Live: US designates Russia’s Wagner Group as criminal organisation

The US on Thursday formally designated Russian private military company the Wagner Group as a transnational criminal organisation, freezing its US assets due to its role supporting Russia’s military in its war of aggression against Ukraine. This comes after French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna arrived in Odesa on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, shortly after missile strikes hit crucial power infrastructure facilities in the surrounding region and caused blackouts in the city. Follow our live blog for the latest updates on the war in Ukraine. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

4:23pm: US designates Wagner Group as criminal organisation

The US on Thursday formally designated Russian private military company the Wagner Group as a transnational criminal organisation, freezing its US assets for helping Russia’s military in the Ukraine war.

Last month the White House said the Wagner Group had taken delivery of an arms shipment from North Korea to help bolster Russian forces in Ukraine, in a sign of the group’s expanding role in that conflict

3:19pm: Training likely to be a big challenge as West sends Ukraine tanks

As the US said it will send Abrams tanks to Ukraine in a major policy reversal after the UK broke the dam last week by saying it will send Challengers, Rob Thornton, a lecturer in the defence studies department at King’s College London, told FRANCE 24 that “we need to be a bit careful”.

“You can supply several dozen tanks – will it make a big difference on the battlefield. And it’s one thing supplying these tanks; it’s another thing training the crews to operate these tanks. These are very much more sophisticated than the old Soviet tanks that are used by both the Russians and the Ukrainians at the moment. It will take a lot of training to match up, to marry up, the high-tech and modern tanks that are being supplied with the ability of their crews to use them to the greatest effect.” As well as the training question, there will be “other problems”. In particular, the “maintenance of these tanks is something the Ukrainians will have to very much get used to”, Thornton said.

2:51pm: Russia bans Meduza news site in latest media crackdown

Russian authorities designated the independent news outlet Meduza an “undesirable organisation” on Thursday, effectively outlawing the site from operating in Russia and banning any Russian from cooperating with Meduza or its journalists.

The designation is the latest in a years-long campaign by the Kremlin to curb independent media and stop their reporting from reaching ordinary Russians in a crackdown that has escalated since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

In a statement announcing the decision, Russia’s General Prosecutor said the Latvia-based news outlet “poses a threat to the foundations of the constitutional system and the security of the Russian Federation”

2:42pm: ‘Two brigades of tanks’ for Ukraine army?

“There’s no doubt that with the decision […] of the United States to send its M1 Abrams tanks, a Rubicon has been passed here, and that momentum will now start to pick up,” said FRANCE 24 Chief Foreign Editor Robert Parsons.

“That’s certainly what the Ukrainians are hoping for, and last night Volodymyr Zelensky the Ukrainian president made that point in particular, when he was saying that ‘the key issue for us now is numbers’ and delivery time. They want those tanks as quickly as possible and they want them in as large numbers as possible,” Parsons continued. “They’re talking about 300; that’s what they believe they need if they’re going to stave off a Russian attack and then launch their own counter-attack against the Russians and break through and perhaps by the end of this year regain much of the territory that has been lost to the Russians over the last year.”

Given the number of countries now lining up to send tanks, “you could possibly envisage in pretty quick time two brigades of tanks being formed; that’s about 100 tanks”, Parsons noted. “That would suit the Ukrainians pretty well at this stage, but […] the Ukrainians are looking beyond this now. They’re talking about fighter jets. And although [German Chancellor Olaf] Scholz said yesterday that’s not something that Germany would do, other NATO members are talking about the possibility.”

2:33pm: Ukraine’s wheat, corn crops shrink again as farmers struggle

Ukraine‘s corn and wheat production is set to fall for a second year in 2023, with corn output not expected to exceed 18 million tonnes and wheat production 16 million tonnes as farmers reduce planting due to the war, a grain sector group said on Thursday.

The projections were a best case scenario, and production could fall more sharply depending on weather and financial difficulties of farms, Ukraine Grain Association (UGA) head Nikolay Gorbachov told Reuters on the sidelines of Argus Media’s Paris Grain Conference.

Disruption to export trade following Russia’s invasion last year has left many farmers producing at a loss, he said.

“For farmers it became unprofitable to produce the grain and that’s why they cut the planted area,” he added.

2:28pm: Neither France nor allies at war with Russia, French foreign ministry underlines

Neither France nor its allies are fighting a war against Russia, the French foreign ministry said Thursday, following a Western decision to send heavy tanks to Ukraine to repel the Russian invasion.

“We are not at war with Russia and none of our partners are,” ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said, after comments from German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock that “we are fighting a war against Russia and not against each other”.

2:18pm: French Leclerc tanks ‘not on the cards’ for Ukraine

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna’s visit to Odesa is a “highly symbolic” visit that was “hailed” by Ukraine’s foreign minister as “something courageous, something brave”, FRANCE 24’s Emmanuelle Chaze reported from Kyiv.

Colonna is in Odesa to “discuss the specific needs of the Ukrainian army when it comes to heavy weaponry”, Chaze continued. A “diplomatic source did address the question of whether or not Ukraine will get Leclerc tanks” from France – however, “apparently this is not on the cards because from the get-go, Ukraine was more keen to get Leopard tanks and maybe it would be too much of a hassle for Ukraine to have different kinds of tanks”.

A man walks next to the Opera Theatre building in the city centre, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine January 25, 2023.
A man walks next to the Opera Theatre building in the city centre, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine January 25, 2023. © Serhii Smolientsev, Reuters

12:28pm: Ukraine army says it downed 47 out of 55 Russian missiles, including 20 near Kyiv

The Ukrainian army said Thursday it had shot down 47 out of 55 missiles launched by Russia in a massive new wave of attacks.

The head of Ukraine’s army, Valery Zaluzhny, said Russia launched 55 air and sea-based missiles. “Ukraine’s armed forces destroyed 47 cruise missiles, 20 of them in the area of the capital,” he added on Telegram.

11:42am: French FM Colonna visits Odesa as it comes under Russian fire

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna on Thursday arrived in Ukrainian city Odesa in a visit aimed at underscoring France’s support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion.

She was there “to show France’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, now as before,” Colonna wrote on Twitter alongside a picture of herself in front of a city landmark.

Although delayed by a new wave of Russian strikes overnight and on Thursday morning, Colonna was still set to meet her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in the historic Black Sea port.

11:02am: Germany says to start talks with defence industry to speed up procurement

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said on Thursday he would kick off talks with the defence industry as early as next week to speed up arms procurement and ramp up ammunitions supplies.

“My primary task now is to enter into talks with the defence industry with the aim of significantly shortening procurement times,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a military exercise in Altengrabow in eastern Germany.

“If you look at ammunition, there is also the issue of quantity. This is another topic that I will raise in my talks with the defence industry, likely as early as next week if the schedule permits it,” he added.

10:40am: Western tank deliveries ‘direct involvement’ in Ukraine conflict, Moscow says

The Kremlin said Thursday that a decision by Western countries to supply Ukraine with modern tanks meant that they were party to the conflict, after Berlin and Washington approved the weapons for Kyiv.

“European capitals and Washington constantly give statements that sending various types of weapons, including tanks, in no way means their involvement in hostilities. We strongly disagree with this. In Moscow, this is perceived as direct involvement in the conflict and we see that this is growing,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

10:25am: Power cuts in Ukraine after Russian air strikes, operator says

Ukraine on Thursday enforced emergency power cuts in Kyiv and several other regions to relieve pressure on the electricity grid following Russian strikes, an operator said.

“Due to the threat of a missile attack in Kyiv and the regions of Kyiv, Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk emergency blackouts have been introduced,” said DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private power producer.

Ukrainian authorities earlier on Thursday reported Russian hits on energy facilities.

10:03am: Kyiv’s mayor says one dead, two injured in Russian missile attack

The mayor of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv said one person had been killed and two more were wounded on Thursday after Russia launched more than a dozen missiles in its latest large-scale aerial offensive.

“As a result of a rocket hitting a non-residential building in the Golosiivsky district, there is information that one person is dead and two wounded,” Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a statement on social media. The Kyiv city military administration said the death was due to parts of a missile falling.

9:50am: Two energy facilities struck in Ukraine’s southern Odesa region, local official says

Authorities in Ukraine‘s southern region of Odesa said Thursday that two energy facilities were hit by Russian missiles, in the latest attack by Moscow’s forces against critical infrastructure.

“There is already information about damage done to two critical energy infrastructure facilities in Odesa. There are no injured. Air Defence Forces are working over the Odesa region,” the head of the region’s military administration, Yuriy Kruk, said on social media.

9:25am: Kyiv mayor reports ‘explosion’, Ukraine downs 15 missiles

Ukraine said Thursday it had shot down more than a dozen Russian missiles launched towards Kyiv, while the capital’s major reported an explosion in the city.

“The enemy launched more than 15 cruise missiles in the direction of Kyiv. Thanks to the excellent work of air defence, all air targets were shot down,” said Sergiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, while mayor Vitali Klitschko said: “Explosion in Kyiv! Stay in shelters!”

9:05am: Russia fires ‘more than 30 missiles’ at Ukraine during rush hour, Kyiv says

Ukraine said Thursday that Russian forces had fired more than 30 missiles at targets across the country, in the latest wave of attacks that have put pressure on Ukraine’s air defence systems.

“We expect more than 30 missiles, which have already started to appear in various territories. Air defence systems are working,” Yuriy Ignat, a Ukrainian military spokesman, told local media.

The wave of missiles was launched during rush hour on Thursday morning and Ukrainians took cover in shelters as air defence forces shot down incoming salvos, officials said. An air raid alert wailed across the country as people were heading to work. In the capital Kyiv, crowds of people sheltered in underground metro stations, with some sitting on blankets or small plastic chairs.

A Reuters reporter heard the sound of a missile flying overhead at a low altitude, about 30 km from Kyiv. “As many as six Tu-95 (warplanes) have preliminarily taken off from Murmansk region and launched missiles,” air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said on national television.

7:53am: Air raid sirens heard across Ukraine as authorities report missile attacks

Ukraine declared an air raid alert over the whole country on Thursday, and senior officials said air defences units were shooting down incoming Russian missiles.

Two missiles were spotted over the territory of the Mykolaiv region, its governor, Vitaly Kim, said on the Telegram messaging app. “Missiles are flying inside the territory of Ukraine. At least two northwest through Mykolaiv region,” he said. Officials told the public to take shelter.

“The first Russian missiles have been shot down,” Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s office said.

Russia has targeted critical infrastructure with missile and drone strikes since October, causing sweeping blackouts and other outages during winter.

7:14am: Ukraine declares air raid alert over most of country, authorities warn of possible missile attack

Ukraine declared an air raid alert over most of the country on Thursday, and regional authorities warned of a possible missile attack.

The DTEK electricity company said it was performing emergency shutdowns of electro power in the capital Kyiv, the rest of the Kyiv region, and also the regions of Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk due to a danger of missile attack.

6:47am: Ukrainian military says it destroyed 24 Russian drones overnight, warns of more attacks

Russian forces launched an unsuccessful overnight drone attack on Ukraine on Thursday, mainly targeting central regions and the capital Kyiv, the Ukrainian military said.

Anti-aircraft defences downed all 24 drones, country’s military command said in a morning report.

“There’s a major danger of further aviation and missile attack across the entire territory (of Ukraine),” it said in a statement.

Kyiv’s regional administration said that 15 out of 24 drones have been downed around the Ukrainian capital and that there were no damages. It also warned people about the possibility of more missile attacks during the day.

3:40am: Ukraine’s Zelensky urges UN action on deportations

President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged a senior UN official to help find a way to resolve what Ukrainian authorities decry as a serious consequence of 11 months of war – the deportation to Russia of thousands of adults and children.

Ukraine has for months denounced reports of mass deportations to Russia, often to remote regions thousands of kilometres from Ukraine. Russia denies any suggestion of mistreatment or criminal intent, describing the mass movements as evacuations.

“The discussion focused above all on our people that the occupiers have deported to Russia,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address, referring to talks with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi earlier on Wednesday. “These are adults, these are our children. A mechanism is needed to protect and bring back people and to bring to account all those who are guilty of deportations. I am certain the UN institutions can show leadership in resolving this issue.”

>> Mother Russia: Maria Lvova-Belova, the Putin ally deporting Ukrainian children

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Live: US Defense Secretary Austin urges allies to ‘dig deeper’ for military support of Ukraine

Western defence ministers gathered at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday to hammer out future military aid to Ukraine amid ongoing dissent over who will provide the battle tanks Ukrainian leaders say they desperately need to recapture territory from Russia. European Council president Charles Michel said tanks “must be delivered” to Ukraine after he visited the war-torn country on Thursday for talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky. Follow our live blog for the latest updates. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

3:54pm: Erdogan offers to mediate between Moscow and Kyiv in call with Zelensky

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan repeated his offer to mediate between Russia and Ukraine in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday, the Turkish presidency said.

Erdogan also offered his condolences for those who died in a helicopter crash in Ukraine on Wednesday, it said.

2:52pm: UK vows to aid Ukraine bid for ‘criminal accountability’ over war

The UK on Friday vowed to help Ukraine “pursue criminal accountability for Russia’s illegal invasion”, as international support grows for a special tribunal to prosecute Russian leaders.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly branded Moscow’s renewed military assault on its neighbour, launched last February, “an outrageous violation of the rules-based international order”.

He said London had accepted an invitation from Kyiv to join “a core group of like-minded partners” seeking legal accountability, with a new “hybrid” tribunal among the potential options to be assessed.

“Alongside other international partners invited by Ukraine, the UK will shape thinking on how to ensure criminal accountability for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” his department said.

“This includes assessing the feasibility of a new ‘hybrid’ tribunal”.

2:28pm: Germany says ‘no decision yet’ on sending tanks to Ukraine

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said export authorisation for the tanks was discussed at a meeting of NATO defence leaders and allies at the Ramstein military base, but that no decision had been taken.

Pistorious said there were “good reasons” for and against sending Ukraine the tanks, which are used by several armed forces around Europe including countries that want to supply the vehicles to Kyiv.

The minister said, however, that Germany was ready to “move quickly” if there was agreement with allies about the tanks.

2:07pm: ‘Sharp’ increase in fighting in south Ukraine, says Moscow-installed official

Fighting has “sharply increased” in the southern Ukraine region of Zaporizhzhia, where the front has been largely stagnant for months, a senior Moscow-installed official there said Friday.

“In the direction of Zaporizhzhia, the intensity of military activity has sharply increased,” the official, Vladimir Rogov, said on the Telegram social media platform.

1:46pm: NATO chief Stoltenberg says Ukraine allies need to focus on ammunition, weapons maintenance

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that countries backing Ukraine needed to focus not only on sending new weapons to Kyiv, but looking at ammunition for older systems and helping maintain them.

“We need also to remember that we need to not only focus on new platforms, but also to ensure that all the platforms which are already there can function as they should,” Stoltenberg said on the sidelines of the meeting of defence ministers on arming Ukraine.

1:15pm: Macron announces major boost in military spending until 2030

French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed a substantial boost in defence spending through the end of this decade and a “transformation” of France’s nuclear-armed military to face evolving threats and take into account the impact of the war in Ukraine.

Macron announced a proposal for 413 billion euros in military spending for the period of 2024-2030, to ensure “our freedom, our security, our prosperity, our place in the world”. That compares with spending of about 295 billion euros in the previous 6-year budget.

The plan is meant to take into account the consequences of the war in Ukraine, and to boost defence spending in the coming years to reinforce France’s domestic security and the country’s ability to operate abroad. Macron noted threats from hybrid warfare, growing cyber attacks on critical infrastructure and continued threats from terrorism.

12:20pm: US urges allies to ‘dig deeper’ as Ramstein talks kick off

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has urged allies to step up support for Ukraine at the start of key talks at the Ramstein air base in Germany – with pressure piling up on Berlin to provide tanks to Kyiv.

“Russia is regrouping, recruiting, and trying to re-equip,” Austin said at the start of the meeting.

“This is not a moment to slow down. It’s a time to dig deeper. The Ukrainian people are watching us,” he said without making specific reference to tanks.

11:44am: First UN aid convoy reaches sites near Ukraine’s Soledar

A UN spokesperson said that a three-truck humanitarian convoy had brought aid to around 800 people close to Soledar in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region on Friday.

The supplies of food, water, hygiene and medicines are the first such UN convoy to reach the area which has been subject to intense fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

Jens Laerke from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that the vehicles, which departed from Dnipro, were being offloaded on Friday morning in areas controlled by the Ukrainian government, without giving an exact location

11:35am: Kremlin tells ‘deluded’ West that tanks for Ukraine will change nothing

Western countries supplying additional tanks to Ukraine will not change the course of the conflict, a spokesman for Russia’s Vladimir Putin has warned, adding that the West will regret its “delusion” that Ukraine can win on the battlefield.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Western support for Ukraine was causing “an upward spiral” in the war in Ukraine. He warned that supplying tanks to Kyiv would “change nothing” on the ground.

“We see a growing indirect and sometimes direct involvement of NATO countries in this conflict,” Peskov added. “We see a devotion to the dramatic delusion that Ukraine can succeed on the battlefield. This is a dramatic delusion of the Western community that will more than once be cause for regret – we are sure of that.”

10:30am: Macron to announce new military spending plan for France

French President Emmanuel Macron will unveil his vision for modernising the military today, taking into account the impact of the war in Ukraine and evolving threats around the world.

Macron is laying out the plan in a new year’s speech to civilian and military staff at the Mont-de-Marsan air base in southern France. He wants France’s military strategy to strengthen the country’s role as an independent global power.

The plan is expected to include higher military spending in line with NATO expectations that members spend 2% of GDP on defence.

10:02am: Ukraine thanks US for ‘powerful’ $2.5 billion defence package

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked Washington for its latest package of arms and munitions for Kyiv, which comes as Western allies are set to discuss further military aid to the war-torn country.

“Thank you” US President Joe Biden for providing Ukraine “with another powerful defense support package worth $2.5 billion,” Zelensky wrote in English on Twitter.

The Ukrainian leader hailed the Stryker armoured personnel carriers, Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles and Avenger air defence systems included in the package as an “important help in our fight against the aggressor”.

9:03am: Finland promises $400 million euros of new military aid to Ukraine

Finland announced a new donation of 400 million euros ($434 million) worth of defence equipment for Ukraine.

The new donation would triple the total value of Finland’s defence aid to Ukraine, bringing the total so far to 590 million euros, the Defence Ministry said in a statement. A ministry spokesperson said the package does not include Leopard 2 tanks.

8:50am: European nations step up support for Kyiv as Berlin dithers over tanks

While Germany dithers over sending Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv, other European countries have stepped up their supply of weapons to Ukraine – with tiny Estonia pledging military hardware worth 1% of its entire GDP.

Reporting from Kyiv, FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg takes a look at recent pledges from Ukraine’s Western backers and brings us the latest updates on fighting in the country’s east.

8:40am: Poland ready for ‘non-standard’ action if Germany opposes tank transfer

Poland is ready to take “non-standard” action if Germany opposes sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski has told private radio RMF FM ahead of talks at the Ramstein Air Base.

Asked whether sending tanks to Ukraine would be possible even with Germany opposition, Jablonski said, “I think that if there is strong resistance, we will be ready to take even such non-standard action … but let’s not anticipate the facts.”

Poland is among several European countries willing to send the German-made tanks to Ukraine, but Berlin has veto power over any decision to export them.

8:15am: Tens of thousands to suffer from PTSD as war takes heavy toll

Mental health professionals in Ukraine are pushing for better help for soldiers traumatised by experiences on the battlefield.

Months of trench warfare under heavy bombardment, combined with the loss of comrades, are taking a heavy toll on the men and women of the military, many of whom had little previous military experience. Tens of thousands are likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, a condition for which only a few medical establishments in Ukraine are able to offer modern treatments.

The most prominent among them, Forest Glade just outside Kyiv, launched a programme on Thursday to help share its expertise. FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg sent this report.

6:30am: Will Germany budge on Leopard tanks?

Today’s meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany is the latest in a series since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly 11 months ago, and where future weapons supplies will be discussed, particularly of Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks used by armies across Europe.

Berlin has veto power over any decision to export the tanks and Chancellor Olaf Scholz‘s government has appeared reluctant so far to authorise that for fear of provoking Russia. Some allies say Berlin’s concern is misplaced, with Russia already fully committed to war.

Read more: UK offers tanks in Ukraine’s hour of need, but will Germany follow suit?

German government sources have said Berlin would move on the Leopard tanks issue if Washington agreed to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine. But Germany’s new Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said he did not know of any requirement that Ukraine receive US and German tanks simultaneously.

“I’m not aware of any such stipulation,” Pistorius told German ARD television when asked if that meant Abrams and Leopards had to be delivered at the same time, a position that leaves open the possibility of an agreement on Friday.

3:20am: US announces $2.5 billion in new military aid for Ukraine

The United States has announced new military assistance for Ukraine valued at up to $2.5 billion, including hundreds of armoured vehicles and support for Ukraine’s air defence.

The aid includes 59 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 90 Stryker Armored Personnel Carriers, the US Defense Department said in a statement. In total, the United States has committed more than $27.4 billion in security aid to Ukraine since the invasion began.

Earlier, Britain announced it would send 600 Brimstone missiles, Denmark said it would donate 19 French-made Caesar howitzers, and Sweden promised its Archer artillery system, a modern mobile howitzer requested by Kyiv for months.

10:14pm: Zelensky expects ‘strong decisions’ on arms supplies

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Thursday that he expected “strong decisions” on further Western arms supplies at a key meeting of allies at the US Ramstein airbase in Germany on Friday.

“As we prepare for tomorrow’s Ramstein, we expect strong decisions. We expect a powerful military support package from the United States,” Zelensky said in a video address.

“We are, in fact, now waiting for a decision from one European capital, which will activate the prepared chains of cooperation regarding tanks,” he said, referring to German hesitations on delivery of Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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Zelensky says Ukraine is preparing for all possible defence scenarios

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that protecting Ukraine’s borders was a “constant priority” and that his country was ready for all possible scenarios with Russia and its ally Belarus. Heating has also been restored to Kyiv following the latest Russian bombardment that targeted water and power infrastructure, said the capital’s mayor Vitali Klitschko. Read our live blog to see how all the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

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03:59am: Nine drones shot down in Kyiv’s airspace early Monday

Nine Iranian-made Shahed drones were shot down early on Monday in Kyiv’s airspace, the capital’s military administration said on the Telegram messaging app.

“Air alert continues in Kyiv,” the administration said. “The enemy is attacking the capital with ‘Shahed’ barrage ammunition. Air defence is being at work.”

03:54am: Blasts heard in Kyiv city and region early Monday

Several loud blasts were heard early on Monday in Kyiv and the region that surrounds the Ukrainian capital, Reuters witnesses reported.

Earlier, Oleksiy Kuleba, governor of the Kyiv region, said that the region was under a drone attack.

It was not immediately clear whether the blasts were air defence systems destroying the drones or hitting targets.

03:50am: Russian troops stationed in Belarus to ‘begin military exercises’

Russian troops that were moved to Belarus in October to become part of a regional formation will conduct battalion tactical exercises, the Russian Interfax news agency reported on Monday, citing the Russian defence ministry.

It was not immediately clear when and where in Belarus the exercises will be conducted.

Belarus defence ministry said in October that 9,000 Russian troops were moving to the country as part of a “regional grouping” of forces to protect its borders.

02:30am: Ukraine watchful of borders as Putin heads to Belarus

President Volodymyr Zelensky said protecting Ukraine’s borders was a “constant priority” and his country was ready for all possible scenarios with Russia and its ally Belarus, which Kyiv has warned could be drawn into the 10-month conflict.

Zelensky, in his nightly video address to Ukrainians, also issued a fresh appeal to Western nations to provide Kyiv with better air defences as “one of the most powerful” steps to halt the Russian invasion.

Early on Monday, air raid warnings again rung out over Kyiv and eastern Ukraine, with videos of blasts and air defence systems shared on social media.

“Protecting our border, both with Russia and Belarus – is our constant priority,” Zelensky said after a meeting on Sunday of Ukraine’s top military command. “We are preparing for all possible defence scenarios.”

10:12pm: Zelensky says power restored to 3 million more Ukrainians following attacks

Power has been restored to three million more Ukrainians after the latest Russian attacks on infrastructure, bringing the total to nine million after two days, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday.

“Electricity supplies have been restored to a further three million Ukrainians,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address. “Plus six million yesterday. That means after the terrorist strikes on Friday, we have results already for nine million of our people.”

Russia fired scores of missiles on Ukraine’s power grid last Friday, killing at least three people and damaging nine energy facilities.

10:05pm: Zelensky says Ukraine preparing for all defence scenarios

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that protecting Ukraine’s borders was a “constant priority” and that his country was ready for all possible scenarios with Russia and its ally Belarus.

“Protecting our border, both with Russia and Belarus – is our constant priority,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address. “We are preparing for all possible defence scenarios.”

Zelensky made his remarks on the eve of a visit to Belarus by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s amid discussion of a possible new offensive by Moscow and suggestions it could originate in Belarus.

In his address, Zelensky issued a new appeal to Western nations to provide Ukraine with effective air defences. He also said his forces were holding the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, where some of the fiercest fighting has been seen.

7:00pm: Ukraine Jews mark ‘Festival of Lights’ amid blackouts

War-weary Ukrainian Jews gathered on Sunday for prayer and candle-lighting ceremonies to kick off Hanukkah, the so-called Festival of Lights, vowing to overcome blackouts caused by persistent Russian bombardment.

In the capital’s iconic Independence Square, known as Maidan, worshippers huddled together for warmth near what officials claimed was the largest Hanukkah menorah – a nine-branched candelabra – in Europe.

6:54pm: Kissinger calls for a negotiated peace in Ukraine, Kyiv dismisses his proposal

Veteran US diplomat Henry Kissinger said the time is approaching for a negotiated peace in Ukraine to reduce the risk of another devastating world war, but the Kyiv government dismissed his comments as amounting to “appeasing the aggressor” and said there could be no deal involving ceding territory.

2:23pm: Russian shelling targets heart of Kherson

Russian military forces on Sunday shelled the centre of Kherson, the major city that Russian soldiers retreated from last month in one of Moscow’s biggest battlefield setbacks in Ukraine.

Three people were wounded in the attacks, said presidential deputy chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

The southern city and its surrounding region have come under frequent attack since the Russian pullback. Regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said Sunday that Russia had carried out 54 attacks with rocket, mortar and tank fire over the previous day, killing three people and wounding six.

1:15pm: Putin’s invasion of Ukraine opened ‘gates of hell’, says Anglican leader

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on Sunday said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had “opened the gates of hell” unleashing “every evil” force worldwide from murder and rape in occupied territory to famine and debt in Africa and Europe.

Welby, the highest-ranking cleric in the worldwide Anglican communion, travelled to Ukraine late last month to meet church leaders and local Christians as well as those displaced by the conflict.

He said he had been struck by the “size of the mass graves in Bucha, the photos of what had been done to the people there, the rape, the massacres, the torture by the occupying Russian forces”, and that the repercussions of the invasion were also being felt far beyond Ukraine’s borders.

1:07pm: Heating restored in Kyiv after Russian bombardment, Mayor Klitschko says

Heating has been restored to Kyiv after the latest Russian bombardment targeting water and power infrastructure, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Sunday.

“The city is restoring all services after the latest shelling,” Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging app. “In particular, the capital’s heat supply system was fully restored. All sources of heat supply work normally.”

Ukrainian officials said Russia fired more than 70 missiles on Friday in one of its heaviest barrages since the Kremlin’s February 24 invasion, forcing emergency blackouts nationwide and cutting access to heat and water.

Temperatures in Kyiv and many places across Ukraine were below freezing on Sunday morning, with forecasts expecting them to dip to minus 6 degrees Celsius (21.2 °F) in the capital by  the evening.

Kyiv is the largest city in Ukraine with an estimated population of about 3 million, with up to two million more in the Kyiv region.

12:39pm: One dead, several injured in strikes on Russian region near Ukraine, says governor

Strikes on the Russian region of Belgorod that borders Ukraine killed one person and injured five others on Sunday, the regional governor said, two days after renewed attacks by Moscow battered the Ukrainian energy grid.

In the regional capital Belgorod, “there are four wounded (with injuries) of moderate severity”, governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on social media.

One of those injured is a man whose back was cut by shrapnel and another is a woman who suffered facial injuries, according to Gladkov.

He said more than a dozen residential buildings and several cars were damaged across the city.

Gladkov added there was also “one dead and one injured” in the Belgorod district that surrounds the main city, where a poultry farm was damaged.

11:16am: Russian defence minister inspects troops involved in Ukraine offensive

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu inspected troops involved in what Moscow calls its special military operation in Ukraine, his ministry said Sunday.

Shoigu “made a working trip to the Southern Military District and inspected troops in the areas of the special military operation”, the defence ministry said in a statement on Telegram.

The statement did not say where exactly the trip took place and whether Shoigu visited Ukraine.

8:07am: Ukraine races to restore power after Russian missiles batter grid

Ukraine worked Saturday to restore electricity and water supplies after Russia’s latest wave of attacks pitched multiple cities into darkness and forced people to endure sub-zero temperatures without heating or running water.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Saturday that electricity had been restored to almost six million Ukrainians, but noted ongoing problems with heat and water supplies, and “large-scale outages” in many regions.

In the capital Kyiv, the metro had stopped running so that people wrapped in winter coats could take shelter at underground stations, but Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Saturday the service had resumed.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

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Russia launches ‘massive’ attack on key infrastructure in Ukraine

Russia conducted a “massive” barrage of strikes on critical infrastructure in Kyiv, Kharkiv and other cities on Monday morning, Ukrainian authorities reported.

“Another batch of Russian missiles hits Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. Instead of fighting on the battlefield, Russia fights civilians,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.

“Don’t justify these attacks by calling them a ‘response’. Russia does this because it still has the missiles and the will to kill Ukrainians.”

Part of the Ukrainian capital was cut off from power and water supplies due to the attacks, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said. Some 350,000 apartments were affected, according to him.

Ukrainian sources claim Moscow forces used drones and strategic bombers in Monday’s wave of strikes. Some 40 cruise missiles were spotted as well, according to domestic media reports. There was no immediate information on possible casualties.

Critical infrastructure objects were also hit in the Cherkasy region southeast of Kyiv, and explosions were reported in other regions, including Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia in the southeast and Lviv in western Ukraine.

In the Kirovohrad region of central Ukraine, the energy facility was hit, according to local authorities.

In Vinnytsia, a missile that was shot down landed on civilian buildings, resulting in damage but no casualties, according to regional governor Serhii Borzov.

In Kharkiv, two strikes hit critical infrastructure facilities, and the subway ceased operating. Some parts of Ukrainian railways were also cut off from power, the Ukrainian Railways reported.

‘Russia continues to fight with civilian facilities’

One of the missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defence crashed across the border in Moldova.

The missile shattered windows in Naslavcea — a village in the Ocnita district known as the northernmost point of Moldova, situated between Ukraine’s Vinnytsia and Chernivtsi. However, there were no casualties, the Moldovan interior ministry said.

Chisinau authorities stated that the nearby dam on the Dniester river was the probable target.

The large-scale attack against Ukraine comes two days after the Kremlin accused Kyiv of a drone attack against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet off the coast of the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Ukraine has denied the attack, saying that Russia mishandled its own weapons, but Moscow still announced halting its participation in an UN-brokered deal to allow safe passage of ships carrying grain from Ukraine.

Commenting on Monday’s attacks, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office Andriy Yermak said that Russian forces “continue to fight with civilian facilities”.

“We will persevere, and generations of Russians will pay a high price for their disgrace,” Yermak said.

It’s the second time this month that Russia unleashed a massive barrage of strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure.

On 10 October, a similar attack rocked the war-torn country following an explosion on the Kerch Bridge linking annexed Crimea to mainland Russia — an incident Moscow blamed on Kyiv.

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