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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Jan. 21

A woman stands in front of a display of destroyed Russian tanks and armored vehicles in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 20, 2023.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine. All times EST.

10 p.m.: Ukraine’s parliamentary committee on national security, defense, and intelligence has summoned top officials of the Defense Ministry to address journalists’ allegations that the ministry is buying food for the army at inflated prices, The Kyiv Independent reported.

Ukrainian newspaper Zn.Ua reported Saturday that the Defense Ministry purchased food for the military at prices two to three times higher than it is sold at Kyiv grocery stores.

This indicates a possible corruption scheme, according to Zn.Ua. The Defense Ministry has not provided any comments yet.

According to Mariana Bezuhla, deputy head of the parliament's national security committee, who represents the governing Servant of the People faction, Ukraine’s State Audit Service and law enforcement are looking into the Defense Ministry's spending.

Bezuhla praised the Defense Ministry for doing a lot amid the war, however, said that mistakes and possible corruption shouldn’t be overlooked.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the President’s Office, confirmed that the audit is under way.

8:29 p.m.: A car hit a landmine in the village of Liubomyrivka in the Mykolaiv region, the head of regional council said Saturday, the Kyiv Independent reported.

According to Hanna Zamazieieva, four people were injured, including a 3-week-old baby.

According to Ukraine’s Reintegration Ministry, the Mykolaiv region is one of the most explosive-contaminated regions of Ukraine.

“According to experts’ calculations, the total area of the region, probably contaminated by mines and unexploded ammunition, is almost 2,614 square kilometers,” the ministry reported.

On Thursday, the ministry said that the U.N. intends to allocate $4 million for demining of the Mykolaiv region.

7:27 p.m.:

6:29 p.m.: The Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Oleksii Reznikov, expressed his satisfaction with the results of the meeting of the Contact Group on the Defense of Ukraine on Friday in Germany.

In an exclusive interview with the Voice of America Ukrainian Service, Minister Reznikov said:

"I am very pleased and thank Lloyd Austin and Mark Milley, the team that organized Rammstein, and of course the host country, Germany, and the new minister," he said.

According to the minister, in addition to the announced military aid to Ukraine, "some packages were announced behind closed doors, this is inspiring, so I am very satisfied."

According to him, at the meeting of the Contact Group, considerable attention was paid to "strengthening air defense".

"This is a seriously developing issue, we talked at Ramstein not only about Patriot, but also about other systems. We are talking about short, medium and long-range action possibilities, the same applies to height," Reznikov said.

5:12 p.m.: The Sea King is a version of the Sikorsky S-61 fitted with British avionics. It has a watertight hull and pontoons that allow it to land on water. It is generally used for troop transportation, search and rescue, anti-submarine warfare, airborne early warning, and anti-ship warfare.

4:20 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday that Russian aggression “ruins the food market” and accused Moscow of detaining more than 100 food-bearing ships "for weeks."

Zelenskyy made the remarks in an address to participants at the Conference of Agriculture Ministers in Berlin, the Kyiv Independent reports.

“Right now, while the discussions at this forum are going on, more than 100 ships transporting food are lined up near the Bosphorus (Strait in Turkey). Why? Because they need to be inspected, and Russian representatives are blocking this inspection,” Zelenskyy said. “The ships are detained for weeks.”

“It means higher prices for Europe. For Asia, it means a growing threat of social instability. In Africa, for such countries as Ethiopia or Sudan, it means empty tables for thousands and thousands of families,” he added.

3:15 p.m.: Ukraine’s General Staff said Russia continues an offensive effort near Bakhmut, the Donetsk region, and the Zaporizhzhia region, engaging additional aviation.

In the Zaporizhzhia region, more than 25 settlements came under artillery fire during the past 24 hours, the latest statement by the General Staff says.

Zaporizhzhia regional Governor Oleksandr Starykh said Saturday that Russia had carried out one airstrike and intensified artillery fire to test Ukraine’s defense. He said one civilian was killed by Russian shelling.

Russia is just testing the waters, said Yevhen Yerin, one of the army’s spokespersons, in a televised statement.

“It is impossible to say that some big offensive is taking place. These are small groups of around 10 people, which the enemy threw to test the strength of our defense,” Yerin said. “If the enemy succeeds, perhaps, in some areas, they will improve their tactical position.”

According to Yerin, Russia is trying to improve their positions near Zaporizhzhia. However, he did not rule out more active moves by Russia since it accumulated “some forces” in the area, The Kyiv Independent reports.

2:15 p.m.: RT France, the French subsidiary of the Russian state broadcaster, said Saturday it will shut down after its French bank accounts were frozen over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, the channel's director said.

"After five years of harassment, the authorities in power have achieved their goal: the closure of RT France," Xenia Fedorova said in a Twitter statement.

She said 123 employees were at risk of not being paid for January and could lose their jobs because of the account freeze — part of the latest European Union sanctions against Russia.

Moscow had already warned of retaliation for the move by the French finance ministry, first reported by the unions of RT France on Friday.

Launched in 2005 as "Russia Today," the state-funded RT has expanded with channels and websites in languages including English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

It has been accused by Western countries of distributing disinformation and Kremlin-friendly propaganda, Agence France-Presse reports.

1:15 p.m.: The private Russian military group Wagner says will send the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers killed in fighting in the captured town of Soledar to territory held by Ukraine, a website linked to the group's founder Yevgeny Prigozhin reported on Saturday, Reuters reports.

The RIA FAN website - part of Prigozhin's media holdings - quoted a Wagner commander as saying the mercenary company would send the bodies from Soledar to Ukrainian-held territory in four or five convoys totaling about 20 trucks.

Saturday's report did not say how many bodies would be returned to Ukrainian authorities but said Ukraine's forces had suffered heavy losses in Soledar.

It said Prigozhin had made clear that soldiers' bodies should be returned to Ukraine in a "dignified" way but gave no further details about the planned operation.

Ukrainian authorities said during the fight for Soledar that Russian forces sustained heavy losses.

12:12 p.m.: Russia says it held air defense training in Moscow region

11:52 a.m. Russian forces appear to be stepping up hostilities in and around the region of Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine’s southeast, CNN reports.

Ukraine’s General Staff, in its latest update on battlefield activities, reported missile strikes on the town of Hulyaipole, as well as rocket attacks on Nikopol, which lies in the neighboring Ukrainian region of Dnipropetrovsk.

Oleksander Staurk, Zaporizhzhia regional head, said Russian artillery fire was ongoing Saturday morning, with 21 settlements across his region sustaining recent attacks. He said a woman had been killed in Hulyaipole, and a theater had burned down, one of dozens of buildings destroyed.

A Russian-appointed official in the occupied part of Zaporizhzhia region claimed Russian troops had broken through Ukrainian defenses and captured four villages – a claim CNN has not been able to verify.

Ukrainian officials have not announced any such loss of territory, though the General Staff update confirmed heavy attacks, detailing tank, mortar, and artillery fire across a dozen front-line locations, including between Orikhiv and Kamyanske.

The front lines in the war, including those to the southeast of the city of Zaporizhzhia, have not moved significantly for weeks. But there has been growing expectation of a possible major Russian move in recent weeks since the head of Ukraine’s armed forces said in a rare interview last month that Russian troops were “100 percent being prepared,” for an offensive.

General Valery Zaluzhny told The Economist magazine he expected the push to happen, “in February, at best in March and at worst at the end of January.”

11:22 a.m.: White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said on Friday that Wagner, which has been supporting Russian forces in their invasion of Ukraine and claiming credit for battlefield advances, would be designated a significant Transnational Criminal Organization.

A letter in English addressed to Kirby and posted on the Telegram channel of Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin's press service read: "Dear Mr Kirby, Could you please clarify what crime was committed by PMC Wagner?"

Kirby called Wagner "a criminal organization that is committing widespread atrocities and human rights abuses."

Last month, the White House said Wagner had taken delivery of an arms shipment from North Korea to help bolster Russian forces in Ukraine.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry called the report groundless and Prigozhin at the time denied taking such a delivery, calling the report "gossip and speculation."

The European Union imposed its own sanctions in December 2021 on Wagner, which has been active in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Mozambique and Mali, as well as Ukraine.

Prigozhin has described Wagner as a fully independent force with its own aircraft, tanks, rockets and artillery.

He is wanted in the United States for meddling in U.S. elections, something that he said in November he had done and would continue to do, Reuters reports.

10:45 a.m.: Latest UK Ministry of Defense Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine

10:35 a.m.: The foreign minister of Moldova, Nicu Popescu said Ukraine’s victory could lead to Russia’s exit from Transnistria.

10:25 a.m.:

10:15 a.m.:

10:00 a.m.

9:45 a.m.: In a tweet, the Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas, urged for “many more” more weapons to Ukraine, faster.

9:30 a.m.: Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov says Ukrainian forces will train to use Leopard 2 battle tanks, despite Western allies’ failure Friday to reach a decision on whether to supply Kyiv with the German-made tanks.

Reznikov told VOA’s Ukrainian Service Friday that Ukraine’s troops will train on the tanks in Poland and described the development as a breakthrough.

"Countries that already have Leopard tanks can begin training missions for our tank crews. We will start with that, and we will go from there. I hope, Germany will follow their process, conduct their internal consultations, and will arrive at the decision to transfer tanks. I am optimistic regarding this because the first step has been made. We will start training programs for our tank crews on Leopards 2,” Reznikov said.

9:15 a.m.: In a twitter post Saturday, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics called on Germany to “provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now” on behalf of Lithuanian and Estonian foreign ministers.

8:15 a.m.: A senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged Kyiv's allies on Saturday to "think faster" about stepping up their military support, a day after they failed to agree on sending the German-made Leopard 2 tanks Kyiv says it needs in battle.

"You'll help Ukraine with the necessary weapons anyway and realize that there is no other option to end the war except the defeat of Russia," Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

"But today's indecision is killing more of our people. Every day of delay is the death of Ukrainians. Think faster."

During a conference at the Ramstein Air Base this week, Ukraine's partners pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in new military aid but did not agree in sending the German-made Leopard 2 tanks Kyiv has long sought, Reuters reports.

7:45 a.m.: At a somber service in Kyiv Saturday, Zelenskyy and his wife honored those who were killed on Wednesday's helicopter crash in the Brovary area of Kyiv.

The helicopter carrying Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi and other top officials slammed into a kindergarten building in the residential suburb, killing him and about a dozen other people, including a child on the ground.

The cause of the crash is not known but Zelenskyy said earlier that it happened because the country is at war. That view was repeated by Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of Ukraine’s parliament, speaking after the service.

“All this would not have happened if not for this terrible and undeclared war which the Russian Federation is waging against Ukraine," Stefanchuk said. "Therefore, we must remember this and not forget these people. Because for Ukraine and Ukrainians, every lost life is a great tragedy,” AP reports.

5:23 p.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russian and Ukrainian forces reportedly continued offensive operations near Svatove and Kreminna. Russian forces continued offensive operations across the Donetsk Oblast front line. Russian sources continued to falsely claim that Russian forces are close to encircling Bakhmut. Russian forces in Zaporizhia Oblast are still likely preparing for a defensive operation in the long term despite recent claims of territorial gains.

4:10 a.m.: Russia's war in Ukraine is hitting Africans particularly hard by exacerbating food insecurity and putting an unnecessary drag on the continent's economy, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in Senegal's capital Dakar on Friday, according to Reuters.

Yellen said ending the war would be the best thing to help the global economy, but the Treasury estimated that a Group of Seven-led price cap on Russian crude oil and refined products to limit Russia's revenues could save the 17 largest net oil-importing African countries $6 billion annually.

Speaking at the start of a three-country visit to Africa, Yellen said some emerging market countries were saving even more by using the price cap to negotiate steeper discounts with Russia, and she encouraged others to follow suit.

G-7 countries and Australia implemented the oil price cap Dec. 5, banning the use of Western-supplied maritime insurance, finance and other services for cargoes priced above $60 per barrel. A further cap on Russian refined petroleum products, such as diesel and fuel oil, is due to take effect Feb. 5.

3:09 a.m.: Two businessmen were charged in indictments unsealed in a U.S. court Friday with allegedly facilitating a sanctions evasion and money laundering scheme in relation to a $90 million yacht of sanctioned billionaire Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, Reuters reported.

The two businessmen - Vladislav Osipov, 51, a Russian national, and Richard Masters, 52, a UK national, - were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit offenses against the United States, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement.

2:06 a.m.: A former member of the U.S. special forces was killed this week in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported Friday, citing American officials. They said he was not fighting in an official capacity.

Daniel W. Swift is a former member of the Navy SEALs who is listed in official records as having deserted since March 2019. The Navy did not provide further information about his U.S. military record, but said, "We cannot speculate as to why the former sailor was in Ukraine."

The Navy said Swift was killed Wednesday.

At least five other Americans are known to have died fighting in Ukraine, according to State Department statements and reports from individual families.

1:11 a.m.: Russians in St Petersburg and Moscow have been laying flowers at improvised memorials to the victims of a Russian missile attack on a nine-story apartment block in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro, Reuters reported.

Ukraine's State Emergency Service said Tuesday that the attack killed 44 people, including five children, and that 20 people are unaccounted for. Search operations have ended.

On Friday evening, dozens of bunches of flowers and several cuddly toys were arranged around the base of a monument to Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko in central St Petersburg. One ribbon read "Forgive."

"I think people who have come here have the same idea as me, to express universal human values — compassion, goodwill, grief," said a young woman who had laid flowers.

A young man said that "one way or another, even in times like these, this shouldn't become normal."

"They weren't combatants, they were civilians," he said. "So I came to pay my respects to the deceased."Reuters is not naming any of those who came to the monument, where witnesses said the flowers and toys were being cleared away by authorities several times a day.

12:02 a.m.: The Kremlin refused to say Friday whether Russia was preparing for strikes on the capital after images of missile defense systems on several Moscow rooftops circulated on social media, Agence France-Presse reported.

The pictures appeared to show a Pantsir anti-aircraft system installed on the defense ministry building along the Moskva River, which was visible Friday on the main ministry building in the capital.

A video on social media showed a Pantsir system purportedly being hoisted onto the roof of a building in the center of Moscow.

Another Pantsir system was installed about 10 kilometers from President Vladimir Putin's residence in Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow, independent Russian-language media reported.

Pantsir-S1 is an air defense system designed to protect against a variety of weapons including aircraft and ballistic and cruise missiles.

Asked whether Russia was concerned that Moscow could be a target, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov referred questions to the defense ministry.

Some information in this report came from Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press and Reuters.