Our live coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine has moved here.
Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the availability of modern weapons in the Ukrainian army will not lead to an escalation of war with Russia, in a Sunday address to students and professors at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.
“Do not listen to the arguments of those who talk about escalation. People worry in the west that things are going to escalate if we give Ukraine the weapons,” Johnson said. “I was in Bucha. How can we escalate the confrontation, where one side is already using the most advanced modern aircraft to bomb residential areas? Ukraine deserves all the help possible.”
Johnson went on to say that Ukraine should “seek its destiny in NATO” because it not being in NATO “has led to the worst war in Europe in the past 80 years."
Johnson said the whole world “owes Ukraine a debt,” because it is fighting for everybody who can potentially become “a victim of Vladimir Putin’s aggression.” He said Ukraine “fights for freedom around the world” and that the British people support Ukraine “a 100%.”
"We, your friends, will help you end this war as soon as possible in 2023. Because it will be the best thing for the world — so that people don't die, and it will be the best thing for Ukraine and, frankly speaking, for the Russian people, too. Let's get this thing over finally,” he said.
According to Johnson, it is necessary to provide Ukraine with all the necessary weapons as soon as possible to end the war.
"This means we must provide tanks. I'm proud that we are the first country to send Challenger tanks, and we expect tanks from other countries. We want to get aircraft for the people of Ukraine, and we need better equipment, weapons of all kinds that will enable you to defend your country," the former prime minister said.
Germany would not stop Poland from sending Leopard 2 combat tanks to Ukraine if asked, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told French Television LCI on Sunday.
“The question has not been asked. If we were asked the question, we would not stand in the way,“ Baerbock said in an interview on the sides of a French-German cabinet meeting celebrating 60 years of the Elysée treaty.
When asked for clarification by the interviewer if she meant Germany would not stop Poland from sending battle tanks to Ukraine, Baerbock said, “You have understood me correctly.“
“We have rules, the so-called end-use controls,“ Baerbock said of Germany's hesitancy to send combat tanks into the war zone.
According to Germany’s basic law, “weapons intended for warfare may be manufactured, transported, and marketed only with the authorization of the federal government.“
Under the “War Weapons Control Act“ the German government must consent to any delivery of German-made weapons to a war zone.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz must consent and the final decision rests with him, according to German law.
Scholz has been heavily criticized by his liberal coalition partner and many others for his stance on sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
A Russian politician warned that the continued delivery of weapons to Ukraine “will lead to a global catastrophe.”
“Delivery of offensive weapons to the Kyiv regime will lead to a global catastrophe,” Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, wrote on his Telegram channel Sunday.
Volodin said the delivery of weapons will lead to Russian retaliation "using more powerful weapons.”
Volodin comments come after NATO partners met at Ramstein air base in Germany Friday to discuss more military aid for Ukraine.
Volodin called on European parliaments to realize “their responsibility to humanity.”
The decisions Brussels and Washington make are leading the world to a "terrible war,” he said.
“To a completely different military action than today, when strikes are carried out exclusively on the military and critical infrastructure used by the Kyiv regime,” he claimed. “Given the technological superiority of Russian weapons, foreign politicians making such decisions need to understand that this could end in a global tragedy that will destroy their countries.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s Presidential Administration, said Volodin comments were “politically inadequate.”
“Russian Federation using Volodin threatens again that the supply of military equipment to Ukraine is a threat to the mythical cities of the Russian Federation, and therefore we should expect an escalation,” he tweeted Sunday. “This is after the Russian Federation has been bombing Ukraine for 11 months, massively killing civilians, but Ukraine and the world have to silently endure it and not resist...”
On Sunday, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia's Security Council and key ally of President Vladimir Putin, said "things will be very difficult for Russia" following the Ramstein meeting.
"Meeting in Ramstein and the allocation of heavy weapons to Kyiv leaves no doubt that our enemies will indefinitely try to wear us down, or rather, destroy us. And they have enough weapons. [..]Therefore, there is no need for illusions. What are the conclusions from this? First, things will be very difficult for Russia," he said.
An unofficial delegation from the United States has visited the eastern Ukrainian city of Izium, which was liberated from Russian occupation last September.
The delegation included retired US Army Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg and was accompanied by Oleh Syniehubov, head of Kharkiv region military administration.
Syniebuhov said on Telegram: "Our American partners personally observed the scale of destruction caused by Russian shelling and occupation and examined the evidence of Russian war crimes in the Kharkiv region."
"Despite the enormous destruction and damaged critical infrastructure, Izium is gradually restoring its normal life. People are returning to the city and businesses are resuming operations," he said.
The visit to Izium came as former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to Kyiv on Sunday as the country marked Ukrainian Unity Day. Johnson also traveled to Bucha and Borodianka with the head of Kyiv regional military administration, Oleksii Kuleba.
In September, CNN became the first international television crew to enter Izium since the Ukrainians retook it.
The recapturing of the city by Ukraine marked a huge strategic loss for the Russian military, which used it as a key base and resupply route for its forces in eastern Ukraine. It highlighted the speed and scale of Ukraine’s lightning-fast counteroffensive in the northeast last year.
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to Kyiv on Sunday as the country marked Ukrainian Unity Day, and traveled to Bucha and Borodianka with the head of Kyiv regional military administration, Oleksii Kuleba.
The former UK PM was seen taking notes when touring Borodianka, which the Russians occupied for a month at the start of the war. Questioned by Johnson about how many of those who'd fled the town had returned, Kuleba said the population is back to about 60% of what it was before the war.
Johnson visited an exhibition dedicated to the Bucha massacre, laid flowers at a mass grave site and said that "the UK will be sticking by Ukraine for as long as it takes."
He also met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv to pledge his ongoing support and ask how he could help Ukraine.
Johnson informed Zelensky about his visit to Borodianka and Bucha earlier that day, describing what he saw as "appalling."
Zelensky thanked Johnson, who visited the country several times during his time as premier, for his support in a Telegram post calling him "a true friend of Ukraine."
Ukrainian Unity Day marks the anniversary of the unification between the Ukrainian People's Republic and the West Ukrainian People's Republic, signed on January 22, 1919.
Some context: Johnson became one of Ukraine's most vocal supporters during his tenure, and was seen as a special ally in Kyiv.
He was one of the first foreign leaders to visit the Ukrainian capital back in early April and returned twice more while still the British PM -- in June and in August for Ukraine's Independence Day.
A senior Ukrainian official in the east of the country says the armed forces are in control of current positions but that "moving forward is very difficult" because the Russians have brought up substantial reserves.
Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, told Ukrainian television Sunday: "Very fierce fighting continues in our Luhansk region. It is difficult. But the situation is absolutely stable and controlled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine."
Referring to the north-south frontline running between Svatove and Kreminna, Hayday said: "Moving forward there is very difficult because the occupiers have brought up huge reserves. And as I have said many times before -- everything is very thoroughly mined there."
But he added: "No matter how difficult it is, the Luhansk region is being de-occupied step by step, meter by meter."
Hayday said the Russians had several layers of defensive lines in the region. "The first line is mostly [held by] recently mobilized, either from Russia or the so-called LDPR [Luhansk People's Republic."
He said that Chechen forces were in the area as well as Russian regular forces.
"There are huge numbers of them [Russian troops in the Svatove-Kreminna area]. And a very large number of mobilized. And they are constantly being thrown into the offensive - almost all the time....And the huge problem is that there are just an incredible number of them. That is why every meter of the Luhansk region is extremely difficult to gain."
Hayday claimed that militia from Luhansk and Donetsk fighting with the Russians had low morale. "They see a huge number of overcrowded hospitals. They see a huge number of corpses, which they have to pass when they are sent on the offensive. They see that those they talked to yesterday are just lying there, and no one is taking their corpses."
Ukrainian forces have been trying to advance towards Kreminna, which would allow them to threaten the Russian-held cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, for weeks. But they are still thought to be several kilometers outside the town.
A Ukrainian deputy minister has been arrested on suspicion of embezzling funds intended for rebuilding the country's damaged infrastructure.
An investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine found that public funds put aside for alternative energy sources during the winter months had been misappropriated.
Ukraine's Infrastructure Ministry confirmed the arrest of Vasyl Lozynskyy on its Facebook page, writing: "Today it became known that Vasyl Lozynskyy, Acting Minister of Communities and Territories Development of Ukraine, was detained for embezzlement of budget funds."
It said that Lozynskyy, who has not commented on the allegations, will be dismissed from his position.
According to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, Lozynskyy is accused of receiving $400,000 in "unlawful benefits."
NABU said on its website that it had "exposed and stopped the embezzlement of budget funds," and "detectives detained [Lozyynskyy] for receiving $400,000 in unlawful benefits. The deputy minister received the money for facilitating the signing of contracts for the purchase of overpriced equipment and machinery."
NABU said that last summer some $49 million was allocated to "provide the population with alternative sources of power, heat, and water supply in the winter due to the situation caused by the destruction of critical infrastructure. The investigation found that a number of officials of central and regional executive authorities decided to misappropriate part of the public funds."
"To achieve this, they colluded with a group of intermediaries and ensured that procurement contracts were concluded with predetermined business entities overpriced by almost 280 million UAH (approx $7.6 million).
NABU added that: "A number of searches were conducted, during which UAH 920,000 and $38,700 were found and seized in the office of the businessmen. Also, at night, one of the members of the organized criminal group was detained as he was trying to cross the state border and leave Ukraine."
A few kilometers from the Belarus border, Ukrainian forces are training for what they expect to be a brutal spring.
Ageing T-72 tanks – some twice the age of their crews – fire off rounds into the mist, while ground troops practise storming abandoned buildings. Some of the training takes place in the eerily quiet town of Pripyat, deserted since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
As the troops are put through their paces, Lieutenant General Serhiy Naiev takes delivery of a dozen pick-up trucks armed with heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns, a crowd-funded initiative to help Ukraine repel Iranian-made Shahed drones, which have caused so much damage to Ukraine’s power infrastructure.
But Naiev, a stocky and affable commander, believes the next phase of this war will be about tanks. And that means not his ancient T-72s but more modern machines such as German Leopard 2s and British Challengers.
Ukrainian officials say they need several hundred main battle tanks – not only to defend their present positions but also to take the fight to the enemy in the coming months.