Ukraine Daily Summary - Saturday, February 17

'It is time to end naivete' about Putin -- Russian forces kidnap then kill Ukrainian priest in occupied part of Kherson Oblast -- France to provide artillery, air defense package to Ukraine -- No new information on Taurus missiles for Ukraine -- Pressure on Orban grows amid child sex abuse scandal -- and more

Saturday, February 17

Russia’s war against Ukraine

People leave flowers outside the Russian Embassy in London on Feb. 16, 2024, following the news of the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. (Daniel Leal/ AFP)

Syrskyi withdraws Ukrainian troops from Avdiivka. Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi published a statement announcing his decision to withdraw Ukrainian units from the heavily battered city.

Commander says no Ukrainian units surrounded in Avdiivka. There are no units surrounded in Avdiivka as of 1 p.m. local time, General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi said on Feb. 16, stressing that soldiers’ lives are a priority.

Navalny’s wife: Putin must be brought to justice for what he did to our country, Navalny. Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said on Feb. 16 that she does not know whether to believe news on Navalny’s death, as they are coming from Russian state-controlled media.

Stoltenberg: ‘Deeply saddened and disturbed’ by news of Navalny’s death. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that he was “deeply saddened and disturbed” by reports of the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Kuleba: ‘It is time to end naivete’ about Putin. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on the world to “to end the naivete” about Russian dictator Vladimir Putin in light of news about Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s alleged death on Feb. 16.

Independent Russian media to demand footage from Navalny’s penal colony. Independent Russian media Novaya Gazeta said on Feb. 16 that they will demand the body camera recordings of medical service personnel working in the penal colony where Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has allegedly died.

Commander: Ukraine withdraws from strongpoint on Avdiivka’s outskirts. Originally built as an air defense complex in the Soviet times, Zenit has been used as an important defensive position by Ukrainian troops since the start of Russian aggression in 2014. It helped the defenders prevent any advances toward Avdiivka directly from the south.

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Reuters: War in Ukraine has cost Russia up to $211 billion, US official says. It is estimated that Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has cost Russia up to $211 billion in equipping, deploying, and maintaining its troops in Ukraine, a senior U.S. defense official told Reuters on Feb. 16.

Navalny’s team says no official confirmation of his death until tomorrow. Alexei Navalny’s relatives were still not officially notified of his death, the Russian oppositionist’s colleague, Ivan Zhdanov, said on YouTube on Feb. 16.

3rd Assault Brigade says it wiped out 2 Russian brigades at Avdiivka. Ukraine’s Third Assault Brigade, whose troops were recently deployed to Avdiivka, is facing around 15,000 Russian troops at its sector of the front, the unit said on social media on Feb. 16.

Russian parliament speaker: ‘Washington and Brussels are to blame for Navalny’s death.’ “From the Secretary General (Jens Stoltenberg) of NATO and the U.S. leadership to (German Chancellor Olaf) Scholz, (U.K. Prime Minister Rishi) Sunak and (Volodymyr) Zelensky – these are the perpetrators of Navalny’s death,” Vyacheslav Volodin claimed.

Meduza: Russian officials don’t expect mass protests following Navalny’s death.

The reported death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is unlikely to spark mass protests across the country, the Russian independent outlet Meduza reported on Feb. 16, citing four Russian official sources.

Navalny’s spokesperson says his death isn’t confirmed yet. Kira Yarmysh, a spokesperson for Navalny, said that the news had not been confirmed yet. “As soon as we have any information, we will report it,” she added, saying that his lawyer was on the way to the prison.

Russian opposition leader Navalny reportedly dies in prison. According to the prison service, Navalny supposedly lost consciousness and could not be revived.

Biden says Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. The famed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died in prison, Russian media reported on Feb. 16.

Read our exclusives

Ukraine war latest: Ukrainian forces withdraw from strongpoint on Avdiivka outskirts

Commander says no Ukrainian units surrounded in Avdiivka, troops withdraw from strongpoint on city’s outskirts and

3rd Assault Brigade says it wiped out 2 Russian brigades in the city.

Photo: Vlada Liberova/Libkos/Getty Images

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Alexei Navalny’s life and death as main opponent to Putin regime

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s death on Feb. 16 did not come as a surprise for those familiar with Russian politics. Navalny was Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s main opponent, and the Kremlin had used all the tools at its disposal to shut him up

Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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Human cost of war

Ukraine retrieves bodies of 58 fallen soldiers. The bodies of 58 fallen Ukrainian soldiers were returned to Ukraine, the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of the Prisoners of War reported on Feb. 16.

Russian attacks over past day kill 5, including 17-year-old girl, injure at least 10.

Russian forces also attacked Mykolaiv, Sumy, and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts, causing damage but no casualties.

Russian forces kill Ukrainian priest in occupied part of Kherson Oblast. The Ukrainian priest Stepan Podolchak was kidnapped from his home two days earlier by Russian forces, representatives from Kalanchak’s military administration told the Suspilne media outlet.

General Staff: Russia has lost 400,300 troops in Ukraine since beginning of full-scale war. This number includes 1,210 casualties Russian forces suffered just over the past day.

International response

France to provide artillery, air defense package to Ukraine. France will provide Ukraine with a defense package that includes artillery shells and Caesar howitzers, as well as reinforced air defense systems, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced at a press conference alongside French President Emmanuel Macron on Feb. 16.

Zelensky, Macron sign security agreement between Ukraine, France. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, signed a bilateral agreement on security cooperation, the two heads of state announced during a press briefing in France on Feb. 16.

Germany hands over shells, drones, armored vehicles, other aid to Ukraine. Germany has handed over 3,990 155 mm shells, eight armored personnel carriers, three Wisent demining tanks, and other aid in the latest delivery, the German government said on Feb. 16.

US lawmakers unveil new bipartisan bill allocating $47 billion in aid funding for Ukraine. A group of bipartisan lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled on Feb. 16 a combined $66 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, after the Republican-controlled House withheld a vote on a previous version of a funding package.

Zelensky arrives in France for talks with Macron. President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Paris on Feb. 16 for talks with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, Zelensky announced on social media.

Biden: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is responsible for the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said U.S. President Joe Biden on Feb. 16.

Navalny’s death prompts fresh calls for Ukraine aid in US. “House members blocking critical aid to Ukraine can revel in another high-five for (Russian dictator Vladimir) Putin who just murdered his most vocal and visible critic,” said John Fetterman, a Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania, on social media.

Pistorius at Munich Conference: No new information on Taurus missiles for Ukraine. There is no new information on the possible provision of Germany’s Taurus long-range missiles to Ukraine, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters at the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 16.

US Senators to advocate for Sweden’s NATO bid during visit to Hungary. A bipartisan delegation of U.S. Senators will visit Hungary this week to advocate for Sweden’s accession to NATO, as Hungary remains the only NATO country to not yet ratify Sweden’s entry into the alliance.

Zelensky says he counts on US aid for Ukraine to ‘not falter.’ President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his hope that U.S. military support for Ukraine “will not falter” as questions linger about the passage of military aid through Congress.

Prosecutor General: Russia has used 24 North Korean missiles in Ukraine. “Currently, at least 24 ballistic missiles that were most likely produced in North Korea were used during Russian missile attacks on the territory of Ukraine” between Dec. 30, 2023, and Feb. 7, Prosecutor General Andrii Kostin told journalists in Kyiv.

Swedish minister reaffirms willingness to send jets to Ukraine after finalizing NATO bid. Sweden is open to providing Ukraine with modern fighter jets, but first needs a full-fledged NATO membership and the security provided by Article 5, Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson said on Feb. 16 at the Munich Security Conference, according to a Kyiv Independent reporter.

Germany signs long-term security deal with Ukraine, unveils new aid package.

Germany and Ukraine signed an agreement on long-term security cooperation and support, Ukraine’s Presidential Office announced on Feb. 16. President Volodymyr Zelensky signed the deal with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during his visit to Germany.

Von der Leyen: ‘Deeply disturbed and saddened by news of death of Alexei Navalny’. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that she was “Deeply disturbed and saddened by news of the death of Alexei Navalny.”

Michel: ‘EU holds Russian regime (solely) responsible for (Navalny’s) tragic death’. European Council President Charles Michel said, “Alexei Navalny fought for the values of freedom and democracy. For his ideals, he made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Biden: ‘Failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will never be forgotten’. “Supporting our bipartisan national security bill is standing up to Putin. Opposing it is playing into his hands,” U.S. President Joe Biden wrote on Feb. 15.

Reuters: Threat of Russian space-based nuclear weapons remains low, analysts say. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Feb. 15 that it is “not an active capability,” echoing comments from American intelligence sources that the development does create an “urgent” threat to the U.S.

In other news

Russian authorities disrupt rallies honoring Navalny, detentions reported. Multiple people have been detained in Russia as the police moved to disrupt events across the country honoring opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died earlier on Feb. 16.

Pressure on Orban grows amid child sex abuse scandal. The BBC and other outlets have characterized the ongoing scandal as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s “biggest challenge in 14 years of uninterrupted Fidesz rule.”

Russian anti-war presidential candidate Nadezhdin loses 2 appeals against his disqualification. Boris Nadezhdin, the sole notable anti-war candidate hoping to participate in Russia’s upcoming presidential election, acknowledged that the most recent setback that his chances of being on the ballot had dropped “completely to zero.”

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Today’s Ukraine Daily was brought to you by Nate Ostiller, Martin Fornusek, Teah Pelechaty, Toma Istomina, Olga Rudenko, Oleksiy Sorokin, Kate Tsurkan, Oleg Sukhov, Francis Farrell, Dmytro Basmat, and Rachel Amran.

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