Saturday, 28 January 2023 05:49

What to know after Day 334 of Russia-Ukraine war

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Trump reacts to Ukraine tank plans

Washington’s decision to send M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine could bring the world closer to a nuclear conflict, former US President Donald Trump has warned.

“FIRST COME THE TANKS, THEN COME THE NUKES. Get this crazy war ended, NOW. So easy to do,” Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social on Thursday. The 45th president has argued in the past that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine would not have happened had he still been in office.

Republican Congressman Troy Nehls suggested in a Fox News interview on Thursday that President Joe Biden should call Trump and that Trump could later call Russian President Vladimir Putin. “We must stop this war, and Donald Trump can do it,” Nehls said.

The Abrams tank “requires an enormous amount of logistical support,” Nehls explained, adding that, instead of additional military aid to Kiev, the US should focus on other crises in the world and on issues at home. “We’re depleting our munitions. It’s going to take years for the industry to catch up.”

Biden announced plans to deliver 31 tanks to Ukraine on Wednesday. Britain, meanwhile, promised to provide Ukraine with 14 Challenger 2 tanks. Germany has agreed to send 14 Leopard 2A6 tanks and allowed Poland and other European countries to hand over their own Leopards to Ukraine. 

Moscow has maintained that the flow of foreign weapons will not change the course of the conflict and will only lead to more deaths. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned this month that any Western-supplied tanks “will burn” on the battlefield.

Russia’s deputy envoy to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Maksim Buyakevich, stated on Thursday that by deciding to deliver the heavy armor to Ukraine, the US and other NATO members were “deliberately escalating the military standoff” with Moscow.

“This is a straight path into a full-blown conflict in Europe,” Buyakevich concluded.

** ‘Unthinkable’ Russia would lose in Ukraine conflict – ex-Japanese PM

It is “almost unthinkable” that Russia would lose in the Ukraine conflict, former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori has said, questioning the US-led drive to support Kiev, which Tokyo has joined.

“Is it fine to put so much effort into Ukraine?” the former official asked, as quoted by Japanese media. “It’s almost unthinkable that Russia will lose,”he added, during a meeting of the Japan-India Association in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The 85-year-old politician explained he didn’t understand why Tokyo was willing to damage its relationship with Moscow after “we have come this far.” Russia and Japan have an unresolved territorial dispute and are technically still at war with each other.

Mori served as the head of the Japanese government for just over a year between 2000 and 2001, with his term mired by unfriendly media coverage of his gaffes. After resigning, he was picked to lead the organization body of the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Despite criticism at home, Mori fostered good rapport with the Russian government, partially thanks to a family connection. His father, who served as mayor in a small Japanese town, had a passion for preserving the tombs of Japanese soldiers in the Soviet Union. He found lifelong friends who had similar respect for the war dead on the other side of the border, and even asked that part of his ashes be buried in Russia.

The younger Mori reportedly had good chemistry with Russian President Vladimir Putin and was even tipped by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to lay the groundwork for his 2017 state visit to Russia.

In November, Mori lashed out at Japanese media for what he believes to be one-sided coverage of the Ukraine conflict, relying solely on US and European sources. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky was not subjected to any criticism, he observed, even though he “has made many Ukrainian people suffer.”

Incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida criticized Russia on Monday during a keynote speech to the Japanese parliament. While he stated that his government would maintain “its policy of resolving the territorial issue” regarding the disputed Kuril Islands, he also accused Moscow of “shaking the foundations of international order” by launching the military operation in Ukraine. Kishida pledged his government’s continued support for Kiev by sanctioning Russia.

** NATO ‘simulates’ cyberattacks on Kaliningrad, Moscow facilities — Russian Foreign Ministry

Cyberattacks on state institutions in the Kaliningrad region and Moscow's energy infrastructure are simulated during NATO exercises that the UK conducts on a regular basis, Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said in an interview with TASS.

"The UK is systematically targeting Russia with their offensive capabilities in the information sphere. Exercises are held on a regular basis, including under the auspices of NATO, to model attacks using information and communication technologies on Russian vital information infrastructure facilities. In particular, attacks on state institutions in the Kaliningrad region and the energy system of Moscow are simulated," he said.

Commenting on The Times reports about UK national cybersecurity forces purposefully recruiting IT specialists who speak Russian, Syromolotov noted there is "nothing surprising" in these attempts.

Furthermore, he claimed that London is methodically promoting Russophobia on the Internet in order to change facts about Russia's foreign policy in the Western information sphere. Syromolotov further stated that the UK heavily encourages Ukrainian hackers' anti-Russian activity.

"There have recently been media reports of a cyberattack on the UK’’s postal service. Without waiting for the investigation's findings, UK journalists linked it to Russia. A few days later, London and Kiev held talks on cyberspace. The IT Army of Ukraine then made a statement about their plans to attack Russian Post. Of course, it's sad to witness such mummery, meant, according to its directors, to justify the impending sabotage," the diplomat added.


Fighting heats up in east and north after tank pledges

Ukraine on Friday battled Russian troops trying to pierce its lines in the east and northeast, and artillery bombardments intensified after Western allies promised the Kyiv government it would send them tanks to repel the invaders.

Kyiv said fierce battles were under way, a day after at least 11 people were killed in missile and drone strikes which were seen in Ukraine as a response to the promises by important allies to send it tanks.

After weeks of wrangling, Germany and the United States this week said they would send Ukraine dozens of modern tanks to help push back Russian forces, opening the way for other countries to follow suit.

Poland gave Ukraine a further boost on Friday by promising an additional 60 tanks on top of 14 German-made Leopard 2 tanks it had already pledged.

A total of 321 heavy tanks have been promised to Ukraine by several countries, Ukraine's ambassador to France, Vadym Omelchenko, said on BFM television on Friday.

Ukraine has also asked for U.S. F16 fighter jets. The White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said the government was aware of Ukraine's request but added, "We don't have any additional weapons systems to speak to today."

Both sides in the war are expected to launch spring offensives, though Washington has advised Ukraine to wait until the latest weapons are in place and training has been provided - a process expected to take several months.

Moscow accused U.S. President Joe Biden of prolonging the war by arming Kyiv. Ukraine says the only way to end the war is for allies to give it the weapons to win it.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the situation at the front remained extremely acute, particularly in the eastern Donetsk region.

In a Friday evening address, Zelenskiy said Russian forces were not just storming Ukrainian positions but also destroying the towns and villages around them.

In Bohoiavlenka village in Donetsk region, soldiers said fighting around the nearby town of Vuhledar had intensified, with Russian troops constantly trying to advance and capture it.

Vuhledar had come under intense shelling in the past 24 hours, with seven buildings and two schools damaged, Yevhen Nazarenko, spokesman for the Ukraine army's 68th brigade, told Reuters.

"They constantly use artillery fire, aviation. There is no single quiet minute here," he said.

Thick black smoke rose over Bohoiavlenka and explosions could be heard in the background. Some homes were damaged.

Oleh Synehubov, governor of the northeastern region of Kharkiv, said fierce fighting was continuing along the front lines there but Ukrainian forces were holding out.


Millions of Ukrainians faced electricity shortages after Thursday's missile and drone strikes, the latest to target energy facilities and deprive people of heat, light and water.

Russian air attacks hit five high-voltage substations in the central, southern and southwest regions on Thursday, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said. Ukraine will need an additional $17 billion in financing this year for energy repairs, de-mining and to rebuild infrastructure, he added.

Russia has been targeting Ukraine's energy infrastructure with intense air strikes far from the front about weekly since October. Kyiv says the attacks serve no military purpose and aim to harm civilians, a war crime. Moscow says the strikes are intended to reduce Ukraine's ability to fight.

The latest strikes focused on "facilities that operate Ukraine's defence industrial complex and transport system," it said. "The goals of the massive attack have been reached. All the assigned targets have been neutralised."

After Ukraine recaptured land in the second half of 2022, front lines have been largely frozen for more than two months, with Russia trying to gain ground in the east and protect a corridor of land it has seized in southern Ukraine.

Oleskandr Musiyenko, head of the Military and Strategic Research Centre of Ukraine, said Russia was sending in reinforcements, mainly conscripts, to block Ukrainian advances.

"But they do not have the level of artillery and tank support they had on Feb. 24," Musiyenko told Ukrainian television, referring to the date of Moscow's invasion in 2022.


Kyiv accuses Moscow of deporting children as well as adults from occupied areas and giving them Russian passports.

Filippo Grandi, the U.N.'s refugee agency chief, said this violated "the fundamental principles of child protection in situations of war" and that Russia must stop it.

Japan tightened sanctions on Friday, expanding an export ban list and freezing assets of Russian officials and entities.

But Ukraine's hopes that the European Union will impose sanctions affecting nuclear energy were dealt a blow by Hungary, which said that it would veto such moves. Hungary has a Russian-built nuclear plant which it plans to expand.

Ukraine's foreign ministry said it will summon Hungary's ambassador to complain about "unacceptable" remarks by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban about Ukraine. A ministry spokesman said Orban told reporters that Ukraine was a no man's land and compared it to Afghanistan.

Russia tightened its own moves against Western entities, with communications regulator Roskomnadzor saying it had blocked the websites of the CIA and FBI.

Russia says it launched its "special military operation" to fend off a hostile West. Ukraine and its allies say the invasion was an unprovoked act of aggression.