Thu, 02 Feb 2023

The Kremlin said Thursday it was vulnerable to Ukrainian attacks in Crimea after the Russian military downed a drone near the peninsula's largest city, home to a key Russian naval base. The comments came a day after President Vladimir Putin acknowledged Russia's war in Ukraine would be "a long process". Follow our live blog for the latest on the war. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

11:50am: Russia says goal of Zaporizhzhia safety zone is to 'stop Ukraine shelling'

The Russian Foreign Ministry says the main goal of a proposed safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine is to "stop Ukraine shelling".

Both Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling the plant, Europe's biggest nuclear power station, risking causing a nuclear accident.

The plant has come under repeated shelling since Russia seized it shortly after launching its invasion in February, prompting the IAEA nuclear safety watchdog to call for a demilitarised safety zone around the plant.

10:55am: Kremlin says 'risk' of Ukrainian attacks in Crimea

The Kremlin has acknowledged its forces are vulnerable to Ukrainian attacks on the Crimean peninsula after the Russian military downed a drone near its largest city.

"There are certainly risks because the Ukrainian side continues its policy of organising terrorist attacks. But, on the other hand, information we get indicates that effective countermeasures are being taken," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Russia earlier said it had shot down a drone over the Black Sea near Sevastopol - the largest city in Crimea that hosts a key Russian naval base.

Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and has used the peninsula as one of its lauching pads for its latest invasion of Ukraine. In return, its forces there have been regularly attacked by drones.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol was targeted last month by a "massive" drone attack that Moscow blamed on Ukraine.

9:35am: Germany's Scholz wants air defence shield in next five years

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hopes to develop a missile defence shield in the next five years, he said in an interview with the Funke Media Group and French newspaper Ouest-France.

"Right now, the government is talking to the manufacturers of the various systems to get ready for concrete decisions," Scholz said.

The German leader also reiterated his goal of boosting defence spending to meet the 2%-of-GDP target set for NATO allies, including with the expansion of air defence for a so-called Sky Shield with other NATO states.

Germany and more than a dozen NATO partners are aiming to jointly procure air defence systems that protect allied territory from missiles.

Among the options being considered are Israel's Arrow 3 system, the US Patriot and German IRIS-T units.

8:45am: Ukrainians without electricity, clean water as Russia pounds power grid

Successive waves of Russian missile strikes have left Ukrainian cities without electricity or clean water as freezing temperatures kick in. FRANCE 24's chief foreign editor Rob Parsons reports from Mykolaiv in the country's south.

7:15am: Russian troops take part in tactical drills in Belarus

Russia says its troops are taking part in tactical exercises in Belarus, amid fears that Moscow is pressing its ally to get more involved in the Ukraine war.

Belarus has said it will not enter the war in Ukraine, but President Alexander Lukashenko has in the past ordered troops to deploy with Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, citing threats from Kyiv and the West.

In a statement, Russia's defence ministry said, "Servicemen of the Western Military District ... continue intensive combat training on the ranges of the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus."

Video clips posted by the ministry showed Russian soldiers in snow gear training near tanks in a winter landscape, firing weapons including artillery.

1:30am: Scholz says risk of Russia using nuclear weapons has diminished, for now

The risk of Russian President Vladimir Putin using nuclear weapons as part of his war in Ukraine has decreased in response to international pressure, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview published on Thursday.

The war was continuing with "undiminished brutality" though, for now, one thing had changed, Scholz told Funke media in an interview to mark his first year in office.

"Russia has stopped threatening to use nuclear weapons. As a reaction to the international community marking a red line."

Despite deep divisions, it was important that dialogue with the Kremlin continued, Germany's leader added.

10:34pm: Russians may want talks only for time to get new recruits trained, says Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it is not a good idea to engage with the Russian's overtures towards negotiations and this chimes with what the Ukrainians are saying. Gulliver Cragg, FRANCE 24's correspondent in Kyiv, reports.

9:00pm: US slams 'loose talk' on nuclear weapons after Putin comments

The United States on Thursday denounced "loose talk" on nuclear weapons after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would only use an atomic weapon in response to an enemy strike.

Declining to respond directly to Putin, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, "We think any loose talk of nuclear weapons is absolutely irresponsible."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

Originally published on France24

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