Russia-Ukraine war live: Hungary and Ukraine foreign ministers to meet ahead of EU aid summit | Ukraine

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Key events

The head of the Russian state nuclear firm Rosatom plans to meet International Atomic Energy Agency head, Rafael Grossi, in Russia in the middle of February, the Interfax news agency reports (via Reuters).

Alexei Likhachev, the Rosatom chief executive, said he would discuss nuclear security issues with Grossi, as well as the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

Russia took over the Zaporizhzhia plant, the biggest in Europe, shortly after invading Ukraine in 2022, and the IAEA is monitoring its safety as hostilities continue in the area.

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The Hungarian foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, arrived in Ukraine for talks with senior officials on Monday, days before a European Union summit that will seek agreement on a financial aid package that has been held up by Budapest, Reuters reports.

Szijjarto’s talks in the western city of Uzhhorod with the Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, and the presidential chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, follow weeks of Hungarian opposition to the EU providing €50bn ($54bn) in aid.

The Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán’s political director said earlier on Monday that Budapest was open to using the EU budget for a proposed aid package, a shift in Budapest’s stance.

“A frank and constructive dialogue is expected to improve relations between states,” the Ukrainian president’s office said on its official channel on the Telegram messaging app, alongside a photo of Szijjártó, Kuleba and Yermak.

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Russia’s energy ministry has proposed restricting flights over Russian energy facilities, the Vedomosti daily reported on Monday, after a spate of Ukraine-linked attacks this month on oil infrastructure, Reuters reports.

The newspaper said that under the plan, only aircraft deployed to protect energy facilities, and planes of top Russian officials or of visiting foreign officials, would be allowed to fly with special permission in the designated zones.

Russia’s energy ministry did not immediately comment on the report.

Russian air defences thwarted a drone attack on Monday on the Slavneft-Yanos oil refinery in the city of Yaroslavl, north-east of Moscow, the regional governor Mikhail Yevrayev said.

It was the latest in a series of similar drone raids on Russian energy infrastructure in recent weeks, some of which have disrupted fuel production. Ukrainian officials have said Kyiv is behind some of the attacks.

Russia’s nearly two-year-old war in Ukraine is grinding into a war of attrition after delays in western financial and military assistance for Kyiv, and without significant changes on the battlefield in months.

The Russian energy company Novatek NVTK.MM suspended some operations at a huge Baltic Sea fuel export terminal on 21 January after a fire that was started by what Ukrainian media said was a drone attack.

Two days before that, a drone attack hit an oil depot in Russia’s western region of Bryansk, bordering Ukraine, for which Moscow blamed Kyiv. That followed an attack a day earlier on a Russian Baltic Sea oil terminal that Russian officials said was unsuccessful.

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Russia said on Monday its forces had taken control of the village of Tabaivka in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, but Ukraine has denied this. The Russian claim was made in a defence ministry statement, Reuters reports.

Volodymyr Fityo, the head of communications for Ukraine’s ground forces, said on national TV: “This does not correspond to reality. There are battles taking place near this locality.”

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Hungary is open to using the EU budget for a proposed €50bn ($54bn) aid package to Ukraine, Reuters reports, citing the prime minister Viktor Orbán’s political director.

Orbán has been a vocal critic of the bloc’s support for Kyiv and kept ties with the Kremlin since Russia went to war in Ukraine in February 2022. He previously blocked a revision of the EU budget that included Ukraine aid.

The Financial Times reported on Sunday that the EU would sabotage Hungary’s economy if Budapest blocked the aid at a summit this week.

Balázs Orbán, the chief political aide to the prime minister, confirmed that Budapest had sent a proposal to Brussels on Saturday showing it was open to using the budget for the aid package and issuing common EU debt to finance it if other “caveats” were added.

“Brussels is using blackmail against Hungary like there’s no tomorrow, despite the fact that we have proposed a compromise,” the adviser said on X.

Brussels is using blackmail against Hungary like there’s no tomorrow, despite the fact that we have proposed a compromise.❌

As @FT reports: ‘@JanosBoka_HU said Budapest sent a new proposal to Brussels on Saturday, specifying it was now open to using the EU budget for the…

— Balázs Orbán (@BalazsOrban_HU) January 29, 2024

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The Russian state-owned electric power company InterRAO cut power exports by 21.3% to 10.7bn kWh last year after stopping exports to the European Union, the executive board member Alexandra Panina told reporters at the weekend, Reuters reports.

The company, which handles all Russian electric power exports and imports, said Kazakhstan was its biggest market last year, consuming 4.7bn kWh, followed by China with 3.1bn kWh.

Panina said InterRAO planned to export at least as much power this year.

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Opening summary

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Here is a summary of the latest developments:

  • The Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, will meet his Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjarto, in western Ukraine on Monday ahead of an EU summit aimed at unlocking aid for the war-torn country. Relations between the two neighbours have been strained and were further aggravated when Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, in December vetoed €50bn ($55bn) in EU aid for Kyiv. In an effort to mend ties, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, suggested a direct meeting with Orbán, and Monday’s talks between Szijjarto and Kuleba in the city of Uzhhorod are intended to lay the groundwork. Hungary, which has maintained ties with the Kremlin, has also frustrated Nato allies by taking so long to formally approve Sweden’s bid to join the alliance.

  • Zelenskiy has spoken about the risk of the Ukraine conflict escalating into a third world war, as he pressed his case for foreign aid in an interview with the German state broadcaster ARD on Sunday. Zelenskiy said that if Russia attacked a Nato country, it would be “the beginning of the third world war”. Asked whether he was disappointed that Germany did not plan to supply Ukraine with Taurus cruise missiles, Zelenskiy said he was only disappointed Germany had not played “the role it should have played in the first occupation of Ukraine”. Referring to the weakness of the west’s response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, he said it wasn’t just about the German response. “It’s not just about Olaf Scholz,” he said. “It concerns European leaders and the US.” In the US, Zelenskiy said Ukraine had support from across the political divide. “There are individual Republicans who do not support Ukraine, but the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans support Ukraine,” he said. On whether a second term of Donald Trump would affect support for his country, he said US policy did not depend on a single person.

  • US military funding for Ukraine carries a key deterrent message for China, the head of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Sunday at the start of a visit to Washington aimed at lobbying Congress to continue funding the war against Russia. President Joe Biden has asked Congress to approve $61bn in fresh aid to Ukraine. But the talks have become bogged down as Republican lawmakers demand major changes in US border control policy as the price for their approval. “What matters is that Ukraine gets continued support, because we need to realise that this is closely watched in Beijing,” Stoltenberg said on Fox News.

  • The UK defence ministry believes that the increase in arson attacks on Russian enlistment offices “is highly likely due to a greater sense of dissatisfaction with the war among the Russian population”. There have been 220 attacks on Russian military enlistment offices since the start of the war in February 2022, with 113 in the last six months.

  • Russia launched drone and missile attacks targeting civilian and critical infrastructure across wide areas of Ukraine, Kyiv’s air force said on Sunday. Preliminary information did not show any casualties in the attacks, but Russia and Ukraine have increased their air attacks on each other’s territory in recent months, targeting critical military, energy and transport infrastructure. The air force said on the Telegram messaging app that Russia attacked the central Poltava region with two ballistic missiles fired from the Iskander ballistic missile system, and three surface-to-air missiles over the Donetsk region in the east.

  • Defence ministry officials conspired with employees from a Ukrainian arms firm to embezzle almost $40m earmarked to buy 100,000 mortar shells, Ukraine’s security service said. Five people have been charged, with one person detained trying to cross the Ukrainian border. Corruption has been a major roadblock in Kyiv’s bid to joint the European Union and Nato, with officials from both blocs demanding widespread anti-graft reforms before Kyiv can join them.

  • The beauty giant Avon has been criticised for its Russia links, amid the ongoing war. At the outset of the conflict, the company said it was stopping investment in Russia, where it has a large worker base, and was ending exports from its Russian factory to other parts of the world. However, research by the BBC has discovered the company is still recruiting new sales agents in Russia, with recruits offered prizes, cash bonuses and even holidays for hitting targets, the broadcaster reports.

  • The hacking group NoName05716 claims to be preparing to target the Ukrainian government with help from other hacking groups 22С, Skillnet, CyberDragon, Federal Legion, People’s Cyber ​​Army and Phoenix.

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