Wednesday, 25 January 2023 05:24

What to know after Day 331 of Russia-Ukraine war

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U.S., Germany poised to send tanks to Ukraine, answering Kyiv's pleas

The United States was expected to announce as soon as Wednesday that it will send heavy tanks to Ukraine, and Germany has decided to do the same, sources said, a reversal that Kyiv has said would reshape its war with Russia.

Hours before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy turned 45 on Wednesday, he pressed allies to move forward with providing his forces with more than five to 15 modern tanks.

"Discussions must be concluded with decisions," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address. "Decisions on real strengthening of our defence against terrorists. Allies have the required number of tanks."

Just days after arguing against granting Kyiv's requests, Washington was ready to start a process that would eventually send M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday. A third official said the U.S. commitment could total about 30 tanks delivered over the coming months.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had decided to send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries such as Poland to do so as well, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Spiegel magazine, which first reported the news, said Germany was planning to supply at least one company of Leopard 2 A6 tanks, which usually comprises 14 tanks. Other allies, in Scandinavia for example, intend to go along with Germany in supplying their Leopard tanks to Kyiv, the magazine reported.

While there was no official confirmation from Berlin or Washington, officials in Kyiv hailed what they said was a potential gamechanger on the battlefield in a war that is now 11 months old - even if the rumoured tank numbers fell short of their hopes.

"A few hundred tanks for our tank crews .... This is what is going to become a real punching fist of democracy," Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelenskiy's administration, wrote on Telegram.

Kyiv has pleaded for months for Western tanks that it says would give its forces the firepower and mobility to break through Russian defensive lines and recapture occupied territory in the east and south. Germany has held back, wary of moves that could cause Moscow to escalate.


Front lines in the war, which stretch more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) through eastern and southern Ukraine, have been largely frozen for two months despite heavy losses on both sides. Russia and Ukraine are both widely believed to be planning new offensives.

Zelenskiy said on Tuesday night that Russia was intensifying its push toward Bakhmut, an industrial town in eastern Ukraine that has been the focus of intense fighting. "They want to increase the pressure on a larger scale," he said.

Whether to supply Ukraine with significant numbers of heavy modern battle tanks has dominated discussions among Kyiv's Western allies in recent days.

The Kremlin has said supplying tanks to Ukraine would not help and that the West would regret its "delusion" that Kyiv could win on the battlefield.

Berlin has been pivotal because the German-made Leopards, fielded by some 20 armies around the world, are widely seen as the best option. The tanks are available in large numbers and easy to deploy and maintain.

While the U.S. Abrams tank is considered less suitable due to its heavy fuel consumption and difficulty to maintain, a U.S. move to send them to Ukraine could make it easier for Germany - which has called for a united front among Ukraine's allies - to allow the supply of Leopards.

Russian President Vladimir Putin casts the "special military operation" that began when his troops invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year as a defensive and existential battle against an aggressive and arrogant West.

Ukraine and the West call Russia's actions an unprovoked land grab to subdue a fellow former Soviet republic that Moscow regards as an artificial state.


Separately on Tuesday, Ukraine dismissed more than a dozen senior officials as part of an anti-corruption drive made more critical by the need to keep its Western backers onside.

The European Union, which offered Ukraine the status of candidate member last June, welcomed the development.

Among Ukrainian officials who resigned or were dismissed were the governors of the Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, the latter three frontline provinces. Kyiv and Sumy were major battlefields earlier in the war.

Some, though not all, of the officials who left had been linked to corruption allegations.

Ukraine has a history of graft and shaky governance, and is under international pressure to show it can be a reliable steward of billions of dollars in Western aid.


Chief of General Staff outlines responses to security threats

Chief of Russia’s armed forces, Army General Valery Gerasimov, has said that Moscow intends to set up new military districts and put together fresh units to counter the most pressing security threats it faces, including hybrid war in Ukraine, as well as Finland and Sweden potentially joining NATO.

“At the moment, such threats are the aspirations of NATO to expand by incorporating Finland and Sweden, as well as the use of Ukraine as a tool for waging a hybrid war against our country” by the US and its allies, the general said in an interview in the Argumenty i Fakty newspaper on Monday.

According to Gerasimov, the Russian military’s response to those challenges will, among other things, include the creation of the Moscow and Leningrad military districts and the formation of three motorized rifle divisions in Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, which joined Russia in autumn after referendums, as did the Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Also on the agenda is putting together an army corps in the Republic of Karelia, located in Russia’s northwest and bordering Finland.

Speaking about the conflict in Ukraine, Gerasimov pointed out that the Russian military hasn’t seen hostilities of such scale and intensity in the country’s modern history and that Moscow was “opposed by almost the entire collective West.”

Finland and Sweden applied to become NATO members in May, citing concerns over Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. But their bids have so far been blocked by Türkiye, which accused the two Nordic nations of harboring members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other associated groups, designated by Ankara as “terrorist organizations.”

The three sides signed an agreement last June to address Ankara's concerns and pave the way for approving the NATO applications. But Sweden’s future in the US-led military appears now to be hanging in the balance, after an anti-Islam activist was allowed to burn a copy of the Koran near the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm on Saturday.

Türkiye’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded by telling the Swedish authorities that if they won’t respect the faith of the Turkish people “then, no offense but you will not receive any support from us with regard to NATO.”

** Russia has plenty of weapons, Medvedev assures

Russia’s adversaries are monitoring arms production in the country, but they are in for a disappointment, since Russia has plenty of everything, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said.

On Tuesday, Medvedev visited the Kalashnikov plant in Izhevsk and held a meeting of a working group under the Military-Industrial Commission on the supervision of production of essential weapons and military vehicles.

"We have seen the vehicles, and today we will talk about production of the most essential weapons, with an emphasis on drones, which are in particularly high demand during the special military operation. Naturally, we will discuss a number of other key issues, especially considering that it is necessary to constantly come back to them and look at what is being produced and how," Medvedev said.

According to the official, "everyone is watching this."

"And our adversaries are watching as well, as they claim from time to time that we [lack] either this or that, that we have only enough missiles for only a couple more strikes, or something else like that. So, I would like to disappoint them - we have quite enough of everything," Medvedev underscored.

** Russian forces wipe out US-made radar in Kherson area

The Russian Airborne Force’s artillery destroyed a US-made AN/TPQ-50 counter-battery radar in the Kherson area over the past day during the special military operation in Ukraine, Defense Ministry Spokesman Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov reported on Tuesday.

"In the Kherson direction, the Airborne Force’s artillery wiped out a US-manufactured AN/TPQ-50 counter-battery radar near the community of Antonovka in the Kherson Region," the spokesman said.

Two Ukrainian army brigades suffered over 40 casualties in the Kupyansk area as a result of damage inflicted by Russian combat aircraft and artillery over the past day, Konashenkov reported.

"In the Kupyansk area, aircraft and artillery of the Western Military District inflicted damage by firepower on units of the Ukrainian army’s 14th mechanized brigade and 103rd territorial defense brigade in areas near the settlements of Timkovka and Berestovoye in the Kharkov Region," the spokesman said.

The strikes eliminated over 40 Ukrainian troops, an armored fighting vehicle and a motor vehicle, the general specified.

Russian forces eliminated about 30 Ukrainian troops, an M777 howitzer and two counter-battery radars in the Krasny Liman area over the past day, Konashenkov reported.

Artillery troops of Russia’s Central Military District struck units of the Ukrainian army’s 80th and 95th air assault brigades in areas near the settlements of Chervonaya Dibrova in the Lugansk People’s Republic and Serebryanka in the Donetsk People’s Republic, the spokesman specified.

"Over 30 Ukrainian servicemen, five armored combat vehicles, an M777 artillery system and two US-made AN/TPQ-37 counter-battery radars were destroyed," the general said.

Russian forces continued their offensive in the Donetsk area over the past day, Konashenkov reported.

"In the Donetsk area, units of the Southern Military District continued their offensive operations. The enemy’s total losses amounted to 50 Ukrainian personnel, an armored personnel carrier, two pickup trucks, a Grad multiple rocket launcher and a Msta-B howitzer," the spokesman said.

Russian army aviation, missile troops and artillery also inflicted damage on units of the Ukrainian army’s 25th air assault brigade near the town of Seversk in the Donetsk People’s Republic, the general added.

Russian forces destroyed more than 25 Ukrainian troops and an Akatsiya self-propelled artillery gun in the Zaporozhye area over the past day, Konashenkov reported.

"In the Zaporozhye direction, over 25 Ukrainian servicemen of the 108th territorial defense brigade were eliminated in areas near the settlements of Prechistovka and Novosyolka in the Donetsk People’s Republic along with an Akatsiya self-propelled howitzer, two D-20 and D-30 howitzers and three motor vehicles in the past day as a result of artillery fire and active operations by units of the Eastern Military District," the spokesman said.

Russian forces struck the command post of the Ukrainian army’s 57th mechanized brigade and an ammunition depot in the Donetsk People’s Republic over the past day, Konashenkov reported.

"Operational-tactical aircraft, missile troops and artillery of the Russian group of forces struck the command post of the Ukrainian army’s 57th separate mechanized brigade and a missile/artillery armament depot in areas near the communities of Artyomovsk and Novoukrainka in the Donetsk People’s Republic. In addition, they struck 64 artillery units at firing positions, manpower and military hardware in 102 areas," the spokesman said.

Russian combat aircraft destroyed a Ukrainian Buk-M1 mobile air defense system in the Kharkov Region over the past day, Konashenkov reported.

"Aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces destroyed a Ukrainian Buk-M1 self-propelled surface-to-air missile system near the settlement of Peski-Radkovskiye in the Kharkov Region," the spokesman said.

Russian air defense systems shot down ten Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles over the past day, Konashenkov reported.

"Air defense capabilities shot down ten Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles near the settlements of Novochervonoye and Zolotaryovka in the Lugansk People’s Republic, Nikolskoye in the Donetsk People’s Republic, Chubarevka, Ternovatoye and Mikhailovka in the Zaporozhye Region, Krynki, Vasilyevka, Novaya Kakhovka and Knyaze-Grigorovka in the Kherson Region," the spokesman said.

In all, the Russian Armed Forces have destroyed 376 Ukrainian warplanes, 203 helicopters, 2,944 unmanned aerial vehicles, 402 surface-to-air missile systems, 7,614 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 988 multiple rocket launchers, 3,898 field artillery guns and mortars and 8,159 special military motor vehicles since the beginning of the special military operation, Konashenkov reported.