February 4, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 2230 GMT (0630 HKT) February 4, 2023
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2:28 p.m. ET, February 4, 2023

Russia slams EU-Ukraine summit where countries pledged new round of sanctions

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova and Sugam Pokharel

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen attend a European Union summit meeting on February 3.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen attend a European Union summit meeting on February 3. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters)

Russia criticized the European Union for participating in a summit with Ukraine in Kyiv on Friday, where members pledged a new round of sanctions against the Kremlin.

The bloc's support for Ukraine only serves the “hegemonic aspirations” of the US and NATO, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Saturday, when asked for Moscow's response to the summit. Zakharova said attendees are seeking to weaken Russia.

EU leaders at the event in Kyiv announced a new round of sanctions against Russia, and also discussed Ukraine's bid for EU membership. It was the first such summit to take place in Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade the country.

Zakharova blamed the bloc for “promising” EU membership and violating its own standard requirements for European candidacy.

What participants said about the summit: European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen said that the bloc's 10th round of sanctions will target Russian trade and technology sectors fueling the war in Ukraine.

The EU also pledged an additional $27 million to support Ukraine's de-mining of liberated territories that were temporarily occupied by Russian forces. The EU's top diplomat said the alliance's priority was "protecting civilians and their livelihood."

While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is eyeing a fast-tracked admission into the EU, the process is complicated and lengthy, and it is likely to take years if Ukraine is ultimately admitted.

9:59 a.m. ET, February 4, 2023

Ukrainian tank crews "quick to master" the Challenger 2 in training, UK defense ministry says

Ukrainian tank crews train in the UK.
Ukrainian tank crews train in the UK. (UK Ministry of Defence)

The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence shared images of Ukrainian crews training on the UK's Challenger 2 tanks, writing that the trainees were learning to use the combat vehicles quickly.

"Tank crews from the Armed Forces of Ukraine have been quick to master the controls of the mighty Challenger 2 this week," the defense ministry wrote in a tweet Saturday.

The UK has committed to sending 14 of the tanks to aid Kyiv's forces, and the Ukrainian tank crews arrived for training last weekend.

See the tweet:

8:33 a.m. ET, February 4, 2023

"Large exchange of prisoners" occurs between Russia and Ukraine, Ukrainian official says

From Svitlana Vlasova in Kyiv, Josh Pennington and CNN's Niamh Kennedy

Russia has returned 116 prisoners of war to Ukraine as part of the latest prisoner exchange between the two countries, according to a senior Ukrainian official.

Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak posted on Telegram Saturday to announce that "another large exchange of prisoners" had taken place. 

This follows reports from Russia state media earlier Saturday that Ukraine had returned 63 Russian POWs after a "difficult negotiation process."

"We managed to return 116 of our men, defenders of Mariupol, Kherson partisans, snipers from the Bakhmut sector and other heroes," Yermak said in the Telegram post. 

Ukraine also secured the "return the bodies of foreign volunteers" Christopher Parry and Andrew Bagshaw, according to Yermak. 

Parry and Bagshaw, both British nationals, were killed a during a humanitarian mission in Soledar in eastern Ukraine, according to a statement from the Parry family on Jan. 24.

Yermak said that Ukraine also recovered the body of Yevhen Kulyk, a Ukrainian volunteer soldier "who served in the French Foreign Legion and returned to defend Ukraine" after the Russian invasion began.  

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, citing the Russian Defense Ministry, reported Saturday that the 63 "released Russian servicemen includes persons of a ‘sensitive category’ whose exchange was facilitated by the mediation efforts of the United Arab Emirates leadership."

The soldiers are back on Russian territory and are "being provided with all necessary psychological and medical assistance" and the chance to contact relatives, RIA Novosti added. 

Some background: On Jan. 8, 100 soldiers were returned to their respective home countries as a part of a prisoner exchange carried out by Russia and Ukraine. At the time, Yermak promised that it would not be "the last exchange," outlining Ukraine's commitment to returning "all our people."

Uliana Pavlova and Denis Lapin contributed reporting to this post.

9:19 a.m. ET, February 4, 2023

France and Italy plan to deliver long-range anti-missile system to Ukraine this spring

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris

Defense ministers from France and Italy have concluded talks on sending the SAMP/T-MAMBA air defense system to Ukraine this spring, the French Ministry of Armed Forces said in a statement late Friday. 

“It is the best long-range European anti-missile system, designed by France and Italy,” the statement said. 

The new system can target drones, missiles and fighter jets, according to the statement. 

“Supplying this system meet(s) the urgency expressed by the Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov to his French and Italian counterparts,” according to the statement. 

The system will be further reinforced by the Thales GM200 radar system, purchased earlier this month by Ukraine with the help of France, the statement added.  

8:25 a.m. ET, February 4, 2023

Portugal will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, prime minister says

From CNN’s Duarte Mendonca

Portugal will send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said Saturday. 

“We are currently working to be able to dispense with some of our tanks,” the prime minister told journalists. 

When asked how many tanks would be sent to Ukraine, Costa did not reveal any further details. 

“I know … (how many tanks will be sent to Ukraine), but that will be announced in due time,” Costa said. 

“We are currently working specifically with Germany to allow a logistical operation to supply parts, with a view to completing the recovery of some of the (combat) vehicles that we have that were not operational so that we can give Ukraine some tanks, without naturally losing our intact military capability,” he added. 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said earlier in the week that his country is expecting to receive 120 to 140 modern Western fighting tanks in a "first wave" of deliveries from 12 countries.

9:52 a.m. ET, February 4, 2023

Ukraine will fight to hold on to its "fortress" of Bakhmut, Zelensky says

From CNN's Katharina Krebs

Smoke rises after shelling in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on February 3.
Smoke rises after shelling in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on February 3. (Yasuyyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine will fight to hold on to the eastern city of Bakhmut for as long as it can, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday. 

"No one will surrender Bakhmut. We will fight as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress," Zelensky said at a news conference in Kyiv alongside top European Union officials following a Ukraine-EU summit.

Zelensky also urged the West to supply long-range weapons to help Kyiv stay in Bakhmut and push Russian troops out of the Donbas region.

The Ukrainian president said that Russia wants revenge for its military failures.

"Russia wants revenge. Revenge in the east where they didn't succeed. They want to take the east. Our task is not to give them this chance by strengthening our army with necessary weapons. I think we have every chance," Zelensky said.

Ukrainian officials have said in recent weeks they believe Russia is preparing for a spring offensive.

What else happened at the summit: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that a 10th round of EU sanctions against Russia is "on its way."

The sanctions on Russia should be targeted at stopping Moscow from rebuilding its military capability, Zelensky said.

Von der Leyen also commended Zelensky on his domestic reform work in his country's bid for EU membership.

“Your determination to forge ahead is impressive. You're taking important steps with all the reforms forward to meet the recommendations, and we should not forget you are doing this while you are fighting against an aggressor,” she said.

“Rest assured that your progress will be reflected in our important enlargement report that is due in autumn for the member states," she added.