maximum level support … Artillery, munitions, defense systems … you have told us exactly what you need and what you need now,” Michel said, addressing Zelenskyy.

The EU has provided Ukraine with 67 billion euros of support in the last year, according to Von der Leyen. The comments came during a surprise visit by Zelenskyy to Europe.

— Natasha Turak

Zelenskyy: The hope of EU membership motivates Ukraine to stay strong
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (center) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (left) pose for a photo with Ukrainian and European Union flags after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 2, 2023.

Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The vision of joining the European Union motivates Ukraine to stay strong in its fight against Russia, Zelenskyy told the European Parliament.

The Ukrainian leader, in a surprise trip to Europe and only his second overseas trip since Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine began nearly a year ago, praised the EU for its reforms that reduced its reliance on Russia.

“Europe at last is relieving itself of the ruinous dependence on Russian fossil fuels” and defending itself from the “infiltration of Russian secret services who were looking at Europe as the hunting field” of those who oppose Russia’s government, Zelenskyy said.

“We combined a principled and energetic approach, we are all equal in representing Europe and integrity.”

“Ukraine is going to be a member of the EU … Ukraine is going to be a member of a European Union that is winning,” Zelenskyy said, adding that “for Ukraine, it’s a way home.”

Ukraine applied for European Union membership with Zelenskyy’s official signing of the application on Feb. 28 last year, just four days after Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24.

— Natasha Turak

The value of life in Russia has been ‘destroyed,’ Zelenskyy says
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky gives a press conference following a round-table meeting as part of a EU summit in Brussels, on February 9, 2023.

Ludovic Marin | AFP | Getty Images

The value of life in Russia is gone, while it is a value that Europe holds high, Zelenskyy said in his speech to lawmakers in Brussels.

Moscow, with its invasion of Ukraine, “Set out to destroy the value of life in Europe,” the Ukrainian leader said. “The value of life was destroyed in Russia.”

He added that only lives “in the Kremlin” have value, and that hundreds of thousands of people in Russia have been reduced to “bodies to carry weapons.” He accused the Russian state of hating social justice and diversity, and capitalizing on xenophobia.

— Natasha Turak

Zelenskyy thanks European leaders for their support of Ukraine
President of the European Council Charles Michel (R), Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky (C) and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen give a press conference following a round-table meeting as part of a EU summit in Brussels, on February 9, 2023.

Ludovic Marin | AFP | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeatedly praised the European Union’s leadership and thanked its people and officials for their support of Ukraine in his speech to the European Parliament in Brussels.

Zelenskyy’s address on Ukraine’s ongoing fight against Russia was frequently met with applause, to which he at one point replied: “These applause are not directed to me. I would like to thank all of you in Europe who supported Ukraine… Thank you, that your decisions defend the European way of life steadfastly, you defend the Ukrainian, European way of life.”

The president thanked EU leaders by saying: “You approve courageous decisions and you strengthen the European ambition to be a home for justice and freedom.”

He also thanked other sectors of European civil society, including officials, doctors, teachers, journalists, security forces, staff workers, military personnel and others.

— Natasha Turak

Russian forces advance on strategic city of Bakhmut
Ukrainian artillery teams fire a Pion toward Russian positions in Bakhmut.

Madeleine Kelly | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Ukraine could soon face a critical decision over tactically withdrawing from Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, as the fate of the city hangs in balance.

Russian and Ukrainian forces have fought ferociously over Bakhmut for months, with Moscow viewing its capture as a strategic goal and a way to cut Ukrainian supply lines in Donetsk. Russian officials recently claimed that Moscow’s forces have almost entirely encircled Bakhmut.

Ukraine disputes how far Russia has advanced into Bakhmut, although, in line with Western defense analysts, it concedes that Russian forces are closing in on the city, after making small but incremental advances in the surrounding area.

Still, Kyiv is vowing to fight on for now, with Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy stating last week that “nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress.”

Read the full story here.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy in Brussels to request more aid from European leaders
European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky and European Council President Charles Michel pictured at a Special European council summit, in Brussels, Thursday 09 February 2023.

Nicolas Maeterlinck | AFP | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is meeting European leaders on Thursday as he continues his second major trip abroad since Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Ukrainian leader is expected to address the European Parliament Thursday morning and then attend an extraordinary meeting of the 27 EU heads of state later in the day.

The discussions in Brussels come after a surprise visit to the United Kingdom on Wednesday and a last-minute meeting with French and German leaders in Paris that evening. It is the second time that Zelenskyy is known to have left Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24 last year.

Read the full story here.

— Silvia Amaro

Wed, Feb 8 20234:59 PM EST

Zelenskyy arrives in Paris after surprise trip to U.K.
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, February 8, 2023.

Sarah Meyssonnier | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived at Paris Orly Airport in France and was greeted by the Minister of the French Army Sebastien Lecornu.

Zelenskyy is slated to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron as well as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Elysee Palace.

Earlier in the day, Zelenskyy made a surprise visit to the United Kingdom and met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and King Charles III.

Ahead of this trip, Zelenskyy had previously only left his war-weary country once before since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago.

— Amanda Macias

Wed, Feb 8 20233:34 PM EST

Russia’s 2022 economic fall seen in lower incomes, slumping consumer demand
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a press conference at the Rus Sanatorium, Oct. 31, 2022, in Sochi, Russia.

Contributor | Getty Images

This content was produced in Russia, where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.

MOSCOW — Russian consumer demand contracted at its fastest pace in seven years in 2022 and real disposable incomes fell, new data shows, as the country’s population felt the effects of its dimming economic prospects.

Russia’s export-dependent economy has withstood the impact of sanctions better than first expected, but still suffered a GDP contraction of around 2.5%, as the West imposed restrictions in an effort to punish Moscow over its actions in Ukraine.

Although its economic outlook this year is not so gloomy, Russia faces a labor market shortage, lower oil and gas revenues as price caps and embargoes kick in, as well as a sharply widening budget deficit, 2023 looks set to present new challenges for the government.

Real disposable incomes fell 1% in 2022, preliminary data from the Rosstat federal statistics service showed. Real wages, which are adjusted for inflation, rose 0.3% year-over-year in November, just the second positive reading since March.

Retail sales, a key gauge of consumer demand, slumped by 6.7% in 2022, the poorest showing since 2015, while in December they were down 10.5% year-over-year, the worst monthly performance since May 2020 and the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

— Reuters

‘Strong indications’ Putin involved in MH17 downing, prosecutors say as probe ends
Wreckage of MH17 near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine.

Dominique Faget | AFP | Getty Images

THE HAGUE — International prosecutors said they had found “strong indications” Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the use in Ukraine of a Russian missile system which shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) over the east of the country in 2014.

However, evidence of Putin’s and other Russian officials’ involvement was not conclusive enough to lead to a criminal conviction, they said, ending their probe for now.

MH17 was shot down by a Russian BUK missile system as it flew over eastern Ukraine from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew, including 196 Dutch citizens.

“There are strong indications that the Russian president decided on supplying the BUK,” the prosecutors said in a statement on Wednesday.

But prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer told a news conference in The Hague the investigation had now “reached its limit”.

“The findings are insufficient for the prosecution of new suspects,” she said.

The Kremlin, which has repeatedly denied any Russian state involvement in the past, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

— Reuters

Source: cnbc

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