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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Jan. 8


Ukrainian servicemen carry the coffin of their comrade Oleh Yurchenko, killed in a battle with Russian forces in the Donetsk, region during a memorial ceremony in Independence Square in Kyiv, Jan. 8, 2023.

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

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

11 p.m.:

10:05 p.m.: Following Moscow's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Ukrainian peninsula experienced a real estate boom, as many Russians rushed to buy beachside properties, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

With as many as 800,000 Russians moving to Crimea permanently since the occupation and others snapping up holiday homes or buying apartments and houses to let, it's not surprising that the local property market had been surging.

By the start of 2022, prices had been increasing by around 60 percent per year, according to some estimates.

A number of decisions by Russian-installed planning agencies also helped push prices up even further.

However, following the destruction of part of the Crimean Bridge in October and the liberation of Ukraine's port city of Kherson a month later, property sales on the peninsula have now ground to a virtual halt.

9:19 p.m.: Ukraine says that 111,170 Russian military personnel have been killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on February 24 last year, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

In its latest update on Sunday, the Ukrainian General Staff reported that 430 more Russian soldiers had been killed the previous day.

The regular update, which is typically higher than Western estimates, also said that Russia lost three more tanks and three more artillery systems.

8:23 p.m.:

7:09 p.m.: Twenty-seven-year-old Stanislav Bashilov's life as a Russian deserter has been filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Last month, the disillusioned ex-cop and army reservist whose lawless flight from wartime Russia has tested asylum policies in neighboring Latvia learned that he was seemingly back from a precipice.

As tens of thousands of his countrymen continued the brutal and unprovoked 10-month-old war on Ukraine that has killed tens of thousands of Ukrainians while sending millions more fleeing abroad, a Riga district court ruled that Bashilov's own bid to escape the fighting seemingly paid off.

6:18 p.m.:

5:30 p.m.: Sumy Oblast Governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyy reported on Telegram that the Russian army launched 144 projectiles at five border communities in the northern region over late Sunday.

Nine houses were damaged, and one completely destroyed by the attacks. A school and a local farm were also damaged. No casualties were reported, according to The Kyiv Independent.

3:45 p.m.: Ukrainian soldiers, family and mourners gathered in frigid weather in Kyiv Sunday, to pay their respects to a soldier killed fighting against Russian forces in Bakhmut. The strategic city is under siege on the eastern front.

An outdoor service (see photo at top of post) was held in Kyiv’s Independence Square for Maj. Oleh Yurchenko who was killed in Bakhmut on January 2 . Fellow soldiers carried the coffin while others knelt on the ground. A bugle played and later a male quartet sang hymns as an Orthodox priest conducted the service attended by about 200 people. The 45-year-old Yurchenko was nicknamed “Happy.” He volunteered for the army after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.

Olesia Yurchenko, the fallen soldier's 22-year-old daughter and eldest child, said the family is grieving his death but trying to live by his principles.

“It is about everyone cherishing their virtues: hard work, kindness, honesty, loyalty to their country, their family," she said. "Because this is what my father taught me. Not to give up, not to retreat.”

She said that her father “always said that we still have to build the country ... build Ukraine," The Associated Press reported.

3:22 p.m.: Ukraine denies Russia's claim that it killed 600 soldiers, striking one location, the BBC reported. Moscow claimed, without evidence, that its missiles hit two buildings in the eastern city of Kramatorsk temporarily housing Ukrainian forces. More than 1,300 Ukrainian troops were in the buildings, Moscow said. Kyiv has dismissed the claim as propaganda.

3:17 p.m.:

2:55 p.m.: In his nightly video address Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Ukrainian troops for their resilience no matter how heavy the fighting, especially in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

“Bakhmut is holding out against all odds. And although most of the city is destroyed by Russian strikes, our warriors repel constant attempts at Russian offensive there. Soledar is holding out. Although there is even more destruction there and it is extremely hard,” he said.

Zelenskyy added, “there is no such piece of land near these two cities, where the occupier would not have given his life for the crazy ideas of the masters of the Russian regime. This is one of the bloodiest places on the front line.”

2:15 p.m.: Dasha Navalnaya, daughter of imprisoned Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny, who has been in solitary confinement for four months, talked to CNN about her father's incarceration and the conditions in which he is being held.

1:52 p.m.: The head of Cyprus’ Orthodox Church Archbishop Georgios has formally assumed his new duties following an enthronement ceremony. The event was attended by clergy from around the world with the notable exception of the Russian Church.

According to The Associated Press, Russian Patriarch Kirill sent no representatives to Sunday's ceremony at the St. Barnabas Cathedral following the Cyprus Church’s decision to support the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s independence, in line with the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. The Ukrainian Church’s Metropolitan Symeon and Archbishop Efstratios were in attendance. Archbishop Georgios was bedecked in crimson and gold-trimmed liturgical vestments.

The Russian Orthodox Church cut ties with Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I after he granted independence to Ukraine's Orthodox Church in 2019.

In an interview with the Greek weekly newspaper To Vima, Archbishop Georgios said the Cypriot church's backing for Bartholomew's decision was derived from orthodoxy's own laws that put the Ecumenical Patriarchate's primacy over all other Orthodox churches. But he offered an olive branch to the Russian church, saying he would reach out to Moscow to dispel any notions of enmity and help restore Orthodox unity.

Christian unity was the central message of greetings by Pope Francis conveyed by the papal nuncio to Cyprus Adolfo Tito Yllana.

“I know that your Beatitude will continue in this commitment to fostering the unity of all Christ’s disciples," said the Nuncio. “In these difficult times marked by injustice, violence and war, it is all the more important that Christians give an authentic witness of unity so that the world they believe in the Lord’s message of love, reconciliation and peace," he said.

1:17 p.m.: In an interview with the U.S. TV program Face the Nation, U.S. Senator Angus King discussed his visit to Kyiv and his mission to ensure that there is accountability to Washington for its financial aid to Ukraine.

12:36 p.m.: Ukrainian forces downed a Russian Ka-50 helicopter and an Orlan-10 drone in eastern Ukraine on Jan. 8, The Kyiv Independent reported.

Earlier Sunday, a Russian reconnaissance drone was shot down over Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Gover Valentyn Reznichenko said on Telegram.

Ukraine has shot down more than 500 drones launched by Russia since September, according to the Air Force of Ukraine's Armed Forces.

12:13 p.m.: According to the Joint Coordination Centre four vessels left Ukrainian ports Sunday, carrying a total of 100,900 metric tons of grain and other food products under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The vessels that began today their outbound voyage are:

1. LEO I (IMO 9231561) from Odesa to ports of Sri Lanka, carrying 49,500 metric tons of wheat.

2. TRUE HARMONY (IMO 9470789) from Odesa to ports of Egypt, carrying 25,900 metric tons of corn.

3. MKK 1 (IMO 8902929) from Pivdenniy/Yuzhny to Mersin, Türkiye, carrying 13,000 metric tons of peas.

4. BOMUSTAFA O (IMO 9114476) from Chornomorsk to Liverpool, the United Kingdom, carrying 12,500 metric tons of sunflower seeds.

Two inbound vessels, DERG (IMO 9393060) to Pivdenniy/Yuzhny and ATA (IMO 9521899) to Odesa, transited through the maritime humanitarian corridor under the Black Sea Grain Initiative heading towards Ukrainian ports as follows:

Also Sunday, the joint inspection teams concluded seven inspections, two onboard outbound vessels GAT FEELING (IMO 9467615) and XIN SHUN (IMO 9252199) and five onboard inbound vessels BASEL ATHENA (IMO 9164809), TORC (IMO 6544683), REACHY SUMMER (IMO 94588755), ANDROS SPIRIT (IMO 9592537) and DEEP BLUE (IMO 9616723).

As of 8 January, the total tonnage of grain and other foodstuffs exported from the three Ukrainian ports is 16,945,661 metric tons. A total of 1,262 voyages (629 inbound and 633 outbound) have been enabled so far.

Currently, 27 vessels are waiting for inspection: 5 of them waiting to move into Ukrainian ports and 22 loaded with cargo waiting to sail to their global destinations. 71 applications for participation in the Initiative have been submitted.

The JCC closely monitors the passage of commercial vessels through the maritime humanitarian corridor.

11:52 a.m.: The Head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office Andriy Yermak reported on Telegram Sunday, that 50 Ukrainian military personnel were freed from Russian captivity and returned to Ukraine in a prisoner exchange.

Among those returned are reportedly 33 officers and 17 privates and sergeants.

Yermak noted that those who were returned were part of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, territorial defense units, naval forces, State Border Guard Service, National Guard, and Special Operations Forces, The Kyiv Independent reported.

The released personnel were taken captive at the formerly Russian-occupied Chornobyl nuclear power plant, as well as in Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Kherson oblasts. Some of them had defended the city of Mariupol and Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast.

“This is not the last exchange,” Yermak said. “Our task is to return all our people and we will fulfill it.”

At least 3,392 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians remain in Russian captivity as of January 3, according to Alyona Verbytska, the President’s Commissioner for Protecting Defenders Rights. These are the numbers that Russia has officially confirmed, she said.

Ukraine retrieved nearly 1,600 prisoners of war in 2022, according to the Ministry for Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories.

In the recent prisoner exchange on Dec. 31, 140 Ukrainians were freed from Russian captivity, according to the Head of the President’s Office, Andriy Yermak.

11:07 a.m.: The Bosnian Serb separatist leader Milorad Dodik awarded Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin with the highest medal of honor for his “patriotic concern and love” for the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia.

“Putin is responsible for developing and strengthening cooperation and political and friendly relations between RS (Republika Srpska) and Russia,” the Bosnian Serb president, Milorad Dodik, said at the awards ceremony in the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Banja Luka.

Dodik, who visited Putin in September in Moscow, has kept close ties with the Russian president despite Russia's war in Ukraine. The medal will be presented to Putin during the next meeting between the two, Russian Ambassador Igor Kalbukhov said.

A U.S.-brokered peace deal in 1995 ended a war in Bosnia that left at least 100,000 people dead and millions homeless, but left the country deeply divided between its three main ethnic groups. Moscow has been exploiting the divisions by tacitly supporting Dodik’s separatist policies, The Associated Press reported.

10:27 a.m.: A Russian rocket strike on the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk damaged but did not destroy buildings and there were no obvious signs of casualties, a Reuters witness said on Sunday casting doubt over Russi’s assertion that the attack had killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers.

Reuters reporters visited the two college dormitories Russia's defense ministry said had been temporarily housing Ukrainian servicemen close to the front line of the war at the time of the overnight strike. Neither appeared to have been directly hit by missiles or seriously damaged. There were no obvious signs that soldiers had been living there and no sign of bodies or traces of blood.

Some of the windows were broken at Hostel No. 47, which stood by a courtyard that had a big crater in it.

The other building named by Russia's defense ministry, Hostel No. 28, was entirely intact. A crater lay about 50 meters away closer to some garages.

A man looks at the site of a missile strike that occurred during the night in Kramatorsk, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, Jan. 8, 2023.
A man looks at the site of a missile strike that occurred during the night in Kramatorsk, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, Jan. 8, 2023.

Authorities in Kyiv did not immediately comment on the strike or on Russia's claim of hundreds of casualties. Kramatorsk's mayor earlier said there had been no casualties.

Russia's defense ministry, in a statement, said the strike on the buildings in Kramatorsk was a revenge operation for a deadly Ukrainian attack last week on a Russian barracks in Makiivka, in part of the Donetsk region controlled by Moscow's forces, in which at least 89 servicemen were killed.

9:45 a.m.: For the first time in 31 years since Ukraine’s independence, hundreds of Ukrainians heard the Orthodox Christmas service Saturday, in the Ukrainian language. At the Monastery of Caves, a famed cathedral in Kyiv and an UNESCO world heritage landmark, the Ukrainian held liturgy was a demonstration of independence from the Russian Orthodox Church. A video screen was put up outside for the overflow of worshipers despite the frigid temperatures of -10 C (14 F). The cathedral and monastery complex has been a pilgrimage site for centuries, The Associated Press reported.

Metropolitan Epiphanius, center right, and priests deliver an Orthodox Christmas service inside the nearly 1,000-year-old Pechersk Lavra Cathedral of Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 7, 2023.
Metropolitan Epiphanius, center right, and priests deliver an Orthodox Christmas service inside the nearly 1,000-year-old Pechersk Lavra Cathedral of Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 7, 2023.

9:15 a.m.: Russia and Belarus have stepped up joint military training, drawing on Moscow's experience of fighting in Ukraine with an emphasis on urban warfare, the Belarusian defense ministry's TV channel reported on Sunday.

The Belarusian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that Moscow and Minsk had bolstered their joint military grouping in Belarus with weapons, soldiers and specialized equipment and planned to hold joint aviation drills.

Heightened military cooperation between the two allies comes amid speculation in Ukraine and the West that Moscow may use Belarus as a launching pad for a new attack on Ukraine from the north, Reuters reported.

8:49 a.m.: Two thermal power plants in part of Ukraine's Donetsk region controlled by Russian forces were damaged in a rocket attack by the Ukrainian army, Moscow-installed officials and Russia's state TASS news agency said on Sunday.

Reuters reported that initial information suggested that the plants in Zuhres and Novyi Svit had been hit and that some people working there were injured, the officials said on their Telegram channels.

One person was killed as a result of the attack on the Starobesheve power plant in Novyi Svit, TASS reported.

"The body of one dead woman was extracted from under the rubble at the plant," the agency said, citing an emergency services representative.

TASS had earlier said the strike was carried out using a multiple rocket launcher system.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine, which never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia or on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.

7:45 a.m.: Russia's defense ministry said on Sunday it had had killed more than 600 Ukrainian servicemen in a massive ricket strike on buildings in eastern Ukraine temporarily housing Ukrainian forces. It said the strike on Kramatorsk was revenge for Ukraine's deadly attack earlier this year on a Russian barracks in Makiivka part of the Donetsk region controlled by Moscow's forces. Reuters was not able to immediately verify the claim by Russian defense ministry.

5:19 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russian forces reportedly continue to deplete their missile arsenal and stock of Iranian-made drones but will likely continue to threaten Ukrainian infrastructure at scale in the near term.

Meanwhile, Russian and Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Svatove and Kreminna.

4:20 a.m.: A large explosion was reported on a section of a gas pipeline in Lutuhyny in the occupied Luhansk region, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said, citing media reports.

The RIA Novosti news agency said the explosion late Saturday resulted in a cutoff of gas service to more than 13,000 customers. Workers have been sent to the site to restore the gas pipeline, said Luhanskgaz, a regional Ukraine gas company.

The explosion follows another explosion and fire on December 20 on a pipeline transporting Russian natural gas to Europe that killed three workers. A day earlier, a fire hit a natural gas field in the Siberian region of Irkutsk, injuring seven people.

3:15 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said Russia's recent bolstering of fortifications in southern Ukraine seems to indicate Russia believes Ukrainian troops will strike in either in northern Luhansk Oblast, or in Zaporizhzhia.

2:15 a.m.:

2:07 a.m.: Ukraine has imposed sanctions on more than 100 Russian actors, musicians, and television personalities who Kyiv says are "propagandists of death" for supporting the war in Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Mykhaylo Podolyak, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said that the Russians had been blacklisted for supporting Russia's armed aggression in Ukraine.

The decree imposing the sanctions was signed by Zelenskyy and published on the president's website.

1:23 a.m.: Russian forces launched a missile attack on the community of Merefa near Kharkiv on Saturday evening, wounding one person, The Kyiv Independent reported, citing Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Syniehubov.

Emergency responders are on the scene, Syniehubov said.

Russian forces also attacked the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia, acting mayor Anatolii Kurtiev reported.

The attacks took place amid the Kremlin’s Christmas truce, which it said would last from Friday to Saturday.

Russian troops shelled the southern city of Kherson, killing one firefighter and injuring four more, according to Kherson Oblast Governor Yaroslav Yanushevysh.

Ukraine’s General Staff reported Saturday evening that Russian forces continued to shell Ukrainian military positions with mortars, artillery, and tanks, despite the supposed cease-fire, which expired at midnight.

Russia also conducted an airstrike and attacked Ukrainian settlements with multiple launch rocket systems seven times over the past 24 hours, according to the general staff.

12:02 a.m.: A Belarusian opposition leader says Belarusian authorities may soon begin a mobilization to provide military assistance to Russia in its war against Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Pavel Latushka, who is based in Warsaw, was quoted Saturday as saying almost everything is ready for mobilization. Citing sources in Minsk, Latushka claimed in an interview with German media that most of the employees of the internal affairs organizations have been forced to surrender their passports, barring them from leaving the country in the event of a mobilization. Latushka also noted on Twitter the increase in Russian military personnel and equipment in Belarus. Read the original story by RFE/RL’s Russian Service.

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

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