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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Jan. 26

A woman walks by a destroyed Russian tank put on display in a street in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 25, 2023.
A woman walks by a destroyed Russian tank put on display in a street in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 25, 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.: Canada will send four Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand said Thursday, according to Reuters, after Germany this week allowed other countries to reexport the German-built tank.

"This donation, combined with the contributions of allies and partners, will significantly help the armed forces of Ukraine" in their defense against the Russian invasion, Anand told reporters in Ottawa.

9:14 p.m.: The European Commission is proposing that the EU set a $100 per barrel price cap on premium Russian oil products like diesel and a $45 per barrel cap on discounted products like fuel oil, Reuters reported European Union officials saying Thursday.

The proposal was sent to EU governments, whose representatives will discuss it at a meeting on Friday afternoon, with a view to a deal before the price cap on imported Russian oil products is to come into force on February 5, in line with an agreement by G-7 countries.

The price cap on Russian oil products follows a $60 per barrel cap imposed on Russian crude on December 5 as G-7 countries and the 27-nation EU as a whole seek to limit Russia's revenue from its oil exports without disrupting world supply.

Both price caps work by prohibiting Western insurance and shipping companies from insuring or carrying cargoes of Russian crude and oil products unless they were bought at or below the set price cap.

The $60 per barrel limit on crude is now up for review as the market price has been just below the cap.

8:37 p.m.: A new song by a well-known Russian comic that satirizes Moscow's war in Ukraine and its supporters has been referred to prosecutors by a patriotic organization which believes it discredits the army, now a criminal offense, Reuters reported.

The song, by Semyon Slepakov, is called "Lullaby" and likens Russia, with dark irony, to a mother who glorifies the idea of dying on the battlefields of Ukraine and believes it is her sons' duty to lay down their lives for her own greatness.

A patriotic organization called The Foundation for the Protection of National Historical Heritage told the TASS state news agency on Thursday it had referred the song to state prosecutors to check if it flouted a law that carries jail terms of up to five years for discrediting the armed forces.

Lawmakers and state TV talk show hosts have also called on the authorities to act against Slepakov, who has worked in Israel since Russia invaded Ukraine.

7:48 p.m.: The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a Chinese company for allegedly providing satellite imagery in Ukraine to help Russia's Wagner mercenary group, which has come under growing U.S. pressure, Reuters reported.

The Treasury Department and State Department announced new actions as they formally designated the Wagner Group as a transnational criminal organization, a move previewed last week by the White House.

Among the firms targeted was Changsha Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute Co., a Chinese firm the Treasury Department said has provided satellite imagery over Ukraine to the Wagner Group.

China is officially an ally of Russia, but the United States has called out what it sees as Beijing's tepid support for the war in Ukraine including a refusal to supply Moscow with weapons.

6:55 p.m.: At the Pentagon on Thursday, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh confirmed to reporters that the U.S. will send M1 A2 Abrams tanks to Ukraine and that "our intent is to procure new tanks. … We just don't have these tanks available in excess in our US stocks which is why it is going to take months" for delivery.

There is no timeline or location yet for training Ukrainian troops on the Abrams tanks, she said.

"It is going to be a challenge to sustain and maintain these tanks," she added.

VOA's National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the briefing.

6:10 p.m.: A former commander of Russia's Wagner mercenary group who fled to Norway has spoken about how he witnessed some of his comrades being shot as they were trying to flee from the frontline in Ukraine, his Norwegian lawyer told Reuters.

Andrei Medvedev, who fled from Russia by crossing the Russian-Norwegian border on January 13, has said he fears for his life after witnessing what he said was the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners taken to Ukraine to fight for Wagner.

Medvedev is living in a secret location in the Oslo area since his release from police custody.

His lawyer Brynjulf Risnes told Reuters that Medvedev had seen some "incredibly horrible" situations while he was fighting with Wagner last autumn.

Kripos, Norway's national criminal police service, which has responsibility for investigating war crimes, has begun questioning him about his experiences in Ukraine and would continue to do so, Risnes said.

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

Other groups like the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Clooney Foundation were also interested in talking to Medvedev, his lawyer said.

5:01 p.m.: France and Italy are close to finalizing the technical details to supply a SAMP/T air defense system to Ukraine, Reuters reported, citing two diplomatic sources on Thursday

It was unclear how quickly a final decision would come.

Kyiv has asked its Western allies for more air defense systems and specifically requested the SAMP/T, known as Mamba, in November.

France's Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu will travel to Italy on Friday to meet his Italian counterpart Guido Crosetto, with both sides wanting to push ahead with the SAMP/T talks.

The system, a joint Franco-Italian consortium can track dozens of targets and intercept 10 at once and is the only European-made system that can intercept ballistic missiles.

4:19 p.m.: Russian authorities designated the independent news outlet Meduza an "undesirable organization" on Thursday, effectively outlawing the site from operating in Russia and banning any Russian from cooperating with Meduza or its journalists, Reuters reported.

The designation is the latest in a years-long campaign by the Kremlin to curb independent media and stop their reporting from reaching ordinary Russians in a crackdown that has escalated since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

In a statement announcing the decision, Russia's General Prosecutor said the Latvia-based news outlet "poses a threat to the foundations of the constitutional system and the security of the Russian Federation."

There was no immediate response from Meduza, one of Russia's most widely read independent news sites, though it did publish a news story on its website, including details about what the designation could mean.

3:40 p.m.:

3 p.m.: Iya Rudzitskaya, a 92-year-old Ukrainian Jew, has fled Kyiv twice. First, in 1941, when she was just 10 years old and German bombs started falling on the then Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The second time came last year, when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Reuters reported.

"I did not believe that this could ever happen," said Rudzitskaya, sitting in the small one-bedroom flat she shares with her son Artur in the Polish city of Krakow.

"Earlier, the Germans were the enemy. But I don't understand the Russians. They think that they are defending their country, they are defending themselves, but they came to us. They have destroyed Kharkiv, what do they need it for?"

Rudzitskaya slowly goes through family photos she took from Kyiv along with some books, documents and basic necessities. She squints her eyes, trying to find her young self in the pictures. Her sight is failing her, but her memories are still vivid

2:21 p.m.:

1 p.m.: Ukrainian officials Thursday updated casualty figures from a massive Russian attack overnight.

Russian forces fired another rash of missiles and self-exploding drones in nearly a dozen provinces of Ukraine early Thursday, causing the first attack-related death of the year in Kyiv and killing at least 11 people in all, according to Ukrainian authorities, The Associated Press reported.

The attacks adhered to Russia’s recent pattern of striking power plants and other critical infrastructure about every two weeks. However, the latest onslaught came after Germany and the United States upped the ante in Russia’s 11-month war by promising Wednesday to send high-tech battle tanks to Ukraine and green-lighting other allies to do the same.

The spokesperson for Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, Oleksandr Khorunzhyi, said that in addition to the dead the casualties included at least 11 people who were wounded.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said one person was killed during the attacks, the city’s first such death since New Year’s Eve. Two others were injured, he said.

12:35 p.m.: Investigators have detained a Ukrainian security official on suspicion of spying for Russia, authorities said on Thursday, part of an effort by Kyiv to weed out moles nearly a year into a war with Russia, Reuters reported.

The official - a lieutenant colonel in the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) which joined the operation - had revealed the location of military checkpoints and other “secret information”, the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) said.

He allegedly sent the data to his Russian handlers via email and a messaging app. A search turned up mobile phones, Russian SIM cards, cash and other evidence proving “longstanding ties” to Russian state and law enforcement structures, the SBI added.

“Today the service works as a single team and is doing the maximum for Ukraine’s victory,” said SBU chief Vasyl Malyuk in a separate statement.“And the self-cleansing of our ranks from traitors is an important part of this process.”

12:00 p.m.: French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna arrived on Thursday in Odesa, the strategic port city on Ukraine's Black Sea coast, as part of France's efforts to boost its relationship with Ukraine and discuss its needs in the coming months, Reuters reported.

UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, on Wednesday designated the city's historic center a "World Heritage in Danger" site.

Colonna was in Odesa shortly after missile strikes hit crucial power infrastructure facilities in the surrounding region, causing blackouts in the city. She was due to visit one of the damaged sites.

"It's been a year since Russia launched this war carrying out atrocities and crimes. What we saw this morning with strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure is not waging war, it's waging war crimes," she told TFI television in Odesa.

The visit aims to send a message to Moscow amid Western fears that Russia, almost a year after invading Ukraine, may still want to launch an attack on the city to deprive Ukraine of its key maritime outlet for grain products.

11:30 a.m.: Ukraine came under attack by Russian missiles and drones early Thursday, resulting in widespread damage in the Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions, including the cities of Dnipro and Kherson, VOA’s Anna Chernikova reported.

During the attack, residents in the Kyiv, Vinnytsia, and Odesa regions, including the capital city of Kyiv, reported hearing explosions.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko confirmed damage in two districts in the capital which left one civilian dead and two wounded. The latest attack caused damage to energy infrastructure across the country. According to local officials, the Kyiv, Odesa, and Vinnytsia regions currently face the most severe energy crisis.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine confirmed that Ukrainian air defense managed to destroy 47 of the 55 missiles of various kinds that Russian forces fired across Ukraine. All 24 drones targeting Ukrainian cities were also destroyed, the Ukrainian air forces confirmed.

11:15 a.m.: The U.S. State Department released a statement Thursday saying it is imposing sanctions on the Wagner Group, a private military entity involved in the war in Ukraine.

"The United States is sanctioning individuals and entities linked to Russia’s para-military Wagner Group and its head, Yevgeniy Prigozhin – including its key infrastructure and associated front companies, its battlefield operations in Ukraine, producers of Russia’s weapons, and those administering Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine," the statement said.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control is designating the Wagner Group as a significant transnational criminal organization, citing the group's "pattern of serious criminal behavior.”

This action supports the goal "to degrade Moscow’s capacity to wage war against Ukraine, to promote accountability for those responsible for Russia’s war of aggression and associated abuses, and to place further pressure on Russia’s defense sector," the statement said.

10:55 a.m.: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on January 26 it was "meaningless" to hold a trilateral meeting with Sweden and Finland to discuss their NATO bids after anti-Turkish protests this month in Stockholm, Reuters reported. Cavusoglu also told a news conference in Ankara that there was no offer to evaluate Sweden's and Finland's NATO membership separately. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said his country wanted to restore NATO dialogue with Turkey after Ankara indefinitely postponed trilateral talks with Sweden and Finland over their membership.

10:40 a.m.: A former theater director In Siberia whose son condemned the war In Ukraine has been sent to house arrest, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The former director of the Red Torch Theater in Novosibirsk, Aleksandr Kulyabin, whose son publicly condemned Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, was sent on Thursday to pretrial house arrest on embezzlement charges.

Kulyabin was detained two days earlier after his home was searched. His son, Timofei Kulyabin, worked as the chief producer at the theater in the Siberian city.

He decided not to return to Russia from the Czech Republic, where he was on a business trip weeks after Russia launched its full-scale aggression against Ukraine in February 2022.

10:10 a.m.:

9:50 a.m.: Ukraine will now push for Western fourth generation fighter jets such as the U.S. F-16 after securing supplies of main battle tanks, an adviser to Ukraine's defense minister said, according to Reuters.

Ukraine won a huge boost for its troops on Wednesday as Germany and the United States announced plans to provide heavy tanks for Kyiv, ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock on the issue.

"The next big hurdle will now be the fighter jets," Yuriy Sak, who advises Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, told Reuters by phone.

Ukraine's Air Force has a fleet of ageing Soviet-era fighter jets that came off the assembly line before Kyiv even declared independence more than 31 years ago. The warplanes are used for intercept missions and to attack Russian positions.

"If we get them (Western fighter jets), the advantages on the battlefield will be just immense... It's not just F-16s (U.S. multirole fighter jets): fourth generation aircraft, this is what we want."

9:30 a.m.: Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to participate in this year's Asian Games despite Russia's war in Ukraine, the Olympic Council of Asia said on Thursday, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

"All athletes, regardless of their nationality or the passport they hold, should be able to compete in sports competitions," the OCA said in a statement.

The International Olympic Committee had said on Wednesday that the presence of Russians at next year's Paris Olympics should be "further explored" despite calls from Ukraine for them to be excluded.

9:15 a.m.:

9:00 a.m.: Germany apologized on Thursday for using a leopard emoji in a jibe at Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Twitter that ended up offending some Africans, The Associated Press reported.

The German foreign ministry poked fun at Russia’s top diplomat during his tour of Africa when it tweeted that he wasn’t there looking for leopards, but using the trip to try and justify Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The tweet, and the leopard emoji the foreign ministry used on its official account, played off Germany’s decision to send some of its advanced Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to help its military fight off Russian forces.

But an African Union official took offense at what she said was the continent being portrayed as only about wild animals. Ebba Kalondo, the spokeswoman for AU Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, tweeted back to the German government account questioning if Africa, its people and its wildlife was “just a joke to you?”

“Foreign policy is not a joke nor should it be used to score cheap geopolitical points by illustrating an entire Continent with colonial tropes,” Kalondo wrote in a follow-up tweet. The German foreign ministry apologized and said that the tweet wasn’t meant to offend, but rather “to call out the lies that Russia uses to justify its imperialist war of aggression against Ukraine.”

8:25 a.m.: An expanding cemetery in southern Russia began to fill with scores of newly dug graves of fighters killed in Ukraine. Many of the fighters were convicts recruited by Wagner Group after its founder promised a pardon if prisoners survived six months.

8:10 a.m.: South Korea, with a world-class arms industry, is facing mounting pressure to find a way to get needed arms and munitions to Ukraine without unduly angering Russia, which has hinted that it could resume military cooperation with North Korea, VOA’s Christy Lee reported.

Experts interviewed by VOA say the most likely solution under consideration in Seoul is for the nation’s commercial arms manufacturers to make private sales to the United States, allowing the U.S to ship more of its own armaments to Ukraine without depleting its stockpiles.

A spokesperson for the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs told VOA Korean Service on Wednesday that the administration in Seoul “has been providing humanitarian support to the people of Ukraine” but “there has not been a change” in its position that it “will not send lethal weapons to Ukraine.”

7:45 a.m.: German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Ukrainian crews will start their training in Germany in coming days on German-made Marders, which are infantry fighting vehicles, while training on the heavier Leopard 2 tanks would start “a little later,” according to The Associated Press.

“In any case, the aim with the Leopards is to have the first company in Ukraine by the end of March, beginning of April,” he added. “I can’t say the precise day.”

In an interview with Britain’s Sky News on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he didn’t know when the tanks from the U.S. and Europe would arrive.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, also speaking to the British network, declined to speculate on the timing, but said “allies are extremely focused on the importance of speed.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the move to provide Ukraine with modern Western tanks reflected the West’s growing involvement in the conflict. “Both European capitals and Washington keep saying that the delivery of various kinds of weapons systems, including tanks, to Ukraine, absolutely does not mean the involvement of these countries or the alliance in the hostilities ongoing in Ukraine,” Peskov told reporters. “We categorically disagree with that.”

“Moscow views everything the alliance and the capitals I have mentioned as direct involvement in the conflict,” he added. “We can see it growing.”

7:30 a.m.:

7:10 a.m.: Leopard 2 and Abrams tanks pledged by the West will give Ukraine a substantial boost in its fight against invading Russian forces, but numbers are a key factor and time is of the essence as the war grinds on and both sides prepare for possible offensives in the coming months, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported in its news analysis, quoting experts.

The promised deliveries are also an important sign of support from the United States and its European allies, but tanks are not the only weapons that Ukraine wants from the West as it struggles to fend off sustained attacks, regain territory, and ultimately drive Russian troops from the country.

Tanks are “a vital part of the recipe,” retired U.S. Army Major John Spencer, chair of Urban Warfare Studies at the Madison Policy Forum, a New York-based think tank focusing on security issues, told RFE/RL. “They need a tank that will overmatch that majority of Russian tanks.”

Western tanks like the Leopard 2 and the Abrams are superior because they have better sight capabilities, enabling them to quickly find and target enemy armor, and better stabilization, allowing them to fire with accuracy while on the move, he said.

Experts say they are also safer than Russian models with tough blast doors separating the crew inside from the stored ammunition.

So far Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom have agreed to transfer about 60 tanks, but more announcements are expected in the coming days and weeks. Earlier this month, the United Kingdom said it would send 14 Challenger 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.

Valeriy Zaluzhniy, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces, said in December that his country needs 300 tanks, 600-700 armored fighting vehicles, and 500 howitzers to push the Russians back, a number one former U.S. lieutenant general called “a really big ask.”

Ukraine had about 850 tanks prior to the war and lost at least half of them, according to Oryx, a website that uses open-source tools to count destroyed equipment. The actual loss is likely much higher. Ukraine does not disclose its tank count, saying it is a state secret.

6:50 a.m.:

6:35 a.m.: Ukrainian air defenses shot down 47 of the 55 missiles Russian forced fired at Ukraine, the country's top general said on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Moscow used the Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic missile, among other models, General Valery Zaluzhny said on his Telegram channel. Twenty of the incoming missiles were shot down around the area of the capital Kyiv, he added.

"The goal of the Russians remains unchanged: psychological pressure on Ukrainians and the destruction of critical infrastructure," he wrote. "But we cannot be broken!"

6:15 a.m.: Japan, as this year's G-7 chair, expects Russia's invasion of Ukraine to dominate talks this year among the world's major advanced economies, its top finance diplomat, Masato Kanda, told Reuters.

"Sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine will be a top priority at G-7 finance track under Japan's chair," Kanda, who will oversee deputy-level negotiations on economic policy among the Group of Seven (G-7) nations this year, said in an interview.

6 a.m.: The French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, visited the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa on Thursday, Ukraine's foreign minister said on Twitter.

Colonna's visit to Odesa took place on the same day that Russian missile strikes hit energy infrastructure in the region and caused blackouts, according to local officials.

5:40 a.m.: The Associated Press reported that the International Olympic Committee, or the IOC, has signaled that it wants to let Russian athletes compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics under as neutral athletes.

“A pathway for athletes’ participation in competition under strict conditions should therefore be further explored,” the IOC said in a statement.

Tuesday on Telegram, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote that he “particularly emphasized that athletes from Russia should have no place at the Olympic Games in Paris” in a talk with French President Emmanuel Macron.

5:20 a.m.: A Russia-based hacking group named Cold River is behind an expansive and ongoing information-gathering campaign that has struck various targets in government, politics, academia, defense, journalism, and activism, Britain said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

In an advisory, the National Cyber Security Center, part of Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping intelligence agency, said Cold River researches its targets and impersonates people around them using faked email addresses and social media profiles.

"There is often some correspondence between attacker and target, sometimes over an extended period, as the attacker builds rapport," the advisory said.

Russia's embassies in London and Washington did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment about the NCSC's comments. The advisory did not directly attribute the digital attacks to the Russian government.

Once a rapport has been built with a target, Cold River hackers encourage the target to click on a malicious link which tricks them into entering their login credentials on a website controlled by the group, the advisory said.

The hackers use those stolen credentials to log into the target's email accounts, "from where they are known to access and steal emails and attachments from the victim's inbox," it added.

5 a.m.: A German citizen was arrested at the Munich airport on suspicion of treason for allegedly colluding with an intelligence service employee to pass on intelligence to Russia, Reuters cited the prosecutor general's office as saying on Thursday.

The man, identified as Arthur E., was arrested on Sunday upon arriving in Germany from the United States, the prosecutor said in a statement. He is said to be an associate of Carsten L., an employee of the German foreign intelligence service (BND) who was arrested in December on suspicion of spying for Russia.

Arthur E., who is not a German intelligence employee, is believed to have passed on to the Russian intelligence service information he had obtained from Carten L., according to the prosecutor's statement.

An arrest warrant had already been issued for Arthur E., who was brought before a judge of Germany's top criminal court on Monday and remanded in custody, the statement added.

The investigation was conducted it close cooperation with the BND and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the prosecutor said.

German authorities have warned of likely heightened Russian spying given the Kremlin's stand-off with the West over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

4:35 a.m.: "On Christmas and New Year Belgrade was like Casablanca — there's no spy that hasn't occupied our hotels," said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Agence France-Presse had the full story on Russian exiles and Russian agents living in the Serbian capital, and the high tensions and loaded threats that extend well beyond Russia’s borders.

4:15 a.m.: The mayor of Ukraine's capital Kyiv said one person had been killed and two more were wounded on Thursday after Russia launched more than a dozen missiles in its latest large-scale aerial offensive.

"As a result of a rocket hitting a non-residential building in the Golosiivsky district, there is information that one person is dead and two wounded," Kyiv's mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a statement on social media, Agence France-Presse reported. The Kyiv city military administration said the death was due to parts of a missile falling.

4 a.m.: Authorities in Ukraine's southern region of Odessa said Thursday that two energy facilities were hit by Russian missiles, in the latest attack by Moscow's forces against critical infrastructure, Agence France-Presse reported.

"There is already information about damage done to two critical energy infrastructure facilities in Odessa. There are no injured. Air Defence Forces are working over the Odessa region," the head of the region's military administration, Yuriy Kruk, said on social media.

3:30 a.m.: Kyiv's mayor urged residents to stay in shelters on Thursday morning after an explosion was heard in Ukraine's capital amid what officials said was a Russian missile salvo, Reuters reported.

"Explosion in Kyiv! Remain in shelters," Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on Telegram. Reuters reporters in Kyiv heard at least one explosion.

Russian missile impacts were also reported at unspecified sites in Ukraine's central region of Vinnytsia and other parts of the country, Yuriy Ignat, the Air Force spokesman, said on Thursday.

"In several regions and Vinnytsia region in particular there are impacts of Russian missiles," he said in a TV broadcast.

3 a.m.: Ukraine said Thursday that Russian forces had fired more than 30 missiles at targets across the country, in the latest wave of attacks that have put pressure on Ukraine's air defense systems, Agence France-Presse reported.

"We expect more than 30 missiles, which have already started to appear in various territories. Air defense systems are working," Yuriy Ignat, a Ukrainian military spokesman, told local media.

2:30 a.m.: Russia launched its latest air attack on Ukraine during rush hour on Thursday morning and officials told Ukrainians to take cover in shelters as air defense forces shot down incoming missiles.

A Reuters reporter heard the sound of a missile flying overhead at a low altitude, about 30 kms from the capital Kyiv.

Two missiles were spotted over the territory of the Mykolaiv region, its governor, Vitaly Kim, said on the Telegram messaging app.

"Missiles are flying inside the territory of Ukraine. At least two northwest through Mykolaiv region," he said.

An air raid alert wailed across the country as people were heading to work. In the capital, people sheltered in a metro station, with some sitting on blankets and small plastic chairs.

"The first Russian missiles have been shot down," Andriy Yermak, head of the president's office said.

Russia has targeted critical infrastructure with missile and drone strikes since October, causing sweeping blackouts and other outages during winter.

DTEK, Ukraine's largest private energy producer, said it was conducting emergency power shutdowns in the capital, Kyiv, the surrounding region, and also the regions of Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk due to a danger of missile attack.

Overnight, the military said its anti-aircraft defenses had shot down all 24 drones sent by Russia.

Fifteen of the drones were downed around the capital Kyiv where there were no reports of any damage.

2 a.m.: U.S. officials balked for months at sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, insisting they were too complicated and too hard to maintain and repair. That has abruptly changed.

Ukraine’s desperate pleas for tanks have been answered with a sweeping, trans-Atlantic yes. The U.S. now says it will send 31 of the 70-ton Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, and Germany says it will send 14 Leopard 2 tanks and allow other countries to do the same. The dramatic reversal was the culmination of intense international pressure and diplomatic arm-twisting that played out over the last week. The Associated Press has this explainer.

1:45 a.m.:

1:30 a.m.: Novak Djokovic's father has been filmed posing with fans brandishing pro-Russian flags at the Australian Open in scenes Ukraine's ambassador Thursday slammed as "a disgrace," Agence France-Presse reported.

The Serbian star had just booked his place in the tournament semi-final with a straight set thumping of Russian opponent Andrey Rublev in Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday night.

After the match, a group of fans unfurled Russian flags near the stadium, including one featuring Vladimir Putin's face, chanting pro-Russian slogans.

Tennis Australia said four people "revealed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards." Police were called and they were ejected from Melbourne Park.

A video later posted to a pro-Russian Australian YouTube account showed Djokovic's father Srdjan posing with a man holding the Putin flag. It was captioned: "Novak Djokovic's father makes bold political statement."

Serbian tennis reporters confirmed it was Djokovic's father and the Melbourne Age newspaper reported he said in Serbian: "Long live Russia."

Spectators are banned from having Russian or Belarusian flags at the Grand Slam after Ukraine's ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, demanded action when they were seen among the crowd last week.

1:05 a.m.: Reuters reported that Ukraine declared an air raid alert over most of the country Thursday morning.

12:55 a.m.: Since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Biden and European allies have sought to present an image of harmonious support for Ukraine despite occasional disagreements, Reuters reported. But conflicting opinions on sending Abrams and Leopard tanks had the distinct possibility of distorting that image.

Reuters provided a look into the negotiations that led to the U.S.’s promise to send Abrams tanks, and what that could mean for Ukraine and its European allies.

12:30 a.m.:

12:01 a.m.: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged a senior U.N. official to help find a way to resolve what Ukrainian authorities decry as a serious consequence of 11 months of war — the deportation to Russia of thousands of adults and children, Reuters reported.

Ukraine has for months denounced reports of mass deportations to Russia, often to remote regions thousands of kilometers from Ukraine. Russia denies any suggestion of mistreatment or criminal intent, describing the mass movements as evacuations.

"The discussion focused above all on our people that the occupiers have deported to Russia," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address, referring to talks with U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi earlier on Wednesday.

"These are adults, these are our children. A mechanism is needed to protect and bring back people and to bring to account all those who are guilty of deportations. I am certain the U.N. institutions can show leadership in resolving this issue."

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

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