Ukraine live briefing: Zelensky asks E.U. leaders for fighter jets; Ukraine’s rocket attacks often rely on U.S.-fed coordinates

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the European Parliament on Feb. 9, ahead of a special meeting with EU leaders. (Video: Reuters)
7 min

BRUSSELS — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is asking European Union leaders for more military equipment, including warplanes, during his Thursday visit to the bloc’s home base. “We need artillery guns, the ammunition, the tanks, the long-range missiles and the fighter jets,” he told a European Council meeting. He said at a news conference that he would discuss aircraft in bilateral meetings with leaders.

Other weapons previously sent to Ukraine have come with targeting assistance behind the scenes, the Washington Post revealed Thursday afternoon. Senior Ukrainian officials told The Post that U.S.-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems require coordinates provided or confirmed by the United States and its allies for the vast majority of strikes. The previously undisclosed practice highlights a deeper and more operationally active role for the Pentagon in the war than was previously known.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects around the globe.

In U.K. and France visits, Zelensky asks for fighter planes to counter Russia

1. Zelensky in Europe

  • The European Parliament’s president urged E.U. nations to provide Ukraine with warplanes and long-range weapons, among other military equipment. “We know the sacrifice your people have endured for Europe, and we must honor it not only with words, but with actions,” Roberta Metsola said to Zelensky. “States must consider quickly steps to providing long-range systems and the jets you need to protect the liberty too many have taken for granted.”
  • Zelensky praised the E.U. for taking steps to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels in his European Parliament speech. The E.U. banned imports of Russian seaborne imports of crude oil last year, with an embargo on oil products including diesel kicking in earlier this week. Natural gas deliveries through the main pipeline between Russia and Europe also ended after Moscow stalled supplies and a sabotage attack damaged two pipelines.
  • British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said “nothing is off the table” after Zelensky asked for fighter jets in his speech to the British Parliament this week. “I will leave Parliament thanking all of you in advance for powerful English planes,” Zelensky told the lawmakers. No country has sent fighter jets to Ukraine so far; Poland and Slovakia have both offered decades-old MiG fighter jets, but transfers have become entangled in discussions among allies.
  • Estonia’s prime minister proposed a program to purchase military equipment for Ukraine. Kaja Kallas cited a system used by the E.U. during the coronavirus pandemic, where countries provided cash but the European Commission negotiated with the pharmaceutical companies to lower the price. “We should send a clear signal to the European industry that they need to produce more,” she said Wednesday.

2. Other key developments

  • Ukraine’s rocket campaign is reliant on U.S. precision targeting, The Post reported Thursday. Ukrainian forces almost never launch the advanced weapons without specific coordinates provided by U.S. military personnel from a base elsewhere in Europe, wrote Post reporters Isabelle Khurshudyan, Dan Lamothe, Shane Harris and Paul Sonne.
  • Russian forces are on the offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, according to a Telegram post from Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration. Hayday stated that the situation is kept under control by Ukraine’s defense forces. Russian operations in Luhansk increased over the past week,the Institute for the Study of War, a D.C.-based think tank, reported. Russian troops are attacking Ukrainian defensive lines and making marginal advances along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border.
  • Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has arrived in Moscow, where he is set to advise on the implementation of a nuclear safety and security protection zone around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, said officials at the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Earlier, the Kremlin said that Grossi would meet state officials but not Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit. Russia seized control of the power plant last March, and since then, the IAEA has repeatedly expressed security concerns at the plant.
  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX has accused the Ukrainian military of using its satellite internet service, Starlink, to power drones. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that while she was pleased that the service has helped Ukraine, Starlink “was never intended to be weaponized” and “Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were not part of any agreement.”
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov slammed the possibility of Britain providing jets to Ukraine, saying such steps would “make this conflict more painful and tormenting for Ukraine.” He added that providing jets “will not fundamentally change the outcome of the conflict” or Russia’s goals in the war. On Thursday, a spokesperson for Sunak told the Press Association that the British government is “aware of potential escalatory risks” that sending the jets could entail and is weighing the decision “carefully.”
  • Zelensky’s renewed appeal for military aircraft comes amid warnings from Ukrainian officials that Russia is planning an offensive that is likely to include the northeastern region of Kharkiv and the southern Zaporizhzhia region. The Kremlin needs “to have something to show before their people, and have a major desire to do something big, as they see it,” by the Feb. 24 anniversary of the invasion, Oleksiy Danilov, head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told Reuters.
  • Shelling in the Kharkiv region killed two civilians and injured five, regional governor Oleh Synyehubov said. A 48-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman died of their injuries after residential buildings in the village of Dvorichna were hit, he said. Five people were injured in Kharkiv’s Chuguyiv district, he added.

3. Global impact

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met in Washington with top U.S. officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan. “We must continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs to retake territory and prevail as a sovereign independent nation,” Stoltenberg said at the State Department. The Pentagon said in a statement that Austin and Stoltenberg discussed NATO unity and “support for Ukraine during this critical time.”
  • The E.U. will impose sanctions on Russian “propagandists” in addition to military and political leaders in a new round of sanctions following a request from Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday. “Their lies are poisoning the public space in Russia and abroad,” she said. The 10th European sanctions package, due to be imposed by the anniversary of the invasion on Feb. 24, will also include an export ban worth more than 10 billion euros ($10.7 billion), she said, adding that “Russia must pay for the destruction caused and the blood spilled.”

4. From our correspondents

Ukraine readies along all fronts for Russia’s next big attack: Across Ukraine, troops are bracing for a do-over from Russia, as the Kremlin’s efforts to seize the country have largely faltered. But while Ukraine is certain that the next big Russian offensive is coming, the larger question is where it will occur.

That has Ukrainian fighters readying across the country — from boggy wetlands in the north to treeless landscapes in the south — for Russia’s next move, The Post’s Steve Hendrix and Serhii Korolchuk report from Zaporizhzhia.

Hassan reported from London, Pietsch from Seoul and Morris from Berlin.