Zelensky says Russia wants to destroy European way of life
From CNN's Jack Guy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is addressing the European Parliament in Brussels.
"I'm here in order to defend our people's way home," he told EU lawmakers.
Zelensky said Russia wants to destroy the Ukrainian and European way of life.
"We will not allow that," he said.
5:23 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
"We have your back," EU official tells Zelensky
From CNN's Jack Guy
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola has introduced Ukrainian President Voloydymyr Zelensky ahead of his address.
"We have your back," Metsola told Zelensky. "Freedom will prevail."
Zelensky received a standing ovation as he walked into the chamber of the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday.
"Ukraine is Europe and your nation's future is in the European Union," said Metsola at the beginning of an EU summit, as she stood next to Zelensky.
"We will be with you for as long as it takes," she said.
4:45 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
No "red line" on fighter jet supplies to Ukraine, says Portuguese PM
From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London
Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said his country did not have a red line when it came to providing fighter jets to Ukraine, but cautioned his country did not have the means to relinquish any of its own aircraft.
“It’s not a red line,” Costa told journalists as he arrived in Brussels for a special European Council meeting on Thursday.
Portugal operates a total of 27 F-16 AM fighter jets but Costa says they are already tied to several NATO commitments.
“That’s an area where we simply don’t have the possibility [of giving to Ukraine], given that the means we have are all allocated to missions that we cannot do without," he said.
Costa went on to say Portugal had done its best to support Ukraine since the beginning of the war, highlighting the recent commitment to send three of its Leopard 2 tanks.
He added that supplies to Ukraine had the ultimate goal of achieving peace, but only on Ukrainian terms.
“Peace is our objective,” he said. “War is a means to achieve peace and this war, it should be reminded, was not started by Ukraine, Ukraine is the victim of war.
“The moment, the terms and conditions for peace can only be defined by Ukraine,” he added.
4:45 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
Zelensky arrives at European Parliament
From CNN's Radina Gigova and James Frater
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has arrived at the European Parliament in Brussels ahead of an EU summit on Thursday.
He was greeted by European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.
Zelensky is expected to address the EU Parliament later Thursday as part of a campaign to persuade the West to send more weapons and military support to counter an expected Russian spring offensive.
4:41 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
Zelensky takes pitch for more military support to Brussels
From CNN's Jack Guy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has arrived in Brussels, where he is expected to address the EU Parliament later today.
Zelensky arrived from Paris alongside French President Emmanuel Macron as part of an unannounced diplomatic tour of European capitals aimed at persuading the West to send more weapons and military support to counter an expected Russian spring offensive.
Zelensky made a surprise visit to the UK on Wednesday in only his second foreign trip since the Russian invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago.
In a speech to British lawmakers, Zelensky repeated his consistent call for more heavy weaponry, including fighter jets.
In a poignant but carefully crafted move, Zelensky handed the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, the helmet of a Ukrainian fighter pilot, signed with the message: “We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it.”
Earlier Wednesday, the UK announced it will begin training Ukrainian pilots on NATO-standard fighter jets, in what CNN understands would be the first official training program for Ukrainian pilots on Western fighter aircraft.
There was no mention of providing Ukraine with Western fighter aircraft that Zelensky has been calling for.
But British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak did say that “when it comes to the provision of military assistance to Ukraine, nothing is off the table” when asked whether the UK will provide fighter jets to Ukraine.
4:30 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
Zelensky and Macron are heading to Brussels for an EU summit
From CNN's Radina Gigova
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and French President Emmanuel Macron are on their way to Brussels, where they'll attend a European Union summit.
The leaders are flying together to the Belgian capital on a plane that departed from Vélizy-Villacoublay airport southwest of Paris on Thursday morning.
Zelensky is expected to address the EU Parliament in Brussels later Thursday. Ukraine officially became an EU candidate state last year, but it is still likely to be years before Kyiv is able to officially join the union.
On Wednesday, Zelensky visited London and Paris as part of an unannounced diplomatic tour of European capitals aimed at persuading the West to send more weapons and military support to counter an expected Russian spring offensive.
3:02 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
Wagner Group says it has stopped recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine
From CNN's Josh Pennington and Alex Stambaugh
Russia's Wagner mercenary group says it has stopped recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine.
"We have completely discontinued the recruitment of prisoners into Wagner PMC (private military company). Those who work for us now are fulfilling all their obligations," Wagner boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin's press service said on Telegram.
CNN could not independently confirm the group's claims.
Some context: Wagner has recruited tens of thousands of fighters from Russian jails, offering freedom and cash after a six-month tour, with Prigozhin even traveling personally to prisons to recruit convicts.
The group has emerged as a key player in the war, especially in the ongoing fight for the eastern city of Bakhmut.
Ukrainian assessments of Wagner tactics and accounts from defectors suggest the convicts are used as "cannon fodder" — pushed to the front lines in a human wave.
3:17 a.m. ET, February 9, 2023
At least 1,000 Russian tanks destroyed in Ukraine, monitoring group says
From CNN's Brad Lendon
At least 1,000 Russian tanks have been destroyed in Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, a war monitoring group says, a number that, when coupled with Russian tanks captured or abandoned, could represent half of all operational tanks available to Moscow at the start of the war.
Oryx, an open source intelligence website, has been collecting visual evidence of military equipment losses in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on February 24, 2022.
The group said this week it has verified 1,000 distinct Russian tank losses in the war. It said a further 544 Russian tanks had been captured by Ukrainian forces, 79 damaged and 65 abandoned.
That toll does not include losses Oryx has not been able to visually confirm, said Jakub Janovsky, a military analyst who contributes to the Oryx blog. He estimated the actual toll could be nearer 2,000 tanks.
“Russia started the war with around 3,000 operational tanks … so there is a good chance that Russia has lost one half of (its) usable tanks” Janovsky said.
President Macron awards Zelensky with France's highest honor
From CNN's Pierre Bairin
French President Emmanuel Macron has awarded visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with France's highest order of merit, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.
“Tribute to Ukraine and its people. Tribute to you, dear Volodymyr, for your courage and commitment," Macron tweeted alongside a video of the ceremony in Paris early Thursday morning.
The award is the highest distinction a French president can give to another head of state.
"It's too much for me," Zelensky said, adding he wanted to dedicate the award to the Ukrainian people.
Earlier, Macron told Zelensky that France is “determined” to assist Ukraine in its war against Russia. “We stand by Ukraine, determined to help it to victory,” Macron said. “Ukraine can count on France and its allies to win the war, Russia should not and will not win the war.”
Macron also said France would continue to provide military support to Ukraine and Paris will "adapt and re-adapt" to Kyiv’s needs. "Ukraine can count on us to build peace," the French leader said, speaking alongside Zelensky and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
EU summit: The three leaders dined at the Elysée Palace on Wednesday night ahead of Thursday’s European Union summit meeting in Brussels. Macron and Zelensky will fly to the Belgian capital together on Thursday morning, according to the Elysée.