Russia has moved its "depleted and disparate" forces to eastern Ukraine and Moscow still faces "considerable challenges" in its war against Ukraine, the latest intelligence report from the U.K. Defense Ministry said.
Returning from his trip to Ukraine, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was "moved by the resilience and bravery" of Ukrainians during his visit to Kyiv. "My message to them is simple: We will not give up," he said on Twitter.
In an interview with Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya, Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said NATO "considers itself" at war with Russia, even though Moscow doesn't see itself at war with NATO.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office says it has a planned operation to evacuate civilians from the blockaded Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, the last holdout against Russian forces in the bombarded city.
Meanwhile, Russian strikes shook residential buildings in Kyiv overnight, as the UN chief and Bulgarian prime minister visited the city.
'We will not give up': UN chief tells Ukrainians
The United Nations will not give up, but will "redouble its efforts to save lives and reduce human suffering," Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a Twitter post on Friday.
The UN chief said he was "moved by the resilience and bravery of the people of Ukraine. My message to them is simple: We will not give up."
"In this war, as in all wars, the civilians always pay the highest price," he said.
Guterres has just returned from the war-torn country, where he visited the Kyiv suburbs of Borodianka, Bucha and Irpin nine weeks after Russia began its illegal and unprovoked war.
"When we see this horrendous site, it makes me feel how important it is [to have] a thorough investigation and accountability," he said Thursday, when he was in Bucha — where horrific photos of mass graves and executed civilians strewn in the streets sparked global outrage.
"The war is an absurdity in the 21st century. The war is evil," he said during his visit to Ukraine, where he also met President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
— Joanna Tan
Russia has been forced to merge 'depleted and disparate' forces in Ukraine, UK says
Russia continues to face "considerable challenges" in its war against Ukraine, the U.K. Defence Ministry said.
"It has been forced to merge and redeploy depleted and disparate units from the failed advances in north-east Ukraine. Many of these units are likely suffering from weakened morale," the ministry said on Twitter.
"Shortcomings in Russian tactical co-ordination remain. A lack of unit-level skills and inconsistent air support have left Russia unable to fully leverage its combat mass, despite localised improvements," said the latest British intelligence report.
In a bid to fix problems that have constrained its advances, Moscow is trying to concentrate combat power geographically, shorten its supply lines and simplify command and control, the report said.
— Joanna Tan
U.S. and Canadian troops are training Ukrainian soldiers in Europe, Pentagon says
U.S. troops in Germany have started training Ukrainian soldiers on the use of heavy weapons to defend their country against Russian attacks, the Pentagon said Friday.
"These efforts build on the initial artillery training that Ukraine's forces already have received elsewhere and also includes training on radar systems and armored vehicles that have been recently announced as part of security assistance packages," Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.
This week, President Joe Biden called on Congress to authorize as much as $33 billion in humanitarian and military aid to Kyiv in its fight against Moscow's attacks.
Canada has given heavy artillery to Ukrainian forces, including M-777 howitzers and anti-armor ammunition, the Canadian government said last week.
Canadian service members are training Ukrainians on the M-777 howitzer in Europe, Kirby added, citing Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand.
— Joanna Tan
Russia says it's not at war with NATO, blames alliance for war in Ukraine
Russia's foreign minister says Moscow does not consider itself at war with NATO.
In an interview with Saudi Arabia's Al-Arabiya TV channel, Sergei Lavrov said: "Unfortunately, NATO, it seems, considers itself to be at war with Russia."
"NATO and European Union leaders, many of them, in England, in the United States, Poland, France, Germany and of course European Union chief diplomat Josep Borrell, they bluntly, publicly and consistently say, 'Putin must fail, Russia must be defeated,'" he told the network.
"When you use this terminology," he said, "I believe you think that you are at war with the person who you want to be defeated."
Lavrov — who has been sanctioned by the U.S., U.K. and Europe for his role in the war — reportedly said his country's "special operation" in Ukraine is "a response to what NATO was doing in Ukraine to prepare this country for a very aggressive posture against the Russian Federation."
He told Al-Arabiya that Ukraine was given arms that can reach Russian territory, and that military bases were being built, including on the Sea of Azov — where the battle for the besieged port city of Mariupol continues today.
Russian forces have largely destroyed the city of Mariupol, though Moscow falsely claims that it doesn't target civilian areas.
Lavrov claimed many military exercises held on Ukrainian territory "were conducted under NATO auspices, and most of these exercises were designed against the [interests] of the Russian Federation, so the purpose of this operation is to make sure that those plans do not materialize."
— Joanna Tan
Zelenskyy says peace talks with Russia close to collapse
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said there was a high risk that peace talks with Moscow would end, and U.S. lawmakers pledged to move fast on a plan to send as much as $33 billion to help Kyiv keep fighting Russia's assault.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had said during a visit to Kyiv on Thursday that intense discussions were underway to evacuate civilians from the steel works in Mariupol, which is under heavy Russian attack as part of an offensive in the south and east.
One of the fighters holed up in the city, a major target of Russia's invasion, told Reuters the comments gave him hope hundreds of civilians blocked with them at the plant for weeks would be evacuated after many failed attempts.
Zelenskyy's office had said an operation was planned to get civilians out of the plant on Friday but there was no sign of an evacuation as dusk fell. He later expressed pessimism over the prospect of continued peace talks with Russia, blaming public anger with what he said were atrocities by Russian troops.
"People (Ukrainians) want to kill them. When that kind of attitude exists, it's hard to talk about things," Interfax quoted him as telling Polish journalists.
Biden’s $33 billion Ukraine aid request hits early snag on Capitol Hill
President Joe Biden's ask for $33 billion in aid to Ukraine hit an early snag on Capitol Hill, where a dispute over immigration policy threatens to hamstring urgently needed assistance to Kyiv.
Congressional Republicans object to Democrats' attempt to link the $33 billion requested for Ukraine with a separate bipartisan compromise providing $10 billion in additional Covid funding.
Republicans, who oppose a $10 billion plan to expand Covid relief, say they want to advance the aid to Ukraine without the coronavirus legislation tacked on.
Should Democrats insist that the bills be linked, Senate Republicans will likely force a vote on the Biden administration's controversial decision to end a pandemic-era policy called Title 42, which allowed border agents to turn away migrants at the U.S.-Mexican border.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby becomes upset reflecting on war in Ukraine
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby became visibly upset during a press briefing when reflecting on the ongoing conflict and the horrific reports of potential war crimes in Ukraine.
When asked if the U.S. believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was a rational actor, Kirby quickly said that he was not a psychologist and could not make such an assessment.
"I'm not going to go into the psychology of Vladimir Putin. It's hard to look at what he's doing in Ukraine, what his forces are doing in Ukraine and think that any ethical, moral individual could justify that," Kirby said.
"It's difficult to look at the ... sorry," Kirby said, taking a few moments before continuing his response. "It's difficult to look at some of the images and imagine that any well thinking serious mature leader would do that."
Kirby, who spent nearly three decades in the U.S. Navy before retiring at the rank of Rear Admiral and who has worked as a spokesman at both the Pentagon and State Department, apologized for getting emotional at the podium.
"I didn't mean to get emotional. I apologize for that. I don't want to make this about me," he said.
"Innocent people shot in the back of the head, hands tied behind their backs, pregnant women being killed, hospitals being bombed. I mean, it's just unconscionable," Kirby added.
— Amanda Macias
Pentagon slams Russian rhetoric that war in Ukraine will soon expand to Moldova
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby slammed Russia's recent rhetoric on expanding its war past Ukraine's borders.
"We absolutely respect Moldova's sovereignty. We want every other nation in the world to respect it. A Russian general out there claiming that Moldova is next is clearly irresponsible rhetoric," Kirby said, referencing remarks made by Russian commander Rustam Minnekayev.
Last week, Minnekayev said that Moscow wanted "full control" of eastern and southern Ukraine and would seek to create a "land corridor" from Russia in the east to Transnistria to Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea that Russia forcefully annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
"I'm not going to get into hypotheticals about what the Russians will do," Kirby said, adding that the U.S. was aware of reports of attacks in Transnistria, which shares a border with Moldova and Russia.
The ongoing war next door has put the landlocked country of Moldova, a former Soviet republic and one of Europe's poorest nations, in a precarious position. Moldova is Eastern Europe's smallest nation, with a population of fewer than 3 million and a landmass slightly larger than the state of Maryland.
Adding to Moldova's vulnerability on Eastern Europe's frontlines is its complete reliance on Russian gas supplies.
— Amanda Macias
The American $176,000 anti-tank weapon that could change the war in Ukraine
One of the most capable and expensive weapon systems being supplied to Ukraine is the FGM-148 Javelin, a U.S.-made anti-armor weapon that costs about $176,000 each.
Watch this video to find out what the Javelin is, how it it used and what it will take for the U.S. to produce more of them.
U.S. forces resume training with Ukrainian troops at three sites outside of Ukraine
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that the U.S. has resumed joint training with Ukrainian troops at three locations in Europe.
In November, 160 members of the Florida National Guard, assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, deployed to Ukraine to train with local forces. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered U.S. troops who deployed to Ukraine last year to leave the country and reposition elsewhere in Europe.
The new marching orders came as an estimated 100,000 Russian troops equipped with advanced weaponry lined Ukraine's eastern border and the northern border with Belarus.
"I can announce that the United States has commenced training with Ukrainian armed forces on key systems at U.S. military installations in Germany. These efforts build on the initial artillery training that Ukraine's forces already have received," Kirby said, adding that there would be additional training on radars and armored personal vehicles.
"The recent reunion of the Florida National Guard members with their Ukrainian colleagues, we are told was an emotional meeting, given the strong bonds that were formed as they were living together before parting ways in February," Kirby added.
— Amanda Macias
Starlink internet becomes a lifeline for Ukrainians
Parts of war-torn Ukraine that have little or no internet service have found an alternative: emergency Starlink receivers.
The SpaceX-run satellite internet service that CEO Elon Musk touted at the start of the war has emerged as a lifeline for many areas of the country, with over 10,000 dish antennas in service and more on the way.
In Ukraine, Starlink's technology has found a place where it can prove itself, especially being used in ways other than how it was intended. Throughout its invasion, Russia has consistently attacked Ukrainian communications infrastructure with both military weapons and cyberattacks.
Read the full story here.
— NBC News