Ukraine-Russia war – live: Kremlin refuses to say if Tucker Carlson visited Putin as Kharkiv hotel attacked

By Isaac M February 6, 2024

Moment Russian plane carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war appears to crash

The Kremlin has refused to comment on whether US journalist Tucker Carlson visited Vladimir Putin’s presidential compound, after the former Fox News host was spotted in Moscow.

The visit has raised speculation that the right-wing broacaster could become the first Western journalist to hold a one-on-one interview with the Russian president since his invasion of Ukraine, at a crucial period in which Donald Trump is eyeing a return to the White House and Republicans are blocking vital aid to Kyiv.

The visit came as a two-month-old baby was found among the rubble of a hotel in Kharkiv, after it was hit by Russian missiles overnight. His mother and two other women were also injured while 30 buildings were destroyed as Vladimir Putin’s troops continue to launch heavy attacks along Ukraine’s front line.

There were 78 clashes over the past day, with 43 Russian air strikes carried out in eastern Ukraine, according to Ukraine’s general staff.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky admitted he was seeking to replace the country’s most senior military commander Valeri Zaluzhny.

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Watch: Trump says he ‘was talking to Putin a lot about Ukraine’

Donald Trump complains US is ‘just so pathetic’

Andy Gregory6 February 2024 13:51

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Why Putin is desperate to capture Ukraine’s Avdiivka and the fortress it creates

Russian forces are stepping up efforts to seize as eastern Ukrainian city as Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine grinds on. Moscow appears desperate to take Avdiivka with fighting reminiscent of the battle for another eastern city, Bakhmut, which fell to Russia last May after months of grinding urban combat.

Mr Putin has stressed Avdiivka’s significance and said in late January that a group of military veterans had recently advanced ahead of the army to seize 19 buildings – a claim that, like other battlefield reports, cannot be verified.

But why Avdiivka and why now? Avdiivka, which had a pre-war population of around 32,000, has been a frontline city since 2014, when it was briefly occupied by Moscow-backed separatists who seized a swathe of eastern Ukraine.

Today, authorities say fewer than 1,000 residents remain, many sheltering in cellars and basements. Officials say not a single building remains intact. Avdiivka sits in the industrial Donbas region, nine miles north of the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk. Before the war, its Soviet-era coke plant was one of Europe’s top producers.

Russian-backed officials describe the city as a “fortress” with concrete bunkers. They say defenders are holed up in tower blocks that cannot be stormed head-on without huge losses, and are using the coking plant as a base and weapons depot.

Dan Peleschuk and Andrew Osborn have the full report:

Reuters6 February 2024 12:59

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Norway must brace for conflict with Russia amid Sweden and Finland’s Nato bids, warns defence minister

Norway’s defence minister urged his country to be ready for a possible conflict with Russia even after the end of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

He said Russia might retaliate in response to Finland and Sweden‘s new Nato membership. Other Nato nations have also explicitly warned of Russia’s aggression and plans to disrupt peace in the region in the past few months.

“We must be ready that Russia may review its plans and where it deploys its forces in response to Finland and Sweden’s Nato membership,” Bjørn Arild Gram said on Monday during a lecture at the Oslo Military Society Assembly.

My colleague Arpan Rai has more in this report:

Andy Gregory6 February 2024 12:39

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ICYMI: France summons Russia’s ambassador after two French humanitarian workers killed in Ukraine

France will summon its Russian ambassador after two French humanitarian aid workers were killed in a drone strike by Russia’s troops in Ukraine in the continuing invasion by Moscow.

Two French volunteers working in the aid sector were killed and three others wounded in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region on 1 February, foreign minister Stephane Sejourne confirmed on Friday.

“Russian barbarity has targeted civilians in Ukraine. Two French aid workers have paid with their lives for their engagement with Ukrainian people, three are injured,” Mr Sejourne said on social media.

Andy Gregory6 February 2024 12:15

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Russia has taken control of one of the world’s biggest atomic power plants. Experts want to look inside

Fears remain over the ‘fragile’ security at one of the world’s biggest atomic power plants following Putin’s war on Ukraine. Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has seen worrying recent staff cuts enacted by Russian authorities occupying the facility, the United Nations nuclear watchdog chief said on Tuesday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly expressed alarm about the facility amid fears of a potential nuclear catastrophe. The plant has repeatedly been caught in the crossfire since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and seized the facility shortly after.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, who is in Kyiv, said that his upcoming visit to the plant as the war approaches its two-year milestone will aim to assess the impact of recent personnel reductions after Russia denied access to employees of Ukraine’s Energoatom.

“This huge facility used to have around 12,000 staff. Now, this has been reduced to between 2,000 and 3,000, which is quite a steep reduction in the number of people working there,” Mr Grossi said. “To man, to operate these very sophisticated big installations you need a certain number of people performing different specific functions.”

“So far the situation is stable, but it is a very, very delicate equilibrium,” he said. “So this is why I need to see for myself what is the situation, what are the prospects in terms of staffing, medium-term and long-term as well.”

Samya Kullab has the full report:

Andy Gregory6 February 2024 11:48

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Kremlin: No decision yet on banning VPNs in Russia

The Kremlin has said that no decision has yet been made on a blanket ban on Virtual Private Networks (VPN), the use of which soared in Russia after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and clamped down on access to Western social media.

Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor has already blocked access to some large VPNs, but others remain available.

On Monday, the head of Russia’s League for a Safe Internet, a body founded with the authorities’ support, said it was “most likely” that large VPNs would be blocked in Russia from March, in a later retracted remark.

A 2017 Russian law obliged providers of VPN technology to cooperate with the Russian authorities and to restrict access to content banned by Russia or be banned themselves.

Andy Gregory6 February 2024 11:19

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Sweden prosecutor statement on Nord Stream blasts due on Wednesday

The prosecutor leading Sweden’s investigation into the Nord Stream gas pipeline blasts in the Baltic Sea in 2022 expects to make an announcement on the case on Wednesday, his office has said.

The prosecutor’s office said earlier this week that the statement would contain a decision on whether to drop the case, press charges or request that someone is detained.

The Nord Stream pipelines transporting Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea were ruptured by a series of blasts in Swedish and Danish waters, releasing vast amounts of methane into the air.

Danish police have said the pipelines were hit by powerful explosions and Swedish investigators have confirmed that traces of explosives found on site conclusively showed that sabotage had taken place.

Andy Gregory6 February 2024 10:56

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Kremlin refuses to comment on whether Tucker Carlson visited presidential buildings

The Kremlin has declined to comment on whether US journalist Tucker Carlson has visited the Russian presidential administration in Moscow this week.

Russian media showed pictures of the former Fox News host at several spots around Moscow on Monday during a visit which has fuelled speculation that Carlson may become the first Western journalist to interview Vladimir Putin since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

When asked if Carlson had visited the Russian administration building in central Moscow, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “I am not commenting in any way on the movements of an American journalist.”

(AP)

Andy Gregory6 February 2024 10:13

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EU foreign policy chief arrives in Kyiv

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday on a trip to underline the EU’s “unwavering support” to Ukraine as the war nears its third year, he said.

Borrell said on a post on social media platform X that he would “discuss with our Ukrainian friends the EU’s unwavering support to Ukraine – on military side, on the financial side with the new Ukraine facility, as well as on the EU reform path.”

Holly Evans6 February 2024 09:50

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Ukrainian staff holding contract standoff at nuclear power plant

Around 100 of the thousands of Ukrainian staff at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine are refusing to sign contracts with Russian nuclear company Rosatom, U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi told RFI radio on Tuesday.

Grossi told the French radio station in an interview that he would examine any impact on operations at the plant, where the six reactors are in shutdown, when he visits it on Wednesday.

The plant says it will no longer grant these holdouts access to the site, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Ukrainian staff at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are refusing to sign contracts with a Russian nuclear company

(AFP via Getty Images)

Holly Evans6 February 2024 09:24

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