Ukraine news – live: Putin shakes up military leadership amid pressure over invasion

Vladimir Putin has authorised another shake-up in the military leadership leading the invasion of Ukraine, after admitting that the situation was difficult in the regions Russia claims to have annexed.

Meanwhile, Kyiv mocked claims that it had lost Soledar, an eastern Ukrainian town at the centre of a furious Russian assault.

Defence minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, had been appointed as overall commander of forces in Ukraine, one of a number of changes in recent months as Mr Putin seeks a success story to sell at home.

It is clear that pressure is building on the Kremlin, with the move in effect demoting General Sergei Surovikin, who had been named Russia’s top battlefield commander in Ukraine only last October.

The battle for Soledar – seen as a stepping stone in the wider goal of conquering the Donbas region – continues to rage as Voldoymyr Zelensky said Russia was “trying to pretend” it had claimed victory in the town.

Key Points

  • Putin tells government that situation in annexed areas of Ukraine 'difficult'

  • Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Golden Globes: ‘No third World War’

  • Russia ‘not at war with Ukraine’ but fighting Britain and US, Putin’s ally says

  • ‘Cauldron’ of heavy fighting in Soleder, says Wagner chief

  • Russia has not captured all of Soledar, says intelligence report

Putin’s latest battle: Why Russia is fighting so hard to claim Ukrainian town of Soledar

19:00 , Liam James

The fate of the devastated salt-mining town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine hangs in the balance with Ukraine saying its forces were holding out against a furious Russian onslaught in one of the fiercest and costliest recent ground battles of Moscow’s invasion (Joe Sommerlad writes).

As fierce fighting in the Ukraine war continues, Russia has claimed what it believes to be a significant symoblic and strategic victory by announcing the capture of Soledar in Donetsk.

Combatants from the notorious Wagner Group of mercenaries, led by Vladimir Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, declared late on Tuesday that they had taken control of the eastern mining town in the Donetsk region, home to what is said to be Europe’s largest salt mine and, prior to the war, a population of around 10,000 people.

Were Russian forces to definitively secure Soledar, it would mark its first meaningful territorial gain since last summer.

Russia has been forced into several humiliating retreats in the north, northeast and south since then as Ukraine mounted an impressive counter-attack in the autumn.

Why Russia is fighting so hard to claim Ukrainian town of Soledar

Ukraine stages war games by Belarus

18:30 , Liam James

Ukrainian forces staged military exercises near the Belarusian border amid fears that Russia will launch another offensive from its ally’s territory, as it did at the start of the invasion in February.

President Volodymyr Zelensky downplayed warnings of Russian preparations in Belarus but said “nevertheless we must be ready both at the border and in the regions”.

Ukrainian troops in joint drills of armed forces, national guard and Security Service of Ukraine near the border with Belarus (Reuters)
Ukrainian troops in joint drills of armed forces, national guard and Security Service of Ukraine near the border with Belarus (Reuters)
A camouflaged Ukrainian soldier during war games near Belarus (Reuters)
A camouflaged Ukrainian soldier during war games near Belarus (Reuters)
Ukrainian troops stage an interrogation during drills near Belarus (Reuters)
Ukrainian troops stage an interrogation during drills near Belarus (Reuters)

Poland to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, urges allies to follow

18:00 , Liam James

Poland has decided to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine as part of an international coalition, the Polish president said today as Warsaw seeks to play a leading role in reaching a consensus among Western allies on such support.

Kyiv has been requesting heavy military vehicles such as the German-made Leopard 2, which would represent a significant step-up in Western support to Ukraine.

“A company of Leopard tanks will be handed over as part of coalition-building,” Andrzej Duda said during a visit to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. “We want it to be an international coalition.” A company typically consists of 14 tanks.

Mr Duda said that he hoped that the Polish tanks, together with tanks from other countries, would soon travel to Ukraine.

In pictures: fierce battle continues to be fought in eastern Donetsk

17:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukrainian servicemen fire a 120 mm mortar towards Russian positions at the frontline near Bakhmut (AP)
Ukrainian servicemen fire a 120 mm mortar towards Russian positions at the frontline near Bakhmut (AP)
Ukrainian Army serviceman Vitalii
Ukrainian Army serviceman Vitalii
Ukrainian serviceman Hryhorii, 42, of the 43rd Heavy Artillery Brigade emerges from a German howitzer Panzerhaubitze 2000 in Soledar (REUTERS)
Ukrainian serviceman Hryhorii, 42, of the 43rd Heavy Artillery Brigade emerges from a German howitzer Panzerhaubitze 2000 in Soledar (REUTERS)

Kharkiv: Fireworks explode in sky after Russian strike hits Ukrainian factory

17:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A huge fire raged at a fireworks factory in Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine, after it was hit by a Russian strike late on Tuesday, 10 January, according to local authorities.

Footage shows fireworks exploding in the sky after the attack.

“Specialists of the State Emergency Service are working on site,” said Oleh Synehubov, head of Kharkiv’s military administration.

No casualties have been reported.

The attack comes after two people were killed and five others, including a 13-year-old girl, were wounded by a rocket strike on Monday, 9 January in Kharkiv.

Kharkiv: Fireworks explode in sky after Russian strike hits Ukrainian factory

80 per cent of people seeking protection in Germany last year from Ukraine

16:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Roughly eight out of 10 people seeking protection in Germany last year came from Ukraine as part of the largest flight of people in Europe since World War Two, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.

After Russia‘s invasion in mid-February, 1,045,185 people who fled Ukraine were registered in Germany, it said, adding that most of them were women and children.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “criminal war of aggression against Ukraine has triggered the largest flight movement in Europe since World War Two,” said Interior Minister Nancy Faeser in a statement.

In addition to the Ukrainian refugees, who do not need to go through an asylum procedure, over 244,000 people filed an asylum application last year, 27.9% more than the year before.

The majority of asylum applications came from people from Syria, followed by nationals of Afghanistan, Turkey and Iraq.

“In other parts of the world, people are also fleeing war and terror, which is reflected in the significant increase in the number of asylum applications filed in 2022,” said Faeser.

Russia promotes Gerasimov in military leadership shake-up

15:56 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday appointed Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov as commander of the combined forces group for Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Announcing the appointment, the defence ministry said the changes were designed to increase the effectiveness of managing military operations in Ukraine, more than 10 months into the campaign.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, and Head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Valery Gerasimov (Sputnik)
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, and Head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Valery Gerasimov (Sputnik)

Russia's Putin and Iran's Raisi discuss energy and transport in telephone call

15:27 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian president Vladimir Putin discussed energy and transport projects with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi in a telephone call on Wednesday, the Kremlin said.

Moscow and Tehran have moved to forge closer relations following Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine last February and the two are among the world’s largest oil exporters.

In a readout of the call, the Kremlin said the two leaders had discussed how to further develop “mutually beneficial projects in the energy, transport and logistics sectors” and also stated their desire to “normalise” the situation in Syria.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Vladimir Putin, left, greet each other as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi stands at right (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Vladimir Putin, left, greet each other as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi stands at right (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Ukraine and Russia agree new prisoner swap in talks - Russian official

15:22 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia and Ukraine have agreed on an exchange of 40 prisoners of war each, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said on Wednesday after meeting her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Lubinets in Turkey.

Moskalkova and Lubinets were meeting on the sidelines of an international ombudsman conference in Ankara. Photos showed them sitting on opposite sides of a table.

“It is very important that the ombudsmen of Ukraine and Russia, in the absence of diplomatic relations (between the two countries), take concrete actions to help people,” Moskalkova told reporters.

Russia and Ukraine have conducted numerous prisoner swaps - most recently on Sunday - amounting to hundreds of captives each in the course of the war, which is now in its 11th month.

In a separate press appearance, Lubinets said the swap agreed on Wednesday was part of a broader arrangement by which both sides regularly exchange prisoners but underscored that they had not signed any official agreements.

“We will not sign any agreements, but we have the straight connection between Ukraine ombudsman and ombudsman of Russian Federation,” he said.

Lubinets added that the Ukrainian side had voiced, among other issues, its concerns over alleged Russian violations of the Geneva Convention in its treatment of Ukrainian POWs.

Earlier, Moskalkova said on the Telegram messaging app that she and Lubinets had also discussed the issue of servicemen missing on both sides, and civilian humanitarian issues.

She said she had asked Lubinets to help Ukrainian citizens who want to visit relatives in Russia.

Given the current difficulty of establishing humanitarian corridors inside Ukraine, Moskalkova said the ombudsmen should help specific people to move between regions and countries, saying Turkey could play an important role.

Separately, Russia‘s state-owned RIA news agency quoted Moskalkova as saying “important words about the need for a ceasefire” in Ukraine had been spoken during her meeting with her Ukrainian and Turkish colleagues.

Moskalkova said a ceasefire was necessary to stop human rights violations, RIA reported. She also asked Turkey, a NATO ally, to stop supplying arms to Ukraine.

As Moskalkova and Lubinets met in Ankara, a fierce battle was raging for the small town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine.

Both were later due to visit the Turkish presidential palace, where President Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to make a speech for the conference.

In pictures: Battle continues to rage in Bakhmut

14:34 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A Ukrainian serviceman smokes a cigarette at his position at the frontline near Bakhmu (AP)
A Ukrainian serviceman smokes a cigarette at his position at the frontline near Bakhmu (AP)
Ukrainian servicemen prepare to fire a 120 mm mortar towards Russian positions at the frontline near Bakhmut (AP)
Ukrainian servicemen prepare to fire a 120 mm mortar towards Russian positions at the frontline near Bakhmut (AP)
 (AP)
(AP)
 (AP)
(AP)

Ukraine says Russian forces have not fully captured Soledar

13:55 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukraine‘s deputy defence minister said on Wednesday that Russian forces were trying without success to break through Ukrainian defensive lines to fully capture the eastern town of Soledar and that fierce fighting was raging.

“Heavy fighting continues in Soledar,” the official, Hanna Maliar, wrote on Telegram.

“The enemy has again replaced its units after sustaining losses, has increased the number of Wagner (Russian mercenaries) and is trying to burst through our forces’ defence and fully seize the city, but is not having success.

Commander of the Ukrainian army, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, gives instructions in a shelter in Soledar, the site of heavy battles with the Russian forces (AP)
Commander of the Ukrainian army, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, gives instructions in a shelter in Soledar, the site of heavy battles with the Russian forces (AP)

US army vehicles brought ashore in the Netherlands as part of Nato mission

13:25 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

US army vehicles tanks are brought ashore in the Netherlands as a military unit is transported to Poland and Lithuania.

The move is part of a Nato mission to reinforce the alliance’s eastern flank after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Vlissingen, Netherlands.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)
 (EPA)
(EPA)
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Nato and EU to boost protection for pipelines and key infrastructure

12:55 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Nato and the EU are launching a task force to boost protection of critical infrastructure in response to last year’s attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines and Russia‘s “weaponising of energy,” the organisations’ leaders said on Wednesday.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the sabotage of the Russia-to-Germany pipelines in the Baltic Sea last September showed the need “to confront this new type of threat”.

“This is a task force where our experts from Nato and the European Union will work hand-in-hand to identify key threats to our critical infrastructure, to look at the strategic vulnerabilities that we do have,” she said in Brussels, speaking alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Western and Russian officials have traded accusations over the Nord Stream blasts, but officials in Sweden and Denmark investigating the attack have not named any possible culprits.

Von der Leyen said the task force would initially come up with proposals on transport, energy, digital and space infrastructure.

Western officials say the Nord Stream attacks and sudden cutoffs of gas from Russia since the start of Moscow’s war in Ukraine have highlighted how dependent many EU and Nato members are on key infrastructure and Russian energy.

Stoltenberg, speaking just before meeting von der Leyen’s Commission to discuss security, said the task force would be part of increased cooperation between Nato and the EU.

“Resilience and the protection of critical infrastructure are a key part of our joint efforts, as we have seen both with President Putin’s weaponising of energy and ... the sabotage of the North Stream pipelines,” he said.

“We want to look together at how to make our critical infrastructure, technology and supply chains more resilient to potential threats and to take action to mitigate potential vulnerabilities.”

Putin tells government that situation in annexed areas of Ukraine 'difficult'

12:22 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the situation in the areas of Ukraine that Russia says it has annexed was “difficult in places”.

However Putin, speaking at a televised meeting with officials, said Russia had all the resources it needed to improve life in the four Ukrainian regions that Moscow unilaterally claimed to have annexed in September.

 (AP)
(AP)

Estonia tells Russia to reduce number of diplomats in Tallinn

12:05 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Estonia has told Russia to reduce the number of diplomats at its embassy in Tallinn by February, the Baltic country’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

It said in a statement Russia should lower the number of diplomats to eight, which equals the number of Estonian diplomats in Moscow.

The Russian embassy in Tallinn on its website lists 17 diplomats.

Since the Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine, Estonia has already expelled three diplomats.

“In light of the fact that during the war of aggression, the staff of the Russian embassy is not engaged in advancing Estonian-Russian relations, it is our view that there are no grounds for the current size of the Russian embassy,” the ministry said on Wednesday.

In pictures: The battle rages in Soledar as waves of Russian forces attack eastern Donetsk

11:20 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A tank fires a round, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Soledar (via REUTERS)
A tank fires a round, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Soledar (via REUTERS)
Ukrainian soldiers watch as smoke billows during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces in Soledar (AP)
Ukrainian soldiers watch as smoke billows during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces in Soledar (AP)
Ukrainian servicemen administer first aid to a wounded soldier in a shelter in Soledar (AP)
Ukrainian servicemen administer first aid to a wounded soldier in a shelter in Soledar (AP)

Russian ammunition depot destroyed near Soledar

10:45 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Footage shows a Russian ammunition depot destroyed near Soledar in eastern Donetsk where intense fighting has taken place in the last week.

Russian defence ministry says it has surrounded east Ukraine's Soledar

10:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia‘s defence ministry said on Wednesday that Russian airborne units had surrounded the Ukrainian town of Soledar from the north and south, while Russia‘s air force struck Ukrainian positions in the town, Russian agencies reported.

In its daily briefing, the defence ministry said that Russian assault units were fighting for Soledar, a small town in Ukraine‘s eastern Donetsk region that has been the focus of fierce fighting for months.

Ukraine says Russia does not yet control Soledar

09:56 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukraine’s military denied on Wednesday that Russian forces had taken control of the eastern town of Soledar, and said the intensity of battles in the area could be compared to fighting in World War Two.

Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the eastern military command, told Ukrainian television the battle for Soledar was important and that Ukrainian forces had not allowed Russian forces to break through front lines.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the situation on the ground in Soledar.

Kharkiv: Fireworks explode in sky after Russian strike hits Ukrainian factory

09:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A huge fire raged at a fireworks factory in Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine, after it was hit by a Russian strike late on Tuesday, 10 January, according to local authorities.

Footage shows fireworks exploding in the sky after the attack.

“Specialists of the State Emergency Service are working on site,” said Oleh Synehubov, head of Kharkiv’s military administration.

No casualties have been reported.

The attack comes after two people were killed and five others, including a 13-year-old girl, were wounded by a rocket strike on Monday, 9 January in Kharkiv.

Kharkiv: Fireworks explode in sky after Russian strike hits Ukrainian factory

Sweden makes regulatory push to allow new nuclear reactors

09:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Sweden is preparing legislation to allow the construction of more nuclear power stations to boost electricity production in the Nordic country and bolster energy security, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Wednesday.

Kristersson has made expanding nuclear power generation a key goal for his right-wing government, seeking to reverse a process of gradual closures of several reactors in the past couple of decades that has left the country relying more heavily on renewable but sometimes less predictable energy.

Sweden’s energy mix consists mainly of nuclear, hydro and renewables and while it so far has been less affected by the turmoil surrounding gas supplies due to Russia‘s standoff with the West, electricity prices have been high and volatile since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine.

The proposed new legislation, which still needs to be passed by parliament, would allow new reactors to be constructed at additional locations across Sweden and was seen being in place in March next year.

“We have an obvious need for more electricity production in Sweden,” Kristersson told a news conference.

“What we are doing today is changing legislation to allow for the construction of more nuclear reactors at more places.”

The new legislation would scrap existing rules that caps the total number of reactors at ten and prohibits reactor construction in other locations than where they currently exist, opening the door to building smaller reactors that many see as the most cost-effective nuclear option.

Any expansion of nuclear power in Sweden could take many years given the complexity of such projects while energy demand is expected to rise sharply in coming years.

Sweden currently has six operational reactors, half of what it once had, and temporary closures for maintenance of some of them have contributed to push up electricity prices in the Nordic country in recent months.

Soledarmsalt mines have symbolic, military and commercial value

08:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Seizing Soledar would be Russia‘s most substantial gain since August, after a series of humiliating retreats throughout much of the second half of 2022. Russian forces have been fighting for months to capture Bakhmut.

But any victory would come at a massive cost, with troops from both sides having taken heavy losses in some of the most intense combat since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly 11 months ago. The Kyiv government has released pictures in recent days showing what it says are scores of Russian soldiers strewn dead in muddy fields.

Moscow says capturing Bakhmut would be a major step toward taking full control of the Donetsk region, one of four provinces it claimed to have annexed three months ago.

Near Bakhmut, a team of Ukrainian soldiers fired volleys of shells from a heavy anti-aircraft gun at what they said were Russian ground positions, across a barren snowy field.

“We’re frying orcs,” said one soldier with the nom de guerre “Pilot”, using a common Ukrainian slur for Russian troops.

His crew receives coordinates of Russian bases from spotters or drones. They periodically shell Russian bases, and unleash storms of heavy fire when enemy troops advance: “If they creep in very actively, then we kill them in great numbers.

Hours after German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Russian strikes late on Tuesday hit a fireworks factory, the regional governor said, adding that no one was hurt.

Waves of Russian forces ‘manically’ trying to capture Soledar

08:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukraine’s Volodymr Zelensky repeated his call for more Western weapons on Tuesday evening, saying Russia was gathering its forces to intensify its campaign.

Ukraine‘s Defence Ministry tweeted late on Tuesday, “Even after suffering colossal losses, Russia is still maniacally trying to seize Soledar - home to the largest salt mine in Europe.”

Ukraine said earlier its forces were still holding onto positions in Soledar, withstanding assaults by wave after wave of Russian forces seeking their first battlefield victory for months.

Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar on Tuesday evening said that fighting for the town was still raging.

“The enemy disregards the heavy losses of its personnel and continues to storm actively,” she said. “The approaches to our positions are simply strewn with the bodies of dead enemy fighters. Our fighters are bravely holding the defence.”

Morning temperatures in the combat zone were put at around minus 12 Celsius (10.4 F).

Earlier, some prominent Russian military bloggers urged caution about the situation in Soledar and said that intense combat in the town’s centre and its outskirts continued during the night.

Ukraine says troops still holding onto positions in Soledar

07:41 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The battle for Soledar raged in sub-zero temperatures on Wednesday, with Russia‘s mercenary Wagner Group claiming to have taken control of the salt mining town in eastern Ukraine, as its fighters poured fire on a pocket of resistance in the centre.

Kyiv said earlier its forces were holding out. The Ukrainian military’s morning summary made one mention of Soledar, listing the town as one of several being shelled in the Donetsk region. Reuters was unable to verify conditions on the ground.

Russian commanders have made the capture of Soledar a key objective in a campaign to take the nearby strategic city of Bakhmut and Ukraine‘s larger eastern Donbas region.

“Wagner units took control of the entire territory of Soledar. A cauldron has been formed in the centre of the city in which urban fighting is going on,” Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said late on Tuesday, according to Russian news agencies.

“The number of prisoners will be announced tomorrow,” he added, giving no further details.

Russia‘s capture of Soledar and its huge salt mines would have symbolic, military and commercial value for Russia. But the situation in and around Soledar appeared fluid.

The British Defence Ministry earlier said Russian troops and Wagner fighters had probably taken control of most of Soledar after four days of advances.

But Prigozhin’s comment that fighting continued in Soledar’s centre suggested Russian control was incomplete, despite his statement that all of the town was in Wagner’s grasp.

The Russian state RIA news agency later issued a report saying that Wagner Group took over Soledar’s salt mines following fierce fighting.

The salt mines are located in the suburbs of the town. Washington has said Prigozhin may want personal control of the area’s mines.

UK should send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, says Defence Committee chief

07:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Britain should “absolutely” supply Ukraine’s forces with heavy battle tanks and do “far more to put this fire out” in the country’s conflict with Russia, a senior Tory MP has said.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, said the West must take bold strategic decisions to support Kyiv in pushing back Russian forces, instead of “hesitantly creeping our way forward”.

It comes as the Government considers sending British Army Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine for the first time.

The Tory MP told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “This is our war, but we’ve left the Ukrainians to do the fighting.

“It’s not just the moralistic issue here, it’s the fact that Russia is now pushing this against the wider West, so I very much welcome the fact that we’re now thinking about sending main battle tanks.

“It does show how far we’ve come in our willingness to look (Russian President Vladimir) Putin in the eye and not be spooked by his rhetoric, and we’re finally sending this much-needed serious hardware to Ukraine.”

Sophie Wingate reports:

UK should send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, says Defence Committee chief

Russian forces training in Belarus unlikely to be ‘credible offensive force’ - MoD

06:38 , Arpan Rai

The British defence ministry has said that the new deployment of Russian aircraft to Belarus appears likely a “genuine exercise”, rather than a preparation for any additional offensive operations against Ukraine.

Russia and Belarus are training their forces in a tactical flight exercise slated to be held from 16 January to 1 February, the Belarusian defence ministry announced.

The Russian neighbour has remained its strongest ally in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Although Russia maintains a large number of forces in Belarus, they are mostly involved in training. They are unlikely to constitute a credible offensive force,” the British ministry of defence said.

It added that amateur aircraft spotters noted the arrival of a total of 12 Mi-8 support helicopters and Mi-24 and Ka-52 attack helicopters over the weekend.

“As of 08 January 2023, amateur aircraft spotters noted the arrival of a total of 12 Mi-8 support helicopters and Mi-24 and Ka-52 attack helicopters. With some appearing with ‘Z’ markings, the aircraft landed at Machulishchy Air Base near Minsk,” the MoD said.

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Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Golden Globes: ‘No third World War’

06:20 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky reminded the world’s film fraternity gathered at the Golden Globes award ceremony that the war in Ukraine is not over yet in his attempt to draw attention to the conflict in Europe.

“It is now 2023. The war in Ukraine is not over yet,” Mr Zelensky said. He added that he believed Ukraine would yet emerge victorious.

“There are still battles and tears ahead,” he said, addressing the stars and movie makers gathered at the Beverly Hilton hotel by video link.

Mr Zelensky added: “There will be no third world war. Ukraine will stop the Russian aggression on our land.”The Ukrainian president was introduced by actor Sean Penn who paid tribute to those struggling in conflict around the world.

“I’m privileged to be here tonight and proud that the leadership of the Hollywood Foreign Press has seen fit to encourage those highest aspirations of film should share this stage tonight with a very real world example of that which inspires film’s creation,” the actor said.

He added: “From the other worldly courage of young Iranians rising up, to the ever-persevering women’s movement of Afghanistan, we are reminded in no uncertain terms, that the freedom to dream is not simply a human luxury, but rather a human need that must be fought and sacrificed for.

“If the freedom to dream were a spear, I proudly present a human being who tonight represents that spear’s most honed tip,” he said.

Russia has not captured all of Soledar, says intelligence report

06:18 , Arpan Rai

Russia’s claim of capturing Donetsk oblast’s Soledar region is likely false and Wagner group forces are still fighting against concerted Ukrainian resistance, said the US-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War.

“Russian forces have not captured the entirety of Soledar despite several false Russian claims that the city has fallen and that Bakhmut risks imminent encirclement,” the ISW said in its assessment last night.

The claims by the mercenary group have been refuted by the Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, who said that the Russian proxy forces are still fighting against concerted Ukrainian resistance.

A visual confirmation by the ISW has spotted Wagner Group forces in central Soledar as of yesterday, the assessment added.

“The reality of block-by-block control of terrain in Soledar is obfuscated by the dynamic nature of urban combat, however, and Russian forces have largely struggled to make significant tactical gains in the Soledar area for months,” the ISW said.

“Even taking the most generous Russian claims at face value, the capture of Soledar would not portend an immediate encirclement of Bakhmut. Control of Soledar will not necessarily allow Russian forces to exert control over critical Ukrainian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) into Bakhmut,” according to the think tank.

Family kitchen recalls heartbreak for Kyiv man and his son

06:00 , Eleanor Noyce

The ruined kitchen of his family’s Kyiv home stands at the center of a 42-year-old carpenter’s traumatic experience of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Serhii Kaharlytskyi and his 10-year-old son had a narrow escape when a Russian missile landed outside on New Year’s Eve as they watched television together. The explosion tore off the front of their house in the city’s traditionally tranquil Solomianskyi district.

Kaharlytskyi’s 36-year-old wife, Iryna, was in the kitchen preparing a meal. She didn’t survive the strike.

“I maybe passed out for a second,” Kaharlytskyi recalled Tuesday. “When I opened my eyes, my kid was screaming. ... Everything had collapsed, and the kitchen was gone.”

Kaharlytskyi and his son managed to scramble their way outside.

“Then I came back to search for my wife to bring her to the medics,” Kaharlytskyi said, “but I was told that it was too late, she had no heartbeat.”

Bela Szandelszky has more:

Family kitchen recalls heartbreak for Kyiv man and his son

‘Cauldron’ of heavy fighting in Soleder, says Wagner chief

05:52 , Arpan Rai

The chief of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group says his units are in control of the Donetsk town of Soledar, which has been hollowed out by fierce fighting.

“Wagner units took control of the entire territory of Soledar. A cauldron has been formed in the centre of the city in which urban fighting is going on,” Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin – an ally of Vladimir Putin – said late on Tuesday, reported Russian news agencies.

The capture of Soledar is the latest key objective in the war which has seen Moscow’s goal posts shifting from capturing Kyiv to “liberating” separatist-controlled territory.

Analysts say a Russian occupation of Soledar will not amount to a momentous strategic gain in the war, but Russian officials are believed to be eyeing the huge salt mines in the region for their commercial value.

Russia records $47bn budget deficit for year of Ukraine invasion - report

05:21 , Arpan Rai

The Russian government has run into its second highest budget deficit in the post-Soviet era after invading Ukraine for what it calls a “special military operation”.

The budget gap has struck 3.3 trillion rubles last year — accounting for 2.3 per cent of the Russian economy, reported The New York Times, citing the country’s finance minister Anton Siluanov’s remarks during a government meeting on Tuesday.

While the Russian government has not published a detailed breakdown of its expenditures in 2022, it is widely assumed that a majority chunk of its spending has gone into fuelling the military as it launched a war on Ukraine.

He added: “Despite the geopolitical situation, the restrictions and sanctions, we have fulfilled all our planned goals.”

Ukraine cannot win back territory without Western tanks, say officials

05:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukraine will not be able to take back significant territory from Russia without an increase in fighting power – including tanks and other heavy armour, Western officials have warned.

Officials said the two sides were currently too closely matched for the Ukrainians to be able to mount a successful offensive.

The warning comes as the UK Government is considering whether to become the first Western power to supply the Ukrainians with main battle tanks in the form of British Army Challenger 2s.

The chairman of the Commons Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood urged ministers to give the plan the green light, saying the West should be doing “far more” to support Ukraine.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has been pressing for months for Nato to provide his forces with US Abrams and German-built Leopard II battle tanks.

One Western official said that a reported Ukrainian call for 300 tanks was “not and unreasonable number” to create sufficient force “mass” for them to go on the offensive.

Gavin Cordon reports:

Ukraine cannot win back territory without Western tanks, say officials

Kyiv denies capture of Soledar: ‘Maniacally trying'

04:58 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian military command have not confirmed the loss of Soledar despite Russia’s claims to have seized the city.

“Even after suffering colossal losses, Russia is still maniacally trying to seize Soledar – home to the largest salt mine in Europe,” the Ukrainian defence ministry tweeted last night.

Mr Zelensky repeated his call for more Western weapons, stating that Russia was gathering its forces to intensify its campaign.

Previously, Ukraine has said that its soldiers are still holding onto positions in Soledar, withstanding assaults by wave after wave of Russian forces seeking their first battlefield victory in months.

Ukraine cannot win back territory without Western tanks, say officials

04:07 , Arpan Rai

Ukraine will not be able to take back significant territory from Russia without an increase in fighting power – including tanks and other heavy armour, officials in the west have warned.

Officials said the two sides were currently too closely matched for the Ukrainians to be able to mount a successful offensive.

The warning comes as the UK government is considering whether to become the first Western power to supply the Ukrainians with main battle tanks in the form of British Army Challenger 2s.

Ukraine cannot win back territory without Western tanks, say officials

Parents of Briton missing in Ukraine speak of feeling ‘raw’ after disappearance

04:00 , Eleanor Noyce

The parents of one of the British men missing in Ukraine have spoken of feeling “raw” following their son’s disappearance.

The country’s national police said Andrew Bagshaw, 48, and Christopher Parry, 28, were last seen on Friday.

They were heading to the town of Soledar in the eastern Donetsk region of the country, where heavy fighting is reported, and contact with them was lost.

Christine Parry, the mother of Mr Parry, a humanitarian volunteer, told MailOnline: “It’s all very raw at the moment. We are just trying to inform family members about what is going on.”

His father Robin Parry is reported to have said: “We are all very proud of Chris and the work he has been doing.”

Mr Parry, who was reportedly born in Truro, Cornwall, but later moved to Cheltenham, had previously spoken of evacuating people from the front line.

He told Sky News last year: “Sometimes, when you see some pretty terrible things it does stay with you.”

Mr Parry said his parents were “proud (but) very concerned” when he told them of his plans to go to Ukraine.

Ted Hennessey has more:

Parents of Briton missing in Ukraine speak of feeling ‘raw’ after disappearance

Russia bolsters attack on eastern Ukraine – as US ready to training Kyiv’s troops on weapons

03:54 , Arpan Rai

Russia’s forces have amped up their military offensive in a fresh comeback in the war in recent months as they rain shells and missiles around the besieged eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

In a territorial gain, Russia has likely captured the nearby town of Soledar, according to Ukrainian and UK officials, but are likely to be suffering significant losses in the process.

Serhiy Cherevaty, spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern forces, said the Russians were deploying their best Wagner mercenary fighters at Soledar, while the UK’s defence ministry said in a statement that the mercenary group, run by an ally of Vladimir Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was likely now in control of the town. If the gain is confirmed, it will be the first significant one for Moscow since late summer.

However, unlike Ukraine, Moscow cannot call upon the support of Western nations, the latest example of which involves training in the US to use the Patriot missile system that Washington has promised.

Russia steps up eastern assault – as US to provide weapons training to Ukraine

Russia gathering forces for another escalation in war, says Zelensky

03:43 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that Russia is gathering for another escalation as he sought more modern weapons in the continuing war.

The war-time president said he spoke to his European allies on a call yesterday.

“I informed them about the situation on the battlefield - about the difficult situation in the Donetsk region, about the constant Russian attacks and the fact that Russia does not count its people, does not spare the locals and does not stop before any criminal actions,” he said.

Mr Zelensky said: “This can - and must! - be countered only by a new level of modern military equipment that Ukraine can receive from partners. I thank all the leaders who help us for understanding that now is the time for new powerful decisions, for new powerful support.”

“The free world has everything necessary to stop Russian aggression and bring the terrorist state to a historic defeat. And it is important not only for us. It is important for global democracy, for all those who value freedom. It is even more important now, when Russia is gathering forces for another escalation,” he said in his nightly address.

Patriot training confirms US’s participation in Ukraine war - Russian official

03:24 , Arpan Rai

The US is cementing its role in the Ukraine war by providing Ukrainian forces with Patriot missiles and training them on their use, Russia’s ambassador to Washington has said.

“The decision of the US defence department to organise a training course at Fort Sill in Oklahoma is yet another confirmation of Washington’s de facto participation in the Ukrainian conflict on the side of Kyiv’s Nazi criminals,” Anatoly Antonov said in a statement posted by his embassy yesterday.

He said that the real aim of the US administration was to “inflict as much damage as possible on Russia on the battlefield by the hands of the Ukrainians”.

Petrol prices below £1.50 a litre for first time since Ukraine war began

03:00 , Eleanor Noyce

The average price of petrol has dropped below £1.50 a litre for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine last February.

Motoring group The AA said falling global oil prices were the cause of the drop, signalling a “huge relief for drivers.”

Prices at the pumps peaked at a record 191.53p in July last year, with current average prices marked as 149.74p per litre on Monday, lower than the same time last February.

A spokesperson for The AA, Luke Bosdet, said it takes around £23 less to fill an average-sized family car with petrol than it did in July, at roughly £82.

Data from the motoring group RAC has suggested by July last year, the cost of filling the same average-sized family car had hit £105.29, while for diesel it was £109.47.

Daniel Reast reports:

Petrol prices below £1.50 a litre for first time since Ukraine war began

Zelensky invites Irish premier to visit Ukraine

02:00 , Eleanor Noyce

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has invited Irish premier Leo Varadkar to visit Ukraine “at a future opportunity”.

The offer was made in the first phone call between the two leaders since Mr Varadkar returned to the role of Taoiseach in December as part of a coalition deal.

“Had the first phone call with Prime Minister of Ireland @LeoVaradkar,” Mr Zelensky said on Twitter.

“Thanked for freezing Russian assets, discussed support for Ukraine’s energy system and post-war recovery. Invited to join the implementation of the #PeaceFormula.”

President Zelensky also extended new year’s wishes to the people of Ireland during the call and thanked them for their friendship.

Mr Varadkar assured Mr Zelensky of Ireland’s ongoing solidarity, and said Ireland was “resolute” in backing Ukraine’s application for EU membership.

He said that the 70,000 Ukrainians that had sought refuge in Ireland were welcome and that the Irish people were responding to their difficult situation with great generosity.

Grinne N. Aodha reports:

Zelensky invites Irish premier to visit Ukraine

Polish leaders meet, discuss further support for Ukraine

01:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda met Monday with the prime minister and some of his ministers to discuss security issues amid the war in neighbouring Ukraine, including Kyiv’s request for delivery of Western-made heavy battle tanks.

After the meeting, top national security official Jacek Siewiera said decisions were taken as to current and future support to Ukraine, but did not provide any details.

Earlier, a presidential aide said that Kyiv’s request for German-made Leopard 2 tanks which Poland, among other countries, uses, would be on the agenda.

Read more:

Polish leaders meet, discuss further support for Ukraine

Report says Israeli tech investments nearly halved in 2022

00:05 , Eleanor Noyce

Investments in Israel’s tech sector dropped by nearly half in 2022, reflecting a global economic slowdown, a nonprofit group reported Tuesday.

Startup Nation Central, which tracks the industry in Israel, said the total value of investments in the tech sector sank from an all-time high of $27 billion in 2021 to about $15.5 billion last year. The tech industry accounts for more than half the country’s exports, according to official data.

It cited the global economic downturn and said the trend was not unique to Israel.

Cybersecurity firms suffered the toughest hit, with a funding decline of more than 60% between 2021 and last year, SNC said. Other sectors that each suffered a decline in investment sank by about 42%, the study found.

The group said the drop happened in the last half of 2022 as a result of inflation and interest rate hikes, as well as supply chain problems and other issues related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

More here:

Report says Israeli tech investments nearly halved in 2022

Russia steps up assault on eastern Ukraine – as US to provide weapons training to Kyiv’s troops

Tuesday 10 January 2023 23:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia‘s forces have stepped up their assault around the besieged eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut and have probably captured the nearby town of Soledar, according to Ukrainian and UK officials, but is likely suffering significant losses in the process.

However, unlike Ukraine, Moscow cannot call upon the support of Western nations, the latest example of which being training in the US to use the Patriot missile system which Washington has promised.

Serhiy Cherevaty, spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern forces, said the Russians were deploying their best Wagner mercenary fighters at Soledar, while the UK’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the mercenary group, run by an ally of Vladimir Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin, were likely now in control of the town. If the gain is confirmed, it will be the first significant one for Moscow since late summer.

Chris Stevenson reports:

Russia steps up eastern assault – as US to provide weapons training to Ukraine

While evacuating a psychiatric hospital in Ukraine, there was one question on my mind

Tuesday 10 January 2023 22:15 , Eleanor Noyce

Were the personal risks the team in Kherson faced were worth it? Yes, if it meant safeguarding the lives of 400 people, writes Julien Binet:

Opinion: While evacuating a hospital in Ukraine, there was one question on my mind

Russian military firm Wagner takes control of Soledar, eastern Ukraine

Tuesday 10 January 2023 21:58 , Eleanor Noyce

The head of Russia’s private military firm Wagner has stated that his forces have taken control of the eastern Ukrainian mining town of Soledar, Russian news agencies have reported as fighting continues.

"Wagner units took control of the entire territory of Soledar. A cauldron has been formed in the centre of the city in which urban fighting is going on," Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a statement cited by Russian agencies.

"The number of prisoners will be announced tomorrow”, he confirmed.

Family of British man missing in Ukraine ‘worried and concerned’ for whereabouts

Tuesday 10 January 2023 21:53 , Eleanor Noyce

The parents of one of two British men missing in Ukraine have said they are worried about their son’s welfare following his disappearance.

The men were last seen on 6 January heading to the town of Soledar, where fighting has been especially fierce in recent days. There has been no contact with the pair since they left Kramatorsk at 8am on Friday.

The two missing men have been identified as Andrew Bagshaw, 48, and Christopher Parry, 28.

Christine Parry, the mother of Mr Parry, a humanitarian volunteer who was helping evacuate civilians, told MailOnline: “It’s all very raw at the moment. We are just trying to inform family members about what is going on.”

Emily Atkinson has more:

Family of British man missing in Ukraine ‘worried and concerned’ for whereabouts

Germany pledges weapons to Ukraine during minister’s trip

Tuesday 10 January 2023 21:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Germany has promised to provide more weapons to Ukraine during a surprise visit by its foreign minister. It further pledged to help the nation join the European Union.

Annalena Baerbock arrived in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv today. Here, she met her counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.

“This city is a symbol of the absolute insanity of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and of the endless suffering that people, especially here in the east of the country, are confronted with every day,” Ms Baerbock stated.

“This city is a symbol of the absolute insanity of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and of the endless suffering that people, especially here in the east of the country, are confronted with every day.”

Last week, Germany also promised to send Marder fighting vehicles to Ukraine as part of an increased military support package.

Family of British man missing in Ukraine ‘very raw’ after disappearance

Tuesday 10 January 2023 21:28 , Eleanor Noyce

The parents of one of the British volunteers missing in Ukraine have spoken of feeling “very raw” following their son’s disappearance in the war-torn country.

Andrew Bagshaw, 48, and Christopher Parry, 28, were last seen on Friday, according to the Ukraine’s national police.

They were heading to the town of Soledar in the eastern Donetsk region of the country, where fighting has been fierce in recent days. The pair have not made contact with anyone since leaving Kramatorsk at 8am on January 6.

Christine Parry, the mother of Mr Parry, a humanitarian volunteer helping to evacuate civilians, told MailOnline: “It’s all very raw at the moment. We are just trying to inform family members about what is going on.”

His father Robin Parry said: “We are all very proud of Chris and the work he has been doing.”

Read more here:

Family of British man missing in Ukraine ‘very raw’ after disappearance

“They seem to have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time”, says Retired Air Marshal of British nationals missing in Ukraine

Tuesday 10 January 2023 20:45 , Eleanor Noyce

Two British nationals helping evacuate civilians in Ukraine have gone missing in the Donetsk region, The Independent learned on Monday 9 January.

The men, aged 28 and 48, were last seen on 6 January heading to the town of Soledar, where fighting has been especially fierce in recent days. There has been no contact with the pair since they left Kramatorsk at 8am on Friday.

The two missing men have been identified as Andrew Bagshaw, 48, and Christopher Parry, 28.

“What we have heard is they were moving from Kramatorsk in the Donbas region to Soledar,” stated Retired Air Vice-Marshal Sean Bell, who has been analysing where the pair were when they went missing.

“It turns out at the moment that the majority of Soledar has fallen to the Russians, and it seems they found themselves in the most dangerous part of the war.

“These were fighting age males, it looks as if they might have been in military fatigues as well, and while it’s wrong to speculate what has actually happened to them, it doesn’t look good.

“Clearly, they were doing an amazingly courageous job, but they seem to have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Sweden anticipating Russia will increase activities threatening telecoms and power network

Tuesday 10 January 2023 20:00 , Eleanor Noyce

Sweden is expecting Russia to increase activities threatening its telecoms and power network, the country’s security agency has reported.

Charlotte von Essen, head of SAPO, described Moscow’s actions as “unpredictable”, remarking that its “security threatening activities against Sweden will increase.”

The sectors “where there is reason to be particularly vigilant to counter-espionage and sabotage” are telecommunications, electricity supply and the transport of “critical material”, she stated.

Von Essen made these comments following a three-day meeting in Salen, central Sweden. The conference was attended by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Swedish foreign policy and security experts.

More than 600 Russian agents and spies ‘exposed’ by Ukrainian security services

Tuesday 10 January 2023 19:15 , Eleanor Noyce

More than 600 Russian agents and spies alike have been “exposed” by Ukraine since the beginning of the war, the country’s security service has reported.

In an update released on its Telegram channel, the Security Service of Ukraine stated that more than 340 perpetrators had been sent to court.

Culprits had been conducting “intelligence and subversive activities” against Ukraine, it reported, furthering that some “enemy agents” had been preparing for the “physical liquidation of the minister of defence and head of the main directorate of intelligence.”

A former head of the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv was similarly “exposed” for “voluntarily offering his help to the enemy” by passing on information about “military prisoners of the Russian Federation to the Russian special services”.

The Security Service of Ukraine - known as the SBU - further stated that this individual was found to have been tasked with creating an “extensive agent network for gathering intelligence and carrying out sabotage in the western regions”.

Pentagon set to train Ukraine on Patriot missile system in Oklahoma

Tuesday 10 January 2023 18:30 , Eleanor Noyce

The Pentagon is aiming to bring Ukrainian troops to the US for training on the Patriot missile defence system, a US official has stated.

The training will take place at Fort Sill, southwest of Oklahoma City. The official remarked that it could begin this month.

Pentagon officials have declined to discuss the plan in detail. Last week, it was revealed that training will begin in January, set to take several months.

“Patriot is not an immediate-term capability,” senior Pentagon official Laura Cooper remarked. “But we will start that training very soon.”

“I can tell you that we’re exploring a variety of options to include potential training here in the U.S., overseas, or a combination of both,” Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder reported last week.

UK Government considering whether to supply Ukraine with battle tanks

Tuesday 10 January 2023 17:45 , Eleanor Noyce

The UK Government is currently considering whether to supply the Ukrainians with British Army Challenger 2 main battle tanks, while Kyiv is also seeking German-built Leopard IIs.

One western official said the Russian and Ukrainian forces are currently too closely matched for the Ukrainians to be able to mount a major offensive.

The official said that a reported Ukrainian call for 300 tanks was “not an unreasonable number” to create the force mass needed for them to go on the attack.

“The Ukrainians won’t be unable to win back significant amounts of territory without changes to their force posture from last year. The force ratios between the Russians and the Ukrainians are too finely balanced,” the official said.

“Something needs to break that deadlock, especially if they (the Ukrainians) are to win territory back and go on the offensive. Main battle tanks and APCs (armoured personnel carriers) are part of that mix.

“I think the Ukrainians would look to all partners who might provide tanks won’t be particularly worried about where they come from just so long as they come in sufficient volume.”

Ukraine will not be able to take back significant territory from Russia without an increase in military capability - including tanks and armoured vehicles, western officials have warned.

Via PA.

Russian officials appear to be grappling with military shortcomings in Ukraine

Tuesday 10 January 2023 17:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

In Russia, two signs emerged Tuesday that officials were grappling with the military shortcomings revealed during the conflict in Ukraine.

Russian Defense Minister Shoigu, whose performance has been fiercely criticized in some Russian circles but who has retained Russian President Vladimir Putin’s confidence, said Tuesday that his military would use its experience in Ukraine to improve combat training.

Military communications and control systems will be improved using artificial intelligence, Shoigu said, and troops will be given better tactical gear and equipment.

The second indication of trouble involves Russia‘s production of weapons and other supplies its military needs for the fight in Ukraine. The deputy head of Russia‘s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, warned that officials who failed to meet deadlines for such items could face criminal charges.

Putin appointed Medvedev last month to head a new commission tasked with trying to solve the military’s supply problems. Numerous reports have suggested Russia is running low on certain weapons and was sending some troops into battle with insufficient equipment and clothing.

Part of the Kremlin’s challenge is keeping up with the weapons and supplies that Western allies have provided to Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that NATO members “have become a party to the conflict, pumping weapons, technology and intelligence data into Ukraine.”

Several front-line cities in eastern Ukraine‘s Donetsk and Luhansk provinces have witnessed intense fighting in recent months.

Together, the provinces make up the Donbas, a broad industrial region bordering Russia that Putin identified as a focus from the war’s outset and where Moscow-backed separatists have fought since 2014.

Russia‘s grinding eastern offensive captured almost all of Luhansk during the summer. Donetsk escaped the same fate, and the Russian military subsequently poured manpower and resources around Bakhmut.

Taking Bakhmut would disrupt Ukraine‘s supply lines and open a route for Russian forces to press on toward Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk.

Like Mariupol and other contested cities, Bakhmut has endured a long siege without water and power even before Moscow launched massive strikes to take out public utilities across Ukraine.

Kyrylenko, the Donetsk region’s governor, estimated more than two months ago that 90% of Bakhmut’s prewar population of over 70,000 had fled since Moscow focused on seizing the entire Donbas.

Ukraine‘s presidential office said at least four civilians were killed and another 30 wounded in Russian shelling between Monday and Tuesday.

Vitaliy Kim, the governor of the southern Mykolaiv region, said Russian forces shelled the port of Ochakiv and the area around it late Monday and again early Tuesday. He said 15 people, including a 2-year-old child, were wounded in Monday’s shelling.

'What madness looks like': Russia intensifies Bakhmut attack

Tuesday 10 January 2023 16:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian forces are escalating their onslaught against Ukrainian positions around the wrecked city of Bakhmut, Ukrainian officials said, bringing new levels of death and devastation in the grinding, monthslong battle for control of eastern Ukraine that is part of Moscow’s wider war.

“Everything is completely destroyed. There is almost no life left,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Monday of the scene around Bakhmut and the nearby Donetsk province city of Soledar.

“The whole land near Soledar is covered with the corpses of the occupiers and scars from the strikes,” Zelenskyy said. “This is what madness looks like.”

The Kremlin, whose invasion of its neighbor 10 1/2 months ago has suffered numerous reversals, is hungry for victories. Russia illegally annexed Donetsk and three other Ukrainian provinces in September, but its troops have struggled to advance.

After Ukrainian forces recaptured the southern city of Kherson in November, the battle heated up around Bakhmut.

Ukraine‘s deputy defense minister, Hanna Malyar, said Russia has thrown “a large number of storm groups” into the fight for the city. “The enemy is advancing literally on the bodies of their own soldiers and is massively using artillery, rocket launchers and mortars, hitting their own troops,” she said.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Donetsk region’s Kyiv-appointed governor, on Tuesday described the Russian attacks on Soledar and Bakhmut as relentless.

“The Russian army is reducing Ukrainian cities to rubble using all kinds of weapons in their scorched-earth tactics,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks. “Russia is waging a war without rules, resulting in civilian deaths and suffering.”

Wounded soldiers arrive around the clock for emergency treatment at a Ukrainian medical stabilization center near the front line around Bakhmut. Medics fought for 30 minutes Monday to save a soldier, but his injuries were too severe.

Another soldier suffered a head injury after a fragment pierced his helmet. Medics quickly stabilized him enough to transfer him to a military hospital.

“We fight to the end to save a life,” Kostnyantyn Vasylkevich, a surgeon and the center’s coordinator, told The Associated Press. “Of course, it hurts when it is not possible to save them.”

The Moscow-backed leader of the occupied areas of Donetsk said Tuesday that Russia‘s forces were “very close” to taking over Soledar. But the gains were coming “at a very high price,” Denis Pushilin told Russian state TV.

Control over the city would create “good prospects” for taking over Bakhmut, as well as Siversk, a town further north where Ukrainian fortifications “are also quite serious,” Pushilin said.

EU envoy hails Ukraine's moves to reform judiciary

Tuesday 10 January 2023 15:57 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The European Union’s ambassador to Ukraine said on Tuesday Kyiv was close to reaching a milestone in reform of its court system, an important step before starting accession talks with the 27-member bloc.

Ambassador Matti Maasikas welcomed the expected appointment this week of eight new members of Ukraine‘s High Council of Justice -- an important body which appoints, dismisses and disciplines judges -- as part of reforms of the judiciary.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, made reforming the judiciary one of its main recommendations when it offered Ukraine the status of candidate member last June despite Russia‘s invasion.

“Within reach a milestone in reforming Ukraine‘s court system, as advocated and supported by partners, including the EU, for years,” Maasikas wrote on Twitter.

“Also part of the 7 recommendations linked with Ukraine‘s EU candidate country status. Am confident that Ukrainian judges will rise to the occasion.”

Ukraine‘s parliament has already passed all the legislation sought by the EU before accession talks start, the speaker of the assembly said last month, but the road to membership is widely expected to be long, possibly lasting a decade.

Some watchdogs have also warned that powerful interests are prepared to push back against reforms, especially in the judicial system.

“They’re not interested in having any disciplinary body,” said lawyer Mykhailo Zhernakov, of the DEJURE Foundation which monitors judicial reforms.

Zhernakov and others have also raised concerns over a recent law governing the appointment of Constitutional Court judges which they say leaves room for political manipulation.

Frans Timmermans, a European Commission executive vice-president, visited Kyiv on Monday, and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy discussed plans for a Feb. 3 EU-Ukraine summit by phone with European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday.

Moscow threatens Russian actor with criminal charges after Ukraine war criticism

Tuesday 10 January 2023 15:25 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A famous Russian actor is being threatened with criminal charges by Russian authorities after publicly criticising the war in Ukraine.

The search for Artur Smolyaninov, a prominent film and theatre actor, was announced by Russia’s top investigative on Monday in tandem with a second probe against a philanthropist who supports the Russian opposition.

In a statement, Russia’s Investigative Committee said that its chief Alexander Bastrykin ordered the launch of a criminal case against Mr Smolyaninov, who fled the country after Moscow’s forces invaded Ukraine.

Emily Atkinson reports:

Moscow threatens Russian actor with criminal charges after Ukraine war criticism

UK defence committee chief says Britain should ‘absolutely’ send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine

Tuesday 10 January 2023 14:56 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Britain should “absolutely” supply Ukraine‘s forces with heavy battle tanks and do “far more to put this fire out” in the country’s conflict with Russia, a senior Tory MP has said.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, said the West must take bold strategic decisions to support Kyiv in pushing back Russian forces, instead of “hesitantly creeping our way forward”.

It comes as the Government considers sending British Army Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine for the first time.

The Tory MP told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “This is our war, but we’ve left the Ukrainians to do the fighting.

“It’s not just the moralistic issue here, it’s the fact that Russia is now pushing this against the wider West, so I very much welcome the fact that we’re now thinking about sending main battle tanks.

“It does show how far we’ve come in our willingness to look (Russian President Vladimir) Putin in the eye and not be spooked by his rhetoric, and we’re finally sending this much-needed serious hardware to Ukraine.

“Nato essentially has been benched. We should be doing far more to put this fire out and we’re not doing that.”

Downing Street declined to comment on what further equipment might be sent, but did not rule out tanks.

“We haven’t made any final decisions on provision of tanks at this stage,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“For several months, we’ve been working with partners around the provision of tanks and armoured vehicles, artillery and air defence. And the Prime Minister spoke to President (Volodymyr) Zelensky just last week about what can be most effective in helping Ukraine continue their progress.”

Russia throws forces into assault on Ukraine's Soledar

Tuesday 10 January 2023 14:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukrainian forces are facing waves of assaults by Russian forces on the small salt-mining town of Soledar, Kyiv officials said on Tuesday, as Moscow strives to make its first breakthrough in the east in months.

Britain’s Defence Ministry said Russian troops and mercenaries of the Wagner group were probably now in control of most of the town after advances in the last four days.

Seizing Soledar would give an advantage to Russian forces as they fight to capture the city of Bakhmut, a few kilometres (miles) to the southwest.

Troops from both sides have been taking heavy losses there in some of the most intense trench warfare since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly 11 months ago.

Bakhmut is located on a strategic supply line between the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which make up the Donbas, Ukraine‘s industrial heartland. Gaining control of Bakhmut could give Russia a platform to advance on two bigger cities - Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

It would also give Russia a welcome battlefield victory after a series of setbacks in recent months.

“Russia‘s Soledar axis is highly likely an effort to envelop Bakhmut from the north, and to disrupt Ukrainian lines of communication,” the British intelligence briefing said.

Serhiy Cherevaty, spokesman for Ukraine‘s eastern forces, said the Russians were deploying their best Wagner fighters at Soledar, which had been struck 86 times by artillery over the past 24 hours.

Russia was using World War One-style tactics, throwing large numbers of men into battle and absorbing heavy losses, he told Ukrainian television.

“This is basically not a 21st-century war,” he said.

Journalist Yuriy Butusov, who is embedded with Ukrainian troops in Soledar, wrote for the online outlet New Voice that Russian forces had established fire control over the main Ukrainian supply route to the town.

“This is not a complete encirclement, but normal supply along the route is impossible, (and) this is critical for defence,” he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address on Monday that Bakhmut and Soledar were holding on despite widespread destruction.

He cited new and fiercer attacks in Soledar, where he said no walls have been left standing and the land was covered with Russian corpses.

Russia‘s defence ministry did not mention either Soledar or Bakhmut in a media briefing on Monday.

Britain considering sending tanks to Ukraine to help fight Russia

Tuesday 10 January 2023 13:45 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Britain is weighing up supplying Ukraine with tanks for the first time – to help the country fight Russian forces.

A final decision has not yet been made on delivering the British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tank to Ukraine, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said – but should it happen, the UK would become the first nation to respond to Kyiv’s pleas for “heavy” tanks.

The spokesperson said that Britain would continue to co-ordinate its support with allies after Germany, France and the United States all indicated last week they would provide other armoured vehicles to Ukraine.

“We haven’t made any final decisions on provision of tanks at this stage... Until decisions are made on these sorts of things, we don’t comment on speculation around what further equipment may or may not be sent,” the spokesperson said.

Emily Atkinson reports:

Britain considering sending tanks to Ukraine to help fight Russia

Family of British man missing in Ukraine ‘very raw’ after disappearance

Tuesday 10 January 2023 13:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The parents of one of the British volunteers missing in Ukraine have spoken of feeling “very raw” following their son’s disappearance in the war-torn country.

Andrew Bagshaw, 48, and Christopher Parry, 28, were last seen on Friday, according to the Ukraine’s national police.

They were heading to the town of Soledar in the eastern Donetsk region of the country, where fighting has been fierce in recent days. The pair have not made contact with anyone since leaving Kramatorsk at 8am on January 6.

Joe Middleton has more here:

Family of British man missing in Ukraine ‘very raw’ after disappearance

Ukrainian serviceman carries injured comrade to hospital as bloody battle continues across eastern Donetsk

Tuesday 10 January 2023 12:45 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A Ukrainian serviceman carries his injured comrade evacuated from the battlefield into a hospital in Donetsk region, Ukraine.

It comes as Russian forces are escalating their onslaught against Ukrainian positions around the wrecked eastern city of Bakhmut, Ukrainian officials said, bringing new levels of death and devastation in the months-long conflict.

 (AP)
(AP)

In pictures: Remains of a destroyed building in Makiivka following Ukrainian missile strike

Tuesday 10 January 2023 12:18 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Pictures show debris of a building purported to be Russian soldiers’ temporary accommodation destroyed in a Ukrainian missile strike in Makiivka.

 (REUTERS)
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