January 11, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Andrew Raine, Sophie Tanno, Aditi Sangal and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 1:43 a.m. ET, January 12, 2023
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8:21 a.m. ET, January 11, 2023

In eastern Ukraine's embattled Soledar, "no one counts the dead," soldier tells CNN

From CNN’s Yulia Keseiva in Kyiv

A Ukrainian soldier fighting in the eastern town of Soledar told CNN that the situation is “critical” and the death toll is now so high that “no one counts the dead.” 

The soldier is from the 46th air mobile brigade, which is leading Ukraine’s fight to hold onto Soledar in the face of a massive assault from Russian troops and Wagner mercenaries.

CNN is not identifying him for security reasons. 

The situation is critical. Difficult. We are holding on to the last,” said the soldier.

He described a dynamic battlefield where buildings change hands daily and units can’t keep track of the escalating death toll. “No one will tell you how many dead and wounded there are. Because no one knows for sure. Not a single person,” he said. “Not at the headquarters. Not anywhere. Positions are being taken and re-taken constantly. What was our house today, becomes Wagner's the next day.”

In Soledar, no one counts the dead,” he added.

The soldier said it was unclear as of Tuesday night how much of the town was held by the Russians: “No one can definitely say who moved where and who holds what, because no one knows for sure. There is a huge grey area in the city that everyone claims to control, [but] it’s just any empty hype.”

The Ukrainians have lost many troops in Soledar but the ranks are being replenished as the fight for the mining town continues, he said: “The personnel of our units have been renewed by almost half, more or less. We do not even have time to memorize each other’s call signs [when new personnel arrive].”

The soldier said that he believed Ukraine’s military leaders would eventually abandon the fight for Soledar and questioned why they hadn’t done this yet. “Everyone understands that the city will be abandoned. Everyone understands this,” he said. “I just want to understand what the point [in fighting house to house] is. Why die, if we are going to leave it anyway today or tomorrow?”

Some context: The 46th air mobile brigade said on its Telegram channel on Tuesday that the situation in Soledar was “very difficult, but manageable." 

In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the soldiers of the brigade “for their bravery and steadfastness in defending Soledar.”

1:51 a.m. ET, January 11, 2023

Russian artillery fire down 75% in some areas, US officials say, in latest sign of struggles for Moscow

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Oren Liebermann and Alex Marquardt

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its 11th month, US and Ukrainian officials tell CNN that Russia’s artillery fire is down dramatically from its wartime high, in some places by as much as 75%.

US and Ukrainian officials don’t yet have a clear or singular explanation. Russia may be rationing artillery rounds due to low supplies, or it could be part of a broader reassessment of tactics in the face of successful Ukrainian offenses.

Either way, the striking decline in artillery fire is further evidence of Russia’s increasingly weak position on the battlefield nearly a year into its invasion, US and Ukrainian officials told CNN. It also comes as Ukraine is enjoying increased military support from its western allies, with the United States and Germany announcing last week that they will be providing Ukrainian forces for the first time with armored fighting vehicles, as well as another Patriot Defense missile battery that will help protect its skies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, is apparently clambering to shore up domestic political support, US intelligence officials believe, for a war he initially would only describe as a limited “special military operation.”

US officials believe the 36-hour ceasefire Putin ordered in Ukraine last week to allow for the observance of Orthodox Christmas was an attempt to pander to Russia’s extensive Christian population, two people familiar with the intelligence told CNN, as well as an opportunity for Putin to blame Ukrainians for breaking it and paint them as heretical heathens.

Read the full story here.

5:04 a.m. ET, January 11, 2023

US has made "substantive" change in weaponry provided to Ukraine, officials say

From CNN's Jim Sciutto

There has been a “substantive” change in the type of weaponry the United States and its allies are providing to meet Kyiv’s requests for firepower, two senior US officials tell CNN.

The latest US aid announcement included more offensive weapons, such as Bradley fighting vehicles and advanced long-range rocket systems, reflecting the nature of the battlefield in eastern Ukraine and Kyiv's belief that it has a window to regain territory before Russia regroups, one of the officials said, describing the new weapons systems as giving the Ukrainians “much more capability.”

One US official also noted that Ukraine has abided by limitations on the use of the weapons the West has provided so far, tempering reservations about sending more capable systems.

US officials emphasized that the Ukrainians are developing and following their own strategy, and US moves are intended to support that strategy and meet their needs on the battlefield.

“We are in constant touch with Ukraine about what it needs to defend itself and we believe we are meeting the need. As the situation evolves, so does our assistance,” NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson told CNN.

Last week, in the largest military aid announcement since the war began, the US said it was providing Bradleys, which one top Pentagon official said was meant to bolster Ukraine’s offensive fighting abilities.

Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder also said last week that Bradleys, which are armored vehicles that can carry troops into battle and can be equipped with TOW anti-tank guided missiles, will provide “a level of firepower and armor that will bring advantages on the battlefield as Ukraine continues to defend their homeland.”

Read the full story here.

1:51 a.m. ET, January 11, 2023

Pentagon confirms US will begin training Ukrainian soldiers on Patriot missile system in Oklahoma

From CNN's Michael Conte and Oren Liebermann

The Pentagon confirmed that the US will begin training 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers on the Patriot missile system as soon as next week at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. 

CNN was first to report that the training would begin on US soil and it will last “several months.”

“Once fielded, the Patriot… will contribute to Ukraine’s air defense capabilities, and provide another capability to the Ukrainian people to defend themselves against Russia’s ongoing aerial assaults,” said Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder at a press briefing.

Ryder also confirmed that the previously announced combined arms training program for Ukrainian battalions in Europe will also begin as early as next week and “will not require a significant or any increase in terms of US trainers” deploying to Europe.

Ryder did not have any details about how Germany intended to handle training on the Patriot system it committed to sending Ukraine and whether Berlin would wait for training to complete on the US system before sending its own.

Background: The US announced it was sending Ukraine the Patriot missile system in late December when President Volodomyr Zelensky visited Washington, DC, and met with President Joe Biden.

The US is providing one Patriot battery, which includes power generating equipment, computers, an engagement control system and up to eight launchers. The battery is operated by roughly 90 soldiers and takes months to train up on.

Though the Patriot is broadly seen as one of the most advanced and effective air defense systems, experts caution that it is “not a game-changer” because of its limited range and the amount of time it will take for Ukrainians to be able to utilize it.

CNN's Haley Britzky contributed reporting to this post.

1:50 a.m. ET, January 11, 2023

Russia focused on capturing eastern town of Soledar, Zelensky says 

From CNN’s Olga Voitovych in Kyiv 

Russia is focused on capturing the mining town of Soledar in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Monday. 

The Russians, “have concentrated their greatest efforts on Soledar,” he said. “It is extremely difficult — there are almost no undamaged walls left.” 

Ukrainian troops have repelled a previous Russian attempt to capture the town, Zelensky’s deputy defense minister said earlier Monday. Zelensky said his men’s “resilience” had “won additional time” for Ukraine. 

“Everything is completely destroyed, there is almost no life left. Thousands of their people have been lost: the whole ground near Soledar is covered with the corpses of the occupiers and scars from the blows. This is how madness looks like,” he added. 

Zelensky said that his administration was working to get the military equipment promised by Ukraine’s allies to the frontline as soon as possible: “We are doing everything to ensure that there is as little time as possible between the agreement on additional support and the application of this support on the battlefield.”