Ukrainian President Zelenskyy particularly praised Norway’s military aid in the fight against Russia as exemplary. Meanwhile, the US and the EU are plotting against Moscow supporters. The news at a glance:
The European Union and the USA want to step up action against supporters of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. “Together we are taking new steps to target more third country actors around the world to stop support for the Russian war from any corner of the world where it is detected,” announced US President Joe Biden and the EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a joint statement on Friday (local time) after a meeting at the White House. The focus is on preventing Russia from circumventing sanctions, von der Leyen said during a brief press statement outside the White House.
Work is being done in tandem to limit Russian revenue while ensuring energy supplies in emerging and developing countries, the joint statement said.
Concrete measures were not initially mentioned. China was not explicitly mentioned either. Both the EU and the US are considering sanctions against the country if it is confirmed that the country is supporting Russia with arms deliveries. Sanctions have been imposed on China-based companies in the past.
Zelenskyj praises Norway’s help before spring offensive
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed Norway as a special European ally in terms of military assistance ahead of the spring offensive against Russia. Oslo is setting an example by supporting the defense with $7 billion (6.58 billion euros) over the next five years, Zelenskyj said in a video message distributed on Friday evening after a meeting with Norwegian Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram in Kiev. Other countries should take Norway as an example, Zelenskyy said.
Gram said Norway respects Ukraine’s defense struggle and the victims. Oslo will support the country for as long as necessary. According to Zelenskyy, thanks to Norway, Ukraine has strengthened its air defense, artillery and other areas. Steps were discussed to make Ukraine’s defense offensive in the spring a success.
The possibility of training pilots on Western fighter jets was also discussed with Norway, said Zelenskyj. Ukraine calls for fighter jets as an urgent requirement to defeat Russia. So far, however, there has been no fighter jet commitment. Russia warns against such a delivery because, according to Moscow, this means that the NATO countries are directly involved in the war.
The Scandinavian NATO country Norway will provide Ukraine with eight Leopard 2 main battle tanks. There are also up to four escort vehicles and funds for ammunition and spare parts. Germany, for example, wants to deliver 14 Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks to Ukraine. At the beginning of February, Norway also announced that it would procure 54 new Leopard tanks from the German defense contractor Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, with an option for a further 18.
Ukraine is fighting for security and power supply in the country
Zelenskyy once again commented on the situation around the strategically important city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, which has been fought over for months. The units there would be strengthened, he said. At the same time, Zelenskyy thanked the fighters for their “hard work” in defending the eastern Ukrainian city. From Kiev’s point of view, Bakhmut is considered a fortress to prevent Russian troops from breaking through deeper into the interior of the country.
After the massive Russian rocket attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure on Thursday, Zelenskyy complained that there were still problems. There are reports of the restoration of the supply. Nevertheless, Kharkiv, for example, still has individual problems with electricity supplies to households. There are “heroic efforts” by energy workers to restore the supply. The situation in Zhytomyr is not easy either.
Ukraine tosses Orthodox Church from country’s main monastery
In Ukraine, the state has ejected the largest Orthodox Church from the country’s main shrine, the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. According to a letter from the state administration of the museum site published by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Friday, the user contract concluded in 2013 will be terminated on March 29 due to violations. The basis is a decree by Zelenskyy from December last year to review the activities of religious communities after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Selenskyj believes the church is riddled with Russian spies. The expulsion concerns the rooms of the so-called lower part of the cave monastery, in which the entrances to the caves laid out by monks in the Middle Ages are located. Before the Russian invasion, the Church was modeled on the Patriarchate in Moscow. That is why the Church is exposed to political persecution.
The Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow reacted with horror to the expulsion. This is the “summit of lawlessness” in Ukraine. “A lawlessness that has been unfolding against millions of faithful Ukrainians for years,” said Moscow church spokesman Vladimir Legoida.
Access to the main church buildings at the top of the hill was denied in January. The mass for the traditional Orthodox Christmas on January 7th was held for the first time in the Assumption Cathedral by the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was founded with state aid in 2018. The historic monastery complex is state property and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Ukraine there are three large churches following the Orthodox rite.
What will be important on Saturday
In eastern Ukraine, Kiev’s troops and Russian units continued to fight heavy battles around the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. Moscow’s troops say they are on the rise. Kiev wants to prevent a capture of the city, which once had a population of 70,000, because it fears that Russian troops would then push much further inland.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.