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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Jan. 25


Ukrainian service members load ammunition to an infantry fighting vehicle during offensive and assault drills, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia Region, Ukraine 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.: Ukraine said Wednesday that Russia was upping the pressure in the fight for Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, and that Kyiv's forces were outnumbered and outgunned, Agence France-Presse reported.

"The enemy is throwing a significant number of personnel, weapons and military equipment into the battle, trying to break through our defenses," Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar said in a statement.

She claimed that Russians were "suffering significant losses" but not giving up.

The complete capture of the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine, which has been partially controlled by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014, is Russia's primary military goal in Ukraine.

10:35 p.m.: Finland's defense ministry said Wednesday the country had issued the first commercial export license for military materiel to Turkey since 2019, a key demand for Ankara to approve Helsinki's NATO bid, Agence France-Presse reported.

Riikka Pitkanen, special adviser at the ministry, told AFP the export license concerned steel that would be used for armor.

Finland had suspended new licenses for military exports to Turkey in October 2019 because of Turkey's military operation in Syria.

The resumption of military exports was one of the conditions set by Ankara to give the green light for the Finnish and Swedish NATO bids, which are currently stalled.

10 p.m.: Slovakia is ready to discuss the transfer of Soviet-made MiG-29 jet fighters to Ukraine, Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad’ said on Wednesday, The Kyiv Independent reported, citing UNIAN news agency.

“We are waiting for a decision from the Slovak government,” he said.

Naď earlier said that the transfer of aircraft to Ukraine could not be decided only by Slovakia but required agreement with NATO partners.

8:50 p.m.: The Kremlin's top diplomat slammed the West and praised Angola's "balanced position" on international affairs on Wednesday as he pursued an African tour aimed at drumming support for Russia, Agence France-Presse reported.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on his second visit to Africa in six months, held talks with President Joao Lourenco and his Angolan counterpart Tete Antonio.

His latest trip coincides with that of U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and comes a month after President Joe Biden hosted African leaders at the US-Africa summit in Washington.

Speaking after talks with Lourenco, Lavrov pledged Russia's "mutual firm commitment to development in all areas" with Angola.

Echoing President Vladimir Putin previous remarks, he said "the West is acting with the same colonial methods that it used to to exploit the developing continents."

8 p.m.: The Auschwitz Museum said Wednesday that because of the war in Ukraine, Russia will be excluded from the upcoming ceremony marking 78 years since the Red Army liberated the Nazi death camp.

"Given the aggression against a free and independent Ukraine, representatives of the Russian Federation have not been invited to attend this year's commemoration," Piotr Sawicki, spokesman for the museum at the site of the former camp, told Agence Frace-Presse.

Friday is the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp built by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland — a date that has become Holocaust Memorial Day.

Until now, Russia has always taken part in the commemoration held every year on January 27, with its delegate speaking at the main ceremony.

7:07 p.m.: Russia's top lawmaker on Wednesday backed a proposal by the founder of the Wagner mercenary group fighting in Ukraine to make it a criminal offense to publicly criticize Wagner fighters or publish negative reports about them, Reuters reported.

Yevgeny Prigozhin made the request in a letter to Vyacheslav Volodin, the hawkish chairman of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, saying he wanted jail terms of up to five years for anyone who discredited his men.

Volodin on Wednesday ordered subordinates to urgently explore the possibility of amending the criminal code.

6:12 p.m.: France continues to study the possibility of sending its heavy Leclerc tanks to Ukraine, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

The French tanks are comparable to the German-made Leopards, which Berlin agreed to send to Kyiv on Wednesday, but are available in far smaller numbers and would pose different maintenance and logistical challenges.

"Regarding the Leclerc tanks, we are continuing our analysis with the armed forces ministry," Borne told parliament when asked on Wednesday. "The issue of assistance for Ukraine is not limited to this or that weapon."

France has provided its state-of-the-art Caesar artillery system, Crotale air defense system and most recently pledged its highly mobile AMX-10 RC light tank among other weapons.

5:18 p.m.: Turkish drone manufacturer Baykar donated two Bayraktar TB2 drones to Kyiv, The Kyiv Independent reported, citing Ukraine’s military intelligence report Wednesday.

“We are infinitely grateful to the Baykar company for its uncompromising and constant support in the most difficult times for our state,” Ukraine’s military intelligence said.

Haluk Bayraktar, the CEO of Baykar, producing Bayraktar drones, told the BBC on August 26 that they “would never” supply drones to Russia and pledged their support for Ukraine.

The manufacturer had previously provided Ukraine Bayraktars for free after several fundraisers in Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine raised money to buy the drones for the Ukrainian army.

The Bayraktar is a Turkish strike operational-tactical medium-altitude drone with a long flight duration, which Turkey has been supplying to Ukraine for the past few years.

4:22 p.m.: The United Nations' cultural agency, UNESCO, said on Wednesday that it had designated the historic center of Odesa, a strategic port city on Ukraine's Black Sea coast, a World Heritage in Danger site, according to Reuters.

The status, awarded by a UNESCO panel meeting in Paris, is designed to help protect Odesa’s cultural heritage, which has been under threat since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and enable access to financial and technical international aid.

Odesa has been bombed several times by Russia since its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

In July 2022, part of the large glass roof and windows of Odesa’s Museum of Fine Arts, inaugurated in 1899, were destroyed.

In a statement UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay said that Odesa, "free city, world city, legendary port" had made its mark on cinema, literature and the arts and was thus "placed under the strengthened protection of the international community."

3:15 p.m.: Brazil is poised to register record wheat shipments for January as local suppliers continue to fill the void left by major exporters Russia and Ukraine because of the ongoing war, industry sources told Reuters.

The combination of a bumper harvest and production hiccups in Argentina because of a drought also bolstered Brazilian exporters, particularly in Rio Grande do Sul, the country's biggest wheat producer, they said.

Based on shipping schedules, the National Association of Cereal Exporters projected wheat exports at 803,800 metric tons for January.

If confirmed, the volume will represent a new historic high for the month, compared to the previous record of 695,900 metric tons registered in January 2022, according to Anec data.

2:45 p.m.: The southern Ukrainian city of Kherson was retaken by Ukrainian forces from Russia in November, but the city remains a warzone, with families being displaced again and again by constant attacks. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Kherson, Ukraine.

2:30 p.m.: The Moscow City Court has ruled in favor of a Justice Ministry motion to dissolve the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), Russia's oldest and one of its last independent human rights organizations, amid a Kremlin campaign to muzzle criticism of the war in Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Judge Mikhail Kazakov took less than 20 minutes to render his verdict on January 25, according to Mediazona. The formal reason for the move was that members of the group, which was founded in 1976, had participated in events "outside of their region," Moscow.

"You are committing a great sin. You are destroying the human rights movement, you are destroying it," Valery Borshov, co-chair of the group, told the court during the hearing.

"Dissolving the group is a serious blow to the human rights movement not only in Russia but also the world," he added.

MHG was established by prominent Soviet dissidents, Yury Orlov, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, Andrei Amalrik, Natan Sharansky, Mikhail Bernshtam, Yelena Bonner, Aleksandr Ginzburg, Pyotr Grigorenko, and others, in the Moscow apartment of legendary rights defender and physicist Andrei Sakharov.

2:10 p.m.:



2:00 p.m.: Europe’s top human rights court ruled Wednesday that it can adjudicate on cases brought by the Netherlands and Ukraine against Russia for alleged rights violations in eastern Ukraine in 2014, including the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, The Associated Press reported.

The ruling by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights marks significant progress in efforts by the Netherlands and Ukraine to hold Russia legally accountable for its actions in Ukraine and could pave the way for compensation orders. The court said a judgment on the merits of the cases will follow at a later date.

The cases were filed before Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago.

“Very good news: the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights is another important step in finding the truth and justice for the victims and their relatives of flight #MH17,” Dutch Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgöz-Zegerius said in a tweet.

Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra also welcomed the ruling as a significant milestone in the search for accountability.

“We will continue to do everything in our power to achieve justice for all 298 victims of flight #MH17 and their loved ones,” he tweeted.

1:50 p.m.: When a Russian air strike destroyed an apartment block in Dnipro on January 14, pediatric anesthesiologist Nadia Yaroshenko was momentarily faced with an agonizing choice: try to save her trapped 12-year-old son or stay with a child on the operating table. Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, has this story.



1:40 p.m.: Russian activist hackers knocked several German websites offline on Wednesday in response to Berlin's decision to send tanks to Ukraine, although Germany's BSI cyber agency said the digital blitz had little tangible effect, Reuters reported.

Germany said on Wednesday it would supply its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, overcoming misgivings about sending heavy weaponry that Kyiv sees as crucial to defeat Russia's invasion but Moscow casts as a dangerous provocation.

Hacking group Killnet said it was targeting government websites, banks and airports with a coordinated distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) campaign, a relatively unsophisticated attack which works by directing high volumes of internet traffic towards targeted servers in order to knock them offline.

"Currently, some websites are not accessible. There are currently no indications of direct effects on the respective service and, according to the BSI's assessment, these are not to be expected if the usual protective measures are taken," the BSI said in a statement.

1:20 p.m.:

1:10 p.m.: The German government on Wednesday said it expects to eke out economic growth this year instead of a decline as Europe’s largest economy manages its energy divorce from Russia and shells out support for consumers and businesses hit by higher energy costs, The Associated Press reported.

The 2023 outlook improved to an 0.2% expansion from a 0.4% contraction that was expected in October, when Germany feared it would run out of natural gas used to power factories, generate electricity and heat homes this winter. Warmer-than-usual weather helped, as did a scramble to line up additional supplies of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, that comes by ship instead of pipeline from Russia.

Russia’s state-owned exporter Gazprom has halted all but a trickle of natural gas to Europe as countries support Ukraine during the war. Germany, one of the countries most dependent on Russian natural gas to power its industry, had no reception terminals for LNG at the start of the year. It now has three floating terminals on its northern coast, at a cost of billions of euros.

“We have made the crisis manageable,” Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck said at a news conference.

He said that while 0.2% growth “is not where we want to get to,” the measures taken to shield people from the energy crisis had prevented a steeper downturn. The improved outlook “didn’t fall from heaven — we accomplished it, this country accomplished it.

12:50 p.m.:

12:25 p.m.: The United States announced on Wednesday it will supply Ukraine with 31 advanced M1 Abrams tanks in a matter of months, a decision that helped break a diplomatic logjam with Germany over how best to help Kyiv in its war against Russia, Reuters reported.

President Joe Biden announced the decision in remarks at the White House, saying the tanks are needed to help the Ukrainians "improve their ability to maneuver in open terrain."

Biden thanked Germany for its decision to supply Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks. "Germany has really stepped up," he said.

"The expectation on the part of Russia is we’re going to break up,” Biden said of the U.S. and European allies. “But we are fully, totally and thoroughly united.” The United States had been cool to the idea of deploying the difficult-to-maintain Abrams tanks but had to change tack in order to persuade Germany to send its more easily used Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Still, the Abrams -- among the most powerful U.S. tanks -- will not be heading to Ukraine anytime soon.

Senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the decision said it will take months, not weeks, for the Abrams to be delivered and described the move in terms of providing for Ukraine's long-term defense.

Members of the Ukrainian military will be trained on using the Abrams in a yet-to-be determined location. While a highly sophisticated and expensive weapon, the Abrams is difficult to maintain and provides a logistical resupply challenge because it runs on jet fuel.

The total cost of a single Abrams tank can vary, and can be over $10 million per tank when including training and sustainment.

The decisions by Washington and Berlin come as the Western allies help Ukraine prepare for a possible spring counter-offensive to try to drive Russia out of territory it has seized.

"There is no offensive threat to Russia," Biden said.

12:05 p.m.:

11:50 a.m.: The U.S. will send 31 M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, senior administration officials said Wednesday, reversing months of persistent arguments by the Biden administration that the tanks were too difficult for Ukrainian troops to operate and maintain, The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. decision came on the heels of Germany agreeing to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its own stocks. Germany had said the Leopards would not be sent unless the U.S. put its Abrams on the table, not wanting to incur Russia’s wrath without the U.S. similarly committing its own tanks.

Since then, both sides had participated in “good diplomatic conversations” that had made the difference and were part of the “extraordinary shift in Germany’s security policy” over providing weapons to Ukraine since Russia invaded 11 months ago, said a senior administration official, who briefed reporters Wednesday on the condition of anonymity to describe the new tank package in advance of the announcement.

The $400 million package announced Wednesday also includes eight M88 recovery vehicles — tank-like tracked vehicles that can tow the Abrams if it gets stuck.

Altogether, France, the U.K., the U.S., Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden will send hundreds of tanks and heavy armored vehicles to fortify Ukraine as it enters a new phase of the war and attempts to break through entrenched Russian lines.

11:40 a.m.:

11:25 a.m.: Spanish police on Wednesday arrested a 74-year-old man suspected of sending parcel-bombs in November and December to targets including the Ukrainian and U.S. embassies and the prime minister's office, Reuters reported, citing the Interior Ministry.

The man was detained in the northern town of Miranda de Ebro, and police searched his home.

The suspect is a retired Spanish citizen with the initials P.G.P. who is tech-savvy and very active on social networks, the ministry said.

"Although it is presumed that the detainee made and sent the explosive devices by himself, police do not rule out the participation or influence of other persons in the events," it added in a statement.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska declined to comment on reports that a Russian group could be behind the attacks.

"We are working on all possibilities," Grande-Marlaska told reporters from Vitoria. "The investigation is very advanced and we can really be very satisfied."

11:10 a.m.:


10:50 a.m.: According to Reuters, five top regional prosecutors were dismissed from their jobs on Wednesday, a day after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy launched Ukraine's largest political shakeup of the war.

The officials, who were the most senior prosecutors in their respective regions, were dismissed "voluntarily" by Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, his office said in a brief statement.

"Andriy Kostin signed orders on voluntary dismissal from administrative positions of the heads of the Zaporizhzhia, Kirovohrad, Poltava, Sumy and Chernihiv regional prosecutors' offices," it said on its website.

10:35 a.m.: As Ukrainian artillery pounds Russian positions, a military doctor said work in his field hospital is increasingly intense and a drone unit reported that Russia was massing further columns of artillery. Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, has this report from correspondent Andriy Kuzakov at the front line.


10:20 a.m.: The Ukrainian Red Cross is preparing for more aid to the civil population in the country's war-plagued zones in light of a possible new Russian offensive, Reuters reported, quoting the organization's general secretary.

"Everyone expects some intensification of the fighting," Maksym Dotsenko told Reuters during a visit to the German capital Berlin.

Since Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February last year, around 11 million people have fled their homes, with 7 million internally displaced and four million refugees in neighboring states.

The Red Cross, Ukraine's biggest civil organization, has no access to Russian-occupied territories in eastern and southern Ukraine, but is operating in the rest of the country.

The organization has increased its staff to 1,500 employees from 400 before the war and more than doubled the number of volunteer workers, Dotsenko said.

Five of its volunteers have died in the conflict, Dotsenko reported, one of them during Russian shelling of the city of Kherson in the south.

9:55 a.m.:

9:40 a.m.: Around 600 French soldiers deployed as part of a NATO battlegroup in Romania held a combat exercise on Wednesday to test the 30-nation military alliance’s readiness on its eastern flank, amid Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

The drill at a training range near Romania’s eastern town of Smardan involved some 200 military vehicles, including four French Leclerc battle tanks that practiced firing live ammunition.

Romania’s defense ministry said the main purpose of the exercise is to train the battlegroup “on the rapid deployment capability and execution of a combat mission” within a collective NATO defense operation.

The Leclerc tanks used Wednesday are the same model that French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday he asked his defense minister to “work on” the possibility of sending to Ukraine. Kyiv has persistently requested tanks from its western allies to help its war efforts.

After much hesitation, that request was finally granted by Germany on Wednesday when Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his government would provide German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks, and would also approve requests by other countries to do the same.

9:30 a.m.:


8:55 a.m.: Germany will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and approve their re-export from partner countries, German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said on Wednesday.

Reuters compiled a list of initial international reaction so far:

Russia: The Russian embassy in Germany said that Berlin's decision meant it was abandoning its "historical responsibility to Russia" arising from Nazi crimes in World War Two. In a statement, the embassy said that the decision would escalate the conflict to a new level. Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the German decision confirmed what she said was a "pre-planned war" against Moscow. The Kremlin said that Abrams battle tanks supplied to Ukraine by the United States would "burn", dismissing the proposed shipments as an expensive folly.

Ukraine: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was "sincerely grateful" to Germany and Chancellor Olaf Scholz for Berlin's "important and timely" decision to provide Kyiv with battle tanks. Zelenskyy made the comment in a statement on the Telegram messaging app after speaking by phone with the German chancellor. "Sincerely grateful to the Chancellor and all our friends in Germany," he wrote.

NATO: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Germany's decision, saying in an interview media outlet WELT they would help Ukraine win against Russia. "At a critical moment in Russia's war, these tanks can help Ukraine defend itself, win and stand as an independent nation," he said.

Britain: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday that Germany had made the right decision. "The right decision by NATO Allies and friends to send main battle tanks to Ukraine. Alongside Challenger 2s, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defensive firepower," Sunak said on Twitter. "Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace."

France: The French presidency welcomed Berlin's decision to send tanks to Ukraine and allow other states to do the same.

"France welcomes the German decision, which extends and amplifies the support we have provided with the delivery of the AMX10 RC," the Elysee said in a statement, referring to a France-made lighter combat vehicle which Paris is also aiming to send to Ukraine.

Poland: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki thanked German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday for his decision. "Thank you @Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz," he wrote on Twitter. "The decision to send Leopards to Ukraine is a big step towards stopping Russia."

Finland: Finnish Defense Minister Mikko Savola said on Wednesday his country will participate in the group of countries sending tanks to Ukraine, although the contribution would be limited in scope. "The international cooperation to send Leopards to Ukraine is advancing now and Finland will participate in that," Savola told reporters.

Netherlands: The Netherlands is prepared to deliver battle tanks to Ukraine if needed, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. "If a contribution from the Netherlands helps, we are prepared to do so," Rutte told Dutch broadcaster RTL.

Spain: Spain is open to providing Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Defense Minister Margarita Robles said.

8:30 a.m.: Germany cleared the way on Wednesday for Europe to send scores of battle tanks to Ukraine, and Washington was poised make a similar announcement - moves hailed by Kyiv as a potential turning point in the war and condemned by Moscow as escalation, Reuters reported.

Germany, previously the West's holdout, said it would send an initial company of 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks from its own stocks, and also approve shipments by other European countries.

The overall aim would be to supply Ukraine with two battalions of Leopards, typically comprising three or four companies, each with around 14 tanks. Berlin said the first would arrive within three or four months, and that it would also provide training, ammunition and maintenance.

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

Germany's decision immediately paves the way for pledges from other countries that also use the same tanks.

7:30 a.m.: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expects the alliance's member states to raise their current spending target on defense of 2% of national output when they meet for a summit in Vilnius in July, he told German newspaper Die Welt.

"I assume that there will be a new target for defense spending when we meet for the NATO summit in Vilnius in July this year," Stoltenberg told Welt.

"The two percent target was initially for a decade, so until 2024, so we have to update it now."

Stoltenberg said he could not yet say what the member states would agree on. "But I assume that it will be a more ambitious target than before, because everybody sees that we need to invest more," he added.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February last year, many allies have increased their military spending.

7:15 a.m.: A Swiss parliamentary body proposed on Tuesday waiving a re-export ban that prevents ammunition it manufactures from being re-exported from another country to Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The recommendation passed with 14 in favor and 11 against and will require later approval from parliament.

"The majority of the commission deems that Switzerland should make a contribution to European security, which includes providing more aid to Ukraine," a Swiss parliamentary committee said in a press release late on Tuesday.

Switzerland has previously rejected appeals from Germany to allow it to re-export Swiss-made ammunition to Ukraine, saying such a move would violate its neutrality. But pressure has been rising for Bern to review its policies, including at the World Economic Forum it hosted in Davos last week.

The committee added in the statement that its proposals did not violate Swiss neutrality rules since the arms would go via another country and not directly to a conflict zone.

7 a.m.: The Netherlands is prepared to deliver battle tanks to Ukraine if needed, Reuters reported Wednesday citing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

"If a contribution from the Netherlands helps, we are prepared to do so," Rutte told Dutch broadcaster RTL.

Rutte said the Netherlands could opt to buy tanks it currently leases from Germany, and supply those to Ukraine.

6:30 a.m.: Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from the eastern town of Soledar in the Donetsk region, military spokesman Serhiy Cherevatyi was cited as saying by Ukraine's state broadcaster on Wednesday.

"(Our forces) fulfilled their main task: not allowing the enemy to systematically breakthrough in the Donetsk direction," Cherevatyi was quoted as saying.

His remarks were the first Ukrainian confirmation of Soledar's capture by Russian forces. Moscow claimed control of the small salt-mining town more than a week ago.

6 a.m.: The French presidency on Wednesday welcomed Berlin's decision to send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and allow other states to do the same in support of the country's fight against Russia.

"France welcomes the German decision, which extends and amplifies the support we have provided with the delivery of the AMX10 RC," the Elysee said in a statement, referring to a France-made lighter combat vehicle which Paris is also aiming to send to Ukraine.

Below are other world leaders' reactions to Germany's decision:

5:42 a.m.: Germany will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and approve their re-export from partner countries, Reuters reported German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit as saying in a statement on Wednesday.

The goal was to quickly establish two battalions with Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine, the statement said, adding Germany would in a first step provide 14 Leopard 2 tanks from military stocks. Training of Ukrainian troops in Germany will begin soon, and Germany will also provide logistics and ammunition, it said.

5:30 a.m.: The Ukrainian military conceded to Agence France-Presse Wednesday that its troops had pulled out of the battle-scarred town of Soledar in the eastern Donetsk region, which Russian forces said they captured earlier this month.

"After months of heavy fighting, including over the past weeks, the Armed Forces of Ukraine left (Soledar) and retreated along the outskirts to pre-prepared positions," said military spokesman Sergiy Cherevaty.

5 a.m.: According to Agence France-Presse, the Kremlin said Wednesday that if Western countries supply Ukraine with heavy tanks they will be destroyed on the battlefield, as Kyiv awaits a decision from Berlin on deliveries of Leopard 2 tanks.

"Technologically, this is a failed plan. This is an overestimation of the potential that this will add to the Ukrainian army. These tanks burn like all the rest. They are just very expensive," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

4:45 a.m.: Wednesday morning, Reuters posted a running list of countries who have promised or are poised to promise Ukraine tanks:

The United States: U.S. officials say Washington is poised to send dozens of its M1 Abrams battle tank, reversing its previous position. The tank has a 120 mm smooth bore gun.

Germany: Sources say German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has decided to send Leopard 2 battle tanks, a German-built vehicle with a 120 mm smooth bore gun that is one of the most widely used in the West. He will also allow other countries to send theirs, they say.

Britain: The British government announced on January 14 that it would send its a squadron, or 14, of its Challenger 2 battle tanks, which has a 120 mm rifled gun.

Poland: Warsaw has said it is ready to send up to 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks and has been pressing Berlin to approve the move. A source said Poland had submitted a request to Germany, which must approve re-export requests of the German-built vehicle.

Norway: The Norwegian government is considering whether to send some of its Leopard tanks, newspapers reported.

Finland: The Finnish government has said it could donate a small number of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine if a wider group of European nations also decided to do so but said it would depend on Berlin's approval.

4:15 a.m.: The Ukrainian Red Cross is preparing for more aid to the civil population in the country's war-plagued zones in light of a possible new Russian offensive, Reuters reported citing the organization's general secretary.

"Everyone expects some intensification of the fighting," Maksym Dotsenko told Reuters during a visit to the German capital Berlin.

Since Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February last year, around 11 million people have fled their homes, with 7 million internally displaced and four million refugees in neighboring states.

The Red Cross, Ukraine's biggest civil organization, has no access to Russian-occupied territories in eastern and southern Ukraine, but is operating in the rest of the country.

The organization has increased its staff to 1,500 employees from 400 before the war and more than doubled the number of volunteer workers, Dotsenko said.

Five of its volunteers have died in the conflict, Dotsenko reported, one of them during Russian shelling of the city of Kherson in the south. "I cannot say that all the needs are covered. But I can say that in general the situation is under control," Dotsenko said.

The Red Cross, he said, is ready to provide generators to hospitals and other places in case of more Russian attacks on critical infrastructure. "Of course, we need more financial support," he added, but there was no need for donations of clothing.

Front lines in the war, which stretch more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) through eastern and southern Ukraine, have been largely frozen in place for two months despite heavy losses on both sides, but both Russia and Ukraine are widely believed to be planning new offensives.

3:30 a.m.: Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, whose country is hosting this year's Group of Seven meeting, said Wednesday he is considering visiting Ukraine, after an invitation from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Nothing has been decided at this time regarding my visit to Ukraine," he told parliament.

"I will consider this in light of various circumstances and conditions," he added, without specifying further.

Tokyo has worked in lockstep with its G-7 allies to sanction Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and boost support to Kyiv, even taking the rare step of offering refuge to those fleeing the conflict.

While Kishida has spoken to Zelenskyy several times, they have not met in person. The Ukrainian leader invited his Japanese counterpart to visit during a call on January 6. The trip would be the first time in the post-war period that a Japanese prime minister has visited a country during an active conflict.

3 a.m.: Reuters reported Wednesday that the Russian Defense Ministry has said the frigate Admiral Gorshkov tested its strike capabilities in the western Atlantic Ocean.

In a statement, the ministry said the frigate had run a computer simulation on hypersonic Zircon missiles. Zircon missiles have a range of 900 kilometers (560 miles) and can travel at several times the speed of sound, making it difficult to defend against them. The statement did not say the frigate had launched a missile.

Tensions between the West and Russia have reached the highest point in years due to the conflict in Ukraine. Russian officials have on several occasions suggested Russia might use its nuclear arsenal, the world's largest, if it feels threatened by Western support for Ukraine.

2:25 a.m.:

1:45 a.m.: The United States has determined that some Chinese companies are providing non-lethal assistance to Russia for its war in Ukraine and officials are noting their concern to the Chinese government, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "what we're seeing is non-lethal military assistance and economic support that stops short of wholesale sanctions evasion."

The source did not elaborate, and Reuters could not independently verify this account.

The United States has warned the Chinese government of consequences should China provide weaponry to Russia for use against Ukraine.

U.S. officials view the current activity as concerning and believe it is "a significantly scaled-down version of the PRC’s (Peoples Republic of China) initial plan, which was to sell lethal weapons systems for use on the battlefield," the source said.

It is unclear if the Chinese government is aware of the activity, the source said.

U.S. officials are reaching out to Chinese authorities through diplomatic channels, the source said.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Washington has been very clear with China about the implications of providing material to support Russia's war in Ukraine, though he declined to confirm Tuesday's reports.

1:05 a.m.: The Norwegian government is considering whether to send some of its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Reuters cited Oslo-based newspapers Aftenposten and Dagens Naeringsliv as reporting late on Tuesday.

No decision to send the heavy battle tanks has yet been made, according to each of the papers, quoting anonymous sources familiar with the deliberation.

NATO member Norway, which itself borders Russia, may contribute either four or eight of the country's 36 Leopard 2 tanks, according to Dagens Naeringsliv.

12:30 a.m.:

12:01 a.m.: Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny exhibited a replica of his cell outside the Moscow embassy in Berlin on Tuesday, an Agence France-Presse journalist reported.

Passersby can enter the cell, about 3 meters long and 2 meters wide, a replica of the one where the opponent is held in a high security prison in Russia.

"I was surprised that the door was closed, and I felt a little uncomfortable," said Anya Nikolaeva, 26, who visited the replica, placed in front of the embassy near the Brandenburg Gate. "I was happy to know that it was going to end soon," said Nikolaeva, who is from Saint Petersburg and participated to show her support for Navalny.

Oleg Navalny, the brother of Alexei Navalny, poses on Jan. 24, 2023 inside of a mockup of the prison cell of jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin.
Oleg Navalny, the brother of Alexei Navalny, poses on Jan. 24, 2023 inside of a mockup of the prison cell of jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin.

The 46-year-old opponent of Vladimir Putin's regime is jailed outside the town of Vladimir, about 230 kilometers east of Moscow, after a conviction for embezzlement, one of several judgments that Navalny denounced as an attempt to silence him.

"People are very destabilized and impressed by the conditions in which Alexey Navalny currently finds himself," according to Eugene Nasyrov, 42, volunteer in charge of the cell.

The facility is open 24 hours a day and will operate until February 23, the eve of the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine.

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

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