Ukraine news – live: Putin ally says Russia at war with UK and US, ‘not Kyiv’

Russia is “not at war with Ukraine” but is fighting Britain and the US, one of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies has said.

Nikolai Patrushev, the Russian security council secretary, said: “The events in Ukraine are not a clash between Moscow and Kyiv - this is a military confrontation between Russia and Nato, and above all the United States and Britain.”

The former Soviet spy also told the Argumenti i Fakti newspaper that Russia is “not at war with Ukraine” because Russians “cannot have hatred for ordinary Ukrainians”.

His comments come as Putin’s defence minister vowed on Tuesday to build a deeper arsenal of weapons, bolster aviation technology to better evade air defences and improve drone production after a series of battlefield humiliations in Ukraine.

Elsewhere, two British nationals helping evacuate civilians in Ukraine have gone missing in the Donetsk region.

The missing men have been identified to The Independent as Andrew Bagshaw, 48, and Christopher Parry, 28. There has been no contact with the pair since they left Kramatorsk at 8am on Friday.

Key Points

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

  • Russian soldiers ‘step over corpses of their own soldiers’ in grinding battle

  • Two British nationals missing in Ukraine after helping evacuate civilians

  • Thousands of Ukrainian refugees living in hotels as councils struggle to deal with rising homelessness

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

11:19 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia is “not at war with Ukraine” but is fighting Britain and the US, one of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies has said.

Nikolai Patrushev, the Russian security council secretary, told the Argumenti i Fakti newspaper: “The events in Ukraine are not a clash between Moscow and Kyiv - this is a military confrontation between Russia and Nato, and above all the United States and Britain.”

He added that Russia is “not at war with Ukraine” because Russians “cannot have hatred for ordinary Ukrainians”.

His comments come as Putin’s defence minister vowed on Tuesday to build a deeper arsenal of weapons, bolster aviation technology to better evade air defences and improve drone production after a series of battlefield humiliations in Ukraine.

Kremlin says West reacted 'cynically' to Christmas ceasefire

11:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Ukraine and the West had reacted “cynically” to a 36-hour ceasefire proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to mark Orthodox Christmas.

“We met with a cynical reaction from Kyiv and a number of Western leaders,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a daily briefing.

Russia says the truce was announced for humanitarian purposes so that Orthodox Christians could celebrate Christmas, but Ukraine says Russian troops shelled dozens of positions and settlements along the front line on Saturday, when the truce was meant to be in effect.

Russia appoints new ground forces chief of staff

10:45 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia has appointed Colonel-General Alexander Lapin as chief of staff of the country’s ground forces, state-owned news agency TASS reported on Tuesday, citing sources close to the defence ministry.

Italy says "technical issues" delay supply of air defence system to Ukraine

10:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Italy intends to supply Ukraine with a missile defence system to help protect it against Russia attacks but must deal with technical issues before it can be dispatched, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on Tuesday.

Tajani was speaking after Italian newspaper la Repubblica reported on Monday that a decision on the supply of new arms to Ukraine had been delayed until next month due to political tensions, cost considerations and equipment shortages.

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 such as the Franco-Italian SAMP/T.

Tajani said Italy was working with the French to resolve issues prior to deployment of the SAMP/T.

“There is no brake on...but it takes time because there are technical problems to make the instruments work, the military commands are working on this,” he told Italian radio.

Citing unspecified sources, la Repubblica reported on Monday that Meloni, who is a firm supporter of Kyiv, was 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.

Putin ally Patrushev says Russia is now fighting Nato in Ukraine

09:45 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

One of president Vladimir Putin’s closest allies said on Tuesday that Russia was now fighting the U.S.-led NATO military alliance in Ukraine and that the West was trying to rip Russia apart and ultimately wipe it from the political map of the world.

“The events in Ukraine are not a clash between Moscow and Kyiv - this is a military confrontation between Russia and NATO, and above all the United States and Britain,” Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said.

“The Westerners’ plans are to continue to pull Russia apart, and eventually just erase it from the political map of the world,” Patrushev told the Argumenti i Fakti newspaper.

Patrushev, a former Soviet spy who has known Putin since the 1970s, is a hardline ally and seen as one of the few people able to influence the Russian president.

Russia‘s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine has triggered one of the deadliest European conflicts since World War Two and the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Russian warship holds drills in Norwegian Sea

09:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A Russian warship armed with hypersonic cruise weapons has held exercises in the Norwegian Sea, the defence ministry said on Tuesday.

“The crew of the frigate ‘Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov’ conducted an air defense exercise in the Norwegian Sea,” the ministry said.

“The crew... conducted an exercise to repel the means of an air attack of a simulated enemy in the Norwegian Sea.”

Last week, President Vladimir Putin sent the frigate to the Atlantic Ocean armed with new generation hypersonic cruise missiles, a signal to the West that Russia will not back down over the war in Ukraine.

The frigate is armed with Zircon missiles which Russia says fly at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of over 1,000 km (620 miles).

Russia sees the weapons as a way to pierce increasingly sophisticated U.S. missile defences which Putin has warned could one day shoot down Russian nuclear missiles.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

last week warned the United States that the hypersonic missiles would soon be close to NATO’s shores.

Two British nationals missing in Ukraine after helping evacuate civilians

08:45 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Two British nationals helping evacuate civilians in Ukraine have gone missing in the Donetsk region.

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 to The Independent as Andrew Bagshaw, 48, and Christopher Parry, 28.

A Ukrainian friend and former flatmate of Mr Parry in east Ukraine said that the pair received a call to help evacuate civilians on Friday.

Bel Trew and Emily Atkinson report:

Two British nationals missing in Ukraine after helping evacuate civilians

Thousands of Ukrainian refugees living in hotels as councils struggle to deal with rising homelessness

08:18 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Thousands of Ukrainian refugees are being housed in hotels as councils struggle to deal with a rising number becoming homeless.

Nearly 3,000 Ukrainian households have presented themselves as homeless to English councils since the end of February 2022.

And with renting privately becoming “all but impossible” and limited social housing available, many councils have had no choice but to place them in temporary accommodation when their Homes for Ukraine or family sponsorships break down.

Councils have said that the “growing number” of Ukrainians presenting as homeless is placing pressure on local services.

Our social affairs correspondent Holly Bancroft reports:

Thousands of Ukrainian refugees living in hotels as councils struggle to house them

Russia's Gazprom to ship 35 mcm of gas to Europe via Ukraine on Tuesday

07:50 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia‘s Gazprom said it would ship 35.5 million cubic metres of gas to Europe via Ukraine on Tuesday, a volume broadly in line with those of recent days.

 (AP)
(AP)

US says Iran may be 'contributing' to war crimes in Ukraine

07:15 , Eleanor Noyce

The Biden administration said Monday that Iran‘s sale of lethal drones to Russia for use in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine means the country may be “contributing to widespread war crimes.”

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan leveled the charge against Iran on Monday as he spoke to reporters accompanying President Joe Biden on a trip to Mexico. While it did not signal a policy shift, the charge marked some of the sharpest U.S. rhetoric against Iran since it began providing weapons to Russia to support its nearly year-long war in Ukraine. It comes as the U.S. and European partners are looking to further ostracize both nations in the court of public opinion, as they face challenges with physically stopping the transfers of weapons on which Russia is increasingly reliant.

Sullivan said Iran had chosen “to go down a road where their weapons are being used to kill civilians in Ukraine and to try to plunge cities into cold and darkness, which from our point of view, puts Iran in a place where it could potentially be contributing to widespread war crimes.”

Read more:

US says Iran may be 'contributing' to war crimes in Ukraine

Russia likely in control of small Donbas town, says UK

07:04 , Arpan Rai

The British defence ministry has claimed that the Russian and Wagner forces have made tactical advances into the small Donbas town of Soledar and are likely in control of most of the settlement in the last four days as the offensive gathered pace.

“Soledar is 10 km north of Bakhmut, the capture of which likely continues to be Russia’s main immediate operational objective,” the defence ministry said in its latest intelligence update today.

It added that Russia’s Soledar axis is highly likely an effort to envelop Bakhmut from the north, and to disrupt Ukrainian lines of communication.

“Part of the fighting has focused on entrances to the 200 km-long disused salt mine tunnels which run underneath the district. Both sides are likely concerned that they could be used for infiltration behind their lines,” the MoD said.

Russia is unlikely to envelop the town imminently because Ukrainian forces maintain stable defensive lines in depth and control over supply routes despite the increased pressure on Bakhmut, the ministry said.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Russian offensive concentrated near Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Lyman

06:52 , Arpan Rai

The Ukrainian general staff has claimed that Russia is conducting offensives in three areas.

The Russian military is focusing its efforts near Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Lyman, located on the eastern part of Donetsk Oblast, the Ukrainian army’s general staff said in the latest update from the battle’s frontlines, adding that the troops from Moscow are looking to push to the administrative border of the oblast.

Senator: Ending US aid to Ukraine would be historic mistake

06:15 , Eleanor Noyce

The U.S. would risk enabling the spread of extremism in Europe if it stopped providing support to Ukraine in its war with Russia, Maine’s independent senator said Monday in the wake of meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Sens. Angus King of Maine and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who sit on the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, traveled to Kyiv last week to meet with Zelenskyy. King said he came back more certain that U.S. aid to Ukraine is vital.

Ukraine is slated to receive $44.9 billion in U.S. aid as part of the recent government spending bill. The U.S. should continue supporting Ukraine until Russian President Vladimir Putin is out of power, King said. He characterized Putin as “a dictator.”

Senator: Ending US aid to Ukraine would be historic mistake

Two British nationals missing in Ukraine after helping evacuate civilians

06:07 , Arpan Rai

Two British nationals helping evacuate civilians in Ukraine have gone missing in the Donetsk region.

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 to The Independent as Andrew Bagshaw, 48, and Christopher Parry, 28.

Two British nationals missing in Ukraine after helping evacuate civilians

Moscow threatens Russian actor with criminal charges after Ukraine war criticism

06:06 , Arpan Rai

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.

Read the full story here:

Moscow threatens Russian actor with criminal charges after Ukraine war criticism

US could send Stryker combat vehicles to Ukraine - report

05:41 , Arpan Rai

The Pentagon is looking to send Stryker armoured combat vehicles to Ukraine in the upcoming tranche of assistance, reported Politico.

A defence department official aware of the internal deliberations said that the Strykers — an eight-wheeled armoured fighting vehicle built by General Dynamics Land Systems — can be part of the next batch of military aid being shared with Ukraine, the report added.

Another US military staple, the Strykers can operate in snow, mud and sand but has limited off-road mobility due to lack of tracks.

Russia launches criminal probes on prominent Kremlin critics

05:15 , Eleanor Noyce

Russian authorities on Monday announced parallel criminal probes against a famous actor critical of the war in Ukraine and a philanthropist who supports the Russian opposition, the latest in a months-long, sweeping crackdown on dissent.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement that its chief Alexander Bastrykin ordered the launch of a criminal case against Artur Smolyaninov, a prominent Russian film and theater actor who left the country after Moscow’s forces invaded Ukraine and repeatedly spoke out against the war.

According to the statement, Smolyaninov “made a series of statements directed against Russia in an interview to a Western media outlet.” The Investigative Committee didn’t clarify which of Smolyaninov’s actions constituted a criminal offense and what charges it would bring against him.

Read more:

Russia launches criminal probes on prominent Kremlin critics

Russia preparing fresh troops for massive attack on Kyiv - officials

04:49 , Arpan Rai

Russia is preparing fresh troops for a renewed major attack on Ukraine and likely the capital Kyiv, the Ukrainian officials, led by the commander in chief General Valery Zaluzhniy, have warned.

Anticipating a bigger military offensive, Volodymyr Zelensky appears to be relying on securing more and sophisticated weapons from Ukraine’s western allies to repel these attacks and inflict damage on Russian forces.

Mr Zelensky rallied another round of diplomatic efforts with European ally and Czech Republic’s president Petr Fiala who also serves as current chair of the 27-member European Union.

"I am certain that our soldiers at the front will get these weapons and equipment. Very soon," Mr Zelensky said.

Ukraine is already getting Patriot anti-missile defence systems and Bradley Fighting Vehicles from the US in a major arsenal boost, along with lightweight tanks from France in a reluctant assistance as Emmanual Macron insists on not getting into a direct conflict with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Britain is also considering supplying Ukraine with tanks for the first time, Sky News reported, citing a source.

No whole walls left in Soledar, says Zelensky

04:20 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has said there is no life and no whole wall left in Soledar where Russia has allegedly concentrated their military might now in the 11th month of war.

“Bakhmut and Soledar, Kreminna and Svatove, overall prospects in Donbas for the coming weeks. The battle for Donbas continues. And although the invaders have now concentrated their greatest efforts on Soledar, the result of this difficult and long battle will be the liberation of our entire Donbas,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly address.

He said that Ukrainian fighters in Soledar are withstanding new and even tougher attacks from the Russian soldiers.

“It is extremely difficult - there are almost no whole walls left... Due to the resilience of our warriors there, in Soledar, we have gained additional time and additional power for Ukraine,” he said without sharing more details.

“And what did Russia want to gain there? Everything is completely destroyed, there is almost no life left. And thousands of their people were lost: the whole land near Soledar is covered with the corpses of the occupiers and scars from the strikes. This is what madness looks like,” Mr Zelensky said.

Two British nationals missing in Ukraine after helping evacuate civilians

04:15 , Eleanor Noyce

Two British nationals helping evacuate civilians in Ukraine have gone missing in the Donetsk region.

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 for Soledar at 8am on Friday.

The two missing men have been identified to The Independent as Andrew Bagshaw, 48, and Christopher Parry, 28. Mr Bagshaw was born in the UK, but now resides in Christchurch, New Zealand.

A Ukrainian friend and former flatmate of Mr Parry in east Ukraine said that the pair received a call to help evacuate civilians on Friday.

The route they are supposed to take, which The Independent has seen, skirts the edge of the town close to Russian positions and may have actually entered areas engulfed by a moving frontline, as Moscow launched a major assault.

Read more:

Two British nationals missing in Ukraine after helping evacuate civilians

Russian soldiers ‘step over corpses of their own soldiers’ in grinding battle

04:09 , Arpan Rai

Russian soldiers are stepping over the dead bodies of soldiers from their own unit in the war in eastern Ukraine as heavy fighting plagues the region, especially in Soledar and Bakhmut.

"The enemy literally step over the corpses of their own soldiers, using massed artillery, MLRS systems and mortars," said Ukrainian deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov also called the fighting in Bahkmut and Soledar as "the most intense on the entire frontline", with little progress by either side in the freezing conditions.

"So many (pro-Russian fighters) remain on the battlefield ... either dead or wounded,” he said.

How has war changed love and relationships in Ukraine?

03:15 , Eleanor Noyce

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

Read more:

How has war changed love and relationships in Ukraine?

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

02:15 , Eleanor Noyce

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

While Ukraine has shone a spotlight on the hardships caused by below freezing temperatures, this crisis happens every year around the globe, writes Josie Naughton.

Read more:

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

Elon Musk sparks heated debate on Twitter saying Ukraine shouldn’t use tanks against Russia

01:15 , Eleanor Noyce

Twitter owner Elon Musk has sparked yet another debate on social media after he described tanks as “deathtraps” that should not be used in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“Tanks are a deathtrap now,” tweeted Mr Musk before drawing parallels with the First World War. “With neither side having air superiority, you’re left with infantry & artillery – essentially WW1.”

The comments from the tech tycoon came as Ukraine received tank-killing armored vehicles in its latest multibillion-dollar package of military aid from the US.

This included 50 Bradley armored vehicles and 500 anti-tank missiles they can fire. Germany also announced it would supply around 40 Marder armored personnel carriers and France promised wheeled AMX-10 RC tank destroyers.

Western countries have stopped short of providing heavy tanks to Ukraine that could be used for offensive operations, despite Kyiv saying it needs them. In a video message thanking France’s Emmanuel Macron for the AMX-10s, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said: “There is no rational reason why Ukraine has not yet been supplied with Western tanks.”

Namita Singh writes:

Musk sparks heated debate saying Ukraine shouldn’t use tanks against Russia

US says Iran may be 'contributing' to war crimes in Ukraine

00:15 , Eleanor Noyce

The Biden administration said Monday that Iran‘s sale of lethal drones to Russia for use in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine means the country may be “contributing to widespread war crimes.”

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan leveled the charge against Iran on Monday as he spoke to reporters accompanying President Joe Biden on a trip to Mexico. While it did not signal a policy shift, the charge marked some of the sharpest U.S. rhetoric against Iran since it began providing weapons to Russia to support its nearly year-long war in Ukraine. It comes as the U.S. and European partners are looking to further ostracize both nations in the court of public opinion, as they face challenges with physically stopping the transfers of weapons on which Russia is increasingly reliant.

Sullivan said Iran had chosen “to go down a road where their weapons are being used to kill civilians in Ukraine and to try to plunge cities into cold and darkness, which from our point of view, puts Iran in a place where it could potentially be contributing to widespread war crimes.”

Read more:

US says Iran may be 'contributing' to war crimes in Ukraine

EXPLAINER: How armored vehicles aid Ukraine at critical time

Monday 9 January 2023 23:30 , Eleanor Noyce

Looking ahead to a likely spring offensive, the U.S. and Germany are sending Ukraine an array of armored vehicles, including 50 tank-killing Bradleys, to expand its ability to move troops to the front lines and beef up its forces against Russia as the war nears its first anniversary.

The vehicles don’t fulfill Ukraine’s request for combat tanks. But they provide a strategic war-fighting capability as the season change brings muddy terrain and Ukraine launches an aggressive campaign to recoup territory taken by Russia, particularly in the east.

Lolita C. Baldor has more:

EXPLAINER: How armored vehicles aid Ukraine at critical time

Britain ‘considering sending tanks to Ukraine to help fight Russia’

Monday 9 January 2023 23:15 , Eleanor Noyce

Britain is weighing up supplying Ukraine with tanks for the first time to help the country fight Russian forces, it has been reported.

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

The broadcaster cited one source as saying Britain could offer around 10 Challenger 2 tanks. The move would constitute a major step up in western support for Ukraine, with the potential to prompt other NATO allies, such as Germany, to emulate.

The government has not yet made a final decision on the potential boost to its military support for Ukraine, but should it been given the green light the UK would become the first nation to respond to Kyiv’s pleas for more powerful western tanks.

The Ministry of Defence did not confirm nor deny Sky News’s report, but said in a statement the UK “will continue to build on recent donations with training and further gifting of equipment”.

Emily Atkinson reports:

Britain ‘considering sending tanks to Ukraine to help fight Russia’

Cargo ship goes aground, is refloated in Egypt's Suez Canal

Monday 9 January 2023 22:45 , Eleanor Noyce

A cargo ship carrying corn that went aground early on Monday in the Suez Canal was refloated and traffic through the crucial waterway was restored, Egyptian authorities said.

According to Adm. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, the Marshall Islands-flagged MV Glory suffered a sudden technical failure while transiting through the canal, and four tugboats were deployed to help refloat it.

The vessel, owned by Greek firm Primera Shipping Inc., was heading to China before it broke down at the 38 kilometer (24 mile) -mark of the canal, near the city of Qantara in the province of Ismailia, Rabei said.

The Joint Coordination Center listed the Glory as carrying over 65,000 metric tons of corn from Ukraine bound for China. The vessel was inspected by the center — which includes Russian, Turkish, Ukrainian and United Nations staffers — off Istanbul on Jan. 3.

Read more:

Cargo ship goes aground, is refloated in Egypt's Suez Canal

Polish leaders meet, discuss further support for Ukraine

Monday 9 January 2023 22:30 , 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 neighboring 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.

Pawel Szrot said that should Warsaw decide to hand over a limited number of Leopard tanks it would “only be within a wide agreement and an undertaking by other countries that have these tanks.”

Szrot stressed that such decisions need to also take Poland’s security into account.

Read more:

Polish leaders meet, discuss further support for Ukraine

No indication Belarus will send troops into Ukraine, US military reports

Monday 9 January 2023 22:20 , Eleanor Noyce

The US has not seen any evidence of Belarusian troops preparing to deploy in Ukraine, a senior US military official has reportedly stated.

The source, who remains unnamed, told Voice of America’s Jeff Seldin that this is despite Russian and Belarusian troops continuing to train together.

Western experts believe that Russia is pushing for Belarus to enter the war. However, no Belarusian soldiers have been sent into Ukraine.

The US official further remarked that intense fighting is continuing around the eastern city of Bakhmut and surrounding areas, stating that the battlefield “has not changed significantly.”

Ukraine war: Kyiv rejects Russia’s claim it killed 600 soldiers in ‘mass missile strike’

Monday 9 January 2023 22:15 , Eleanor Noyce

Kyiv has rejected a Russian claim that a missile strike on a city in Ukraine’s Donetsk region killed 600 of its troops, insisting there were no fatalities.

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

Its spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said the bombardment had been launched in retaliation for Ukraine’s New Year’s Eve attack on temporary bases in the eastern city of Makiivka, which killed at least 89 Russian troops.

But Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesman for Ukraine‘s forces in the east, told the Associated Press on Sunday that the strikes on Kramatorsk only damaged civilian infrastructure, adding: “The armed forces of Ukraine weren’t affected.”

Emily Atkinson reports:

Kyiv rejects Russia’s claim it killed 600 soldiers in ‘mass missile strike’

Two-year-old injured during missile strike on southern city

Monday 9 January 2023 22:00 , Eleanor Noyce

According to Ukrainian authorities, 15 people including a two-year-old have been injured in a Russian strike on the city of Ochakiv.

Regional governor Vitaliy Kim confirmed that the two-year-old was amongst those injured.

During the attack, a hospital in the city had its windows and doors damaged. However, none of those injured were hospital patients.

Just yesterday, one attack on a market killed two women. Four others, including a 10-year-old girl, were injured in the strike on the village of Shevchenkove in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is making life harder for LGBT+ people in Russia

Monday 9 January 2023 21:45 , Eleanor Noyce

The idea of Russia as a defender of traditional Christian beliefs has been used to justify Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, write Mary Ilyushina and Mary Gelman:

As Russian president Vladimir Putin steers Russia toward becoming a closed-off, conservative society, ruled by “traditional values” and bound tightly to the Orthodox Church, with visions of a “Russian world” in opposition to the decadent, amoral West, the Russian parliament has expanded Moscow’s official discrimination against gays and others of non-heterosexual orientations.

The idea of Russia as a defender of traditional Christian beliefs has been used to justify Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. And it has driven the Russian Parliament to tighten restrictions on LGBT+ “propaganda”.

In December, Putin signed legislation making it illegal to promote or “praise” same-sex relationships, to publicly express non-heterosexual orientations, or to suggest they are “normal” – expanding a 2013 law that prohibited spreading “gay propaganda” among minors. That ban now applies to all ages.

Read more:

Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is making life harder for LGBT+ people in Russia

Zelensky praises resilient fighters in Soledar as Russia launches ‘powerful assault’

Monday 9 January 2023 21:20 , Eleanor Noyce

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has praised Ukrainian fighters holding back a Russian attack in the city of Soledar, eastern Ukraine.

He remarked that the resilience of his country’s forces has helped Ukraine both to win time and gain strength.

“The enemy literally step over the corpses of their own soldiers, using massed artillery, MLRS systems and mortars”, said Ukrainian deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar via Telegram.

The attackers were from the strongest reserves of the Wagner group, a private army run by Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Prigozhin has been attempting to capture Bakhmut and Soledar for months.

Senator: Ending US aid to Ukraine would be historic mistake

Monday 9 January 2023 21:15 , Eleanor Noyce

The U.S. would risk enabling the spread of extremism in Europe if it stopped providing support to Ukraine in its war with Russia, Maine’s independent senator said Monday in the wake of meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Sens. Angus King of Maine and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who sit on the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, traveled to Kyiv last week to meet with Zelenskyy. King said he came back more certain that U.S. aid to Ukraine is vital.

Ukraine is slated to receive $44.9 billion in U.S. aid as part of the recent government spending bill. The U.S. should continue supporting Ukraine until Russian President Vladimir Putin is out of power, King said. He characterized Putin as “a dictator.”

Failure to continue supporting Ukraine would be akin to Western nations’ failure to combat the rise of Germany in the 1930s, King said. He said he plans to make that case to constituents and Republican lawmakers who have voiced skepticism of continued U.S. involvement in the war.

“I get letters every now and then, people saying, ‘Why are we doing this? Ukraine’s far away. It’s not our fight.’ Well, it is our fight, because if we don’t fight it now, it will spread,” King said. “And it will become something that we can’t avoid being involved in, just as occurred in the late 1930s at the beginning of World War II.”

Patrick Whittle has more:

Senator: Ending US aid to Ukraine would be historic mistake

Resistance movements ‘on the rise’ in Russia, Ukraine says

Monday 9 January 2023 20:45 , Eleanor Noyce

Ukrainian military intelligence has suggested that there have been more targeted attacks on rail infrastructure orchestrated by resistance groups in Russia this year.

The Ukrainian World Congress remarked that the resistance movement is “on the rise” in Russia, noting at least six cases of rail signal boxes being destroyed across various locations in Ukraine so far in 2023.

This has led to disruptions in military traffic. In 2022, around 40 similar cases were recorded.

Russia launches “powerful assault” on Soledar in eastern Ukraine

Monday 9 January 2023 20:15 , Eleanor Noyce

Russia has launched a new “powerful assault” led by the Wagner contract militia on Soledar in eastern Ukraine. Describing a difficult situation for forces repelling the attacks, Kyiv made the announcement on Monday.

Soledar lies in the industrial Donbas region, a few miles from Bakhmut.

Ukrainian forces successfully repelled an earlier attempt to take the town, but Wagner units quickly returned with fresh tactics and more soldiers.

“The enemy literally step over the corpses of their own soldiers, using massed artillery, MLRS systems and mortars”, Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar reported via Telegram.

Britain ‘considering sending tanks to Ukraine to help fight Russia’

Monday 9 January 2023 19:45 , Eleanor Noyce

Britain is weighing up supplying Ukraine with tanks for the first time to help the country fight Russian forces, it has been reported.

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

The broadcaster cited one source as saying Britain could offer around 10 Challenger 2 tanks. The move would constitute a major step up in western support for Ukraine, with the potential to prompt other NATO allies, such as Germany, to emulate.

The government has not yet made a final decision on the potential boost to its military support for Ukraine, but should it been given the green light the UK would become the first nation to respond to Kyiv’s pleas for more powerful western tanks.

The Ministry of Defence did not confirm nor deny Sky News’s report, but said in a statement the UK “will continue to build on recent donations with training and further gifting of equipment”.

Emily Atkinson has more:

Britain ‘considering sending tanks to Ukraine to help fight Russia’

Russia launches criminal probes on prominent Kremlin critics

Monday 9 January 2023 19:15 , Eleanor Noyce

Russian authorities on Monday announced parallel criminal probes against a famous actor critical of the war in Ukraine and a philanthropist who supports the Russian opposition, the latest in a months-long, sweeping crackdown on dissent.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement that its chief Alexander Bastrykin ordered the launch of a criminal case against Artur Smolyaninov, a prominent Russian film and theater actor who left the country after Moscow’s forces invaded Ukraine and repeatedly spoke out against the war.

According to the statement, Smolyaninov “made a series of statements directed against Russia in an interview to a Western media outlet.” The Investigative Committee didn’t clarify which of Smolyaninov’s actions constituted a criminal offense and what charges it would bring against him.

Read more:

Russia launches criminal probes on prominent Kremlin critics

Polish leaders set to debate Ukraine’s request for Western tanks

Monday 9 January 2023 18:45 , Eleanor Noyce

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda is set to meet with the Prime Minister to discuss security issues related to the war in Ukraine.

The request for German-made Leopard Two tanks, which Poland uses, is on the agenda.

In the event that Warsaw decides to hand over a limited number of Leopard tanks, it would be “only be within a wide agreement and an undertaking by other countries that have these tanks”, according to Pawel Szrot.

Mr Szrot further remarked that these decisions must also take Poland’s security into account.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced that he and Mr Duda were involved in “wider coalition” international talks on heavy tanks for Ukraine. He assured that Warsaw would not proceed with any deliveries alone.

Russian forces claim to have captured Donetsk village

Monday 9 January 2023 18:15 , Eleanor Noyce

According to a statement published by the headquarters of the Territorial Defense of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Russian forces claim to have taken the village of Bakhmuts’ke in the Donetsk region.

“As of January 9, 2023, Bakhmuts’ke village in the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic was liberated by the Russian Armed Forces”, the statement reads.

Located near Soledar and Bakhmut, the village has been close to the site of intense fighting.

“Bakhmut is holding on despite everything. And even though most of the town has been destroyed by Russian strikes, our soldiers are repelling constant Russian attempts to advance”, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a statement on Sunday.

“Soledar is holding on, even though there is even greater destruction and things are very difficult.”

Iran potentially contributing to ‘widespread war crimes’ in supplying drones, says White House

Monday 9 January 2023 17:45 , Eleanor Noyce

Iran could be contributing towards war crimes in Ukraine by providing drones to Russia, a White House official has said.

“Their weapons are being used to kill civilians in Ukraine and to try to plunge cities into cold and darkness which, from our point of view, puts Iran in a place where it could potentially be contributing to widespread war crimes,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan remarked.

Earlier this month, the US sanctioned six executives and board members of an Iranian drone manufacturer after it allegedly supplied Russia with drones used to attack Ukraine.

Russian actor faces criminal charges over 'anti-Russian' interview

Monday 9 January 2023 17:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian actor Artur Smolyaninov faces criminal charges in his home country after allegedly making “anti-Russian” comments in a newspaper interview, investigators said on Monday.

Smolyaninov, who starred in the 2005 film “The 9th Company” about the Soviet Union’s ill-fated military campaign in Afghanistan, said in an interview last week that he would fight for Ukraine, not Russia, if he had to take part in the conflict.

Smolyaninov said last October that he was no longer living in Russia.

His comments - made in an interview for Novaya Gazeta Europe, a newspaper now banned in Russia - drew condemnation from members of the Russian parliament, one of whom said the actor should be barred from all state-contracted films.

“For my part, I will appeal to the Investigative Committee with a request to initiate a criminal case against this traitor,” lawmaker Biysultan Khamzaev told the RIA news agency.

The Investigative Committee said on Monday it had launched a criminal case against Smolyaninov after he took part in an interview with a “Western publication”, but did not provide further details.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, dozens of actors and artists have fled abroad in fear of breaching the country’s tough new laws on spreading “misinformation” about the war in Ukraine or discrediting the Russian army.

Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” designed to demilitarise and “denazify” the country. Kyiv and its Western allies cast the invasion as an unprovoked act of aggression aimed at seizing territory.

Two British men missing in Ukraine, Foreign Office reports

Monday 9 January 2023 17:12 , Eleanor Noyce

Two British nationals volunteering in Ukraine have gone missing, according to Ukrainian police.

The men, aged 28 and 48, were last seen on 6 January heading to the town of Soledar in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine, where fighting has been especially fierce in recent days.

There has been no contact with the pair since left Kramatorsk for Soledar at 8am on Friday.

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

The pair had reportedly been helping civilians evacuate the war-torn country.

Emily Atkinson reports:

Two British nationals volunteering in Ukraine missing in Donetsk

Russia opts out of European anti-corruption agreement

Monday 9 January 2023 16:45 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia has opted out of a European convention on fighting corruption, a move that comes in the wake of its withdrawal from the Council of Europe following start of Moscow’s military action in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin asked the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, to terminate adherence to the Council of Europe’s convention on fighting corruption, which was signed by Russia in 1999.

The date for a vote on termination has not been set yet, but it is expected soon.

Mr Putin argued in his letter to the Duma that the opt-out was the result of the Council’s decision to restrict Moscow’s participation in a body charged with overseeing general compliance with the convention, something he called “unacceptable” and “discriminatory”.

The Council of Europe, the continent’s top human rights organisation, suspended Russia‘s participation shortly after it sent troops into Ukraine on February 24 last year.

Russia withdrew from the Council in March and warned that it will also opt out of conventions that it signed as part of its membership in the organisation. Moscow backed out of the European Convention on Human Rights in September.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that Russia‘s withdrawal from the anti-corruption convention would not hinder official efforts to combat the issue.

“In no way will it undermine our domestic legal framework to combat corruption,” Mr Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.

He added that Russia will continue anti-corruption cooperation with “friendly” countries and noted that such cooperation with “unfriendly” nations have ground to a halt anyway.

Russian and Ukrainian human rights commissioners to meet in Turkey this week

Monday 9 January 2023 15:43 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Russian and Ukrainian human rights commissioners will meet in Turkey this week, news agencies from both countries reported on Monday, for talks likely to include the possibility of further exchanges of prisoners of war.

Interfax quoted the Russian commissioner, Tatiana Moskalkova, as saying the meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Lubinets would take place during an international forum in Turkey between Thursday and Saturday.

She said there had already been discussion of the “approximate agenda of our negotiations”, but gave no details.

Ukraine‘s Ukrinform news agency quoted Lubinets as saying the main issue was “the return of our heroes and heroines”, a reference to prisoner exchanges.

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

“Separately, we want to raise the issue of the return of civilian hostages, whom the Russian Federation has detained en masse in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and whom it does not allow to go home,” Lubinets was quoted as saying.

Ukraine has condemned the forced deportation of many civilians in the south and east of the country, whom Russia has moved from their homes in what it calls evacuation operations. Some have been taken to Russia or to Russian-annexed Crimea.

Peace talks between the two countries collapsed in the early months of Russia‘s invasion and have not been renewed.

President Vladimir Putin has said Russia is open to negotiations, but Ukraine and its ally the United States have reacted sceptically, suggesting he is seeking to buy time to regroup after a series of defeats and retreats.