January 23, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Sana Noor Haq, Jack Guy, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes and Leinz Vales, CNN

Updated 12:16 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023
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1:23 a.m. ET, January 23, 2023

Germany would not stop Poland from sending Leopard combat tanks to Ukraine if asked, official says

From CNN's Inke Kappeler

Annalena Baerbock speaks in Berlin on January 19.
Annalena Baerbock speaks in Berlin on January 19. (Carsten Koall/picture alliance/Getty Images)

Germany would not stop Poland from sending Leopard 2 combat tanks to Ukraine if asked, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told French news outlet 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.

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. 

12:19 a.m. ET, January 23, 2023

Delivery of offensive weapons to Ukraine will "lead to a global catastrophe," Russian official says

From CNN's Mariya Knight

The provision of Western weapons to Ukraine “will lead to a global catastrophe,” a senior Russian politician warned Sunday.

“Delivery of offensive weapons to the Kyiv regime will lead to a global catastrophe,” Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, wrote on his Telegram channel. 

Volodin said the delivery of weapons will lead to Russian retaliation "using more powerful weapons.” 

His 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's 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. 
3:26 a.m. ET, January 23, 2023

House Foreign Affairs chairman says some members don’t understand what's at stake in Ukraine

From CNN's Daniella Diaz and Paul LeBlanc

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, attends a news conference in the Capitol, Washington D.C, on February 2.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, attends a news conference in the Capitol, Washington D.C, on February 2. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images)

The Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee sought Sunday to tamp down speculation that the new GOP majority will be less likely to fund aid to Ukraine in its war against Russia, though he did suggest some members of his party may need to be convinced about the need to continue US support.

“I think there’s enough support on both sides of the aisle. Majority in the Democratic Party, majority in the Republican,” Texas Rep. Michael McCaul told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union,” referring to aid to Ukraine. But he added, “We have to educate our members. I don’t think they quite understand what’s at stake.”

“If Ukraine falls, Chairman Xi in China’s going to invade Taiwan. It’s Russia, China. Iran is putting drones in Crimea, and North Korea that is putting artillery into Russia. They have to understand the case. And they talk about the border, not mutually exclusive at all. We can do both. We’re a great country. We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” McCaul said.

Read more here.

7:43 p.m. ET, January 22, 2023

US experts visit eastern Ukrainian city of Izium

From CNN's Maria Kostenko

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 Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg and was accompanied by Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional military administration. 

"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," Syniebuhov said on Telegram.
"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."

Johnson returns: The visit to Izium came as former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to Kyiv on Sunday — Ukrainian Unity Day. Johnson also traveled to Bucha and Borodianka with the head of the 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.

3:23 a.m. ET, January 23, 2023

Ukraine says its advance in east "very difficult" after Russians bring up reserves

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko

A senior Ukrainian official in the east of the country says the armed forces are in control of current positions but "moving forward is very difficult" because the Russians have brought up substantial reserves.

"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," Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, told Ukrainian television Sunday.

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 Russian forces 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," he said.

Ukrainian forces have been trying to advance toward 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.

7:34 p.m. ET, January 22, 2023

Ukrainian deputy minister dismissed for alleged embezzlement

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko 

A Ukrainian deputy minister has been arrested on suspicion of embezzling $400,000 from 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.

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."

7:23 p.m. ET, January 22, 2023

With a Russian offensive looming, Ukrainian officials battle to train military up with new Western weapons

From CNN's Tim Lister and Fred Pleitgen and Matthias Somm in Pripyat, 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 practice 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, Lt. Gen. 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.

“Of course, we need a large number of Western tanks. They are much better than the Soviet models and can help us advance,” Naiev said. “We are creating new military units. And our next actions will depend on their combat readiness. Therefore, Western assistance is extremely important.”

Chief among their requests is the Leopard 2, which is relatively easy to maintain and operate, and in service with many NATO nations. Both the military and political leadership in Ukraine were hoping that the Ramstein meeting of Ukraine’s partners on Friday would greenlight their delivery, but Germany held back.

Read more here.