Ukraine news – live: UK ‘could send Challenger tanks’ as Bakhmut faces ‘bloodiest battle’ of Putin’s war

Britain is reportedly considering supplying Ukraine with tanks for the first time to help the country fight Russian forces.

Discussions have been taking place “for a few weeks” about delivering the British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tank to Ukraine, Sky News reported, quoting a Western source with knowledge of the conversations.

Supplying tanks would represent a significant step-up in Western support to Ukraine, but the British government has not yet taken a final decision on the matter, the report added.

Sky cited one unnamed source saying Britain could offer around 10 Challenger 2 tanks.

The Challenger 2 is a battle tank designed to attack other tanks, and has been in service with the British army since 1994.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence did not comment specifically on possible supplies of tanks to Ukraine, but pointed to its supply of over 200 armoured vehicles and other equipment including air defence missiles and anti-tank weapons to date.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is repelling constant attacks on Bakhmut and other towns there by Russian mercenary group Wagner in the “bloodiest” battle of the war so far in eastern Ukraine.

Key Points

  • UK considering giving battle tanks to Ukraine - Sky News

  • Fighting rages in Bakhmut: ‘Bloodiest places on frontline’

  • Ukraine denies Russia killed 600 soldiers in ‘mass missile strike’

  • Ukraine says its forces repel constant Russian attacks in east

  • Russian missile strike kills one in east Ukraine

Ukraine bolsters defences in east as Russia sends waves of attacks

15:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukraine said it was strengthening its forces around Bakhmut in the eastern Donbas region and repelling constant attacks there by Russian mercenary group Wagner, whose leader has vowed to capture the area’s vast underground mines.

Kyiv had sent reinforcements to Soledar, a small town near Bakhmut where the situation was particularly difficult, Ukrainian officials said.

“The enemy again made a desperate attempt to storm the city of Soledar from different directions and threw the most professional units of the Wagnerites into battle,” Ukraine‘s military said in a statement.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner mercenary group, has been trying to capture Bakhmut and Soledar for months at the cost of many lives on both sides. He said on Saturday its significance lay in the network of mines there.

“It not only (has the ability to hold) a big group of people at a depth of 80-100 metres, but tanks and infantry fighting vehicles can also move about.”

Military analysts say the strategic military benefit for Moscow would be limited. A U.S. official has said Prigozhin, a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is eyeing the salt and gypsum from the mines.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in nightly video remarks on Sunday that Bakhmut and Soledar were holding on despite widespread destruction after months of attacks.

“Our soldiers are repelling constant Russian attempts to advance,” he said. In Soledar “things are very difficult”.

In an evacuee centre in nearby Kramatorsk, Olha, 60, said she had fled Soledar after moving from apartment to apartment as each was destroyed in tank battles.

“All of last week we couldn’t come outside. Everyone was running around, soldiers with automatic weapons, screaming,” said Olha, who gave only her first name.

“There isn’t one house left intact,” she said. “Apartments were burning, breaking in half.”

UK considering giving battle tanks to Ukraine - Sky News

14:33 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Britain is considering supplying Ukraine with tanks for the first time to help the country fight Russian forces, Sky News reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources.

Discussions have been taking place “for a few weeks” about delivering the British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tank to Ukraine, Sky said, quoting a Western source with knowledge of the conversations.

Supplying tanks would represent a significant step-up in Western support to Ukraine, but the British government has not yet taken a final decision on the matter, the report added.

Sky cited one unnamed source saying Britain could offer around 10 Challenger 2 tanks.

The Challenger 2 is a battle tank designed to attack other tanks, and has been in service with the British army since 1994. It has been deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Iraq, according to the British army.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence did not comment specifically on possible supplies of tanks to Ukraine, but pointed to its supply of over 200 armoured vehicles and other equipment including air defence missiles and anti-tank weapons to date.

“We will continue to build on recent donations with training and further gifting of equipment,” a ministry spokesperson said.

Britain has committed to match or exceed last year’s 2.3 billion pounds ($2.8 billion) in military aid for Ukraine.

Foreign minister James Cleverly said last week Britain would continue working with Western allies to ensure Ukraine receives the military support it needs.

“Tanks might well be part of that, and where they come from ... which allies provide them, is something that, of course, we’re working in coordination with each other,” Cleverly said, following a meeting with his German counterpart.

UK considering giving battle tanks to Ukraine

14:02 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Britain is considering supplying Ukraine with tanks for the first time to help the country fight Russian forces, Sky News reported on Monday, citing a Western source.

Discussions have been taking place “for a few weeks” about delivering the British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tank to Ukraine, Sky said.

Ukraine expects EU to include Russia's Rosatom in next sanctions

13:34 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Kyiv expects the European Union to include Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom in its next round of sanctions over the war in Ukraine, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Monday.

Shmyhal said after talks in Kyiv with Frans Timmermans, a vice-president of the European Union’s executive European Commission, that Russia’s nuclear energy industry should be punished over the invasion of Ukraine more than 10 months ago.

Russia has occupied the Zaporizhzia nuclear power station in southeastern Ukraine since last March and President Vladimir Putin issued a decree last October transferring control of the plant from Ukrainian nuclear energy company Energoatom to a subsidiary of Rosatom. Kyiv says the move amounts to theft.

“We are actively working with our European partners on providing support in four areas: demilitarisation of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, supply of electrical equipment, opportunities to import electricity from the EU, and sanctions against Russia,” Shmyhal wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

“We expect that the 10th package (of EU sanctions) will contain restrictions against Russia’s nuclear industry, in particular Rosatom. The aggressor must be punished for attacks on Ukraine‘s energy industry and crimes against ecology.”

Although the EU has progressively tightened sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, it has not imposed sanctions directly on Rosatom.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ nuclear power watchdog, has repeatedly expressed concern over shelling of the Zaporizhzhia plant, which each side blames on the other.

The IAEA has also proposed the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone around what is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Shmyhal also said he and Timmermans, the EU’s climate policy chief, had agreed that Ukraine‘s post-war reconstruction should be based on green principles.

He thanked Timmermans for an initiative to start a strategic partnership between Ukraine and the EU “in the field of renewable gases” but gave no details.

College dismisses Russian claims hundreds of Ukrainian troops were killed there

13:04 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Officials at a vocational college in an eastern Ukrainian city have dismissed claims by Russia that hundreds of Ukraine‘s troops were killed in a missile strike there.

Russian officials had specifically named the college in Kramatorsk as the target of an attack, but college chiefs said that a rocket merely blew out windows and damaged classrooms.

The Russian defence ministry said its missiles hit two temporary bases housing 1,300 Ukrainian troops in the city, killing 600 of them, late on Saturday.

Associated Press reporters visiting the scene in sunny weather on Monday saw a four-storey concrete building with most of its windows blown out.

Inside, locals were cleaning up debris, sweeping up broken glass and hurling broken furniture out into a missile crater below.

A separate, six-storey college building was largely undamaged. There were neither signs of a Ukrainian military presence nor any casualties.

Yana Pristupa, the college’s deputy director, scoffed at Moscow’s claims of hitting a troop concentration.

“Nobody saw a single spot of blood anywhere,” she told the AP. “Everyone saw yesterday that no-one carried out any bodies. It’s just people cleaning up.”

She said that before the war began last February the school had more than 300 students, most of them studying mechanical engineering, with most lessons moving online when Russia invaded.

The students “are now in shock”, she said, adding: “What a great facility it was.”

On Sunday, Ukrainian officials quickly denied the Russian claims it had lost a large number of soldiers in the attack.

Despite the absence of any evidence that hundreds of Ukrainian troops died in the strike, Moscow stood firm on its claims.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said reports from the scene did not shake senior officials’ faith in defence authorities.

“The defence ministry is the main, legitimate and comprehensive source of information about the course of the special military operation,” Mr Peskov said in a conference call with reporters, using the Kremlin’s term for the war.

Kremlin rejects Ukrainian claim that Russia is pushing a possible peace deal in Europe

12:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Kremlin on Monday rejected a Ukrainian assertion that a senior Russian official has been floating the idea of a potential peace deal over Ukraine with European officials.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine‘s National Security and Defence Council, told the country’s public broadcaster on Thursday that Dmitry Kozak, deputy head of Russia’s presidential administration, had been holding meetings with European officials in an attempt to force Kyiv to sign what he characterised as an unfavourable peace deal.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, when asked about Danilov’s assertion, said it was “another fake.”

Kremlin confident that defence ministry report on Kramatorsk strike is correct

11:45 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Kremlin said on Monday that it was confident its defence ministry was correct when it said that 600 Ukrainian servicemen had been “destroyed” in an attack on the city of Kramatorsk, despite reporting which showed the attack missed its target.

“The Kremlin has absolute confidence, I would like to remind you of the President’s words that the main source of information is the Ministry of Defence”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a daily briefing.

A Russian missile attack on the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk missed its targets and there were no obvious signs of casualties, a Reuters reporter said on Sunday, after Moscow claimed the strike had killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers.

Italy’s Ukraine arms supply decision delayed until February

11:14 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Italy will not take a decision on the supply of new arms to Ukraine until February due to political tensions, cost considerations and military shortages, newspaper la Repubblica reported on Monday.

Two weeks ago Ukraine‘s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Rome was considering supplying air defences after a phone call with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in which she reaffirmed her government’s “full support” for Ukraine.

Shortly afterwards, Defence Minister Guido Crosetto struck a cautious tone on whether Italy would be able to supply Ukraine with air defence systems.

Citing unspecified sources, la Repubblica reported that Meloni, who is a firm supporter of Kyiv, is facing resistance on the approval of a decree to send arms to Ukraine from her right-wing allies Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi.

Both politicians have longstanding ties with Moscow.

But sources from their respective political parties - Salvini’s League and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia - on Monday denied having any problems with the decree.

Another issue holding back the decision is concern about depriving the Italian army of air defence systems, la Repubblica wrote, as two of its five missile batteries are already committed to Kuwait and Slovakia.

The third concern, according to the daily, is the cost of the arms that are supposed to be sent to Kyiv.

Zelensky is pressing Ukraine‘s Western allies to step up military aid to help counter Russian missile and drone strikes on civilian infrastructure.

Under former Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Italy sent five aid packages to Kyiv including military supplies, and Meloni’s government, installed in October, has been working for weeks on a possible sixth delivery.

Crosetto and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani’s press offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Kremlin says new Western arms for Ukraine will 'deepen suffering'

10:48 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Kremlin said on Monday that new deliveries of Western weapons to Kyiv would “deepen the suffering of the Ukrainian people” and would not change the course of the conflict.

“This supply will not be able to change anything”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a daily briefing.

Ukraine, which has scored some battlefield successes since Russian forces invaded last February, has asked Western allies for heavier weapons and air defences as it seeks to tip the balance of the 10-month long conflict in its favour.

Pope Francis says war in Ukraine is a ‘crime against God and humanity'

09:54 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Pope Francis on Monday said wars such as that in Ukraine where civilian areas are subjected to what he called indiscriminate destruction are “a crime against God and humanity”.

Francis made his remarks in his yearly speech to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, an overview of the world situation which has come to be known informally as his “state of the world” address.

 (AP)
(AP)

Russian missile strike kills one in east Ukraine

09:14 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A 60-year-old woman was killed and several other people were wounded in a Russian missile strike on a market in the village of Shevchenkove in eastern Ukraine on Monday, the regional governor said.

Footage posed by public broadcaster Suspilne on the Telegram messaging app showed rescue workers sifting through large piles of rubble, burning wreckage and a large crater in what it said was Shevchenkove, southeast of the regional capital Kharkiv.

“According to confirmed information, unfortunately a 60-year-old woman died,” Oleh Synehubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, wrote on telegram.

“All other victims were hospitalised. Doctors are helping them. Rescuer workers continue to clear the debris.”

He had said earlier that at least seven people had been wounded, including a 13-year-old girl. The reports could not immediately be verified independently by Reuters.

Suspilne quoted a local official as saying at least three pavilions were destroyed in the attack and that a shopping centre was damaged, but that Monday was not a market day.

Russia, which invaded Ukraine more than 10 months ago, did not immediately comment on the reported attack.

How has war changed love and relationships in Ukraine?

08:31 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

“With his strong build, black hair and easy smile, Vlad had little problem finding about 200 matches on Tinder in Kharkiv ahead of his military unit’s break in the eastern Ukrainian city, as he swiped on the dating app from his position on the frontlines.

“It was admittedly a lower number than his halcyon prewar days in Kyiv, when Vlad says he once compiled a record 1,238 Tinder matches. But after nine months in the army, he was excited nonetheless by the prospect of a quick hookup.

“When he met his dates at a cafe in Kharkiv, however, Vlad found his normal charm had abandoned him.

“As his dating profile says, Vlad’s unit is among those fighting in the “grey zone,” part of a territory beyond the front line where the most dangerous operations are conducted.

“The death and destruction in his daily life weighed on him, and he found himself incapable of the kind of talk that is often the prerequisite for intimacy.”

Jeff Stein, Samantha Schmidt and Kostiantyn Khudov report on how fighting in Ukraine shows that the reality of love during war is far darker than the romances produced by Hollywood.

How has war changed love and relationships in Ukraine?

I’ve met terrified Ukrainians who don’t know how they will survive the winter

08:06 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Winter is predictable, but every year it blindsides organisations who are unprepared to support refugees through the coldest months, Josie Naughton writes.

Following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the world’s attention turned to the millions of Ukrainians left behind to face the cold. Ongoing Russian missile strikes have destroyed half of the country’s power grid, leaving at least nine million Ukrainians without electricity to heat their homes.

With snow starting to fall and a severe shortage of coats, shelters and heating fuel, cases of pneumonia, frostbite and influenza are rising. A lack of forward planning by international organisations has intensified these issues, with many now lacking the essentials needed to make it through the winter.

Opinion: I’ve met terrified Ukrainians struggling to survive the winter

Ukraine says its forces repel constant Russian attacks in east

07:36 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukrainian forces are repelling constant Russian attacks on Bakhmut and other towns in the eastern region of Donbas, Ukrainian authorities said on Monday, after denying Kremlin claims of 600 soldiers killed in a missile strike.

Russia launched seven missile strikes, 31 air strikes and 73 attacks from salvo rocket launchers in the past day, the general staff of Ukraine‘s armed forces said in a daily report.

Ukrainian forces repelled attacks on 14 settlements, including Bakhmut, it added.

“Bakhmut is holding on despite everything,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in nightly video remarks on Sunday.

“And even though most of the town has been destroyed by Russian strikes, our soldiers are repelling constant Russian attempts to advance.”

The nearby town of Soledar was holding on, “even though there is even greater destruction and things are very difficult”, he added.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the battlefield reports.

Zelensky made a fresh denunciation of what he called Russia‘s failure to observe a truce it had proclaimed for Orthodox Christmas by staging attacks on Ukrainian cities.

“Russians were shelling Kherson with incendiary ammunition immediately after Christmas,” he said, referring to the southern city abandoned by Russian forces in November.

“Strikes on Kramatorsk and other cities in Donbas - on civilian targets and at the very time when Moscow was reporting a supposed ‘silence’ for its army.”

On Sunday, Russia said a missile attack on Kramatorsk, northwest of Bakhmut, had killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers, but a Reuters reporter at the scene found no obvious signs of casualties.

A Reuters team visited two college dormitories that Moscow said had been temporarily housing Ukrainian personnel and which it had targeted as revenge for a New Year’s attack that killed scores of Russian soldiers and caused outcry in Russia.

But neither dormitory in the eastern city of Kramatorsk appeared to have been directly hit or seriously damaged. There were no obvious signs that soldiers had been living there and no sign of bodies or traces of blood.

Serhiy Cherevatyi, a Ukrainian military spokesperson for the eastern region, described the claim of mass casualties as an attempt by the Russian defence ministry to show it had responded forcefully to Ukraine‘s recent strikes on Russian soldiers.

“This is an information operation of the Russian defense ministry,” Cherevatyi told Ukrainian broadcaster Suspilne News.

As Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine grinds towards the one-year mark, Russia‘s military is under domestic pressure to deliver battlefield successes.

Hawkish voices have sought an escalation of the war effort after setbacks such as loss of captured territory and high rates of death and injury.

Some prominent Russian military bloggers have criticised the Russian defence ministry claims.

“Let’s talk about fraud” wrote one prominent pro-war military blogger on the Telegram messaging app, who posts under the name of Military Informant and who has more than half a million subscribers.

“It is not clear to us who, and for what reason, decided that 600 Ukrainian soldiers died inside, all at once, if the building was not actually hit (even the light remained on).

“Instead of the real destruction of the enemy personnel, which would have been a worthy response, an exclusively media operation of retaliation was invented.”

The militaries of both Russia and Ukraine militaries have often overstated enemy losses, while minimising their own.

Ukraine’s top military officials said last week some 760 Russian troops had been killed or wounded in two attacks on Moscow-controlled parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. These reports could not be independently verified.

Russia using most advanced supersonic combat jet in Ukraine war - MoD

07:07 , Arpan Rai

The British defence ministry says Russia is almost certainly using its most advanced combat jet in operations against Ukraine while limiting the risks involved.

“Since at least June 2022, Russian Aerospace Forces have almost certainly used Su-57 FELON to conduct missions against Ukraine,” the ministry said, noting that FELON is Russia’s most advanced fifth-generation supersonic combat jet, employing stealth technologies and highly advanced avionics.

These missions have likely been limited to flying over Russian territory, launching long range air-to-surface or air-to-air missiles into Ukraine, the ministry said.

Citing recent commercially available imagery, the ministry said at least five FELON are parked at Akhtubinsk Air Base, which hosts the 929th Flight Test Centre. “As this is the only known FELON base, these aircraft have likely been involved in operations against Ukraine,” the MoD said.

“Russia is highly likely prioritising avoiding the reputational damage, reduced export prospects, and the compromise of sensitive technology which would come from any loss of FELON over Ukraine,” it said, adding that this move is symptomatic of Russia’s continued risk-averse approach to employing its air force in the war.

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Russia missile hit empty school, Moscow’s claims false - report

07:06 , Arpan Rai

The claims of a “retaliation operation” from Russia on hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers in Donetsk oblast are false, said the Institute for the Study of War.

Russia has not managed to inflict any damage on the Ukrainian soldiers as claimed by its defence ministry, it added.

“This claim is false — a Finnish reporter visited the site of the strike in Kramatorsk on January 8 and noted that it hit an empty school,” the US-based think-tank said.

It added that several Russian military bloggers “responded negatively to the Russian MoD’s claim”.

The military bloggers tracking Russia in the war have pointed out that the “Russian MoD frequently presents fraudulent claims and criticises Russian military leadership for fabricating a story to ‘retaliate’ for the Makiivka strike instead of holding Russian leadership responsible for the losses accountable.”

Russian forces retreating in Luhansk, says regional governor

06:04 , Arpan Rai

Russian soldiers are slowly retreating in Kriminna city in Luhansk amid heavy fighting, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said.

The regional governor said that the Russian forces have deployed their most combat-ready units and heavy equipment in Kriminna situated in Sievierodonetsk region in Luhansk which remains under Russia’s control.

This indicated that the Russians were slowly retreating in the region, Mr Haidai said.

However, the region could see an escalation in military offensive as the night time temperatures plummet to minus 15-17 Celsius (5-1 Fahrenheit) as hard frosting of the ice will allow the invading soldiers to move their heavy equipment from one place to another, he added.

Russia failed to observe ceasefire, says Zelensky

05:35 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has yet again denounced Russia’s failure to observe a truce it had proclaimed for Orthodox Christmas by staging attacks on Ukrainian cities.

“Russians were shelling Kherson with incendiary ammunition immediately after Christmas,” Mr Zelensky said, referring to a city in the south abandoned by Russian forces in November.

He added: “Strikes on Kramatorsk and other cities in Donbas - on civilian targets and at the very time when Moscow was reporting a supposed ‘silence’ for its army.”

Fighting batters eastern Ukraine: ‘Bloodiest places on frontline’

05:08 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has said that the hotspots in the war in Luhansk and Donetsk are witnessing heavy fighting with these regions witnessing “one of the bloodiest places on the frontline”.

“The situation on the frontline has not changed significantly in the first week of the year. Heavy fighting continues in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions - every hotspot in these areas is well known,” he said.

Mr Zelensky added: “Bakhmut is holding out against all odds. And although most of the city is destroyed by Russian strikes, our warriors repel constant attempts at Russian offensive there.

“Soledar is holding out. Although there is even more destruction there and it is extremely hard,” the war-time president said.

He added: “There is no such piece of land near these two cities, where the occupier would not have given his life for the crazy ideas of the masters of the Russian regime. This is one of the bloodiest places on the frontline.”

I’ve met terrified Ukrainians who don’t know how they will survive the winter

05:06 , Arpan Rai

Following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the world’s attention turned to the millions of Ukrainians left behind to face the cold.

Ongoing Russian missile strikes have destroyed half of the country’s power grid, leaving at least nine million Ukrainians without electricity to heat their homes.

With snow starting to fall and a severe shortage of coats, shelters and heating fuel, cases of pneumonia, frostbite and influenza are rising.

A lack of forward planning by international organisations has intensified these issues, with many now lacking the essentials needed to make it through the winter.

Read the full story here:

Opinion: I’ve met terrified Ukrainians struggling to survive the winter

Ukraine denies Russia’s claim it killed 600 soldiers in ‘mass missile strike’

04:20 , Arpan Rai

Officials in Ukraine have denied the loss of 600 troops in a “mass missile strike” on barracks housing Ukrainian soldiers, as claimed by Russia yesterday.

The strikes on Kramatorsk did not inflict any losses on the Ukrainian armed forces and only targeted civilian infrastructure, said Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukraine’s armed forces in the east.

Russia’s defence ministry has alleged that missiles had hit two makeshift bases housing 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers in the city of Kramatorsk.

But the spokesperson said that the “armed forces of Ukraine weren’t affected.”

Kramatorsk mayor Oleksandr Honcharenko said two school buildings and eight apartments were damaged.

Another account from Reuters reported that there are “no obvious signs of casualties” at the scene of the Russian strike.

03:32 , Arpan Rai

Good morning, welcome to our coverage of the Ukraine war on 9 January, Monday.