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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Jan. 28

People look at a new postage stamp design depicting the burning Kremlin as they pass by a City Hall in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 27, 2023.
People look at a new postage stamp design depicting the burning Kremlin as they pass by a City Hall in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 27, 2023.

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

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

9:11 p.m.: The foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland reiterated in separate interviews published Saturday that the process for the two Nordic nations to join NATO is continuing despite Turkey's president saying Sweden shouldn't expect his country to approve its membership, according to The Associated Press.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström acknowledged in an interview with Swedish newspaper Expressen Turkish anger over recent demonstrations and the burning of the Quran in front of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto echoed his Swedish counterpart and said the two countries planned to continue making a joint journey toward NATO.

To admit new countries, NATO requires unanimous approval from its existing members, of which Turkey is one. Despite this, the Swedish government is hopeful of joining NATO this summer, Billström said.

Hungary and Turkey are the only countries in the 30-member Western military alliance that haven't signed off on Finland's and Sweden's applications.

8:20 p.m.: Lawrence Freedman has spent his career studying war and diplomacy.

The British historian specializes in international relations, foreign policy, and strategy. He has written academic works on the Cold War, nuclear deterrence, and the politics of military operations. In 2019, Oxford University Press published his book, “Ukraine And The Art Of Strategy,” an "account of the origins and course of the Russia-Ukraine conflict through the lens of strategy."

A prolific commentator on contemporary defense and foreign policy issues, he served as a member of the Chilcot Inquiry, a probe into the U.K.'s role in the Iraq War.

Freedman spoke to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Georgian Service about the futility of the war in Ukraine, the likelihood of total victory for either side, and why he doesn't think Putin will use a nuclear weapon.

7:27 p.m.:

6:48 p.m.: Russian construction workers have started the complete dismantling of a neighborhood in Russian-occupied Mariupol, including unbroken houses, to build “elite” homes, The Kyiv Independent reported, citing comments by Petro Andryshchenko, an adviser to the city's mayor.

“In spring, Moscow developers close to the federal government of Russia will begin construction of ‘elite economy'-class apartments under the Mariupol real estate mortgage program,” Andryshchenko said. He did not specify his exact source.

Russia's brutal two-month siege of Mariupol left the majority of the city of 450,000 in Donetsk Oblast in ruins.

In the past several months, Russia has begun bulldozing Mariupol's ruined apartment buildings, which multiple human rights organizations say is an attempt to cover up war crimes; in some cases, the remains of those killed are understood to still be inside.

The Anti-Corruption Foundation, led by jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, reported in December that Russian deputy defense minister Timur Ivanov could be profiting from construction in Mariupol. The ministry hired the same companies to build houses in destroyed Russian-controlled Mariupol and paid Ivanov’s bills for building materials for his private villa.

5:39 p.m.: German arms maker Rheinmetall had a record year in 2022 and is approaching an order backlog of 30 billion euros, CEO Armin Papperger told Reuters in an interview.

"In 2022, we had a very good year, a record year," he said, saying that the fourth quarter would even beat good third quarter results.

"We are approaching an order backlog of 30 billion euros, and I expect to see an order backlog of 40 billion euros next year," said the CEO of the company, which sells a whole range of defense products but is probably most famous for supplying the 120mm gun of the Leopard 2 tank.

4:42 p.m.: A total of 321 heavy tanks have been promised to Ukraine by several countries, Reuters reported, citing comments by Ukraine's ambassador to France.

"As of today, numerous countries have officially confirmed their agreement to deliver 321 heavy tanks to Ukraine," Vadym Omelchenko, Ukraine's ambassador to France, said in an interview with French TV station BFM.

"Delivery terms vary for each case, and we need this help as soon as possible," he added.

Omelchenko did not provide a breakdown of the number of tanks per country.

On Thursday, several Western nations led by Germany and the United States said they would send tanks to Ukraine.

3:33 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his condolences on Saturday following attacks in Jerusalem in which he said a Ukrainian citizen was among the dead.

"We share Israel's pain after the terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. Among the victims is a Ukrainian woman. Sincere condolences to the victims' families," he wrote on Twitter.

"The crimes were cynically committed on the Intl Holocaust Remembrance Day. Terror must have no place in today's world. Neither in Israel nor in Ukraine."

2:47 p.m.: The U.S. has created a working group to detect corruption in its aid to Ukraine, The Kyiv Independent reported, citing a document from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The document, titled “Strategic oversight plan for assistance to Ukraine,” was posted on the USAID website on January 18, and states that the U.S. Congress has allocated more than $113 billion in aid to Ukraine, delivered through 11 different state bodies and institutions.

The Ukraine Oversight Interagency Working Group comprises inspectors from the Pentagon, State Department, USAID, and other departments of the U.S. government. It meets monthly to “coordinate, collaborate, and ensure transparency in the collective whole-of-government Ukraine response oversight efforts,” the document said.

The USAID also urged “timely and transparent reporting of misconduct affecting the United States’ support to Ukraine and its people.”

“Allegations of retaliation by contractors or grantees against employees who report misconduct affecting U.S. funding will be thoroughly investigated,” the agency said.

1:58 p.m.: Ukraine's air force on Saturday denied a newspaper report saying it intended to get 24 fighter jets from allies, saying talks about potential deliveries were still continuing, Reuters reported, citing a domestic media outlet.

Spain's El Pais newspaper, citing air force spokesperson Yuri Ihnat, said Ukraine initially wanted two squadrons of 12 planes each, preferably Boeing F-16 jets.

But in a statement provided to Ukraine's Babel outlet on Saturday, Ihnat said his comments to a media briefing on Friday had been misinterpreted.

"Ukraine is only at the stage of negotiations regarding aircraft. Aircraft models and their number are currently being determined," he said.

Ihnat told the Friday briefing that F-16s might be the best option for a multirole fighter to replace the country's current fleet of aging Soviet-era warplanes.

Deputy White House national security adviser Jon Finer on Thursday said United States would be discussing the idea of supplying jets "very carefully" with Kyiv and its allies.

Germany's defense minister this week ruled out the idea of sending jets to Ukraine.

1 p.m.: Russia accused the Ukrainian military of deliberately striking a hospital in a Russian-held area of eastern Ukraine on Saturday in what it said was a war crime that killed 14 people and wounded 24 patients and medical staff wounded, Reuters reported.

There was no immediate response to the allegations from Ukraine. Reuters was not able to independently verify the report.

The alleged strike hit a hospital in the Russian-held settlement of Novoaidar and was carried out using a U.S.-supplied HIMARS rocket launch system, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.

"A deliberate missile strike against a known functioning civilian medical facility is without doubt a serious war crime by the Kyiv regime," the defense ministry said.

Civilian and military medics had been working in the hospital for many months treating local people and soldiers, it said.

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian forces of frequent war crimes in the conflict in which thousands of civilians have been killed and cities and towns pounded by artillery and air strikes. Russia denies targeting civilians.

12:07 p.m.: German arms-maker Rheinmetall is poised to significantly increase the production of tank and artillery munitions to meet strong demand in Ukraine and the West, and it may start producing HIMARS multiple rocket launchers in Germany, CEO Armin Papperger told Reuters.
He spoke days before Germany's defense industry bosses are due to meet new defense minister Boris Pistorius for the first time, though the exact date has yet to be announced.

11:00 a.m.: Five Russian men who fled the country after Moscow’s military mobilization order last September have been stranded at South Korea’s Incheon International Airport for months after authorities refused to accept them, CNN reported.
Three of the men arrived in October, and the other two in November, according to their lawyer Lee Jong-chan. He said their applications for refugee status were denied by the South Korean Justice Ministry, so they’ve been stranded at the departure area for months while awaiting a ruling on their appeal. “They are provided with one meal a day, which is lunch,” Lee told CNN. “But for the rest of the day they live off bread and drinks.”

10:25 a.m.: One of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s top aides says Kyiv and its Western allies are engaged in “fast-track” talks about obtaining long-range missiles and military aircraft, the AP reports. Mykhailo Podolyak said Ukraine’s supporters in the West “understand how the war is developing” and the need to supply planes capable of providing cover for the armored fighting vehicles that the United States and Germany pledged at the beginning of the month. He acknowledged in remarks to online video channel Freedom, however, that some Western partners maintain a “conservative” attitude to arms deliveries.

9:15 a.m.: A Russian strike on a city in the eastern region of Donetsk killed at least three people Saturday, as Ukrainian forces engaged Russian troops in ferocious battles in several hot spots in the east, where Moscow has been pressing its offensive with increased urgency amid Western pledges of modern tank deliveries for Kyiv, RFE reports.

8:11 a.m.: At a military base in southeastern Poland, there’s a rapidly growing number of U.S. and allied troops and contractors using phones and tablets to communicate in encrypted chatrooms to provide real-time maintenance advice to Ukrainian troops on the battlefield, the AP reported.
The U.S. and other allies are supplying increasingly complex and high-tech weapons, and the maintenance demands are expanding as a result. There were about 50 members of what they call the remote maintenance team just a few months ago. That will increase to 150 in coming weeks, and the number of encrypted chat lines has more than tripled — from about 11 last fall to 38 now.

7:20 a.m.: Three people were killed and at least two others were injured as Russian forces struck a residential neighborhood in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kostiantynivka, the regional governor said Saturday, Reuters reported.
Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram that four apartment buildings and a hotel had been damaged and that rescuers and police officials were at the site to "carefully document yet another crime by the Russian occupiers.”

6:53 a.m.: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said ahead of an EU-Ukraine summit next week that Ukraine had unconditional support from the bloc, and the country needed to prevail against Russian attacks to defend European values, Reuters reported.
"We stand by Ukraine's side without any ifs and buts," von der Leyen said in a speech on Saturday at an event of her party, the Christian Democrat CDU, in Duesseldorf, Germany.

5:21 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Kreminna on Thursday and Friday.
Russian forces continued ground attacks around Bakhmut, on the western outskirts of Donetsk City, and in western Donetsk Oblast.

4:17 a.m.: Ukraine will need $17 billion more this year for energy repairs, de-mining and to rebuild infrastructure, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Friday, according to Reuters.

He told a government meeting that five high-voltage substations in the central, southern and southwest regions were hit during Russia's air attacks Thursday.

The energy sector has been severely damaged following four months of Russian missile and drones attacks. Shmyhal said the government hosted a meeting with Western partners this week to coordinate financial support in a transparent and efficient way.

The government also said it was setting up a state agency for infrastructure recovery and development. Mustafa Nayem, a prominent former journalist who had been a deputy infrastructure minister since 2021, would head the newly created agency.

3:09 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said Russia probably had more than 300 casualties, most of them killed or missing rather than wounded, in a Jan. 1 strike near Donetsk.

Russia said it had 89 casualties.

2:07 a.m.: Russia's foreign ministry said Friday it had ordered Latvia's envoy to leave the country within two weeks following a decision by Riga earlier this week to expel Moscow's ambassador, Reuters reported.

The ministry said it had summoned the Latvian charge d'affaires to protest Riga's decision to downgrade relations with Russia.

Latvia said on Monday it had acted out of solidarity with its Baltic neighbor Estonia, which also expelled its Russian envoy, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Moscow.

In its statement, the Russian ministry said it saw "solidarity" only in the Baltic states' "total Russophobia and a desire to be the initiator of hostile steps towards Russia, which are encouraged by the United States and some other countries that are unfriendly to us."

The ministry also criticized what it said were measures to restrict the Russian language in Latvia and the destruction of Soviet-era memorials and cultural legacy. Latvia is home to a large ethnic Russian minority.

1:11 a.m.: Germany's 100 billion euro ($108 billion) special defense fund is no longer enough to cover its needs, Reuters reported, quoting the new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius' interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung published Friday.

Pistorius, who took office last week after his predecessor resigned, said Germany would also need to raise its annual regular defense spending from the current level of around 50 billion euros.

Germany also needs to replenish its military hardware stocks, including replacements for the 14 Leopard tanks that Berlin agreed to send to Ukraine to help repel Russia's invasion, the new defense chief said.

Asked whether Germany would send fighter jets to Ukraine, the next request from Kyiv after Germany approved earlier this week the delivery of Leopard 2 tanks, Pistorius said this was "ruled out."

"Fighter aircrafts are much more complex systems than main battle tanks and have a completely different range and firepower. We would be venture into dimensions that I would currently warn against," Pistorius said in the interview.

12:02 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday repeated a claim that neo-Nazis were committing crimes in Ukraine as the world marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Forgetting the lessons of history leads to the repetition of terrible tragedies," Putin said.

"This is evidenced by the crimes against civilians, ethnic cleansing and punitive actions organized by neo-Nazis in Ukraine. It is against that evil that our soldiers are bravely fighting," he said.

Supporters of Putin's military operation allege Ukraine's treatment of Russian speakers in the country is comparable with the actions of Nazi Germany.

One of the goals of the operation was the "de-Nazification" of Ukraine, Putin said, when he announced nearly one year ago he had ordered Russian troops towards Kyiv.

The claims have been contested by the Ukrainian government and the country's Jewish community.

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

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