Here is the situation on Friday, February 9, 2024.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appointed Oleksandr Syrsky, who has led Ukraine’s ground forces since 2019, as the new head of Ukraine’s armed forces, after he dismissed General Valerii Zaluzhnyi in the biggest military shake-up since Russia began its full-scale invasion. Zaluzhnyi conceded that military strategy “must change”.
Mayor Vitaly Barabash told state media that large numbers of Russian forces were “storming” Avdiivka, which has been under sustained Russian assault since mid-October and lies about 20km (12 miles) east of the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk. Dmytro Lykhovyy, a Ukrainian military spokesperson, told national television that Russian and Ukrainian forces were engaged in fighting “within the town”.
- Russia and Ukraine exchanged 100 prisoners of war each with the United Arab Emirates acting as an intermediary, both countries said. Zelenskyy said most of those brought home had been captured in the three-month defence of Mariupol, which fell in May 2022.
- In one of the only independent assessments of the death toll from the brutal battle for Mariupol, Human Rights Watch said at least 8,000 people were killed by fighting or war-related causes, and named Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu among 10 people with “command responsibility” it said should be the focus of possible war crimes investigations.
- Ukraine’s air force said 11 of 17 Russia-launched drones targeting four regions of the country were shot down. No casualties were reported.
- Russia’s Defence Ministry said it destroyed a dozen Ukrainian missiles headed for the border city of Belgorod.
Politics and diplomacy
- The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child urged Russia to “put an end to the forcible transfer or deportation of children from occupied Ukrainian territory” and return those taken to their families. Kyiv alleges some 20,000 children have been taken from Ukraine to Russia without the consent of their families or guardians. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s children’s commissioner over the deportations.
- The Kremlin said Putin spoke on the phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping for an hour and that the two leaders rejected the “US policy of interfering in the internal affairs of other states”. Putin and Xi also saw eye-to-eye on the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin added without elaborating. Beijing has not condemned Russia’s full-scale invasion and claims neutrality in the conflict.
- Presidential hopeful and prominent Ukraine war critic, Boris Nadezhdin said the elections commission had blocked his bid to challenge Putin in March’s elections and that he would challenge the decision in the country’s highest court.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin told right-wing US journalist Tucker Carlson that Western countries needed to understand that it was “impossible” to defeat Russia in Ukraine. He also said Russia would fight for its interests, but had no interest in expanding its war into other countries such as Poland and Latvia. Putin and Carlson spoke for more than two hours in an interview that was dubbed into English and uploaded to Carlson’s website.
- Putin also told Carlson, who asked few tough questions and mostly just listened, that he thought “an agreement could be reached” in the case of jailed Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich who has been detained since March last year accused of spying. Gershkovich and the Journal have rejected the charges.
- A court in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don jailed a Ukrainian woman for 10 years for spying, after she was accused of providing information about Russian air defence and military equipment to Ukraine’s armed forces.
- A bill that includes $61b in aid for Ukraine moved forward in the US Senate after the failure of a broader bill including border control measures demanded by right-wing Republicans failed. It was not clear when the Senate would consider final passage, and the bill is likely to face hostility in the Republican-led House of Representatives.