A free Europe cannot exist without a free Ukraine, Zelensky tells EU lawmakers

European Council President Charles Michel (R), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (L) at a press conference in Brussels on February 9, 2023.
European Council President Charles Michel (R), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (L) at a press conference in Brussels on February 9, 2023. ? Ludovic Marin, AFP

In a speech to the European Parliament on Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian soldiers are battling the "most anti-European force" in the world as he reiterated requests for military support in the fight against Russia, linking Ukraine’s fate to that of Europe as a whole. "Free Europe cannot be imagined without free Ukraine," he said. Read our live blog to see how all the day's events unfolded.?All times are Paris time (GMT+1).?


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9.20pm: War crimes seen everywhere?Russian forces have deployed, US ambassador tells FRANCE 24

The US ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, Beth Van Schaack, told FRANCE 24 in an interview Thursday that war crimes and other atrocities have been seen everywhere Russia's forces have been deployed. There is no question that this exercise has been a strategic failure for Putin and for the Kremlin, she said, and they are responding to that with increasingly desperate measures targeting civilians directly.

Van Schaack said the international community’s response to the Ukraine crisis has thus far focused on three main pillars: strengthening Ukraine's capabilities on the battlefield, mitigating the humanitarian crisis, and ensuring justice and accountability for any crimes committed.

As the one-year mark for the war approaches, there will be a lot of activity at the United Nations focused on trying to implement a just and durable peace, she said.

6:41pm: Moldova's spy agency confirms Zelensky's claim of Russian destabilising plan

Moldova's intelligence service has said Russia was acting to destabilise the ex-Soviet country, following comments by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Kyiv had intercepted a plan by Moscow.

"SIS confirms that, both from the information presented by our Ukrainian partner and also from our operative activities, subversive activities with the aim of undermining the Republic of Moldova, of destabilisation and violating the public order were identified," Moldova's Intelligence and Security Service said in a statement.

Earlier Thursday, Zelensky told EU heads of government that Kyiv had "intercepted the plan for the destruction of Moldova by Russian intelligence".

The SIS statement said SIS could not give any more details "because there's the risk of jeopardising different ongoing operational activities".

"We are reassuring Moldova's citizens that all the state's institutions are working at full capacity and won't allow this kind of provocation," it added.

6:21pm: US, UK impose cybersecurity sanctions on Russian group

The US Treasury Department has announced a joint U.-U.K. effort to sanction Russian cybercriminals as the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion nears and Treasury tightens its efforts to financially punish violators of existing sanctions.?

The US coordinated with the UK to impose sanctions on seven people that it said are part of the Russia-based cybercrime gang Trickbot. All members are listed as living in Russia or Russian-occupied Ukraine.

Trickbot is named for a strain of trojan viruses originally used to steal financial data. The viruses have infected millions of computers worldwide.

In a statement, Treasury said the sanctioned men included developers, money-launderers and a senior figure, Vitaly Kovalev, who it said was indicted in federal court in New Jersey in connection with 2009 and 2010 bank hacks.

4:58pm: Tourism collapses in Russia following Western sanctions

The number of foreign tourists visiting Russia collapsed last year due to the impact of Western sanctions and strict Covid restrictions in China, industry professionals said Thursday.

Only 200,100 foreigners visited Russia in 2022, the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) said, citing figures from border services, a drop of 96.1 percent from pre-pandemic years.?

"The reasons are clear: the closed skies between Russia and the vast majority of European countries, as well as the impossibility to use foreign-issued Visa and Mastercard cards in Russia," ATOR said.

Most of Europe closed its airspace to Russian planes a few days after the Kremlin launched the Ukraine offensive in February 2022.?

Beginning in March 2022, Russian national carrier Aeroflot suspended its international flights, though it gradually resumed travel to "friendly countries".

But draconian Covid-related restrictions in China that Beijing only recently abandoned kept Chinese tourists from taking advantage of the situation.?Before the pandemic, Chinese tourists were the top visitors to Russia.

4:43pm: One in four Ukrainians at risk of severe mental health conditions, says WHO

A quarter of Ukraine's population is at risk of developing a severe mental health condition as the country grapples with the year-long Russian invasion, according to a special advisor to the World Health Organisation.

Michel Kazatchkine, special advisor to the WHO Regional Office for Europe, said the conflict in Ukraine had not only resulted in a shortage of medical supplies and personnel but had also caused a major threat to mental health.

"WHO estimates that at this time, one out of four people in Ukraine is at risk of severe mental health conditions," Kazatchkine told reporters.

Describing a recent visit to the Ukrainian city of Dnipro, Kazatchkine said he had seen dozens of military personnel hospitalised with "acute and tragic anxiety, depression and psychiatric conditions."

"Mental health is becoming a predominant public health issue in Ukraine," he said. "The war and its consequences have led to an increased use of licit and illicit psychoactive substances."

4:40pm: Slovakia to get German air defence systems to cover Ukraine border

Germany will donate two close-range MANTIS air defence systems to Slovakia to protect its eastern border with Ukraine, the Slovak defence ministry has announced.

NATO member Slovakia has boosted its air defences with the help of several Patriot systems operated by NATO allies after donating its ageing S-300 system to Ukraine last year, and has sought to get additional equipment.

The automated, stationary MANTIS systems made for the German army serve to protect limited areas such as bases. "(MANTIS) will strengthen protection of the eastern border with Ukraine, secured by forces and means of the Slovak armed forces," the ministry said in a statement.

Each has up to eight turrets, two sensor units and a control centre. It can protect from incoming rockets, drones, artillery and mortar shells.

4:34pm: Ukraine's armoured vehicles to be repaired in Czech Republic

The Ukrainian army's armoured vehicles will be repaired in the Czech Republic as part of Prague's military help against Russia's aggression, the Czech Defence Ministry said.

State-owned company VOP CZ signed a memorandum of understanding with Ukraine's government arms manufacturer Ukroboronprom on the repairs this week, the ministry said, without giving further details.

"The memorandum ...contains a specific plan and timetable for the repairs or securing of spare parts," said Ales Vytecka, director of Czech government's AMOS agency for military cooperation, who co-signed the memorandum.

The Czech Republic has been one of the top weapons providers to Kyiv among NATO alliance allies since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, supplying Ukraine with armoured personnel carriers, tanks or howitzers.

4:10pm: 'Symbolism, but few deliverables' from Zelensky’s meeting with European Council

Reporting from Brussels, FRANCE 24’s Dave Keating said Ukrainian President Zelensky was “hitting the same themes” on European unity and values during the press conference following his European Council meeting.

But the Ukrainian president did get some tough questions from journalists at the end, when he was asked if there were any specific deliverables promised during his meetings in Brussels and in Paris last night, noted Keating.

“President Zelensky didn’t want to sound overly negative,” said Keating. “We always knew there wasn’t going to be a big deliverable. This was very much about symbolism.”

European Council President Charles Michel (R), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (L) at a press conference in Brussels on February 9, 2023.
European Council President Charles Michel (R), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (L) at a press conference in Brussels on February 9, 2023. ? Ludovic Marin, AFP


3:07pm: 'Certain agreements' with Macron, Scholz cannot be made public: Zelensky

The Ukrainian president and top EU leaders faced tough questions from reporters, who asked if there were any concrete deliverables from Zelensky’s meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Paris on Wednesday night or his meetings in Brussels on Thursday.

Zelensky replied that he had discussed enhancing Ukraine’s military capabilities during his meeting with Macron and Scholz, adding that he could not make all elements of the talks public.

"There are certain agreements which are not public, but which are positive. I don't want to prepare the Russian Federation, which is constantly threatening us with new aggressions," Zelensky said during a joint press conference with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday.

2:38pm: New EU sanctions will target 'Putin's propagandists': von der Leyen

Speaking after Zelensky,?European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced new European sanctions against Russia that will include new export bans worth more than €10 billion ($10.7 billion) and will take on Russian President Vladimir Putin's propagandists.

"We will target Putin's propagandists because their lies are poisoning the public space in Russia and abroad," von der Leyen said during the joint press conference with Ukrainian President?Zelensky and European Council President Charles Michel.

The new sanctions "will further starve Russia's military machine and shake the foundations of its economy", she added.

2:25pm: 'Europe will be with us until our victory': Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked EU leaders for their support in countering Russia's invasion following his participation in a European Council meeting – for the first time ever – in Brussels.

At a joint press conference with European Council chief Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Zelensky said it is "only fair" that Ukraine “takes part in meetings of European leaders and that Ukrainian language is part of the European Parliament”.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with EU leaders, Zelensky said the EU was ready to provide Kyiv with aircraft to help it fight for Ukraine's "independence" and "freedom".

"Europe will be with us until our victory. I've heard it from a number of European leaders ... about the readiness to give us the necessary weapons and support, including the aircraft," he said.

"I have a number of bilaterals now, we are going to raise the issue of the fighter jets and other aircraft," he added.

2:15pm: EU's Michel: We need to provide maximum support for Ukraine

The EU must continue to provide maximum support to Ukraine, said European Council President Charles Michel at a press conference in Brussels.

"We understand that the coming weeks and months will be of decisive importance. We must remain open-eyed, we must continue to provide maximum level support," Michel said during a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.

"Artillery, munitions, defence systems (...) you have told us exactly what you need and what you need now", Michel added, looking at the Ukrainian president standing next to him on the podium.

1:36pm: Ukraine intercepted Russian plans for 'destruction' of Moldova, Zelensky says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that his country has intercepted plans by Russian secret services to destroy Moldova.

Speaking to European Union leaders in Brussels, Zelensky said he recently told Moldovan President Maia Sandu about the alleged scheme. “I have informed her that we have intercepted the plan of the destruction of Moldova by the Russian intelligence," Zelensky said through a translator.

The Ukrainian president said the documents showed “who, when and how" the plan would "break the democracy of Moldova and establish control over Moldova". Zelensky said the plan was very similar to the one devised by Russia to take over Ukraine.

1:28pm: Zelensky shows 'dynamism' while Putin is 'distant and stiff'

Zelensky's speech to the EU Parliament in Brussels on Thursday morning was "very much about mood and thanks and appealing to people", noted FRANCE 24 international affairs editor Angela Diffley. "Who would have thought a year ago that this guy [...] who had previously been a comic actor, that he would be such an inspirational leader, that people would be flocking into this auditorium, keen to be seen shaking his hand?"

"I remember a year ago newsrooms around the world thinking 'within four or five days Kyiv will have fallen, let's prepare for that in terms of our news coverage'. It is extraordinary just to note that."

Zelensky's speech to the EU Parliament also demonstrated once more that his style shows such a "contrast – ?even the Russians must be aware – with Vladimir Putin", Diffley continued. "Zelensky knows how to connect; he projects a kind of dynamism; Putin [is] distant and stiff."


1:09pm: Zelensky urges EU leaders to speed up weapons deliveries

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday called on EU leaders at a summit in Brussels to supply Ukraine weapons quicker, before Russia can gather its forces for fresh assaults.

"We have to enhance the dynamics of our cooperation, we have to do it faster than the aggressor," Zelensky told his European counterparts.

12:51pm: No free Europe without free Ukraine, Zelensky says?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told European Union leaders in Brussels there was no free Europe without free Ukraine as he tours Europe to ask allies for more arms to fight Russia and push Kyiv's bid to join the Western bloc.?

"Europe should not have gray zones, our whole continent should be open to European destiny," Zelensky told the 27 national EU leaders gathered for a summit in Brussels ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion against Ukraine.??

"Free Europe cannot be imagined without free Ukraine," he said. "Europe is free, Europe will be free, and Europe is united."?

A Ukraine that is winning its war with Russia should be a member of the European Union, Zelensky said, arguing the bloc wouldn't be complete without it.

“A Ukraine that is winning is going to be member of the European Union,” he said.

“Europe will always be?– and remain – Europe as long as we ... take care of the European way of life,” he said.

Zelensky also reiterated his request that membership talks should start later this year.? ??

12:49pm: Zelensky thanks EU leaders for 'unwavering support'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked EU leaders at a summit in Brussels for their backing for Kyiv in its nearly year-long fight against Russia's invasion.

"I have to thank you personally for your unwavering support of our country and our aspirations, our aspirations to live in a united, free Europe," he told the 27 leaders.

12:42pm: Zelensky 'hitting theme of European unity very hard'

In his address to the EU Parliament on Thursday, Volodymyr Zelensky was "really hitting the theme of European unity very hard", FRANCE 24's Dave Keating reported from Brussels. "He said maybe some of you in the room didn't feel this power of the European way of life before the invasion, implying that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has rekindled passion in all of Europe. He said the EU is winning, Ukraine is winning, Ukraine will be in the EU."

"So he was very much hitting this plea for EU membership," Keating continued. "He was less hitting the note of asking for more military assistance than I was expecting. He certainly devoted less attention to that in this speech than he did in his speech to the British Parliament [on Wednesday]."

It was notable that Zelensky spoke in Ukrainian after addressing the US Congress and the British Parliament in English, Keating went on: "English is the main working language of the EU; he could have spoken English here but he chose to speak Ukrainian. I think that's important because if Ukraine were to join the EU, Ukrainian would become an official language, and the MEPs from Ukraine sitting in that chamber would be speaking Ukrainian and having that interpreted. So he was very much normalising this idea that Ukraine is part of the EU and Ukrainian is a language you will be your language in your interpretation."

European Council President Charles Michel (R), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (L) at a press conference in Brussels on February 9, 2023.
European Council President Charles Michel (R), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (L) at a press conference in Brussels on February 9, 2023. ? Ludovic Marin, AFP


12:35pm: Moscow says Russia destroyed four artillery depots in Donetsk region

Russia's Defence Ministry said on Thursday that its forces were continuing offensive operations in Ukraine's Donetsk region and had destroyed four artillery depots.

In its daily briefing, the ministry said it had also destroyed a US-made radiolocation system and an M109 Paladin artillery system.

12:08pm: German arms company Rheinmetall in talks with Ukraine about Panther battle tanks

German arms maker Rheinmetall wants to deliver its latest tank models to Ukraine, including Panther battle tanks, Chief Executive Armin Papperger told Handelsblatt business daily on Thursday.

"Ukraine is interested in the Lynx and the Panther – the most modern infantry fighting vehicles and battle tanks," he was quoted as saying, adding there were already talks with Kyiv.

The German government would have to approve any export of Panther tanks, which were developed in Germany, Handelsblatt reported.

11:37am: Victorious Ukraine will join EU, Zelensky says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that he believed his country would join the European Union after emerging victorious from its war with Russia.

He made his remark during an address to the European Parliament in Brussels. Ukraine became a candidate to join the EU last June but the process of joining the 27-nation bloc takes several years.

11:34am: Ukrainian troops are fighting 'the most anti-European force' in the world, Zelensky tells EU

Addressing the European Parliament on Thursday,?Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that in fighting against?Russian forces, Ukrainian troops are fighting "the most anti-European force" in the world as he urged more EU military support.

"We are defending against the most anti-European force of the modern world. We are defending ourselves?– we Ukrainians on the battlefield?– along with you," Zelensky told MEPs.


11:33am: Zelensky, Macron meeting important for 'optics' for both sides

The meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and French President Emmanuel Macron at the ?lysée Palace on Wednesday evening was valuable for both leaders because they "needed it for the optics", said FRANCE 24 International Affairs Editor Angela Diffley. "It was important to make clear that Zelensky fully agrees, accepts that France fully supports Ukraine in this war – and that's because of this confusion [...] where Macron was, right in the early stages, keen to keep a channel open to Putin [...]. Earlier on Macron also said let's be careful not to see Russia 'humiliated'. And some of that contributed to an idea that France wasn't fully on board."

"Macron, according to Zelensky, has changed since then, and wants to be clearly seen to be on the side of Ukraine," Diffley continued. "France has always been on Ukraine's side in that it has sent weapons – but it has been a little less vocal about cobdemning Putin, certainly earlier on."

Zelensky needed to "make it clear that he understands Macron is fully on board" while Macron needed to "make it clear to everybody that France is fully behind Ukraine", she summarised it.

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, February 8, 2023.
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, February 8, 2023. ? Sarah Meyssonnier, AP


11:22am: UN nuclear chief due in Russia for Ukraine talks

UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi is due to arrive in Moscow on Thursday for talks on nuclear safety in Ukraine amid ongoing fighting, Russia's deputy foreign minister said.

Atomic sites have been a key concern throughout the nearly one year-long conflict, with attacks around several facilities raising fears of a nuclear incident.

Grossi visited Ukraine last month to dispatch International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) teams at several nuclear facilities, building on its mission at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia plant near the frontline.

11:19am: Ukraine fighting 'biggest anti-European force of the modern world', Zelensky says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told MEPs at the EU Parliament in Brussels that his country together with Europe was "defending ourselves against (the) biggest anti-European force of the modern world."

11:14am: EU must quickly consider giving Ukraine jets, EU parliament chief says

European Union countries must quickly consider providing fighter jets to Ukraine, the head of the bloc's parliament said on Thursday as she hosted President Volodymyr Zelensky, touring Europe to win more arms to fight against the Russian invasion.

Referencing the biblical fight between David and Goliath, European Parliament head, Roberta Metsola said in addressing Zelensky in the chamber:

"You need to win and now (EU) member states must consider quickly as the next step providing long-range systems and the jets that you need to protect your liberty."

11:11am: EU Parliament greets Zelensky with cheers, standing ovation

The European Parliament on Thursday greeted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with a standing ovation as he arrived to address MEPs on his first visit to Brussels since Russia's invasion.

"Ukraine is Europe and your nation's future is in the European Union," parliament president Roberta Metsola said in a speech. "States must consider, quickly, as a next step, providing long-range systems and the jets you need to protect the liberty too many have taken for granted."

10:35am: Italy's Meloni calls Zelensky's Paris invitation 'inappropriate'

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Thursday said the invitation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Paris, where he met French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, was "inappropriate".

"I believe our strength is community and unity [...] but there are times when favouring internal public opinion risks being to the detriment of the cause, and this seems to me to be one of those cases," she said in Brussels.

Meloni will meet Zelensky in Brussels on the sidelines of the European Union leaders meeting, Italy's Foreign Minister said late on Wednesday.

10:28am: 'Welcome home, welcome to the EU': EU Council chief tells Zelensky

EU leaders on Thursday hailed Volodymyr Zelensky's arrival in Brussels for his first visit to the heart of the union since Russia's invasion.

"Welcome home, welcome to the EU," European Council chief Charles Michel tweeted above a picture of him shaking Zelensky's hand, alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

10:25am: Kremlin calls for international inquiry into Nord Stream blasts

The world "must know the truth" about who was behind explosions affecting Nord Stream gas pipelines, the Kremlin spokesman said on Thursday, after a US investigative journalist alleged US involvement in last September's blasts.

Speaking to reporters, Dmitry Peskov also said the blog post by journalist Seymour Hersh should prompt an international investigation into the incidents.

The White House on Wednesday dismissed the Hersh report, which said an attack on the pipelines was carried out last September at the direction of US President Joe Biden.

9:40am: Russia steps up eastern Ukraine attacks, local governor says

Russian forces have significantly stepped up attacks in eastern Ukraine and are trying to break through Ukrainian defences near the town of Kreminna, a regional governor said on Thursday.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said Ukraine's military were holding their ground near Kreminna,

which Russian forces have held for months, but said they needed more weapons and ammunition to hold out.

"I can confirm that there has been a significant increase in attacks and shelling. And it is in the direction of Kreminna that they are trying to build on their success by pushing through out defenders' defences," he told Ukrainian television. "So far they have had no significant success, our defence forces are holding firmly there."

9:17am: Estonia says EU countries should jointly buy arms and ammunition for Ukraine

EU member states should jointly buy arms and ammunition for Ukraine, Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told reporters on Thursday ahead of an EU summit in Brussels.

"It is very important that we speed up the military aid to Ukraine," she also said.

7:20am: Russia's Wagner halts prisoner recruitment campaign, founder says

Russia's Wagner mercenary group has stopped recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine, Wagner's founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Thursday.

"The recruitment of prisoners by the Wagner private military company has completely stopped," Prigozhin said in a response to a request for comment from a Russian media outlet published on social media. "We are fulfilling all our obligations to those who work for us now," he said.

Wagner began recruiting prisoners in Russia's sprawling penal system in summer 2022, with Prigozhin, a catering entrepreneur who served nine years in prison during the Soviet Union, offering convicts a pardon if they survived six months in Ukraine.

6:58am: Russian rouble slumps to weakest vs dollar since late April

The Russian rouble slid to its weakest level against the dollar since late April on Thursday, driven down by market demand for foreign currency and Russia's lower export earnings.

At 05:50 GMT, the rouble was 1.1% weaker against the dollar at 73.10, after hitting its lowest point since April 27, 2022 at 73.3850 earlier in the session. It had lost 1.2% to trade at 78.35 versus the euro and shed 0.9% against the yuan to 10.77.

Russia is now selling 8.9 billion roubles ($121.83 million) worth of foreign currency per day, compensating for lower oil and gas revenues, down 46.4% year-on-year in January. Slumping energy revenues and soaring expenditure pushed Russia's federal budget to a deficit of about $25 billion in January, as sanctions and the cost of Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine weigh on the economy.

6:41am: Zelensky, Macron to travel together to EU summit in Brussels

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron will fly together on Thursday morning from Paris to a summit of EU heads of state and government in Brussels, the ?lysée Palace announced.

The two leaders will leave Villacoublay, near Paris, at around 08:30am (07:30 GMT). They are expected to arrive in Brussels at 10:00am (09:00).

The Ukrainian president, who is on a surprise tour of Europe, is leaving his country for the second time since the beginning of the Russian offensive on February 24, 2022. He travelled to Washington in December.

On Wednesday, he went to London, his closest ally after the United States in terms of military aid, and then to Paris, where he dined at the??lysée Palace with Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz before spending the night.

4pm: SpaceX curbs Ukraine's use of Starlink internet for drones

SpaceX has taken steps to?prevent Ukraine's military from using the company's Starlink?satellite internet service for controlling drones in the region?during the country's war with Russia, SpaceX's president said?Wednesday.

SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service, which has?provided Ukraine's military with broadband communications in its?defence against Russia's military, was "never never meant to be?weaponised", Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and chief?operating officer, said during a conference in Washington, DC

"However, Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were?unintentional and not part of any agreement," she said.

Russia has attempted to jam Starlink signals in the region,?though SpaceX countered by hardening the service's software,?Elon Musk, the company's chief executive, has said.

3am:?Australia vows to hold Russia accountable for MH17 disaster

Australia on Thursday pledged to hold Russia accountable for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, after a team of international investigators halted its probe into the disaster.

The team said there were "strong indications" Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved supplying the missile system that eventually downed the flight?– but halted the investigation because there was no "conclusive evidence".

The Boeing 777 was shot down over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 passengers on board, including 196 Dutch, 43 Malaysians and 38 Australian residents.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on Thursday said Russia had repeatedly tried to thwart the investigation, making it "impossible" to collect proof.

They added that Australia would "hold Russia to account for its role in the downing of the civilian aircraft".


? France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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