Ukraine war news – live: Putin launches frigate armed with hypersonic Zircon cruise weapons

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a frigate off to the Atlantic Ocean armed with hypersonic Zircon cruise missiles today.

In a video conference with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Igor Krokhmal, commander of the frigate, Putin said the ship was armed with Zircon hypersonic weapons.

Russia, China and the US are racing against each other to develop hypersonic weapons, which, it’s believed, will give the edge against an opponent due to their speeds and manoeuvrability.

It comes as UK Ministry of Defence has said that Russia’s “unprofessional practices” has led to its high death rate during President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a statement, the MoD said: “The Russian military has a record of unsafe ammunition storage from well before the current war, but this incident highlights how unprofessional practices contribute to Russia’s high casualty rate.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry increased the death toll of a Ukrainian missile strike on Russian-controlled Makiivka, in Donetsk from 63 sevicemen to 89. The New Year's Eve strike is the deadliest single incident Moscow has acknowledged since the start of the war. Ukraine says 400 soldiers were killed and 300 more injured in the attack.

Key Points

  • Putin sends off frigate armed with missiles

  • MoD says Russia’s ‘unprofessional' tactics behind high number of deaths

  • Russian politicians line up to call for punishment over troop deaths

  • Ukraine charges Russian commanders over civilian attacks

  • Ukraine air force claims to have shot down 500 drones

Zelensky meets with Romanian counterpart Klaus Iohannis

16:20 , Lucy Skoulding

Ukrainian President Zelensky spoke with his Romanian counterpart Klaus Iohannis today to discuss Ukrainian-Romanian cooperation.

Zelensky tweeted: “Together with Klaus Iohannis we agreed on steps to further develop Ukrainian-Romanian cooperation, primarily in the defence sector.

“I thanked Romania for its solidarity and support in resisting Russian aggression. We discussed the peace formula and issues of the bilateral agenda.”

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Mayor of Kyiv welcomes ‘best city’ award

15:50 , Lucy Skoulding

The major of Kyiv has given thanks after the city was named ‘honourary best city’ by PR agency Resonance Consultancy.

On Telegram today, Vitali Klitschko, the mayor said: “The experts … noted the significant development of the city’s infrastructure over the past 10 years — the creation of new parks and squares and the improvement of old ones, putting parking in order, updating the rolling stock of municipal transport.

“Kyiv today is the heart of Europe. Which continues to fight - for life, for development, for the beauty of the city and the comfort of its inhabitants.”

Kyiv has been named ‘honourary best city’ (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Kyiv has been named ‘honourary best city’ (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

200 people gathered at vigil for dead after Makiivka strikes

14:46 , Lucy Skoulding

Approximately 200 people gathered in Samara, Russia on Tuesday to hold a vigil for soldiers killed by a Ukrainian missiles in Makiivka, eastern Donetsk, on New Year’s Eve.

Mourners laid roses and wreaths for those they had lost in Samara’s central square. Priests recited prayers for the dead.

The Russian Foreign Ministry increased the death toll of the strike from 63 Russian sevicemen to 89 but the exact number cannot be confirmed.

The New Year’s Eve strike is the deadliest single incident Moscow has acknowledged since the start of the war. Ukraine says 400 soldiers were killed and 300 more injured in the attack.

More than 85 attacks in 24 hours

14:00 , Lucy Skoulding

Ukraine’s military General Staff said Russia had launched seven missile strikes, 18 air strikes and more than 85 attacks from multiple-launch rocket systems in the past 24 hours.

The attacks hit civilian infrastructure in three cities, Kramatorsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, Reuters reports.

“There are casualties among the civilian population,” it said.

Russia denies targeting civilians.

The battlefield reports could not be independently verified.

Any drop in European support is ‘win’ for Russia, says German Foreign Minister

13:14 , Lucy Skoulding

Germany is looking for more ways to help Ukraine protect its people and infrastructure, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Wednesday.

She stressed that any dip in Europe’s resolve on the issue would serve as a boon to Moscow, Reuters reports.

“And this year, we must protect and further develop the joint European unity that made us strong last year,” Baerbock said during a news conference with her Portuguese counterpart in Lisbon.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Five dead, 13 wounded in Ukraine

12:35 , Lucy Skoulding

The death toll reached five on Tuesday, with 13 more people injured, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said on Telegram.

He said: “Victims among the civilian population as a result of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation for January 3, 2023 (as of 09:00 January 4, 2023):

“Donetsk region – one dead, five wounded, Zaporizhzhia region – one wounded, Kharkiv region – two wounded, Kherson region – four dead (including two who died earlier), five wounded, according to regional military administrations”.

Ukraine wants UN to send peacekeepers to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

12:06 , Lucy Skoulding

Ukraine wants the United Nations to send peacekeepers to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant so they can establish a safety zone in the area.

They have asked for this even in the absence of a deal with Russia, according to the head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company.

Ukraine has been calling for peacekeepers to go to the site since September but the recent comment marks the first time a Ukraine nuclear official has said publically that peacekeepers should go to create a safety zone there.

Russia took control of the power plant very soon after invading Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (AFP via Getty Images)
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (AFP via Getty Images)

Putin sends off frigate armed with missiles

11:22 , Lucy Skoulding

Putin has sent a frigate off to the Atlantic Ocean armed with hypersonic Zircon cruise missiles today.

In a video conference with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Igor Krokhmal, commander of the frigate named ‘Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov’, Putin said the ship was armed with Zircon hypersonic weapons.

“This time the ship is equipped with the latest hypersonic missile system - “Zircon” - which has no analogues,” Putin said. “This is a hypersonic sea-based system.”

The ships is not heading for Ukraine. Shoigu said the Gorshkov would sail to the Atlantic and Indian oceans and to the Mediterranean Sea.

MoD says Russia’s ‘unprofessional' tactics behind high number of deaths

10:33 , Lucy Skoulding

The UK Ministry of Defence has released a statement saying “unprofessional practices” has contributed to Russia’s high death rate.

It said in a statement shared today: “On 31 December 2022, Ukraine struck a school building in the Russian-held town of Makiyivka near Donetsk city, which Russia had almost certainly taken over for military use.

“The building was completely destroyed and, as the Russian MoD confirmed, 89 Russian personnel were killed.

“Given the extent of the damage, there is a realistic possibility that ammunition was being stored near to troop accommodation, which detonated during the strike creating secondary explosions.

“The building was only 12.5km from the Avdiivka sector of front line, one of the most intensely contested areas of the conflict.

“The Russian military has a record of unsafe ammunition storage from well before the current war, but this incident highlights how unprofessional practices contribute to Russia’s high casualty rate.”

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Sunak tells Zelensky Ukraine can “count on” UK’s long term support

10:00 , Lucy Skoulding

Rishi Sunak reaffirmed the UK’s support for Ukraine, in an early January call with Volodymyr Zelensky.

The two leaders spoke after a Ukrainian rocket attack killed dozens of Russian soldiers in a town in the Donetsk region.

Russia had unleashed a barrage of attacks on Ukrainian sites over the new year period.

Mr Sunak told the Ukrainian President that the country could “count on the UK to continue to support it for the long term”.

Read the full story.

Zelenksy warns of new Russian offensive

09:30 , Lucy Skoulding

Speaking in a video address on Tuesday, President Zelensky revisited his warnings that Russia will launch a major offensive.

Zelensky said: “We have no doubt that current masters of Russia will throw everything they have left and everyone they can round up to try to turn the tide of the war and at least delay their defeat.

“We have to disrupt this Russian scenario. We are preparing for this. The terrorists must lose. Any attempt at their new offensive must fail.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Alerts reported in Kyiv and Mykolaiv

09:10 , Lucy Skoulding

Suspilne, the state-owned broadcaster in Ukraine, has reported an air alert in Kyiv.

Governor of Mykolaiv, Vitaliy Kim, has also reported an air alert in the area, posting to Telegram.

Ukraine says 400 soldiers killed in Makiivka attack

08:39 , Lucy Skoulding

Ukraine has said 400 of its soldiers were killed, and 300 more injured, in an attack on a college for conscripts in Makiivka in the Donetsk area.

Putin blamed his own soldiers’ illegal use of mobile phones for the deaths of 89 Russian troops by Ukrainian missile strikes over the weekend.

In a statement on Wednesday, Russia’s defence ministry said four Ukrainian missiles hit a temporary Russian barrack in a vocational college in Makiivka, the twin city of the Russian-occupied regional capital of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Russia had earlier said 63 soldiers were killed in the strike over the weekend.

It is difficult to confirm exactly how many soldiers were killed, and it’s rare for Moscow to confirm battlefield casualties.

Read the full story.

Thousands used Kyiv’s subway as shelter on New Year’s Eve

08:09 , Lucy Skoulding

Around 5,200 people used Kyiv’s subway network as shelter on New Year’s Eve during an air raid.

The city authority said in a statement posted to Telegram: “On new year’s eve, during the air raid, about 5,200 people, including almost 400 children, used underground stations as shelter.

“The subway infrastructure operates 24/7 as a shelter and provides the most necessary conditions: drinking water, sanitary facilities and the possibility of recharging gadgets.”

The messaged continued, adding that people must “take care” of themselves” and “use shelters during the air alert”.

Kyiv residents shelter in the underground (Getty)
Kyiv residents shelter in the underground (Getty)

ICYMI: Putin accused of using same woman in multiple photo-ops

07:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Vladimir Putin has been accused of using the same people to pose in different roles during presidential photo opportunities, as his war in Ukraine drags into its eleventh month.

Emily Atkinson reports:

Putin accused of using same woman in multiple photo-ops

Ukraine and EU to hold summit in February

07:13 , Lucy Skoulding

Ukraine and the EU will hold a summit on 3 February focused on discussing military and financial support, according to President Zelensky’s office.

AFP reports that President Zelensky spoke about a high-level meeting in his first phone call of the year with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, a statement said on Monday.

The statement said: “The parties discussed expected results of the next Ukraine-EU summit to be held on 3 February in Kyiv and agreed to intensify preparatory work.”

Ukraine forces hanging on to Bakhmut frontline

06:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Ukraine has said that the the situation on the front line near the eastern town of Bakhmut was particularly tough.

In a statement General Valery Zaluzhny, commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, said Russian forces have repeatedly tried to take Bakhmut and the surrounding area, in some cases literally advancing over the corpses of their own soldiers, reported Reuters.

Writing on Telegram, the commander added that Ukrainian forces were hanging on.

FILE - Ukrainian soldiers launch a drone at Russian positions near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Thursday, Dec. 15 2021 (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
FILE - Ukrainian soldiers launch a drone at Russian positions near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Thursday, Dec. 15 2021 (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Putin to talk to Erdogan today

05:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Russian president Vladimir Putin plans to talk to Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan today, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax, the latest in a series of conversations the two men have had since the start of the war.

Turkey acted as mediator alongside the United Nations last year to establish a deal allowing grain exports from Ukrainian ports but the chances of serious peace talks look remote, especially as fighting continued to rage.

File: Russian president Vladimir Putin meets with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the Sixth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Astana on 13 October 2022 (SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
File: Russian president Vladimir Putin meets with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the Sixth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Astana on 13 October 2022 (SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Zelensky says Russia will do anything to delay defeat

04:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

In his video address yesterday, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky made no mention of the Ukrainian missiles attack that hit a temporary Russian barracks in a vocational college in Makiivka.

“We have no doubt that current masters of Russia will throw everything they have left and everyone they can round up to try to turn the tide of the war and at least delay their defeat,” he said.

“We have to disrupt this Russian scenario. We are preparing for this. The terrorists must lose. Any attempt at their new offensive must fail.”

 (Ukraine President’s Office)
(Ukraine President’s Office)

Russians demand Putin’s commanders be punished over losses in New Year’s Eve attack

03:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Russian nationalists and politicians are calling for the punishment of military commanders in charge of the scores of troops killed in a Ukrainian attack on New Year’s Eve.

Liam James reports:

Russians demand Putin’s commanders be punished over losses in New Year’s Eve attack

Rishi Sunak pledges more military support for Ukraine

02:02 , Andy Gregory

Our political correspondent Adam Forrest reports:

The UK will provide more military equipment to Ukraine in the weeks ahead, Downing Street has revealed after Rishi Sunak agreed to “intensify” cooperation with president Volodymyr Zelensky.

No 10 said the prime minister told the president that moves were underway “to provide further equipment in the coming weeks and months to secure Ukraine’s victory on the battlefield”.

Mr Zelensky suggested that “concrete decisions” had been made on fresh military equipment after he talked about “further defence cooperation” with the PM.

Rishi Sunak pledges more military support for Ukraine

13:50 , Lucy Skoulding

In the last 24, Russia has launched 18 air strikes and more than 85 attacks from multiple-launch rocket systems on civilian infrastructure, according to Ukraine’s military General Staff.

Reuters reports that the attacks have been on three cities - Kramatorsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

The General Staff said: “There are casualties among the civilian population.”

Russia denies targeting any civilians.

Battlefield reports could not be independently verified.

Crowds gather at vigil for soldiers killed in Makiivka rocket strike

13:56 , Lucy Skoulding

Around 200 people gathered in Russian city Samara on Tuesday at a vigil for soldiers killed by a Ukrainian missile strike in Makiivka on New Year’s Eve.

Gathering in Samara’s central square, mourners laid down roses and wreaths for those they have lost.

Priests spoke prayers for those who lost their life.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the death toll is 89 while Ukraine says 400 soldiers were killed and 300 more injured in the incident.

New grenade launcher training for Polish police after Ukrainian gift

00:59 , Andy Gregory

New regulations in Poland will require specialised police to receive training with grenade launchers, in a move interpreted by the media as a reaction to the Polish police chief’s accidental detonation of such a weapon which had been a gift from Ukraine.

The updated instructions for police training in weapons use took effect on 1 January and were approved by Poland’s interior minister just two days after a grenade launcher gifted by Ukrainian officials exploded unexpectedly while General Jaroslaw Szymczyk was moving it in his office.

He and another person were slightly injured. Poland has been a staunch supporter of Kyiv in its war with Russia, and Poland’s top government officials repeatedly visited Kyiv last year.

Putin to speak with Erdogan tomorrow, Kremlin says

00:01 , Andy Gregory

Vladimir Putin plans to talk to Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has told Interfax news agency.

The two leaders have held several phone calls since Russia invaded Ukraine, and Turkey acted as mediator alongside the United Nations to set up a deal allowing grain exports from Ukrainian ports.

Zelensky accuses Russia of missile attack on ice-skating arena

Tuesday 3 January 2023 23:03 , Andy Gregory

Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of destroying a well-known ice-skating arena in Donetsk with a missile attack.

“This ice arena – ‘Altair’ – started working before the war, when Donbas had a normal life before Russia came,” the Ukrainian president said. “Children trained there. There was a children's sports school. Hockey competitions were held there. People played sports there, celebrated and just enjoyed life.

“Kramatorsk, Slovyansk, Kostyantynivka, Bakhmut, Pokrovsk, Donetsk, Toretsk and other cities and villages of Donbas – everyone knew what kind of arena it was, and many people visited it. Last year it was used to collect and distribute humanitarian aid.”

He called the missile attack in Druzhkivka “another confession of the terrorist state”, adding: “It is a confession of what it came to Donbas with and what we will definitely oust from there. Death will not prevail in Donbas, and we must do everything to throw out its tricolor from Donbas and other lands of Ukraine.”

Sunak among four leaders to speak with Zelensky today

Tuesday 3 January 2023 22:12 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak is among four national leaders Volodomyr Zelensky has spoken with today, alongside the prime ministers of Canada, Norway and the Netherlands.

“Now is the moment when together with our partners we must strengthen our defence,” Ukraine’s president said in his nightly address. “We have no doubt that the current masters of Russia will throw everything they have left and everyone they can muster to try to turn the tide of the war and at least postpone their defeat.”

“We have to disrupt this Russian scenario. We are preparing for this. The terrorists must lose. Any attempt at their new offensive must fail. This will be the final defeat of the terrorist state. I thank all partners who understand this.”

Thanking the UK governmnet for “the fully concrete agreements reached, first of all in the defence sphere”, Mr Zelensky said that in his conversation with Mr Sunak he “felt that we equally perceive the importance of this year, the prospects of this year” and “the fact that it is possible to achieve a pivotal advantage right now, not allowing Russia to win back on this or that front direction”.

Nato may revise 2% target, says Stoltenberg

Tuesday 3 January 2023 21:00 , Liam James

Nato countries will discuss defence spending in the coming months amid calls to encouarge members to go beyond the 2 per cent target, secretary general Jens Stoltenberg told the German news agency DPA.

“Some allies are strongly in favour of turning the current 2 per cent target into a minimum,” DPA quoted Mr Stoltenberg as saying in an interview published on Tuesday.

Mr Stoltenberg said that he would head the negotiations. “We will meet, we will have ministerial meetings, we will have talks in capitals,” he said.

He did not say which Nato countries were calling for a more ambitious target, according to DPA.

The Nato chief said he aimed to reach an agreement no later than Nato’s next regular summit, which will be in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, on 11-12 July.

Zelensky says Russia planning intense drone attacks

Tuesday 3 January 2023 20:15 , Liam James

Russia is preparing to step up its campaign of attacks on Ukraine with kamikaze drones, according to Volodymyr Zelensky.

“We have information that Russia is planning a prolonged attack by Shaheds [Iranian-made kamikaze drones],” the Ukrainian president said in his nightly video address yesterday.

He said the goal is to break Ukraine’s resistance by “exhausting our people, [our] air defence, our energy”, more than 10 months after the invasion. Ukraine yesterday said it had shot down dozens of drones sent to attack Kyiv and central regions of Ukraine.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is exploring how to shore up confidence in Moscow’s flawed war effort, which in recent months has been dented by a Ukrainian counteroffensive backed by western-supplied weapons.

That has brought criticism in some Russian circles of the military’s performance.

First tanker carrying LNG from US arrives in Germany

Tuesday 3 January 2023 19:30 , Liam James

The first regular shipment of liquefied natural gas from the United States arrived in Germany on Tuesday, part of a wide-reaching effort to help the country replace energy supplies it previously received from Russia.

The tanker vessel Maria Energy arrived at the North Sea port of Wilhelmshaven, where its shipment of LNG will be converted back into gas at a special floating terminal that was inaugurated last month by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Germany has rushed to find a replacement for Russian gas supplies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The facility in Wilhelmshaven is one of several such terminals being put in place to help avert an energy supply shortage.

1st tanker carrying LNG from US arrives in Germany

Sunak tells Zelensky UK with Ukraine 'for the long term’

Tuesday 3 January 2023 18:45 , Liam James

Rishi Sunak told Volodymyr Zelensky that Ukraine could “count on the UK to continue to support it for the long term”, in a call earlier.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The leaders discussed the abhorrent drone attacks on Ukraine in recent days, and the prime minister said the thoughts of the UK were with the Ukrainian people as they continued to live under such bombardment.

“The prime minister said Ukraine could count on the UK to continue to support it for the long term, as demonstrated by the recent delivery of more than 1000 anti-air missiles ... The leaders agreed to stay in close touch in the coming weeks.”

The spokesperson added that the UK and its allies in Northern Europe’s Joint Expeditionary Force were working closely to provide the equipment requested by Ukraine at a meeting last month.

Mr Zelensky earlier said he hoped UK support would “bring victory closer this year”.

The UK is the second largest donor of military aid to Ukraine and committed £2.3bn so far with a pledge to match that amount in 2023, according to a British parliamentary report published last month.

Sunak meets Zelensky on a trip to Kyiv in November (Getty)
Sunak meets Zelensky on a trip to Kyiv in November (Getty)

Odesa customs officials arrested in corruption bust

Tuesday 3 January 2023 18:00 , Liam James

Customs officers at the Port of Odesa have been arrested in a corruption bust, Ukraine’s security service (SBU) said.

More than 10 high-ranking officials were involved in a scheme that allowed exporters of grain to avoid paying millions of pounds worth of taxes to the Ukrainian government, the SBU announced in a statement.

Arrestees included the deputy head of one of the departments of the State Customs Service and the management of the Odesa Customs Office, who the SBU said was involved in the organisation of the scheme which saw more than 370 fake companies established to cheat the system.

The SBU did not say how long the scheme had been operating for, nor whether it began before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

Drone advances in Ukraine could bring dawn of killer robots, say experts

Tuesday 3 January 2023 17:15 , Liam James

Drone advances in Ukraine have accelerated a long-anticipated technology trend that could soon bring the world’s first fully autonomous fighting robots to the battlefield, inaugurating a new age of warfare (Frank Bajak writes).

The longer the war lasts, the more likely it becomes that drones will be used to identify, select and attack targets without help from humans, according to military analysts, combatants and artificial intelligence researchers.

That would mark a revolution in military technology as profound as the introduction of the machine gun. Ukraine already has semi-autonomous attack drones and counter-drone weapons endowed with AI. Russia also claims to possess AI weaponry, though the claims are unproven. But there are no confirmed instances of a nation putting into combat robots that have killed entirely on their own.

Experts say it may be only a matter of time before either Russia or Ukraine, or both, deploy them. The sense of inevitability extends to activists, who have tried for years to ban killer drones but now believe they must settle for trying to restrict the weapons’ offensive use.

Drone advances in Ukraine could bring dawn of killer robots

Makiivka: Before and after pictures show destruction of site

Tuesday 3 January 2023 16:45 , Liam James

Satellite images show Makiivka from above before and after the Ukrainian strike on New Year’s Eve which Russia admitted killed 63 troops at once.

The strike site, as seen in video footage that could not be verified, appeared to be what was listed online as a technical college in the Donetsk town.

Photographs from the scene today showed workers removing the rubble with officials from the Ukrainian emergency service agency present.

Satellite images show the vocational college (boxed) in Makiivka before and after shelling which killed dozens of Russian soldiers (Planet Labs/Reuters)
Satellite images show the vocational college (boxed) in Makiivka before and after shelling which killed dozens of Russian soldiers (Planet Labs/Reuters)

Zelensky and Sunak agree to ‘intensify’ military cooperation

Tuesday 3 January 2023 16:15 , Liam James

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has spoken of hopes to “bring victory closer” in 2023, with the support of the UK.

He tweeted that he and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak discussed further defence cooperation this year.

“We agreed to intensify our efforts to bring victory closer this year already. We already have concrete decisions for this,” he wrote.

The UK is the second largest donor of military aid to Ukraine and committed £2.3bn so far with a pledge to match that amount in 2023, according to a British parliamentary report published last month.

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UPDATE: Ukraine calls for Russian sports ban after ice arena destroyed in strike

Tuesday 3 January 2023 15:45 , Liam James

Ukrainian officials have repeated calls for Russia to be banned from international sporting events after a missile strike destroyed an ice arena in Donetsk region.

Officials from the Ukraine’s ice hockey federation said: “So it is that since the start of the war, the Russian occupiers have destroyed five ice stadiums.”

They identified the five ice stadiums at the Druzhba venue in Donetsk, arenas in Mariupol and Melitopol, the Ice Palace in Sievierodonetsk and now the Altair arena in Druzhkivka.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba reacted to Monday’s attack with a scathing post on Twitter in which he raged at resistance to Ukraine’s calls to exclude Russian athletes from international sporting events.

“I invite all sports officials who want to allow Russian athletes to compete in international events because, as they say, ‘politics should be kept out of sports’, to visit the Altair ice arena in Druzhkivka ruined by Russia’s ‘politically neutral’ shelling,” he wrote.

The Donbas ice hockey club, which started using Altair in 2014, the year pro-Russia separatists proclaimed the creation of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” in the region, said the arena was destroyed “as a result of rocket fire.”

The venues were “more than just a building”, the club’s general manager Fedor Ilyyenko said in a Facebook post, adding that these stadiums hosted “hundreds of children’s competitions, dozens of international tournaments, children’s smiles”.

Firefighters at the Altair arena as it burns after a rocket strike (AFP/Getty)
Firefighters at the Altair arena as it burns after a rocket strike (AFP/Getty)
Altair arena in 2013 (Artemko)
Altair arena in 2013 (Artemko)
HC Donbas, a professional Ukrainian ice hockey team, play at Altair in 2018 (DRSA)
HC Donbas, a professional Ukrainian ice hockey team, play at Altair in 2018 (DRSA)

Journalist thrown to ground as rocket lands behind him during live report in Ukraine

Tuesday 3 January 2023 15:15 , Liam James

A French reporter was thrown to the floor as a rocket landed close behind him in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine.

Paul Gasnier was preparing to broadcast live from the area when a massive explosion interrupted him.

TMC later aired the footage during the Quotidien news programme.

“We had dust in our eyes and our mouths, part of the hotel entrance collapsed on us, the windows were shattered,” Mr Gasnier said of the incident.

“It was very confusing, we didn’t know exactly what happened. We were very scared, but we are all safe.”

Kramatorsk strike causes widespread damage, say officials

Tuesday 3 January 2023 14:45 , Liam James

An overnight Russian attack on the city of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine injured one and damaged dozens of homes, according to local officials.

The city council for Kramatorsk, a settlement of some 150,000 people in Donetsk region, said 34 private houses and 8 apartment buildings were damaged.

Sharing news of the damage caused on Telegram, Oleksandr Honcharenko, the mayor, said: “Russia is a stinking country.”

A dog near the site of a rocket attack local officials said was fired by Russia (Kramatorsk City Council)
A dog near the site of a rocket attack local officials said was fired by Russia (Kramatorsk City Council)
Officials posted this picture of a crater as they shared news of the strike (Kramatorsk City Council)
Officials posted this picture of a crater as they shared news of the strike (Kramatorsk City Council)

Third Russian found dead in India in mysterious circumstances within two weeks

Tuesday 3 January 2023 14:15 , Liam James

A shipping engineer from Murmansk was found dead in his berth at a port in eastern India on Tuesday – the third mysterious death of a Russian in the country in a fortnight.

Sergey Milyakov was the chief engineer on a vessel anchored at Paradip Port in Jagatsinghpur, Odisha.

The 51-year-old Russian was found dead inside his chamber around 4.30am, officials said.

He was working on the vessel M B Aldnah, which was heading to Mumbai from Chittagong Port in Bangladesh via Odisha.

Kremlin officials have not released any statement on the death.

Mystery over third Russian death in India in two weeks

Ukraine needs our support more than ever, says Macron

Tuesday 3 January 2023 13:45 , Liam James

French president Emmanuel Macron said Ukraine “needs our support more than ever”, as he hosted Sweden’s prime minister Ulf Kristersson in Paris, with Sweden having taken over the rotating presidency of the European Union.

While France has been less vocal about its military support for Ukraine than the United States and Britain, the country has sent a steady supply of weapons to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February.

French defence minister Sebastien Lecornu travelled to Kyiv last Wednesday to discuss further military support for Ukraine, insisting the French government’s backing is unflagging while efforts are made to reach an eventual negotiated end to Russia‘s invasion.

Earlier in the war Mr Macron sought to revive France’s role as a mediator between the fighting countries, as it had been in negotiations over the Donbas conflict in 2015. He spoke several times on the phone with Vladimir Putin but has not publicly noted any communication with the Russian leader since August.

Macron greets Sweden’s Kristersson at the Elysee Palace this morning (Reuters)
Macron greets Sweden’s Kristersson at the Elysee Palace this morning (Reuters)

Russians demand Putin’s commanders be punished over losses in New Year’s Eve attack

Tuesday 3 January 2023 13:15 , Liam James

Russian nationalists and politicians are calling for the punishment of military commanders in charge of the scores of troops killed in a Ukrainian attack on New Year’s Eve.

The commanders were accused of having ignored clear danger after the Kremlin on Monday took the rare step of admitting to losses in a strike on a makeshift barracks in occupied eastern Ukraine which killed at least 63 soldiers – among the deadliest strikes against Vladimir Putin’s forces in 10 months of war.

Russian military bloggers who closely follow the war said the extent of the destruction at Makiivka in the Donetsk region was a result of storing ammunition in the same building where troops stayed, despite commanders knowing it was within range of Ukrainian rockets.

The anger was also felt by politicians. Sergei Mironov, a legislator and former chair of the Senate, Russia’s upper house, demanded criminal liability for the officials who had “allowed the concentration of military personnel in an unprotected building” and “all the higher authorities who did not provide the proper level of security”.

Russians demand Putin’s commanders be punished over losses in New Year’s Eve attack

Ukraine has shot down 500 Iranian drones since September, says air force

Tuesday 3 January 2023 12:45 , Liam James

Ukraine’s air force claims to have shot down 500 Iranian-made drones used in the Russian offensive since September.

Yuriy Ignat, air force spokesman, said 84 drones were shot down on New Year’s Eve and Day alone, claiming every single drone sent by Russia in this period was knocked out of the sky before meeting its target.

Mr Ignat’s comments follow a warning from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky last night that Russia was preparing to step up its attacks with the Iranian Shahed-136 drones, which authorities think it has been using in heavy strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure in recent months.

Iran denies supplying drones to Russia for the Ukraine invasion, and Russia denies buying them.

A drone ahead of a Russian strike, which local authorities consider to be Iranian-made Shahed-136 (Reuters)
A drone ahead of a Russian strike, which local authorities consider to be Iranian-made Shahed-136 (Reuters)

Makiivka strike site clear-up under way

Tuesday 3 January 2023 12:13 , Liam James

A clean-up job has commenced at the site of a strike which killed at least 63 Russian soldiers on New Year’s Eve.

Members of the Ukrainian State Emergency Services were present as cranes shifted rubble left after missiles hit a temporary barracks set up by the Russians in a vocational college in Makiivka, Donetsk region.

The admission of the troops’ deaths has sparked backlash in Russia, as popular nationalist bloggers and politicians accuse military commanders of negligence.

Workers remove debris from the site (Reuters)
Workers remove debris from the site (Reuters)
Members of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine took part (Reuters)
Members of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine took part (Reuters)
Men watch the clean-up in Makiivka (Reuters)
Men watch the clean-up in Makiivka (Reuters)

Russians hold ceremony for troops killed in Makiivka

Tuesday 3 January 2023 11:31 , Liam James

Residents gathered in Glory Square, Samara after the regional governor said that some of the 63 troops the Kremlin yesterday admitted to losing in a Ukrainian strike were locals of the southwestern Russian city.

Participants lay flowers in Glory Square in Samara the day after the Kremlin announced 63 Russian troops were lost in one attack (Reuters)
Participants lay flowers in Glory Square in Samara the day after the Kremlin announced 63 Russian troops were lost in one attack (Reuters)
Samara’s governor urged relatives concerned by the deaths to contact local recruitment centres (Reuters)
Samara’s governor urged relatives concerned by the deaths to contact local recruitment centres (Reuters)
Honour guards fire a farewell salute during a ceremony in Glory Square in memory of lost Russian troops (Reuters)
Honour guards fire a farewell salute during a ceremony in Glory Square in memory of lost Russian troops (Reuters)

Zelensky says Russia planning intense drone attacks

Tuesday 3 January 2023 10:50 , Liam James

Russia is preparing to step up its campaign of attacks on Ukraine with kamikaze drones, according to Volodymyr Zelensky.

“We have information that Russia is planning a prolonged attack by Shaheds [Iranian-made kamikaze drones],” the Ukrainian president said in his nightly video address yesterday.

He said the goal is to break Ukraine’s resistance by “exhausting our people, [our] air defence, our energy”, more than 10 months after the invasion. Ukraine yesterday said it had shot down dozens of drones sent to attack Kyiv and central regions of Ukraine.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is exploring how to shore up confidence in Moscow’s flawed war effort, which in recent months has been dented by a Ukrainian counteroffensive backed by western-supplied weapons.

That has brought criticism in some Russian circles of the military’s performance.

Two killed in shelling of Kherson, says governor

Tuesday 3 January 2023 10:20 , Liam James

Two people were killed and nine were injured by Russian shelling in Kherson yesterday, according to local officials.

Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said Russia fired 79 missiles, hitting a car market, a utility company, private and apartment buildings.

Yesterday he said shells hit the town of Beryslav on the Dnipro river, some 30 miles east of the regional capital abandoned by Russian forces in November.

He said the shots were presumed to have come from a tank in Kakhovka across the river, where Russian forces remain.

Medics evacuate to Kherson a local resident after he was wounded during a Russian military strike in Berislav yesterday (Reuters)
Medics evacuate to Kherson a local resident after he was wounded during a Russian military strike in Berislav yesterday (Reuters)
A local woman is taken to hospital after being wounded in Berislav (Reuters)
A local woman is taken to hospital after being wounded in Berislav (Reuters)

Ukraine brings first charges against Russians over attacks on civil infrastructure

Tuesday 3 January 2023 09:50 , Liam James

Ukraine has for the first time brought charges against Russian commanders over attacks on civilian infrastructure.

In a statement, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said Colonel-General Serhii Kobylash, commander of long-range aviation for Russian Aerospace Forces, and Admiral Igor Osipov, former commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, would face charges for their roles in devastating Ukraine’s cities.

“Investigators of the Security Service have collected a high-quality evidence base on two representatives of the high command of the Russian Federation, who are responsible for the shelling of civilian objects of Ukraine,” the SBU said.

Gen Kobylash, the statement said, ordered “massive rocket attacks on residential buildings, hospitals and critical infrastructure facilities in various regions of Ukraine”,

Admiral Osipov was said to have ordered “systematic missile strikes from the Black Sea on Ukrainian densely populated areas” between 24 February and 10 August last year.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said within weeks of the Russian invasion that it was investigating potential war crimes by Russian military personnel.

No peace for Russian and Japan due to anti-war stance, says Moscow

Tuesday 3 January 2023 09:20 , Liam James

Japan’s “anti-Russian course” makes peace treaty talks impossible, Russian deputy foreign minister Andrei Rudenko said in comments published by the state Tass news agency on Tuesday.

Russia and Japan have not formally ended World War Two hostilities because of their standoff over islands, seized by the Soviet Union at the end of the war, just off Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.

The islands are known in Russia as the Kurils and in Japan as the Northern Territories.

“It is absolutely obvious that it is impossible to discuss the signing of such a document [a peace treaty] with a state that takes openly unfriendly positions and allows itself direct threats against our country,” Mr Rudenko told Tass in an interview.

“We are not seeing signs of Tokyo moving away from the anti-Russian course and any attempt to rectify the situation.”

Russia withdrew from its talks with Japan in March last year, following Japanese sanctions over Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine. Japan reacted angrily, calling Moscow’s move “unfair” and “completely unacceptable”.

Nato may revise 2% target, says Stoltenberg

Tuesday 3 January 2023 08:50 , Liam James

Nato countries will discuss defence spending in the coming months amid calls to encouarge members to go beyond the 2 per cent target, secretary general Jens Stoltenberg told the German news agency DPA.

“Some allies are strongly in favour of turning the current 2 per cent target into a minimum,” DPA quoted Mr Stoltenberg as saying in an interview published on Tuesday.

Mr Stoltenberg said that he would head the negotiations. “We will meet, we will have ministerial meetings, we will have talks in capitals,” he said.

He did not say which Nato countries were calling for a more ambitious target, according to DPA.

The Nato chief said he aimed to reach an agreement no later than Nato’s next regular summit, which will be in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, on 11-12 July.