January 24, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Jack Guy, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:14 a.m. ET, January 25, 2023
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1:34 p.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Bipartisan group of senators call for US to send tanks to Ukraine to encourage allies to do the same

From CNN's Nicky Robertson

A bipartisan group of United States senators who just returned from a visit to Ukraine urged President Joe Biden's administration to send tanks to Kyiv in hopes of encouraging Germany and other allies to also send tanks.  

“The best tank for the fight is the German Leopard tank ... [and] American tanks can be helpful in this regard. If we send some Abrams tanks, it will open the floodgates to more tanks coming from allies,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said at a news conference Tuesday. 

Graham said that despite some issues associated with the American Abrams tanks, sending them would still be an important signal. US officials said publicly last week that hesitations stemmed from the tanks being costly and requiring a significant amount of training to operate. 

“To the Biden administration, please send the tanks. To the Germans, please send the tanks,” Graham said. 

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal added that “the Pentagon ought to come full board with those Abrams tanks, if that's what is necessary for the Germans to give permission to our allies, to provide the Leopard 2 tanks, and for the Germans to provide those tanks themselves.”

The senators stressed that they believe the war is at an important point and that there is an urgent need for additional weapon support now. 

“I want to thank President Biden for saying that Ukraine will get everything it needs to win. ... There is an urgency to now, time is not on our side,” Blumenthal said. 

CNN reported earlier that the Biden administration is finalizing plans to send the US-made Abrams tanks to Ukraine and could make an announcement as soon as this week, according to three US officials familiar with the deliberations.

1:26 p.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Wagner head appeals for legal protections for volunteers who fight as mercenaries in Ukraine

From CNN's Katharina Krebs in London

The head of the Wagner private military company on Tuesday appealed to the Russian State Duma to issue protections for the volunteers and convicts who fight as Wagner mercenaries in Ukraine.

“There are media outlets that purposefully look out for negative information about the volunteers, including former prisoners, publish such materials that portray the defenders of Russia — people who give up their lives for us — in a bad light, vilifying them as villains and criminals," Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a letter to Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Russian State Duma, according to a version published by his holding company, Concord.

He said that it was necessary to ban publications “of a negative nature and any criticism of the participants of the special military operation, as well as information about their past offenses.”

“I ask you to urgently take measures about the introduction of article 280.5 ‘On discrediting participants in hostilities, volunteers, including former convicts’ to the Criminal Code," he added.

Prigozhin said that Wagner fighters “courageously and honourably fulfill their duty to the Motherland, effectively completing military tasks, ensure the safety of the state and suffer combat losses.”

Prigohzin also brought up the issue of number of media outlets and bloggers "who openly discredit volunteers."

"Such practices must be severely suppressed in order to consolidate our society in confronting Russia's external threats," he said.

1:25 p.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Mariupol’s Azovstal plant is "too badly destroyed" to function, Russian official tells state media

From CNN's Katharina Krebs

The remains of a statue and other rubble lie in front of the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, Ukraine, in December.
The remains of a statue and other rubble lie in front of the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, Ukraine, in December. (AP)

Mariupol’s Azovstal plant is too badly damaged to be restored to a functioning state, a Russian official tasked with government construction projects said Tuesday, according to the Russian state news agency TASS.

"Definitely no one will restore Azovstal, because to do it on the scale of that Soviet enterprise, as it was before, this is impossible and unprofitable. It was too badly destroyed during the hostilities," said Yulia Maksimova, head of state-owned company Roskapstroy.

According to Maksimova, the region's economy will be "partially revised" and "new directions will be developed."

Remember: The Azovstal plant was the site last spring of a longstanding siege of Ukrainian forces by the Russian military, hoping to complete their capture of the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Separately, the new Russian-appointed mayor of Mariupol, Oleg Morgun, on Tuesday announced plans to restore the Azov Shipyard, which is the largest enterprise in the Sea of Azov, specializing in ship repair and shipbuilding.

“There is an intention to restore the Mariupol shipyard, for it to work," Morgun said on state TV Russia 24.

According to Morgun, there are plans to also restore the work of the Ilyich metallurgical plant as there is "interest from investors" from other regions of Russia who also want to open new production facilities in the city.

11:49 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

German parliament will debate sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine tomorrow

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

The German parliament will debate the contentious issue of possibly sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine on Wednesday. 

The opposition parties Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) have requested the debate, arguing they want to “end the Leopard-blockade of the federal government." The opposition parties say, according to the parliamentary website, that the German government “must fear losing the trust of its allies.”

The debate will start at 9.05 a.m. ET Wednesday.

Some context: Poland has formally asked Germany for permission to transfer Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine. Germany has so far resisted calls from Poland, the US and a handful of other NATO countries to transfer the tanks into Ukraine, or authorize other countries to send some of their Leopards to Kyiv.

However, Germany's Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said earlier that the country will make a decision on the tanks "very soon."

11:39 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

EU welcomes Ukraine taking corruption seriously, spokesperson says

From CNN's Mick Krever in London

The European Commission on Tuesday welcomed developments in Ukraine suggesting the country is taking corruption seriously, a spokesperson said Tuesday.

European Commission spokesperson Ana Pisonero said that she could not comment on ongoing criminal matters, but said "we do welcome of course the fact that the Ukrainian authorities are taking these issues seriously.”

Ukraine was granted EU candidate status in June 2022.

“Anti-corruption measures are of course an important dimension of the EU accession process,” Pisonero said during a news conference. “And they are also part of policy conditions for the Union’s continued macro-financial assistance.”

Some more context: A number of senior Ukrainian officials have resigned or been fired by President Volodymyr Zelensky in the biggest shakeup of the government since the war began.

The shakeup comes amid a growing corruption scandal linked to the procurement of wartime supplies.

The recent changes to “personnel” within Ukraine's government prove that Zelensky “sees and hears society," according to a presidential adviser.

11:07 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

German defense ministry says it has 320 Leopard 2 tanks in its stock

From CNN's Inke Kappeler and Claudia Otto in Berlin

Two Leopard 2 A7V battle tanks on the road in Bad Frankenhausen, Germany, on September 15, 2021.
Two Leopard 2 A7V battle tanks on the road in Bad Frankenhausen, Germany, on September 15, 2021. (Jens Schlueter/Getty Images)

The German army has 320 Leopard 2 tanks in its possession, but it has not revealed how many would be battle ready, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense told CNN.

Those Leopard 2s — all in the A5, A6 and A7 series, are in various stages of condition, state of repair and readiness to be deployed, the spokesperson explained. 

The German army no longer has Leopard 1s in its possession, which is an older series of the main battle tank line, she said. Likewise, it does not have older Leopard 2 models like the A4, in stock. 

Separately, the arms manufacturer Rheinmetall said last week it had 139 Leopards in stock, but of those only 29 Leopard 2s would be combat-ready for delivery in the spring of this year. Those 29 have already been theoretically pledged to third party countries as part of a tank swap.

The rest of the stock needed to be prepared over a longer period of time, according to the company.

A Rheinmetall spokesperson on Tuesday told CNN that of the rest of the stock — 88 Leopard 1 tanks — a few could be deliverable in about nine months, and the rest in a year. 

Another German weapons manufacturer, FFG, has 99 Leopards in its depot, but only the older Leopard 1 range, a spokesperson for the company tells CNN. 

Even if a tank is ready and repaired, it needs munition and spare parts to be deployable. 

Some context: Poland has formally asked Germany for permission to transfer Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine. Germany has so far resisted calls from Poland, the US and a handful of other NATO countries to transfer the tanks into Ukraine, or authorize other countries to send some of their Leopards to Kyiv.

However, Germany's Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said earlier that the country will make a decision on the tanks "very soon."

9:48 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Russia has "quite enough" weapons, Russian Security Council deputy chairman says

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London 

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, claimed Tuesday that Moscow's "adversaries" monitoring arms production in the country would be disappointed because it has "quite enough of everything," according to state news agency TASS. 

Medvedev made the comments during a visit to the Kalashnikov plant in the city of Izhevsk, where he held a meeting focusing on the production of essential weapons and military vehicles, according to TASS. 

"We have seen the vehicles, and today we will talk about production of the most essential weapons, with an emphasis on drones, which are in particularly high demand during the special military operation," Medvedev said, according to TASS. "Naturally, we will discuss a number of other key issues, especially considering that it is necessary to constantly come back to them and look at what is being produced and how." 

"And our adversaries are watching as well, as they claim from time to time that we [lack] either this or that, that we have only enough missiles for only a couple more strikes, or something else like that. So, I would like to disappoint them — we have quite enough of everything," he said, according to TASS. 

9:08 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Putin admits shortage and increased prices of some drugs in pharmacies

From CNN's Radina Gigova in London 

Russian President Vladmir Putin said Tuesday that inspections have indicated a shortage of some drugs in Russian pharmacies as well as an increase in prices, according to state news agency TASS.

“The fact is that, firstly, our prices have grown lately and there has been a certain shortage of some medicines, despite the fact that we have seen an increase in the production of pharmaceutical products,” Putin said during a virtual meeting with members of the government.

“In the first three quarters of last year it was about 22% up, with domestically manufactured drugs accounting for 60% of our market," Putin said, according to TASS.  

"Nevertheless, there is a shortage of certain drugs, and their prices have risen," he added. 

Some context: Shops in Moscow have shuttered as businesses face the economic fall-out from massive Western sanctions in response to the war in Ukraine. While the shelves in most stores remain well stocked, Western products are becoming increasingly scarce and very expensive, further driving prices that are already hammering many Russian households.

8:59 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Poland will request compensation from the EU for any Leopard tanks sent to Ukraine

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

Soldiers on a Polish Leopard tank take part in the DEFENDER-Europe 22 military exercise, in Nowogard, Poland, on May 19, 2022.
Soldiers on a Polish Leopard tank take part in the DEFENDER-Europe 22 military exercise, in Nowogard, Poland, on May 19, 2022. (Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images)

Poland will ask for reimbursement from the European Union for any Leopard tanks it sends to Ukraine, the Polish prime minister said Tuesday.

In an interview with Polish broadcaster TVN, Mateusz Morawiecki said the request will be “another test of the goodwill of the European Union,” and added that he hopes it will happen.

The German government has received the Polish request to export German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, a spokesperson told CNN.

Germany has so far resisted calls from Poland, the US and a handful of other NATO countries to transfer the tanks into Ukraine, or authorize other countries to send some of their Leopards to Kyiv.

That position has led to a weekslong spat between German and Polish leaders, with Morawiecki accusing Germany of “wasting time” by failing to come to a decision.

“We are preparing our decision and it will come very soon,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Tuesday, adding that if the decision is to send the tanks, Germany would be able to “act very soon."

CNN's Rob Picheta and Antonia Mortensen contributed to this post.