Good morning from Kyiv. It was a quiet night in the capital with no air raid alerts but explosions were reported overnight in Kramatorsk.
In more positive news, Ukraine and Russia exchanged 202 prisoners of war in a one-for-one swap last night. Nearly all the released Ukrainian POWs were defenders of the besieged city of Mariupol.
What’s happening today?
The Munich Security Conference opens on Friday, bringing world leaders together ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as Kyiv steps up pleas for more weapons.
In a BBC interview released Thursday, Zelensky repeated his calls for more Western military aid: “Of course, modern weapons speed up peace. Weapons are the only language Russia understands.”
He also ruled out conceding Ukrainian territory in a potential peace deal with Russia, warning that giving up land would mean that Russia could “keep coming back.”
Elsewhere, the ever-escalating spat between the Kremlin and Wagner continues to burst into the open.
The mercenary group’s head Yevgeny Prigozhin this week admitted his mercenary forces were unlikely to take Bakhmut anytime soon and he’s now seeking to shift the blame towards Moscow.
You can read more about that story here.
What was in President Zelensky’s latest message?
Rather than his usual daily address, President Zelensky yesterday spoke to the 73rd Berlin Film Festival by video link and was joined Hollywood actor Sean Penn at the opening of the Berlinale.
“Cinema cannot change the world,” said Zelensky, wearing his now signature sweatshirt. But it can influence and inspire people who can change the world.”
He ended his speech: “Today, Ukraine is the Fortress of the free world. A fortress that has stood for almost a year. A fortress that protects itself, Europe and the world. A fortress that cannot fall. A fortress that will definitely stand. And will win.
“I believe that you will all be convinced of this, after seeing our ‘superpower’ – the superpower of Ukraine.”
What’s the latest military situation?
The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) update on Feb. 17 focuses on Russian casualty rates and contains some pretty astronomical numbers.
The MoD notes: “Russian Ministry of Defence and private military contractor (PMC) forces have likely suffered 175-200,000 casualties since the start of the invasion of Ukraine. This likely includes approximately 40-60,000 killed.
“By modern standards, these figures represent a high ratio of personnel killed compared to those wounded. This is almost certainly due to extremely rudimentary medical provision across much of the force.
“Wagner PMC forces have deployed large numbers of convict-recruits. These have probably experienced a casualty rate of up to 50%.”
The Institute for the Study of War’s Feb. 16 daily assessment covers a multitude of topics, most notably:
· Ukrainian officials stated that Russian forces aim to capture Bakhmut by the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, which would require a significantly higher rate of Russian advance than anything seen for many months.
· Russian forces are reportedly increasing their use of airpower in Ukraine but are unlikely to dedicate significant amounts of airpower to combat operations over Ukrainian-controlled territory.
· Russia and Ukraine exchanged 202 prisoners-of-war (POWs) in a one-for-one exchange on Feb 16.
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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