Good morning from a very snowy Kyiv. It’s a big day in the capital as it hosts a key summit between Ukraine and the European Union.

The bloc’s chief Ursula von der Leyen arrived in Kyiv on Thursday with the EU’s most senior diplomat, Josep Borrell.

What’s happening today?

It’s all eyes on the summit. Speaking ahead of events, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he wants to hold talks “this year” on his war-battered country joining the bloc.

EU leaders granted candidate status to Ukraine in June last year, just months after Russia sent troops to attack the pro-Western country. But the path to full membership remains long and could take years.

“I believe that Ukraine deserves to start negotiations on EU membership this year,” Zelensky said Thursday after talks with von der Leyen.

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“Only together can a strong Ukraine and a strong European Union protect the life we value.”

You can read more about that story here.

Elsewhere, there’s been a little more light shed on one of the biggest ongoing uncertainties regarding the war in Ukraine – the number of troops on either side killed or wounded.

The latest estimate comes from a report in The New York Times which, citing “American and other Western officials,” claims 200,000 Russian troops have been killed and wounded since Feb. 24 of last year.

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What was in President Zelensky’s latest message?

Since the President has been busy getting ready for today, he kept his daily address on Thursday evening brief and broad.

As well as thanking the EU for “tangible support on the path of integration and in protecting our country and people,” he said: “We have to continue what we are doing: strengthen our resilience, be absolutely united in our aspiration to provide our army and all defenders with the necessary weapons and equipment – we in Ukraine need to speak with one voice to the world on defense supplies. We also need to tangibly increase global pressure on Russia every month. The enemy must come out of this stage much weaker than they anticipate in the worst-case scenario.

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“This is a difficult task for us. But we must accomplish it.”

What’s the latest military situation?

The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) update on Feb. 3 focuses on the recruitment efforts of the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group, which it believes has “probably significantly reduced from its peak between summer and autumn 2022.”

Using figures released by Russian prison officials, it estimates recruitment has dropped from 23,000 in the period from September to November 2022 to 6,000 in the period from November 2022 to now.

The MoD adds: “Separately, anecdotal evidence from Ukrainian combatants over the last ten days suggests a reduced Russian reliance on human-wave style assaults by Wagner convict fighters in key sectors.

“Significant tensions between Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defence are playing out in public; competition between factions in the Russian elite is likely to be partially responsible for the reduced supply of convicts.”

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The Institute for the Study of War’s Feb. 2 daily assessment covers a multitude of topics, most notably:

·      A Ukrainian intelligence official stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military to capture Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts by March 2023, supporting ISW’s most likely course of action assessment (MLCOA) for a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.

·      Russian authorities blocked internet cell service in occupied Luhansk Oblast likely as part of an effort to intensify operational security to conceal new Russian force deployments in Luhansk Oblast.

·      Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov supported ISW’s assessment and possibly suggested that Russian forces have mobilized substantially more personnel for an imminent offensive.

And that’s it for today’s Morning Memo.

 Kyiv Post will bring you the latest news throughout the day and we’ll be back with another edition tomorrow.

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