Ukraine live briefing: Moldovan premier resigns amid Ukraine war pressures

A Ukrainian member of the State Border Guard Service in Bakhmut on Feb. 9. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)
8 min

Amid high inflation, power-grid cuts and other pressures applied by Russia and spilling over from the war in Ukraine, Moldova’s government, which opposed the Russian invasion, resigned Friday.

Pro-Western Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita had been in office since 2021. On Friday, Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, named Dorin Recean, a former cabinet member who also backs European Union membership for Moldova, to succeed Gavrilita, subject to legislative approval. When Gavrilita took office, few foresaw “so many crises caused by Russian aggression in Ukraine,” she said in the resignation announcement, the BBC reported.

Earlier in the day, a Russian missile fired at Ukraine crossed over Moldova and came within 22 miles of Romania, a NATO member, the Romanian Defense Ministry said.

Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.

Key developments

  • Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu maintained that the prime minister has not resigned because of instability resulting from the war. “The situation is under control,” he said in an interview. “It’s not related to geopolitics.” The key factor, said Viorel Ursu, Moldova’s ambassador in Washington, was “the need to accelerate the preparedness for E.U. accession.”
  • From London, to Paris, to Brussels, “Partners have heard our position, our arguments,” Zelensky said in his nightly address Friday, reflecting on his “diplomatic marathon” of the past week, during which he addressed the European Council in Brussels and the British Parliament in London, and met separately with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
  • In Moscow, the Kremlin confirmed Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin would deliver a high-profile address to the country’s Federal Assembly on Feb. 21. Under Russia’s Constitution, Putin is expected to make the speech annually, but he skipped it last year. He is expected to mention the war in Ukraine, which Russia dubs a “special military operation,” as the anniversary of the invasion approaches.
  • President Biden is set to visit Poland on Feb. 20 for the first anniversary of the war, the White House announced Friday, where he will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda to discuss collective support for Ukraine. John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communications for the National Security Council, said at a news briefing that Biden wants to send a message of U.S. and international resolve, and “make it very clear that the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
  • Ukraine uses specific coordinates provided or confirmed by U.S. military personnel for the majority of its rocket strikes, The Washington Post reported. The disclosure reveals that the Pentagon is playing a more significant role in the war than previously known.
  • The Pentagon is urging Congress to resume funding top-secret programs in Ukraine, current and former U.S. officials have told The Post. The programs were suspended ahead of Russia’s invasion last year and, if resumed, could allow U.S. Special Operations troops to employ Ukrainian operatives to observe Russian military movements and counter disinformation. Congressional officials say it is difficult to predict the outcome.

Battleground updates

  • Air raid alerts blared across eastern and central Ukraine on Friday. In the capital, Kyiv, the mayor urged citizens to seek shelter and reported some missile damage. The northeastern region of Kharkiv was also under attack Friday, said its governor, Oleh Synyehubov. He reported some injuries and damage to critical infrastructure that caused widespread power outages. A similar situation was reported early Friday in Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine, local officials said, citing Russian rocket attacks.
  • Two of the three operating Ukrainian nuclear power plants have reduced power as a precautionary measure amid renewed shelling of energy infrastructure, Ukrainian regulators informed the IAEA on Friday. “The instability in the electrical grid from the shelling also caused one of the Khmelnitsky reactor units to shut down,” the IAEA said in a statement. “These developments were confirmed by the IAEA Support and Assistance Missions that are onsite at the plants, who also confirmed that all nuclear safety systems at Khmelnitsky worked as expected.”
  • Residents of eastern and southern Ukraine were warned of potential drone attacks Friday. Dnipropetrovsk military administrator Serhiy Lysak told people to stay away from critical infrastructure facilities, while the Mykolaiv governor, Vitaly Kim, issued an alert to watch out for drones overhead.
  • Russia has begun an offensive in Luhansk centered on Kreminna, said the eastern region’s governor, Serhiy Haidai. “It’s possible to confirm that in principle a certain intensification has already begun, and it’s possible to say that de facto this is part of the full-scale offensive that Russia has planned,” he said in a video. Haidai added that the number of daily attacks “has increased,” and he accused Russian forces of “concentrating all their maximum efforts in the Kreminna direction.”
  • Russia’s Wagner Group claims it has “completely stopped” recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine, according to a post on Telegram. The private military organization is run by a Putin ally and has been a key military force in the war. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, assessed that the group “will likely continue to recruit from prisons, albeit in a much more limited capacity.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the European Parliament on Feb. 9, ahead of a special meeting with EU leaders. (Video: Reuters)

Global impact

  • A Russian missile fired at Ukraine crossed over Moldova on Friday morning and came within 22 miles of Romania, a NATO member. This prompted the Romanians to scramble two fighter jets that were on an exercise under NATO command, the country said. The incident was part of the latest Russian barrage of strikes. Ukraine’s top general initially charged that two cruise missiles violated Romanian airspace. However, the Romanian Defense Ministry said a missile, fired from a Russian ship in the Black Sea, flew over Ukraine, crossed into Moldova and reentered Ukrainian airspace “without intersecting, at any time, the airspace of Romania.”
  • Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva seeks to broker peace between Russia and Ukraine, and spoke with the German chancellor last month in that effort, he said during an interview with CNN on Friday. Lula said Ukraine has the right to defend itself “because the invasion was a mistake on the part of Russia,” but explained that Brazil will not provide ammunition to Ukraine because “I don’t want to go join the war.”
  • Zelensky met with Poland’s president in Rzeszow, southeastern Poland, after his Brussels trip, according to a tweet from President Andrzej Duda’s office on Friday. The two men discussed the situation on the front lines, the need for joint military support and broader security in the region, it said.
  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX accused Ukraine of using its satellite internet service, Starlink, to enable drone strikes. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that Starlink “was never intended to be weaponized” and that it has been used in “ways that were not part of any agreement.” Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko tweeted in response that Starlink “saved hundreds of thousands of lives.” Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told The Washington Post that Kyiv was not worried — and that the idea that Ukraine relies solely on Starlink “does not correspond to reality at all.”
  • Russia is set to reduce its oil production by 500,000 barrels a day beginning in March in response to price caps imposed by Western countries on Russian oil, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said in a statement Friday. While the impact of the reduction is unclear, analysts have said it could eventually lead to higher gasoline prices. The international benchmark for oil prices, Brent crude, rose 2.2 percent Friday to $86.42 per barrel.

From our correspondents

Russia ousts director of elite museum as Kremlin demands patriotic art: Just days after Russia’s Culture Ministry instructed Tretyakov Gallery director Zelfira Tregulova to prove the museum’s collection was “in line with spiritual and moral values,” she has been removed from her role.

The move comes during intensifying criticism of the museum from hawkish proponents of the war in Ukraine and after authorities canceled the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art at the museum in November.

The new director has little experience in fine art, and her appointment appears to be the latest move to force Russian artists and cultural institutions to conform with the Kremlin’s increasingly conservative vision for the country, The Post’s Mary Ilyushina reports.

David L. Stern and Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report.