Ukraine-Russia live briefing: Moldova says Kremlin is planning ‘violent action’ against it

Moldovan President Maia Sandu speaks during a news briefing at the presidential palace in Chisinau on Monday, Feb. 13. (Dumitru Doru/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
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Moldova’s president on Monday accused Russia of trying to destabilize her government, stop its bid for European Union accession and use it for the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The plan involved Russian agents “with military training, camouflaged in civilian clothes, who would undertake violent action, carry out attacks on buildings of state institutions or even take hostages,” President Maia Sandu said Monday.

“Violent actions, masked as protests of the so-called opposition, would force a change of power in Chisinau,” she said.

Earlier Monday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine’s allies should urgently provide it with more weapons as Russia embarks on a new offensive in the country’s east. The fresh fighting has already caused big losses for Russian forces, he said, but is also “putting pressure on Ukraine.”

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

1. Key developments

  • Sandu credited Kyiv for sharing intelligence about the alleged Russian plot that “involves the use of foreign nationals for violent actions.” This fall, the Kremlin planned to cause Moldovan discontent by cutting energy supplies, Sandu said in a Monday news conference, and it has since plotted to send military-trained disrupters into the country. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the European Council last week that he had given Sandu intelligence about the alleged plot.
  • There are concerns that the West’s own stocks of weapons are being depleted after a year of supplying Kyiv. “The war in Ukraine is consuming an enormous amount of ammunition,” Stoltenberg said before a gathering of NATO defense ministers scheduled for Tuesday in Brussels. “This puts our defense industries under strain.” The current rate of ammunition consumption is higher than the current rate of production. As such, he argued, allies must ramp up production and invest in production capacity.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will host a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which is made up of senior military officials from more than 50 nations that have been providing Ukraine with weapons and other aid. While many members of the group represent NATO-aligned nations, it is not affiliated with the military alliance.
  • The group will address Ukraine’s request for fighter jets, Stoltenberg said, adding that the conversation about NATO countries sending jets to Ukraine “will take time.” But Western jets are unlikely to arrive in Ukraine soon.

2. Battleground updates

  • The Russian military has shown a recent uptick in the Middle East, according to the top U.S. military officer overseeing air operations in the region. Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich, who leads Air Forces Central Command, told reporters that Russian pilots were “fairly assertive” during a military exercise between U.S. and Israeli militaries over the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Even then, he said, U.S. and Russian forces in the region appear to be trying to avoid pushing the war in Ukraine into a larger conflict.
  • Russian forces deployed tanks, missiles and rockets in an offensive push spanning four regions of Ukraine, Kyiv’s armed forces said Monday. While Ukraine said it managed to repel attacks on 10 settlements over the previous 24 hours, Russian military officials claimed to have made small gains in the past four days, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
  • The threat of further Russian air and missile strikes across Ukraine “remains high,” Ukraine’s armed forces said. Such attacks have pummeled Ukraine’s energy and other critical infrastructure throughout the winter, in a Kremlin bid to weaken Ukrainians’ resolve to fight by depriving them of light, heat and water.
  • Three people are dead after Moscow’s troops shelled targets in Kherson, officials in the southern Ukrainian region said Monday morning. Residential buildings, warehouses and an entertainment venue were among the buildings struck, according to the official. The Post could not immediately verify the claims.

3. Global impact

  • Russian intelligence services will pose the greatest threat to Norway in 2023, the Nordic country’s police security agency (PST) said Monday in its annual threat assessment. Relations between Russia and Norway “have deteriorated significantly,” the agency said. Because Norway is an energy supplier to Europe, PST “expects that in 2023, Russia will try to gather intelligence about most aspects of Norway’s oil, gas and energy sector,” the report said.
  • Austria’s foreign minister responded to a controversy over his country’s issuing visas to a number of sanctioned Russian politicians to attend an upcoming meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Alexander Schallenberg told The Post that Austria has an obligation by international law to permit delegations of member countries to enter.
  • Elon Musk responded to claims that Starlink satellite services had been restricted in Ukraine. “Starlink is the communication backbone of Ukraine, especially at the front lines, where almost all other internet connectivity has been destroyed,” he tweeted, but added that “we will not enable escalation of conflict that may lead to WW3.” He said that “SpaceX commercial terminals, like other commercial products, are meant for private use, not military, but we have not exercised our right to turn them off.” SpaceX previously accused Ukraine’s military of using Starlink to power drones.

4. From our correspondents

U.S. warns Ukraine that it faces a pivotal moment of war: As the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears, U.S. officials are telling Ukrainian leaders they face a critical moment to change the trajectory of the war, raising the pressure on Kyiv to make significant gains on the battlefield while weapons and aid from the United States and its allies are surging.

Despite promises to back Ukraine “as long as it takes,” Biden officials say recent aid packages from Congress and America’s allies represent Kyiv’s best chance to decisively change the course of the war. Many conservatives in the Republican-led House have vowed to pull back support, and Europe’s long-term appetite for funding the war effort remains unclear.

Several officials noted the strong bipartisan support that has accompanied every Ukraine package, adding that Congress gave the White House more than it asked for, but they acknowledged that was under a Democrat-led House and Senate.

The war in recent months has become a slow grind in eastern Ukraine with neither side gaining the upper hand. Biden officials believe the critical juncture will come this spring, Yasmeen Abutaleb and John Hudson report, when Russia is expected to launch an offensive and Ukraine mounts a counteroffensive in an effort to reclaim lost territory.

Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report.