US may send fighter jets to Ukraine; natural gas again flowing from Russia to Europe: Live Ukraine updates

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A top U.S. military general says the United States and its allies are considering providing Ukraine with fighter jets, a decision that would sharply escalate the level of weaponry being sent to Kyiv.

Gen. Charles Brown, Air Force chief of staff, said the jets could come from the U.S. or its allies.

“I can’t speculate what aircraft they go to,” Brown said in an interview at the Aspen Security Forum.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded for fighter jets for months, saying Russia’s air supremacy has been a major stumbling block in his country’s efforts to repel the invasion. In March, the U.S. and NATO scuttled Poland’s proposal to send its Russian-built MiGs to Ukraine. White House national security spokesman John Kirby said at the time the proposal might be “mistaken as escalatory” and could provoke a Russian military confrontation with NATO.

Brown said Wednesday that Russian MiGs won’t be sent to Ukraine, saying with a laugh that it will “be tougher to get parts” from the Russians.

“It’ll be something non-Russian,” he said. “I could probably tell you that, but I can’t tell you exactly what it’s going to be.”

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Latest developments

►Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state-controlled RT television that Russia has added parts of southern Ukraine to its focus, which officials had said was limited to the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

►Britain will supply Ukraine with scores of artillery guns, hundreds of drones and 1,600 anti-tank weapons, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced.

►Collen Kelapile, president of the Economic and Social Council known as ECOSOC, said there is growing concern that funding for critical U.N. development goals including ending extreme poverty and hunger by 2030 might be neglected by Western donor nations supporting Ukraine militarily and financially in its war against Russia. 

15,000 Russians killed, 45,000 wounded in Ukraine, CIA estimates

Russian President Vladimir Putin is “entirely too healthy” but the Russian military already has taken “significant” casualties in Ukraine, CIA Director William Burns said at the Aspen Security Forum. Burns dismissed persistent rumors that Putin, who traveled to Iran this week, is gravely ill from cancer or some other malady as unlikely.

Burns said that Russia’s military has adapted after suffering “catastrophic failures” early in the war. Latest estimates from the U.S. intelligence community put the number of Russian soldiers killed at about 15,000, and maybe 45,000 wounded, Burns said.

“One of my recent conversations with one of my Ukrainian counterparts, he pointed out that the dumb Russians are all dead.”

He added that Ukrainians have likely suffered fewer but still “significant” casualties.

Natural gas again flowing from Russia to Europe

Natural gas started flowing through a major pipeline from Russia to Europe on Thursday after a 10-day shutdown for maintenance, the operator said. But the gas flow was expected to fall well short of full capacity. Amid growing tensions over Russia’s war in Ukraine, German officials had feared that the pipeline might not reopen at all. It is the country’s main source of Russian gas, which has accounted for around a third of Germany’s gas supplies.

On Wednesday, the European Commission urged member nations to immediately cut natural gas use by 15% or face cold homes and struggling economies this winter. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned that Russia is using gas as a “weapon” in its war with Ukraine.

‘While Russia kills, America saves’: Ukraine first lady thanks Congress

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska on Wednesday urged the U.S. to provide more weapons for her country’s fight “for our shared values of human life.” In her address to Congress, Zelenska thanked the U.S. for the billions of dollars already committed.

“You help us and your help is very strong,” Zelenska said. “While Russia kills, America  saves, and you should know about it. We thank you for that.”

Zelenska showed photos of children and families destroyed by Russia’s unrelenting missile attacks on Ukraine’s cities. She pleaded for more U.S. air defense weaponry to fend off the Russian military – “not to kill children in their strollers.”

Zelenska met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday and President Joe Biden on Tuesday, who tweeted after their meeting, “First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska embodies the same tenacity and resilience as the country she hails from.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

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