(Bloomberg) -- An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia had confirmed that it was holding more than 3,000 prisoners of war. She added that 15,000 people were missing, many of them civilians.
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Russia unleashed one of the most intense missile barrages of the war, targeting major Ukrainian cities including the capital, Kyiv, and Lviv in the west near Poland.
Of 69 cruise missiles launched by Kremlin forces from strategic bombers and ships in the Black Sea, 54 were shot down by air-defense systems, according to Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s army commander-in-chief. In a separate incident, Belarus said its air defense shot down a Ukrainian anti-air rocket over its territory.
The US is considering sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine as part of a further package of military support, according to people familiar with the matter.
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On the Ground
Overnight, Russian forces hit energy infrastructure in Kharkiv with Iranian-made Shahed drones, killing one person, Ukrainian officials said, adding that air-defense forces shot down 11 Iranian-made drones. Several buildings, a gas pipeline and a power line were damaged in an attack on the Zaporizhzhia suburbs, Oleksandr Starukh, the regional governor, said on Telegram. Three Russian missile carriers are now on combat duty in the Black Sea, according to a statement from the Ukrainian southern command.
(All times CET)
15,000 People Missing, Zelenskiy Adviser Says (12 a.m.)
Aliona Verbytska, an adviser to Zelenskiy, said Russia had confirmed that it was holding more than 3,000 prisoners of war. She said 15,000 people were missing, many of them civilians.
Verbytska, in her capacity as ombudsperson for the rights of Ukrainian soldiers, underscored the discrepancy between the number of confirmed POWs and the number still missing.
“We do not know what happened to them. Whether they are also Russian prisoners of war, have been taken from Russian-occupied territories or possibly killed,” Verbytska said. She assailed what she called the “very poor” cooperation of Russian agencies, with regards to dealing with prisoners of war.
US Considers Sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles (7:54 p.m.)
The US government is considering sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine as part of a further package of military support, according to people familiar with the matter.
A final decision hasn’t yet been made, one of the people said. When the vehicles would be operational is also unclear, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.
“Bradleys would provide a major increase in ground combat capability because it is, in effect, a light tank,” said Mark Cancian, a former White House defense budget analyst who’s now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
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Ukraine Says Russia May Have Staged Provocation in Belarus (6:47 p.m.)
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said that the reported shootdown of a rocket over Belarus may have been “a deliberate provocation made by Russia.”
“Ukraine is aware of the Kremlin’s desperate and persistent efforts to involve Belarus in its aggressive war against Ukraine,” the ministry said in the statement on its website. It said Ukraine is “ready to conduct an objective investigation of the incident.”
Earlier, Belarus’s Foreign Ministry summoned Ukrainian Ambassador Ihor Kyzym to voice a protest against what the country’s authorities say was the launch of an air defense missile toward Belarus.
Ukrainian Energy System Being Restored After Attack (5:42 p.m.)
Ukraine’s energy network, which suffered new damage after a Russian missile barrage on Thursday, is being repaired as planned, grid operator CEO Volodymyr Kudrytskyi said on TV.
“A significant part of the generating capacity has already been restored, but there is damage to the network,” Kudrytskyi said, adding that some sites had been hit as many as eight times. “No matter how many times Russia strikes, we are restoring facilities.”
Kudrytskyi also said his company, Ukrenergo, would receive a 70 million-euro grant from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development to restore energy infrastructure.
Belarus Summons Ukrainian Ambassador Over Missile Incident (4:20 p.m.)
Belarus’s Foreign Ministry summoned Ukrainian Ambassador Ihor Kyzym to voice protest against what the country’s authorities say was a launch of an air defense missile toward Belarus.
Minsk called on Ukraine to investigate Thursday’s missile launch, punish those responsible and apply measures to rule out such incidents in the future to avoid “catastrophic consequences”, according to a statement on Foreign Ministry website.
Kyiv has accused Belarus of allowing Russia to launch missiles from its territory. Russia has used Belarus as a staging point for its invasion, but Belarusian troops have so far stayed out of the war.
Belarus Says it Downed Missile Fired From Ukraine (1:55 p.m.)
Belarus said its air defenses shot down a Ukrainian S-300 missile that flew into its territory Thursday — a rare instance of the war spilling over the border into Russia’s ally, where an official downplayed the incident.
Missile debris fell near the village of Gorbakha in the Ivanovo region of southern Belarus near the border with Ukraine, the Defense Ministry said Thursday on Telegram.
“There is absolutely no reason for residents to worry,” the military commissar of the Brest region in Belarus said after the incident. “Such cases, unfortunately, happen.”
Italy’s Meloni to Visit Ukraine by End of February (2:05 p.m.)
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is planning to visit Kyiv before the end of February to mark her support to Ukraine. A final date will only be confirmed when security conditions will allow for the planning of the visit, she said.
“We need to do all we can to support Ukraine but also to pursue peace possibilities,” she said at a news conference in Rome.
Putin, Xi to Hold Talks on Friday (12:15 p.m.)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, will discuss “the most pressing regional problems” during a video call planned for Friday, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
The two leaders are holding their end-of-year talks after Xi told former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week that China would like to see negotiations on Ukraine, adding that his administration was “actively promoting peace.” China has avoided criticizing Russia over the invasion, blaming the expansion of NATO. While Beijing signed off on a communique at last month’s Group of 20 summit in Indonesia that said “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine,” China continues to refrain from calling it a war.
Kazakhstan Seeks Druzhba Capacity (12 p.m.)
Russia’s oil-pipeline operator Transneft PJSC said it received a request from its Kazakh counterpart to book capacity on the Druzhba pipeline for oil supplies to Germany next year.
That could be a first step toward Kazakh oil flowing to German refineries as the country tries to find alternatives to Russian crude. While pipeline supplies are exempted from European sanctions, Germany pledged to wean itself off Russia by the end of this year.
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