© Reuters. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, meet to discuss how to help Ukraine defend itself
(Reuters) – Russian missiles hit power facilities across Ukraine, where President Volodymyr Zelenskiy returned from a tour of Western capitals and Ukrainian officials said a long-awaited Russian offensive was underway in the east.
* Britain said Russian forces were making gains north of the city of Bakhmut which they are trying to surround, but are having a more difficult time attacking Vuhledar further south, where they abandoned more than 30 armoured vehicles in a failed assault.
* Pro-war Russian bloggers have also reported the failed assault on Vuhledar, branding it a disaster. Reuters could not independently verify the situation there.
* Ukrainian officials said a new offensive by Moscow had begun ahead of the Feb. 24 anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
* Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said Russia hit power facilities in six regions with missiles and drones, causing blackouts across most of Ukraine.
* Ukraine’s air force said Russia had fired 71 cruise missiles, of which 61 were shot down.
* Moldova said Russian missiles had flown through its air space and summoned Moscow’s ambassador to complain.
* U.S. President Joe Biden will travel to Polandon Feb. 20 to 22 to meet allies and speak about Ukraine, the White House said.
* French President Emmanuel Macron said he did not rule out sending fighter jets to Ukraine at some point, but that Kyiv was in need of more immediate military firepower.* International Monetary Fund staff will meet with Ukrainian officials in Warsaw next week, a source familiar with the plans said on Friday, as Ukraine presses for a multi-billion dollar borrowing program to cover its funding needs given Russia’s war.
* A group of 35 countries backed calls by Ukraine for Russian and Belarusian athletesto be barred from participating in the summer Olympics next year. The International Olympic Committee wants to allow them to compete under a neutral flag.
* Russia said it would cut oil production by about 5% in March, a decision that the White House said showed Russian President Vladimir Putin was willing to weaponize energy.
* Putin said Russia’s economy had overcome the worst effects of sanctions and was expected to show modest growth this year.