Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine


Ukraine’s northeast, east and south pounded by Russian strikes

Ukraine’s northeast, eastern and southern regions were hit by another wave of missile strikes at the start of the week, with Kharkiv and Donetsk in the northeast and east as well as Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv and Kherson in the south all being targeted in rocket attacks.

Two women died in an attack on a village market in the Kharkiv region, while another civilian died in an attack on Kherson while a handful of civilian casualties were also reported.

A number of settlements and civilian infrastructures were struck in attacks on Zaporizhzhia and on the area surrounding Bakhmut, the epicenter of fighting in Donetsk.

Ukrainian rescuers work on a site following a Russian missile strike on a local market in Shevchenkove village, Kharkiv region, on Jan. 9, 2023.

Sergey Bobok | Afp | Getty Images

The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said in an operational update on Facebook Tuesday morning that in the past day, Russian forces launched eight missile and 31 air strikes as well as 63 MLRS [multiple launch rocket system] attacks “including on civilian infrastructure of the cities of Kharkiv, Kherson, Kramatorsk [in the Donetsk region]; and Ochakiv in the Mykolaiv oblast [region]. There are victims among the civilian population.”

“The threat of enemy air and missile strikes on critical infrastructure remains high across Ukraine,” the update noted.

Ukrainian soldiers load an M777 cannon in a field on Jan. 9, 2023, in Kherson, Ukraine.

Pierre Crom | Getty Images

Ukraine noted that Russian forces were conducting offensive operations on the Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Lyman axes, and were trying to improve the tactical position in the Kup’yans’k axes, but said while Russian forces concentrate their efforts on capturing the Donetsk region, they “have no success.”

The British Ministry of Defense noted Tuesday that Russian forces have seen some “tactical advances” into Soledar, a town near Russia’s prime target of Bakhmut, over the last four days.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian and Wagner forces make ‘tactical advances’ in Soledar, UK says

In the last four days, Russian forces and their colleagues in the Russian private military company known as the Wagner Group have made “tactical advances” into the small Donbas town of Soledar, according to the latest intelligence update from Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

Soledar is around 6 miles north of Bakhmut, the capture of which likely continues to be Russia’s “main immediate operational objective,” the ministry noted.

Despite recent advances into Soledar and “increased pressure” on nearby target Bakhmut, the ministry said “Russia is unlikely to envelop the town imminently because Ukrainian forces maintain stable defensive lines in depth and control over supply routes.”

A Ukrainian multiple-launch rocket system is hiding among the trees near Soledar as the fighting in the Donbas region continues.

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The ministry noted that “Russia’s Soledar axis is highly likely an effort to envelop Bakhmut from the north, and to disrupt Ukrainian lines of communication.”

“Part of the fighting has focused on entrances to the 200km-long disused salt mine tunnels which run underneath the district. Both sides are likely concerned that they could be used for infiltration behind their lines.”

On Monday night, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that while Russian forces “have now concentrated their greatest efforts on Soledar, the result of this difficult and long battle will be the liberation of our entire Donbas.”

He conceded, however, that the fighting was “extremely difficult” around Soledar, a place where he said there were barely any walls left standing.

“Due to the resilience of our warriors there, in Soledar, we have gained additional time and additional power for Ukraine,” he said in his nightly address.

“And what did Russia want to gain there? Everything is completely destroyed, there is almost no life left. And thousands of their people were lost: the whole land near Soledar is covered with the corpses of the occupiers and scars from the strikes.”

— Holly Ellyatt

More than 7.9 million Ukrainians have become refugees from Russia’s war

Children seen at an underground shelter. Nearly 100 days of war in Ukraine have rendered 3 million children inside Ukraine and over 2.2 million children in refugee-hosting countries in need of humanitarian aid, with nearly 2 out of every 3 children displaced by fighting.

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

More than 7.9 million Ukrainians have become refugees and moved to neighboring countries since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago, the UN Refugee Agency estimates.

More than 4.9 million of those refugees have relocated to Poland, according to data collected by the UN Refugee Agency.

“The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance. In the first five weeks, more than four million refugees from Ukraine crossed borders into neighbouring countries and many more have been forced to move inside the country,” the agency wrote.

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine says its looking for 2 British volunteers that went missing in the Donetsk region

Ukrainian soldiers of a special forces unit look at live images of Russian positions sent from a drone amid artillery fights on Dec. 20, 2022 in Bakhmut, Ukraine.

Pierre Crom | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukrainian authorities are looking for two British volunteers who went missing in Soledar, a city located in the Donetsk region.

“On the morning of January 7, Andrew Bagshaw and Christopher Perry left Kramatorsk. At 17:15, the police received a report about their disappearance,” Ukraine’s national police said in a statement, according to an NBC News translation.

“The police are carrying out investigative actions to establish the location of the missing persons,” the statement added.

— Amanda Macias

UK considering supplying Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, Sky News reports

A Challenger 2 main battle tank is displayed for the families watching The Royal Tank Regiment Regimental Parade, on September 24, 2022 in Bulford, England.

Finnbarr Webster | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Britain is considering supplying its tanks to Ukraine for the first time since the war began, Sky News understands.

The U.K. news network, citing a Western source with knowledge of the conversations, said discussions had been taking place “for a few weeks” about the delivery of the British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tank.

“It would encourage others to give tanks,” a Ukrainian source told the news outlet.

Despite supplying Ukraine with lighter combat vehicles and weaponry, Kyiv’s Western allies have been reluctant to offer heavier tanks in case Russia sees the move as escalatory.

Ukraine has repeatedly asked Germany for Leopard 2 tanks, for example, but Berlin has been cautious about supplying them. On Sunday, however, Germany Economy Minister Robert Habeck said such a supply could not be ruled out.

Ukraine’s allies are meeting next week to discuss the conflict and possible new assistance for the country. Sky News reported that no final decision on whether to supply Challenger 2 tanks has yet been made by the British government and the British Ministry of Defense would neither confirm nor deny the suggestion.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia and Belarus to conduct joint tactical exercise as military buildup continues

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at the Palace of Independence on Dec. 19, 2022, in Minsk, Belarus.

Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A joint tactical exercise involving Belarus’ and Russia’s air forces will begin on Jan. 16 and will continue until Feb. 1, according to the Belarusian Defense Ministry, as reported by state news agency BelTA.

An “aviation component” representing the Russia’s aerospace forces arrived in Belarus on Sunday, BelTA reported. It’s expected that “all the airfields and training areas” of Belarus’ air force will be used during the tactical exercise.

The latest report on joint military exercises by allies Belarus and Russia (which have an economic and defense alliance called the “Union State”) comes days after BelTa reported another statement from the defense ministry that stated that “the buildup of the regional military force of Belarus and Russia continues for the sake of ensuring the military security of the Union State of Belarus and Russia.”

The buildup of the joint regional military force involves Russian “personnel, weapons, military and special hardware” continuing to arrive in Belarus.

“The arriving army units are supposed to go through combat shakedown events in Belarusian military exercise areas later on,” BelTA reported last Friday.

Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly stressed that the country will not enter the Ukraine war as an active participant, although Minsk has allowed Russia to launch attacks on Ukraine from its territory and has provided logistical support to its neighbor. Joint military exercises with Russia, plus the formation of a joint military unit between the countries, have only deepened suspicions that Belarus could look to support on the battlefield Russia as the war drags on.

BelTA cited the country’s defense ministry as stating that “the decision to create the Belarusian-Russian regional military force in Belarus’ territory had been made, and is being realized, purely for the sake of enhancing the security and defense of the Union State of Belarus and Russia depending on the evolving situation along the border.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Bakhmut ‘holding out against all odds,’ Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian soldiers near a stele with a Ukrainian flag and a handwritten inscription that reads: “Bakhmut is Ukraine” on Jan. 4, 2023, in Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.

Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The situation on the front line in eastern Ukraine hasn’t changed significantly in the first week of the year, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with “heavy fighting” continuing in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, particularly around Bakhmut and Soledar.

“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,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Sunday.

“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 frontline,” he added.

Zelenskyy said additional units were being deployed to the area in a bid to strengthen Ukraine’s defenses and intesify attacks on Russian forces.

— Holly Ellyatt

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