January 20, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Amy Woodyatt, Leinz Vales, Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 8:41 p.m. ET, January 20, 2023
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4:15 p.m. ET, January 20, 2023

Senators urge both US and Germany to send tanks after meeting with Zelensky in Ukraine

From CNN's Manu Raju

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky poses for a picture with US Sens. Lindsey Graham, Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse during a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky poses for a picture with US Sens. Lindsey Graham, Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse during a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout/Reuters)

Sens. Lindsey Graham, Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse met with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other government officials in Ukraine Friday, according to Graham’s office.

“All three of us, one Republican and two Democrats, share the same goal – for Ukraine to drive the Russians out of Ukraine. To achieve that goal, the Ukrainian military needs tanks. I am tired of the s*** show surrounding who is going to send tanks and when are they going to send them. Putin is trying to rewrite the map of Europe by force of arms. World order is at stake,” Graham said at a media availability according to a statement.

The meeting comes as Germany failed to reach agreement with its key Western allies on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine after days of negotiations.

Leopard 2 tanks are seen as a vital, modern military vehicle that would bolster Kyiv’s forces as the war with Russia approaches the one-year mark.

“To the Germans: Send tanks to Ukraine because they need them. It is in your own national interest that Putin loses in Ukraine. To the Biden Administration: Send American tanks so that others will follow our lead," Graham said, according to the statement.

3:58 p.m. ET, January 20, 2023

Biden pledges that Ukraine will get all the help it needs

From CNN's Sam Fossum

President Joe Biden talks with reporters after speaking in the East Room of the White House on Friday.
President Joe Biden talks with reporters after speaking in the East Room of the White House on Friday.

US President Joe Biden responded to a shouted question about whether he supports sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, saying that the country will receive "all the help" it needs to fight against Russian troops.

As he was leaving a White House event, Biden said, "Ukraine is going to get all the help they need" when a reporter asked if he supports Poland's goal to send the German-made tanks to Ukraine.

Let's recap: In recent days, German officials have indicated they won’t send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine — or allow any other country with the German-made tanks in their inventory to do so — unless the US also agrees to send its M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv, something the Pentagon has said for months it has no intention of doing given the logistical costs of maintaining them.

“They have us over a barrel,” a senior Biden administration official told CNN on Thursday, adding that the Germans are demanding tanks for tanks, and not budging on considering any other offers the US has made to spur Berlin to send the Leopards.

But on Friday, defense ministers from the US and Germany denied any “linkage” between the US potentially sending the M1 Abrams tanks and Germany sending or allowing the transfer of the Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

3:33 p.m. ET, January 20, 2023

Ex-US Navy SEAL killed while fighting in Ukraine

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

A former US Navy SEAL, who deserted the military nearly four years ago, was killed fighting in Ukraine, according to a military spokesperson.  

Daniel W. Swift, who was a Special Warfare Operator 1st Class, was killed Wednesday in Ukraine, the Navy said in a statement. Swift deserted the military on March 11, 2019.

The statement did not provide specifics on how Swift found himself involved in the combat.

“We cannot speculate as to why the former Sailor was in Ukraine,” the Navy said.

Swift had his Trident pin removed, a Navy official said, a severe step taken after a Trident Review Board determines a sailor no longer lives up to the requirements of being a Navy SEAL.

The US State Department confirmed the recent death of a US citizen fighting in Ukraine but offered no further details on the circumstances.

“We are in touch with his family and providing all possible consular assistance,” a State Department spokesperson said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the family during this difficult time, we have nothing further to add.”

Swift joined the Navy in 2005 and completed Navy SEAL training in 2006, according to his service record provided by the Navy. During his time in the military, he earned awards and decorations for service in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

His record also contains an unexplained break in service from the beginning of 2014 to the end of 2015. His last assignment was a West Coast Special Warfare Unit, which started in August 2016.

CNN's Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

3:26 p.m. ET, January 20, 2023

Polish foreign minister criticizes lack of progress on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Caroline Paterson

Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs Zbigniew Rau addresses a press conference in Finland in 2022.
Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs Zbigniew Rau addresses a press conference in Finland in 2022. (Emmi Korhonen/Lehtikuva/AFP/Getty Images)

The Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zbigniew Rau, says Ukraine is paying with blood for the West’s hesitation on the supply of Leopard 2 main battle tanks.

“Ukrainian blood is shed for real. This is the price of hesitation over Leopard deliveries,” Rau tweeted on Friday. “We need action, now.”

Some background: Introduced in 1979, the German-made Leopard 2 tanks are seen as a vital, modern military vehicle that would bolster Kyiv’s forces. In total, there are around 2,000 Leopard 2 vehicles spread across Europe, at different levels of readiness.

However, German officials have indicated they won't send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine or allow any other country with the German-made tanks in their inventory to do so – unless the US also agrees to send its M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv.

This month, Germany said it would transfer infantry fighting vehicles to Kyiv.

2:39 p.m. ET, January 20, 2023

Netherlands to send 2 Patriot system launchers to Ukraine, defense ministry says

From CNN’s Mick Krever and Allegra Goodwin

The Netherlands will send two launchers and rockets for Patriot air defense systems to Ukraine, the country’s Ministry of Defense said in a Friday statement. 

It comes after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the country’s plans to join the US and Germany in sending the Patriot system to Ukraine in a meeting with US President Joe Biden on Tuesday. 

Arrangements were made to accelerate the process during the Ukraine Defense Contact Group that took place at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday, according to the statement

Training on Patriots: The Pentagon said Tuesday that Ukrainian troops would begin training on the Patriot missile system this week at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where the US conducts its own training on operating and maintaining the advanced air defense system. Fort Sill is one of the Army’s four basic training locations and home to the field artillery school, which has been training service members for more than a century.

CNN’s Duarte Mendonca and Lindsay Isaac contributed reporting to this post.

2:34 p.m. ET, January 20, 2023

Germany announces $1.08 billion military aid package for Ukraine

From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius attends a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius attends a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday. (Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

Newly appointed German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius on Friday announced a $1.08 billion military aid package for Ukraine. 

Pistorius made the announcement on the sidelines of the Ukraine contact group meeting at Ramstein air base in Germany, a spokesperson for the German Ministry of Defense confirmed to CNN. The spokesperson did not give details on what the aid package would include.

Pressure on Germany: The frustration felt by some NATO members toward Germany has bolstered a narrative in some corners that Berlin has been slower than its Western counterparts in offering support to Ukraine.

Germany failed to reach agreement with its key Western allies on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine Friday, calling on the US to send its own M1 Abrams tanks.

2:27 p.m. ET, January 20, 2023

Ukraine minister of defense celebrates Ramstein meeting despite lack of agreement on tanks

From Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov called the Ramstein meeting “great” despite Western allies failing to agree to supply Ukraine with Leopard main battle tanks.

Calling it "a great meeting of friends,” Reznikov tweeted his confidence that “the Ukrainian army will receive more weapons and ammo. We will win. Evil will be defeated.”

See the tweet:

2:46 p.m. ET, January 20, 2023

"No alternative" to sending tanks to Ukraine, Zelensky says

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London and Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

(Ukraine Presidential Office)
(Ukraine Presidential Office)

After allies failed to agree on equipment supply at a summit in Ramstein, Germany, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there is “no alternative” to sending main battle tanks to Ukraine.

“We will still have to fight for the supply of modern tanks, but every day, we make it more obvious there is no alternative to making the decision on tanks,” Zelensky said in his nightly address on Friday. “The partners are firm in their attitude. They will support Ukraine as much as necessary for our victory.”

Ukraine was strengthened after what he called a “diplomatic marathon” since his trip to Washington late in 2022, with allies supplying additional artillery, “several hundred” armored vehicles, rockets for multiple launch rocket systems and anti-aircraft weapons, Zelensky added, thanking the US for announcing its biggest defense packages yet.

“I thank President Biden, all the congressmen, all Americans who know that freedom cannot lose,” he said, also thanking European allies and Canada for stepping up their efforts to arm Ukraine this week. 

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov called the Ramstein meeting “great” despite lack of agreement among western allies on supplying Ukraine with the Leopard 2 tanks. 

He expressed confidence that Ukraine will secure more weapons and ammunition. “The Ukrainian army will receive more weapons and ammo. We will win. Evil will be defeated.”

3:43 p.m. ET, January 20, 2023

Why the Leopard 2 tanks are so important for the war in Ukraine

From CNN's Rob Picheta

A Polish Leopard 2 tank seen in Germany 2022 during a military exercise.
A Polish Leopard 2 tank seen in Germany 2022 during a military exercise. (Armin Weigel/picture-alliance/dpa/AP)

Germany failed to reach an agreement with its key Western allies on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, despite growing pressure from NATO and Kyiv to step up its military aid ahead of a potential Russian spring offensive.

Leopard 2 tanks are seen as a vital, modern military vehicle that would bolster Kyiv’s forces as the war with Russia approaches the one-year mark.

But Germany has batted back claims it is dragging its feet on providing military support to Ukraine, and has called on the US to send its own tanks across the Atlantic and into Ukraine.

Why Leopard 2 tanks are so important: Thirteen European countries, including Poland and Finland, are already in possession of modern German Leopard 2 tanks, which were introduced in 1979 and have been upgraded several times since, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

Many of them have agreed to re-export some tanks to Kyiv, but require Germany’s permission. Representatives for those countries that own Leopard tanks met on the sidelines of a meeting at Ramstein air base in Germany, according to the Portuguese Ministry of Defense.

In total, there are around 2,000 Leopard 2 vehicles spread across Europe, at different levels of readiness.

Each tank contains a 120mm Smoothbore gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun. It can reach speeds of 70 km per hour, or 50 km per hour when off-road, making maneuverability one of its key features. There is also an all-around protection from threats, including improvised explosive devices, mines or anti-tank fire, according to its German manufacturer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.

The vast number of units already based near Ukraine, and the Leopard’s relatively low-maintenance demands compared to other models, lead experts to believe the tanks could help Ukraine quickly.

Why is Germany dragging its feet on Ukraine aid? The frustration felt by some NATO members toward Germany has bolstered a narrative in some corners that Berlin has been slower than its Western counterparts in offering support to Ukraine.

Germany had been expected to announce a decision on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine on Friday, but instead said it needed more time.

Additionally, the appointment of Boris Pistorius as Germany's new defense minister this week has raised questions given his previous stances on Russia.

Polish leader Mateusz Morawiecki cited Pistorius’ previous support for easing sanctions against Russia along with his relationship with “close associate” Gerhard Schröder. The former German chancellor was forced to give up his office at the German Parliament (Bundestag) for failing to sever his Russian business ties following Moscow’s invasion.

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