(Reuters) – Senior politicians and military leaders from around the world meet in Germany with Ukrainian officials expected to address the security conference as they try to fend off Russian missile strikes on cities and massed assaults on front lines.
* Echoing a pattern of heavy aerial bombardment at times of Ukrainian battlefield or diplomatic advances, Russia launched 32 missiles in the early hours, Ukraine’s air force said. Half were shot down, it added, a lower rate than normal.
* Among them, air defences in the south downed eight Kalibr missiles fired from a ship in the Black Sea, Ukrainian officials said. Other missiles struck northern and western Ukraine as well as the central regions of Dnipropetrovsk and Kirovohrad.
* Russia has usually carried out its biggest waves of air strikes in daylight, striking energy facilities, but Ukrainian officials suggest Moscow is starting to adapt strategy, including using air balloons for reconnaissance.
* Russia and Ukraine exchanged 101 prisoners of war in their latest prisoner swap, authorities said.
* Russian rockets and artillery slammed into a residential district in the city of Bakhmut on Thursday, killing three men and two women and wounding nine, Ukraine’s prosecutor general said, adding it was being investigated as a war crime.
Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield reports.
POLITICS, SANCTIONS, AID
* A top U.S. trade official said that export controls on Russia have slowly reduced the supply of materials that it can use to rebuild its war machine.
* Israel will expand existing aid to Ukraine and help rebuild the country, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Thursday during the first official Israeli visit to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion a year ago.
* NATO countries are ramping up production of artillery munitions as Ukraine is burning through shells much faster than the West can make them, the alliance said.
* European Union countries are “on good track” to adopt new sanctions against Russia in time for the Feb. 24 one-year anniversary of its invasion, according to diplomatic sources.
* Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said Russia had never asked Belarus to go to war in Ukraine, and he would only order his troops to fight alongside ally Russia if another country attacked Belarus, state-run Belta news agency reported.
* British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Polish President Andrzej Duda agreed on Thursday on the importance of stepping up support to Ukraine in the coming weeks, Sunak’s office said.
* Billionaire financier George Soros said that if Russia was defeated in the Ukraine war it would result in the dissolution of what he called the “Russian empire”, something he said would be greeted by former Soviet republics.
(Compiled by Robert Birsel)