Biden will visit Poland to strengthen coalition

Ukraine war’s first anniversary nears

A Ukrainian tank moves into position Friday in Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, where the Ukraine military said heavy fighting continues. More photos at
A Ukrainian tank moves into position Friday in Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, where the Ukraine military said heavy fighting continues. More photos at (AP/Libkos)

WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden will travel to Poland this month to rally allies one year after Russia's assault on Ukraine began, the White House announced Friday, as he aims to sustain a coalition that has supported Kyiv's defenses.

The visit, scheduled for Feb. 20-22, comes as polling in the United States and abroad suggests waning support for maintaining tens of billions of dollars worth of military and economic assistance for Ukraine in the protracted war. In addition, Republicans who recently took control of the House have voiced skepticism -- or outright opposition -- to continuing the funding.

Russia, meanwhile, is believed to be planning a renewed offensive in conjunction with the anniversary and has increased its long-range strikes on Ukraine's military and civilian infrastructure in recent weeks.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden would meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda and the leaders of the Bucharest Nine, which are NATO allies in Eastern Europe, to discuss his "unwavering support" for the alliance.

She added that Biden would deliver a speech on how the U.S. "will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes."

It remained unclear whether Biden might attempt a visit to Ukraine as many other Western leaders and members of Congress have done.

Jean-Pierre said the administration will "continue to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes."

Biden visited Poland last year just weeks after the war began when he delivered a forceful case for supporting Ukraine's defense in front of Warsaw's iconic Royal Castle. At the time, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power," though the White House swiftly backed off what initially seemed to be a call for regime change in Moscow.

First lady Jill Biden briefly crossed the border on a trip in May and met her counterpart, Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, in the latter's first public event since the war began. Biden, as well as White House officials, have highlighted the unique security challenges raised by a potential visit by a U.S. president to a country under invasion by nuclear-armed Russia.

Biden hosted President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in December at the White House, where the Ukrainian leader also pressed for additional Western weapons and support during an address to Congress.


Meanwhile, Russia used strategic bombers, cruise missiles and killer drones in a wave of attacks across Ukraine early Friday, while Moscow's military push that Kyiv says has been brewing for days appeared to pick up pace in eastern areas ahead of the one-year anniversary of its invasion.

Russian forces have launched 71 cruise missiles, 35 S-300 missiles and seven Shahed drones since late Thursday, Ukraine's military chief, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi said.

Ukrainian forces downed 61 cruise missiles and five drones, he added.

Zelenskyy, who has campaigned for more Western support against Russia's military ambitions, said: "This is terror that can and must be stopped."

The cruise missiles aimed at Ukraine were launched by Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers and from Russian navy ships in the Black Sea, military chief Zaluzhnyi said, while the S-300 missiles were launched from the Belgorod region just inside Russia and the occupied part of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Moscow once again targeted the power supply in "another attempt to destroy the Ukrainian energy system and deprive Ukrainians of light, heat, water." The International Atomic Energy Agency said two of Ukraine's three operating nuclear power plants are at reduced power "due to renewed shelling of the country's energy infrastructure."

The barrage was broad, also taking aim at the capital, Kyiv, and Lviv, near Ukraine's Western border with Poland. It also struck critical infrastructure in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city in the northeast. Seven people were wounded there, two of them seriously, regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said.

High-voltage infrastructure facilities were hit in the eastern, western and southern regions, Ukraine's energy company, Ukrenergo, said, resulting in power outages in some areas. It was the 14th round of strikes on the country's power supply, the company said.

Air raid sirens sounded across much of the country.

Zaporizhzhia City Council Secretary Anatolii Kurtiev said the city had been hit 17 times in one hour, which he said made it the most intense period of attacks since the beginning of the full-scale invasion Feb. 24, 2022.

Ukraine's Air Force shot down 10 Russian missiles over Kyiv, according to the Kyiv City Administration. The fragments of one missile damaged two cars, a house and electricity wires. No casualties were reported.

The Ukraine Air Force said Russia launched S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles on the Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia provinces. Those missiles cannot be destroyed in midair by air defenses but they have a relatively short range, so the Russians have used them for attacks on areas not far from Russian-controlled territory.

The Khmelnytskyi province in western Ukraine was also attacked with Shahed drones, according to regional Gov. Serhii Hamalii.

Russia has in the past used Iranian-made Shahed drones to strike at key Ukrainian infrastructure and sow fear among civilians, according to Western analysts. They are known as suicide drones because they nosedive into targets and explode on impact like a missile.


Romania, a NATO member, claimed Friday that a Russian missile had come within 22 miles of its border but it did not cross into the country's territory, countering a claim made by the Ukrainian military.

Ukraine's top military commander had said earlier in the day that two Russian missiles crossed into the airspace of Moldova and Romania before entering Ukraine and being directed at targets in the country.

It would have been the first such instance of a Russian missile entering Romanian airspace. Such a violation would risk inflaming tensions between NATO and Moscow.

Romania's Defense Ministry said in a statement that when a missile was detected near the north of the country's territory, two of its fighter jets that were conducting drills under NATO command were redirected to the area, but that they resumed their original mission once the situation became clear.

Even after the Romanian statement, Zelenskyy repeated the claim that Russian missiles had flown through Romania's airspace in addition to Moldova's and said it was "proof that terror does not know and will never know any borders."

"These missiles are a challenge to NATO's collective security," he said in a video message released Friday afternoon.

Several hours later, Ukraine's air force continued to insist that radar data would show two Russian missiles crossing into Romanian airspace.

"There is radar data -- there are means of objective control," Yuriy Ihnat, the air force spokesperson, said at a news conference. "Undoubtedly, NATO member countries were watching this situation," he said, adding that he believed more information would emerge to confirm Ukraine's account of the events.

NATO declined to comment on the episode. Moldova's Foreign Ministry confirmed that the missiles had passed over its airspace, and said it had summoned the Russian ambassador to discuss the incident.

"We strongly reject the recent unfriendly actions and statements in relation to the Republic of Moldova, which is absolutely unacceptable by our people," Daniel Voda, a spokesperson for the ministry, said in a statement.


Moscow's goals have narrowed since it launched its full-scale invasion in 2022, military analysts say.

At that time, the capital, Kyiv, and the installation of a puppet government were among its targets. But numerous battlefield setbacks, including yielding Donbas areas it had initially captured, have embarrassed Putin.

The Kremin is concentrating its efforts on gaining full control of the Donbas, Kyiv claims, and is pushing at key points on several fronts, though Russian progress is reportedly slow.

Russian forces were focusing on Ukraine's industrial east, especially the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces that make up the industrial Donbas region where recent fighting has been most intense, the Ukrainian military said. Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces there since 2014.

The Kremlin is striving to secure areas it illegally annexed last September -- the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions -- and where it claims its rule is welcomed, according to Kyiv officials.

In the Donetsk region, local Ukrainian officials reported that the Russian military deployed additional troops and launched offensive operations.

"There is a daily escalation and Russian attacks are becoming active throughout the region," Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

In Luhansk province, the Russian army is trying to punch through Ukrainian defenses, according to regional Gov. Serhii Haidai.

"The situation is deteriorating, the enemy is constantly attacking, the Russians are bringing in a large amount of heavy equipment and aircraft," Haidai said.

There has been little change in battlefield positions for weeks amid freezing winter conditions.

Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-appointed head of the Donetsk region, said Russian forces had secured positions on the southern outskirts of Vuhledar. He added that Ukraine has sent additional reinforcements to the city that slowed the Russian advance.

Pushilin's claim couldn't be independently verified.

Vuhledar is a strategically important town that sits next to a railway link crossing the region on the way to Crimea. Capturing the town is important for Russia to secure the safety of the railway connection to Crimea and advance its goal of seizing the entire Donetsk region.


In other developments, on Friday, Russia added a former speechwriter for Putin to its register of foreign agents, along with a popular singer and prominent opposition politician who has fled abroad.

Russian law requires organizations and individuals who are determined to have received foreign funding to identify themselves as "foreign agents," potentially undermining their credibility and stifling dissent.

The Justice Ministry said Abbas Gallyamov "distributed materials created by foreign agents to an unlimited circle of people, spoke out against the special military operation in Ukraine, [and] participated as an expert and respondent on information platforms provided by foreign structures."

Gallyamov, who wrote speeches for Putin during his 2008-12 stint as prime minister, is frequently quoted by foreign media. He recently attracted attention with an appearance on CNN in which he suggested Putin could face a military coup.

The ministry said it also put pop star Zemfira Ramazanova, who performs using her first name, on the list. She had publicly opposed Russia's military actions in Ukraine and received unspecified foreign funds, the ministry said.

Dmitry Gudkov, who was a well-known opposition politician before fleeing Russia in 2021, was also designated a foreign agent.

Information for this article was contributed by Zeke Miller, Chris Megerian, Susie Blann and staff members of The Associated Press and by Marc Santora and Monika Pronczuk of The New York Times.

  photo  A Ukrainian flag waves in the city center damaged by Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Libkos)

  photo  People carry belongings out of their damaged home Friday in Komyshevakha in the Zaporizhzhya region of Ukraine. The area was hit repeatedly by Russian missile strikes, part of a wave of attacks across Ukraine by strategic bombers, cruise missiles and killer drones. (AP/Andriy Andriyenko)

  photo  A woman and a boy walk in the snow Friday in St. Petersburg, Russia, near a billboard with a portrait of a Russian soldier awarded for action in Ukraine and the words “Glory to the heroes of Russia.” (AP/Dmitri Lovetsky)

  photo  A boy and a woman play chess in a subway station being used as a bomb shelter during a Russian rocket attack Friday in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP/Efrem Lukatsky)

 Gallery: Images from Ukraine and Russia, month 12

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