Ukraine war – latest: Russia now 'on the backfoot' as US confirms M1 … – Sky News

Regions across Ukraine are hit by missiles as Russia launches an assault on the country – after the US and Germany announce they will send a battle tanks to Kyiv in the face of dire threats from Moscow.
Russian authorities designated the independent news outlet Meduza an “undesirable organisation” today, effectively outlawing the site from operating in the country.
It also banned any Russian from cooperating with Meduza or its journalists.
The designation is the latest in a years-long campaign by the Kremlin to curb independent media and stop their reporting from reaching ordinary Russians in a crackdown that has escalated since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.
In a statement, Russia’s General Prosecutor said the Latvia-based news outlet “poses a threat to the foundations of the constitutional system and the security of the Russian Federation”.
Meduza, one of Russia’s most widely read independent news sites, said it would continue operating despite the designation. 
Earlier, it published a news story on its website, including details about what the label could mean.
France and Italy are near to finalising the technical details to supply a SAMP/T air defence system to Ukraine, according to two diplomatic sources, though it was unclear how quickly a final decision would come.

Russia sent Ukrainian civilians racing for cover with a rush-hour missile barrage earlier today, killing at least one person, the day after Kyiv secured Western pledges of dozens of modern battlefield tanks to try to push back the Russian invasion.
In November, Kyiv asked its Western allies for more air defence systems and specifically requested the SAMP/T, known as Mamba.
France’s Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu will travel to Italy on Friday to meet his Italian counterpart Guido Crosetto, with both sides wanting to push ahead with the SAMP/T talks.
“We are finalising it with the Italians. It’s not very far off,” said a French diplomatic source.
Canada will send four Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand said today.
It comes after Germany allowed other countries to re-export the German-built tank this week.

“This donation, combined with the contributions of allies and partners, will significantly help the armed forces of Ukraine in their defence against the Russian invasion”, Ms Anand told reporters in Ottawa.
A top aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that  Ukrainian government officials who shirk their duties during wartime will be quickly removed.
Amid a crackdown of corruption, more than a dozen officials have been removed this week following a series of scandals and graft allegations. 
Political analysts claim Mr Zelenskyy needs to show Western partners and war-weary Ukrainians that he is serious about punishing misrule.
“Everyone should understand their level of responsibility to the country and nation during the war. Whoever forgets about it receives a quick reaction,” said Andriy Yermak, head of Zelenskyy’s office.
“This will happen to everyone who allows themselves to forget (their duties), regardless of names and offices,” Yermak wrote on Twitter.
Among the most high-profile cases was that of a deputy defence minister who resigned following a report, which he denied, that his ministry paid inflated prices to feed troops.
Halina Panasian, 69, is a survivor of a Russian rocket attack on the Kyiv region.

Her home has been destroyed by one of 55 missiles fired across Ukraine today (read more in our 3.26pm post).
A spokesperson for Ukraine’s State Emergency Service reported 11 dead following the blasts. One of those deaths occurred in the Kyiv area.
Ukraine is set to receive tanks and heavy armoured vehicles from allies including Germany, the US, the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and Poland. 
Polish deputy defence minister Wojciech Skurkiewicz has told Radio Plus that tanks from his country could be sent “within a few weeks”.
Meanwhile Germany has said its Leopard 2 tanks could arrive in Ukraine by the end of March – and the UK has given a similar timeframe. 
Ukraine will be hoping for the weapons boost before Russia launches an expected offensive in spring. 
A Russia-based hacking group is behind an ongoing information-gathering campaign targeting governments, journalists and politicians, the UK’s intelligence agency has said.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said the group, named Cold River, uses fake email addresses and social media profiles to impersonate people around its targets.
They encourage targets to click malicious links and enter login credentials, according to the NCSC, which did not directly attribute the digital attacks to the Russian government.
Asked to comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We don’t know anything about that.”
Cold River, also known as “Callisto” and “Seaborgium”, published private emails from former British spymaster Richard Dearlove in May, Reuters reported.
The news agency said that since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Cold River has escalated a campaign against Kyiv’s allies. 
Moscow has consistently denied that it carries out hacking operations.
President Joe Biden is considering a visit to Europe around 24 February, the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, our affiliate NBC reports.
Poland is one of several locations under consideration for the trip.
US officials have discussed announcing another major military aid package around the same time.
The news follows America’s decision yesterday to send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. 
The United States has formally designated the Wagner Group a transnational criminal organization.

Assets belonging to the private military company have been frozen in the US.
The Wagner group, founded by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been heavily involved in the fighting in Ukraine. 
An executive order saw further sanctions on the mercenaries, with the Treasury accusing the group of being responsible for or complicit in the targeting of women, children or civilians in the Central African Republic, through forced displacement and attacks on hospitals.
“Wagner personnel have engaged in an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity, including mass executions, rape, child abductions, and physical abuse in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali,” the Treasury said in a statement. 

Washington also imposed sanctions on Russia-based Joint Stock Company Terra Tech and China-based Changsha Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute Co. LTD, which it accused of supporting the Wagner Group’s military operations.
Missile and drone attacks killed 11 people in Ukraine today, the country’s emergency service has said.
Russia fired 55 rockets, 47 of which were intercepted, according to Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces. 
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said a strike killed the first person in the capital since New Year’s Eve, while defence systems in the area shot down 15 missiles.
The attacks came a day after Germany and the US agreed to send tanks to Ukraine, but Russia has also developed a pattern of launching attacks every two weeks.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s southern defence forces said Moscow appeared to be trying to overwhelm or distract Ukraine’s air defences with a combination of self-exploding drones and missile strikes overnight.
Kherson was one of the targets, where shelling killed two people and injured five more, its regional administration said.
It was the first widespread barrage of Russian firepower since 14 January.
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