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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Jan. 27

Power station are seen through a smashed window of a damaged truck following a Russian rocket attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 26, 2023.
Power station are seen through a smashed window of a damaged truck following a Russian rocket attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 26, 2023.

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

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

10:08 p.m.: Foreign investors from countries Russia considers unfriendly are successfully offloading billions of rubles worth of local debt holdings, selling the government's OFZ treasury bonds at a steep discount, two financial market sources told Reuters on Friday.

Moscow imposed restrictions on foreigners' holdings in response to sweeping Western sanctions over its actions in Ukraine, leaving many non-resident investors unable to sell or receive interest payments on certain assets.

As restrictions have gradually eased, offloading OFZ debt has become possible, but market players are being forced to sell far below the market price, the sources said.

The sources said non-residents have reduced their investments in OFZs by 250 billion rubles ($3.61 billion) since the beginning of this year.

8:47 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday invited the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, to visit the front-line city of Bakhmut.

Zelenskyy extended the invitation after the committee said a "pathway" should be explored for Russians to take part in the 2024 Paris Games.

"I am inviting Mr. Bach to Bakhmut so that he can see for himself that neutrality does not exist," Zelenskyy said. "It is obvious that any neutral banner of Russian athletes is stained with blood."

Zelenskyy said "it is impossible not to be disappointed" by the stance of the Olympics chief.

But the IOC has said "no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport."

8 p.m.: Ukrainian troops were locked in a "fierce" confrontation with Russian fighters Friday for control of the town of Vugledar southwest of Donetsk as the two sides battle along the southern front, Agence France-Presse reported.

Both sides claimed success in the small administrative center of apartment towers surround by flat fields, a short distance from the strategic prize of the village of Pavlivka.

Moscow's push for Vugledar is part of its effort to seize control of the entire Donetsk region, which it has already declared a part of Russia.

The town also lies along a southern front that some think could be the focus of a possible Ukraine offensive seeking to cut through Russian-occupied territory to the Azov Sea.

Russian attacks in the Vugledar area could be "part of a series of spoiling attacks aimed at constraining possible future Ukrainian counteroffensive operations," said the US-based Institute for the Study of War.

7:22 p.m.: European Union ambassadors on Friday discussed extending sanctions to Russian ally Belarus to crack down on the circumvention of sanctions on Russia by companies routing banned products through its neighbor.

EU diplomats told Reuters the discussions were intended to align sanctions on Belarus closer to those on Russia.

Among the proposals are restrictions on imports from Belarus of oil, coal and gold as well as exports of certain machinery and technology that could be used by the military, officials said.

An EU official said discussions among EU countries would continue, with an agreement likely next week.

The official said the bloc was trying to strike a balance, making clear Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko's support for Moscow was unacceptable while trying not inflict too much hardship on the civilian population.

6:37 p.m.: A 74-year-old Spanish man arrested over a spate of letter bombs sent to institutions including the prime minister's office and the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid in late 2022 was trying to pressure Spain to drop its support for Ukraine, an investigating magistrate said on Friday, according to Reuters.

Pompeyo Gonzalez Pascual is under formal investigation over two possible aggravated terrorism charges and four terrorism charges, the magistrate said during his first court hearing, according to the court documents released on Friday. He was ordered to be detained pending any formal charges and further hearings.

The suspect used Russian messaging apps such as VK and the Swiss end-to-end encrypted email service Protonmail, which could indicate a risk of him fleeing to Russia, the magistrate added.

His online history included Russian state media RT and Sputnik as well as Spanish-language websites about weapons and chemistry.

Still, the evidence suggests Gonzalez acted alone, the judge wrote.

5:50 p.m.: Ukraine said on Friday it would take its pilots about half a year to train for combat in Western fighter jets such as U.S. F-16s, as Kyiv steps up its campaign to secure fourth-generation warplanes in the wake of Russia's invasion last February, Reuters reported.

Ukraine got a huge boost this week when Germany and the United States announced plans to provide heavy tanks to Kyiv, which is now hoping the West will also provide long-range missiles and fighter jets.

Western military support has been vital for Kyiv and has rapidly evolved. Before the invasion, even the idea of supplying lethal aid to Ukraine was highly controversial, but Western supplies have since shattered taboo after taboo.

Air Force spokesman Yuri Ihnat said F-16s may be the best option for a multi-role fighter to replace the country's current fleet of warplanes, which are older than modern Ukraine itself. He said Kyiv was using four types of Soviet-era planes.

5 p.m.: North Korea condemned on Friday the decision by the United States to supply Ukraine with advanced battle tanks to help fight off Russia’s invasion, saying Washington is escalating a sinister “proxy war” aimed at destroying Moscow, The Associated Press reported.

The comments by the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un underscored the country’s deepening alignment with Russia over the war in Ukraine as it confronts the United States and its Asian allies over its own growing nuclear weapons and missiles program.

North Korea has blamed the United States for the crisis in Ukraine, insisting that the West’s “hegemonic policy” forced Russia to take military action to protect its security interests.

It has also used the distraction created by the war to accelerate its own weapons development, test-firing more than 70 missiles in 2022 alone, including potentially nuclear-capable weapons believed able to target South Korea and the U.S. mainland.

The United States has accused North Korea of sending large supplies of artillery shells and other ammunition to Russia to support its offensive in Ukraine, although the North has repeatedly denied the claim.

4:05 p.m.: Ukrainian combat medic Oksana Lebedenko lost contact with her 11-year-old daughter Yeva after Russian forces occupied her hometown of Vovchansk in Ukraine's Kharkiv region. Lebedenko later discovered that her pro-Russian brother had taken her daughter to Russia without permission. After nearly a year apart, volunteers helped reunite the mother and daughter in Kyiv in December. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

3:17 p.m.: Ukraine's ruling party has kicked out a lawmaker from its parliamentary faction after reports he had traveled to Thailand during Ukraine's grinding war with Russia sparked a public outcry, Reuters reported.

Party spokesperson Yulia Paliychuk said on Friday that Mykola Tyshchenko was expelled from Servant of the People's voting bloc after an announcement appeared briefly on the website of the Ukrainian embassy in Thailand saying Tyshchenko would meet members of the Ukrainian diaspora at a hotel there.

Tyshchenko said on Facebook he had been on a business trip in Asia with approval of party leaders, "acting exclusively in the interests of Ukraine." Parliament Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk said he had approved no such trip.

2:30 p.m.: Ukraine said on Friday it was setting up drone assault companies within its armed forces that will be equipped with Starlink satellite communications, as it presses ahead with an idea to build up an "army of drones," Reuters reported.

Commander-in-chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi signed off on the creation of the units in a project that will involve several ministries and agencies, the General Staff said.

"The most professional servicemen" have already been chosen to lead the companies, each of which will receive drones and ammunition, Starlink terminals and other equipment, it said on Facebook.

"We are doing everything to provide soldiers with modern technologies," it said.

Starlink is a satellite internet system operated by Elon Musk's SpaceX company, and widely used both by civilians and the military in Ukraine.

Ukraine's defense minister told Reuters last month that he regarded drones as the future of modern warfare.

2:10 p.m.:

2:00 p.m.: The director of the Auschwitz Memorial on Friday compared the deaths of people in Ukraine to the suffering in World War Two during commemorations marking the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi German death camp by Soviet troops, Reuters reported.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial preserves the Auschwitz death camp set up on Polish soil by Nazi Germany during World War Two. More than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, perished in gas chambers at the camp or from starvation, cold and disease.

"Similar sick megalomania, similar lust for power, and similar-sounding myths about uniqueness, greatness, primacy ... only written in Russian. Innocent people are dying en masse in Europe, again," Piotr Cywinski said in an address to an audience including Holocaust survivors.

"Wola district in Warsaw, Zamojszczyzna, Oradour and Lidice today are called Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, Mariupol and Donetsk," he added, referring to places where mass killings took place in World War Two and sites where Ukraine and its allies accuse Russian forces of committing atrocities.

1:50 p.m.:

1:30 p.m.: The World Health Organization has made a significant update to its list of medicines that should be stockpiled for radiological and nuclear emergencies, according to a press statement released Friday.

Along with the updated list, the organization has also provided policy advice for the appropriate management of these stockpiles. “The stockpiles include medicines that can prevent or reduce exposure to radiation, as well as treatments for injuries that may occur as a result of exposure,” the statement said.

Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Acting Assistant Director-General a.i, Healthier Populations Division, emphasized the importance of being prepared for radiation emergencies. "In radiation emergencies, people may be exposed to radiation at doses ranging from negligible to life-threatening," Neira stated.

"Governments need to make treatments available for those in need — fast. It is essential that governments are prepared to protect the health of populations and respond immediately to emergencies. This includes having ready supplies of lifesaving medicines that will reduce risks and treat injuries from radiation," she said.

The WHO statement was released one day after Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency expressed concern over the safety of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. Experts currently stationed at the facility have reported powerful explosions occurring outside the plant. This activity suggests that there are military operations taking place in close proximity to the site. The plant is located on the frontlines of the ongoing conflict in the country.

1:20 p.m.: The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday he hoped South Africa would use its good relations with Russia to convince it to end the conflict in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Speaking alongside South African foreign minister Naledi Pandor in the capital Pretoria, Borrell said the EU was not asking South Africa to choose sides but rather just asking countries across the world to stand with the United Nations Charter. "This is not only a European war. It's happening on European soil but affects the whole world," he said.

Pandor said the solutions for the current problems lie in multilateralism and that everyone must seek to find a common ground. "It's not just South Africa and other African countries that must play a role at seeking peace. It's all of us that must be seeking to arrive at a negotiated outcome to address the concerns of all the parties involved," she said.

1:10 p.m.:

12:50 p.m.: The U.S. envoy to the OSCE warned at a meeting of the organization's Permanent Council that Russia is trying "to wipe out the sovereignty of an entire, independent nation" in Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Friday.

Ambassador Michael Carpenter added that Russia was also seeking to do much the same thing with neighboring Belarus, following a historical pattern of denying the existence of sovereign nations and trying to "incorporate them into their empires."

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin had "made clear" that he thinks both those nations "belong" to Russia.

"The United States flatly rejects Russia's efforts to dismiss and repress Ukraine’s distinct culture, history, and statehood," Carpenter said. "We also strongly support the sovereignty and independence of Belarus, which has a proud history and its own rich culture as well."

12:35 p.m.:

12:20 p.m: Russia's communications regulator Roskomnadzor said on Friday it had blocked the websites of the CIA and FBI, accusing the two U.S. government agencies of spreading false information, the TASS news agency reported.

"Roskomnadzor has restricted access to a number of resources belonging to state structures of hostile countries for disseminating material aimed at destabilizing the social and political situation in Russia," Roskomnadzor said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

TASS quoted Roskomnadzor as saying that the two American websites had published inaccurate material and information that had discredited the Russian armed forces.

There was no immediate comment from Washington or from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Russia has made it a criminal offense to discredit its armed forces, a crime punishable by up to five years in jail, while knowingly distributing "false information" about the military carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.

12:05 a.m.:

11:50 a.m.: Poland will send an additional 60 tanks to Ukraine on top of the 14 German-made Leopard 2 tanks it has already pledged, the Polish prime minister said in an interview with Canadian television on Thursday.

Warsaw, which has positioned itself as one of Kyiv's staunchest allies, had pressed hard for Germany to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and to allow other countries to do so as well, a demand which Berlin agreed to on Wednesday.

"Poland sent 250 tanks as the first country half a year ago or even more than that," Mateusz Morawiecki told CTV News.

In April last year, two months after Russia invaded Ukraine, Poland said it had sent tanks to held Kyiv fend off the assault.

"Right now, we are ready to send 60 of our modernized tanks, 30 of them PT-91. And on top of those tanks, 14 tanks, Leopard 2 tanks, from in our possession."

11:30 a.m.: The children still in Ukraine are being forced to deal with the trauma of war. To help them process their emotions, Ukrainian psychologists are using a method called toy therapy. VOA’s Anna Kosstutschenko reports.

Ukrainian Children Using Toy Therapy to Process Trauma
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11:10 a.m.: Russian forces pressed on with a multipronged offensive in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, Ukraine's military said Friday, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy voiced his gratitude for the growing number of countries that have pledged advanced tanks to Kyiv while urging them to accelerate the delivery of the offensive assault vehicles.

Ukrainian troops repelled attacks in 11 locations in the two eastern regions over the past 24 hours, a day after Moscow unleashed another wave of missile strikes across Ukraine, killing at least 11 people and damaging energy infrastructure despite Kyiv's air defense destroying most of the incoming projectiles.

"The Defense Forces over the past day repelled the invaders' attacks in Ploshanka, Nevske, and Chervonpopyivka in Luhansk, and Verkhnyokamyanske, Paraskoviyivka, Bakhmut, Klishchiyivka, Vodyane, Nevelske, Maryinka, and Vuhledar in Donetsk," the General Staff of the Ukrainian military said in its daily report, which RFE/RL could not independently verify.

11:00 a.m.:

10:45 a.m.: Auschwitz-Birkenau survivors and other mourners commemorated the 78th anniversary Friday of the liberation of the Nazi German death camp, some expressing horror that war has again shattered peace in Europe and the lesson of Never Again is being forgotten.

The former concentration and extermination camp is located in the town of Oświęcim in southern Poland, which was under the occupation of German forces during World War II and became a place of systematic murder of Jews, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma and others targeted for elimination by Adolf Hitler and his henchmen.

In all, some 1.1 million people were killed at the vast complex before it was liberated by Soviet troops on Jan. 27, 1945.

Today the site, with its barracks and barbed wire and the ruins of gas chambers, stands as one of the world’s most recognized symbols of evil and a site of pilgrimage for millions from around the world.

Yet it lies only 300 kilometers (185 miles) from Ukraine, where Russian aggression is creating unthinkable death and destruction — a conflict on the minds of many this year.

10:30 a.m.:

10:15 a.m.: Hungary will join the Czech Republic and Poland in patrolling Slovakia's skies after it grounded its Soviet-made MiG-29s from service last year, Reuters reported, quoting Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad.

Slovakia has relied on its neighbors for airspace protection since last September while it waits for new, U.S.-made F-16 fighters due in 2024.

"We confirmed the interest of the Hungarian side, and Slovakia's gratitude, that it will join in protecting Slovakia's airspace," Nad said in a news conference with his Hungarian counterpart Kristof Szalay-Bobrovniczky, shown on his Facebook page.

Slovakia grounded the ageing MiGs as it embarked on a modernization program. It has considered sending them to Ukraine as it battles Russia's invasion but has not made a decision.

10:00 a.m.:

9:50 a.m.: European Union ambassadors on Friday are set to discuss extending sanctions to Russian ally Belarus to crack down on the circumvention of sanctions on Russia by companies routing banned products through its neighbor.

EU diplomats told Reuters that the latest discussions were intended to ensure sanctions on Belarus are aligned with those on Russia.

Areas they are likely to look at are restrictions on imports from Belarus of oil, coal and gold as well as exports to Belarus of certain machinery and technology that could be used by the military, the diplomats said.

The EU has placed a broad range of sanctions on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and prevented imports of a range of products including sea-borne oil, coal, steel, gold, wood and plastics.

9:35 a.m.:

9:20 a.m.: The foreign ministers of France and the Netherlands paid an official visit on Friday to a military base in Romania where both nations station troops as a part of a NATO battlegroup that was bolstered in the wake of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

Catherine Colonna of France and Wopke Hoekstra of the Netherlands visited the military base in Cincu, central Romania, along with their Romanian counterpart, Bogdan Aurescu.

Hoekstra told troops from the multinational battlegroup stationed there that they demonstrate “precisely what our alliance stands for,” and said they play a key role in “keeping this continent and our territory safe.”

“Russia is waging war in a way we haven’t seen in decades, and therefore we cannot let our guard down — we need to step up our efforts,” Hoekstra said, adding: “There is only one way forward: Ukraine must win this war, for its own sake but also for ours.”

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February, NATO bolstered its presence on Europe’s eastern flank, including by sending additional multinational battlegroups to alliance members Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Slovakia.

Earlier this week, around 600 French soldiers held a combat exercise in the eastern Romanian town of Smardan to test the 30-nation military alliance’s readiness on its eastern flank. The drill involved some 200 military vehicles, including four French Leclerc battle tanks that practiced firing live ammunition.

9:05 a.m.:

8:55 a.m.: Russia has twisted comments by Germany's foreign minister about the war in Ukraine for propaganda purposes, a German foreign ministry spokesperson said on Friday, stressing Berlin's position that NATO must not become party to the conflict, Reuters reported.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock riled Moscow with comments at an event in Strasbourg on Tuesday, when, speaking in English, she said that "we are fighting a war against Russia, and not against each other".

She spoke the day before the German government announced it was arming Ukraine with advanced Leopard tanks, putting aside earlier reservations about whether such a move could prompt Moscow to escalate the war.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, in a post on her Telegram messaging channel cited by state TASS news agency on Wednesday, seized on Baerbock's comments as evidence the West was waging a "premeditated war against Russia".

While Baerbock has often sounded more hawkish than other members of the German cabinet about supporting Ukraine, Berlin has repeatedly stressed that it wants to avoid the NATO alliance becoming a party to the conflict. This concern was part of the reason for Germany's delay in agreeing to send the Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

8:40 a.m.:

8:25 a.m.: The European Union wants swift accountability for "horrific" crimes in Ukraine, EU justice ministers said on Friday, even as they differed over the methods in a debate about how to bring prosecutions, seek evidence or fund war damage repairs, Reuters reported.

The bloc's 27 justice ministers met in Stockholm ahead of the Feb. 24 anniversary of Russia's full-scale attack on Ukraine - a former Soviet republic and Moscow satellite that has sought to join the EU and the NATO Western alliance in recent years.

"There absolutely will have to be accountability for horrific international crimes and the brutality of what we're seeing in Ukraine... the clear and apparent war crimes," said Ireland's Simon Harris.

The ministers discussed collecting evidence as well as setting up a new international tribunal to prosecute Moscow's aggression.

"Nobody doing this kind of war crimes shall go free. It's very, very important that we will find a way to hold responsible people accountable," said Gunnar Strommer, justice minister of Sweden."The question is, how can we deal with this in a practical and efficient way."

8:10 a.m.: The U.N. Children’s Fund UNICEF reports on a Ukrainian couple from war-torn Mariupol who run a foster home and are raising 10 children.

7:50 a.m.: Russia is violating the "fundamental principles of child protection" in wartime by giving Ukrainian children Russian passports and putting them up for adoption, the U.N.'s refugee agency (UNHCR) chief told Reuters in an interview.

Speaking at the UNHCR offices in Kyiv following a six-day tour of the country, Filippo Grandi said Ukraine's president had asked his agency to "do more" to help children from occupied regions to whom this was happening.

"Giving them (Russian) nationality or having them adopted goes against the fundamental principles of child protection in situations of war," Grandi said.

"This is something that is happening in Russia and must not happen," he added.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaking after his meeting with Grandi on Wednesday, called for mechanisms to be set up to "defend and return" children and adults deported to Russia, as well as to punish those responsible.

7:35 a.m.: An official with the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told CNN that it is a struggle to provide humanitarian aid to people in war-affected Ukraine, and that the agency coordinates with both sides in the conflict to “make sure that they can guarantee…safety when we do the movements to these areas that are very close to the frontline.”

7:20 a.m. Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed concern over the safety of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in a statement released late Thursday.

According to experts from the IAEA currently stationed at the facility, powerful explosions have been occurring outside the plant, indicating military activities in the vicinity of the site. The plant is located on the frontline of the ongoing conflict in the country.

The IAEA nuclear safety and security team at the ZNPP have been reporting such events to headquarters in Vienna on an almost daily basis in recent days and weeks, according to the statement. While some of the blasts are taking place some distance away from the facility, others are happening much closer to Europe's largest nuclear power plant. This week, strong detonations were heard, causing office windows at the plant to vibrate, it said.

Grossi has emphasized the vital importance of implementing a Nuclear Safety and Security Protection Zone around the site as soon as possible. Such a zone would help shield the ZNPP by making sure it is not targeted and also not used for attacks from the site, he said. He urged the international community to take action to protect the safety of the plant and its surrounding area.

7:05 a.m.:

6:45 a.m.: Ukraine is urging Australia to increase its military aid ahead of a visit to Europe next week by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong and Defense Minister Richard Marles, VOA’s Phil Mercer reported.

Australia, the largest non-NATO contributor to Ukraine’s war effort, has supplied missiles and Bushmaster armored personnel carriers. They have a special ‘V’-shaped floor designed to spread the impact of an explosion more effectively than a conventional flat floor. A group of up to 70 Australian defense force personnel has also been stationed in Britain to help train Ukrainian troops.

Analysts say the commitment of Germany and the United States to deliver tanks to Ukraine puts pressure on Australia to increase its military assistance to Kyiv.

6:30 a.m.: Japan tightened sanctions against Russia on Friday following its latest wave of missile attacks in Ukraine, adding goods to an export ban list and freezing the assets of Russian officials and entities, Reuters reported.

The decision comes after Russia launched missile attacks in Ukraine killing at least 11 people on Thursday following a pledge by Germany and the United States to supply tanks that could help Ukraine counter any new Russian offensive.

"In light of the situation surrounding Ukraine and to contribute to international efforts to secure peace, Japan will implement export bans in line with other major nations," the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry said in a release.

Among the new sanctions, Japan will prohibit shipments of items to 49 organizations in Russia from Feb. 3 that could be used to enhance its military capability.

6:15 a.m.:

6:00 a.m.: A senior EU official said Friday that Russia has taken its war against Ukraine to “a different stage” by making indiscriminate attacks on civilians and non-military targets, while criticizing Moscow for triggering recent moves by Germany and the United States to send advanced tanks to Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

Stefano Sannino, Secretary General of the European Union’s European External Action Service, defended German and U.S. provisions of the military equipment to Ukraine, and criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for waging a war on NATO and the West.

Sannino, speaking at a news conference in Tokyo as part of an Asia-Pacific tour, said Putin had “moved from a concept of special operation to a concept now of a war against NATO and the West.”

He said German and U.S. tank provisions are meant to help Ukrainians defend themselves in the war, rather than making them attackers.

“I think that this latest development in terms of armed supply is just an evolution of the situation and of the way Russia started moving the war into a different stage,” Sannino said. He added that Russia is making “indiscriminate attacks” on civilians and cities and no longer military targets.

The EU is not moving the war into a different stage but is “just giving the possibility of saving lives and allowing the Ukrainians to defend (themselves) from these barbaric attacks,” Sannino said.

5:50 a.m.: With the U.S. now joining Germany and Britain in promising to send battle tanks to Ukraine, what are the capabilities and differences among the three types of tanks that will join the fight? VOA’s Steve Redisch takes their measure.

5:38 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russian forces continued ground attacks around Bakhmut, on the western outskirts of Donetsk City, and in the Vuhledar area. Ukrainian officials, the assessment said, reported that Russian forces in Zaporizhia Oblast are not conducting offensive operations at the size or scale necessary for a full-scale offensive.

4:25 a.m.: Uzbekistan will import natural gas from Russia for the first time ever as the Central Asian country faces an energy crisis, authorities said Thursday, according to Agence France-Presse.

Despite being home to a wealth of natural resources, including gas, Uzbekistan has faced energy shortages amid historically cold temperatures.

Like its neighbors Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan suffers frequent power and heating cuts because of aging infrastructure.

An energy ministry spokesman told AFP the gas deliveries, via an agreement with Russian energy giant Gazprom, will begin on March 1.

3:11 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said that Russia has probably launched attacks near Orikiv and Vuhledar. It notes that although Russian online commentators claim advances in several areas, there's a "realistic possibility" that these gains are not true and are instead the result of Russian sources spreading misinformation.

1:10 a.m.: Russia's finance ministry Thursday proposed scrapping liquidity restrictions for spending on "anti-crisis" investments from its National Wealth Fund, citing the need to support key sectors amid challenging geopolitical conditions, Reuters reported.

Russia's fiscally conservative authorities have tended to be cautious in their use of NWF funds.

Thursday's move suggests they want to be more creative in the way they maintain Russia's economic health, as Moscow ramps up spending on what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

The ministry also said it would seek to reduce the threshold at which investments in other financial assets from the rainy-day fund can be made to 7% of gross domestic product from 10% currently, according to draft proposals.

The ministry proposed that the total volume of such investments not exceed 4.25 trillion rubles ($61.24 billion).

12:02 a.m.: Ukrainian government officials who shirk their duties during wartime will be quickly removed, a top aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday, Reuters reported.

More than a dozen officials have been removed this week following a series of scandals and graft allegations. Political analysts said Zelenskyy needs to show Western partners and war-weary Ukrainians that he is serious about punishing misrule.

"Everyone should understand their level of responsibility to the country and nation during the war. Whoever forgets about it receives a quick reaction," said Andriy Yermak, head of Zelenskiy's office.

"This will happen to everyone who allows themselves to forget (their duties), regardless of names and offices," Yermak wrote on Twitter.

Among the most high-profile cases was that of a deputy defense minister who resigned following a report, which he denied, that his ministry paid inflated prices to feed troops.

A presidential adviser who had been called out by local media for driving flashy cars also quit, as did a senior prosecutor who Ukrainian media reported had gone on holiday to Marbella in Spain, flouting martial law.

Some information in this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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