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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Jan. 24

Protesters hold signs and wave Ukrainian flags during a demonstration in support of Ukraine outside of an EU foreign ministers meeting at the European Council building in Brussels on Jan. 23, 2023.
Protesters hold signs and wave Ukrainian flags during a demonstration in support of Ukraine outside of an EU foreign ministers meeting at the European Council building in Brussels on Jan. 23, 2023.

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

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

11 p.m.: Democratic and Republican U.S. lawmakers praised Ukraine's government on Tuesday for taking swift action against corruption and insisted that U.S. military and humanitarian aid to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's government should continue, Reuters reported.

Several senior Ukrainian officials were dismissed on Tuesday in Ukraine's biggest political shake-up of the war so far, which Kyiv said showed Zelenskyy was in tune with his public following corruption allegations.

"It's a defining moment for Ukraine. It's a defining moment for all of us, Germany, the United States, all of our allies. We expect that President Zelenskyy will follow through with a promise he made that Ukraine is going to change on the corruption front," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told a news conference days after returning from Kyiv.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who was also on the trip, said the dismissals were important. "It demonstrates what President Zelenskyy has told us, that there will be zero tolerance for fraud or waste," he said.

10:20 p.m.: Russia's top diplomat on Tuesday pledged security training to Eswatini, just days after the brutal murder of a leading human rights lawyer and opposition politician, Agence France-Presse reported.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was speaking in the landlocked country, Africa's last absolute monarchy, a day after visiting neighboring South Africa and just two days after Thulani Maseko was shot.

"Russia is prepared to assist Eswatini in training of security personnel, improving food production and also assistance on other issues of mutual cooperation," Lavrov told reporters.

Following talks with Eswatini's prime minister and other Cabinet members, he said 50 Eswatini security personnel were studying at Russian defense universities.

The weekend killing of Maseko has sparked worldwide condemnation.

9:04 p.m.: Two Britons missing in Ukraine this month were killed while attempting a "humanitarian evacuation" from a war-ravaged town in the east, one of the men's families confirmed Tuesday, according to Agence France-Presse.

Chris Parry, 28, and Andrew Bagshaw, 48, died while undertaking voluntary work in Soledar, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, Parry's family said in a statement released by Britain's Foreign Office.

Bagshaw is also a New Zealand citizen, according to reports, with the country's foreign ministry saying earlier this month it was "working with relevant agencies in the U.K. to confirm the latest situation."

Concern had grown about their fates after the head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, which helped captured Soledar from Ukrainian forces recently, said on January 11 that one of the missing men's bodies had been found there.

8 p.m.: Ukraine has enough coal and gas reserves for the remaining months of winter despite repeated Russian attacks on its energy system, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Shmyhal said the situation in the energy sector remained difficult but under control after a months-long Russian campaign of drone and missile strikes on critical infrastructure that damaged about 40% of the energy system.

"For now all Russia's attempts to plunge Ukraine into darkness have failed," Shmyhal told a government meeting.

"We have enough reserves to continue and end the heating season in normal mode. About 11 billion cubic meters of gas are stored in gas storages and nearly 1.2 million [metric tons] of coal are in storages."

Despite unseasonably warm weather in December and January, all Ukraine's regions are experiencing scheduled electricity shutdowns due to an energy deficit. Grid operator Ukrenergo said that energy generation had picked up this week.

7:03 p.m.: G-7 and other partner countries on Tuesday pledged to maintain their support for Ukraine's energy sector, including delivering equipment and other humanitarian aid during winter, the U.S. State Department said following a meeting of the group's foreign ministers, according to Reuters.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi co-hosted the meeting, in which countries also vowed to continue coordinating on Ukraine's efforts to "modernize and decarbonize its energy grid," the department said after the virtual meeting.

The foreign ministers reiterated calls for Russia to halt attacks on Ukraine's energy and heating systems, the State Department added in a statement.

6:22 p.m.: Finland's president on Tuesday suggested the Nordic nation could offer its training capabilities to prospective tank units, Agence France-Presse reported.

"We are the few countries in Europe which still have conscripts. That means our training system is very developed," Sauli Niinisto said in a press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during a surprise visit to Kyiv.

"They take in every year newcomers, train them and we have very experienced training and premises for trainees," he added.

Niinisto emphasized that the ongoing discussion was not just about individual tanks but about a "greater unit" and "how to build it up."

"I can just promise that we are constructive in that unit," he said.

The president said there were "different possibilities" for how Finland could play a role in that support.

5:39 p.m.: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday launched the biggest government reshuffle since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022.

A deputy head of the President's Office, a deputy prosecutor general, several deputy ministers, and several governors were ousted following a number of scandals, including corruption ones.

Some saw the reshuffle as an effort by Zelenskyy to clean house and show that state officials' corrupt and ostentatious lifestyle is unacceptable in a country at war.

But critics argued that the reshuffle is a result of political infighting, not a genuine anti-corruption drive, since some notorious top officials accused of corruption are notably missing from the list of those fired.

The Kyiv Independent answers the question: Who are the officials Zelenskyy ousted?

5 p.m.: Twelve countries have agreed to supply Ukraine with around 100 Leopard 2 tanks if the German government gives its consent, ABC News reported, citing a senior Ukrainian official who spoke exclusively to ABC.

Those agreements, the source said, were made at Friday's summit at Ramstein US Air Force Base in Germany when allied nations discussed military support for Ukraine.

Countries such as Poland and Finland have already indicated publicly that they are willing to provide a number of their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

The Ukrainian official with knowledge of the matter said Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark were also willing to provide some of their tanks, however Germany's consent was still necessary for the coalition of countries to proceed on the matter.

4:20 p.m.: Twenty-five people have been killed and more than 90 injured in Russia's border region of Belgorod since the start of Moscow's assault on Ukraine, the region's governor told President Vladimir Putin, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Ukraine, the enemy, is targeting peaceful settlements. There are 25 dead, 96 people were wounded," governor Vyacheslav Gladkov told Putin in televised remarks.

This is the first time Russian officials have announced an official death toll for a Russian region since the start of Moscow's offensive in Ukraine.

Gladkov also said around 6,500 people had to be evacuated from border villages and were essentially "refugees."

Putin praised Russia's weapons, saying, "Practical combat work has shown that Russia's air defense is one of the best in the world."

3:45 p.m.: At the only place in their village where they could find a strong mobile internet signal - a windswept hill on the barren steppe - Ukrainian fifth-grader Mykola Dziuba and his friends have built makeshift tent to serve as a remote classroom, Reuters reported.

"We sit here for around two or three hours, sometimes just for an hour," said Dziuba as the wind rattled the rickety structure. "When it got cold recently, it wasn't too great."

Dziuba's school in eastern Ukraine has been in distance-learning mode since the start of the new school year in September, a few weeks before the area was recaptured from Russian occupation during a Ukrainian counteroffensive. That prompted him and his friends to seek out their own spaces for learning.

He said they collected the materials - plastic sheeting, wooden poles, bricks and sand - from around their homes. The students listen to lectures and send assignments back and forth to their teacher via messaging apps.

School director Liudmyla Myronenko said she had not expected her students to approach their remote studies so enthusiastically. "I was really in awe of the children," she said. "They wanted to see us, they wanted to communicate with us somehow."

2:50 p.m.:

2:35 p.m.: At the U.S. State Department briefing Tuesday afternoon, spokesman Ned Price was asked about Germany and the U.S. providing tanks to Ukraine, but he said he was not going to get ahead of any official announcements that allies may have to make, according to VOA’s senior diplomatic correspondent Cindy Saine.

"Our position is that this is a question for our German allies, for our Polish allies," Price said, remarking on Germany authorizing allies to deliver German-made tanks.

Asked if the US will send tanks, Price said, "Now when it comes to tactical battlefield knowledge, no one is going to have more of that than the Department of Defense."

Commenting on Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's anti-corruption measures, Price said, "...We welcome quick and decisive actions by President Zelenskyy, as well as vigilance by the Ukrainian civil society and media, to counter corruption. to ensure effective monitoring and accountability of public procurement and to hold those in positions of public trust to accountant when they fail to meet the obligations and the responsibilities that are entrusted to them."

2:20 p.m.: VOA’s senior diplomatic correspondent Cindy Saine shared on Twitter news from German media organization Der Spiegel, reporting that the German government will deliver tanks to Ukraine and also authorize allies to do so.

2:10 p.m.: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has decided to send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries such as Poland to do so while the United States may supply Abrams tanks, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

A government spokesperson, the foreign ministry and the defense ministry declined to comment.

The decision concerns at least one company of Leopard 2 A6 tanks that will be provided out of Bundeswehr stocks, said Spiegel magazine, which first reported the news. One company usually comprises 14 tanks.

"Today the Chancellor made a decision that no one took lightly. The fact that Germany will support Ukraine with the Leopard tank is a strong sign of solidarity," Christian Duerr, parliamentary leader of the co-governing Free Democrats (FDP) was quoted as saying by t-online news portal.

"The #Leopard's freed!," Katrin Goering-Eckardt, vice president of the Bundestag, tweeted, sharing a link of media report on the news.

2:00 p.m.:

1:50 p.m.: Best-selling novelist Dmitry Glukhovsky says sales of his books depicting life in the Moscow Metro after a nuclear apocalypse have been booming since Russia put him on a "wanted" list for opposing the war in Ukraine and he was forced to flee abroad, Reuters reported.

Glukhovsky, 43, is known mainly for his dystopian novel "Metro 2033" and its sequels, along with their spin-off video games, about how Muscovites survive in the city's famed metro system - "the world's biggest nuclear shelter" - after a war.

With President Vladimir Putin and other top Russian politicians regularly warning the West of nuclear war over its support for Ukraine, Glukhovsky said it was hardly surprising that Russians were trying to imagine life after such a disaster.

Atomic scientists on Tuesday reset the "Doomsday Clock" - a symbolic timepiece - based on their latest assessment of how close they believe humanity is to annihilation due to existential threats such as nuclear war. The "time" is now 90 seconds to midnight, they said, 10 seconds closer than it has been for the past three years.

Glukhovsky deplored what he called the "routinization" of the nuclear threats by Russia's leaders but said the Ukraine war was unlikely to trigger a global nuclear catastrophe.

1:40 p.m.:

1:30 p.m.: The founder of Russia's Wagner mercenary group fighting in Ukraine has asked parliament to ban negative media reports about his men by amending the criminal code to make "discrediting" his fighters punishable by up to five years in jail, Reuters reported.

Yevgeny Prigozhin made the request in a letter sent to Vycheslav Volodin, the hawkish chairman of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament. Prigozhin's press service published the letter on Tuesday.

Mercenary boss Prigozhin, who has adopted a high public profile since the war in Ukraine began in an apparent effort to curry favor with Putin and enhance his own prospects, has drawn attention to the major role his fighters have played in helping seize some towns and villages and has frequently criticized Russia's own top military brass.

In his letter, he accused "certain media, bloggers and Telegram channels" of discrediting some of his men, including convicts he has recruited into Wagner's ranks, by presenting them as "bad guys and criminals".

That was a reference to the fact that the sometimes grisly and murderous past of some convicts recruited by Wagner has been publicized. The men took up his offer to fight in Ukraine for six months as they were promised a pardon if they survived, even if they had originally been jailed for life.

1:15 p.m.: For the past few months, human rights activists have been sounding alarms about the Russian private military company Wagner Group using convicts to fight Moscow’s war in Ukraine. Now, the White House says casualties are “extraordinarily high” among the estimated 40,000 convicts fighting for the mercenary group on front lines in Ukraine. VOA’s Igor Tsikhanenka has more.

Wagner Group Convict Fighters Taking Heavy Losses in Ukraine
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1:00 p.m.: Ukraine's ruling party drew up a bill on Tuesday aiming to boost transparency in defense procurement after an army food contract became the subject of high-profile corruption allegations, Reuters reported, citing the parliament's website.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's team is trying to set out a tough stance against graft after the Defense Ministry was accused by a media outlet of overspending on food. The ministry denied the allegations.

Anastasia Radina, head of the parliamentary committee for anti-corruption matters, said the bill would make it obligatory for prices paid for products and services for the army to be made public on the state procurement website. Radina, a member of Zelenskyy's Servant of the People party, said the requirement would not be introduced for arms purchases.

"We are obliged to ensure a level of transparency in procurement for the army, under which such scandals simply will not arise. Can it be done in a way that does not expose customers and suppliers to additional risks? Yes," she said.

12:50 p.m.:

12:35 p.m.: "Scholzology" - the art of understanding German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's decisions - is in vogue as critics at home and abroad question his reluctance to supply the German-made battle tanks Ukraine wants to repulse Russian forces, Reuters reported Tuesday.

His hesitation reflects a caution driven in part by Germany's military aggression in the last century and concern about the possible consequences of ramping up shipments of armor to Ukraine.

Still, many Germans feel Scholz is not doing a very good job of explaining his thinking. "This isn't sustainable," said Marcel Dirsus of Kiel University's Institute for Security Policy. "Voters have a right to know where their chancellor stands on an issue as important as this and the country's reputation is melting down."

Any final decisions lie with Scholz, whose ruling Social Democrats (SPD) have traditionally been skeptical of military involvements and favored engagement with Russia. Scholz has so far neither said he would give the green light nor if he would send tanks from Germany. Instead he insisted on the need to act in close coordination with allies, especially Washington.

12:20 p.m.: Poland said Monday it would send its German-made tanks to Ukraine, regardless of any objections from Berlin. As VOA’s Henry Ridgwell reports, Germany is under intense pressure from allies to send its Leopard 2 tanks to aid Kyiv’s forces — but is refusing to make a quick decision.

Poland Vows to Send German-Made Tanks to Ukraine, Ignoring Berlin’s Hesitancy
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12:05 p.m.: Finland’s foreign minister suggested Tuesday that the country may consider joining NATO without neighboring Sweden if Turkey continues to block their joint bid to enter the military alliance, The Associated Press reported.

Pekka Haavisto later backpedaled, but his comments were the first time a leading government official in either Nordic country appeared to raise doubts about becoming NATO members together at a time when the alliance is seeking to present a united front in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Sweden and Finland rushed to apply for NATO membership following Moscow’s invasion, abandoning their long-standing non-alignment policy. Their accession needs the approval of all existing NATO members, including Turkey, which has so far blocked the expansion, saying Sweden in particular needs to crack down on exiled Kurdish militants and their sympathizers.

11:55 a.m.:

11:40 a.m.: The United States, in a reversal, appears to be dropping its opposition to sending M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine and an announcement could come as soon as this week, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were not aware of a final U.S. decision to send the Abrams to Ukraine, a move that could encourage Germany to follow.

The Pentagon could not be immediately reached for comment.

Such a decision by the United States would come just days after Washington argued against sending the Abrams, despite demands from Kyiv and public pressure from Berlin as it faced calls to send German-made Leopard battle tanks.

Ukraine says heavily armored Western battle tanks would give its troops more mobility and protection ahead of a new Russian offensive that Kyiv expects in the near future. They could also help Ukraine retake some of the territory that has fallen to Russia.

11:25 a.m.: Drone footage released by the Ukrainian Army shows troops making their way across a frozen landscape, before coming under fire. Current Time reporter Andriy Kuzakov visited Ukrainian trenches at the site -- coming under fire on the way. Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, has this report.

11:15 a.m.: The European Union should introduce more sanctions against Russia's technology sector to curb Moscow's ability to produce arms and rockets it is using to wage war on Ukraine, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky told Reuters.

He spoke after EU member states' foreign ministers on Monday agreed to allocate another 500 million euros($542 million) in military aid for Ukraine, as well as discussing more sanctions against Russia and how to hold the Kremlin accountable for starting the war 11 months ago.

"We need to be looking for new and creative ways of how to make our sanctions stronger... how to decrease (Russia's) ability to produce weapons, rockets used for shelling Ukraine's critical infrastructure," said Lipavsky.

He said opposition from Belgium and Hungary to banning trade in diamonds and nuclear energy cooperation with Russia, respectively, meant the EU would most likely not be able to build the necessary unanimity for such measures.

10:55 a.m.: Associated Press video journalist Mstyslav Chernov had just broken out of Mariupol after covering the first 20 days of the Russian invasion of the Ukrainian city and was feeling guilty about leaving. He and his colleagues, photographer Evgeniy Maloletka and producer Vasilisa Stepanenko, had been the last journalists there, sending crucial dispatches from a city under a full-scale assault. The day after, a theater with hundreds of people sheltering inside was bombed and he knew no one was there to document it. That’s when Chernov decided he wanted to do something bigger.

10:30 a.m.: The European Union's drug regulator needs to do more to tackle shortages of some widely-used antibiotics in the region, according to a letter from a group of European patient and consumer organizations reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday.

The letter to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) comes as antibiotics, including amoxicillin - used to treat bacterial infections and often prescribed for ear and chest infections in children - have been in short supply since October.

There has been a spike in demand for certain drugs linked to the resurgence of respiratory infections after two years of COVID restrictions, which has put additional pressure on global supplies, and made obtaining imports from elsewhere unlikely. Drugmakers had also cut output when demand dipped at the height of the pandemic.

Europe is in a difficult position given the migration of generic ingredient and drug manufacturing to places like India and China where costs are lower. Meanwhile, local producers have faced large hikes in input costs due to the war in Ukraine.

10:10 a.m.: President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that there were shortages of some medicines in Russia, despite the country producing more of its own drugs, and suggested building up stocks of popular medicines to help meet demand, Reuters reported.

While prescription drugs are exempt from Western sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine, their delivery to Russia has been hit by transport, insurance and customs hurdles caused by the war and other restrictive measures, industry figures say.

"There has been a shortage of some drugs, despite the fact that we saw production of pharmaceutical products in the (first) three quarters of last year grow by about 22%," Putin said in a televised meeting with government officials.

"Sixty percent of medicines on the market are domestic drugs. Nevertheless, a deficit has formed in some drugs, and prices have risen."

He added that Russia does not restrict imports of drugs and continues to work with foreign manufacturers.

9:45 a.m.: Ukraine dismissed more than a dozen senior officials, including governors of several major battlefield provinces, in the biggest shake-up of its wartime leadership since Russia's invasion. The Kyiv Independent tweeted more details of those affected by the slew of changes Tuesday.

9:30 a.m.: Growing numbers of people lack enough to eat as food insecurity rises with higher prices and worsening poverty, according to a report released Tuesday by the Food and Agricultural Organization and other United Nations agencies, The Associated Press reported.

Nearly a half-billion people, more than eight in 10 of them in South Asia, were undernourished in 2021 and more than 1 billion faced moderate to severe food insecurity, the report said. For the world, the prevalence of food insecurity rose to more than 29% in 2021 from 21% in 2014.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a huge setback, causing mass job losses and disruptions, and the war in Ukraine has pushed up prices for food, energy and fertilizer, putting an adequate diet out of the reach of many millions, it said.

The report is the fifth annual stocktaking on food insecurity and hunger by U.N. agencies including the FAO, UNICEF, World Health Organization and World Food Program.

9:15 a.m.: As bombs rain down across Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, some residents remain in its near-deserted cities and towns, patching up bombed-out buildings and holding on to hope that the war will come to an end. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Bakhmut and Chasiv Yar in the Donbas.

In Ukraine’s Near-Deserted War Zones, Taking a Stroll Can Be Deadly
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9:00 a.m.: Despite Ukraine’s impressive battlefield successes against Russia and the still-unified military, intelligence, and financial backing of the West — including a $2.5 billion military aid package announced by the U.S. last week — one ex-diplomat with deep experience in the region does not expect the conflict to wind down anytime soon, The Harvard Gazette reported Tuesday.

“It will be a grinding war for quite some time,” said Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2016 to 2019, during a conversation with Emily Channell-Justice, director of the Temerty Contemporary Ukraine Program at Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute, Thursday night at the Barker Center.

8:50 a.m.:

8:35 a.m.: Poland will ask the European Union for compensation for the cost of Leopard 2 tanks it wants to send Ukraine, the Polish prime minister said on Tuesday.

"We will apply for reimbursement to the European Union, it will be another test of good will," Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference, Reuters reported.

8:20 a.m.:

8:05 a.m.: German officials confirmed to the dpa news agency they had received Poland’s application to transfer its Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and said it would be assessed “with due urgency,” The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak appealed to Germany “to join the coalition of countries supporting Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks” — a reference to recent pressure on Berlin to send some of its own tanks. Germany has hesitated to take that step, despite Ukraine’s pleas. The tank is adaptable to many types of combat situations.

“This is our common cause, because it is about the security of the whole of Europe!” Błaszczak tweeted.

Polish officials have indicated that Finland and Denmark are ready to join Warsaw in sending Leopards to Ukraine. Poland wants to send a company of the tanks, which means 14 of them, but they would barely make an impression in a war that involves thousands of tanks. If other countries contribute, Warsaw reckons, the tank detachment could grow to a brigade size.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday called for the speedy delivery of new weapons to Ukraine, where a broad battlefield stalemate is expected to give way to new offensives in the spring.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Sunday that Berlin, which builds the tanks, wouldn’t seek to stop Poland from providing the high-tech armor to Kyiv.

7:50 a.m.:

7:30 a.m.: Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday that he had been asked to conclude a non-aggression pact with Ukraine, the Belta state news agency reported, citing comments that suggested he saw Kyiv as a potential threat, Reuters reported.

Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, disclosed the alleged offer to a meeting of government and law enforcement officials at which he also accused Ukraine - without evidence - of allowing its territory to be used by the West to train and arm militants who could destabilize the situation in Belarus.

Lukashenko was quoted by Belta as saying:

"...They are asking us not to go to war with Ukraine in any circumstances, not to move our troops there. They are proposing we conclude a non-aggression pact."

It was not immediately clear from his comments whether Ukraine itself or the West had made the alleged offer.

There was no immediate response from Kyiv, where officials have said they are worried that Moscow may use Belarus as a launching pad for a new attack on Ukraine from the north.

7:15 a.m.:

6:45 a.m.: Several senior Ukrainian officials resigned on Tuesday in a shakeup that Kyiv said showed President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was in tune with society following corruption allegations, Reuters reported.

More personnel changes are expected in coming days ahead of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion, which largely froze domestic politics as political rivalries were put aside to focus on Ukraine's survival.

The departure of officials including a deputy prosecutor general, a deputy head of the president's office and a deputy defense minister followed an announcement by Zelenskyy on Monday of "personnel decisions - some today, some tomorrow."

6:25 a.m.: Five regional governors were dismissed by Ukraine's government following an order by President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy on Tuesday amid sweeping personnel changes in governing institutions, Reuters reported.

The dismissals were announced on the Telegram messaging app by Oleh Nemchinov, a government minister.

6:10 a.m.:

5:45 a.m.: Norwegian police have begun questioning a former commander of Russia's Wagner mercenary group who recently fled to Norway about his time in Ukraine, police said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Andrei Medvedev, who fled from Russia by crossing the Russian-Norwegian border, has said he fears for his life after witnessing what he said was the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners brought to the front lines in Ukraine to fight for Wagner.

Kripos, Norway's national criminal police service, which has responsibility for investigating war crimes, has begun questioning him about his experiences in Ukraine.

"Kripos can confirm that Andrei Medvedev has been questioned," it said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

"We do not want to go into what he has explained in these interviews, but specify that he still has the status of a witness."

Medvedev's Norwegian lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, was not immediately available for comment.

Kripos is part of the international effort to investigate war crimes in Ukraine conducted by the International Criminal Court.

"He has previously said that he was part of the Wagner group, and it is interesting for Kripos to get more information about this period," Kripos added, declining to give further details.

On Monday, Medvedev was detained by immigration police due to "disagreement" about measures taken to ensure his safety.

5:15 a.m.: The final decision on whether Germany will send Leopard tanks to Ukraine or allow other countries to do so will be taken at the chancellery in Berlin, a senior official at the foreign ministry said on Tuesday according to Reuters.

"At the end of the day, the decision will obviously be taken at the chancellery, in consensus by the government," Tobias Lindner, state secretary at the foreign ministry, said at a defense conference in Berlin organized by Handelsblatt.

"Where my minister stands in this debate is well-known, I believe," he added, referring to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock who said on Sunday that Germany would not stand in the way of other countries supplying Leopard tanks to Kyiv.

At the moment, the Berlin government was waiting to see whether countries submitted re-export requests which then would be passed on to Germany's national security council that decides on such requests, Lindner said.

4:50 a.m.: Germany has now received Poland's official request to re-export Leopard tanks to Ukraine, Polish defense minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

4:30 a.m.: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is confident the alliance will find a solution soon on the delivery of battle tanks to Ukraine, he said after meeting Germany's defense minister on Tuesday.

"At this pivotal moment in the war, we must provide heavier and more advanced systems to Ukraine, and we must do it faster," Stoltenberg told reporters, standing alongside German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius.

"I therefore welcome our discussion today. We discussed the issue of battle tanks. Consultations among allies will continue and I'm confident we will have a solution soon," Stoltenberg added.

Speaking alongside Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius on his part said there was no disunity among allies about sending heavy battle tanks to Ukraine and stressed that Berlin would act quickly if there was a positive decision to do so. Pistorius said NATO must not become a party to the war in Ukraine.

4 a.m.: Ukraine's deputy defense minister responsible for supplying troops with food and equipment resigned on Tuesday morning, citing "media accusations" of corruption that he and the ministry say are baseless.

Reuters reported that a statement on the defense ministry's website said that Vyacheslav Shapovalov's resignation was "a worthy deed" that would help retain trust in the ministry.

Ukraine's Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko was also removed from his post during a shakeup of senior officials on Tuesday, the Prosecutor General's Office said.

The statement announcing his removal gave no reason for the decision but said it had been "according to his own wish."

3:30 a.m.: Finland's foreign minister said on Tuesday a timeout of a few weeks is needed in the talks between Finland, Sweden and Turkey on the two Nordic nations' plans to join the NATO military alliance.

Turkey's president said on Monday that Sweden should not expect his country's support for NATO membership after a protest near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm at the weekend including the burning of a copy of the Koran.

"A timeout is needed before we return to the three-way talks and see where we are when the dust has settled after the current situation, so no conclusions should be drawn yet," Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"I think there will be a break for a couple of weeks," he added.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join North Atlantic Treaty Organization after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

They now need the backing of all current NATO states to progress with their application.

But alliance member Turkey has said Sweden in particular must take a clearer stance against what Ankara sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

Finland and Sweden have repeatedly said they plan to join the alliance simultaneously, and this has not changed, Haavisto said.

"I do not see the need for a discussion about that," Haavisto said when asked whether Finland could potentially go ahead without Sweden.

3 a.m.: Russia's Gazprom said it would ship 24.4 million cubic meters (mcm) of gas to Europe via Ukraine on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

2:35 a.m.:

2 a.m.: Planned amendments of Russia's transportation law will make it mandatory for people to book a time and place for any intended crossing of the border by car, Reuters cited the TASS news agency as reporting, raising the possibility of new restrictions on travel.

"The passage of vehicles ... in order to cross the state border of the Russian Federation is carried out on a reserved date and time in accordance with the procedure established by the government," the agency said later on Monday, citing a draft amendment it said was due to come into force on March 1.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February last year, many Russian citizens and residents fled from the country, with the number growing significantly after the government declared the mobilization of some 300,000 personnel for the military in September.

While precise totals are not available, the number of Russians who have left could run into hundreds of thousands, according to media reports and figures released by neighboring countries.

1:45 a.m.: The deputy head of Ukraine's presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said on Tuesday he had asked President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday to relieve him of his duties, Reuters reported.

"I thank the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the trust and the opportunity to do good deeds every day and every minute," Tymoshenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

A decree accepting Tymoshenko's resignation was published on the president's website.

1:30 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said personnel changes were being carried out at senior and lower levels, following the most high-profile graft allegations since Russia's invasion that threaten to dampen Western enthusiasm for the Kyiv government, Reuters reported.

Reports of a fresh scandal in Ukraine, which has a long history of shaky governance, come as European countries bicker over giving Kyiv German-made Leopard 2 tanks — the workhorse of armies across Europe that Ukraine says it needs to break through Russian lines and recapture territory.

"There are already personnel decisions — some today, some tomorrow — regarding officials at various levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in the regions and in law enforcement," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Monday.

Zelenskyy, who did not identify the officials to be replaced, said his plans included toughening oversight on traveling abroad for official assignments.

Several Ukrainian media outlets have reported that cabinet ministers and senior officials could be sacked imminently.

1 a.m.: Reuters reported that Ukraine has imposed sanctions on 22 Russians associated with the Russian Orthodox Church for what President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said was their support of genocide under the cloak of religion.

According to a decree issued by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, the list includes Mikhail Gundayev, who represents the Russian Orthodox Church in the World Council of Churches and other international organizations in Geneva.

Russian state media reported that Gundayev is a nephew of the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. Ukraine sanctioned Kirill last year.

The sanctions are the latest in a series of steps Ukraine has taken against the Russian Orthodox Church, which has backed President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine that is now entering its 12th month.

"Sanctions have been imposed against 22 Russian citizens who, under the guise of spirituality, support terror and genocidal policy," Zelenskyy said in his nightly address late on Monday.

He said the punitive measures said that they would strengthen the country's "spiritual independence."

A majority of Ukrainians are Orthodox Christians and competition has been fierce between the branch of the church historically linked to Moscow and an independent church proclaimed after independence from Soviet rule in 1991.

12:25 a.m.:

12:01 a.m.: Berlin public prosecutors said on Monday they had launched a preliminary investigation into Russky Dom, a cultural promotion organization in Berlin that is part of a Russian government agency subject to European Union sanctions, Reuters reported.

Early this month, a Reuters investigation revealed that, despite the sanctions, Russky Dom — which means "Russian House" — had purchased airline tickets for two pro-Russia activists living in Germany to travel to a Kremlin-backed conference in Moscow.

"I can confirm that a complaint was filed in relation to the 'Russian House' and that an investigation was initiated," Karen Sommer, a spokeswoman for the Berlin prosecutors' office said in an emailed response to Reuters queries.

She did not answer specific Reuters questions on the content of the investigation, or what had prompted it, saying that the probe was at a preliminary stage and no further information could be shared for the moment.

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

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