Russia’s war on Ukraine latest: Zelenskiy vows to defend ‘fortress’ Bakhmut

(Reuters) – Ukrainians will fight “for as long as we can” to hold the “fortress” city of Bakhmut, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed as he hosted European Union leaders to discuss further sanctions on Russia and Kyiv’s prospects for joining the EU.

ARMS

* Portugal will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said, without specifying how many will be shipped.

* A $2.2 billion U.S. military aid package to Ukraine includes a new rocket, the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb, that would double the country’s strike range, the Pentagon said on Friday.

* France said on Friday it and Italy have completed technical talks for the joint delivery of a SAMP/T-MAMBA air defence system, the only European-made system that can intercept ballistic missiles, to Ukraine in the spring.

DIPLOMACY

* The United States warned Turkey in recent days about the export to Russia of chemicals, microchips and other products that can be used in Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine, and it could move to enforce existing bans, according to a senior U.S. official.

* Sixty-three Russian prisoners of war were released as a result of a complex negotiation process with Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported, citing Moscow’s defence ministry.

* China said mutual political trust with Russia has deepened further after Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Russia.

* The EU offered strong support for Ukraine at the Kyiv summit as air raid sirens wailed on Friday, but set “no rigid timelines” for its accession to the wealthy bloc. Zelenskiy had hoped the EU would put Ukraine on a rapid road to membership.

* Western economies agreed price caps on Friday on Russian diesel and other refined petroleum products that U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said would build on a crude oil cap set in December and further limit Russian oil revenues while keeping global energy markets supplied.

* The EU’s next package of sanctions against Russia will hit the trade and technology that support Moscow’s war against Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.

* Canada imposed sanctions on Friday on 38 individuals and 16 entities it said were “complicit in peddling Russian disinformation and propaganda”, prompting a quick promise of retaliation from Moscow.

* Turkey’s airport ground service provider Havas told Russian and Belarusian airliners it may stop providing services to their U.S.-origin aircraft, in line with Western sanctions.

* The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on the board of directors of Iranian drone maker Paravar Pars, with the Treasury Department saying Iranian drones were being used by Russia to attack Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.

* Belarusian athletes openly opposing the leadership of Alexander Lukashenko on Friday called on the International Olympic Committee to let them compete while barring those who support the authorities and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

CONFLICT

* Germany has collected evidence of war crimes in Ukraine, the country’s prosecutor general said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday, adding that he saw a need for a judicial process at international level.

* Ukraine’s defence minister said on Friday new tanks supplied by NATO countries would serve as an “iron fist” in a counteroffensive by Kyiv to break through Russian defensive lines.

* Ukraine unveiled a criminal case on Friday against the boss of Russia’s Wagner mercenary company, promising to track down and prosecute the company’s fighters who try to flee abroad.

(Compiled by Frank Jack Daniel, William Mallard, William Maclean)