Wednesday, 18 January 2023 06:02

What to know after Day 329 of Russia-Ukraine war

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WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Ukraine closer to receiving modern Western battle tanks, more Patriots

Ukraine has taken a step closer to winning approval for German-made modern battle tanks to confront invading Russian forces and has secured a pledge of more Patriot defence missiles as its allies appear ready to rally for the next phase of the war.

Ukraine has relied primarily on Soviet-era T-72 tank variants. Germany's Leopard 2 tank, operated by armies in about 20 countries, is regarded as one of the West's best. The tank weighs more than 60 tons, has a 120mm smoothbore gun and can hit targets at a distance of up to five km.

Ukraine says the tanks would give its troops the mobile firepower to drive Russian troops out in decisive battles. Germany has been the West's biggest holdout on pledging tanks but a Cabinet minister said on Tuesday the issue would be the first to be decided by new defence minister Boris Pistorius.

He will host U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday ahead of a meeting on Friday of dozens of defence ministers at Ramstein air base in Germany.

Western countries have provided a steady supply of weapons to Ukraine since Russia invaded last Feb. 24 in what it calls a "special military operation" to protect its security because its neighbour grew increasingly close to the West.

Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of an unprovoked war to grab territory and to erase the independence of a fellow ex-Soviet republic.

The allies must intensify their military support to Ukraine to help them break a hardening of the front lines and avoid a prolonged battle of attrition, Britain's foreign minister, James Cleverly, said on a visit to Washington on Tuesday.

"What we see when you have these kind of brutal, attritional conflicts is this huge loss of life. And that cannot be what any of us want to see - which is why we think that now is the right time to intensify our support for Ukraine," Cleverly told a small group of reporters.

Also in Washington, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands told U.S. President Joe Biden of Dutch plans to offer the U.S.-made Patriot missile defence system to Ukraine, working together with Germany amid a barrage of missile attacks from Russia.

Last month, Washington announced additional military aid for Ukraine, including the transfer of a Patriot system, considered one of the most advanced U.S. air defence systems that offers protection against aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles.

DNIPRO TOLL RISES TO 45

The civilian death toll from a missile that struck an apartment block in the central city of Dnipro on Saturday rose to 45, including six children, among them an 11-month-old boy, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his Tuesday night video address.

"It is now merely a matter of time before we drive the occupants from our land, before justice returns, and before the sentences for Russian murderers are announced," Zelenskiy said.

Ukrainian authorities called off the search for survivors in Dnipro on Tuesday.

Zelenskiy is to speak on Wednesday to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Meanwhile, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on Tuesday evening said Ukrainian and Russian forces exchanged fire on the eastern frontline, where neither side has advanced much in recent months.

Russian forces launched four missile strikes, including two on civilian targets in the city of Kramatorsk in Donetsk region, west of the two focal points of fighting, the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, the military's report said.

Russian forces also launched 13 air raids and 23 shelling attacks from multiple rocket launchers, it said.

Reuters was not able to verify battlefield reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to visit St Petersburg on Wednesday, the 80th anniversary of the day Soviet forces managed to open a narrow land corridor to the city - then known as Leningrad - and break a Nazi blockade that had lasted since September 1941.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a domestic news agency that there was no truth to rumours Putin would announce changes to the war effort such as a general mobilisation.

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Russian defense minister visits frontline headquarters

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has inspected the headquarters of the ‘East’ grouping of forces taking part in the country’s military operation in Ukraine, the Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

During his visit Shoigu heard reports from commanders on the current military situation on the ground and the maneuvers performed by Russian units, the ministry said in a statement.

The minister paid special attention to the organization of comprehensive supplies for frontline troops, the construction of fortifications, and the creation of conditions for the safe deployment of servicemen in the field, as well as the work of medical and rear units, it added.

Shoigu thanked the troops for their service and personally awarded medals to a number of soldiers, including military medics, who had distinguished themselves in combat.

“You’re serving with dignity, protecting our Motherland, helping those who need help, doing everything to bring closer the day called the Victory Day. I’m sure we’ll do everything for this day to come,” he told the servicemen, as quoted by the ministry.

Shoigu has visited the frontline on several occasions since the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine last February. His last took place in December and saw the minister reviewing the accommodations of the personnel and talking with soldiers.

The most recent visit follows last week’s announcement of major changes in the command of the Russian military operation in Ukraine. The head of the Russian General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, has been appointed to lead the joint forces group, while the former commander of the operation, General Sergey Surovikin, has become his deputy.

The Defense Ministry said the reshuffle was required to “raise the operation command level” due to the “increased scale of the combat missions” carried out by the Russian military in Ukraine, and achieve closer coordination between various services and branches of the armed forces.

Last week, Moscow also officially confirmed the capture by its forces of the key town of Soledar in the Donetsk People’s Republic. The success is considered crucial for the Russian operation to encircle the major Ukrainian stronghold and logistics hub, Artyomovsk (called Bakhmut by Kiev).

** Russia’s UN envoy reiterates that Dnepropetrovsk missile was shot down by Ukraine

A Russian missile that fell in Ukraine’s Dnepropetrovsk recently, was shot down by a Ukrainian missile defenses, deployed in a residential district in breach of the international law, Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya has said.

He told a UN Security Council session on Tuesday that delegates from Western countries failed to mention "the true meaning of the events [in Dnepropetrovsk], which was voiced by Ukrainian officials too."

"A Russian missile, fired towards an infrastructure facility in the city, was shot down by Ukrainian missile defenses. As the missile defense system was deployed in a residential district - in breach of the international humanitarian law that you are defending so fiercely here - it fell on an apartment building. You know the rest," he said.

"This tragedy would have never happened if the Ukrainian government has followed the requirements of the international humanitarian law," Nebenzya added.

 

Reuters