Our live coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine has moved here.
January 23, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news
By Kathleen Magramo, Sana Noor Haq, Jack Guy, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes and Leinz Vales, CNN
Meanwhile, Russia has warned that Ukraine will bear the consequences if other countries supply it with tanks.
If you're just reading in now, here are the latest updates:
- Troops on the front lines: Russia has sent tens of thousands of new troops to reinforce the front lines in Ukraine over the last few months, a senior US military official said Monday. The troops have made little difference in the conflict, the official said, arriving on the front lines “ill-equipped, ill-trained” and “rushed to the battlefield.” Russia has sent the troops in as replacements or reinforcements for existing units instead of newly organized and cohesive units.
- About the tank dispute: John Kirby, US national security council coordinator for strategic communications, on Monday downplayed the notion that Germany’s indecision on providing advanced military tanks to Ukraine is dividing NATO. “To say that this is dividing the alliance or somehow putting national security at risk in Ukraine because there’s a discussion over tanks is just way overblowing this thing,” the White House official told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
- More support for Ukraine: The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday outlined the bloc's plans to continue supporting Ukraine, saying it reached an agreement to provide an additional 500 million euros ($543.03 million) and additional military training assistance worth 45 million euros ($48.87 million), dedicated to a military training mission for Ukrainian forces. That brings the EU's total amount of military support for Ukraine, coming via the European Union's intergovernmental fund, to 3.6 billion euros ($3.9 billion).
- Netherlands to send fighter jets to Poland: The Netherlands will send eight F-35 fighter jets to Poland at the end of this month, the country’s defense ministry said in a statement on Monday. “In February and March, four warplanes will be available for the guarding of NATO airspace over eastern Europe, the so-called Air Policing,” the Dutch Defense Ministry said. “The other four F-35s are participating in a training program with allies, so-called Vigilance activities. These trainings increasing the readiness of NATO on the eastern flank and foster cooperation between the various NATO countries.”
- Latvia will downgrade diplomatic ties with Russia: Latvia will downgrade its diplomatic ties with Russia, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said on Twitter Monday. This decision was made in solidarity with Estonia, and it will go into effect on Feb. 24, he added. The move comes after Moscow downgraded its diplomatic relations with Estonia and expelled the Estonian ambassador over allegations of "Russophobia."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday signaled there would be changes to “personnel” within the Ukrainian government, without naming specifically affected people.
“There are also personnel decisions – some today, some will be made tomorrow – regarding managers of various levels in government ministries and other central government agencies, in the regions, and in the law enforcement system,” Zelensky said during his daily, evening address.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday that he had signed a decree banning officials from traveling abroad on anything but official business.
“Officials will no longer be able to travel abroad for vacation or any other non-governmental purpose,” Zelensky said during his daily evening address.
“This applies to all government officials, as well as to various other levels of local government. This applies to law enforcement officers, members of parliament, prosecutors, and all those who have to work for the country and within the country.
“If they want to have a rest now, they will have a rest out of the state service.”
Zelensky said that the cabinet would develop a procedure for ensuring that any officials leaving Ukraine were doing so for “a real business trip.”
In Ukraine’s Kyiv region, 86% of schools and kindergartens now have bomb shelters, the head of that region said on Telegram Monday.
“A total of 1,085 shelters have already been set up in educational facilities in Kyiv region,” said Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the Kyiv Regional Military Administration.
“That's 86% of the region's schools and kindergartens that can operate in full-time or mixed formats,” Kuleba added.
Russia has sent tens of thousands of new troops to reinforce the front lines in Ukraine over the last few months, a senior US military official said Monday.
The troops have made little difference in the conflict, the official said, arriving on the front lines “ill-equipped, ill-trained” and “rushed to the battlefield.”
Russia has sent the troops in as replacements or reinforcements for existing units instead of newly organized and cohesive units. The troops began arriving on the battlefield following Russia’s stated mobilization of 300,000 new personnel in October, the official later said.
On Friday, Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley said Russia had suffered “significantly well over 100,000 [casualties] now,” including killed in action and wounded in action.
A few kilometers from the Belarus border, Ukrainian forces are training for what they expect to be a brutal spring.
Aging 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.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, speaking after the meeting, said he and German counterpart Boris Pistorius “had a frank discussion on Leopard 2s … to be continued.”
Read more about how Kyiv's forces are preparing here.
The past 12 months has forced European leaders to seriously rethink their approach to national security.
If Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has confirmed one thing, it’s that peace on the continent cannot be taken for granted. The status quo – decades of low spending and defense not being a policy priority – cannot continue.
This is especially true in Germany, which has for years has spent far less on its military than many of its Western allies but is now reconsidering its approach to defense at home and abroad.
Days after the invasion began last February, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivered a head-turning speech to parliament in which he committed to spending 100 billion euros ($108 billion) to modernize Germany’s military capacity.
He also vowed that Germany would lift its defense spending to 2% of GDP – meeting a target set by NATO that it had missed for years – and end its deep reliance on Russian energy, particularly gas.
However, nearly a year on, critics say Scholz’s vision has failed to become reality. And Germany has been accused of dragging its feet when it comes to sending its more powerful weapons to Ukraine.
The criticism has grown in recent days as US and European leaders have piled pressure on Berlin to send German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, or at least allow other countries to do so.
Experts estimate there are around 2,000 Leopard tanks in use by 13 countries across Europe, and they are increasingly being seen as vital to Ukraine’s war effort as the conflict grinds into a second year. But Berlin must grant these nations approval to re-export German-made tanks to Ukraine, and it has so far resisted calls to do so.
Scholz has insisted that any such plan would need to be fully coordinated with the whole of the Western alliance, and German officials have indicated they won’t approve the transfer of Leopards unless the US also agrees to send some of its tanks to Kyiv.
On Friday, a key meeting of Western allies in Germany broke up without a wider agreement on sending tanks to Ukraine, after the country’s new defense minister Boris Pistorius said no decision had yet been made by his government.
Pistorius rebuffed claims that Germany has been “standing in the way” of a “united coalition” of countries in favor of the plan. “There are good reasons for the delivery and there are good reasons against it … all the pros and cons have to be weighed very carefully, and that assessment is explicitly shared by many allies,” he added.
Germany’s decision to dig in on sending tanks will likely go down badly with its allies, both in the immediate and long-term.
Read the full analysis here.
John Kirby, US national security council coordinator for strategic communications, on Monday downplayed the notion that Germany’s indecision on providing advanced military tanks to Ukraine is dividing NATO.
“To say that this is dividing the alliance or somehow putting national security at risk in Ukraine because there’s a discussion over tanks is just way overblowing this thing,” the White House official told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Some Western allies continue to pressure Germany to authorize the delivery of its modern Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.
No decisions have been made “one way or another,” Kirby told CNN.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said earlier on Monday that a decision would be taken “soon,” as EU Foreign Ministers meet in Brussels for talks on Monday.
Kirby affirmed that “NATO has never been more staunchly united than it has been over the last year with this war in Ukraine,” but acknowledged the alliance is “not going to ever agree on every single aspect of every decision”.
“What’s really important to remember is that these are national decisions, they’re sovereign decisions,” he said.
“I certainly can't speak for the Germans on what’s going into their calculus about the Leopard tanks. The Leopards are very good and there [are] a lot of them on the European continent, and certainly, they could be effective on the battlefield. But again, what Germany does, they’ve got to decide," Kirby added. “They have to work through this in a sovereign way.”