KYIV, Ukraine — City streets were closed across central Kyiv on Monday, as Ukrainian authorities tightened security for unannounced reasons and rumors swirled of a possible high-level visitor to the capital. Authorities did not immediately provide a reason for the closures. Traffic was backed up across much of the city center, four days ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.
President Biden is set to travel to Poland this week to discuss Western efforts to help Ukraine resist Russia’s invasion, as pressure builds on his administration to provide Kyiv with F-16 fighter jets. Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said in a weekend interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” he believes that eventually “there will be fighter jets from the West” — as was the case with other advanced weapons whose provision was “unimaginable” when the war began.
Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.
- Reuters reported that Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was due to visit Kyiv on Monday for talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky. Feb. 20 also marks the ninth anniversary of the deaths of the “Heavenly Hundred” protesters in Ukraine’s anti-government uprising of 2014.
- The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations indicated that the Biden administration hasn’t ruled out sending F-16s, despite concerns about giving Ukraine’s military an aircraft with which it has no experience. “We’re still having discussions on the ground with the Ukrainians,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “It doesn’t help them if we provide weapon systems that they are not able to use and they don’t have the capacity to maintain,” she added.
- Morawiecki said Warsaw is willing to provide fighter jets to Ukraine, “but only in combination with other NATO allies, and in particular, under the leadership of the United States.”
- European Union officials are meeting in Brussels to discuss a proposal to jointly purchase ammunition for Ukraine. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed support for the proposal, first outlined by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, for E.U. member states to pool resources to procure ammunition at scale and at a better price, which Kuleba said “could start with the EU members providing 1 million 155mm rounds to Ukraine.” The E.U.’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, also expressed support for the idea at the Munich Security Conference.
- A much-anticipated major Russian offensive is underway, according to analysts at the Institute for the Study of War think tank, although they said Russia is unlikely to have enough reservists to “dramatically increase the scale or intensity of the offensive this winter.” However, Michael Kofman, a Russia expert at the Center for Naval Analyses, wrote that rather than a major push along one part of the front line, “it is instead a series of distributed battles running north-south from Luhansk, to Bakhmut, and southern Donetsk.” He also said he’s skeptical that there is a “spring offensive” looming — because such a strategy would have required a second troop mobilization, which “never took place.”
- Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia is likely to claim that its forces captured Bakhmut “regardless of the reality on the ground” to align with the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine this week. “Russian forces are likely under increasing political pressure” ahead of Feb. 24, the ministry said, with offensive operations ongoing in Vuhledar, Kremina and Bakhmut, and some Russian units sustaining “very high losses” in the east. “If Russia’s spring offensive fails to achieve anything then tensions within the Russian leadership will likely increase,” the ministry added.
- Russian officials claimed that artillery shells killed a 12-year-old girl and damaged several homes inside Russia on Sunday, near the Ukrainian border. Ukraine did not immediately respond to the allegations, which were made by the governors of the Belgorod and Kursk regions. The Washington Post wasn’t able to verify the claims. Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for previous strikes in Russian territory.
- China’s top diplomat is due to arrive in Moscow for an official visit. The expected Monday visit comes after Wang Yi attended the Munich Security Conference and met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who later said in an interview that China is considering providing “lethal support,” including weapons and ammunition, to Russia. Blinken told CBS that he cautioned Wang of the “serious consequences” such a move would have on the U.S.-China relationship.
- Finland’s prime minister said she knew “right away” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could push her country to join NATO. In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Sanna Marin said she was “in favor” of Finland joining NATO before the war started but said “the country wasn’t ready.” “If you would have asked Finnish people or politicians in the parliament, ‘Should Finland join NATO?’ before the war, majority would have said no,” she said. “But after the war started, I knew immediately that this is the only way also for Finland to join the alliance.”
- Zelensky reportedly said that French President Emmanuel Macron is “wasting his time” in calling for the conflict with Russia to be settled through negotiations. Zelensky told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that “it will be a useless dialogue,” Reuters reported. Macron, who has long advocated for a diplomatic solution to the conflict, told the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche over the weekend that “crushing Russia has never been France’s position.”
From our correspondents
Putin, czar with no empire, needs military victory for his own survival: Nearly a year into his invasion of Ukraine, Putin has failed to achieve his territorial goals. But at home, he has tightened his grip, engineering a closed, nationalist society, write Robyn Dixon and Catherine Belton.
Although many oligarchs and state officials say Putin’s gambit has unwound 30 years of progress since the collapse of the Soviet Union, they’re powerless to act.
“Among the elite, though they understand it was a mistake, they still fear to do anything themselves,” said the only Russian diplomat to publicly quit office over the war, Boris Bondarev, formerly based at Russia’s U.N. mission in Geneva. “Because they have gotten used to Putin deciding everything.”
Timsit reported from London. Pannett reported from Wellington, New Zealand.