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Ukraine live briefing: No F-16s to Kyiv ‘for now,’ Biden says; Belarus president to visit China


President Biden ruled out sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine “for now,” saying the U.S. military deemed other military support more crucial at this stage.

Kyiv has ramped up pleas for fighter jets since the United States and European countries pledged to send heavy tanks, but as Ukraine’s allies rallied to mark one year of war, Biden told ABC News that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “doesn’t need F-16s now.”

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

Key developments

  • Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko will visit China next week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Saturday. Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, will make the trip at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the ministry said. U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have said China is considering sending artillery shells to Russia, but there is no evidence the weapons transfer has occurred.
  • Biden said Ukraine’s defense needs could change in the future, but that the U.S. military determined there was currently no rationale for sending fighter jets to Kyiv. “I am ruling it out for now,” he told ABC News. “Look, we’re sending him what our seasoned military thinks [Zelensky] needs now. He needs tanks, he needs artillery, he needs air defense,” Biden said in the interview.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described Feb. 24, 2022 as “the hardest day of our modern history,” in a news conference marking one year since the Russian invasion. Zelensky downplayed the possibility of near-term peace talks and said Russian President Vladimir Putin “is no longer the same person” he once was.
  • Poland delivered four Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine on the first anniversary, officials said, with Ukrainians troops having begun training in Germany. Western governments say the tanks will help Ukraine as it braces for a spring counteroffensive against Russian forces. The timeline of delivery of more tanks is unclear.

Battleground updates

  • The Pentagon announced an additional $2 billion in security assistance for Kyiv, including drones and ammunition stocks. The United States also announced more than $10 billion in financial assistance to Ukraine to support the government’s budget and the country’s energy security, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday.
  • Russian forces carried out more than a dozen airstrikes targeting Ukraine’s east and south, the country’s Defense Ministry said Friday on Telegram. Shelling hit towns in the eastern Donetsk region and the embattled city of Bakhmut was under ongoing attack, it said.

Global impact

  • Marches, vigils and other actions against the war were held Friday around the world, including outside Russian embassies in cities such as London and Berlin. In the Netherlands, the national anthem of Ukraine was playing on loop in front of the Russian Embassy in The Hague. In Belgrade, Serbia, a cake featuring a skull was left outside the Russian Embassy.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged the United States and its allies to renew their resolve to help Ukraine, tacitly pushing back against members of his party who have become loudly skeptical of Ukraine’s fight as the conflict passes the one-year mark. “America and our friends need to finish waking up from our holiday from history,” he said in a statement Friday, shortly before appearing alongside Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Helsinki.
  • The global watchdog for money laundering and terrorism financing has suspended Russia from its membership. It was the first time the Financial Action Task Force has taken such action, according to a statement from the U.S. Treasury Department. The FATF said it was “deeply concerned by the reports of arms trade between the Russian Federation and United Nations sanctioned jurisdictions.”

From our correspondents

Married on the day of the invasion, one soldier marks two anniversaries: On the morning of Feb. 24 last year, Ukrainian Sgt. Volodymyr Rusyn was married “hours after getting the early-morning phone call that Russia had invaded,” Steve Hendrix and Serhii Korolchuk report from Donetsk.

One year later, on his wedding anniversary, he spent the day visiting his troops on the front lines — and making sure his wife got flowers.