Ukraine latest: Russia-Belarus begin joint military exercises

The Russian invasion of Ukraine that began in February 2022 continues, with casualties rising on both sides.

Ukrainian forces are mounting a strong counteroffensive against Russian troops, reclaiming territory lost when Moscow launched its invasion.

Ukraine has managed to withstand the Russian onslaught with the help of Western military aid, but President Volodymyr Zelenskyy regularly calls on the world to do more. For all our coverage, visit our Ukraine war page.

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Note: Nikkei Asia decided in March 2022 to suspend its reporting from Russia until further information becomes available regarding the scope of the revised criminal code. Entries include material from wire services and other sources.

Here are the latest developments:

Monday, Jan. 16 (Tokyo time)

3:00 p.m. Russia and Belarus begin joint military drills, stirring fears in Kyiv and the West that Moscow could use its ally to launch a new ground offensive in Ukraine. The Russian and Belarusian armies and air forces are involved in the drills, and the Belarusian defense ministry says an army “mechanized brigade subdivision” is taking part. In addition, all of Belarus’s military airfields are being used in the exercises, the defense ministry says. Minsk says the air drills are defensive and it will not enter the war.

Emergency workers clear the rubble after a Russian rocket hit a multistory building and buried many people under debris in the southeastern city of Dnipro, Ukraine, on Jan. 14.   © AP

4:50 a.m. The death toll from a Russian missile strike on an apartment building in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro rose to 30 on Sunday, the national emergencies service reported as rescue workers scrambled to reach survivors in the rubble. Emergency crews worked through the frigid night and all day at the multi-story residential building, where officials said about 1,700 people lived before Saturday’s strike. The reported death toll made it the deadliest attack in one place since a Sept. 30 strike in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, according to The Associated Press-Frontline War Crimes Watch project.

Sunday, Jan. 15

11:34 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that a child is among 25 people confirmed dead so far in a missile-hit apartment building in Dnipro and that 73 people have been wounded, including 13 children. Thirty-nine people have been rescued, but 43 are missing, he says in a message on Telegram, posting photos of the wreckage and first responders.

10:20 p.m. The chances are “minimal” of pulling more survivors from the wreckage of an apartment building in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro that was hit by a Russian missile strike on Saturday, the city’s mayor says.

“I think the chances of saving people now are minimal,” Borys Filatov tells Reuters in an interview. “As of 11:00, 21 people are dead, but 40 are missing.”

“May God help us find several of them,” he says. “I think the number of dead will be in the dozens.”

The Dnipro City Council reports after Filatov made his comments that the death toll has risen to 23, while 43 people have been reported missing.

Emergency personnel work at the site of a missile-hit apartment building in Dnipro, Ukraine, on Jan. 15.   © Reuters

8:07 p.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin says that the special military operation — Moscow’s official euphemism for the war — is showing a positive trend and that he hopes Russian soldiers will deliver further gains after Soledar.

“The dynamic is positive,” Putin tells Rossiya 1 state television.

8:57 a.m. The U.K. will send 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine “in the coming weeks,” with 30 or so AS90 self-propelled artillery guns expected to follow, and start training Ukrainian forces in the tanks and guns “in the coming days,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office says.

The prime minister “is clear that a long and static war only serves Russia’s ends,” a government spokesperson said in a statement published on its website. “That’s why he and his ministers will be speaking to our allies across the world in the days and weeks ahead to ramp up pressure on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and secure a better future for Ukraine.”

3:00 a.m. Major missile attacks by Russia have smashed a nine-story apartment block in the city of Dnipro, killing at least five people, and struck vital energy facilities, Ukrainian officials say.

In the east-central city of Dnipro, 20 people were rescued from an apartment block where an entire section of the building had been reduced to rubble, sending smoke billowing into the sky, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office says.

“Tragedy. I’ve gone to the site. … We will be going through the rubble all night,” said Borys Filatov, mayor of the rocket-making city on the Dnipro River.

Five people were killed and at least 60 people, including 12 children, were also wounded in the attack, with more people were still trapped under the rubble, the regional governor said.

A Challenger 2 tank from the British 7th Armoured Brigade moves through the southern Iraqi city of Basra Mar. 31, 2003.   © Reuters

1:00 a.m. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says the U.K. will provide tanks and artillery systems to Ukraine as Russia steps up a bombardment of missile attacks targeting multiple Ukrainian cities for the first time in nearly two weeks.

In a statement issued after Sunak and Ukrainian President spoke by phone, Sunak’s office says, “The prime minister outlined the U.K.’s ambition to intensify our support to Ukraine, including through the provision of Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems.”

Sunak’s office said earlier this week that the U.K. would coordinate its support with allies after Germany, France and the United States all indicated last week they would provide armored vehicles to Ukraine.

Saturday, Jan. 14

4:45 a.m. Calling out Russia for its “unjust and brutal war of aggression against Ukraine,” the leaders of the U.S. and Japan voice opposition to land grabs wherever they may occur.

“We strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion, anywhere in the world,” U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida say in a joint statement on the occasion of their summit in Washington.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken affirmed American support for Ukraine in a phone call with his counterpart in Kyiv, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Blinken “emphasized the United States’ enduring and unflinching support for Ukraine, as underscored by recent provisions of advanced air defense equipment and armored vehicles from U.S. stocks,” according to the U.S. State Department.

Kuleba says in a Twitter post that he stressed to Blinken the need for Ukraine to receive Western-type tanks.

Friday, Jan. 13

10:30 p.m. Russia’s Ministry of Defense says Russian forces have taken control of the eastern town of Soledar, but Ukraine is disputing the claim.

Capturing the mining town of Soledar and the nearby city of Bakhmut, a hotly contested battleground, would be a symbolic win for Russia after months of setbacks.

Russia’s Defense Ministry says taking Soledar allows it to encircle Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut. The Ukrainian side says fighting continues.

Both the ministry and the Wagner group, a Russian private military contractor that has sent mercenaries into the conflict, have put forward their own statements on the Soledar offensive, each claiming success.

Wagner, controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, says its forces were instrumental in taking the town famed for its cavernous salt mines. The Ukrainian side also disputes Wagner’s statement. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak takes a jab at their rival claims.

4:50 p.m. A Russian foreign ministry official says Belarus may enter the conflict in Ukraine if Kyiv decides to “invade” either country. Russia last February used Belarus as a springboard to invade Ukraine and since October has deployed troops in Belarus for joint military drills. Both countries have since agreed to intensify their military cooperation, raising fears Moscow could use its close ally to launch a new offensive on Ukraine from the north.

Fears are rising that Moscow could use close ally Belarus to launch a new offensive on Ukraine from the north.   © Reuters

3:00 p.m. China’s trade with Russia hit a record 1.28 trillion yuan ($190 billion) last year, the government says, even as Russia’s imports from the European Union fell on sanctions related to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. China’s 2022 trade with Russia accounted for 3% of its total trade, Lyu Daliang, spokesperson of the General Administration of Customs, told a news briefing. Shipments of Chinese goods to Russia have grown for six months in a row. Russia more than doubled its rail exports of liquefied petroleum gas to China in 2022, a Reuters analysis based on data from industry sources showed on Thursday. China’s imports of Russian natural gas through the Power of Siberia pipeline are set to have risen by at least 50% in 2022, according to Russia’s top producer, Gazprom. China’s Russian crude oil imports expanded 10% year-on-year in the first 11 months at nearly 80 million tonnes.

The U.K’s defunct visa program for high net worth people was used by some Russian oligarchs now subjected to British sanctions.   © Reuters

4:00 a.m. Ten oligarchs hit with sanctions for their links to Russia’s war in Ukraine had taken advantage of the U.K.’s former visa program for people with high net worth, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has revealed.

The Tier 1 investor route was closed last year, partly in response to concerns that Russians were abusing these so-called golden visas.

A “small minority” of 6,312 people who had used the visa route between 2008 and 2015 “were potentially at high risk of having obtained wealth through corruption or other illicit financial activity, and/or being engaged in serious and organized crime,” Braverman told Parliament in a written statement.

She reported that the visa scheme had drawn a disproportionate number of applicants from countries identified “as particularly relevant to the cross-border money laundering risks faced and posed by the U.K.”

Thursday, Jan. 12

9:30 a.m. Russian oil revenues are falling due to the price cap that Western countries imposed on its crude oil shipments, a U.S. Treasury official says. “For every dollar Russia is not getting in revenue, that’s one less dollar they can use propping up their economy or investing into weapons they need to fight this illegitimate war in Ukraine,” the official told reporters in a teleconference. The official did not estimate Russia’s revenue losses from crude oil shipments. But the cap has increased shipping costs on some Russian oil cargoes because it forces countries that want Russian oil above the cap to use a shadow fleet of non-Western ships and risk using “less trustworthy” insurance, the official said.

2:00 a.m. Poland will supply German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine, Reuters quotes Polish President Andrzej Duda as saying.

Duda says Poland wants to be part of an “international coalition” of countries providing tanks to Ukraine. The U.K. is planning to send Challenger 2 tanks to the war-torn country, the Financial Times reports.

Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of Russia’s armed forces, seated here with President Vladimir Putin in December, has been named commander of the war on Ukraine. (Sputnik/Kremlin pool photo via Reuters)

1:00 a.m. Russia changes the leader of its war effort yet again, replacing a general who was appointed as recently as October to turn the situation around.

The new commander is Russia’s top military officer. The chief of the general staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, has been named commander of the “special military operation,” the Defense Ministry says, using the Moscow’s name for its war on Ukraine.

Gerasimov replaces Sergei Surovikin, who becomes one of his deputies in charge of what Moscow calls an integrated group of forces.

The leadership change by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is related to the broader scope of tasks and the need for closer coordination between all military branches and services, Tass quotes the ministry as saying. The move comes amid an offensive on the mining town of Soledar by mercenaries under Russia’s Wagner group.

Ukrainian servicemen fire a field gun as Russia’s attack on Soledar continues.   © Reuters

Wednesday, Jan. 11

11:50 p.m. Russian and Ukrainian forces engage in intense fighting over the town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine, a steppingstone in Moscow’s push to capture the entire Donbas region.

The mercenary group Wagner is spearheading the attack and claims to have taken control of the small salt-mining town, but Ukraine denies that Soledar has fallen.

The Kremlin also stopped short of claiming victory and acknowledged heavy casualties.

“Let’s not rush, let’s wait for official statements. There is a positive dynamic in progress,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

10:30 a.m. Russia and China are ready to resume mutual travel as soon as possible and deepen their strategic cooperation, China’s ambassador to Russia, Zhang Hanhui, told the Russian state news agency Tass.

“In the new historical conditions, we are ready, together with our Russian friends, to continuously deepen comprehensive strategic cooperation, restore mutual travel of citizens as soon as possible,” the agency cited him as saying.

China has ditched mandatory quarantines for arrivals and allowed travel to resume across its border with Hong Kong since Sunday, removing the last major restrictions under a zero-COVID regime. Since sending troops into Ukraine in February, Russia has turned its back on Western powers, courting the rising global power of longtime rival China instead.

The departure hall at Beijing Capital International Airport after China lifted the COVID-19 quarantine requirement for inbound travelers.   © Reuters

6:30 a.m. Now is the time for the world to provide Ukraine with “new powerful solutions” and “new powerful support” as Russia gathers its forces for another escalation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says.

“The free world has everything it needs to stop Russian aggression and bring the terrorist state to a historic defeat,” Zelenskyy says in his nightly address to the nation. “And it is important not only for us. This is important for global democracy, for all those who value freedom.”

6:00 a.m. Canada will buy a National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) and missiles from the U.S. to donate to Ukraine, in Canada’s first donation of an air defense system to the nation, Defense Minister Anita Anand says.

NASAMS, which has a shorter range than the Patriot missile system, can be used against drones, missiles and aircraft.

Ukrainian President President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanks Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the contribution.

5:00 a.m. Western nations’ price cap on Russian crude oil is showing initial signs of hurting Moscow’s ability to pay for its war on Ukraine, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says.

“Our goal has been to disrupt military supply chains and deny Russia the weapons they need to wage their illegal war, and to limit the revenue they’re using to pay for it,” Yellen says in prepared remarks at a meeting with Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. “We’ve seen significant progress on both fronts with Russia’s fiscal outlook becoming increasingly grim, and with Russian soldiers being forced to rely on outdated technology and suppliers of last resort like North Korea and Iran.”

“While the crude oil price cap has only been in effect for around a month, we have already seen early progress towards both of those goals — with senior Russian officials having admitted that the price cap is cutting into Russia’s energy revenue,” Yellen says.

U.S. Patriot surface-to-air missile launchers at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport in Poland.   © Reuters

1:18 a.m. Ukrainian troops are reportedly poised to receive several months of training on the Patriot missile defense system in the American state of Oklahoma.

The training is set to begin as soon as next week, CNN quotes two U.S. officials familiar with the matter as saying. The Washington Post says it could start as soon as this month, citing a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the development.

Ukrainian troops have previously received some training in the U.S., including on Switchblade drones, Reuters reports.

Tuesday, Jan. 10

10:50 a.m. Officials at a vocational school in an eastern Ukraine city dismissed claims by Russia that hundreds of Ukrainian troops were killed in a missile strike there, telling AP on Monday that a rocket merely blew out windows and damaged classrooms. Russia named the vocational school in Kramatorsk as the target of an attack in the almost 11-month war. The Russian Defense Ministry said its missiles hit two temporary bases housing 1,300 Ukrainian troops in the city, killing 600 of them, late Saturday.

Municipal workers clear rubble from the roof of College No. 47 which was damaged by a Russian rocket attack in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, on Jan. 9.   © AP

Yana Pristupa, the school’s deputy director, scoffed at Moscow’s claims, saying, “Nobody saw a single spot of blood anywhere. Everyone saw yesterday that no one carried out any bodies. It’s just people cleaning up.”

4:29 a.m. Russia’s Lukoil has agreed to sell its Italian refinery to a private equity fund backed by commodities trader Trafigura, the companies say.

The plant in Sicily, which will be sold to GOI Energy, has been in limbo since European Union sanctions banned the import of seaborne Russian oil.

Lukoil, Russia’s largest private-sector oil company, is to be paid about 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion) for the refinery, which can process roughly 355,000 barrels of oil a day, the Financial Times reports, citing two people close to the transaction. The deal is subject to regulatory review.

2:00 a.m. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has held his first telephone call with his new Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang.

Lavrov and Qin agreed that the U.S. policy of “sparking a confrontation between Russia and China” is “unacceptable,” the Russian side says.

The Chinese readout makes no mention of this but says Beijing is willing to work with Russia to implement the consensus reached by China’s President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin and continue to advance bilateral relations.

On Ukraine, Qin tells Lavrov that China will maintain Xi’s stance, which Beijing calls the “four shoulds” and the “four commons,” according to the Chinese side. This stance avoids condemning the Russian invasion but says the territorial integrity and security concerns of all nations should be respected. It also calls on the international community to support a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis.

1:45 a.m. The Financial Times also reports that the U.K. government is considering supplying its main battle tank to Ukraine.

No final decision has been made on whether to proceed with the arms deal, the FT quotes one defense source as saying.

12:30 a.m. Russia has presented Ukraine with what a top official in Kyiv calls a “Korean proposal” for a cease fire, local broadcaster UNIAN TV reports.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, says the proposal came from Vladimir Putin’s ally Dmitry Kozak. The proposal would fix the current status quo of occupied territories in exchange for a cessation of hostilities, Danilov says.

Ukrainian officials have said that any agreement on ending the conflict must involve Russian forces withdrawing from Ukraine.

Monday, Jan. 9

Smoke rises from the Ukranian city of Bakhmut on Jan. 7 during a ceasefire declared by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine’s defense ministry says it its repelling Russian-hired mercenaries in the area.   © Reuters

11:45 p.m. Towns around Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region reportedly see heavy fighting between Ukrainian forces and mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group, which is said to be intent on capturing the mining hub.

Ukraine’s military has sent reinforcements to Soledar, near Bakhmut, as the Russian side tried to storm the town from several directions, Reuters quotes the Defense Ministry as saying.

Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin reportedly eyes the area’s network of salt and gypsum mines, which can hold troops as well as tanks and other vehicles.

11:30 p.m. The U.K. is considering supplying Ukraine with Britain’s Challenger 2 battle tank, becoming the first Western nation to provide such heavy armor to the war-torn country, Sky News reports, citing a Western source.

Such a move “would encourage others to give tanks,” a Ukrainian source is quoted as saying.

5:00 p.m. The eurozone economy “is on a knife’s edge,” former U.K. chancellor Philip Hammond tells Nikkei, adding: “Whether negative growth can be avoided depends on how severe the winter is.” Read more.

2:00 p.m. India buying oil from Russia “is simply a case of going for the best option in the market to serve the needs of the Indian consumer,” Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar tells Nikkei.

“And it is a response in a situation where everybody else is pursuing their political and energy interests without inhibition,” he adds in an interview in which he describes New Delhi’s “open-minded” approach to foreign policy. Read more.

U.S. military aid has been a lifeline for war-torn Ukraine under President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service via Reuters)

Sunday, Jan. 8

5:30 a.m. Ukraine has announced sanctions on 119 mostly Russian cultural figures for reasons that presidential chief-of-staff Andriy Yermak says include visiting Russian-occupied territories and participating in concerts that advance Moscow’s propaganda.

The list includes singer Irina Allegrova and Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russian state-controlled media group RT.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak calls the sanctioned figures “propagandists of death.”

5:00 a.m. With new Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he hopes for continued engagement with Washington, his country’s most important source of military aid.

In congratulating Kevin McCarthy on becoming House speaker on Twitter, Zelenskyy says Ukraine is “counting on your continued support and further U.S. assistance to bring our common victory closer.”

It took 15 rounds of voting to elect McCarthy as speaker, a politically grueling fight that observers say may bode ill for his leadership.

Some House Republicans have sought a more vigorous congressional debate on the growing flows of U.S. military aid to Ukraine, now at nearly $25 billion since the start of President Joe Biden’s administration.

Zelenskyy enjoyed a cordial relationship with the previous House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, who led a delegation on a visit to Kyiv last May and welcomed him to Congress in December.

Saturday, Jan. 7

7:41 a.m. The U.S. has announced $3.75 billion in military assistance for Ukraine and other affected countries, mostly from a drawdown from Department of Defense stocks. The $2.85 billion drawdown will immediately supply Ukraine with Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, artillery systems, armored personnel carriers, surface-to-air missiles, ammunition and more, the State Department says.

This brings total American military assistance for Ukraine to about $24.9 billion since the start of the Biden administration, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says in the news release.

Ukrainian servicemen remain on the front line on Jan. 6 during an Orthodox Christmas cease-fire announced by Russia.   © Reuters

4:30 a.m. Fighting continues in Ukraine despite Russia’s unilateral declaration of a 36-hour cease-fire for the Orthodox Christmas holiday, according to reports from both sides.

Ukrainian media report 14 shelling attacks in the eastern region of Luhansk in the three hours following the start of the cease-fire.

The Russian side says it came under fire from Ukrainian forces after the start of the cease-fire, Tass reports, citing a Defense Ministry spokesperson.

Ukraine has rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s temporary truce. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tells visiting U.S. senators that the cease-fire was a ploy meant to disguise the Russian military’s true intentions.

Separately, Zelenskyy thanks U.S. President Joe Biden for a new military aid package that includes Bradley Fighting Vehicles, calling it an “[a]wesome Christmas present” for Ukraine.

1:15 a.m. The U.S. imposes sanctions on seven top officials at Iranian drone maker Qods Aviation Industries as well as the Aerospace Industries Organization, which oversees Iran’s ballistic missile program, accusing them of supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The sanctions are the Biden administration’s latest action targeting Iran’s ability to produce Shahed- and Mohajer-series unmanned aerial vehicles, “which Moscow continues to use in its brutal attacks against Ukraine, including its critical infrastructure,” the State Department says in a news release.

Friday, Jan. 6

6:20 p.m. A unilateral Russian cease-fire ordered by President Vladimir Putin has come into force along the entire front as of noon Moscow time, Russian state television said. “At noon today, the cease-fire regime came into force on the entire contact line,” Russia’s state First Channel said. “It will continue until the end of January 7.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine says there will be no truce until Moscow withdraws.   © AP

10:30 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden suggests Vladimir Putin’s struggle in Ukraine after 10 months of war and thousands of lives lost has prompted the Russian president to offer a 36-hour truce. The Kremlin said Putin has ordered a cease-fire to start on Friday. Ukraine had spurned an offer of a cease-fire during Russia’s Orthodox Christmas period, saying there would be no truce until Moscow withdraws. Asked about the latest proposal, Biden said: “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.”

4:30 a.m. The leaders of the U.S. and Germany announce new military aid to Ukraine, joining France in pledging armored fighting vehicles for the war effort.

The U.S. will supply Ukraine with Bradley fighting vehicles and train Ukrainian forces to use them.

The U.S. will supply Ukraine with Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles while Germany intends to provide Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles, President Joe Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholz say in a joint press statement after a phone call.

The statement does not say when the vehicles will arrive in Ukraine, but the leaders say that Ukrainian forces will be trained to use them. The new U.S. weapons package for Ukraine will include about 50 Bradleys, Reuters reports, citing two U.S. officials.

The announcement follows France’s promise to send AMX-10 RC armored combat vehicles to Ukraine.

All of these pledges stop short of supplying Ukraine with heavily armored, big-gunned tanks, which no Western nation has yet to provide. The Bradley and Marder fighting vehicles were designed as armored personnel carriers for reconnaissance.

To bolster Ukraine’s air defenses, Germany will join the U.S. in supplying an additional Patriot missile battery, the leaders say.

1:50 a.m. Ukraine has rejected a unilateral cease-fire declared by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who seeks a truce during the Orthodox Christmas holiday. Read more.

“RF must leave the occupied territories — only then will it have a ‘temporary truce,'” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak says, referring to the Russian Federation.

Thursday, Jan. 5

10:00 p.m. Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to visit, the president’s chief of staff says.

Andriy Yermak met with the Japanese ambassador to Ukraine, Kuninori Matsuda, on Thursday, according to the presidential office.

Yermak congratulated Japan on assuming the Group of Seven presidency for 2023 and said regular talks between Zelenskyy and G-7 leaders are an effective way to rally the international community against Russian aggression.

“We look forward to new results of this cooperation,” Yermak said.

Among G-7 leaders, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met with Zelenskyy in Ukraine last November. French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italy’s then-Prime Minister Mario Draghi made a joint visit to Kyiv in June.

Kishida visited Ukraine in 2013 while he was Japan’s foreign minister.

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to visit. (Nikkei montage/Zelenskyy photo by Reuters)

2:00 p.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a frigate armed with the country’s latest Zircon hypersonic missile on a transoceanic cruise, a show of force as tensions with the West escalate over the war in Ukraine. Russia says Zircon missiles can evade any Western air defense by flying at an astounding 11,265 kilometers per hour. Commissioned by the navy in 2018 following long trials, the Admiral Gorshkov is the first ship in a new series of frigates designed to replace the Russian navy’s aging Soviet-built destroyers as a key strike component.

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1:30 p.m. CES is not allowing Russian companies to display their products at the annual tech show because of the country’s invasion of Ukraine. A spokesperson for the Consumer Technology Association, the trade group putting together the event in Las Vegas, said the move has only impacted one potential exhibitor. No Russian exhibitors were present at last year’s show, but four attended virtually in 2021, the spokesperson said. The U.S. is among about 30 countries that have sanctioned Russia over the invasion.

10:30 a.m. Australia announces it will boost its defense capabilities by spending more than 1 billion Australian dollars ($700 million) on new advanced missile and rocket systems, including U.S.-made HIMARS which have been successfully used by Ukraine’s military. In Ukraine, the truck-mounted HIMARS have proved crucial in enabling Ukrainian forces to hit key targets, including a recent strike on one building that killed at least 89 Russian soldiers.

5:00 a.m. France will become the first Western nation to supply armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine.

The presidential office, which announced the provision of the AMX-10 RC vehicles, did not say how many would be sent to Ukraine, or when.

Developed as tank destroyers, the AMX-10 RC travels on wheels, not tracks like tanks. France will also sent Bastion armored personnel carriers to Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for the pledge of armor “as well as for intensifying work with partners in the same direction.”

U.S. President Joe Biden said “yes” when asked on Wednesday whether his administration was considering sending armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine, Reuters reports.

So far, the U.S. has stopped short of supplying Ukraine with tanks but has supported refurbishing Soviet-era Czech T-72 tanks for deployment in the war-torn country.

12:00 a.m. As Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives feud over the choice of the next speaker of the House, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanks outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Zelenskyy and Pelosi met both in Kyiv and in Washington, where the Ukrainian leader delivered an address to Congress last month.

For earlier updates, click here.

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