Ukraine war latest: Missiles strike Eurovision contestants' home town; Zelenskyy meets German leaders to talk NATO, EU and arms (2023)

Key points
  • Russia shells home town of Eurovision contestants
  • British intelligence says Russian army 'poorly trained and equipped' for counterattacks
  • Zelenskyy meets German leaders todiscuss arms, NATO and the EU
  • Banksy mural taken down to be preserved
  • 'Disorganised' Russian retreat highlights 'severe shortage' of effective soldiers
  • Your questions answered: Where will Ukraine's counterattack take place?
  • Explained: What is Ukraine's counteroffensive - and how could it affect the war?
  • Live reporting by Brad Young


Olaf Scholz meets Ukrainian president

The German chancellor has met Volodymyr Zelenskyy, following the announcement of a £2.3bn military aid package.

Though slow to provide military assistance, Germany has since become one of the biggest suppliers of arms to Ukraine.

By green-lighting modern battle tanks like its own Leopard 1 and 2, Germany opened the door for a raft of deliveries from allies to Ukraine critical for its planned counteroffensive.


Russian army 'poorly trained and equipped' to respond to counterattacks

More than 600 miles away from Berlin, the state of Russian forces on the frontline has been subject to much speculation over the last few days.

Retreating brigades to the north and south of Bakhmut have been criticised by Wagner mercenaries positioned in the centre of the city, and defence expert Michael Clarke suggested Ukraine is probing how the Russian army reacts to counterattacks.

British military intelligence has painted a bleak picture of the likely outcome for Moscow, assessing its forces as poorly trained and poorly equipped to defend a 900-mile front.

While Russia maintains roughly the same number of personnel on the battlefield as a year ago - 200,000 - they are no longer made up of professional soldiers and "reasonably modern vehicles", the UK Ministry of Defence said.

"Now the force is mostly poorly trained mobilised reservists and increasingly reliant on antiquated equipment, with many of its units severely under-strength," said the MoD.

They routinely only conduct "very simple, infantry-based operations" compared to the regular "aspiring to complex joint operations" undertaken by the military at the start of the war.

"Critically, it is unlikely that CGF [Russian Combined Grouping of Forces] has been able to generate a large, capable, mobile reserve to respond to emerging operational challenges."


Zelenskyy's message to the German president

Writing in the guest book of the German presidency, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: "In the most challenging time in the modern history ofUkraine, Germany [is] proud to be our true friend and reliable ally.

"Together we will win and bring peace back to Europe."

His comments come after German defence minister Boris Pistorius said Berlin would back Ukraine for "as long as it takes".


Zelenskyy meets German president to discuss arms, NATO and the EU

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has met the president of Germany this morning, after he arrived in Berlin for talks with leaders about further arms deliveries.

He hinted at his priorities for the trip on Twitter, posting: "Weapons. Powerful package. Air defense. Reconstruction. EU. NATO. Security."

After speaking with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Mr Zelenskyy is expected to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

They will fly to the western city of Aachen, where the Ukrainian president will receive the International Charlemagne Prize.

Organizers say the award recognizes that Ukraine's resistance is a defence "not just of the sovereignty of their country and the life of its citizens, but also of Europe and European values".

But whileGerman leaders have backed Ukraine, voters are divided on whether the country should provide further weapons, particularly advanced fighter jets.


Russia shells home town of Eurovision contestants

While Eurovision was under way last night, Russian missiles struck the city which is home to Ukraine's entry in the contest.

Ternopil authorities said two people were injured in the western town where electro-pop duo Tvorchi is from.

Ukrainian forces intercepted and destroyed three missiles and 25 drones overnight, Ukraine's air force said.

Much closer to the frontline in Kherson, six people were injured over the last 24 hours as Russia fired 434 shells from heavy artillery, tanks, grenade launchers, drones, and aviation, governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.

"Populated areas" and residential buildings were targeted, including an educational institution, leading to the rescue of 70 people, he added.


Good morning

Welcome back to our live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy is continuing a diplomatic trip in Europe, stopping in Germany today to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

His arrival in Berlin late last night follows its approval of the biggest package of military equipment it has ever sent to Ukraine, worth some £2.3bn.

Mr Zelenskyy is expected to travel to the west of Germany to receive an award on behalf of Ukraine for the work the country has done in uniting Europe.

Yesterday he met with Italian leaders and then Pope Francis, in their first face-to-face talks since the war began.

But before we bring you any more updates today, here are some key moments from Saturday that you should be aware of:

  • The withdrawal of Russian troops south of Bakhmut highlighted a "severe shortage" of effective combat units in its armed forces, the UK MoD said;
  • Two Russian fighter jets and two military helicopters were reportedly shot down close to the Ukrainian border;
  • Russia claimed British missiles had been used by Ukraine to target industrial sites in occupied Ukraine;
  • Japan said Russia and China were "strenthening" their joint military exercises in Asia;
  • And Ukraine may have begun a rolling counteroffensive, starting with decoys, probes and tests of Russian army reactions before attempting a major breakthrough, a military analyst said.


Watch: Has Ukraine's offensive begun?

Russia has acknowledged losses in the battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut in recent days, and has said it is repositioning a new defensive line in the area.

So does this indicate the beginning of the new spring offensive?

Our military analyst Michael Clarke has been having a look at what the latest skirmishes along the frontline suggest...


Ukrainian troops advancing in two directions towards Bakhmut - but situation in city centre more complicated

Ukrainian troops are "gradually advancing in two directions" in Bakhmut, but the situation in the city centre is "more complicated", the country's deputy defence minister has said.

"Our troops are gradually advancing in two directions in the suburbs of Bakhmut ... however, the situation in the city itself is more complicated," Hanna Malyar wrote on Telegram.

In the last few days, Ukrainian and Russian officials have both said pro-Kyiv forces have started to push back in and around the eastern city after blunting a months-long offensive by troops loyal to Moscow.

Much of the city, which has been referred to as the "meat grinder" of the war, has been left in ruins due to the fighting.

On Friday, Russia acknowledged that its forces had fallenback north ahead of a long-promised counteroffensiveby Ukraine.


Two Russian fighter jets and two military helicopters 'shot down' on way to 'deliver missile and bomb attack'

Two Russian fighter jets and two militaryhelicopters have been shot down close to theUkrainian border today, in what would be a spectacular coup for Kyiv if confirmed

The Su-34 fighter-bomber, Su-35 fighterand two Mi-8 helicopters had made up a raiding party, and hadbeen "shot down almost simultaneously" in an ambush in theBryansk region, adjoining northeast Ukraine, reported respected, independent Russian news outlet Kommersant .

"According to preliminary data ... the fighters weresupposed to deliver a missile and bomb attack on targets in theChernihiv region of Ukraine, and the helicopters were there toback them up - among other things to pick up the 'Su' crews ifthey were shot down," it said.

Earier today, the Russian state news agency TASS said Su-34warplane had crashed in that region but did not specify a cause.

TASS also cited an emergency services official as saying an engine fire in a helicopter had caused it to crash near Klintsy,which is about 40 km (25m) from the border.

It made no mention of the Su-35, or of a second helicopter.

However, a video posted on the Russian pro-war Telegram channel Voyenniy Osvedomitel, which has about half a millionfollowers, showed a helicopter high in the sky suffering anexplosion, being thrown off course and then plunging towards theground in flames.

here was no official response from Ukraine, which usually declines to comment on reports of attacks inside Russia.

However, in a tweet, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to the Ukrainian president, called the incident "instant karma".


Teenage girl killed and 10 people injured in Russian shelling attack

A 15-year-old girl has been killed and 10 people have been injured in a Russian shelling attack, Ukraine's defence ministry has said.

The eastern city of Kostyantynivka, which has come under several attacks in recent days, was targeted by Smerch rocket launchers, the authority said.

Another person was also killed, and several buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Kostyantynivka is an industrial city near the embattled Bakhmut, which has been the site of some of the war's most fierce fighting for several months.

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