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Ukraine Latest: Zelenskiy Says Donbas Is Key to Stopping Russia

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President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s economy is in better shape than expected. Iran, which has been supplying Moscow with attack drones for months, will take delivery of Russian fighter jets by March, an Iranian lawmaker said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said fighting in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region will be “fundamental” to defeating Russia. The death toll at a nine-story apartment building in Dnipro climbed to 30 on Sunday after it was hit by what Ukraine’s air command said was a Russian long-range anti-ship missile.

The Dnipro strike was part of two waves on Saturday mostly targeted at Ukraine’s infrastructure. Missile and airstrikes were reported in locations including Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Kryvyi Rih, Dnipro, Vinnytsia. Russian forces launched S-300 and S-400 systems on a ballistic trajectory from Belarus, before later launching cruise missiles from air and sea. 

On the Ground

Over the past 24 hours, Russia launched the air strikes and 57 missile strikes, and 69 strikes from rocket salvo systems, Ukraine’s General Staff said. Russia used С-300/С-400 long-range anti-aircraft missiles to carry out missile strikes on Kyiv and other settlements of Ukraine, it said in a daily report, warning that there’s still a threat of air and missile strikes throughout Ukraine. At least seven were injured after Russian mass shelling in Kherson on Sunday, the region’s governor said. Among the buildings shelled were an apartment complex and one where the Ukrainian Red Cross was located. 

Zelenskiy Says Donbas Fighting Is ‘Fundamental’ (8:40 p.m.)

Battles in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, including the city of Bakhmut and the salt-mine town of Soledar, are continuing “without any respite,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Sunday.

While “Russia has made the battle for the cities of our Donbas fundamental for itself,” Ukrainian forces are making “this battle fundamental for the destruction of the combat potential” of Russia, he said in his nightly video address.  

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Dnipro Apartment Building Death Toll Rises to 30 (8:25 p.m.) 

The death toll from Russia’s missile attack Saturday on an apartment building in Dnipro rose to 30, according to emergency services. At least 72 others were injured and rescue efforts continued on Sunday. Ukraine’s air command said the building was hit by a Russian Kh-22, or X-22, long-range missile launched from the Kursk region and designed for use against aircraft carriers. 

Dnipropetrovsk region Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said on Telegram that 72 units in the block were destroyed and 230 others damaged. 

Kremlin troops have fired more than 210 of the Kh-22 rockets since the start of the invasion, and Ukraine has no firepower capable of shooting down that type of missile, the air command said. 

Ukraine First Lady Reflects on War’s Human Cost (4 p.m.) 

Olena Zelenska, the wife of Ukraine’s president, told CNN on Sunday that Ukrainians “are trying to preserve some sort of normality” as Russia’s invasion heads toward the one-year mark. 

“Women have taken the brunt of this war in terms of ensuring that their families are okay, that their children are okay, that their children are safe,” Zelenska told CNN correspondent Fareed Zakaria through a translator. “Mothers and grandmothers have stepped in to protect them.” 

Between the millions of Ukraine women and children who have fled abroad, and those who are internally displaced, “I would not be wrong if I say that more than half of our families are divided, are separated,” Zelenska said. 

Ukraine Sanctions Another 200 Celebrities (3 p.m.)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a decree on Sunday imposing sanctions against almost 200 people of mostly Russian and Belarusian citizenship. It was the second round of sanctions announced this month. 

The list includes actors, television journalists and businessmen. The sanctions stipulate blocking of assets, preventing the withdrawal of capital outside Ukraine, the suspension of economic and financial obligations and revocation of licenses and other permits. 

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Among those sanctioned was Angelina Vovk, 50, a former presenter on Soviet Central Television, and Boris Korchevnikov, 40, an actor and TV host.  

Putin Says Economic Situation ‘Satisfactory, Even Good’ (1 p.m.) 

Russia’s president said the country’s economy is “quite satisfactory, even good,” and is performing better not only than opponents had expected, “but even we predicted.” Vladimir Putin spoke Sunday with the TV channel Russia-1. 

He said Russia’s inflation rate is expected to slow to about 5% in the first quarter from 11.9%, and pointed to growth in industrial production, agriculture and construction. 

Putin also said what he terms the “special military operation” in Ukraine is going according to defense ministry plans and that the “dynamics are positive” for Russia. 

Iran Expects to Get Russian Fighter Jets by March (12:43 p.m.)

Iran will receive a number of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets by March as part of a military order that includes defense systems, missiles and helicopters. 

Shahriar Heydari, a member of the Islamic Republic’s parliamentary commission for national security and foreign policy, didn’t specify the number of aircraft ordered. 

Switzerland Aims to Soften Restrictive Arms Export Law (10:51 a.m.)

Switzerland has started working on a reform to allow some countries to export Swiss-made ammunition to Ukraine, after international criticism of its restrictive arms export law, the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reported.

It’s the first substantial move to ease a restrictive law shaped by Switzerland’s tradition of neutrality in international affairs. Germany and Spain have criticized the Swiss for blocking ammunition shipments to Ukraine.

Rheinmetall CEO Says Leopard Repairs Take a Year (9:15 a.m.)

The maker of Leopard tanks says it would take about a year to get the vehicles it has in inventory ready for the battlefield, meaning deliveries to Ukraine couldn’t start before 2024, Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger said told the Bild newspaper. 

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The German defense company has 22 Leopard 2 tanks and 88 Leopard 1 vehicles, “but we can’t repair these tanks without an order, because the costs are several hundred million euros and Rheinmetall can’t finance that in advance,” he said. 

The comments are likely to put more pressure on the German government to approve deliveries of vehicles in active service. Countries including Poland and Finland have said they’re ready to send their Leopards to Kyiv. 

Donbas Is Key to Stopping Russia
Lithuania Holds Iron Wolf Military Exercise© Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

International Condemnation After Russian Strike on Civilians (8:44 a.m.)

Russia’s strike Saturday on civilians in an apartment block drew international condemnation.

Gitanas Nauseda, Lithuania’s president, called Russia “a terrorist state” that brings “destruction, death & immense suffering everywhere they go.” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the attack was “despicable, abhorrent, and completely unacceptable.”

Bridget Brink, the US ambassador to Ukraine, said Russia was continuing a “desperate assault on Ukraine’s cities and people.” 

Sunak Says Strategy Needed to Break ‘Stalemate’ (8 a.m.)

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for an international strategy to break the “stalemate” in Ukraine after almost a year of war. 

“A flurry of UK diplomatic activity will take place across the globe this week after the prime minister directed senior ministers to drive international action,” according to a statement from Sunak’s office. 

The UK has assessed that a “window has opened up where Russia is on the back foot due to resupply issues and plummeting morale” and Sunak is encouraging allies to press their advantage as soon as possible.  

Emergency Power Outages in Kyiv After Saturday’s Strikes (8 a.m.)

Ukraine’s capital, along with much of the country, continues to experience power outages after strikes on critical infrastructure by Russian missiles on Saturday. 

DTEK power engineers, together with specialists from Ukrenergo, other emergency services and state authorities, are attempting to stabilize the situation. 

Story by Bloomberg

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