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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Jan. 6

A view of an apartment building, damaged during a heavy fighting, in Mariupol, in Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Jan. 5, 2023.
A view of an apartment building, damaged during a heavy fighting, in Mariupol, in Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Jan. 5, 2023.

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

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

10:06 p.m.: A U.S. commitment to supply Kyiv with Bradley Fighting Vehicles for the first time is exactly what Ukraine needs, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, Reuters reported, quoting his video address Friday.

Zelenskyy said the formal announcement showed that his visit to Washington last month had produced concrete results. The weapons are part of a new $3 billion U.S. weapons aid package for Ukraine that is set to be announced later Friday.

"For the first time we will receive Bradley armored vehicles — this is exactly what is needed," Zelenskyy said, thanking U.S. President Joe Biden and the U.S. Congress.

Zelenskyy thanked Germany, which will send Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles and a Patriot air defense.

9:39 p.m.: The Ukrainian government has taken the main cathedral of the revered historic monastery from the church previously affiliated with Moscow's patriarchate and allowed its Ukrainian rival to use it for Orthodox Christmas services, The Associated Press reported.

The move comes as the long-running tensions between the two churches exacerbated amid Russia's war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko said Thursday that the Dormition Cathedral and the Refectory Church of the nearly 1,000-year-old Pechersk Lavra — also known as Monastery of the Caves — in the Ukrainian capital have been taken over by the state after the lease held by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) expired on December 31.

On Friday, Tkachenko said that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) — the similarly named rival church — asked for and was granted permission to conduct the service at the cathedral on Saturday when Orthodox Christmas is celebrated.

In 2019, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine received recognition from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Moscow's and most other Orthodox patriarchs refused to accept that designation that formalized a split with the Russian church.

8:53 p.m.: Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich's seven children became the beneficiaries of 10 offshore trusts holding assets worth billions of dollars shortly before he was hit with sanctions, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported Friday.

Abramovich’s children acquired the beneficial ownership of the secretive trusts with assets of at least $4 billion in early February 2022, three weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, the Guardian said. Western governments had threatened to sanction oligarchs in the event of an invasion.

The "sweeping reorganization" of his financial affairs is detailed in leaked files from a Cyprus-based offshore service provider administering the trusts, the newspaper said.

An anonymous source shared the "large cache" of documents — dubbed "the Oligarch files" — with the newspaper, it reported.

They show that Abramovich's children, five of whom are adults, with the youngest age 9, became the trusts' majority beneficial owners, including “luxury properties and a fleet of superyachts, helicopters and private jets.”

8:03 p.m.: Ukrainian forces conducted a strike Thursday on a temporary base of Russian troops in Havrylivka Druha, a village in Kherson oblast near the Russia-occupied Crimean Peninsula, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported Friday, according to The Kyiv Independent.

“Currently, it is known that up to 100 wounded (Russian) soldiers were brought to local hospitals,” the General Staff said, adding that the number of killed Russian troops is being clarified.

Over the last 24 hours, the Ukrainian Air Force struck a Russian personnel base, while Ukraine’s rocket and artillery forces hit two other Russian personnel and military equipment concentration areas over the past day, the General Staff said, without providing further details.

Earlier on Jan. 5, the General Staff also said that Ukraine's forces launched 20 attacks on the areas of concentration of Russian troops.

6:42 p.m.: In a flurry of announcements, some of Ukraine's major Western allies pledged this week to send advanced armored combat vehicles to help Kyiv in its fight against Russia's invasion.

But what's with all this new Westerns weaponry? Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.

5:57 p.m.: A Kremlin-declared truce in fighting in Ukraine for Orthodox Christmas has been broken by exchanges of artillery fire along the front line, including in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, where one person was killed, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported, citing the head of the regional military administration.

The fire department in Kherson was shelled on January 6, said Yaroslav Yanushevych, who described the person killed as a firefighter and said four others were injured, including one who is in serious condition. All were hospitalized, he said, adding that a house near the fire station was damaged in the attack.

"Despite the fact that the rescuers themselves came under fire, they immediately set out to extinguish the blaze," Yanushevych said.

5 p.m.: A U.S. commitment to supply Kyiv with Bradley Fighting Vehicles for the first time is exactly what Ukraine needs, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, Reuters reported, citing his video address on Friday.

Zelenskyy said the formal announcement showed his visit to Washington last month had produced concrete results. The weapons are part of a new $3 billion U.S. weapons aid package for Ukraine announced on Friday.

"For the first time we will receive Bradley armored vehicles - this is exactly what is needed," Zelenskyy said, thanking U.S. President Joe Biden and the U.S. Congress.

Zelenskyy also thanked Germany, which will send Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles and a Patriot air-defense.

"So, as of now, there are more air defense systems, more armored vehicles, western tanks, which is a first, more cannons and shells ... and all this means more protection for Ukrainians and all Europeans against any kind of Russian terror," he said.

4:15 p.m.: Worshippers in the eastern occupied Ukrainian town of Volnovakha on Friday marked the Russian Orthodox Christmas Eve in a makeshift chapel that was set up in a home after their church suffered shelling damage, Reuters reported.

Vera Barda, 74, said the congregation had initially met in a tent after the church was hit during what Russia calls its special military operation in Ukraine.

"I offered the priest (my place) saying there was a stove and electricity, so it was warmer than in a tent ... he agreed at once and in three weeks we restored everything," she said.

During the service, carried out in a converted cramped room decked out in icons, an Orthodox priest dressed in a ceremonial white robe burned incense while the mainly elderly congregation prayed during the Eastern Orthodox liturgy.

3:30 p.m.: President Vladimir Putin's aim of seizing Ukrainian territory has not changed, but Russian forces continue to suffer from military weaknesses including the number of troops they have, the Pentagon said on Friday.

"Putin has not given up his aims of dominating Ukraine and continuing to acquire Ukraine's territory," said Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense focusing on Russia and Ukraine.

"But the reality of Russian weaknesses, the Russian armed forces weaknesses has collided with those aims," Cooper said, adding that Russian troops also suffer from low morale.

Washington hopes the latest record weapons package for Kyiv will help Ukraine retake territory occupied by Russia, Reuters reports.

2:40 p.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday announced more than $3.075 billion in military assistance to Ukraine and countries affected by the Russian invasion.

Blinken said in a statement that he is authorizing a drawdown of U.S. arms and equipment for Ukraine, which includes a $2.85 billion drawdown that will provide Ukraine with Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, artillery systems, armored personnel carriers, surface to air missiles, ammunition, and other items to support Ukraine.

2:30 p.m.: The U.S. Department of Defense announced on Friday the Biden administration’s commitment of $3.075 billion in additional security assistance for Ukraine.

The 29th Presidential Drawdown of equipment from Pentagon inventories for Ukraine includes:

  • 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles with 500 TOW anti-tank missiles and 250,000 rounds of 25mm ammunition;
  • 100 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers;
  • 55 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs);
  • 138 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs);
  • 18 155mm self-propelled Howitzers and 18 ammunition support vehicles;
  • 70,000 155mm artillery rounds;
  • 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds;
  • 1,200 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine (RAAM) Systems;
  • 36 105mm towed Howitzers and 95,000 105mm artillery rounds;
  • 10,000 120mm mortar rounds;
  • additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
  • RIM-7 missiles for air defense;
  • 4,000 Zuni aircraft rockets;
  • about 2,000 anti-armor rockets;
  • sniper rifles, machine guns, and ammunition for grenade launchers and small arms;
  • Claymore anti-personnel munitions;
  • night vision devices and optics;
  • spare parts and other field equipment.

2:15 p.m.: At a White House briefing Friday, National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby told VOA’s Iulia Yarmolenko that the timing for the biggest U.S. aid package to Ukraine to date was propelled by Ukraine’s ceaseless, ongoing fight to defend themselves against Russia.

"We did not expect the fighting to stop in the winter. It hasn't. In fact, in some places, it's become even more vicious. Donbas, particularly," he said. "And so, we want to make sure that the Ukrainians are well kitted out and well suited for the fighting that they're going to be facing in the next couple of months.”

Kirby said Ukrainians have been able to maintain an impressive level of readiness for what they're facing. He discussed US sending Bradley fighting vehicles to Ukraine.

"Obviously, we're talking about Bradleys today. But recently we've been talking about air defense capabilities and the innovative way in which they're using what is being provided to them. So, I think they never fail to surprise or impress with their ability to adapt in real time to the challenges that they're facing.”

Kirby said it is “really impressive” to see is the way Ukrainians have modified not only their needs, but their abilities in the field to the fighting that they're facing.

1:30 p.m.: The U.S. Department of Defense awarded L3Harris Technologies Inc LHX.N a $40 million contract to deliver 14 anti-drone weapon systems to bolster Ukraine's security forces, the defense contractor said on Friday.

The company said its Vehicle Agnostic Modular Palletized ISR Rocket Equipment (VAMPIRE) kit will allow Ukraine ground forces to target, shoot down enemy drones and defend against ground threats.

Under the contract, L3Harris will deliver four VAMPIRE units by mid-2023 and ten more by year-end.

The defense contractor will install the kits on U.S. government-provided vehicles for combat support to the Ukrainian battlefield.

Additionally, a new U.S. weapons’ aid package for Ukraine worth more than $3 billion is set to be announced later on Friday and will include Sea Sparrow missiles for air defense and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, according to a document seen by Reuters.

12:15 p.m.: Ukraine will need at least $1.79 billion to restore its telecommunications sector to pre-war levels, a U.N. agency said in a report published on Friday alleging Russia had "destroyed completely or seized" networks in parts of the country, Reuters reports.

The damage assessment by the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU) was commissioned in April to evaluate the extent of destruction of Ukraine's communication networks as a result of Russia's invasion last February.

The report, which covers the first six months of the war, found that there was considerable damage and destruction to communications infrastructure in more than 10 out of 24 regions of Ukraine.

"Since the beginning of military attacks, with the purpose of using the facilities in its interests and for its own needs, the aggressor either destroyed completely or seized the regular operation of public and private terrestrial telecommunication and critical infrastructure in the temporarily occupied and war-affected territories of Ukraine," the report said.

It also alleges that Moscow unilaterally switched Ukrainian dialing codes, fixed by the U.N. agency, to Russian ones and that there had been 1,123 cyber-attacks against Ukraine.

An official with the Russian diplomatic mission in Geneva dismissed the report's allegations, saying they were designed to divert attention from unspecified "atrocities" committed by Ukraine on Russian-occupied territory.

The foreign ministry in Moscow did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia has regularly targeted Ukraine with cyberattacks since its annexation of Crimea in 2014. These attacks, perpetrated against government and banking websites, intensified before Moscow sent troops into Ukraine last year. Russia has denied being behind those and other attacks.

12:00 p.m.: The United States on Friday issued new sanctions targeting suppliers of Iranian drones that Washington said have been used to target civilian infrastructure in Ukraine during the conflict with Russia, Reuters reports.

Russia has been targeting vital Ukraine infrastructure since October with droves of missiles and drones, causing sweeping power blackouts as winter weather sets in.

The U.S. Treasury Department said it imposed sanctions on six executives and board members of Iran's Qods Aviation Industries (QAI), also known as Light Airplanes Design and Manufacturing Industries.

The Treasury described Qods Aviation Industries (QAI), which has been under U.S. sanctions since 2013, as a key Iranian defense manufacturer responsible for designing and producing drones.

"We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to deny (Russian President Vladimir) Putin the weapons that he is using to wage his barbaric and unprovoked war on Ukraine," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in the statement.

Iran's mission to the United Nations in New York and Russia's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

11:30 a.m.: A 330 kilovolt (kV) back-up power line to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), that was disconnected last week due to damage caused by shelling, has still not been restored underlining further the facility’s fragile supplies of electricity from the grid, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi said today.

11:15 a.m.: The Under-Secretary – General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths welcomed Russia’s announcement for a 36- hour cease fire beginning at noon in Ukraine.

10:30 a.m.: A Russian hacking team known as Cold River targeted three nuclear research laboratories in the United States this past summer, according to internet records reviewed by Reuters and five cyber security experts.

Between August and September, Cold River targeted the Brookhaven (BNL), Argonne (ANL) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL), according to internet records that showed the hackers creating fake login pages for each institution and emailing nuclear scientists in a bid to make them reveal their passwords.

Reuters was unable to determine why the labs were targeted or if any attempted intrusion was successful. A BNL spokesperson declined to comment. LLNL did not respond to a request for comment. An ANL spokesperson referred questions to the U.S. Department of Energy, which declined to comment.

Cold River has escalated its hacking campaign against Kyiv's allies since the invasion of Ukraine, according to cybersecurity researchers and western government officials. The digital blitz against the U.S. labs occurred as U.N. experts entered Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory to inspect Europe's biggest atomic power plant and assess the risk of what both sides said could be a devastating radiation disaster amid heavy shelling nearby.

Cold River, which first appeared on the radar of intelligence professionals after targeting Britain's foreign office in 2016, has been involved in dozens of other high-profile hacking incidents in recent years, according to interviews with nine cybersecurity firms. Reuters traced email accounts used in its hacking operations between 2015 and 2020 to an IT worker in the Russian city of Syktyvkar.

"This is one of the most important hacking groups you’ve never heard of," said Adam Meyer, senior vice president of intelligence at U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike. "They are involved in directly supporting Kremlin information operations."

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), the domestic security agency that also conducts espionage campaigns for Moscow, and Russia's embassy in Washington did not respond to emailed requests for comment, Reuters reports.

10:00 a.m.: William B Taylor, former US Ambassador to Ukraine, on the future of the Ukraine war.

In an interview with VOA’s Ahmadullah Archiwal, former US Ambassador to Ukraine William B Taylor told that “Russia will try to intensify the war in Ukraine. However, he added the Russians face a shortage of soldiers on the ground. He also added that though the US has a new parliament, the US will still continue to support Ukraine and that the US and Europe will stand together in supporting Ukraine.

9:45 a.m.: McDonald's is leaving Kazakhstan's biggest city, Almaty. The fast-food giant's local business appeared to fall victim to collateral damage from the Russia-Ukraine war. The company had to shut down because it’s Kazakh licensee, Food Solutions KZ, could not source its beef patties locally and had to import them from Russia until the war forced it to stop.

The brand's exit from the Central Asian nation of 20 million divided opinion on social media and among onlookers near one of the Almaty restaurants where workers were taking down the large white letters from the top of the building.

"It was one of the nicest places where I used to spend time with my friends," said local resident Karina, who only gave her first name.

"I doubt any other company will be able to compete with McDonald's in Kazakhstan at the moment as no other fast-food chain can replicate the menu that McDonald's had for the same price."

Others described the brand's departure as a minor inconvenience or said they would check out other fast-food joints.

Chains such KFC YUM.N, Burger King QSR.TO, and Hardee's have restaurants in Kazakhstan and Popeyes said last month it would open dozens of restaurants in the former Soviet republic in partnership with local firm Centras Group.

Mcdonald's and Food Solutions did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment, Reuters reports.

9:00 a.m.: Costs for hiring ships to transport commodities from the Black Sea have risen by more than a fifth since the start of the year, reflecting higher war risk insurance rates, industry sources said.

The Black Sea is crucial for the shipment of grain, oil and oil products. Its waters are shared by Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania and Turkey, as well as Russia and Ukraine.

Six insurance sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said an exodus of reinsurers from the market had added to unease over the risk of ship seizures by Russia and liabilities related to the war in Ukraine, including floating mines or vessels getting stuck in ports for long periods.

Since the introduction of exclusions this year, insurers who provide cover will not have the cushion of reinsurance in the event of big claims, Reuters reports.

The sources said no vessels had lost their insurance provision, but they expected higher rates that would vary depending on specific circumstances, and that war risk premiums had so far risen by more than 20%.

That could add to inflationary pressures, which last year reached multi-decade highs after the Ukraine war drove some commodity prices to record levels.

8:30 a.m.: Germany said on Friday it intends to deliver around 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine before the end of March, and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said Berlin could ultimately send its entire functioning fleet of the weapons, Reuters reports.

The United States also pledged Thursday Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and a day after a similar announcement from France.

Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said a Patriot anti-aircraft missile system from army stocks will also be delivered to Ukraine in the first quarter. Washington has also offered Patriots to Ukraine.

Training on the Marder vehicle will take place in Germany and last about eight weeks, Hebestreit added.

8:00 a.m.: Ukraine's power grid operator urged civilians to save electricity on Friday as temperatures fell and energy consumption rose, threatening to overload the energy network devastated by Russian air strikes.

Russian missile and drone attacks on energy infrastructure since October have caused widespread damage that has led to winter blackouts and shortages of heating and water.

After hovering at around 10 degrees Celsius (50°F) during an unseasonably warm spell since New Year, temperatures are now falling. Forecasters say they could soon plunge to -11°C in Kyiv and to -18°C in eastern Ukraine.

"In the near future, a significant drop in temperature is expected, which will lead to a rapid increase in consumption," state-run energy company and grid operator Ukrenergo said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

"The energy system is currently unable to fully cover it due to the damage and the enemy's occupation of a number of power plants that produce electricity, in particular, and the most powerful - the Zaporizhzhia NPP (nuclear power plant)."

It added: "Please use electricity wisely, alternate the use of energy-intensive appliances. It helps reduce the load on the power system and reduce the need to limit consumption." Reuters reports.

7:30 a.m.: Russia said Ukraine shelled Russian military positions on Friday during a 36-hour ceasefire unilaterally declared by President Vladimir Putin, which Kyiv and its allies have dismissed as a sham, Reuters reports.

The Russian defense ministry said that its positions had come under attack in the Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, but that its troops were observing the ceasefire.

"Four mortar shells were fired at Russian positions by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the direction of Lyman," it said.

Reuters could not immediately establish if there had been any lull in fighting. Kyiv has said it has no intention of halting fighting for the proposed Russian ceasefire, which Ukraine and its Western allies called a ploy designed to give Moscow time to reinforce troops and equipment.

Putin ordered the 36-hour ceasefire in the 10-month-long war in a surprise move on Thursday, saying it would mark the Russian Orthodox Christian Christmas.

5:21 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russian forces continued limited counterattacks to regain lost positions along the Svatove-Kreminna line, and Russian forces said that Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the area.

Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted a successful counterattack as Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut and west of Donetsk City, the assessment said, as Russian forces continued to operate sabotage and reconnaissance groups on the Dnipro River and reinforce positions in east bank Kherson Oblast.

4:26 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said the Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic militias were formally integrated into the Russian armed forces Saturday. Both regions "will likely constitute a large political, diplomatic and financial cost for Russia which will last well beyond the current phase of the conflict," the update said.

3:33 a.m.: A married couple and their 12-year-old son were killed when a Russian shell hit a residential building in southern Ukraine on Thursday, Reuters reported, citing a presidential aide.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office, said the building in the town of Beryslav in the Kherson region was hit as the family was preparing to celebrate the Orthodox Christian Christmas.

"People were preparing to celebrate Christmas together, but a cynical blow by the Russians killed them in their own home," Tymoshenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians in what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine.

2:27 a.m.: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Byalyatski went on trial in Belarus on Thursday, facing up to 12 years in jail, Reuters reported.

The 60-year-old, who co-founded the Viasna human rights group, and two other representatives of the group who also went on trial watched from inside a metal cage before proceedings were adjourned until Friday. All pleaded not guilty.

Byalyatski is one of the most prominent of hundreds of Belarusians who were jailed during a violent crackdown on anti-government protests that erupted in the summer of 2020.

He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Russian rights group Memorial and Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties last October, but had been arrested in 2021 along with the two co-workers from Viasna.

The trio face from seven to 12 years in jail on charges of financing protests and smuggling money. Byalyatski has not commented on the allegations publicly and his lawyer is prohibited from disclosing information about the case.

1:20 a.m.: The Kyiv Independent reported that Russian artillery hit Ukraine's Nikopol region overnight Thursday. On Telegram, Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, wrote that the Marhanetska and Chervonohryhorivka communities were struck.

12:02 a.m.: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been invited to visit Ukraine, the government's top spokesperson said Friday, according to Reuters.

The invitation was given by the head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak to Japan's ambassador to Ukraine on Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a regular news conference.

"Japan stands with the citizens of Ukraine ... and takes appropriate steps as this year's G-7 chair," Matsuno said, referring to the Group of Seven nations.

Next week, Kishida is set to visit G-7 member countries including France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, a key diplomatic tour before Japan hosts the annual G-7 summit in May in Hiroshima.

Some information in this report came from Reuters.

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