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Ukraine live briefing: Harris to affirm U.S. commitment to Kyiv; heavy fighting continues in Bakhmut


Amid the specter of fierce fighting in Ukraine over the coming spring, Vice President Harris has arrived in Germany for the Munich Security Conference, where she will convey the United States’ continuing commitment to Kyiv. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will join her at the annual international gathering of political, intelligence and defense leaders.

On the ground in Ukraine, heavy fighting continues in Bakhmut, the eastern city that military experts say has become a symbolic rather than strategic target. Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group, a Kremlin-linked mercenary organization, told state media that Russia would not encircle the battered city until March or April.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • Russian shelling in Bakhmut killed five civilians, injured nine and destroyed many residential buildings on Thursday, the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general said. The statement alleged that Russia targeted civilian areas and said Ukraine has launched an investigation into whether the attack violated the laws of war.
  • Russian spy agencies have experienced greater damage after a year of war in Ukraine than they have since the end of the Cold War, The Post reports. The campaign to catch Russian spies appears to have caught Moscow off guard, blunting their ability to carry out espionage operations.
  • The United States and its partners in the Group of Seven are planning to hit Russia with major new sanctions coinciding with the war’s first anniversary on Feb. 24, a senior U.S. official said Thursday, according to AFP. The package is expected to include more banking restrictions, limit technology flow to Russia’s defense industry, and crack down on those who are evading sanctions.

Battleground updates

  • Russian ‘spy’ balloons over Ukraine are often decoys meant to waste military resources by drawing ammunition and attention, Ukrainian officials said. Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force, told The Post the balloons are outdated military technology and not worthy of attention. “They’re trying to distract us,” he said.
  • Belarus will join the fighting only if it is attacked by Ukraine, authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday. At a news conference in Minsk, Lukashenko blamed Ukraine for provoking Russia’s full-scale invasion and said, “If they commit aggression against Belarus, the answer will be the cruelest.”
  • Russian forces are now launching cruise missiles at night to surprise Ukrainian air defense forces, Ihnat told a local public broadcaster. The time frame marks a change in strategy for Moscow, which had previously favored launching them during the day, he said.

Global impact

  • Moldovan police found missile debris near the country’s border with Ukraine, hours after overnight Russian strikes on Ukraine, the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said. The discovery came just days after Moldova accused Russia of plotting to topple its government and as Moldovan Parliament swore in the new, West-leaning prime minister, Dorin Recean.
  • Roughly 1.1 million Ukrainians arrived in Germany in 2022, the German federal statistics office announced Thursday. The report said that last year alone, net immigration from Ukraine, at 962,000 people, surpassed that from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq combined from 2014 to 2016, the height of the migrant crisis in Europe.
  • Billionaire investor George Soros said a Ukrainian win in the war would lead to the “dissolution of the Russian empire,” in remarks at the Munich Security Conference. Such a victory would also be a loss for Chinese President Xi Jinping, Soros said. “It would bring huge relief to open societies and create tremendous problems for closed ones.”

From our correspondents

Germany pledged a military revamp when Ukraine war began. Now it’s worse off: After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz raised expectations for a huge boost in defense spending and a revitalization of the country’s armed forces.

But a nearly year later, the military resources have been impacted by aid shipments to Ukraine and forces are in a worse place, Germany’s new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, told The Post’s Loveday Morris, Kate Brady and David L. Stern. “Given the rate at which materiel and weapons and ammunition are being provided, it’s impossible to reorder and deliver again,” Pistorius said.