This content was produced in Russia, where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.
MOSCOW, Feb 3 (Reuters) – The Kremlin on Friday rejected as a “hoax” media reports that U.S. CIA Director William Burns had travelled to Moscow with a secret peace proposal that involved Ukraine ceding a fifth of its territory to Russia.
The Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung’s report, which said Burns had made a secret trip to Moscow last month to put forward the plan on behalf of the White House, has also been dismissed by Washington.
Asked whether Burns had travelled to Moscow or put forward a plan that involved Ukraine ceding 20% of its territory, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “That whole report is a hoax.”
In Other Developments:
* Air raid alerts sounded across Ukraine on Friday as European Union leaders were in the country’s capital to discuss further sanctions on Russia and Ukraine’s prospects of joining the European bloc with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
ARMS, AID, DIPLOMACY
* The head of the EU’s executive commission and the chairman of meetings of the 27 EU national leaders travelled to Kyiv to demonstrate support for Ukraine.
“There will be no let up in our resolve. We will also support you every step of the way on your journey to the EU,” EU chairman Charles Michel wrote on Twitter on Friday morning under a picture of himself on a central Kyiv square. * The German government approved the delivery of Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine from industrial stocks and is in talks over purchasing back 15 Gepard tanks from Qatar to send to Kyiv, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday.
* EU countries will seek a deal on Friday on a European Commission proposal to set price caps on Russian oil products amid divisions between member states, diplomats said.
* Ukraine’s allies are pushing the International Monetary Fund to finalise plans for a multibillion-dollar lending programme, the Financial Times reported.
* Poland believes it will be possible to build a coalition of some 40 countries, including the United States, Britain and Canada, by Feb. 10 backing calls to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympics, a Polish minister said.
* Russia, determined to make progress before Ukraine gets newly promised Western battle tanks and armoured vehicles, has picked up momentum on the eastern front and it announced advances north and south of Bakhmut, which has suffered persistent Russian bombardment for months.
* Russian forces are pushing from both the north and south to encircle Bakhmut, using superior troop numbers to try to cut it off from re-supply and force the Ukrainians out, Ukrainian military analyst Yevhen Dikiy said.
* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russian forces would respond to the delivery of longer-range Western weapons to Kyiv by trying to push Ukrainian forces further away from its borders to create a safe buffer zone.
* CIA Director William Burns said the intelligence agency assesses that the next six months will be “critical” for Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion.
* Reuters could not verify battlefield reports.
* Ukrainian authorities are investigating senior military officials in two separate cases of suspected corruption, officials said, part of a crackdown on wrongdoing before talks with European Union leaders.