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Live: US announces $600 million arms package for Ukraine to boost momentum

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The Biden administration announced Thursday it will send another $600 million in military aid to Ukraine, as the US rushes more weapons to fuel Kyiv's counteroffensive that has reclaimed large stretches of the embattled country and forced Russian troops to retreat. Follow FRANCE 24’s liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

10:20am: Ukraine official says '450 graves' found near recaptured Izium

About 450 graves were counted at one burial site near the eastern Ukraine city of Izyum which was recently recaptured by Kyiv's forces, a senior presidential aide said Friday.

"Four hundred and fifty graves… This is just one of the mass burial sites discovered near Izyum. In the occupied territories, rampant terror, violence, torture and mass murders have been reigning for months," Mykhaylo Podolyak said.

He published a photo on social media showing rows of wooden crosses and recently dug mounds in a wooded area, along with the claim.

9:16am: NATO's Stoltenberg says Ukrainian counter-attack 'effective', not end of war

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday Ukraine's counter-attack against Russian troops had been very effective but warned nations should prepare for the long haul, as this did not signal the beginning of the end of the war.

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"It is of course extremely encouraging to see that Ukrainian armed forces have been able to take back territory and also strike behind Russian lines," Stoltenberg told BBC radio.

"At the same time, we need to understand that this is not the beginning of the end of the war, we need to be prepared for the long haul."

8:26am: Germany takes control of Russian firm Rosneft's operations in the country

Berlin said Friday it had taken control of the German operations of Russian firm Rosneft to secure energy supplies which have been disrupted after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

Rosneft's German subsidiaries, which account for about 12 percent of oil refining capacity in the country, were placed under trusteeship of the Federal Network Agency, the economy ministry said in a statement.

"The trust management will counter the threat to the security of energy supply," it said.

The move covers the companies Rosneft Deutschland GmbH (RDG) and RN Refining & Marketing GmbH (RNRM) as well as three refineries: PCK Schwedt, MiRo and Bayernoil.

The refineries' operations had been disrupted as the German government decided to slash Russian oil imports, with an aim to halt them completely by year's end. By taking control of the sites, the German authorities can then run the refining operations using crude from countries other than Russia.

6:48am: Biden and South African leader to discuss Ukraine, trade, climate

US President Joe Biden and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa are set to meet Friday at the White House for talks on Russia's war in Ukraine, climate issues, trade and more.

Ramaphosa is among African leaders who have maintained a neutral stance in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with South Africa abstaining from a United Nations vote condemning Russia’s actions and calling for a mediated settlement.

South Africa’s international relations minister, Naledi Pandor, said Ramaphosa would emphasise the need for dialogue to find an end to the conflict during his meeting with Biden and in separate talks with Vice President Kamala Harris.

3:30am: US sends new military aid to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden announced a new $600 million arms package to help the Ukrainian military battle Russia, according to a White House memo sent to the State Department on Thursday.

Biden authorised the assistance using his Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows the president to sanction the transfer of excess weapons from U.S. stocks.

The package includes High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), night vision goggles, claymore mines, mine clearing equipment, 105mm artillery rounds and 155mm precision guided artillery rounds, the Pentagon said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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