A Ukrainian official has warned of a “final push” from Russia in the coming weeks, as the one-year anniversary of the invasion nears – but Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been warned against joining the war. Listen to the Ukraine War Diaries podcast as you scroll.
A meeting between Ukraine’s allies on Friday to discuss providing more arms to the country will be their “last possible” opportunity to prepare Ukraine for fresh Russian attacks, according to our analyst Professor Michael Clarke.
The UK has committed to sending 14 Challenger 2 tanks, among a “possible 100” which could be provided by allied countries depending on the outcome of talks in Rammstein, Germany.
With a minimum of 10 weeks needed to train a tank crew, Professor Clarke said 20 January would be the last date to make a decision if the allies want to arm Ukraine before a renewed Russian offensive – expected early this year.
He said Challenger tanks are “infinitely superior” to their Russian opponents and would be able to take a shell from Moscow’s tanks without being affected, despite the Kremlin’s claim yesterday that they will “burn like the rest”.
Russia has been conducting so-called joint training exercises in Belarus with a view to stretch the Ukrainian forces, said Professor Clarke.
However, the border with Ukraine is marred by marshland which “nobody wants to drive a tank army over”, he said, limiting any Russian offensive to the same routes they travelled at the start of the invasion last year.
The analyst added that any invasion by Russian forces would meet a more prepared Ukrainian army, and Minsk remains very reluctant to get involved.
Over in the east of Ukraine, Moscow “looks as though” it has taken Soledar at the cost of 15,000 Wagner group soldiers who have either been wounded or killed, said Professor Clarke.
He predicted they will now attempt to surround Bakhmut from the north and south.
Ukraine “might struggle” to hold the city, but Russia will find it difficult to make any further gains in the Donbas, with the next strategically important cities in the Donbas – Sloviansk and Kramatorsk – now a Ukrainian “fortress”.
Russia also faces a difficult battle to hold Kreminna, according the professor.
“The Russians are in trouble in Kreminna, and if they lose Kreminna they’re in big trouble because Ukraine will begin to circle around behind them.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is increasing arms supplies to Ukraine to demonstrate a determination to see Kyiv win the war with Russia, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said today.
He added Russia should end the war now and open negotiations “in good faith”.
“The message we’re sending to Putin and frankly to anyone else that cares to be watching is that we made a commitment to support Ukrainians until they are victorious,” Mr Cleverly told a forum at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
He spoke ahead of talks with US secretary of state Antony Blinken and other top officials on increasing support for Ukraine.
Afterwards, Mr Cleverly is due to travel to Canada for similar talks.
The minister said now is the time to step up military aid to Ukraine because Russian forces are “on the back foot” in the war.
But Ukraine needs “the ability to push back hard in the east and in the south,” he said.
“The best thing that Putin… can do to preserve the lives of his own troops is to recognise that we’re gonna stick with Ukrainians until they are victorious, and bring this war to a conclusion and get around the negotiating table in good faith.”
The idea of a comedy night in a country twisted out of shape by war jars somewhat against the backdrop of blitz-like living conditions and mounting casualties in eastern Ukraine.
But in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, where blackouts and power rationing have become a feature of winter life, the need for humour as a means of escape remains, according to Sky News Ukraine War Diarist Oksana Koshel.
In the latest episode of the podcast, she attends a comedy night, albeit reluctantly, with her husband and fellow diarist Seva.
It’s an experience that brings both reflection and perspective as well as some profound realisations about the war.
The Ukrainian military’s top general held a face-to-face meeting with his US counterpart Mark Milley in Poland today.
General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi outlined the “urgent needs” of the Ukrainian army at his meeting with Mr Milley, a statement confirmed.
Ukraine is pushing to secure a fleet of battle tanks from Western countries that it hopes to use to drive out Russian forces who invaded last February.
“I outlined the urgent needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine meeting which will accelerate our Victory,” Mr Zaluzhnyi added.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands has confirmed it will send a Patriot missile defence system to Ukraine, news agency ANP reported.
It cited prime minister Mark Rutte, who is in Washington DC for talks with Joe Biden.
Patriots have also been donated to Ukraine by the US.
Strikes have been reported in the north eastern region of Kharkiv on Tuesday afternoon.
Regional governor Oleh Synyehubov said Russian troops had struck the city of Kupiansk at around 2.30pm local time, allegedly using an S-300 missile.
There were no casualties reported, but Mr Synyehubov said the premises of an automotive engineering college were “almost completely destroyed”.
In a statement, he said: “The occupiers again shelled the city of Kupyansk. Today, at around 2.30pm, an enemy S-300 missile hit the Kupyan Motor Vehicle Vocational College.
“According to preliminary information, there were no casualties. However, the premises of the educational institution were almost completely destroyed.”
Images from the site pictured a hole blown through the middle of a large building, with a significant amount of rubble littering the ground nearby.
Another death has been confirmed this evening as teams continue to search the rubble of a destroyed apartment building in Dnipro.
In the latest update, regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko said 45 people in total have been confirmed dead.
Of these, six are children.
He said: “Let’s take revenge for everyone.”
Earlier, we reported 44 people had been killed after a further three bodies were found this morning.
It is unclear how many people were still unaccounted for.
Ukraine said the apartment building was hit by a Russian Kh-22 missile on Saturday.
The Kremlin has denied that its wave of missile strikes on that day targeted any residential buildings.
Alexei Navalny, an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, has used the second anniversary of his incarceration to reinforce that he will continue to oppose the Kremlin.
Mr Navalny, 46, was arrested in 2021 as he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had been treated for poisoning with a Soviet-era nerve agent.
It had been suggested by the West that this was a Russian assassination attempt – but the Kremlin has denied any involvement.
Now, as his family and allies launched another campaign to see him freed, Mr Navalny has released a short statement through his lawyers.
“Our miserable, exhausted Motherland needs to be saved. It has been pillaged, wounded, dragged into an aggressive war, and turned into a prison run by the most unscrupulous and deceitful scoundrels,” he said.
“Any opposition to this gang – even if only symbolic in my current limited capacity – is important.
“I’m not going to surrender my country to them, and I believe that the darkness will eventually fade away.”
Mr Navalvy was sentenced to 11 years in prison on two separate fraud cases, which he claims have been concocted to silence him.
On Saturday, Germany called on Russia to provide “urgent medical assistance” to Mr Navalny, who is said to be in a critical condition.
A German government spokesperson said his condition is critical as he faces inhumane prison conditions and solitary confinement.
The spokesman said the German government was trying to help Mr Navalny, but it was difficult due to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin has today warned that Russia may need to restrict some exports in order to maintain stable food reserves over the winter period.
However, he did not provide any specific details of potential plans.
It was also unclear whether Mr Putin was suggesting that Russia, which has cut supplies of gas to some of the countries it considers “unfriendly”, might limit exports of major food commodities such as grain.
In televised remarks, Mr Putin said the agriculture industry had made a significant contribution to the resilience of Russia’s economy.
He added: “We must, of course, allow this sector to work.
“To make a profit, so that they can invest in the result of the 2023 harvest… in processing, in animal husbandry… We cannot allow everything to be dragged abroad.
“Despite all the restrictions on logistics on freight, on insurance – nevertheless, it’ll all fly out. It already is.”
Mr Putin also said that no one could accurately predict Russia’s agricultural output for 2023, citing unexpected warm weather in Europe and frosts in Central Asia.
“That’s why we absolutely need stable reserves,” he said.
It was reported yesterday that a former commander in Russia’s Wagner Group of mercenaries had fled to Norway – and is seeking asylum in the country.
The man, identified as Andrei Medvedev, has now told human rights NGO Gulagu.net that he crossed the Russian-Norwegian border last Friday.
He claimed he had feared for his life after refusing to renew his contract with the Wagner Group, which has been active in fighting around the Donetsk region.
Mr Medvedev said he was afraid of being executed in the same way as another defector, Yevgeny Nuzhin, who was killed on camera with a sledgehammer.
He claimed to have witnessed numerous executions in his time with the Wagner Group, adding: “We were just thrown to fight like cannon fodder.”
Norwegian Police have since confirmed he is in the country and is seeking asylum.
More now from the World Economic Forum in Davos, where Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska earlier gave an impassioned speech as the war with Russia drags on.
She has now told delegates that she will deliver a letter to those in attendance from China, setting out her husband’s proposals for ending the conflict.
China has so far refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have recently held talks via video link.
In a speech, Ms Zelenska said she planned to hand the letter to Chinese vice-premier Liu He for passing on to Mr Xi.
She said she also had letters for European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Swiss President Alain Berset.
“Today I will give the colleagues participating in this part (of the forum) ‘formula letters’ from the president of Ukraine,” she said.
“Unity is what brings peace back,” Ms Zelenska said, adding that the war had global ramifications which could get worse if Ukraine was defeated.
“How does the world expect to reach climate neutrality, if it can’t even stop the burning down of whole Ukrainian cities.
“This is what Russia does with its artillery, missiles, Iranian drones. You all know that Russian aggression was never intended to stop at Ukrainian borders.
“This war can move forward and ignite wider crises if Ukraine loses.”