Slovakia’s government on Friday approved a plan to give Ukraine its fleet of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the second NATO member country to heed the Ukrainian government’s pleas for warplanes to help defend against Russia’s invasion. Prime minister Eduard Heger told a news conference that his government is “on the right side of history.” Earlier, Heger tweeted that military aid was key to ensuring Ukraine can defend itself and all of Europe against Russia. Slovakia grounded its MiG-29s in the summer due to a lack of spare parts and expertise to help maintain them after Russian technicians returned home. Ukraine’s air force continues to use MiG-29s.
Denmark was “open” to the idea of sending fighter jets to Ukraine to help its war effort against the Russian invasion, the Danish defence minister said on Friday, according to the state broadcaster DR. “I won’t rule out that at some point it may be necessary to look at the contribution of fighter jets,” the acting defence minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, said.
The Kremlin said that fighter planes supplied to Kyiv will be destroyed and will not change the course of the war.
China and Russia have confirmed that China’s president Xi Jinping will make a state visit to Russia on 20-22 March. “During the talks, they will discuss topical issues of further development of comprehensive partnership relations and strategic cooperation between Russia and China,” the Kremlin said. China’s foreign ministry said Xi would be exchanging opinions on international and regional issues with Vladimir Putin, and the objective of the visit was to deepen bilateral trust.
The White House said Thursday that talks between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and China’s president would be a “good thing,” but warned Beijing against taking a “one-sided” view of the conflict. There has been no confirmation of a call to Zelenskiy by Xi. However, Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba talked by phone Thursday.
Russia’s defence secretary, Sergei Shoigu, has presented state awards to the pilots of the Su-27 planes involved in the drone incident over the Black Sea for “preventing the violation of the borders of the special operation area by the American MQ-9 Reaper drone”.
On Thursday the Pentagon released a video showing the moments before a Russian fighter crashed into a US Reaper drone after spraying it with jet fuel on Tuesday morning over the Black Sea. The declassified footage shows an Su-27 Flanker jet making two exceptionally close passes of the un-crewed drone, spraying fuel in front of it, a harassment tactic that US experts say has not been seen before.
The Kremlin said a decision on whether to retrieve the downed US Reaper drone from the Black Sea would come from the Russian military. “If they deem it necessary to do that in the Black Sea for our interests and for our security, they will deal with that,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.
The United Nations office in Geneva said on Friday that discussions on the renewal of a deal allowing the safe export of grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports were ongoing. The Kremlin on Friday said Russia was extending the Black Sea grain deal for 60 days, echoing previous statements by the foreign ministry. Ukraine has said the deal, which expires Sunday, must be rolled over in full under the existing terms, which provide for a 120-day extension minimum.
Germany’s fencing federation has cancelled a women’s foil World Cup event after the sport’s global governing body (FIE) reversed a ban on athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus.
Russia has committed a wide-range of war crimes in Ukraine including wilful killings, systematic torture and the deportation of children, according to a report from a UN-backed inquiry published on Thursday. The report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine was released a year to the day after the Russian bombing of a theatre in Ukraine’s south-eastern city of Mariupol which killed hundreds of people. Its head said the team was following the evidence and that there were “some aspects which may raise questions” about possible genocide. Russia dismissed the report.
Denis Pushilin, the Russian-installed leader in occupied Donetsk, told state-owned news agency Tass that he did not see any signs Ukraine was withdrawing from Bakhmut. He is quoted as saying on Thursday: “In Bakhmut, the situation remains complicated, difficult – that is, we do not see that there are any prerequisites there that the enemy is going to simply withdraw units.”
Polish authorities say they have detained nine members of a Russian spy ring who they say were gathering intelligence on weapons supplies to Ukraine and making plans to sabotage the deliveries. Six people have been charged with preparing acts of sabotage and espionage, and charges are being prepared against the other three.
The UN called for a 120-day renewal of a deal allowing the safe export of grain shipments from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports ahead of a deadline later this week. In response to remarks by UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Thursday the deal “is being extended for 60 days”.
Putin has told his country’s leading billionaires that Russia is facing a “sanctions war”. In an address to Russia’s business elite on Thursday the president urged them to invest in new technology, production facilities and enterprises to help Russia overcome what he said were western attempts to destroy its economy.
At least one person has been killed and two people injured in a blast and fire at a building belonging to Russia’s FSB security service in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, according to officials quoted by Russian news agencies. Video footage showed thick black smoke billowing into the air near residential buildings and a shopping centre in Rostov, the capital of a region that adjoins parts of eastern Ukraine where battles with Russia are raging.