Ukraine latest: Russia’s Lavrov touts military cooperation with China, South Africa

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.

Read our in-depth coverage:

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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:

Tuesday, Jan. 24 (Tokyo time)

6:00 a.m. The Ukraine war has become an obstacle for German cities hoping that overland trade links with China would be their ticket to prosperity.

“The Silk Road has not developed for us,” the owner of a truck driving school on the outskirts of the western German city of Duisburg says. “First it was COVID, then it was the Ukraine war, so the boom is no longer about Silk Road logistics.”

Freight rail bookings plunged in the first half of 2022, as businesses faced reputational, insurance, sanction and confiscation risks along the Russian route. Read more.

5:00 a.m. Russia is developing military cooperation with China and South Africa, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says on a visit to Pretoria ahead of naval exercises involving the three countries.

At a news conference after his meeting with South African’s minister of international relations and cooperation, Naledi Pandor, Lavrov describes the drills as “anti-terrorist” and nothing that should raise alarm.

Western countries hold such exercises “under openly aggressive scenarios far more often than our countries do,” Tass quotes Lavrov as saying.

Pandor tells reporters: “All countries conduct military exercises with friends worldwide.” The South African military has described the naval exercises, set to start in mid-February, as a “means to strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia and China.”

Lavrov is scheduled to visit Eswatini, Botswana and Angola next on his African tour, Reuters reports, citing a South African official.

3:00 a.m. Sweden should not expect Turkey’s support for joining NATO unless it shows respect toward Muslims and cracks down on “terror groups,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says following demonstrations in the Scandinavian nation.

Erdogan’s remarks come after a copy of the Quran was burned during a protest in Stockholm over the weekend.

“Those who caused such a disgrace in front of our Embassy should not expect any benevolence from us on their NATO membership applications,” Erodgan says.

The Turkish leader also objects to a recent demonstration in the Swedish capital by supporters of Kurdish group PKK, which Turkey has branded a terrorist organization.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has defended freedom of expression while condemning the burning of the Quran.

“Freedom of expression is a fundamental part of democracy,” he says in a Twitter post. “But what is legal is not necessarily appropriate. Burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act.”

1:00 a.m. A former member of the Wagner Group of mercenaries has been arrested after entering Norway to seek asylum, the BBC reports, citing a police spokesperson.

The 26-year-old detainee, Andrey Medvedev, fled to Norway from Russia two weeks ago. He is said to have witnessed alleged war crimes while fighting in Ukraine.

Medvedev is being held under Norway’s Immigration Act, a police spokesperson tells the BBC, who says the ex-soldier is not facing deportation to Russia.

A Polish Leopard 2PL tank fires during the Defender Europe 2022 military exercise of NATO troops.   © Reuters

Monday, Jan. 23

11:00 p.m. With China lifting its zero-COVID policy, some of the concerns around global growth are lifting for the secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Given that “Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is still having implications on the global demand structures for energy. … We need to diversify energy supplies, and we need to increase energy production,” Mathias Cormann says in an interview. Still, as supply chain bottlenecks in China ease, Cormann adds that he is “a little bit more optimistic about the global economy than I was in October, November.”

10:42 p.m. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says his government will ask Germany for permission to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine — and that Warsaw intends to send the German-made tanks regardless of whether Berlin agrees.

Germany’s approval is required for re-exports of the Leopard. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock appeared to hold the door open to approval of such shipments on Sunday when she said Berlin would not stand in the way if Poland wanted to send them.

10:21 p.m. NATO and European Union members Estonia and Latvia tell their Russian ambassadors to leave next month. Both countries say they are downgrading diplomatic ties with Moscow to the charge d’affairs level.

The move comes in response to Moscow’s similar downgrading of relations with Estonia, accusing it of “total Russophobia.” Estonia, Latvia and their Baltic neighbor Lithuania are among a group of NATO allies calling for Germany to provide its Leopard battle tanks to help Ukraine fight off Russia’s invasion.

6:00 p.m. The Kremlin says that it is the Ukrainian people who will suffer if the West sends tanks to support Kyiv, amid Berlin’s indecision over whether it will provide Ukraine with Leopard tanks. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said splits in Europe over whether to provide tanks to Kyiv showed there was “nervousness” within the NATO military alliance. He added that all countries bear responsibility for the consequences of “pumping” Ukraine with weapons.

2:00 p.m. Japanese non-life insurance companies will raise premiums for liquefied natural gas vessels operating in Russian territorial waters by about 80% starting Wednesday, Nikkei has learned. The move is in response to overseas reinsurers, which shoulder part of the insurance benefit payments, increasing their reinsurance premiums amid heightened geopolitical risks due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Shipping companies are likely to pass on higher transportation costs, which will put upward pressure on natural gas prices.

Spanish Leopard 2 tanks fire during the Silver Arrow 2022 military drill in Latvia in September 2022. Poland wants to send some of its German-made tanks to Ukraine to help that country in its fight against the ongoing Russian invasion.   © Reuters

8:00 a.m. Germany’s foreign minister says her government would not stand in the way if Poland wanted to send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, in a possible breakthrough for Kyiv, which wants the tanks for its fight against Russia’s invasion. Ukrainian officials have been calling on Western allies to supply them with the modern German-made tanks for months — but Berlin has so far held back from sending them, or allowing other NATO countries to do so. Asked what would happen if Poland went ahead and sent its Leopard 2 tanks without German approval, Annalena Baerbock said on France’s LCI TV: “For the moment the question has not been asked, but if we were asked we would not stand in the way.”

Sunday, Jan. 22

9:30 p.m. Russia’s defense ministry says for the second straight day that its forces are improving their positions in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region. “During offensive operations in the direction of Zaporizhzhia, units of the Eastern Military District took up more advantageous ground and positions,” the defense ministry said. It claimed to have inflicted casualties and destroyed equipment including Ukrainian fighting vehicles, howitzers and two U.S.-made HIMARS rockets.

Saturday, Jan. 21

3:30 p.m. Senior U.S. officials are advising Ukraine to hold off on launching a major offensive against Russian forces until the latest supply of U.S. weaponry is in place and training has been provided, a senior Biden administration official says. The official, speaking to a small group of reporters on condition of anonymity, said the United States was holding fast to its decision not to provide Abrams tanks to Ukraine at this time, amid a controversy with Germany over tanks.

Ukrainian servicemen inspect a residential building in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Jan. 17. Russia says it has captured a village 9 kilometers south of the city.   © Reuters

10:00 a.m. Russia claims to have captured a village in eastern Ukraine as part of its intense, monthslong push toward the city of Bakhmut. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the village of Klishchiivka, which is located 9 kilometers south of Bakhmut, had been “liberated.” Taking Klishchiivka would be a minor breakthrough, but winning Bakhmut could allow Russia to disrupt Ukrainian supply lines in the east and threaten other Ukrainian-held cities in the surrounding Donetsk region.

5:30 a.m. The U.S. Treasury Department will impose additional sanctions on the Wagner Group, a private military company that has been aiding Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the Treasury will designate Wagner as a significant transnational criminal organization in the coming days. The designation will allow the administration to hit Wagner with tougher sanctions and squeeze its ability to do business around the world, he said. The White House also released images it says show Russia taking delivery of arms from North Korea to bolster Wagner forces as they fight side-by-side with Russian troops in Ukraine.

A Leopard tank in Bratislava on Dec. 19, one of the tanks that Germany delivered to Slovakia as part of a deal after Slovakia donated fighting vehicles to Ukraine.   © Reuters

3:57 a.m. Western and other defense officials have ended their meeting in Germany without deciding whether to supply German-built Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine. But pledges were made for large quantities of other weapons, including air defense systems and other tanks.

A spokesman for the German government denied that it demanded that the U.S. supply Abrams tanks alongside any shipment of Leopards.

2:45 a.m. What looks to be a record-breaking year for wheat production in Australia has brought down international prices driven up by poor weather and the war in Ukraine, drawing attention from China and other Asian buyers.

High wheat prices were a driver of last year’s soaring inflation in many countries, prompting warnings of a global food crisis. Now, market pressures are easing. Read more.

12:30 a.m. In a speech to Western and other defense officials at the U.S.’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterates his message to Davos: Military aid to his country must come faster.

“I am truly grateful to all of you for the weapons you have provided,” Zelenskyy says via video link. “Every unit helps to save our people from terror. But time, time remains a Russian weapon.”

“We have to speed up,” he adds. “Time must become our common weapon, just like air defense and artillery, armored vehicles and tanks, which we are negotiating about with you, and which actually will make the victory.”

Friday, Jan. 20

11:22 p.m. Germany says it needs agreement from allies to give the green light for delivery of German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to fend off Moscow’s invasion, apparently dashing Kyiv’s hopes for a quick decision.

Allowing European countries to reexport the tanks to Ukraine is the focus at a meeting of defense ministers from NATO and other nations in Germany. The U.S. and Finland announced large new military aid packages before the gathering at Ramstein Air Base.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius did not say which, if any, allies disagreed with supplying the tanks. Some Western officials have flagged the concern that Russia might capture advanced Western weaponry and steal its technology.

6:30 p.m. The Kremlin’s spokesman says that Western countries supplying additional tanks to Ukraine will not change the course of the conflict and that they will add to the problems of the Ukrainian people. Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy said his government was expecting “strong decisions” from defense leaders of NATO members and other countries at a meeting on Friday to discuss boosting Ukraine’s ability to confront Russian forces with modern battle tanks.

6:00 p.m. Finland announces a new donation of defense equipment for Ukraine, worth more than 400 million euros ($434 million), but not including Leopard 2 heavy tanks, which it said it could also send if there is an agreement with allies. The new donation would triple the total value of Finland’s defense aid to Ukraine, bringing the total so far to 590 million euros, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Miika Pynnonen, special adviser to Finland’s defense minister, said a decision on donating Leopard 2 tanks, of which Finland has some 200, would be taken separately, following discussions with allies at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

 Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin, left, and Volodymyr Zelenskyy in May 2022: Finland announced on Jan. 20 a new 400 million euro package of defense equipment for Ukraine.   © Reuters

6:00 a.m. CIA Director William Burns visited Kyiv last week to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a U.S. official says, in the latest example of high-level contacts between the U.S. and Ukraine.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the director’s classified schedule, said Burns emphasized Washington’s “continued support for Ukraine” in the war. Burns also met with Ukrainian intelligence officials. The CIA director has briefed Zelenskyy repeatedly before and since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last February, passing on U.S. intelligence findings about Moscow’s war plans and intentions.

3:00 a.m. China and Russia will take part in a naval exercise in the Indian Ocean hosted by South Africa next month.

South Africa’s Department of Defense describes the exercise as a “means to strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia and China.”

Naval forces from the three countries will gather from Feb. 17 to Feb. 27 in the Durban and Richards Bay areas of South Africa’s eastern coast. It will mark the second such exercise involving the three countries, after one in 2019, the Department of Defense says.

2:40 a.m. Finland is prepared to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine in support of the fight against the Russia invasion, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto says.

Finland, which shares its eastern border with Russia, is putting together a new military aid package for Ukraine that may include the German-made Leopard 2, the mainstay tank of NATO forces in Europe.

The tanks are part of the discussion, Haavisto tells Nikkei on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Read more.

Thursday, Jan. 19

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov attend a meeting in Moscow in September 2022.   © Reuters

4:40 p.m. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says “defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may trigger a nuclear war,” referring to Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine. In a post on Telegram discussing NATO support for the Ukrainian military, Medvedev said: “Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fate depends.”

11:30 a.m. Canada has summoned Russia’s ambassador over an attack in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro that killed at least 45 people, including several children, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly says. Officials summoned Ambassador Oleg Stepanov to “make clear we do not accept the sheer brutality of Russia’s recent attacks against civilians in Dnipro,” Joly told reporters in Toronto. Stepanov later said the discussions focused on a “predictable line of overall Western propaganda” and that Moscow’s differences with Canada left little room for diplomacy.

6:27 a.m. The Biden administration says it will work with Congress to provide $125 million for energy and utility infrastructure resilience in Ukraine.

The U.S. Agency for International Development will use the money “to procure vital equipment including additional gas turbines, high voltage autotransformers, distribution substation repair equipment, and backup power for Kyiv’s water supply and district heating services,” USAID says. Funding will be drawn from the 2023 Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, passed in December.

3:45 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden send their condolences to the families of those killed in the helicopter crash in Ukraine.

The Bidens call one of the victims, Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, a reformer and patriot who “championed the will of the Ukrainian people.”

“We will continue to honor that legacy through efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s institutions, and in our unfailing partnership with the people of Ukraine to keep the flame of freedom bright,” they say in a statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 18.   © Reuters

2:45 a.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urges his country’s supporters to speed up military aid before Russia mounts its next offiensive.

“Tragedies are outpacing life, the tyranny is outpacing the democracy,” Zelenskyy tells the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in a video address.

“The time the free world uses to think is used by the terrorist state to kill,” he says.

Zelenskyy’s call for action comes a day after Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska spoke in Davos.

2:15 a.m. The Taliban-led government in Afghanistan is pursuing new economic ties with countries like China and Russia in an effort to end its isolation from the rest of the world, including a 25-year oil extraction contract with a Chinese company.

The U.S. and Europe imposed sanctions on Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, essentially cutting off the foreign assistance that the country relied on so heavily. But China, Russia and Iran have been making overtures to the Taliban-led government despite not formally recognizing it. Read more.

1:20 a.m. The death toll in the helicopter crash that killed Ukrainian interior minister Denys Monastyrskyi has been revised down to at least 14. The crash occurred in the Kyiv suburb of Brovary.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba mourns the death of Monastyrskyi and his deputy Yevhenii Yenin as a “huge loss.”

Wednesday, Jan. 18

10:00 p.m. In a long news conference in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Japan is once again on the path of militarization.

Lavrov also speculates that Japan will revise its pacifist Constitution.

On the war in Ukraine, which Russia calls a special military operation, Lavrov says that Moscow will respond to “any serious proposal” for ending the crisis but that it has received none yet. He blames the West for destabilizing security in Europe.

“The West is using Ukraine to destroy the security system that existed in the Euro-Atlantic region for a long time and hinged on consensus, indivisibility of security and settlement of all issues through dialogue and cooperation,” Lavrov says.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi was one of the at least 14 killed in a helicopter crash near Kyiv on Jan. 18.   © AP

6:21 p.m. A helicopter crash in a Kyiv suburb Wednesday has killed at least 18 people, including Ukraine’s interior minister and three children, Ukrainian authorities said. There was no immediate word on whether the crash was an accident or a result of the war with Russia. No fighting has been reported recently in the Kyiv area.

Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, his deputy Yevhen Yenin and State Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Yurii Lubkovych were among those killed, according to Ihor Klymenko, chief of Ukraine’s National Police. Monastyrskyi, who was in charge of the police and other emergency services, is the most senior Ukrainian official to have died since the start of the war with Russia almost 11 months ago. Nine of those killed were in the emergency services helicopter that crashed in Brovary, an eastern suburb of the Ukrainian capital, Klymenko said.

12:40 p.m. Fifteen Ukrainian deminers are being trained by experts in Cambodia who are among the world’s best because of experience in clearing leftovers of nearly three decades of war. The Ukrainian deminers are being hosted by the Cambodian Mine Action Center, a government agency that oversees the clearing of land mines and unexploded ordnance in Cambodia. The weeklong program began Monday and is supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

11:41 a.m. Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands in Washington told U.S. President Joe Biden of Dutch plans to offer the U.S.-made Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine, working together with Germany amid a barrage of missile attacks from Russia. Last month, Washington announced additional military aid for Ukraine, including the transfer of a Patriot system, considered one of the most advanced U.S. defense systems against aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles.

7:34 a.m. Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych has apologized for a “fundamental error” and tendered his resignation after saying that the missile that hit a Dnipro apartment building had fallen on it after being shot down by Ukrainian air defenses. The comment, which deviated from the official Ukrainian account, caused widespread anger in Ukraine. Russian authorities also appeared to allude to Arestovych when they blamed Kyiv for the strike. Arestovych had appeared regularly on YouTube to provide updates on the war.

4:00 a.m. The head of Ukraine’s armed forces, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, has held his first meeting with American counterpart Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The two generals met at an undisclosed military base in Poland, near the border with Ukraine.

Zaluzhnyi says in a Twitter post that he extended his gratitude for the “unwavering support & assistance” provided by the U.S. and its allies. The meeting comes after the Biden administration approved new military aid to Ukraine, including the Patriot air defense system and Bradley armored fighting vehicles.

First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 17.   © AP

1:30 a.m. Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady, tells the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos that she was entrusted with a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping from her husband as she urged participants to use their influence to end Russia’s war on her country. Zelenska says she handed the letter to Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who is attending the forum in the Swiss mountain resort. The letter says that “if people come together, they can move even Mount Taishan,” she says through an interpreter, referring to a prominent mountain in Chinese culture and history.

Zelenska says she also had letters for European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Swiss President Alain Berset. “We believe that the world will unite for peace,” Zelenska says, adding that Ukraine had already recevied “positive answers from many heads of state” on working toward President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s proposed peace formula. “This year may not become the year of the polycrisis that we hear about if it becomes a year of the Ukrainian peace formula which will come true,” she says.

Russia plans “major changes” from 2023 to 2026, including raising the number of its military personnel to 1.5 million, the Defense Ministry said on Jan. 17.   © Reuters

Tuesday, Jan. 17

9:48 p.m. A former commander of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group who fought in Ukraine says he has fled to Norway and is seeking asylum in fear for his life after witnessing the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners who were brought to the front by Wagner.

Andrei Medvedev tells the Gulagu.net rights group in interviews that he witnessed the killing of captured deserters from Wagner. Losses were very high after Wagner began sending large numbers of inmates to the Ukrainian front in the second half of 2022, he says, and the company’s internal security service handed out extreme punishment.

Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, alleges Medvedev had worked in a Norwegian unit of Wagner and had “mistreated prisoners.”

6:15 p.m. Russia says its armed forces will undergo “major changes” from 2023 to 2026, including changes in its composition and administrative reforms. The Defense Ministry said that the changes would happen as Russia boosts the number of its military personnel to 1.5 million.

“Only by strengthening the key structural components of the Armed Forces is it possible to guarantee the military security of the state and protect new entities and critical facilities of the Russian Federation,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The ministry says Shoigu has visited Russian troops involved in Ukraine, presenting them with dedication and heroism awards.   © Reuters

2:20 p.m. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has visited Russian troops involved in Ukraine, the ministry says.

“Sergei Shoigu thanked the servicemen who courageously perform tasks in the special military operation zone, and presented state awards to the servicemen for their dedication and heroism,” the ministry said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

9:10 a.m. Ukraine insisted on the need for faster supplies of weapons from the West with the city of Dnipro reeling from a Russian missile strike that killed at least 40 people in an apartment block and Ukrainian troops came under increased pressure on the eastern front. The death toll from Saturday’s missile strike in Dnipro rose to 40, including three children, Ukrainian officials said.

“What happened in Dnipro — the fact that Russia is preparing new attempts to seize the initiative in the war, the fact that the nature of military action at the front requires new decisions on arms supplies — only underscores how important it is to coordinate all the efforts of the coalition defending Ukraine and freedom,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his Monday night video address.

The scene at the Dnipro apartment complex hit by Russian missiles. Twenty-five people remained missing or unaccounted for on Jan. 17.   © AP

4:45 a.m. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock calls for a special international tribunal to try Russian leadership over the invasion of Ukraine.

In a speech in The Hague, Baerbock notes that Russia is not a member of the International Criminal Court and, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, could veto any U.N. attempts to refer the case to the court, creating a “loophole in international law.”

The tribunal could derive its jurisdiction from Ukrainian criminal law, and be held “at a location outside Ukraine, with financial support from partners and with international prosecutors and judges, so that impartiality and legitimacy are guaranteed,” she says.

1:00 a.m. In his latest phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian leader Vladimir Putin says Ukraine is pursuing a “destructive line” by escalating hostilities with the help of Western nations, according to the Kremlin.

Putin cites Kyiv’s rejection of his proposed cease-fire during the Orthodox Christmas holiday this month as an example of Ukraine’s “hypocritical” policy. Ukraine refused to honor the unilateral cease-fire, calling it a Russian ploy, and fighting continued during the 36-hour period. Russia has since renewed its attacks on civilian targets including Saturday’s missile strike in Dnipro, where the death toll has reached 40.

Erdogan tells Putin that Turkey is ready to act as a mediator for achieving lasting peace between the warring nations, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reports.

Monday, Jan. 16

11:20 p.m. Civilian war deaths in Ukraine total at least 7,031, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reports, with another 11,327 injuries confirmed through Sunday.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects, including shelling from heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, missiles and airstrikes,” the agency says. “OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration.”

10:30 p.m. U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly says he has been hit with Russian sanctions.

When Moscow announced the new sanctions over the weekend, it did not publish of full list of targeted British officials. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted as saying that British authorities “understand” who was included.

Cleverly shrugged off Moscow’s move.

Meanwhile, in Germany, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has tendered her resignation after a series of blunders, including discussing Ukraine in a video message that had a fireworks celebration in the background.

Lambrecht had been expected to step down. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s office did not immediately announce a replacement.

A Russian Su-30SM fighter flies in Belarusian airspace a year ago. The latest Russian-Belarusian military drills began on Jan. 16. (Russian Defense Ministry/Handout via Reuters)

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 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.

Twenty 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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