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Key developments

Ukraine's peace summit may take place on Feb 24: Ambassador

The IAEA established the support and assistance mission at the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant (NPP) in southern Ukraine

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that the Russian forces caused the deadly collapse of a residential building in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro

01:41 2023-01-27
Canada to send 4 tanks to Ukraine: media
A Leopard 2A6 main battle tank drives across the training area during preparations for a training exercise. [Photo/Agencies]

OTTAWA - Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand is set to announce Thursday that Canada will be sending four battle tanks to Ukraine, CTV News reported.

In addition to the initial four Leopard 2 tanks, Canada is considering sending more tanks at a later date, the report said, quoting government sources.

The Canadian Armed Forces currently has 82 German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks, but they are in various states of serviceability, according to the report.

On Wednesday, Germany and the United States announced they would be organizing the shipment of dozens of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

03:03 2023-01-26
Biden announces equipping Ukraine with US-made tanks
US President Joe Biden speaks about continued US support for Ukraine in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, US, Jan 25, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - US President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that his administration will provide Ukraine with 31 US-made M1 Abrams tanks, which Russia has said will be its target if they were to be used in the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kyiv.

"Today I'm announcing that the United States will be sending 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, the equivalent of one Ukrainian battalion," Biden said, addressing the nation in televised remarks from the White House.

Biden said the decision was recommended by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who, together with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, flanked Biden as he spoke. "Because it'll enhance Ukraine's capacity to defend its territory and achieve the strategic objectives," Biden said.

Biden said the United States is also sending Ukraine parts and equipment necessary to sustain the sophisticated tanks, adding that Washington will soon begin to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to operate and maintain the tanks, the delivery of which, he noted, will take time.

The US delivery of M1 Abrams tanks, among the most powerful and capable of the kind in the world, is considered yet another major development in the Ukraine crisis, potentially further escalating the situation as other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) also intended to aid Ukraine with tanks.

Before the formal announcement by Biden, reports of US provision of the M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine had already infuriated Russia.

Moscow's ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, said Tuesday that "if a decision to transfer to Kyiv M1 Abrams is made, American tanks without any doubt will be destroyed as all other samples of NATO military equipment."

"If the United States decides to supply tanks, it will be impossible to justify such step using arguments about 'defensive weapons,'" the envoy said. "This would be another blatant provocation against the Russian Federation."

The US commitment came on the heel of the confirmation from Germany that it will deliver 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks to Ukraine, ending a stalemate where a previously reluctant Germany found itself under increasing pressure from the United States and other allies to authorize tank shipment to Ukraine, which has long demanded such weapons.

Other NATO countries, including Poland, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain, have either committed to or been considering sending Ukraine the Leopard 2 tanks. Britain has already said it will send its Challenger 2 tanks to aid Ukraine's offensive in the conflict with Russia.

Biden said in his remarks that earlier in the day, he spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni "as part of our close coordination on support for Ukraine."

18:57 2023-01-25
Germany approves sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine
Soldiers of the Swiss Army are seen in a Leopard 2 tank, taking part in the military exercise "Pilum", as they drive on the A1 motorway near Othmarsingen, Switzerland Nov 28, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

BERLIN - The German government has decided to provide Ukraine with 14 Leopard 2A6 battle tanks from its own Bundeswehr stocks. The aim is to "quickly assemble" two tank battalions with additional units coming from European partners, the government said on Wednesday.

"This decision follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine to the best of our ability," Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at a government meeting in Berlin. "We are acting in a closely coordinated manner internationally."

Other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have recently put pressure on Germany to supply battle tanks to Ukraine. On Tuesday, Poland was the first country to officially request Berlin's approval to send tanks from its own stock.

As Germany will now supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine, NATO partners were also given the go-ahead to do so. Ukrainian crews are also to be provided with training on the Leopard tanks as well as logistics, ammunition and maintenance for the systems, the government said.

Shipments of Leopard tanks to Ukraine would "not bode well" for Russian-German relations and will "undoubtedly leave an unavoidable mark for the future of these relations," Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agency TASS on Tuesday.

Last Friday, Germany's Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius postponed the decision and instead announced further deliveries of Marder infantry fighting vehicles, Gepard anti-aircraft tanks and a Patriot surface-to-air missile system to Ukraine.

Germany's military support for Ukraine totals 3.3 billion euros ($3.6 billion), the country's Defense Ministry said last week.

10:21 2023-01-20
Russian FM accuses West of contributing to Ukraine crisis
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference on the performance of Russian diplomacy in 2022 in Moscow on Jan 18, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the Ukraine crisis is "the result of preparations by the United States and its satellites for the start of a global hybrid war" against his country.

The West is trying to prove that they are not fighting Russia but are only helping Ukraine respond to an "aggression" and restore its territorial integrity, Lavrov said at his annual press conference, adding that the scale of their support makes it clear that the West has staked a great deal on its war against Russia.

As for the prospects for negotiations between Russia and the West on the Ukraine issue, Lavrov said that Russia is ready to consider serious proposals, but there haven't been any so far.

07:10 2023-01-20
Ukraine investigates helicopter crash
By REN QI in Moscow
People leave tributes at the site of a helicopter crash in the town of Brovary, outside Kyiv, on Wednesday. [Photo/Agencies]

Ukrainian authorities on Thursday began investigating the circumstances surrounding a helicopter crash that killed the country's interior minister and 13 others.

Wednesday's crash outside Kyiv came as the head of NATO said at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos that allies were set to provide "heavier weapons" to the region.

Ukraine did not claim direct Russian involvement in the helicopter crash, but President Volodymyr Zelensky said the tragedy was a consequence of the military conflict.

Appearing by video link at Davos, he also renewed calls for modern, Western-designed heavy tanks, which analysts say are crucial to pushing through entrenched defensive lines in eastern Ukraine.

In a barely veiled reference to Germany, where Chancellor Olaf Scholz is weighing whether to greenlight the export of its highly regarded Leopard tanks, Zelensky issued a "call for speed".

CNN quoted a senior US defense official as saying that US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will be "pressing the Germans" to allow their Leopard tanks to be transferred to Ukraine to provide "capability in a crucial moment" to counter any potential Russian spring offensive.

Austin is in Germany where he is set to meet with the German defense minister before convening a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group on Friday to discuss aid for Ukraine with approximately 50 countries and organizations.

Meanwhile, the United States is set to finalize a huge military aid package for Ukraine totaling approximately $2.5 billion worth of weaponry, including Stryker combat vehicles for the first time.

More Western supplies

The new package is one of the largest to be announced since the special military operation started last February, CNN reported. It would include more armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles that, combined with the Strykers, amount to a significant escalation in the armored vehicles the US has committed to Ukraine for its fight against Russia. Mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, are also on the list, the source said.

Ukrainian officials have been fiercely lobbying Washington for longer-range missiles known as Army Tactical Missile Systems, which have a range of around 300 kilometers.

US President Joe Biden's administration has resisted sending them out of fear of escalating the conflict. The administration has also pushed back on sending M1 Abrams tanks because of logistical and maintenance complications.

In his annual news conference on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said NATO members have provided Ukraine with substantial military aid because "the West makes all the decisions for Ukraine" with the goal of using the conflict to exhaust Russia.

Lavrov dismissed Zelensky's demands for a complete Russian withdrawal from Ukraine. He said Russia was ready to "seriously consider" any Western initiatives on ending the conflict, but added that "we haven't seen any serious proposals yet".

On the same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the goal of the military operation in Ukraine is to "end the war" in the eastern Donbas region, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.

It is the second time since December that Putin used the word "war" to refer to the conflict in Ukraine.

16:12 2023-01-19
IAEA completing stationing of missions at Ukraine's nuclear plants
The flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) flies in front of its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, May 28, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

Kyiv - The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is finalizing the stationing of permanent missions at Ukrainian nuclear power plants (NPPs), the Ukrainian government press service reported Wednesday.

While speaking at a joint briefing with IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that the mission at Khmelnytsky NPP in western Ukraine is to start working in the coming days.

"Today, I heard from Director General Rafael Grossi assurances of full support from the IAEA for our efforts to ensure nuclear safety, including at the Zaporizhzhia NPP," Shmyhal said.

"We are working on the issue of organizing a safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia NPP, and we are making progress on this matter," Grossi was quoted by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency as saying.

According to an IAEA statement issued on Tuesday, the experts will monitor key nuclear safety and security systems, provide technical assistance, assess the plants' needs and report to the IAEA headquarters.

"With IAEA teams permanently present at all of Ukraine's NPPs and the Chornobyl site, the Agency will have around 11-12 staff simultaneously on the ground in the country, an unprecedented undertaking by the organization," the international nuclear watchdog said in the statement.

On Jan 16, the IAEA established its mission at the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

There are five nuclear power plants in Ukraine, four of which are functioning. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which witnessed a nuclear disaster on April 26, 1988, was completely shut down on Dec 15, 2000.

In August 2022, the IAEA sent its monitoring mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which Russian forces have controlled since March.

07:24 2023-01-18
Moscow, Minsk begin joint drills

Russia and Belarus launched joint air force exercises on Monday, in a move that Ukraine sees as a "guise" for yet more airstrikes on the country.

The drills come as Russia's special military operation, now in its 11th month, grinds on with fighting in eastern Ukraine and a campaign of airstrikes on Ukraine's critical infrastructure.

The Belarusian defense ministry said the allies would carry out joint air patrols along the Belarusian border, airborne landings and support operations for ground troops, as well as train for deliveries of supplies and evacuations of wounded soldiers.

"The main purpose of the exercise is to improve interoperability in the joint execution of training and combat tasks," it said.

Pavel Muraveyko, first deputy state secretary of Belarus' Security Council, told the Belta state news agency that the exercises are "exclusively defensive", but warned that Minsk is "ready for any provocative actions from Ukraine".

The Belarusian military said on the Telegram messaging app that it has activated all of its air force and air defense sites for the drills with Russia.

Ukraine has repeatedly warned of possible attacks coming from its northern neighbor Belarus, though some analysts assess the possibility of direct involvement by Minsk as low.

Ukraine's General Staff said the joint aviation drills were a "guise "and that there is a high danger of further Russian air and missile strikes throughout Ukraine.

In a report by the state TASS news agency, an unidentified source in the military said Russia has produced the first set of Poseidon nuclear-capable super torpedoes for use by the Belgorod special-purpose nuclear submarine.

The Poseidon is described as an "intercontinental nuclear-powered nuclear-armed autonomous torpedo "with its own nuclear power supply, the development of which was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018. He predicted at the time that it would be a fundamentally new type of nuclear weapon.

'Destructive' policies

In a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, Putin slammed Kyiv's "destructive" policies and the growing Western arms supplies to Ukraine.

Kyiv was pursuing "a destructive line" and that it had "bet on the intensification of hostilities with the support of Western sponsors, who are ramping up supplies of weapons and military equipment", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov quoted Putin as saying.

Peskov also responded to a decision by Britain to send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, saying Western supplies of heavily armored vehicles to Ukraine are not likely to change the situation on the battlefield.

On Tuesday, Russia said that its armed forces would 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.

Agencies contributed to this story.

REN QI in Moscow

09:58 2023-01-17
German tanks not ready for Ukraine until 2024
By EARLE GALE in London

A German weapons manufacturer has said it will not be able to supply the Ukrainian government with battle tanks before 2024.

The announcement followed the United Kingdom government saying it would quickly supply tanks requested by Ukraine in a move that was seen as a first step in ensuring many more European nations start supplying offensive weaponry to the nation, instead of the mainly defensive weapons they had previously.

Armin Papperger, the chief executive of arms maker Rheinmetall, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper: "Even if the decision to send our Leopard tanks to Kyiv came tomorrow, the delivery would take until the start of next year."

The Guardian newspaper said the company's statement will be disappointing to Ukraine and put pressure on NATO nations to find tanks and armored vehicles elsewhere that can be delivered quickly to Ukraine.

News reports in the aftermath of the UK's announcement that it would send tanks to Ukraine suggested Germany's Rheinmetall had 22 Leopard 2 tanks and 88 older Leopard 1 tanks in its warehouses, raising hopes among Kyiv's allies that they could be quickly sent for use in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

But Papperger's assertion that their preparation will take many months, and cost hundreds of millions of euros that the company was unwilling to spend, ended thoughts of a quick delivery.

"The vehicles must be completely dismantled and rebuilt," he said.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's secretary-general, said on Sunday Ukraine's Western allies will ensure the country soon gets an influx of heavy weapons, including artillery and missiles.

"The recent pledges for heavy warfare equipment are important — and I expect more in the near future," he told Germany's Handelsblatt daily newspaper.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the UK's commitment to send 14 Challenger 2 tanks, saying on Twitter it will "send the right signal to other partners".

Poland has also said it will send a company of Leopard tanks to the country — likely 14 vehicles-"as part of international coalition building".And the United States also recently said it will send 50 Bradley tank-killing armored vehicles.

Sky News said on Monday the UK's Challenger 2 tanks could be on the ground in weeks.

London also recently said it will send around 30 AS90s — large, self-propelled guns — to the country.

Ukraine's allies had previously held back on supplying offensive weaponry over fears it would escalate the situation. Russia's embassy in the UK said "the increasingly obvious involvement of London in the conflict" will only prolong it and cause more death and destruction.

A spokesman told Sky News: "As for the Challenger 2 tanks, they are unlikely to help the armed forces of Ukraine turn the tide on the battlefield, but they will become a legitimate large target for the Russian artillery."

08:16 2023-01-17
West's firepower turns Ukraine into weapons 'test bed'
Soldiers from the Armed Forces of Ukraine take part in a military exercise, during the UK-led basic training program, on a military training camp, in an unspecified location in the North East of England, Britain, November 9, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Britain has announced it will send 14 of its main battle tanks along with additional artillery support to Ukraine, a move that may reinforce perceptions aired in US media that the country has become a "test bed for Western weapons".

In a recent CNN special report, experts and open-source analysts said Ukraine has become a veritable battle lab for cheap but effective solutions, mainly because officials from the United States and other Western countries don't always have perfect insight into exactly how Ukraine's custom-made systems work. These limitations stem in large part from the fact that the officials are not on the ground in Ukraine.

The military operation in Ukraine has also offered the US and its allies a rare opportunity to study how their own weapons systems perform under intense use, and what munitions both sides are using to score wins in this hotly-fought modern military contest. For the US military, the conflict in Ukraine has been a source of data on the utility of its own systems, the CNN report said.

Some high-profile systems given to the Ukrainians, such as the Switchblade 300 drone and a missile designed to target enemy radar systems, have turned out to be less effective on the battlefield than anticipated, according to a US military operations officer with knowledge of the battlefield, as well as a recent study from a British think tank.

The debate over the effectiveness of the supplied arms comes as a statement from the office of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the 14 Challenger 2 tanks would arrive in Ukraine within weeks and around 30 self-propelled AS90 guns, to be operated by five gunners, are expected to follow.

The UK will begin training Ukrainian forces to use the tanks and guns in the coming days.

Ambition outlined

The announcement follows a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier on Saturday during which Sunak "outlined the UK's ambition to intensify our support to Ukraine, including through the provision of Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems".

Sunak's office said last week that Britain would coordinate its support with its allies after Germany, France and the US indicated last week that they would provide armored vehicles to Ukraine.

The Russian embassy in London said the decision to send the tanks would drag out the confrontation, leading to more victims including civilians, and was evidence of "the increasingly obvious involvement of London in the conflict".

The Challenger 2 is a battle tank designed to attack other tanks, and has been in service with the British Army since 1994.

Separately, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday praised his forces after their claimed capture of the Ukrainian town of Soledar.

Ukraine denied the claims and said heavy fighting continued in Soledar.

The death toll from a weekend Russian missile strike on military targets in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro has risen to 35, an official said on Monday.

Agencies contributed to this story.

REN QI in Moscow

20:12 2023-01-15
Death toll from Russia's attack on Ukraine's Dnipro rises to 20: official
People gather as emergency personnel work at the site where an apartment block was heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in Dnipro, Ukraine Jan 15, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV -- The death toll from a Russian missile attack on the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro has risen to 20, the regional governor said Sunday.

At least 73 people were injured, with four in intensive care, Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration, said on Telegram.

About 40 people are still missing following the strike on Saturday that destroyed 72 apartments and damaged 230 others, Reznichenko said, noting the rescue operation at the site is still underway.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian president's office, wrote on Telegram that 530 emergency workers and volunteers and 144 units of equipment are participating in the rescue operation.

Russia has yet to respond or comment on the attack.

14:24 2023-01-13
Ukraine's peace summit may take place on Feb 24: Ambassador

KYIV - Ukraine's Ambassador to Turkiye Vasyl Bodnar said that a summit to discuss the peace plan for Ukraine may take place on Feb 24, the Ukrainian government-run Ukrinform news agency reported Thursday.

The summit, which is due to be held under the mediation of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, is expected to be held at the UN headquarters in New York, Bodnar said.

He thanked Turkiye for the support for a Kyiv-proposed plan on establishing peace in Ukraine, and its readiness to assist in its implementation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky put forward a 10-point peace plan for ending the Russia-Ukraine conflict at the G20 summit in Indonesia in November 2022.

11:21 2023-01-12
Russia appoints new military commander in Ukraine
Russian national flag waves at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Jan 6, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW -- Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov has been appointed the new commander of Russia's integrated group of forces in Ukraine, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

Gerasimov will succeed Sergei Surovikin, commander-in-chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces, who was appointed commander of Russia's integrated group of forces in the special military operation in Ukraine in October last year.

Surovikin, Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces Oleg Salyukov, and Deputy Chief of the General Staff Alexei Kim have been appointed as Gerasimov's deputies, according to the ministry.

The decision was made due to the fact that a wider range of tasks will be implemented within the scope of the special military operation, the ministry said, adding that closer interaction will be required between branches of the forces, and the troops will need stronger support as well as more effective command and control.

06:58 2023-01-12
Russia fights NATO in Ukraine: Putin's aide
By REN QI in Moscow
Residents remove debris and carry belongings out of a shop destroyed in recent shelling in the Donetsk region on Tuesday. ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/REUTERS

One of Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest aides said on Tuesday that Moscow was now fighting the US-led NATO military alliance in Ukraine and that the West was trying to wipe Russia from the political map of the world.

"The events in Ukraine are not a clash between Moscow and Kyiv — this is a military confrontation between Russia and NATO, and above all the United States and Britain," Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev told the Argumenty i Fakty newspaper.

"The Westerners' plans are to continue to pull Russia apart, and eventually just erase it from the political map of the world."

The US had sown chaos in Afghanistan, Vietnam and the Middle East, and has been trying for years to undermine Russia's "unique" culture and language, Patrushev said.

"There is no place for our country in the West," he said.

In response, he said Russia would achieve economic sovereignty and financial independence, while also building up its armed forces and special services to deter any potential aggressor.

When asked about Patrushev's remarks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said NATO and the US were part of the Ukraine conflict.

"They have de facto already become an indirect party to this conflict, pumping Ukraine with weapons, technologies, intelligence information and so on," Peskov told a regular news conference.

Oklahoma training

Russia's special military operation in Ukraine has triggered one of the deadliest European conflicts since World War II and the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Meanwhile, about 100 Ukrainian troops will head to Oklahoma's Fort Sill as soon as next week to begin training on the Patriot missile defense system, getting Kyiv closer to obtaining the long-sought protection against Russia's missile attacks, The Associated Press reported.

The number of Ukrainians coming to Fort Sill is approximately the number it takes to operate one battery, and they will focus on learning to operate and also maintain the Patriot, Pentagon spokesman Air Force General Pat Ryder said on Tuesday.

The US pledged one Patriot battery in December as part of several large military assistance packages it has provided to Ukraine in recent weeks. Last week, Germany pledged an additional Patriot battery.

Each Patriot battery consists of a truck-mounted launching system with eight launchers that can hold up to four missile interceptors each, a ground radar, a control station and a generator. The army said it currently has 16 Patriot battalions.

On the battlefield, fighting for salt mining town Soledar raged in subzero temperatures on Wednesday as Russia's paramilitary group Wagner claimed it had taken control, with its fighters training their fire on a pocket of resistance in the town center.

Agencies contributed to this story.

07:15 2023-01-10
Russia claims attack; Kyiv denies deaths
By REN QI in Moscow

Moscow claimed on Sunday that its army conducted a "retaliatory strike" in a city in Donetsk that killed more than 600 Ukrainian servicemen. However, Ukrainian officials denied there were any casualties.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its missiles hit two temporary bases housing 1,300 Ukrainian troops in the city of Kramatorsk, killing more than 600 of them. Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov said the strikes were in retaliation for Ukraine's attack on Jan 1 in Makiivka, in which at least 89 Russian soldiers died.

But Ukraine's armed forces quickly rejected the Russian claim about the Kramatorsk strikes.

"This information is as true as the data that they have destroyed all of our HIMARS," Sergiy Cherevaty, spokesman for the eastern group of the Ukrainian armed forces, told Ukraine's Suspilne news. In the attack on Makiivka, Ukraine used United States-supplied HIMARS artilleries.

Cherevaty said Russia could not deliver high-precision strikes and the Russian statement did not say when exactly the strike had taken place.

Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksandr Honcharenko told Reuters that there had been no casualties.

Also on Sunday, the Ukrainian military claimed to have hit a residential hall of a medical university in Rubizhne, a town in the Lugansk region, killing 14 Russian soldiers housed there. The number of wounded was unknown, it said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a 36-hour cease-fire last week to allow Orthodox Christians to mark Christmas, which was celebrated on Saturday in Russia and Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials, who dismissed the cease-fire as a "cynical propaganda move", said Russia had in any case not respected it.

Also on Sunday, Russia and Ukraine swapped 50 captured soldiers each in a deal that both sides welcomed even as fighting continued between the troops.

Russia's Defense Ministry said the 50 returned Russian soldiers, "who were in mortal danger while in captivity", would be flown to Moscow for medical and psychological rehabilitation.

Prisoner swap

Ukrainian troops sit in a bus after being released in a prisoner swap with Russia. Ukraine released this image on Sunday. The location was not given. ANDRIY YERMAK/TELEGRAM/REUTERS

Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential office, confirmed the information and said Russia had freed 50 Ukrainian servicemen as part of the same deal.

"To be continued. We must bring all our people home, and we are on it," Yermak said on Twitter, posting images of the freed Ukrainian soldiers holding bags of food near a bus they were about to board and a video of them singing the Ukrainian national anthem once underway.

Separately, Russia and Belarus will hold joint air force exercises in Belarus from Jan 16 to Feb 1, the Belarusian Defense Ministry announced.

A Russian air division team arrived in Belarus on Sunday, while personnel, weapons, military and special equipment of the Russian armed forces will continue to arrive before the exercises.

Agencies via Xinhua contributed to this story.

14:32 2023-01-06
Ukraine says ceasefire with Russia possible only after troops withdrawal
Mykhailo Podolyak, a political adviser to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaks during an interview in Kyiv, Ukraine, November 2, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Thursday that Kyiv will agree on a ceasefire with Russia only after Russian troops are withdrawn from Ukraine.

The Russian Federation must leave and only then will it have a "temporary truce," Podolyak said in his twitter account.

Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a temporary ceasefire along the frontline of fighting, the Kremlin press service said in a statement.

According to the statement, the truce will last for 36 hours starting at noon local time (0900 GMT) on Jan 6, when Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas.

Putin also called on Kyiv to declare a ceasefire based on the fact that a large number of Orthodox citizens live in the combat areas, according to the statement.

23:52 2023-01-05
Putin orders a 36-hour truce truce with Ukraine

MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the country's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to start a 36-hour truce along the entire line of contact between the parties in Ukraine from Jan 6 to 7, the Kremlin said Thursday.

"Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Russian Defense Minister to introduce a ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact between the parties in Ukraine from 12:00 (0900 GMT) on January 6 to 24:00 (2100 GMT) on January 7," the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin also called on Kyiv to declare a ceasefire based on the fact that a large number of Orthodox citizens live in the combat areas, according to the statement.

09:31 2023-01-05
Russia raises death toll from Ukrainian strike to 89
By REN QI in Moscow
Civilians spend time at a humanitarian aid center in Bakhmut, a city in Donetsk, on Tuesday. DIEGO HERRERA CARCEDO/ANADOLU AGENCY

The death toll from a Ukrainian strike targeting Russian soldiers in the city of Makiivka has risen to 89, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

"The number of our dead comrades has gone up to 89," Lieutenant General Sergei Sevryukov said in a video statement released by the ministry. More bodies had been found under the rubble in the temporary barracks in the city in Russian-controlled territory, he added.

Ukraine struck the base in Makiivka in the minutes after New Year's Day began, using United States-supplied HIMARS rocket systems, Sevryukov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had just delivered his traditional New Year's address when the attack occurred.

On Monday, Russia said that 63 soldiers had been killed in the Makiivka strike — the biggest loss of life from a single attack reported by Moscow since the start of the conflict on Feb 24. It stirred renewed criticism inside Russia of the way the offensive is being conducted.

Kyiv took responsibility for the strike, and the Ukrainian military said the death toll was much higher.

Sevryukov also said on Wednesday that mobile phones used by the soldiers had led to the deadly strike.

"Currently, a commission is working to investigate the circumstances of what has happened," he said.

"But it is already obvious that the main reason ... was the turning on and massive use by personnel of mobile phones within reach of enemy weapons contrary to the ban."

He said measures were being taken to ensure such incidents would not happen in the future, and all those responsible will be punished.

The new announcement came after mourners gathered in several cities of the Volga region of Samara — where some of the servicemen came from — to mourn the dead.

United in grief

At the gathering, Yekaterina Kolotovkina, head of a group of army spouses, said she had asked her husband to "avenge" the victims.

"I haven't slept for 3 days, and Samara hasn't slept, … this is very difficult and scary, But we can't be broken," she told mourners. "We will crush the enemy together. We are left with no choice."

Those in attendance waved flags from pro-Kremlin groups, including the ruling United Russia party. Some 200 people laid roses and wreaths in a central square in the city of Samara as an Orthodox priest recited a prayer.

Similar gatherings were reported in other cities including Tolyatti.

Sevryukov also said that Russia had destroyed Ukraine's multiple launch rocket system used in the attack on Makiivka.

In addition, Russian strikes had destroyed four more HIMARS launchers and killed 200 Ukrainian and foreign mercenaries in the town of Druzhkivka in Donetsk, he said.

Putin has yet to react to the Makiivka attack, which happened during the holiday season before Orthodox Christmas, which many Russians spend with their families.

Agencies via Xinhua contributed to this story.

09:45 2023-01-04
Russia loses 63 soldiers in Ukraine raid
By REN QI in Moscow

Anger grows over highest casualty count since start of conflict last year

Russia's Defense Ministry confirmed on Monday that 63 soldiers had been killed on New Year's Eve in a fiery blast that destroyed a temporary barracks in a vocational college in Makiivka, twin city of the regional capital Donetsk.

Russian nationalists and some lawmakers have demanded punishment for those they accused of ignoring dangers, as fury grows over the killing of so many soldiers in the biggest loss of life reported by Moscow so far.

Some military bloggers said the soldiers were being housed alongside an ammunition dump at the site, which the Russian Defense Ministry said was hit by four rockets fired from US-made HIMARS launchers.

The New Year's Eve strike on Makiivka came as Russia was launching what have become nightly waves of drone attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.

Ukraine said the Russian death toll in Makiivka was in the hundreds, though pro-Russian officials called that an exaggeration.

Russian military bloggers said the extent of the destruction was a result of storing ammunition in the same building as the barracks, despite commanders knowing it was within range of Ukrainian rockets.

Igor Girkin, former commander of militias in eastern Ukraine who is now a high-profile Russian nationalist military blogger, said the death toll could be even higher.

The vocational college was "destroyed almost entirely" as a result of the detonation of an ammunition dump in the same building. "Almost all the military equipment, parked next to the building without any camouflage, was also destroyed," Girkin said.

"What happened in Makiivka is horrible. There were a significant number of killed and wounded. Yesterday evening, they were still sorting through the rubble," wrote Archangel Spetznaz Z, a Russian military blogger with more than 700,000 followers on Telegram.

"Who came up with the idea to place personnel in large numbers in one building, where even a fool understands that even if they hit with artillery, there will be many wounded or dead?"

Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks on Russian-controlled territories, and President Volodymyr Zelensky did not address the Makiivka strike in his speech on Monday.

But the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported the Makiivka attack as "a strike on Russian manpower and military equipment". It did not mention casualties, but said 10 pieces of military equipment were destroyed.

Criminal liability

The fury in Russia extended to lawmakers.

Grigory Karasin, a Russian Federal Assembly member and former deputy foreign minister, had not only demanded vengeance against Ukraine and its NATO supporters but also "an exacting internal analysis".

Sergey Mironov, a legislator and former chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federal Assembly, demanded criminal liability for the officials who had "allowed the concentration of military personnel in an unprotected building" and "all the higher authorities who did not provide the proper level of security".

Unverified footage posted online of the aftermath showed a huge building reduced to smoking rubble.

Some of the dead came from the southwestern Russian region of Samara, the region's governor told Russian media, urging concerned relatives to contact recruitment centers for information.

Andrey Medvedev, deputy speaker of the Moscow City Duma, said authorities, whether civilian or military, must value Russian lives.

"Either a person is of the highest value — and then punish for stupid losses of personnel, as for treason to the fatherland — or the country is over," he wrote on Telegram.

Meanwhile, Russian military enterprises are working nonstop during the New Year holidays, Sergey Chemezov, head of Russia's state defense military conglomerate Rostec, told TASS news agency.

Agencies via Xinhua contributed to this story.

07:50 2022-12-31
Putin oversees launch of new warships, submarines
People sit in a subway station being used as a bomb shelter during a rocket attack in Kyiv on Thursday. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW/KYIV — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday oversaw the commissioning of several new warships and a nuclear-powered submarine, as he vowed to further strengthen Russia's navy.

Putin gave the green light for Russian flags to be hoisted on the new vessels via video link.

Among the newly commissioned vessels were a corvette, a minesweeper and the Generalissimus Suvorov nuclear-powered submarine that is capable of launching ballistic missiles.

Another submarine, Emperor Alexander III, was put to sea on Thursday and will be commissioned following trials.

"We will increase the pace and volume of construction of various ships, and equip them with the most modern weapons," Putin said in televised remarks.

"All in all, everything to reliably ensure Russia's security, the protection of our national interests in the world ocean."

Putin has made strengthening his armed forces a top priority, equipping the navy with new warships and adding hypersonic missiles described by Putin as "invincible", to Russia's arsenal.

This comes as more Western supplies pour into Ukraine. According to an interview published on Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on NATO member states to supply more weapons to Ukraine.

"I call on allies to do more. It is in all our security interests to make sure Ukraine prevails," Stoltenberg told the German news agency DPA.

He said it was perhaps even more important that Ukraine receives enough ammunition for the systems already in place, adding that the need for ammunition and spare parts was "enormous".

In an address to a group of Western leaders last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked for a wide range of weapons and air defense systems to help combat efforts.

In Kyiv, local officials said Russia launched 16 kamikaze drones into Ukraine overnight on Friday, a day after Moscow fired dozens of missiles in its latest barrage against critical Ukrainian infrastructure.

The Ukrainian Air Force said all 16 drones, which it said were sent from the southeast and north, had been destroyed by air defenses.

In another development, Belarus said on Thursday that it shot down an air defense missile launched from Ukrainian territory, in the first such incident reported by Minsk since the start of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Belarusian authorities had summoned Ukraine's ambassador over the missile. "A strong protest was made in connection with the launch of an S-300 anti-aircraft guided missile from the territory of Ukraine," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Minsk demanded an immediate investigation of the incident, saying such incidents could lead to "catastrophic consequences" and should not happen again, the statement said.

Agencies Via Xinhua

13:01 2022-12-27
Ukrainian president hopes for quick implementation of agreements with US
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a joint press conference with US President Joe Biden (not in frame) in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, DC on Dec 21, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday voiced his hope for a quick implementation of agreements with the United States reached during his recent visit to Washington, the presidential press service said.

"We will not waste time. We will quickly implement everything that was agreed upon in Washington," Zelensky said in his daily video address without specifying which agreements he was talking about.

The president said about 9 million people across Ukraine are without power, but the number of outages is gradually decreasing.

Last week, Zelensky traveled to Washington on his first foreign visit since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in late February.

Following the trip, Zelensky said he had reached new agreements regarding assistance for Ukraine's energy industry.

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