As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, two cities in western Ukraine far from the site of the fighting to date were hit by airstrikes overnight. Meanwhile, the EU has proposed to double the size of its European Peace Facility, which provides lethal and non-lethal weapons to Ukraine. US President Joe Biden is set to call for an end to normal trade relations with Russia, while the Senate approved a $1.5 trillion federal funding bill that includes aid to help Ukraine respond to the war.
Russia’s armoured column bearing down on the Ukrainian capital is regrouping after having been stuck on a highway for more than a week, satellite pictures showed, and Britain said on Friday Moscow could now be planning an assault on Kyiv within days.
Here are key developments on Russia-Ukraine war on Friday
Putin to bring in volunteer fighters from Middle East
Russia will send thousands of fighters from the Middle East, along with weapons, to join its forces in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin said Friday. “We need to help them get to the war zone,” Putin told members of his Security Council on a video call during which Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia had received more than 16,000 applications to fight in the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine. Putin also endorsed a proposal to send more weapons, including anti-aircraft systems, to the separatist forces there.
EU to double military support to Ukraine to 1 billion euros
The EU plans to double to 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) the size of the European Peace Facility, which provides lethal and non-lethal weapons to Ukraine, according to the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell. He made the proposal to EU leaders Thursday during a summit in Versailles, France.
Ukraine plans 12 humanitarian corridors today
Twelve humanitarian corridors are planned for Friday to evacuate civilians in Ukraine. Two of them, leading to and from Mariupol and Volnovakha, will be possible only if a cease-fire is respected and if the route is de-mined, officials said. Evacuation buses have already left Energodar.
Agencies say 2.5 million people fled Ukraine
The International Organization for Migration says 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded more than two weeks ago. IOM spokesman Paul Dillon said in a text message that the figures, taken from national governments, were up to date through Friday morning.
UK says Russia rearranging forces on ground
British defense officials say Russia is rearranging its forces on the ground in Ukraine in an attempt to push forward its struggling invasion plan. The Ministry of Defence says that “Russia is likely seeking to reset and re-posture its forces for renewed offensive activity in the coming days. This will probably include operations against the capital Kyiv.”
Russian forces continue advance in Ukraine
Russian forces are continuing their offensive toward Kyiv on Friday from the northwest and east, notably trying to break through Ukrainian defenses from Kukhari, 90 kilometers (56 miles) to the northwest through to Demidov, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Kyiv, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said in a statement.
The United States, G7 nations and the European Union will move on Friday to end normal trade relations with Russia allowing them to hit it with new tariffs, multiple sources told Reuters.
All Ukrainian nuclear power stations are operating as normal, state company Energoatom said.