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Ukraine war live updates: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to visit London today as Ukraine prepares for large-scale Russian offensive

Zelenskyy to make surprise visit to UK today

In this handout image issued by Ukrainian Presidency, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meet in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on November 19, 2022.

Ukainian Presidency | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is due to arrive in the U.K. for a surprise visit — and his first to the country since the Russian invasion began last year.

Zelenskyy is due to meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and visit Ukrainian troops who are on training missions in the country, and will address the British Parliament.

The government said in a statement that the visit comes as it is stepping up its “delivery of lethal aid into the country, and prepares to train fighter jet pilots and marines.”                                

The leaders will discuss a two-pronged approach to U.K. support for Ukraine, “starting with an immediate surge of military equipment to the country to help counter Russia’s spring offensive, and reinforced by long-term support.”

Ukraine has asked its NATO allies for fighter jets, particularly F-16s, in order to bolster its defense capabilities against Russia. So far, NATO members have not agreed to jets but there are murmurings that Ukraine could be offered some kind of fighter aircraft.

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to offer to bolster the U.K.’s training for Ukrainian troops, including expanding it to fighter jet pilots “to ensure Ukraine can defend its skies well into the future.”

 “The training will ensure pilots are able to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets in the future. As part of that long-term capability investment, the U.K. will work with Ukraine and international allies to coordinate collective support to meet Ukraine’s defensive needs.”   

Zelenskyy’s visit to London comes ahead of a possible trip to Brussels Thursday. The working trips abroad come at a delicate time in the war with Ukraine preparing for Russia to launch a large-scale offensive in the coming weeks, and to launch its own spring counter-offensive.

Holly Ellyatt

Battle for Bakhmut intense as Russia claims further advances

Ukrainian artillery teams fire a Pion toward Russian positions in Bakhmut.

Madeleine Kelly | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Russian and Ukrainian forces have been battling for control over the eastern Donetsk city of Bakhmut for months, but Russia recently claimed that it has almost encircled the city, and on Wednesday one military commander said Russian troops now occupy several streets in the city.

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that military operations were progressing “successfully” around Vuhledar and Bakhmut (or “Artemovsk,” as Russia calls the city) and on Wednesday, Russian media reported comments from a Russian special forces commander who claimed Russian units were advancing into Bakhmut.

“Combat operations to block Artemovsk [Bakhmut] are being carried out successfully. Significant progress has been made on the right side of the city. Several large streets are occupied,” Apty Alaudinov, Akhmat special forces commander, said on Telegram in comments translated by Google and reported by news agency Tass. 

Alaudinov said “the question of the final capture of the city is connected only with the task of preserving the personnel of our units as much as possible,” adding that Ukraine had suffered large losses, a claim that Ukraine also says of Russia. On Tuesday, Ukraine said over 1,000 Russian soldiers had been killed in the previous 24 hours. CNBC could not verify the information.

Ukraine has repeatedly said that fighting around Bakhmut is intense but has denied its troops are in danger of being surrounded imminently.

On Wednesday, its General Staff of the armed forces said in an update that Russian forces were “trying to take full control of Donetsk and Luhansk” and continued to focus on its offensives on Bakhmut and the surrounding area. Ukraine said Russia “suffers significant losses, especially in manpower.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands pledge at least 100 Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine

Leopard 1 A5 tanks from Danish stocks in a production hall where the Danfoss company had its storage and production facilities.

Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands issued a joint statement tuesday promising to give Ukraine at least 100 Leopard 1 A5 battle tanks, as well as the logistical support, training, spare parts and ammunition required to use them.

The tanks are to be provided from industrial stocks, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Defence said in a statement, with the first tanks due to be delivered in a few months. Germany said the tanks initiative is open to other partners, and Belgium is interested in participating in the joint effort.

The Leopard 1 A5 “is a robust and assertive Western-designed main battle tank,” the statement said, but the tank is older (it first entered service in 1965) than the several hundred Leopard 2s that various allies, including Germany, have promised Ukraine.

“This initiative will contribute to substantially and sustainably strengthening the Ukrainian armed forces and complement the efforts already underway to support Ukraine with LEOPARD 2 main battle tanks,” the ministry said.

The main issue now is supplying Ukraine with battle tanks fast enough, particularly as it looks to counter a spring offensive by Russia.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian offensive could include Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia regions, security chief says

A destroyed residential building in the Severnaya Saltivka district of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Jan. 12, 2023.

Mustafa Ciftci | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukraine’s national security chief said Russia could also target the southern Zaporizhzhia region or northeast region of Kharkiv when it launches an expected large-scale offensive in the coming weeks.

Oleksiy Danilov, head of the National Security and Defence Council, told Reuters Tuesday that “attempts at an offensive in either the Kharkiv or Zaporizhzhia direction will of course be made,” he said.

“How successful they’ll be will depend on us,” he told the news agency.

Kyiv “doesn’t exclude” a new offensive to capture Kharkiv, an area of the country that Ukraine’s forces had managed to push Russian forces out of last September, but Danilov said the capturing of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine remains Russia’s key aim.

Danilov said it’s likely that Moscow wants some tangible military success to present to the Russian public around the one-year anniversary of its invasion on Feb. 24.

“They need to have something to show before their people, and have a major desire to do something big, as they see it, by this date.” Danilov was skeptical that Russian forces would attack the country from Belarusian territory because “there are clearly not enough forces there,” Reuters reported.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine’s parliament taps new Minister of Interior following deadly helicopter crash

Newly appointed Ukraine’s Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko looks on during a session of Ukrainian parliament, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 7, 2023.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

Ukraine’s parliament appointed Ihor Klymenko as the country’s new Minister of Interior after a deadly helicopter crash last month killed the previous minister as well as several other Ukrainian officials.

Klymenko was previously serving as the acting interior minister on the heels of the helicopter accident. He previously served as head of Ukraine’s national police.

— Amanda Macias

Russian team should not be allowed at 2024 Games in Paris if war continues, city’s mayor says

The Olympic flag and Russian flag are raised as the Russian National Anthem is sung during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Paul Gilham | Getty Images

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says there should be no Russian delegation allowed at the Paris Olympics next year if Moscow continues its war against Ukraine.

Hidalgo previously said Russian competitors could take part under a neutral flag but she backpedaled on Tuesday in an interview with French media France Info.

Acknowledging that a final decision belongs to the International Olympic Committee, Hidalgo said she wishes Russian athletes will be banned “as long as there is this war, this Russian aggression on Ukraine.”

“It is not possible to parade as if nothing had happened, to have a delegation that comes to Paris while the bombs continue to rain down on Ukraine.”

Hidalgo’s comments came after Ukraine’s sports minister last week renewed a threat to boycott the games if Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete and said Kyiv would lobby others to join.

No nation has so far declared it will boycott the 2024 Summer Games. But Ukraine won support from Poland, the Baltic nations and Denmark, who pushed back against an IOC plan to allow delegations from Russia and ally Belarus to compete in Paris as “neutral athletes” without flags or anthems.

— Associated Press

Russian forces trying to break through Ukraine’s defenses around Bakhmut

Ukrainian servicemen make a trench near Bakhmut on Feb. 1, 2023, as they prepare for a Russian offensive in the area.

Yasuyoshi Chiba | Afp | Getty Images

Russian troops are attempting to push through Ukraine’s defenses in the Bakhmut and Lyman area but are suffering large losses, according to an update by Ukraine’s Ground Forces on Facebook Tuesday.

“Ukrainian defenders are heroically repelling the attacks of the Russian occupiers along the entire line of the eastern front,” Ukraine’s Ground Forces said in a statement.

“In the eastern direction of the front, the Russian occupiers do not stop their offensive attempts in the Lyman and Bakhmut directions,” the statement, translated by Google, noted. It added that Russian forces continue “to make attempts to break through our defenses” but suffer “heavy losses.”

“On the approaches to Bakhmut, our military showed great endurance and professionalism, which hindered the enemy’s actions and caused enormous losses in manpower for the Russian occupiers,” the statement continued, saying that as a result, Russian forces had not been able to break through the defenses of the “Bakhmut fortress.” 

CNBC was unable to verify the information in the update.

Russian forces and mercenaries belonging to the private military company known as the Wagner Group have been attempting to capture Bakhmut for months. Capturing the city in Donetsk is seen as a strategic goal for Russia as it tries to seize the region and wider Donbas area of eastern Ukraine.

Russia is expected to launch a large-scale offensive action to try to seize Donbas in the coming weeks.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia moves troops into eastern Ukraine ahead of offensive, says governor

Soldiers on a tank in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Feb. 6, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russia is moving troops into eastern Ukraine ahead of its anticipated offensive, a Ukrainian governor warned Monday.

“We are seeing more and more (Russian) reserves being deployed in our direction, we are seeing more equipment being brought in,” Serhiy Haidai, Ukraine’s governor of the mainly Russian-occupied Luhansk province, said Monday, according to Reuters.

“They bring ammunition that is used differently than before – it is not round-the-clock shelling anymore. They are slowly starting to save, getting ready for a full-scale offensive,” Haidai told Ukrainian television.

“It will most likely take them 10 days to gather reserves. After Feb. 15 we can expect (this offensive) at any time.”

Ukrainian officials have been warning for weeks that Russia is planning to launch a large-scale offensive in mid-February — and perhaps times to coincide with the first anniversary of the invasion — in order to try to capture the entire eastern Donbas region. Fighting has been relentlessly intense in Donetsk and Luhansk, which make up the Donbas, for months.

Ukraine is in a tricky position as it prepares to defend its positions in eastern Ukraine but awaits battle tanks and longer-range weaponry from its international allies. The delivery of tanks could take several months at least, Western officials say.

— Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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