Ukraine war news – live: Putin praises Russian Orthodox Church for supporting war

Vladimir Putin has praised the Russian Orthodox Church for its “massive, complex and truly selfless work” in supporting Moscow’s forces fighting his war in Ukraine.

The Russian president was pictured alone at an Orthodox church in the Kremlin for a Christmas service this morning, which Russia’s RIA news agency said was the first time in years he had celebrated in Moscow.

State television showed live footage of Putin inside the gilded Cathedral of the Annunciation as Orthodox priests conducted the midnight service, known as the Divine Liturgy.

Mr Putin’s call for a temporary ceasefire appears to have had little impact, after widespread reports of infantry fighting, as well as artillery fire heard from the frontline. Air raid sirens have also rang out across the country, including the capital Kyiv.

The Russian president called for a 36-hour ceasefire from midday on Friday, after the head of the Russian Orthodox church, which uses the Julian calendar, suggested it to mark Christmas.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence also reported that fighting has continued “on a routine level” in eastern Ukraine.

Key Points

  • Vladimir Putin praises Russian Orthodox Church for supporting Moscow’s troops

  • 'What ceasefire?': shells fly at Ukraine front despite Putin's truce

  • ‘Orthodox murderers wish you a merry Christmas’

  • Fighting in Ukraine has ‘continued at a routine level’ over Orthodox Christmas - MoD

  • London to host international war crimes meeting to discuss Ukraine

  • White House announces new $3.75bn military assistance package

Putin praises Orthodox Church for ‘selfless’ support of Russian troops

13:02 , Andy Gregory

Vladimir Putin has praised the Russian Orthodox Church for its “selfless” support for Moscow’s forces fighting in Ukraine.

The Kremlin issued the Russian president’s message after he attended an Orthodox Christmas Eve service on his own inside a Kremlin cathedral – rather than joining other worshippers in a public celebration.

In his message, Mr Putin made clear that he saw the Russian Orthodox Church as an important stabilising force for society at a time he has cast as a historical clash between Russia and the West over Ukraine and other issues.

“It is deeply gratifying to note the enormous constructive contribution of the Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian denominations in unifying society, preserving our historical memory, educating youth and strengthening the institution of family,” said Mr Putin.

“Church organisations prioritise ... supporting our warriors taking part in the special military operation. Such massive, complex and truly selfless work deserves sincere respect.”

Putin praises Russian church for ‘supporting our warriors’ in Ukraine

12:30 , Daniel Reast

President Vladimir Putin has praised the Russian Orthodox Church for supporting Russian forces fighting in Ukraine in an Orthodox Christmas message

Putin’s message came after the Russian leader attended an Orthodox Christmas Eve service alone inside a Kremlin cathedral rather than joining other worshippers in public celebrations.

In his message, Putin made it clear he saw the Russian Orthodox Church as an important stabilising force for society at a time he has cast as a historical clash between Russia and the West.

In a service on Friday, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow criticised Ukraine for cracking down on the branch of the Orthodox church with longstanding ties to Moscow. (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
In a service on Friday, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow criticised Ukraine for cracking down on the branch of the Orthodox church with longstanding ties to Moscow. (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Putin said, “It is deeply gratifying to note the enormous constructive contribution of the Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian denominations in unifying society, preserving our historical memory, educating youth and strengthening the institution of family.”

“Church organisations prioritise ... supporting our warriors taking part in the special military operation (in Ukraine). Such massive, complex and truly selfless work deserves sincere respect.”

Ukraine ‘shelling civilian areas’ during ceasefire - Russian defence ministry

12:05 , Daniel Reast

The Russian defence ministry has responded to claims of its own forces breaching its self-declared ceasefire with allegations of Ukrainian forces shelling civilian areas.

Kyiv has not responded to these latest allegations. Ukrainian forces refused to recognise the Russian ceasefire, calling it ‘a banal trick’.

Accounts of artillery fire and fighting have been widely reported through the Christmas ‘ceasefire’, including across positions in Donetsk, Luhansk and in the southern region of Kherson.

Air raid sirens have also been sounding across Ukraine, including in the capital Kyiv.

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In its daily briefing, the Russian defence ministry said its troops had only returned artillery fire when fired upon by Ukrainian forces.

Governor for the eastern Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said on Telegram that two civilians were killed in Bakhmut and the nearby town of Krasna Hora on Friday.

Seven others have been wounded, he added.

12:00 , Daniel Reast

A man lights a candle as other parishioners attend the Christmas service in an Orthodox church in Dometsk, Russian-controlled Donetsk region (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
A man lights a candle as other parishioners attend the Christmas service in an Orthodox church in Dometsk, Russian-controlled Donetsk region (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
An Orthodox priest offers the holy communion to a woman during Christmas church service in Kostyantynivka, Ukraine (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
An Orthodox priest offers the holy communion to a woman during Christmas church service in Kostyantynivka, Ukraine (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
An Orthodox priest blesses believers during Christmas church service in Kostyantynivka, Ukraine (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
An Orthodox priest blesses believers during Christmas church service in Kostyantynivka, Ukraine (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

US to start training Ukraine forces on Patriot missiles ‘later this month’, says Pentagon

11:45 , Daniel Reast

US armed forces will begin training Ukrainian forces on the Patriot missile system later this month, says the US Defense Department.

Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia told CNN that training Ukrainian forces will take ‘several months’.

The Pentagon also told reporters that the US is considering bringing Ukrainians to the US to train on the Patriot missile system, as well as considering training overseas “or a combination of both”.

Ukrainian forces have been trained in the UK as well as NATO member states (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Ukrainian forces have been trained in the UK as well as NATO member states (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters at a press briefing on Thursday, “I think clearly we’re at a point in this battle where we’re going to be able to provide that kind of training to enable Ukraine to sustain those kind of systems so that they can focus on defending their country and taking back territory.”

The US has committed to sending armoured vehicles, including 50 tank-killing Bradleys, to Ukraine after long-standing appeals from the Ukrainian president Zelensky.

Orthodox Christmas services take place in Ukraine in first celebration since invasion

11:15 , Daniel Reast

Services marking Orthodox Christmas have begun in Ukraine in the first celebrations to take place since Russia’s invasion.

A service performed by Metropolitan Epiphanius of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine took place at the Holy Dormition Cathedral at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra.

Ukrainian Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko gave permission for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine to conduct its Christmas service, following disputes between the Russian and Ukrainian churches (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Ukrainian Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko gave permission for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine to conduct its Christmas service, following disputes between the Russian and Ukrainian churches (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Other religious services will take place across the country.

The celebrations take place as long-running tensions between Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches grew following the Russian invasion in 2022.

Black Sea shipping costs rise by ‘more than a fifth’ since new year

10:45 , Daniel Reast

Costs of hiring ships to transport goods and commodities have risen by ‘more than a fifth’, since new year, according to insurance industry sources.

With the new year renewing insurance policies, many reinsurers have revoked financial protection for shipping and transport companies operating in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.

The Black Sea is a vital region for shipping grain, oil and oil products, as well as naval presence, with Russia’s Black Sea fleet based in occupied Sevastopol, Crimea.

Six insurance sources, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said reinsurers leaving the market had added to ‘unease’ over the risk of ship seizures by Russia and liabilities related to the war in Ukraine.

“The effect of [the exit of reinsurers] is reducing [underwriting] capacity in the market for war risk and will mean people will pay more this year,” said one marine insurance source.

Ukrainians urged to save electricity as grid under pressure from dropping temperature

10:30 , Daniel Reast

Ukraine’s energy grid operator has issued an appeal to civilians to conserve electricity, amid dropping temperatures.

Strained by persistent Russian attacks on infrastructure, grid operator Ukrenergo warned “a significant drop in temperature is expected, which will lead to a rapid increase in consumption.”

In a statement posted on Telegram, Ukrenergo said “The energy system is currently unable to fully cover it due to the damage and the enemy’s occupation of a number of power plants that produce electricity, in particular, and the most powerful - the Zaporizhzhia NPP (nuclear power plant).”

Cities across Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv, are experiencing regular blackouts to reduce strain on the electrical grid during peak hours.

Ukrenergo said it was working with electricity providers to repair any damages on the grid but urged patience due to the complexity and scale of the damage.

Ukrainian refugees living in hotels and ‘growing number’ of homeless, say councils

10:00 , Daniel Reast

Ukrainian refugees in the UK are being housed in hotels and temporary accommodation, with a “growing number” made homeless, say councils.

Our colleague Holly Bancroft reports that nearly 3,000 Ukrainian households have been registered as homeless to English councils since the end of February 2022.

Opora, a charity helping Ukrainian refugees settle in the UK, has also warned the numbers could be much higher.

Executive director of charity Refugees at Home, Lauren Scott MBE, said: “People opened their doors under Homes for Ukraine in 2022 as an alternative to housing refugees in hotels. But with no proper move-on strategy in place that’s exactly where many Ukrainians may end up in 2023.”

A government spokesperson said: “Homes for Ukraine has seen 109,000 Ukrainians welcomed to the UK, thanks to the generosity of sponsors, with most settling in well.

Read more here:

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

Putin attends Kremlin Christmas service alone

09:55 , Daniel Reast

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Saturday attended an Orthodox Church Christmas service alone, inside a Kremlin cathedral, rather than joining other worshippers in public celebrations.

Russia’s RIA news agency said it was the first time in years the president had celebrated Christmas in Moscow rather than in events held around the capital.

State television showed live footage of Putin inside the gilded Cathedral of the Annunciation as Orthodox priests conducted the midnight service, known as the Divine Liturgy.

Russian president Vladimir Putin attends the Christmas service at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Friday, 6 January 2023 (AP)
Russian president Vladimir Putin attends the Christmas service at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Friday, 6 January 2023 (AP)

Putin celebrated Easter last year at the cathedral with thousands of others, but attended Christmas by himself last year in his official residence outside Moscow.

The Russian Orthodox Church backs the war in Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on Thursday appealed for both sides to observe a 36-hour Christmas truce that Putin had subsequently announced.

Ukrainian drone shot down over Sevastopol, says Russian-installed governor

09:30 , Daniel Reast

The Russian-installed governor of the Crimean city of Sevastopol has said that local air defences had shot down a drone in what he suggested was the latest Ukrainian attack on a port where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based.

Mikhail Razvozhaev, the Russian-backed governor of the city, made the allegation on Telegram, alleging that the incident had occurred in the early hours of Saturday, falling within Orthodox Christmas.

There has been no immediate comment on the allegation from Ukraine, which has previously not confirmed similar alleged incidents in the past.

Strikes on the Kerch Bridge in Crimea, targeted by Ukraine in October, with president Zelensky previously asserting peace in the conflict cannot be achieved with liberation of the peninsula (REUTERS)
Strikes on the Kerch Bridge in Crimea, targeted by Ukraine in October, with president Zelensky previously asserting peace in the conflict cannot be achieved with liberation of the peninsula (REUTERS)

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s proposed temporary truce to coincide with Orthodox Christmas has been rejected by Kyiv as a cynical ruse to buy time for Russian forces to rest and regroup.

Air raid sirens heard in Ukraine despite Russian call for ceasefire

09:15 , Daniel Reast

Russian forces attacking targets in southern Ukraine despite ceasefire, say Ukrainian official

09:00 , Daniel Reast

The deputy head of the President Zelensky’s office also told reporters of Russian forces attacking a fire station in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson in an attack which cause several casualties.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko said in response to the Kherson attack, “They talk about a ceasefire. This is who we are at war with.”

Russia’s defence ministry has maintained it was respecting its unilateral ceasefire and accused Ukraine’s forces of continued shelling.

Russian forces withdrew from the port city in November, following brutal fighting and artillery shelling, which sparked celebrations across the country.

Our colleagues Inna Varenytsia and Jamey Keaten reported on the aftermath of Kherson’s liberation in December.

Read more here:

Free for a month, Kherson still toils to clear Russian traps

Japan’s prime minister Kyiv visit depending on ‘various circumstances’

08:30 , Daniel Reast

Fumio Kishida, prime minster of Japan, is considering a visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, says cabinet secretary.

Any decision to visit Kyiv would be weighed on “various circumstances”, as stated by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno.

The head of President Zelensky’s presidential office extended an invitation to prime minister Kishida via the country’s ambassador to Japan.

Kishida also held a phone call with president Zelensky on Friday, reaffirming Japan’s support for Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression.

Prime minister Kishida, who is assuming the rotating chair of the G7, is also due to visit the UK next week to sign a defence pact, scheduled in part as a response to shared concerns over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Kyodo News)
Prime minister Kishida, who is assuming the rotating chair of the G7, is also due to visit the UK next week to sign a defence pact, scheduled in part as a response to shared concerns over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Kyodo News)

In a statement to reporters, Kishida said “I strongly condemned Russia’s continued aggression, and stated that Japan would do its utmost to provide assistance, including to get through the winter, in order to protect the lives of the Ukrainian people.”

Fighting in Ukraine has ‘continued at a routine level’ over Orthodox Christmas - MoD

08:15 , Daniel Reast

Fighting in Ukraine is continuing to take place over the Orthodox Christmas period, the MoD has reported in its daily intelligence report.

Major fighting is said to be centring on the town of Kremina, in Luhansk Oblast.

The MoD has suggested that Russian generals will ‘highly likely’ consider this fighting around Kremina as a “threat to the right flank of their Bakhmut sector, which they see as key for enabling any future advance to occupy the remainder of Donetsk Oblast.”

Intelligence has also suggested that combat has resorted to “dismounted infantry fighting, often at short range” due to “coniferous woodland providing some cover from air observation even in winter.”

“Both sides are highly likely struggling to accurately adjust artillery fire,” says the minister update.

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Ukraine reclaims Kyiv cathedral amid church dispute

08:00 , Namita Singh

The Ukrainian government has taken the main cathedral of the revered historic monastery from the church previously affiliated with Moscow‘s patriarchate and allowed its Ukrainian rival to use it for Orthodox Christmas services.

The move comes as the long-running tensions between the two churches exacerbated amid Russia‘s war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian minister of culture Oleksandr Tkachenko said on Thursday that the Dormition Cathedral and the Refectory Church of the nearly 1,000-year-old Pechersk Lavra — also known as Monastery of the Caves — in the Ukrainian capital have been taken over by the state after the lease of them held by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) expired on 31 December.

More in this report:

Ukraine reclaims Kyiv cathedral amid church dispute

Putin war aims unchanged but lacks manpower, morale, says Pentagon

07:45 , Namita Singh

President Vladimir Putin’s aim of seizing Ukrainian territory has not changed, but Russian forces continue to suffer from military weaknesses including the amount of troops they have, the Pentagon said yesterday, as Washington hopes the latest record weapons package for Kyiv will help Ukraine retake territory occupied by Russia.

“Putin has not given up his aims of dominating Ukraine and continuing to acquire Ukraine’s territory,” said Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense focusing on Russia and Ukraine.

“But the reality of Russian weaknesses, the Russian armed forces weaknesses has collided with those aims,” Ms Cooper said, adding that Russian troops also suffer from low morale.

People in occupied Ukraine town mark Christmas Eve in home after church shelled

07:30 , Namita Singh

Worshippers in the eastern occupied Ukrainian town of Volnovakha yesterday marked the Russian Orthodox Christmas Eve in a makeshift chapel that was set up in a home after their church suffered shelling damage.

Vera Barda, 74, said the congregation had initially met in a tent after the church was hit during what Russia calls its special military operation in Ukraine.

A priest blesses water for a woman as local residents dressed in national costumes celebrate Epiphany in Kryvorivnya village in the Carpathian Mountains near Ivano-Frankivsk, western Ukraine, 06 January 2023 (EPA)
A priest blesses water for a woman as local residents dressed in national costumes celebrate Epiphany in Kryvorivnya village in the Carpathian Mountains near Ivano-Frankivsk, western Ukraine, 06 January 2023 (EPA)

“I offered the priest (my place) saying there was a stove and electricity, so it was warmer than in a tent ... he agreed at once and in three weeks we restored everything,” she said.

During the service, carried out in a converted cramped room decked out in icons, an Orthodox priest dressed in a ceremonial white robe burned incense while the mainly elderly congregation made the sign of the cross.

Iranian drone maker sanctioned for supplying Moscow

07:15 , Namita Singh

The US yesterday hit six executives and board members of an Iranian drone manufacturer with sanctions after the firm allegedly supplied Moscow with drones that Russian forces have been using to attack Ukraine.

Qods Aviation Industries, a previously sanctioned Iranian defence manufacturer, is alleged to be responsible for the design and production of unmanned aerial vehicles used to conduct strikes on civilians during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Treasury Department says the firm changed its name to Light Airplanes Design and Manufacturing Industries in mid-2020 to evade sanctions.

Read the details in this report:

Iranian drone maker sanctioned for supplying Moscow

Putin’s Russian ceasefire falters as US pledges more military equipment to Ukraine

07:00 , Liam James

A temporary ceasefire unilaterally imposed by Vladimir Putin on Russia‘s forces in Ukraine appears to have little effect on the ground – with artillery fire ringing out on the frontline (Lucy Skoulding writes).

Russia’s Defence Ministry was at pains to point out that troops were upholding the pause “along the entire line of contact,” accusing Ukraine of shelling Russian-held territory – despite the fact that Kyiv never agreed to the ceasefire, dismissing it as a ploy by Moscow to buy time to reinforce troops that have taken heavy losses.

President Putin ordered the 36-hour ceasefire from midday on Friday (9am GMT) to observe Orthodox Christmas and called on Kyiv to reciprocate. The governor of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine Serhiy Haidai, accused Russian troops of opening fire 14 times during the first three hours of the ceasefire, adding that forces had tried to storm one of the villages liberated by Ukraine in the area.

Explosions were also said to have been heard on other parts of the frontline in the east, which Ukrainian soldiers said were incoming Russian rocket fire.

Putin’s Russian ceasefire falters as US pledges more military equipment to Ukraine

Russian Orthodox Church backs war in Ukraine

06:45 , Namita Singh

With Vladimir Putin attending midnight Christmas mass, the Russian Orthodox Church has announced its backing for the war in Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on Thursday called for both sides to observe a 36-hour Christmas truce that Putin had announced.

In a service given to mark the Divine Liturgy, Kirill on Friday criticised Ukraine for cracking down on a branch of the Orthodox church with longstanding ties to Moscow.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, background center, attends the Christmas service at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, 7 January 2023 (AP)
Russian president Vladimir Putin, background center, attends the Christmas service at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, 7 January 2023 (AP)

Ukraine’s security service has raided property owned by the church and last month accused a senior cleric of engaging in anti-Ukrainian activity by supporting Russian policies.

“Let us pray for our brothers and sisters and let us believe that someday these diabolical temptations will recede,” said Kirill, mocking what he called “the pathetic attempts” by Kyiv to destroy the church in Ukraine.

Putin attends Orthodox Christmas service by himself in Kremlin

06:30 , Namita Singh

Russian president Vladimir Putin attended an Orthodox Church Christmas service by himself last night inside a Kremlin cathedral rather than joining other worshippers in a public celebration.

Russia’s RIA news agency said it was the first time in years that Mr Putin had marked Christmas in Moscow rather than in the region around the capital.

State television showed two live clips of him inside the gilded Cathedral of the Annunciation as Orthodox priests conducted the midnight service, known as the Divine Liturgy.

Russian president Vladimir Putin attends the Christmas service at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Friday, 6 January 2023 (AP)
Russian president Vladimir Putin attends the Christmas service at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Friday, 6 January 2023 (AP)
Russian president Vladimir Putin attends the Christmas service at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin in Moscow, Russia (AP)
Russian president Vladimir Putin attends the Christmas service at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin in Moscow, Russia (AP)

Many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on 6 and 7 January.

Mr Putin, wearing a blue jacket and a high-necked white sweater, was the sole worshipper and crossed himself several times before television coverage cut away to a public service in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral.

The Russian president, who celebrated Easter last year in the cathedral with thousands of others, also attended Christmas by himself last year in his official Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow. In 2021, he took part in a public Divine Liturgy in Novgorod.

‘Puting trying to find oxygen’: Biden expresses mistrust over Kremlin-ordered truce

06:15 , Namita Singh

US president Joe Biden expressed wariness about the Russian ceasefire, saying it was “interesting” that Vladimir Putin was ready to bomb hospitals, nurseries and churches in recent weeks on Christmas and New Year’s.

I think (Putin) is trying to find some oxygen

Joe Biden

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington had “little faith in the intentions behind this announcement,” adding that Kremlin officials “have given us no reason to take anything that they offer at face value.”

Priests bless water in a river as locals celebrate Epiphany in Kryvorivnya village in the Carpathian Mountains near Ivano-Frankivsk, western Ukraine, 6 January 2023 (EPA)
Priests bless water in a river as locals celebrate Epiphany in Kryvorivnya village in the Carpathian Mountains near Ivano-Frankivsk, western Ukraine, 6 January 2023 (EPA)

The Institute for the Study of War agreed the truce could be a ruse allowing Russia to regroup.

“Such a pause would disproportionately benefit Russian troops and begin to deprive Ukraine of the initiative,” the think tank said late Thursday.

“Putin cannot reasonably expect Ukraine to meet the terms of this suddenly declared cease-fire, and may have called for the cease-fire to frame Ukraine as unaccommodating and unwilling to take the necessary steps toward negotiations.”

And Anna Borshchevskaya, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, said that whether or not the cease-fire holds, “I don’t take it at face value.”

“When Russia announces cease-fires, in the way Russia conducts war, there are usually ulterior motives,” she said. “Historically, what the Russian government and Russian military usually do when they announce a cease-fire is to use it as a tactical opportunity, to just take a breather or gain a little bit of space.”

Belarusian President visits military base where Russian troops stationed

06:00 , Liam James

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko visited a military base where Russian troops are stationed, the country’s defence ministry said on Friday.

During the meeting, Mr Lukashenko and an unnamed representative from the Russian army discussed the two countries’ joint military drills, it said.

“At this stage, units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are ready to carry out tasks as intended,” the representative said.

Belarus, which is closely allied with Moscow, said on Thursday that it will receive more weapons and equipment from Russia as the two boost their military co-operation, fuelling fears it could be used as a staging post to attack Ukraine from the north.

Minsk has said it will not enter the war in Ukraine, but Russia used Belarus as a launch pad for its invasion in February and continues to use Belarusian airspace for drone and missile strikes, Kyiv says.

Global food prices hit record high amid Ukraine war

05:45 , Namita Singh

Global prices for food commodities like grain and vegetable oils were the highest on record last year even after falling for nine months in a row, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said, as Russia’s war in Ukraine, drought and other factors drove up inflation and worsened hunger worldwide.

The FAO Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of commonly traded food commodities, dipped by 1.9 per cent in December from a month earlier, the Rome-based organisation said yesterday.

For the whole year, it averaged 143.7 points, more than 14 per cent above the 2021 average, which also saw large increases.

More in this report:

Global food prices in 2022 hit record high amid drought, war

Explainer: How armored vehicles aid Ukraine at critical time

05:30 , Namita Singh

Looking ahead to a likely spring offensive, the US 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.

Read this report to find more about the Bradley and other armored carriers, and what they bring to the fight:

EXPLAINER: How armored vehicles aid Ukraine at critical time

Ceasefire needs to be taken with a ‘grain of salt’

05:15 , Namita Singh

Shortly before the ceasefire was meant to start, rockets slammed into a residential building in Kramatorsk, close to the eastern front line, damaging 14 homes, though with no casualties as many people have fled.

“It’s bad, very bad,” said Oleksnadr, 36, outside a supermarket at the time of the attack. “We need to pressure them, get them to leave, maybe more air defence systems would help. This happens often, not only on festive occasions. Every other day.”

A  local resident pushes his bicycle past ‘hedgehog' tank traps and rubble, down a street in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on 6 January 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine (AFP via Getty Images)
A local resident pushes his bicycle past ‘hedgehog' tank traps and rubble, down a street in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on 6 January 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine (AFP via Getty Images)

One rescue worker was killed and four others injured when Russian forces shelled a fire department in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson before the deadline early on Friday, the regional governor said.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky rejected the Russian ceasefire out of hand as a ploy for Russia to buy time to bring in equipment and ammunition after sustaining crippling losses at the front line. Scores of Russian troops were killed in one attack over the New Year weekend.

Laura Cooper, a US deputy assistant secretary of defence focusing on Russia and Ukraine, remarked to reporters in Washington yesterday that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s statement about a ceasefire needed to be taken with a “grain of salt.”

This is the same man who said he would not invade Ukraine

Laura Cooper

05:00 , Liam James

The United States said it will send Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine to bolster Kyiv’s fight against Russia‘s invasion. The delivery, expected to total around 50 units, comes alongside a commitment from Germany to send its own armored vehicles to Ukraine and a similar move by France last week.

What is a Bradley Fighting Vehicle?

The Bradley is a tracked, medium-armored vehicle armed with a 25-mm gun. Named after a general who commanded US troops in World War II, it is operated by a crew of three and depending on the version can carry seven soldiers around the battlefield. In addition to its turret-mounted gun it can carry a tube-launched, optically tracked, wireless-guided (TOW) missile launcher that can destroy tanks. Made by BAE Systems , they weigh 80,000 pounds and can go about 38 mph (61 kph), according to the US army.

When will the Bradleys arrive in Ukraine?

If shipped by sea, the trip could take several weeks. If Bradleys that the US has in Europe are sent to Ukraine, the timeline would be much shorter. Ukrainians will need training on how to operate the Bradleys.

Why does Ukraine want them?

The TOW missiles aboard a Bradley are “tank killers” and Ukraine can use that firepower in conjunction with its own tanks as a part of the “mechanised combined arms” team, an advanced fighting tactic Ukrainians will receive training for in the coming weeks.

How many Bradleys does the United States have?

The US has thousands of Bradleys.

Does the decision to send armored personnel carriers mean that heavy tanks will come next?

It’s unclear. While Ukraine has requested advanced tanks such as the M1 Abrams, Nato has been reluctant to send them because of fears that this could further escalate the war.

A US Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Latvia, 2019 (Reuters)
A US Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Latvia, 2019 (Reuters)

‘Orthodox murderers wish you a merry Christmas’

04:45 , Namita Singh

The Ukrainian governor of the front line eastern Luhansk province, Serhiy Haidai, said that in the first three hours of the purported ceasefire the Russians had shelled Ukrainian positions 14 times and stormed one settlement three times.

“Orthodox murderers wish you a merry Christmas,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia’s Orthodox Church observes Christmas on 7 January. The main Orthodox Church in Ukraine has rejected the authority of Moscow, and many Ukrainian believers have shifted their calendar to celebrate Christmas on 25 December, as in the West.

Locals clean debris after shelling in Kherson, Ukraine, 6 January 2022 (EPA)
Locals clean debris after shelling in Kherson, Ukraine, 6 January 2022 (EPA)

Vladimir Putin attended a service by himself inside a Kremlin cathedral rather than joining other worshippers in a public celebration.

State television showed two live clips of Putin inside the gilded Cathedral of the Annunciation as Orthodox priests conducted the midnight service, known as the Divine Liturgy.

Summit to discuss measures to expose atrocities

04:30 , Namita Singh

Russia’s forces should know they cannot act with impunity and the UK will back Ukraine until justice is served, said justice secretary Dominic Raab as London prepares to an host international war crimes meeting in March.

“Almost a year on from the illegal invasion, the international community must give its strongest backing to the ICC so war criminals can be held to account for the atrocities we’re witnessing,” he said.

The meeting will allow countries to determine how to provide further help to the court, the Ministry of Justice said.

A Ukrainian tank sits along a street in the town of Kupiansk which has experienced regular shelling from the Russians on 6 January 2023 in Kupiansk, Ukraine (Getty Images)
A Ukrainian tank sits along a street in the town of Kupiansk which has experienced regular shelling from the Russians on 6 January 2023 in Kupiansk, Ukraine (Getty Images)

Officials said this would include offering practical support, such as helping to gather information and share evidence of atrocities committed on the ground.

Ministers will also discuss how to help victims and witnesses provide testimonies, without causing them further distress.

Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius, co-host of the London meeting and the Netherlands’ minister of justice, said: “The reports and images of Russia’s unlawful and unprovoked armed attack on Ukraine are horrific.

“For us it is crystal clear, these crimes may not go unpunished.”

Last year the UK offered a package of support to the ICC which included an additional £1m funding and dedicated police assistance.

'What ceasefire?': shells fly at Ukraine front despite Putin's truce

04:15 , Namita Singh

Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanged artillery fire at the front line in Ukraine yesterday, even after Moscow said it had ordered its troops to stop shooting for a unilateral truce that was firmly rejected by Kyiv.

President Vladimir Putin ordered the 36-hour ceasefire from midday on Friday to observe Russian Orthodox Christmas. Ukraine has said it has no intention to stop fighting, rejecting the purported truce as a stunt by Moscow to buy time to reinforce troops that have taken heavy losses this week.

“What ceasefire? Can you hear?” said a Ukrainian soldier, using the nom de guerre Vyshnya, as an explosion rang out in the distance at the front line near Kreminna in eastern Ukraine. “What do they want to achieve if they keep on shooting? We know, we have learnt not to trust them.”

People move through the town of Kupiansk which has experienced regular shelling from the Russians on 6 January  2023 in Kupiansk, Ukraine (Getty Images)
People move through the town of Kupiansk which has experienced regular shelling from the Russians on 6 January 2023 in Kupiansk, Ukraine (Getty Images)

Russia’s defence ministry said its troops began observing the ceasefire from noon Moscow time “along the entire line of contact”, but said Ukraine had kept up shelling populated areas and military positions.

Reuters heard explosions of what Ukrainian troops at the front line described as incoming Russian rocket fire. Ukrainians fired back from tanks.

The Ukrainian troops said it was quieter than many other days because snowy weather had made it hard to fly drones and spot targets.

“The situation today is exactly the same as yesterday, the day before yesterday, last week and last month,” said one, concealing his face with a scarf. “There is no point in talking to them, in believing in their promises, orders and decrees.”

Ukraine will need £1.5bn to restore telecomms damaged in war, UN finds

04:00 , Liam James

Ukraine will need at least $1.79bn (£1.5bn) to restore its telecommunications sector to pre-war levels, a UN agency said in a report published on Friday alleging Russia had “destroyed completely or seized” networks in parts of the country.

The long-anticipated and sensitive damage assessment by the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU) was commissioned in April to assess the extent of destruction of Ukraine’s communication networks as a result of Russia‘s invasion last February.

The report, which covers the first six months of the war, found that there was considerable damage and destruction to communications infrastructure in more than 10 out of 24 regions of Ukraine.

“Since the beginning of military attacks, with the purpose of using the facilities in its interests and for its own needs, the aggressor either destroyed completely or seized the regular operation of public and private terrestrial telecommunication and critical infrastructure in the temporarily occupied and war-affected territories of Ukraine,” the report said.

It also alleges that Moscow unilaterally switched Ukrainian dialling codes, fixed by the UN agency, to Russian ones and that there had been 1,123 cyber attacks against Ukraine. An official with the Russian diplomatic mission in Geneva dismissed the report’s allegations, saying they were designed to divert attention from unspecified “atrocities” committed by Ukraine on Russian-occupied territory.

The foreign ministry in Moscow did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

London to host international war crimes meeting to discuss Ukraine

03:30 , Namita Singh

The investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine will be at the top of the agenda when justice ministers from across the world meet in London in the spring.

Deputy prime minister and justice secretary Dominic Raab will host the meeting in March at Lancaster House alongside his Dutch counterpart.

People move through the town of Kupiansk which has experienced regular shelling from the Russians on 6January 2023 in Kupiansk, Ukraine (Getty Images)
People move through the town of Kupiansk which has experienced regular shelling from the Russians on 6January 2023 in Kupiansk, Ukraine (Getty Images)

The group will hear from the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Karim Khan about the court’s work and the role of the international community in supporting its investigations.

It comes as Russian president Vladimir Putin continues to target crucial energy infrastructure as he looks to plunge Ukrainian citizens into darkness and wipe out central heating supplies during the freezing winter temperatures.

Mr Khan is currently investigating accusations that Russian soldiers have carried out war crimes during Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, with claims from Kyiv that civilians have been executed and raped during the 11-month conflict.

Militias from Luhansk and Donetsk to drain Russian finances – MoD

03:00 , Liam James

The absorption of militias from the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (LPR) — carried out last week — is set to squeeze out Russian finances and weigh heavily on Moscow politically, the British defence ministry said today.

“The status and identities of the DNR and LNR likely remain divisive within the Russian system. Even before the February 2022 invasion, these territories represented a significant drain on Russian finances,” the defence ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

“Now the Kremlin has overtly committed to supporting them, they will likely constitute a large political, diplomatic and financial cost for Russia which will last well beyond the current phase of the conflict,” the MoD said, noting Russia’s claim over the LNR and DNR as “intrinsic parts of the Russian Federation” following the fixed accession referendums in September last year.

Russia has discreetly controlled both since 2014, creating DNR’s 1st Army Corps and LNR’s 2nd Army Corps and supporting them with Russian military officers, according to the ministry.

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McDonald’s set to exit Kazakhstan following supply chain issues caused by Ukraine war

02:00 , Liam James

McDonald’s is set to abandon business in Kazakhstan following supply chain disruption triggered by the Ukraine crisis (Eleanor Noyce writes).

Its exit highlights the supply issues faced by many of the country’s businesses in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions on Moscow, Bloomberg News reported.

In November, the company was forced to temporarily close its 24 Kazakhstan restaurants – owned by TOO Food Solutions KZ - after cutting ties with Russian meat suppliers.

Faced with higher prices and freight costs to transport supplies, the Kazakhstan arm of the business was left unable to source a viable alternative to Russian-produced meat patties, faced with the threat of operating at a loss.

The fast-food chain exited Russia in May, notably banning its local franchises from producing meat patties from Russian suppliers.

McDonald’s set to exit Kazakhstan following supply chain issues caused by Ukraine war

Zelensky says US Bradleys are ‘exactly what is needed'

01:00 , Liam James

A US commitment to supply Kyiv with Bradley Fighting Vehicles for the first time is exactly what Ukraine needs, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Friday.

Mr Zelensky said the formal announcement showed his visit to Washington last month had produced concrete results. The weapons are part of a new $3bn (£2.5bn) US weapons aid package for Ukraine.

“For the first time we will receive Bradley armoured vehicles - this is exactly what is needed,” Mr Zelensky said, thanking US President Joe Biden and the US Congress.

Mr Zelensky – who has been pressing allies relentlessly to send more weapons – also thanked Germany, which will send Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles and a Patriot air-defence.

“So, as of now, there are more air defence systems, more armoured vehicles, western tanks – which is a first - more cannons and shells ... and all this means more protection for Ukrainians and all Europeans against any kind of Russian terror,” he said.

Putin’s Russian ceasefire falters as US pledges more military equipment to Ukraine

00:00 , Liam James

A temporary ceasefire unilaterally imposed by Vladimir Putin on Russia‘s forces in Ukraine appears to have little effect on the ground – with artillery fire ringing out on the frontline (Lucy Skoulding writes).

Russia’s Defence Ministry was at pains to point out that troops were upholding the pause “along the entire line of contact,” accusing Ukraine of shelling Russian-held territory – despite the fact that Kyiv never agreed to the ceasefire, dismissing it as a ploy by Moscow to buy time to reinforce troops that have taken heavy losses.

President Putin ordered the 36-hour ceasefire from midday on Friday (9am GMT) to observe Orthodox Christmas and called on Kyiv to reciprocate. The governor of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine Serhiy Haidai, accused Russian troops of opening fire 14 times during the first three hours of the ceasefire, adding that forces had tried to storm one of the villages liberated by Ukraine in the area.

Explosions were also said to have been heard on other parts of the frontline in the east, which Ukrainian soldiers said were incoming Russian rocket fire.

Putin’s Russian ceasefire falters as US pledges more military equipment to Ukraine

Putin pushing for same war goals despite lack of manpower, says Pentagon

Friday 6 January 2023 23:00 , Liam James

President Vladimir Putin’s aim of seizing Ukrainian territory has not changed, but Russian forces continue to suffer from military weaknesses including the amount of troops they have, the Pentagon said today, as Washington hopes the latest record weapons package for Kyiv will help Ukraine retake territory occupied by Russia.

“Putin has not given up his aims of dominating Ukraine and continuing to acquire Ukraine’s territory,” said Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense focusing on Russia and Ukraine.

“But the reality of Russian weaknesses, the Russian armed forces weaknesses has collided with those aims,” Ms Cooper said, adding that Russian troops also suffer from low morale.

Ukrainians mark Orthodox Christmas Eve

Friday 6 January 2023 21:29 , Liam James

Worshippers in the eastern occupied Ukrainian town of Volnovakha today marked the Russian Orthodox Christmas Eve in a makeshift chapel that was set up in a home after their church suffered shelling damage.

Vera Barda, 74, said the congregation had initially met in a tent after the church was hit during what Russia calls its special military operation in Ukraine.

“I offered the priest [my place] saying there was a stove and electricity, so it was warmer than in a tent ... he agreed at once and in three weeks we restored everything,” she said.

During the service, carried out in a converted cramped room decked out in icons, an Orthodox priest dressed in a ceremonial white robe burned incense while the mainly elderly congregation made the sign of the cross.

Believers queue to approach a priest as they attend the Orthodox Christmas Eve service in a chapel located in a former residential building in Volnovakha (Reuters)
Believers queue to approach a priest as they attend the Orthodox Christmas Eve service in a chapel located in a former residential building in Volnovakha (Reuters)
Worshippers lit candles to mark the occasion (Reuters)
Worshippers lit candles to mark the occasion (Reuters)
A woman lights candles at the ceremony in Volnovakha (Reuters)
A woman lights candles at the ceremony in Volnovakha (Reuters)

Germany offers more support

Friday 6 January 2023 19:20 , Sam Rkaina

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the Bradleys will be particularly useful to Ukraine in ongoing heavy fighting in largely rural areas of eastern Ukraine.

“It’s very much tied to the war that we’re seeing on the ground right now and what we anticipate we’ll see throughout the winter months,” Kirby said.

The new U.S. package was detailed by the White House as Germany announced it would supply around 40 Marder armored personnel carriers to Ukraine in this year’s first quarter.

Germany announced its intention to send the Marder APCs following a phone call between Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Joe Biden on Thursday.

“These 40 vehicles should be ready in the first quarter already so that they can be handed over to Ukraine,” Scholz’s spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, told reporters in Berlin. Germany plans to train Ukrainian forces to use the vehicles, and Hebestreit said experts expect that process to take around eight weeks.

Germany has already given significant military aid, including howitzers, Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns and an IRIS-T surface-to-air missile system, with three more of those set to follow this year.

White House announces new $3.75bn military assistance package

Friday 6 January 2023 18:47 , Sam Rkaina

The White House has announced a new $3.75 billion military assistance package to help Ukraine and its neighbours on NATO’s eastern flank as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grinds on.

The latest tranche of assistance will include for the first time Bradley armored vehicles for Ukraine.

The armored carrier is used to transport troops to combat and is known as a “tank-killer” because of the anti-tank missile it can fire.

The biggest U.S. assistance package to date for Kyiv includes a $2.85 billion drawdown from the Pentagon’s stocks that will be sent directly to Ukraine and $225 million in foreign military financing to build the long-term capacity and support modernization of Ukraine’s military, according to the White House.

It also includes $682 million in foreign military financing for European allies to help backfill donations of military equipment they’ve made to Ukraine.

“The war is at a critical point and we must do everything we can to help the Ukrainians resist Russian aggression,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in announcing the aid.

The direct assistance for Ukraine includes 50 Bradleys as well as 500 anti-tank missiles and 250,000 rounds of ammunition for the carriers.

The U.S. is also sending 100 M113 armored personnel carriers, 55 mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, or MRAPS, and 138 HUMVEES, as well as ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and air defense systems and other weapons, according to U.S. officials.

Russian hacking team ‘targeted three nuclear research laboratories in the US'

Friday 6 January 2023 16:57 , Sam Rkaina

A Russian hacking team known as Cold River targeted three nuclear research laboratories in the United States this past summer, according to internet records reviewed by five cyber security experts.

Between August and September, Cold River targeted three institutions by creating fake login pages and emailing nuclear scientists in a bid to make them reveal their passwords.

The institutions targeted included Brookhaven (BNL), Argonne (ANL) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL), according to internet records.

Multiple personal email addresses used to set up Cold River missions belong to Andrey Korinets, a 35-year-old IT worker and bodybuilder in Syktyvkar, about 1,600 km (1,000 miles) northeast of Moscow.

The digital blitz against the U.S. labs occurred as U.N. experts entered Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory to inspect Europe’s biggest atomic power plant and assess the risk of what both sides said could be a devastating radiation disaster amid heavy shelling nearby.

In May, Cold River broke into and leaked emails belonging to the former head of Britain’s MI6 spy service. That was just one of several ‘hack and leak’ operations last year by Russia-linked hackers in which confidential communications were made public in Britain, Poland and Latvia, according to cybersecurity experts and Eastern European security officials.

Usage of these accounts left a trail of digital evidence from different hacks back to Korinets’ online life, including social media accounts and personal websites.

It is unclear whether Korinets has been involved in hacking operations since 2020. He offered no explanation of why these email addresses were used and did not respond to further phone calls and emailed questions.

Putin’s ceasefire announcement ‘not credible’, says EU foreign policy chief

Friday 6 January 2023 16:40 , Lucy Skoulding

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says Putin’s announcement of a 36-hour ceasefire in the war to mark Orthodox Christmas is “not credible”.

Mr Borrell said: “The Kremlin totally lacks credibility and this declaration of a unilateral ceasefire is not credible. It was Russia that launched this illegitimate aggression. When the aggressor talks of a ceasefire, I think the response that comes to us all is scepticism in the face of such hypocrisy.”

He added: “In the absence of such concrete actions, a unilateral ceasefire seems to be an attempt by Russia to buy time to regroup its troops and try to repair its damaged international reputation.”

Satellite images reveal scale of devastation in Ukraine’s Bakhmut over recent months

Friday 6 January 2023 16:38 , Sukhmani Sethi

The scale of the destruction of the besieged city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine during the past few months has been laid bare by new satellite images.

Maxar Technologies published a series of ‘before and after’ images of the city, which has been the focal point of intense fighting between forces from Ukraine and Russia.

The images, comparing sites between August and the end of December/beginning of January, reveal extensive damage to buildings, homes, infrastructure and the fields in and surrounding Bakhmut, which had a pre-Russian invasion population of around 70,000.

Satellite images reveal scale of devastation in Ukraine’s Bakhmut

Germany to coordinate with the US on fighting vehicles and air defence with Ukraine

Friday 6 January 2023 16:28 , Sukhmani Sethi

German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht spoke with her U.S. counterpart today to coordinate on fighting vehicles and air defence for Ukraine, her ministry said.

Lambrecht and U.S Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin discussed the current war situation and how to coordinate further military support, particularly regarding infantry fighting vehicles and a Patriot missile defence system pledged by Berlin, the German defence ministry said in a statement.

This follows after Berlin joined Washington and Paris in sending more weaponry to Kyiv.

“Together with out allies, we continue to support Ukraine in unity, solidarity and close coordination,” Lambrecht said.

BBC reports fighting is continuing in Ukraine despite ceasefire

Friday 6 January 2023 16:10 , Lucy Skoulding

The BBC has reported that fighting is still ongoing in Ukraine despite Putin declaring a temporary ceasefire at midday today.

It’s not been confirmed whether there’s been fighting after the ceasefire or not, but there are reports artillery fire has been heard from the front and air raid sirens have been sounding across Kyiv.

Serhiy Haidai, the regional leader of Luhansk said Putin’s Christmas ceasefire is “a lie and a trap”.

He advised people not to attend Orthodox church services or gather in any crowded places in case of Russian attacks.

Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun said: “We are two and a half hours into this proclaimed ceasefire, and actually the whole territory of Ukraine is under air raid alert. So I think that speaks for itself. Basically the ceasefire, the Russians are making it up.”

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Pictures show shelling damage in Kherson

Friday 6 January 2023 15:40 , Lucy Skoulding

New photos show the extent of damage in the Ukrainian city of Kherson after shelling from Russian troops.

In one photo, a local resident runs past a burning house hit by the Russian shelling on Orthodox Christmas Eve.

Photos also show extensive damage to buildings in the city after the shelling.

Putin called a ceasefire from midday (9am UK time) today to last 36 hours to mark Orthodox Christmas. Russians and many Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on 7 January.

It comes after Russian forces ramped up their attacks on 25 December and New Year’s Eve.

A local resident runs past a burning building in Kherson, Ukraine (AP)
A local resident runs past a burning building in Kherson, Ukraine (AP)
This still from a video shows a person standing among rubble of a building hit and damaged by shelling in Kherson (via REUTERS)
This still from a video shows a person standing among rubble of a building hit and damaged by shelling in Kherson (via REUTERS)

Reports of artillery heard from frontline

Friday 6 January 2023 15:10 , Lucy Skoulding

Reports are coming out of Ukraine that artillery fire has been heard after Putin called a temporary ceasefire earlier today.

One witness in the Russian-occupied regional capital Donetsk, close to the front, described to Reuters that artillery fired from pro-Russian positions on the city’s outskirts could be heard after the truce was meant to take effect.

Denis Pushilin, the Russian-installed administrator in Donetsk, said on Thursday that Mr Putin’s order only covered offensive operations and his forces would hit back if fired upon.

Putin called a temporary ceasefire from today for 36 hours to mark Orthodox Christmas (Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
Putin called a temporary ceasefire from today for 36 hours to mark Orthodox Christmas (Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukraine’s presidential adviser says Putin’s ceasefire is ‘primitive and cynical deception'

Friday 6 January 2023 14:45 , Lucy Skoulding

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has said Russia’s temporary ceasefire for Christmas is “cynical deception”.

He tweeted: “Air alert all over . Children are again in cold bomb shelters. A fire station was shelled in Kherson. This is the essence of “Russian truce”: kill in the back, imitating silence.

“Never”. Never take any RF’s words seriously. It is always a primitive & cynical deception.”

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has said Russia’s temporary ceasefire for Christmas is “cynical deception”.

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New photos show ceremony of Russian reservists in Omsk ahead of departure

Friday 6 January 2023 14:15 , Lucy Skoulding

New photos show Russian reservist soldiers gathered in Omsk in Russia.

They are gathering for a ceremony ahead of their departure.

The photos show troops standing in lines together.

Russian reservists gather in Omsk for a ceremony ahead of departure (REUTERS)
Russian reservists gather in Omsk for a ceremony ahead of departure (REUTERS)

Putin launched fresh strikes hours before temporary ‘ceasefire’

Friday 6 January 2023 13:42 , Lucy Skoulding

Russian shells hit the city of Kramatorsk in the Donetsky region of Ukraine just hours before Putin’s temporary ceasefire for Orthodox Christmas, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the office of Ukraine’s president.

Tymoshenko wrote on social media that Russians hit the city with rockets “twice”.

A residential building was hit but there were no reported injuries.

Mayor of Kramatorsk Oleksandr Honcharenko urged residents to stay in shelters, reporting that 14 homes were damaged as a result of the rocket that hit the residential building.

Oleksnadr told Reuters: “It’s bad, very bad. We need to pressure them, get them to leave, maybe more air defence systems would help. This happens often, not only on festive occasions. Every other day.”

Putin’s ceasefire in doubt as sirens heard across Kyiv

Friday 6 January 2023 13:15 , Lucy Skoulding

There are doubts over Putin’s ceasefire as air raid sirens are reportedly still ringing out over Kyiv.

Member of the Ukraine parliament Inna Sovsun tweeted: “So, two hours into the announced ceasefire, air raid sirens are blaring all over #Ukraine. Like literally, he couldn’t even hold it for two hours. That’s how much one can trust #Putin.”

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President Volodymyr Zelensky has rejected calls from the Kremlin for Ukraine to reciprocate, accusing Russia of wanting to halt Kyiv’s progress in the bitter fight in eastern Ukraine.

The US President Joe Biden was also sceptical: “I found it interesting. He [Putin] was ready to bomb hospitals and nurseries and churches… on the 25th and New Year’s. I think he’s trying to find some oxygen.”

Ukrainian priests holding service before start of Orthodox Christmas in Kyiv

Friday 6 January 2023 13:02 , Lucy Skoulding

Pictures from Kyiv show people lighting candles as Ukrainian priests hold a service before the start of Orthodox Christmas.

In the photos, people are gathering in the St. Michael’s Monastery in Kyiv.

Today is Christmas Eve for many Ukrainians as well as Russians. Saturday 7 January is Christmas Day.

People light candles to mark Orthodox Christmas in Kyiv (AP)
People light candles to mark Orthodox Christmas in Kyiv (AP)
Ukrainian priests holding a service before the start of the Orthodox Chrismas in Kyiv (AP)
Ukrainian priests holding a service before the start of the Orthodox Chrismas in Kyiv (AP)

Germany plans to send 40 vehicles to Ukraine

Friday 6 January 2023 12:15 , Lucy Skoulding

Reuters reports that Germany is planning to send around 40 vehicles to Ukraine.

This would constitute a battalion of Marders, which are armoured tanks.

A Marder, which is an armoured tank (AP2011)
A Marder, which is an armoured tank (AP2011)

Air raid sirens across Ukraine despite ‘ceasefire’ from Russia

Friday 6 January 2023 11:45 , Lucy Skoulding

Air raid sirens have been heard all across Ukraine today despite Putin announcing a temporary ceasefire for Russia to mark Orthodox Christmas.

The head of the Russian Orthodox church asked for a ceasefire to start at midday in Moscow (9am UK time) on Friday and last for 36 hours. Friday is Christmas Eve in Moscow and Saturday 7 January is Christmas Day.

But member of the Ukrainian parliament, Kira Rudik, tweeted that air raid sirens can be heard all across Ukraine.

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Russian shells hit Kramatorsk in Ukraine

Friday 6 January 2023 11:13 , Lucy Skoulding

On Christmas Eve for Russians and for many Ukrainian people, Russian shells have hit Kramatorsk, a city in the Donetsk region of Ukraine that Russia has claimed.

Mayor Oleksandr Honcharenko said on social media: “Kramatorsk is under fire. Stay in shelters.”

There are not further details of damage at this stage.

The Kyiv Independent tweeted: “Mayor: Russian forces attack educational sites in Kramatorsk.

“Pictures posted by Mayor Honcharenko to Facebook show that Russian strikes hit a local design college and a mechanical engineering academy. No casualties were reported.”

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Casualties as Russian soldiers shelled fire station in Kherson

Friday 6 January 2023 10:23 , Lucy Skoulding

Russian soldiers have “violated principles of international law” after shelling a fire station in Kherson, Ukraine, causing casualties.

Serhii Kruk, head of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, said on the state emergency service Telegram channel on Friday: “The Russians have once again confirmed the fact that they cannot be trusted. Kherson. Another shelling of our unit. Dead and wounded.”

He said the act was “violating all the principles and norms of international law.”

It is the second time a fire department has been shelled within two days.

It is not yet known how many people are dead or injured as a result of the shelling.

Belarusian President visits military base where Russian troops stationed

Friday 6 January 2023 09:31 , Lucy Skoulding

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko visited a military base where Russian troops are stationed, the defence ministry said on Friday.

During the meeting, Lukashenko and an unnamed representative from the Russian army discussed the two countries’ joint military drills, it said.

“At this stage, units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are ready to carry out tasks as intended,” the representative said.

Belarus, which is closely allied with Moscow, said on Thursday that it will receive more weapons and equipment from Russia as the two boost their military co-operation, fuelling fears it could be used as a staging post to attack Ukraine from the north.

Minsk has said it will not enter the war in Ukraine, but Russia used Belarus as a launch pad for its invasion in February and continues to use Belarusian airspace for drone and missile strikes, Kyiv says.

Lukashenko and Putin (EPA)
Lukashenko and Putin (EPA)

Russian troops to begin temporary ceasefire

Friday 6 January 2023 08:58 , Lucy Skoulding

Putin’s troops are starting a temporary ceasefire in the Ukraine war from midday in Moscow (9am UK time) on Friday to mark Orthodox Christmas.

The head of the Russian Orthodox church called for a truce to start today and last for 36 hours.

Zelensky has accused Putin of using the truce as a means to halt Kyiv’s progress in eastern Ukraine.

And US president Biden believes Putin is using the opportunity to “find some oxygen”.

He said: “I found it interesting. He [Putin] was ready to bomb hospitals and nurseries and churches… on the 25th and New Year’s. I think he’s trying to find some oxygen.”

President Putin (Sputnik)
President Putin (Sputnik)

Putin’s ceasefire announcement likely ‘intended to damage Ukraine’s reputation'

Friday 6 January 2023 08:45 , Lucy Skoulding

The US Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said Putin’s ceasefire announcements is likely an information operation to damage Ukraine’s reputation.

The ISW tweeted: “#Putin’s announcement that Russian forces will conduct a 36-hour ceasefire in observance of Russian Orthodox Christmas is likely an information operation intended to damage #Ukraine’s reputation.”

It added: “Putin cannot reasonably expect Ukraine to meet the terms of this suddenly declared ceasefire and may have called for the ceasefire to frame Ukraine as unaccommodating and unwilling to take the necessary steps toward negotiations.”

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Putin ally fighting for salt and gypsum mines in Ukraine

Friday 6 January 2023 08:01 , Lucy Skoulding

Vladimir Putin’s close ally Yevgeny Prigozhin wants to take control of salt and gypsum mines near the Ukraine city of Bakhmut, a White House official has said.

Prigozhin is the founder of the Wagner Group, Russia’s most powerful mercenary force which has been critical in Russia’s offensive against Bakhmut.

A US official said it was believed money was the motivator behind Russia’s “obsession” with taking Bakhmut.

Bakhmut in Ukraine (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Bakhmut in Ukraine (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

Militias from Luhansk and Donetsk to drain Russian finances - MoD

Friday 6 January 2023 07:20 , Arpan Rai

The absorption of militias from the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (LPR) — carried out last week — is set to squeeze out Russian finances and weigh heavily on Moscow politically, the British defence ministry said today.

“The status and identities of the DNR and LNR likely remain divisive within the Russian system. Even before the February 2022 invasion, these territories represented a significant drain on Russian finances,” the defence ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

“Now the Kremlin has overtly committed to supporting them, they will likely constitute a large political, diplomatic and financial cost for Russia which will last well beyond the current phase of the conflict,” the MoD said, noting Russia’s claim over the LNR and DNR as “intrinsic parts of the Russian Federation” following the fixed accession referendums in September last year.

Russia has discreetly controlled both since 2014, creating DNR’s 1st Army Corps and LNR’s 2nd Army Corps and supporting them with Russian military officers, according to the ministry.

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Satellite images capture extent of Bakhmut’s destruction

Friday 6 January 2023 07:01 , Arpan Rai

Fresh satellite imagery shows heavy destruction of eastern Ukrainian city Bakhmut.

Images taken on Wednesday reveal extensive damage to buildings, homes, infrastructure and the fields in and near Bakhmut, said space technology company Maxar.

Satellite views of Bakhmut showed extensive fortifications and “dragon’s teeth” tank obstacles that have been placed in fields and along roads east of the city.

Previously lush green forests and northeast highway intersections are seen neatly manicured in aerial views taken before the destruction of Bakhmut during the war.

Craters and charred grounds have replaced Bakhmut’s scenic fields. Additionally, the northeastern highway intersection has also been heavily damaged as seen in satellite images.

Highway intersection northeast of Ukraine’s Bakhmut city seen before the Russian invasion of the country (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Highway intersection northeast of Ukraine’s Bakhmut city seen before the Russian invasion of the country (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Craters caused by artillery and shelling seen in the fields of highway intersection northeast of Bakhmut city in Ukraine on Wednesday (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Craters caused by artillery and shelling seen in the fields of highway intersection northeast of Bakhmut city in Ukraine on Wednesday (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
An overview of apartment buildings and fields in August last year before fighting targeted southern Bakhmut in Ukraine (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
An overview of apartment buildings and fields in August last year before fighting targeted southern Bakhmut in Ukraine (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Satellite images show destroyed apartment buildings and craters in fields of southern Bakhmut in Ukraine on Wednesday (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Satellite images show destroyed apartment buildings and craters in fields of southern Bakhmut in Ukraine on Wednesday (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Buildings and fields seen east of Bakhmut city in Ukraine in August last year before the region came under heavy shelling and missile attacks (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Buildings and fields seen east of Bakhmut city in Ukraine in August last year before the region came under heavy shelling and missile attacks (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Destroyed buildings and fields dotted with craters seen east of Bakhmut city in Ukraine on Wednesday (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Destroyed buildings and fields dotted with craters seen east of Bakhmut city in Ukraine on Wednesday (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

Putin’s ceasefire pause likely to help troops rest and recoup, to ‘frame’ Ukraine - report

Friday 6 January 2023 06:15 , Arpan Rai

Vladimir Putin’s call for truce could likely be to help his forces invading Ukraine catch a break before starting the offensive in critical positions on the front lines, according to an analysis by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

“Putin could have been seeking to secure a 36-hour pause for Russian troops to afford them the ability to rest, recoup, and reorient to relaunch offensive operations in critical sectors of the front. Such a pause would disproportionately benefit Russian troops and begin to deprive Ukraine of the initiative,” the latest assessment by the US-based think-tank said.

It added that the Russian president “cannot reasonably expect Ukraine to meet the terms of this suddenly declared ceasefire and may have called for the ceasefire to frame Ukraine as unaccommodating and unwilling to take the necessary steps towards negotiations.”

The sudden need for a ceasefire “is an intentional information tactic that Russia has previously employed”, the ISW noted.

Russia’s intention to call for a ceasefire can also be used to “frame Ukrainian forces who continue to fight throughout the timeframe of the ceasefire as unwilling to work towards peace and wanting to fight at all costs.”

US to dispatch around 50 Bradleys in $2.85bn aid package

Friday 6 January 2023 05:48 , Arpan Rai

The US is sending about 50 Bradley fighting vehicles to Ukraine, two US officials said, confirming that the US army staple vehicle is part of the package worth roughly $2.8bn (£2.35bn).

This tranche of the security package for Ukraine is expected to be unveiled today, the officials said.

An armoured vehicle with a powerful gun, the Bradley fighting carrier is manufactured by BAE systems Plc and used by the US army to transport soldiers in battlefields since the mid-1980s.

The Bradley is a light vehicle but more agile than a tank and can double up as a troop carrier.

The vehicle can help carry additional ammunition and communications equipment as the war heats up during the thick of winter. It has been offered as France also sent light AMX-10 RC armoured combat vehicles to Ukraine amid debates if it qualifies as a tank.

US to send Ukraine dozens of Bradleys in $2.85B aid package

Volodymyr Zelensky rejects Russia’s truce call in a tit-for-tat move

Friday 6 January 2023 05:31 , Arpan Rai

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has slammed Russia’s ceasefire call, set to start today, and reminded the Kremlin of previous two calls for peace in November and December when at least 95,000 Russian forces had been killed in the war.

“Apparently both of our proposals have not been heard by the leaders of your country... In the place where they are, apparently, it is too deep to hear,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly address and added that Russia has already lost almost 110,000 of its soldiers in the war.

“Now they want to use Christmas as a cover to at least briefly stop the advance of our guys in Donbas and bring equipment, ammunition and mobilised men closer to our positions. What will this bring? Just another increase in the death toll,” he said.

“Everyone in the world knows how the Kremlin uses respites at war to continue the war with renewed vigour. But to end the war faster, that is not what is needed at all,” Mr Zelensky said.

He added: “What is needed is the citizens of Russia who will find the courage to free themselves of their shameful fear of one man in the Kremlin, at least for 36 hours, at least at Christmas time.”

Russia’s 36-hour ceasefire will do nothing for peace, says James Cleverly

Friday 6 January 2023 05:01 , Arpan Rai

Vladimir Putin’s plans for a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine over the Russian Orthodox Christmas holiday period will “do nothing to advance the prospects for peace”, the UK’s Foreign Secretary has said, adding that Moscow should at once withdraw its invading forces.

“A 36-hour pause of Russian attacks will do nothing to advance the prospects for peace. Russia must permanently withdraw its forces, relinquish its illegal control of Ukrainian territory and end its barbaric attacks against innocent civilians,” James Cleverly said.

Volodymyr Zelensky had proposed a Russian troop withdrawal earlier, before 25 December, but Russia rejected it.

Mr Cleverly, speaking at a press conference in London alongside German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, said tanks “may well be part” of future support for Ukraine, but stopped short of committing the UK to sending them.

Russia’s 36-hour ceasefire plan will do nothing for peace, says James Cleverly

Biden says Putin’s truce call ‘interesting’

Friday 6 January 2023 04:50 , Arpan Rai

Joe Biden has termed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin’s call for ceasefire in the continuing Ukraine interesting, adding that the Kremlin leader’s offer is a sign of desperation.

"I’m reluctant to respond to anything that Putin says. I found it interesting that he was willing to bomb hospitals and nurseries and churches ... on the 25th and New Year’s. I mean, I think he’s trying to find some oxygen," he said.

The ceasefire will be observed by the Russian forces starting today as Orthodox Christians living in Russia and Ukraine will mark the festival of Christmas.

Friday 6 January 2023 04:15 , Arpan Rai

Good morning, welcome to our coverage of the Ukraine war on 6 January, Friday.