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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Jan. 5

Anatoly Gysenko, 60, hugs a dog in the street outside his damaged home in the city of Lyman, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Jan. 4, 2023.
Anatoly Gysenko, 60, hugs a dog in the street outside his damaged home in the city of Lyman, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Jan. 4, 2023.

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

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

9:34 p.m.: Berlin and Washington are coordinating a "qualitative new step" in their weapons deliveries to Ukraine, German government sources told Agence France-Presse Thursday, following growing calls on Chancellor Olaf Scholz to act.

"We are constantly looking at what more we can do in terms of military support," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said at a news conference with her British counterpart James Cleverly in London.

This included both "defensive weapons" and arms needed to "free occupied territory" from Russia, she added.

8:22 p.m.:

7:33 p.m.: The United States is of the view that Russian President Vladimir Putin's ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is the founder of Russia's most powerful mercenary group, is interested in taking control of salt and gypsum from mines near the Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut, Reuters reported, citing a White House official said on Thursday.

There are indications that monetary motives are driving Russia's and Prigozhin's "obsession" with Bakhmut, the official added. Prigozhin is the owner of private Russian military company Wagner Group.

The United States has previously accused Russian mercenaries of exploiting natural resources in the Central African Republic, Mali, Sudan and elsewhere to help fund Moscow's war in Ukraine, a charge Russia rejected as "anti-Russian rage."

6:48 p.m.:

6:06 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected out of hand on Thursday a Russian order for a truce over Orthodox Christmas, Reuters reported, saying it was a trick to halt the progress of Ukraine's forces in the eastern Donbas region and bring in more of their own.

Speaking pointedly in Russian and addressing both the Kremlin and Russians as a whole, Zelenskyy said Moscow had repeatedly ignored Kyiv's own peace plan. The war would end, he said, when Russian troops left Ukraine or were thrown out.

"They now want to use Christmas as a cover, albeit briefly, to stop the advances of our boys in Donbas and bring equipment, ammunitions and mobilized troops closer to our positions," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

Zelenskyy said that ending the war meant "ending your country's aggression ... This continues every day that your soldiers are on our soil ... And the war will end either when your soldiers leave or we throw them out."

He urged Russians to challenge President Vladimir Putin's premise of portraying the war as necessary to safeguard Moscow's interests against the West and root out nationalists.

"But in order to end the war more quickly, we need something completely different. We need Russian citizens to find the courage in themselves, albeit for 36 hours, albeit during Christmas, to free themselves of the shameful fear of one man in the Kremlin."

5:02 p.m.: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday pressed Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to declare a unilateral cease-fire in Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported.

Erdogan spoke to both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his latest attempts to broker an end to the 10-month war.

He told Putin that "calls for peace and negotiations should be supported by a unilateral cease-fire and a vision for a fair solution," Erdogan's office said.

But he made no mention of a unilateral cease-fire in his subsequent talks with the Ukrainian leader.

"Erdogan stated that as Turkey, we are ready to facilitate and mediate the establishment of a lasting peace between Russia and Ukraine," the Turkish presidency said after the call

4 p.m.: A new U.S. weapons package for Ukraine will include about 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, two U.S. officials said on Thursday, with one of the officials saying the package will be worth roughly $2.8 billion, Reuters reported.

On Wednesday President Joe Biden said that sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles, a U.S. Army staple, to Ukraine was being considered to help fight Russia's invasion.

The latest security package for Ukraine is expected to be unveiled on Friday, the officials said.

Of the roughly $2.8 billion package, around $800 million of the funds came from Foreign Military Financing to help Ukraine procure weapons, the one official said. The balance of the funds came from Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) for Ukraine, which allows the United States to transfer defense articles like Humvees, trucks and munitions from stocks quickly without congressional approval in response to an emergency.

The armored vehicle with a powerful gun, which is manufactured by BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L), has been used as a staple by the U.S. Army to carry troops around battlefields since the mid-1980s.

3:10 p.m.:

2:30 p.m.: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed doubt on Thursday that the rejection of Russia's proposed truce by an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reflected the Ukrainian leader's view, Reuters reported, quoting the Interfax news agency.

"It is difficult for us to judge whether Podolyak's opinion reflects the view of the president of Ukraine," Interfax quoted Peskov as saying.

Zelenskyy has yet to comment on the proposed truce during Orthodox Christmas celebrations. Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak rejected the proposal as "hypocrisy," saying such an arrangement would only be possible if Russia left all territories it occupied.

2:15 p.m.: Independent political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya said Putin’s cease-fire order is intended to make him look reasonable and interested in peace, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

The move “fits well into Putin’s logic, in which Russia is acting on the right side of history and fighting for justice,” she said.

“We must not forget that in this war, Putin feels like a ‘good guy,’ doing good not only for himself and the ‘brotherly nations,’ but also for the world he’s freeing from the ‘hegemony’ of the United States,” Stanovaya, founder of the independent R.Politik think tank, wrote on Telegram.

She also linked Putin’s move to Ukrainian forces’ recent strike on Makiivka that killed at least 89 Russian servicemen. “He really doesn’t want to get something like that for Christmas,” the analyst said.

Ukrainians reacted with suspicion to Putin’s holiday cease-fire announcement.

“Frankly speaking, the 8th of March (Women’s Day), (Ukraine’s) independence day (Aug. 24), Christmas (Dec. 25) and the New Year, there were no cease-fires. Why should there be one now?” said Sophiia Romanovska, a 21-year-old student who fled besieged Mariupol for Kyiv, peppering her comment with expletives.

Putin issued the truce order after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged him in a phone call Thursday to implement a “unilateral cease-fire,” according to the Turkish president’s office. The Kremlin said the Russian president “reaffirmed Russia’s openness to a serious dialogue” with Ukrainian authorities.

Previous attempts at peace talks have failed over Russia’s territorial demands, because Ukraine insists that Russia withdraw from occupied areas.

2:05 p.m.: A U.N. spokesman said Thursday that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomes Russia’s proposal for a 36-hour Christmas ceasefire in Ukraine, VOA’s U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer reported.

“Christmas represents a holy period for both Russians and Ukrainians. The possibility that this holy period be respected with a cessation of all hostilities is always welcome by the Secretary-General, knowing that this will not replace a just peace in line with the U.N. Charter and international law,” U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

1:50 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden suggested Vladimir Putin's struggle in Ukraine after 10 months of war and thousands of lives lost had prompted the Russian president to offer a 36-hour truce, saying, "I think he's trying to find some oxygen," Reuters reported.

The Kremlin said Putin had ordered a cease-fire from midday on Friday after a call for a Christmas truce by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Ukraine spurned the cease-fire offer over Orthodox Christmas, saying there would be no truce until Russia withdraws its invading forces from occupied land.

Asked about the proposed truce, Biden told reporters at the White House: "I'm reluctant to respond to anything that Putin says. I found it interesting that he was willing to bomb hospitals and nurseries and churches ... on the 25th and New Year's. I mean, I think he's trying to find some oxygen."

1:30 p.m.:

1:15 p.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has disbanded a fact-finding mission into a July attack in the front-line Ukrainian town of Olenivka that killed prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists, because the U.N. mission cannot deploy to the site, a U.N. spokesman said on Thursday.

Russia and Ukraine both requested an investigation, which Guterres had announced in August.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the Secretary-General reiterated his call for full respect of international humanitarian and human rights law, including the protection and treatment of prisoners of war, VOA’s U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer reported.

Dujarric said the U.N. requires clear safety and access guarantees from both sides and they didn’t feel they had received them. He said if get they get the guarantees, then the Secretary-General stands ready to reconstitute the team.

1:05 p.m.: Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Russia's most powerful mercenary group, bade farewell on Thursday to former convicts who had served out their contracts in Ukraine and urged them to avoid the temptation to kill when back in civilian life, Reuters reported.

Wagner Group, originally staffed by battle-hardened veterans of the Russian armed forces, has fought in Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic and Mali as well as in Ukraine.

After President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, Prigozhin emerged from the shadows and recruited thousands of men from prisons, offering them the chance of freedom in return for serving in some of the most dangerous battles in Ukraine.

Prigozhin, who has been sanctioned by Western countries for his role in Wagner, was shown in footage supplied by RIA state news agency shaking hands with the first group of convicts who had gained their freedom after serving for six months.

Yaroslav Trofimov, Chief Foreign-Affairs Correspondent of The Wall Street Journal, shared the RIA video on Twitter Thursday.

12:45 p.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a frigate armed with the country’s latest Zircon hypersonic missile on a trans-ocean cruise in a show of force as tensions with the West escalate over the war in Ukraine.

Russia touts that the Zircon missile can evade any Western air defenses by flying at an astounding 7,000 miles per hour (11,265 km/h).

The Associated Press published this explainer about the ship and its weapons on Thursday.

12:20 p.m.: Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday warned the United States that hypersonic missiles would soon be close to NATO’s shores after the U.S. embassy said in a video it stood in solidarity with Russians who opposed the war in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered one of the most deadly wars in Europe since World War Two and the deepest crisis in Moscow’s relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

“The main gift for the New Year with an ammunition package of Zircon missiles left yesterday for the shores of NATO countries,” Medvedev said, referring to President Vladimir Putin’s deployment of a warship with hypersonic cruise missiles to the Atlantic.

Medvedev said the missiles could be placed 100 miles (160 km) off the U.S. coast, adding: “So rejoice! It will bring to their senses anyone who poses a direct threat to Russia and our allies.”

He was speaking after the U.S. embassy to Russia released a video that it called an “an appeal to the people of Russia”. The 50-second video included images of the impact of bombing in Ukraine, saying what was happening there “is not worthy of you”.

“We stand in solidarity with each of you who are striving to create a more peaceful future,” the video said, showing an image of the slogan “No to war” in Russian sprayed on a wall.

12:05 p.m.: Anti-drone tools and logistics equipment are among a new batch of German military aid granted to Ukraine, the Kyiv Independent reported on Twitter Thursday.

11:50 a.m.: The U.S. will provide $30 million in aid to Moldova to help the small country tackle an energy crisis and other economic hardships “caused by the Kremlin’s unprovoked and unjustified war” against Ukraine, a U.S. government aid agency said Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Agency for International Development said the funds will be paid to Moldova — one of Europe’s poorest countries, landlocked between Ukraine and Romania — through a World Bank trust fund. The country will also be reimbursed for previous electricity purchases.

USAID said that as Moldova began to recover from a recent “series of severe shocks” including the COVID-19 pandemic and a fourfold increase in natural gas prices, the war in Ukraine has placed its “short-term economic recovery and its long-term economic prospects at risk.”

In a statement, the agency called the aid “critical” because of the war’s impact.

Since Moscow’s forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Moldova — a former Soviet republic with a population of about 2.6 million — has lurched from crisis to crisis.

These include large arrivals of refugees fleeing safety from the war next door and an acute energy crisis that worsened after Moscow — on which Moldova was entirely dependent for natural gas — dramatically reduced supplies. Additionally, skyrocketing inflation left some officials worried citizens would be unable to pay their winter energy bills.

11:40 a.m.:

11:30 a.m.: Russia and Belarus have beefed up their joint military grouping in Belarus with weapons, soldiers and specialized equipment, and plan to hold joint aviation drills, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Ukraine has repeatedly warned that President Vladimir Putin may try to use Belarus to launch a new ground invasion of Ukraine from the north, a step that would open a major new front in the war.

"The decision to create a regional grouping of troops on the territory of Belarus was made and is being implemented solely in the interests of strengthening the protection and defense of the Union State, based on the current situation near our borders," the Belarusian Defense Ministry said.

"Personnel, weapons, military and special equipment of the armed forces of the Russian Federation will continue to arrive in the Republic of Belarus," the ministry said.

Belarus allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine on February 24.

11:15 a.m.:

11 a.m.: Ukraine spurned an offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin for a 36-hour ceasefire over Orthodox Christmas, saying there would be no truce until Russia withdraws its invading forces from occupied land, Reuters reported.

The Kremlin said Putin had ordered a ceasefire from midday on Friday after a call for a Christmas truce from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

"Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation to introduce a ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact of the parties in Ukraine from 12:00 on January 6, 2023 to 24:00 on January 7, 2023," Putin said in the order.

"Proceeding from the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the areas of hostilities, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and allow them to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on Christmas Day," Putin said.

But Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhailo Podolyak tweeted back that Russia "must leave the occupied territories - only then will it have a 'temporary truce'. Keep hypocrisy to yourself."

10:54 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered Moscow’s armed forces to hold a 36-hour cease-fire in Ukraine this weekend for the Russian Orthodox Christmas holiday, The Associated Press reports, quoting the Kremlin.

The order follows a proposal by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.

10:30 a.m.: Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, called on Thursday for both sides of the war in Ukraine to observe a Christmas truce, a step dismissed by Kyiv as a cynical trap, Reuters reported.

Many Orthodox Christians, including those living in Russia and Ukraine, celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6-7.

"I, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, appeal to all the parties involved in the internecine conflict to cease fire and establish a Christmas truce from 12:00 on Jan. 6 until 24:00 on Jan. 7 so that Orthodox people can attend services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day," he said.

A senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Mykhailo Podolyak, cast the Russian Orthodox Church as a "war propagandist" that had incited the "mass murder" of Ukrainians and the militarization of Russia.

The Russian Orthodox Church is by far the biggest of the churches in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which split with Western Christianity in the Great Schism of 1054. Today it has about 100 million followers within Russia and more outside.

10:10 a.m.: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners in Ukraine brought children together through a network of Spilno Child Spots to enjoy a more festive holiday season despite the war with Russia, UNICEF said in a statement. In addition to activities and crafts, it also provides health and safety lessons for children and youth, UNICEF said.

9:50 a.m.: The French Defense Ministry said Thursday it will soon hold talks with its Ukrainian counterpart to arrange for the delivery of armored combat vehicles in what France’s presidency says will be the first time this type of Western-made wheeled tank destroyer will be given to the Ukrainian military, The Associated Press reported.

Discussions will include the delivery timetable and the training of Ukrainian soldiers on the equipment, the ministry said.

Designated as “light tanks” in French, the AMX-10 RC carries a 105-milimeter cannon and two machine guns. It’s primarily designed for reconnaissance missions and has enough armor to protect against light infantry weapons, according to the French defense ministry. They have wheels rather than tracks, allowing it to be more mobile than heavy tanks.

The decision is another in France’s military support to Ukraine, following the French defense minister’s visit to Kyiv last week.

9:25 a.m.: Russian companies have been banned from participating in the CES-2023 consumer-technology expo in Las Vegas, organizers said January 4, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

"We did not welcome them this year, given the political situation," said Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Technology Association, which organizes the event. "We just didn’t feel it was appropriate."

Shapiro said that about a dozen Ukrainian tech firms were expected to display at the show, which runs from January 5-8.

9:05 a.m.:

8:55 a.m.: President Vladimir Putin told Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday that Russia was open to dialogue over Ukraine, but that Kyiv would have to accept the loss of territories claimed by Russia, Reuters reported, quoting the Kremlin.

"Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Russia's openness to a serious dialogue, provided that the Kiev authorities fulfill the well–known and repeatedly voiced requirements and take into account the new territorial realities," the Kremlin said.

Putin also "acknowledged the destructive role of the West, pumping weapons into Kyiv, providing information and guidance," the Kremlin said.

The presidents also discussed a number of energy issues, including the creation of a gas hub in Turkey and the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, the Kremlin said.

Erdogan and the Russian president have spoken repeatedly since Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February. Turkey acted as mediator alongside the United Nations to set up a deal allowing grain exports from Ukrainian ports.

8:40 a.m.: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Vladimir Putin in a phone call that peace efforts in the Russia-Ukraine war should be supported by a unilateral ceasefire and a "vision for a fair solution," the Turkish presidency said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Erdogan and the Russian president have spoken repeatedly since Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February. Turkey acted as mediator alongside the United Nations to set up a deal allowing grain exports from Ukrainian ports.

"President Erdogan said calls for peace and negotiations should be supported by a unilateral ceasefire and a vision for a fair solution," the readout said, adding that Erdogan reminded Putin of the positive outcomes of the grains corridor deal.

8:25 a.m.:

8:10 a.m.: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday it would be dangerous to underestimate Russia and President Vladimir Putin's ambitions amid the war in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

"They have shown a great willingness to tolerate losses and suffering," Stoltenberg told a business conference in Norway.

"We have no indication that President Putin has changed his plans and goals in Ukraine. So it's dangerous to underestimate Russia."

NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu on Thursday tweeted a link to Stoltenberg’s full speech.

7:55 a.m.: France's decision to send light AMX-10 RC armored combat vehicles to Ukraine prompted renewed calls from within German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's coalition for Berlin to send more modern fighting vehicles to help in the war against Russia, according to Reuters.

Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, the head of the parliamentary defense committee and a member of Scholz's junior coalition partner Free Democrats (FDP), called for Berlin to send Marder infantry fighting vehicles and train Ukrainians to use them. Sara Nanni, the security policy spokesperson from the Greens party, another coalition partner, said Germany should send Marders and Leopard tanks.

Scholz's government ramped up defense spending and sent aid and weapons to Ukraine since Russia invaded last February, but as other Western powers has sometimes hesitated to send powerful weapons for fear of risking direct conflict with Moscow.

Scholz has also made it clear that he did not want to go it alone on sending heavy weapons to Ukraine and that he would coordinate deliveries with other members of the NATO alliance. A government spokesperson and the defense ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked France for the AMX-10 RC vehicles, saying other allies should take that as a signal and that "there is no rational reason why Ukraine has not yet been supplied with western tanks."

7:35 a.m.:

7:15 a.m.: A French court on Thursday postponed to January 19 a hearing on whether to extradite Ukrainian billionaire Kostyantyn Zhevago to his home country, Reuters reported.

The court in Chambery, in eastern France, is set to decide later in the day whether the businessman, one of Ukraine's richest men, will stay behind bars in the meantime or can be freed. The 48-year-old billionaire, who controls London-listed iron pellet producer Ferrexpo, was arrested and detained in France in late December at Ukraine's request.

Ukraine's state bureau of investigation DBR has said the billionaire was wanted on suspicion of embezzlement and money-laundering linked to the disappearance of $113 million from the now bankrupt lender Finance & Credit Bank.

Zhevago, who served in the Ukrainian parliament from 1998 to 2019, primarily as an independent, denied any wrongdoing and is fighting the request to extradite him to Ukraine. Zhevago told the court the case against him was political.

The case comes amid Ukraine's broader efforts to clean up its oligarch-dominated economy. Since Ukraine's independence in 1991, a small group of elites have dominated its political system and economy. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pledged to reduce the role of oligarchs in the economy.

6:50 a.m.:

6:25 a.m.: Ukrainian and Russian troops battled in eastern regions on Thursday as Kyiv tried to push back occupying forces, while President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the West to provide his army with heavy tanks to boost their firepower, Reuters reported.

The Ukrainian military said the Russians were focused on an offensive in the Bakhmut sector of the Donetsk region, but their attacks in the Avdiivka and Kupiansk sectors were unsuccessful.

The governor of neighboring Luhansk region, meanwhile, said Ukrainian troops were recapturing areas there "step-by-step" but cautioned it was "not happening fast."

Luhansk and Donetsk make up the Donbas region, Ukraine's industrial heartland, parts of which were seized by Russian-backed proxies in 2014.

Russia declared Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions as part of its territory in September after referendums condemned by Ukraine and Western countries. Russia does not fully control any of the four regions.

Bakhmut, which is now largely in ruins after months of battering by Russian artillery, is important because the Russian leadership wants to have a success to hold up to the Russian public after a series of setbacks in the war.

It is located on a strategic supply line between the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Gaining control of the city, with a pre-war population of 70,000-80,000 that has shrunk to close to 10,000, could give Russia a steppingstone to advance on two bigger cities — Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

Fighting has been particularly tough there, with commanders on both sides describing it as a "meat grinder."

Ukraine's military said it estimated 800 Russian soldiers were killed in the past day, mostly in fighting in Donetsk. The figure — which would signify a huge loss of life for a single day — could not be independently confirmed.

The Luhansk governor, Serhiy Haidai, said he expected fighting to intensify across the eastern front as temperatures drop further and the ground freezes.

"Then the opportunity to use heavy equipment will open up," he said.

6:15 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Ukraine, Syria and energy issues with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan, Reuters reported Thursday, citing the Kremlin.

According to the Kremlin, Putin "acknowledged the destructive role of the West, pumping weapons into Kyiv, providing information and guidance."

Putin said that Russia was ready for a dialog on Ukraine, but that Kyiv must fulfill the previously announced requirements and take into account "new territorial realities."

5:12 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russia increasingly relies on Iranian-made drones to hit Ukrainian critical infrastructure. Russia will likely seek further bilateral cooperation with Iran in order to secure a greater number of high-precision weapons systems for use in Ukraine, the assessment said.

Russian forces continued limited counterattacks to regain lost positions along the Svatove-Kreminna line as Ukrainian strikes reportedly damaged Russian military logistics in Luhansk Oblast. They also continued offensive operations around Bakhmut amid continued indicators that the broader offensive may be culminating. In addition, Russian forces continued offensive operations on the western outskirts of Donetsk City.

4:07 a.m.: The United States is looking at ways to target Iranian drone production through sanctions and export controls, and it is talking to private companies whose parts have been used in production, the White House said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

"We are assessing further steps we can take in terms of export controls to restrict Iran’s access to technologies used in drones," White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

The United States has previously imposed sanctions on companies and people it accused of producing or transferring Iranian drones that Russia has used to attack civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

3:09 a.m.: The United States is not "hand-wringing" over the mass casualties of Russian soldiers in a Ukrainian attack reportedly using U.S.-supplied artillery, a senior White House official said Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

The New Year's strike hit a building in the occupied eastern Ukrainian town of Makiivka being used as a barracks. Russia has officially conceded there were 89 deaths, an unusually high number, while Ukraine's military estimates that nearly 400 soldiers died.

Following criticism in Russia over the use of U.S.-delivered weaponry by Ukrainian defenders, including in the Makiivka strike, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Russia is to blame.

There is no "hand-wringing by the administration at all. This is a war. They have been invaded and they (Ukrainians) are striking back and defending themselves," Kirby said. "Russian soldiers in their territory are legitimate targets for Ukrainian military action, period."

2:05 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said that in December, Ukraine hit Russia's long-range aviation air base, damaging several aircraft.

"Russia has highly likely responded to the incidents by conducting a general dispersal of LRA aircraft, especially to airfields further away from Ukraine," the update said. The new locations mean that while Russia will still be able to use the craft, it'll cause more wear on the planes that "will further deplete the limited flying hours available on these aging aircraft."

1:08 a.m.: Serbia's president said Wednesday that the European Union's calls for his country to join sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine represent "a brutal" interference in the internal affairs of the Balkan state, which has asked to join the EU, The Associated Press reported.

In his wide-ranging year-end address to the nation, Aleksandar Vucic praised his and his country's economic and political achievements, comparing himself to a wolf who cannot be tamed under international pressure.

Although formally seeking EU membership, Serbia has repeatedly ignored calls to align its foreign policies with the 27-nation bloc, including joining international sanctions against Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

Serbia remains the only European country besides Belarus that has refused to introduce sanctions against Russia, its Slavic ally.

Russia has been supporting Serbia's claim over its former province of Kosovo which declared independence in 2008 with Western support.

12:02 a.m.: Australia announced Thursday it will boost its defense capabilities by spending more than 1 billion Australian dollars ($700 million) on new advanced missile and rocket systems, including U.S.-made HIMARS, which have been successfully used by Ukraine's military.

In Ukraine, the mobile, truck-mounted HIMARS have proved crucial in enabling Ukrainian forces to hit key targets, including a recent strike on a single building that killed at least 89 Russian soldiers.

The Australian government said the HIMARS it was buying included launchers, missiles and training rockets and would be in use by 2026. It said the system had a current range of 300 kilometers, which was expected to increase with technological advances.

The government said it had also signed a contract with Norway-based Kongsberg to buy Naval Strike Missiles for navy destroyers and frigates, which would replace aging Harpoon anti-ship missiles from next year.

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

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