Ukraine news – live: Sunak confirms UK will provide tanks as Russia targets Kyiv

Ukraine news – live: Sunak confirms UK will provide tanks as Russia targets Kyiv

Updated: 15 days, 16 hours, 35 minutes, 17 seconds ago

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LIVE – Updated at 11:35

Rishi Sunak has confirmed the UK will provide Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine during a call with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The announcement comes after the US promised 50 Bradley tank-killing armoured vehicles in its biggest military assistance package for Ukraine to date.

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

On Saturday morning Russian missiles targeted the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in an attack aimed at hitting infrastructure facilities.

A Ukrainian regional governor has also warned that a “massive missile attack” could take place today, with reports of Russian Tupolev bombers in the air.

Meanwhile, Mr Zelensky said the battle for the salt-mining town of Soledar in the country’s Donetsk region is still ongoing contrary to Russia’s claims.

On Friday Moscow said it has taken control of the eastern town of Soledar after days of fierce fighting. Russia’s foreign ministry said that the capture would allow Russian units to cut off Ukrainian forces from the nearby and much larger town of Bakhmut.

Key Points

Infrastructure facility hit in Russian missile attack, say Ukrainian officialsZelensky says battle for Soledar still ongoingRussia could launch “massive missile strike” today, says Ukrainian regional governor‘We still hold the town’: Ukraine denies Russian claim on SoledarPutin looking for scapegoats as Russian troops suffer weapons shortageRussia using prison convicts as labour to meet war’s demands – MoD

Sunak confirms UK will send tanks to Ukraine

11:32 , Sam Rkaina

11:32 , Sam Rkaina

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed the UK will provide Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine during a call with President Volodymyr Zelensky, No 10 said.

Four British Army Challenger 2 main battle tanks will reportedly be sent to eastern Europe immediately, with eight more to follow shortly afterwards.

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

There have been concerns within Nato that supplying tanks could be regarded by the Russians as a further escalation of the conflict.

It comes after the US promised 50 Bradley tank-killing armoured vehicles in its biggest military assistance package to date for Ukraine.

Metal detectors donated by the UK to Ukraine are "seriously good’” expert says

11:15 , Daniel Reast

11:15 , Daniel Reast

The latest technology for detecting mines has been donated to Ukraine to assist in countering threats from mines and hidden explosives.

Developed by German company Vallon, the detectors are designed to detect all types of metal while taking care not to disrupt the natural ground.

The post-conflict threat of mines is predicted to remain in Ukraine for years after the war ends, similar to other countries in post-war recovery such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bomb disposal expert Bob Gravett told reporters from Forces News: “Modern-day detectors actually have very smart chips in them, they can tell every type of metal.

“It comes under digital manipulation, and it can tell you exactly what’s there so we can find a lot more things than we ever used to.”

The UK has donated 1,000 Vallon detectors to Ukraine.

Mr Gravett added: “These detectors are seriously, seriously good.

“I think we’ll be using this technology and detectors for a long time to come, and post the war, you’re going to be looking at 25, 30 to 50 years to clear that mess up.”

© Provided by The Independent

A military medic inside a vehicle evacuates a soldier wounded in a battle with the Russian invaders near Kremenna in the Luhansk region, Ukraine (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

© Provided by The Independent

Buildings affected by Russian missile attacks in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv (AP)

10:45 , Daniel Reast

What is the significance of the battle for Soledar?

10:15 , Daniel Reast

10:15 , Daniel Reast

Russian and Ukrainian forces have been engaged in fierce fighting around the salt-mining town of Soledar, eastern Ukraine.

Fighters from the Russian military contractor Wagner Group declared late on Tuesday 10 January, that they had taken the town.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the group and ally of President Putin, said in an audio statement reported by Russian news agencies: “Wagner units took control of the entire territory of Soledar.

“A cauldron has been formed in the centre of the city in which urban fighting is going on.”

However, this has been disputed by Ukrainian military leadership. Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukraine‘s eastern military command, and a Ukrainian officer in the area both told Reuters that Soledar had not been captured.

The officer told reporters: “Last night artillery fire was like from hell, both sides.

“From what I know, our boys have managed to exit some parts in an orderly manner and now (assault) groups are counterattacking, but we still hold the town.”

Soledar provides little material value for Russian forces, however it lies at a strategic point north of Bakhmut, which Russian forces are aiming to surround, looking to cut off Ukrainian supply lines.

Read more:

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

Russian oil being shipped by Chinese supertankers, as Western sanctions restrict market

09:45 , Daniel Reast

09:45 , Daniel Reast

At least four Chinese-owned supertankers are shipping Russian crude oil to China, as Moscow looks to Asia for exports following Western sanctions.

China, the world’s top oil importer, continues to buy Russian oil despite the sanctions regime, with India also trading at a discount.

An executive with a Chinese shipping firm involved in the shipments, told Reuters: “With Urals prices well below the price cap, the business of buying and trading Urals is essentially legitimate.”

The executive also suggested a total of 18 Chinese supertankers and another 16 smaller Aframax-sized vessels could be used for shipping Russian crude oil in 2023, enough to transport 15 million tonnes a year.

As the G7 attempted to restrict Moscow’s energy revenues as a way of funding their war in Ukraine, Russia has diverted its oil trading and exports away from European markets last year, mainly to Asia.

Putin ally suggests war critics should have their property "confiscated”

09:15 , Daniel Reast

09:15 , Daniel Reast

A key ally of President Putin, and parliamentary speaker, has called for Russians who have fled the country, or criticised Russia and its military should have their property confiscated.

Vyachlesav Volodin, speaking in a Telegram post, singled out people who found it “possible to insult Russia, its residents, soldiers and officers, to openly support the villains.”

Mr Volodin said he believed that existing measures to counter criticism were insufficient, and should be treated as extremism.

Referring to “scoundrels,” who were living comfortably thanks to their country, he continued, were receiving rent and royalties at the expense of fellow citizens, while having the ability to “publicly drag Russia through the mud”.

His proposal to confiscate property of critics was backed by a senior Russian senator, Andrei Klishas, who chairs the upper house of parliament’s committee on constitutional legislation.

Russia could launch “massive missile strike” today, says Ukrainian regional governor

09:04 , Daniel Reast

09:04 , Daniel Reast

The governor of the central Cherkasy region has warned Ukrainians that Russia could launch a massive missile strike later today.

Governor Ihor Taburets urged residents to take shelter during any air raid sirens.

Separately, Vitaly Kim, governor of the southern Mykolayiv region, said that 17 Russian Tupolev bombers had taken off from their air bases.

His statement came shortly after missile attacks in Kyiv and Kharkiv hit critical infrastructure on Saturday morning.

More follows.

Infrastructure facility hit in Russian missile attack, say Ukrainian officials

08:39 , Daniel Reast

08:39 , Daniel Reast

This morning’s missile attack hit a critical infrastructure facility in Kyiv, as air raid sirens and explosions rang out in the Dniprovskiy district of the Ukrainian capital.

Officials told residents to take shelter immediately.

“Missile attack on critical infrastructure facilities. Details are being checked,” said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office.

Kyiv’s military administration said did not say which facility had been hit.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on Telegram: “Explosions in Dniprovskiy district. All agencies heading to the site. Stay in your shelters!”

Mr Klitschko wrote in a separate message that debris of a missile came down on a non-residential area in the Holosiivskiy district in the west of Kyiv.

No casualties have been reported so far.

In the outlying Kyiv region, a residential building in the village of Kopyliv was hit, and windows of the houses nearby were blown out, Tymoshenko said.

Earlier on Saturday, two Russian missiles hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, Oleh Syniehubov, governor of the Kharkiv region reported.

Mr Syniehubov said Russian forces fired two S-300 missiles at the industrial district of Kharkiv. The extent of the damage from the strike wasn’t immediately clear, but no casualties have been reported.

Russian Wagner Group involvement in Mali risks destabilising region, making security “more difficult”

08:30 , Daniel Reast

08:30 , Daniel Reast

Fighters from Russian military contractor Wagner Group operating in Mali are destabilising the region, Western officials say.

The mercenary group, who are also operational in Ukraine, are contributing alongside Mali’s armed forces to try to stem a decade-long insurgency by Islamic extremists.

However, the group has faced allegations of indiscriminate violence against civilians, including one incident in March where Mali’s armed forces and foreign contractors killed an estimated 300 men, according to analysis from Human Rights Watch.

A report by the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, which studies extremist violence, said that Wagner Group’s forces are struggling to make significant gains in the region, with jihadi violence increasing.

The report adds that up to 1,000 mercenaries have been deployed and the Wagner Group is being paid nearly $11 million a month to provide security and training.

US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland told AP: “There are broad reports of human rights abuses across the region where they are working,’’

“We worry that these forces are not interested in the safety and security of the people of Mali but, instead, are interested in enriching themselves and strip-mining the country and are making the terrorism situation worse.’’

Read more here:

© Provided by The Independent

The success of the Wagner group says something about Putin’s war

Ukraine capital under missile attack, aimed at infrastructure facilities

08:00 , Daniel Reast

08:00 , Daniel Reast

Ukrainian officials are reporting the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv is currently facing missile attacks on infrastructure facilities.

Deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said on Telegram that a missile attack on critical infrastructure in the capital was underway.Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said that “explosions were heard in Dniprovskyi district, left bank of Kyiv.”It has not been immediately clear whether the explosions heard were caused by the Russian missile strikes or by air defense systems operating in response.

The Ukrainian capital has not been targeted for an attack since the start of January.

More follows.

Russia may need higher taxes to support military spending as oil revenues decline, say economists

08:00 , Daniel Reast

08:00 , Daniel Reast

Russian dependence on crude oil revenues may prompt a hike in taxes to support military spending, say economists.

Oil is Russia’s largest export, with its value decreasing by 20 per cent after Western sanctions restricting Russia’s ability to finance its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian private bank, Alfa Bank said in a note to Reuters: “The growing dependence of the budget on oil raises concerns,” warning that a decline in revenue from gas and oil product exports “looms on the horizon.”

Alfa Bank’s chief economist, Natalia Orlova, told reporters: “When there is a big gap between the actual price (of oil) and the balancing price, it cannot be sustainably covered by borrowing.

“Some measures are needed to adjust fiscal policy, either by cutting spending or looking for additional revenues.”

Renaissance Capital economists also added that last year’s budget, which increased defence spending, has raised suggestions of higher taxes in the medium term.

A budget analysis has shown Moscow is predicted to spend a combined 9.4 trillion roubles (£109.3 billion) on defence and security this year alone - nearly a third of overall spending, suggesting less money allocated for health, education and research.

Read more here:

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‘This is what madness looks like’: Inside Putin’s endgame for Ukraine

Zelensky wants to visit UN on invasion anniversary

07:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

07:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky wants to visit the UN to address a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the eve of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion if the security situation permits.

First deputy foreign minister Emine Dzhaparova told the Associated Press that many factors need to be in place for him to come, citing first and foremost the military situation on the ground and a warning from Ukraine's intelligence service that Russia is planning "a very serious offensive in February".

"Our president would want to come, he has a will or intention to come," she said, "but it's still a question if there will be a security situation that will allow him to come."

Russia claims victory in Soledar

07:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

07:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Russia has claimed its forces have taken control of Soledar in eastern Ukraine, in what would be a rare battlefied success for Moscow after months of setbacks.

Ukraine denied the claims and said its troops were still fighting in the Donetsk salt-mining town, which has been the focus of a relentless Russian assault.

Moscow has painted the battles for Soledar and the nearby city of Bakhmut as key to capturing the entire Donbas, encompassing the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk – a priority of Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Kyiv has instead sought to play up how many Russian troops have had to be sacrified in the effort. Western officials say victory for Moscow in the two towns would be more symbolic than strategic.

Liam James has more.

© Provided by The Independent

Russia claims victory in Soledar but Ukraine says its troops are holding on

Boris Johnson plans to visit Zelensky in Kyiv

06:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

06:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Former British prime minister Boris Johnson is reportedly planning a trip to Ukraine to visit president Volodymyr Zelensky despite concerns about him undermining Rishi Sunak's authority.

Mr Johnson has told friends he intends to travel to the capital Kyiv in the coming months to show his public support for the country against its Russian aggressors, The Guardian reported.

Ukrainian sources said that the former PM “had an intention” to travel to Kyiv but they had “no concrete information” yet on dates. Mr Zelensky and MR Johnson regarded each other as “friends”.

Scholz says Germany will weigh each step carefully on Ukraine arms

06:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

06:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Germany will continue to “weigh every step carefully” and consult with its allies on further weapons deliveries to Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said yesterday as he faces mounting pressure to approve German-made battle tanks for Kyiv.

Germany has given Ukraine substantial military aid since Russia invaded, including howitzers, Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns and the first of four IRIS-T surface-to-air missile systems. Last week, it announced that it would send 40 Marder armored personnel carriers — a step that came alongside similar moves by the US and France — and as well as a Patriot air defense missile battery.

But critics, some inside Germany's governing coalition, have long complained of Scholz's perceived hesitancy to take the next step when it comes to weapons deliveries.

© Provided by The Independent

Scholz: will weigh each step carefully on Ukraine arms

Zelensky says battle for Soledar still ongoing

05:46 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

05:46 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said that the battle for the eastern towns of Bakhmut and Soledar in the country’s Donetsk region is still ongoing contrary to Russia’s claims.

Mr Zelensky, in his nighttime address, said: “The tough battle for Donetsk region continues, the battle for Bakhmut and Soledar, for Kreminna, for other towns and villages in the east of our country continues.

“Although the enemy has concentrated its greatest forces in this direction, our troops – the Armed Forces of Ukraine, all defense and security forces – are defending the state.”

Rishi Sunak ‘pledges to deliver tank squadron to Ukraine’

05:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

05:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

British prime minister Rishi Sunak has reportedly agreed to deliver a squadron of tanks to Ukraine to aid the country’s efforts in re-taking territory lost to Russian forces.

Four British Army Challenger 2 main battle tanks will reportedly be sent to eastern Europe immediately, with eight more to follow shortly afterward.

According to The Sun, a Downing St source said Mr Sunak will inform Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky about the plan on Saturday.

© Provided by The Independent

Rishi Sunak ‘pledges to deliver tank squadron to Ukraine’

Lukashenko may enter conflict if Kyiv ‘invades’ Belarus, Russia claims

05:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

05:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko may enter the conflict in Ukraine if Kyiv decides to “invade” either country, a Russian foreign ministry official has said.

Ukrainian troops are taking part in drills near the Belarusian border, preparing for what Kyiv fears will be a new Russian offensive launched from Moscow’s closest ally.

Russia used Belarus as a springboard to invade Ukraine last February and since October has deployed troops in Belarus for joint military drills.

Russia claims victory in Soledar – but Ukraine says its troops are holding on

04:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

04:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

My colleague Liam James has this report on the situation in Soledar – where Russia has claimed victory and Ukraine says fighting is still ongoing.

© Provided by The Independent

Russia claims victory in Soledar but Ukraine says its troops are holding on

Poland and Lithuania want lower Russian oil cap and nuclear curbs in new EU sanctions

04:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

04:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Poland and Lithuania want to lower the price cap on Russian oil, and target Russia’s nuclear sector under new European Union sanctions against Moscow and Minsk for the war in Ukraine, senior diplomats from the two EU countries have said.

As the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion nears, Europe is also starting to roll out €18bn of support for Kyiv and considering giving it German Leopard 2 tanks.

The EU’s leading Russia hawks will propose that the bloc bans more “Russian propaganda” media outlets and cuts more Russian banks from the SWIFT global messaging system, the diplomats said, asking not to be identified.

“It is more and more difficult to get the necessary unanimity in the EU for more sanctions. Nonetheless, we will propose an ambitious new package,” one of the diplomats added.

They said the 10th EU package of sanctions since Russia attacked Ukraine should be ready in time for the first anniversary of the invasion on 24 February.

My 10-year-old son already has grey hair, says Ukrainian veteran

03:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

03:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

While visiting his newly liberated hometown of Oleksandrivka for the first time since Russia’s invasion, a Ukrainian veteran told The Independent’s Bel Trew that his son “is 10 years old, and he already has grey hair”.

Dima (not his real name), 43, was already deployed to the front when the war broke out and was powerless to do anything when the Russians swept through his neighbourhood on 14 March.

“My family barely got out. People were shot. Many people died both military and civilians,” he adds with despair,” he told our correspondent at a roadside near Kherson. “The Russians were so fast, we couldn’t do anything.”

Recalling that his house was one of the first to be destroyed, he said: “I don’t feel anything. I am numb. Everything is gone. The only thing I have left is my car.”

Tripwires and scorched wreckage on the war’s southern front

02:51 , Andy Gregory

02:51 , Andy Gregory

In her latest dispatch, our correspondent Bel Trew reports:

What was once the only evacuation route out of the region of Kherson is full of the scorched wreckage of cars. This is Oleksandrivka, west of Kherson city. Tripwires frill the single-lane road that runs along a short landbridge rising like a spine out of the heavily mined marshlands around the seaside town.

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Ukrainian investigators begin gathering evidence of war crimes along the “highway of death” an evacuation point outside of Kherson (Bel Trew)

Every metre or so, a destroyed car marks the failed attempt of a civilian trying to escape the eight-month Russian occupation. Kherson region – with its main eponymous city of 280,000 people – was one of the most significant and fastest victories Russian forces enjoyed. Up until November, it was also the last regional capital that Moscow had captured and still held.

But with supply lines cut off and Ukrainians pressing an advance in November, Putin’s generals ordered a withdrawal to the east bank of the River Dnipro that cuts the region in half. This was to protect the land corridor to the nearby Crimean peninsula that Russia had successfully formed from towns like Melitopol. Crimea is home to Putin’s Black Sea fleet and a hallowed prize for the Kremlin since it was annexed in 2014.

Oleksandrivka town had only been liberated two days before The Independent got there, after an eight-month occupation, but the soldiers had been quick to shift the bodies that we watched being transported to nearby Mykolaiv in large refrigerated trucks.

In the disarming quiet, de-miners get to work, marking each half-metre of movement forward with red spray paint.

“All these vehicles are signals of potential war crimes,” says Dmytro Sheshenko, the chief prosecutor of the district whose teams are preparing to investigate. Behind him de-miners shout at us to be careful as we fail to spot a tripwire that, gossamer-like, swings gently in the breeze.

‘This is what madness looks like’: Inside Putin’s endgame for Ukraine

01:44 , Andy Gregory

01:44 , Andy Gregory

Our international correspondent Bel Trew reports:

Bakhmut and the area that surrounds it, including the neighbouring salt-mining town of Soledar, has become the epicentre of some of the more ferocious and bloodiest fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

This is because the area is a gateway for Moscow’s troops to push further into Ukraine – with president Vladimir Putin having set his heart on taking the whole of what is known as the Donbas, encompassing the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

If Moscow takes both Bakmut and Soledar, they will control key supply lines and have a platform to advance on two bigger cities – Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

That, in turn, could lead to other towns and cities across the Donbas to fall like dominos – and give Russia control of Ukraine’s industrial heartland, something Moscow has coveted since 2014, when it illegally annexed Crimea.

Taking this territory, along with securing the land corridor to Crimea through the southern region of Kherson, would also give Putin the one thing he has been looking for: a battlefield victory potentially big enough to extricate his embattled forces from this bloody war.

Read the full report here:

© Provided by The Independent

‘This is what madness looks like’: Inside Putin’s endgame for Ukraine

Germany’s defence minister to resign, reports suggest

00:39 , Andy Gregory

00:39 , Andy Gregory

Germany’s defence minister plans to resign, a government source has said, confirming reporting by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and potentially adding to chancellor Olaf Scholz’s problems as he seeks to step up military aid to Ukraine.

Christine Lambrecht aims to resign next week and had already informed Scholz about her decision, a government source told Reuters, as news outlets started listing potential successors.

Bild cited people familiar with the matter as saying Ms Lambrecht was resigning to allow someone else to make a fresh start at the ministry – as Mr Scholz faces pressure to approve an increase in support for Kyiv.

Ms Lambrecht has been blamed for failing to get Germany’s armed forces back in shape quickly despite a €100bn fund being agreed for that purpose after Russia invaded Ukraine – a debate which intensified last month when several Puma infantry tanks were put out of service during a military drill.

She also faced criticism for posting a video on social media on New Year’s Day in which she thanked servicemen and women, but struggled to be heard against background noise from firecrackers and seemingly mixed up the war in Ukraine with pleasant personal encounters.

“What kind of a year was 2022? It faced us with many incredible challenges. There is a war raging in the middle of Europe. Associated with this were for me many special impressions, many encounters with interesting, great people,” Ms Lambrecht said in the video.

Russian infighting ‘a clear signal of failure’, says Zelensky

Friday 13 January 2023 23:33 , Andy Gregory

Friday 13 January 2023 23:33 , Andy Gregory

Infighting between those in charge of Russian troops is “a clear signal of failure”, president Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

In his nightly video address, the president welcomed the vicious public spat between Wagner Group co-founder Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Russian ministry of defence sparked by claims over which troops the latter claimed had captured Soledar.

“Three hundred twenty-four days of the full-scale war, and how things have changed for Russia,” said Ukraine’s president.

“They are already gnawing among themselves over who should be credited with some tactical advance. It’s a clear signal of failure for the enemy. And it’s another incentive for all of us to put more pressure on the occupier and to inflict heavier losses on the enemy.”

In an apparent jibe at the Russian ministry’s failure to credit the mercenary group, Mr Zelensky said: “I thank every soldier, sergeant, officer of brigades and other army units who are bravely and staunchly performing their tasks.

“I thank the fighters of the Kraken unit for their decisive actions to destroy the enemy near Soledar. Thanks to the soldiers of the International Legion of the Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense and the Shaman unit, who are bravely defending Bakhmut.”

Fight for Soledar not over, says Zelensky

Friday 13 January 2023 22:44 , Andy Gregory

Friday 13 January 2023 22:44 , Andy Gregory

The battle for Soledar is not over, president Volodymr Zelensky has said in his nightly address – contesting Moscow’s claims of victory in the mining town.

He said: “The tough battle for Donetsk region continues, the battle for Bakhmut and Soledar, for Kreminna, for other towns and villages in the east of our country continues.

“Although the enemy has concentrated its greatest forces in this direction, our troops – the Armed Forces of Ukraine, all defense and security forces – are defending the state.”

Zelensky aide jibes at Russia over Wagner spat

Friday 13 January 2023 22:01 , Andy Gregory

Friday 13 January 2023 22:01 , Andy Gregory

A presidential adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky has suggested that infighting between the Wagner Group and Russian defence ministry over claims about the capture of Soledar is “a good sign of the beginning of the stunning end”.

“A public rumble started between fake news agency (MoD) & military-criminal ultras (Prigozhin/Zolotov/Surovikin) about who is fighting better on the 11th month of the 3-day war & who will sow Soledar with their corpses the most,” tweeted Mykhailo Podolyak.

“A good sign of the beginning of the stunning end.”

Russian defence ministry ‘clarifies’ Soledar claims after Prigozhin criticism

Friday 13 January 2023 21:12 , Andy Gregory

Friday 13 January 2023 21:12 , Andy Gregory

Russia’s defence ministry has sought “to clarify” which fighters it claims have captured Soledar, after heavy criticism from the founder of the Wagner Group of mercenaries, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The ministry earlier attributed its claimed victory in Soledar to its airborne units, missile forces and “artillery of a grouping of Russian forces”.

But in a new statement it acknowledged that Wagner fighters, whose actions it hailed as “courageous and selfless,” had been the ones to storm the town.

Wagner founder says Russian ‘corruption’ more dangerous than US, in row over Soledar

Friday 13 January 2023 20:38 , Andy Gregory

Friday 13 January 2023 20:38 , Andy Gregory

Founder of the mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has hit out “corruption and bureacracy” in Moscow, after Russia’s defence ministry attributed its claimed victory in Soledar to its airborne units, missile forces and “artillery of a grouping of Russian forces”.

Prigozhin complained that the ministry was not giving his forces due credit, saying: “They constantly try to steal victory from the Wagner PMC [private military company] and talk about the presence of other unknown people just to belittle Wagner’s merits”.

He added: “I’m not really worried about the actions of the United States, because, of course, this is a serious adversary, but at the moment, not a key one. Significant damage to PMC “Wagner” can be caused by our intraspecific struggle, corruption, bureaucracy and officials who want to stay in their places. This is a more serious threat to the existence of Wagner PMC.”

US and Japan warn Russia against using nuclear weapon in Ukraine

Friday 13 January 2023 19:54 , Andy Gregory

Friday 13 January 2023 19:54 , Andy Gregory

The United States and Japan have said they both “strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion, anywhere in the world”, in a joint statement condemning Russia’s “unjust and brutal war”.

During a meeting with prime minister Kishida Fumio, president Joe Biden reiterated Washington’s “unwavering” commitment to the defence of Japan, “using its full range of capabilities, including nuclear”, according to the statement released by the White House.

Stressing “the importance of peace and stability in Taiwan Strait”, the two leaders also reaffirmed their “commitment to the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”, and warned against any use of a nuclear weapon by Russia in Ukraine.

“United across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, we have stood together in firm opposition to Russia’s unjust and brutal war of aggression against Ukraine, and we will continue to impose sanctions on Russia, and provide unwavering support for Ukraine,” they said.

“We state unequivocally that any use of a nuclear weapon by Russia in Ukraine would be an act of hostility against humanity and unjustifiable in any way. And we will continue to support Ukraine in the face of Russia’s abhorrent attacks on critical infrastructure.”

Germany to send withdrawn Pumas on Nato mission

Friday 13 January 2023 19:15 , Liam James

Friday 13 January 2023 19:15 , Liam James

Germany expects to field Puma infantry fighting vehicles for a key Nato mission in the first half of 2023, its chief of defence said on Friday, after Berlin had to withdraw the Puma from the alliance’s quick reaction force due to problems in a drill.

“As soon as we have sufficient vehicles repaired and operational for one company, we will use it for the VJTF,” Eberhard Zorn said, referring to Nato’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF).

Germany this year leads the alliance’s quick reaction unit that constitutes Nato’s first line of response and reinforcement in case of a conflict or heightened tensions with Russia.

“I very strongly expect this [to see the Puma ready for the VJTF] in the first half of the year,” Mr Zorn added.

© Provided by The Independent

Soldiers conduct an exercise with Pumas in Germany (file photo) (Reuters)