January 25, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 1857 GMT (0257 HKT) January 26, 2023
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6:53 p.m. ET, January 25, 2023

German Leopard tanks will get on the ground in Ukraine faster than US Abrams, White House says

John Kirby speaks with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, January 25, 2023.
John Kirby speaks with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, January 25, 2023. CNN

The German Leopard tanks will be on the ground in Ukraine faster than the US Abram tanks, said John Kirby, the White House's strategic communications coordinator for national security.

Kirby would not specify a timeline as to when the US would be able to deliver the Abram tanks to Ukraine, and told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Wednesday it would take "many months."

"These Leopard tanks are very sophisticated, too. They're very good tanks and there's a lot of them on the European continent. We're grateful that the Germans are going to contribute immediately 14 of them, but that they're going to work with allies and partners to flesh out, you know, a full two-tank battalion, so that's about 60 tanks, Wolf. And they're very, very good tanks and you're right, they will be able to get on the ground in Ukraine faster than the Abrams," Kirby said.

He added: "We do believe that they can have a significant impact as the fighting begins to get more violent coming in the spring and summer months."

US President Joe Biden announced the US plans to send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine after Germany confirmed it will deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks from its own stock to the country, following weeks of diplomatic pressure on Berlin. 

5:08 p.m. ET, January 25, 2023

Air sirens across central and eastern Ukraine signal a possible Russian attack, officials warn

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Air sirens rang across much of central and eastern Ukraine as officials warn residents to shelter from a possible Russian attack.

“Threat of a missile strike,” Mykola Lukashuk, head of the Dnipropetrovsk Region Council, said on Telegram. “Stay in safe places until the end of the alert. The threat is not over.”

Lukashuk urged others on Telegram not to report the locations of possible interceptions by Ukrainian air defense.

“Do not help the enemy,” he said. “Wait for official information.”

In the southern Mykolaiv region, there were also official reports of possible incoming Russian fire.

“They write that three groups of mopeds [Shahed attack drones] have already taken off,” Vitaliy Kim, head of the Mykolaiv Region Military Administration (or governor), said on Telegram. “The petty crooks couldn't come up with anything better on the best president's birthday.”

In the northeastern Kharkiv region, the military administrator warned residents to remain in their shelters: “There is a threat of missile attacks. Do not ignore the alarms.”

In the central Kirovohrad region, the military administrator said on Telegram: “The level of missile threat remains high.”

4:17 p.m. ET, January 25, 2023

What you need to know about the US and German announcements on tanks for Ukraine — and why it is significant 

From CNN staff

US President Biden announced Wednesday that he plans to send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, reversing the administration’s longstanding resistance to requests from Kyiv for the highly sophisticated but maintenance-heavy vehicles.

Biden said in White House remarks that this US support is about helping Ukraine "defend its sovereignty" and that sending tanks does not mean it is an "offensive threat."

Biden's announcement came after Germany confirmed earlier Wednesday that it would send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine from its own stock. The two nations had appeared to be in standoff as German officials indicated Berlin would only send their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine if the US sent the M-1 Abrams tanks.

If you are just reading in, here's what you need to know about today's developments:

Why this is significant: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on “At This Hour” Wednesday that the tanks "will significantly strengthen" Kyiv's combat capabilities. Ukraine's President  Volodymyr Zelensky has consistently asked Western allies for modern tanks as his country prepares for an expected major Russian counteroffensive in the spring.

With both the US and Germany pledging to send tanks to Ukraine, other countries, especially those with the German-made tanks, have also announced contributions to the front lines. CNN cannot confirm the total number of Leopard 2 tanks to be delivered, but pledges made by multiple countries so far mean the Ukrainian military is in line to receive dozens of the tanks. Germany’s main governing party said on Wednesday that Ukraine’s Western allies will send the country a total of around 80 Leopard 2 main battle tanks.

Why send tanks now: Sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine will provide Kyiv’s forces with a modern and powerful military vehicle ahead of a potential Russian spring offensive. It will also come as a blow to the Kremlin, which has seen a growing campaign to equip Ukrainian troops with high-tech fighting systems as Russia’s ground war nears the one-year mark.

Speaking ahead of Biden's announcement, senior US officials framed the decision as an investment in Ukraine’s “longer term capabilities,” an indication the administration sees the now 11-month-long war extending well into the future. Ukraine hopes the new tanks can help it retake territory seized by Russia, including in the Donbas. That could also include Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

Possible challenges: The Abrams tanks will take months to arrive, senior Biden administration officials said, and will require extensive training for Ukrainian troops on how to operate and service them. The US must navigate complicated supply chains for the components required for the tanks. 

The procurement process will take months, the officials said, though Germany's Leopards will arrive in the nearer term. In the meantime, the US will begin a "comprehensive training program" for the Ukrainians on the Abrams, which will require significant maintenance once they are deployed. The training will occur outside Ukraine.

The Portuguese foreign minister said Wednesday it will take two to three months before Western-donated Leopard 2 tanks are fully operational in Ukraine.

Watch CNN's Jim Sciutto break down the latest on the tanks:

CNN's Kevin Liptak, Stephanie Halasz, Sophie Tanno and Sugam Pokharel contributed reporting to this post.

5:43 p.m. ET, January 25, 2023

Zelensky says tank announcements from Western allies for Ukraine proves "freedom is only getting stronger" 

From CNN's Mick Krever in London

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the G20 from his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on November 15.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the G20 from his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on November 15. (President of Ukraine)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday that the decision by the United States and Germany to send main battle tanks to his country proved that “freedom is only getting stronger.”

“The key thing now is speed and volume,” he said. “The speed of training of our military, the speed of supplying tanks to Ukraine. The volume of tank support.”

He thanked ”Mr. President Biden, I thank the Congress, I thank every American family” as well as “Mr. Chancellor, all German politicians and public figures.”

He said that it was critical to get continued progress in the provision of weapons for Ukraine.

“Today I spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg,” he said. “We have to unlock the supply of long-range missiles to Ukraine, it is important for us to expand our cooperation in artillery, we have to achieve the supply of aircraft to Ukraine. And this is a dream. And this is a task. An important task for all of us.”

2:48 p.m. ET, January 25, 2023

Ukraine is modernizing its "old Soviet-fashioned" weapons procurement system, defense minister says

From CNN's Christiane Amanpour and Amy Cassidy in London

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry is reforming its “old Soviet-fashioned corruption” weapons procurement system to a modern, NATO-style system, the country’s defense minister told CNN on Wednesday, after a slew of officials were dismissed from Kyiv’s government amid a corruption scandal.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov addressed the issue in an interview with CNN, saying he asked Ukraine’s relevant parliamentary committees on Tuesday to help write new legislation to modernize the government’s system of procuring weapons and army supplies.

It comes after the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine said it was investigating allegations that the defense ministry was buying military provisions, including food for the troops, at inflated prices.

“We have to move forward” in tackling corruption, he added, because Ukraine will continue to need Western support after the war. 

“They will support us if we really show them that we stop [the] Soviet-era corruption systems in our country [and] we become a new, modernized, civilized, European country," Reznikov told CNN. 

Some background: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired several of senior Ukrainian officials earlier this week due to the corruption scandal in the biggest shakeup of his government since Russia’s invasion began. Zelensky also announced he was banning government officials from traveling abroad on anything but official business.

3:06 p.m. ET, January 25, 2023

IOC clears path for Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in upcoming Olympic Games

From CNN's David Close

Olympic Rings are pictured in front of The Olympic House, headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, Switzerland on September 8, 2022.
Olympic Rings are pictured in front of The Olympic House, headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, Switzerland on September 8, 2022. Laurent Gillieron/Reuters/File

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) outlined a multi-step plan for Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate at the upcoming 2024 Summer Games in Paris and the 2026 Winter Games in Milan.

"No athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport," the IOC's executive board declared. 

The IOC said it would continue its sanctions against Russian and Belarusian state and government officials and prohibit sporting events organized by both country's federations. 

The organization said its board had met and "unanimously reaffirmed and called for a reinforcement of the sanctions already in place." 

The IOC said it would recommit and strengthen the organization's "solidarity with the Ukrainian athletes and the Ukrainian Olympic community" and would support Ukraine's effort to field a strong team at the Paris and Milan Games. 

In order for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, they would represent as “neutral athletes and in no way represent their state or any other organisation in their country," the IOC said. 

"No flag, anthem, colours or any other identifications whatsoever of these countries being displayed at any sports event or meeting, including the entire venue," the IOC said. 

2:42 p.m. ET, January 25, 2023

Training Ukrainians on M1 Abrams tanks could begin in "weeks, not months," White House says

From CNN's Sam Fossum

John Kirby, the White House's strategic communications coordinator for national security, said Wednesday that the decision to provide advanced Western tank systems to Ukraine was both a diplomatic and military effort, noting that today's decision was "several weeks in the making." 

"There was a lot of diplomacy that went into the announcements today," Kirby told CNN's Phil Mattingly. "The decision that you saw today, by both Germany and the United States was several weeks in the making through many, many discussions with the Germans and with our allies."

Kirby also said that it will likely take the Pentagon "weeks, not months" to finalize a training plan for the M1 Abrams tanks and get it underway, although he again underscored that procuring the tanks and finishing such training will take months. 

"How long is it going to take? I really am not able to say. They're still working their way through that. We don't think that it will take too much longer. You know, I'd say probably, you know, weeks, not months before they're able to really nail down the details of this and start to start to put it in place — the training regimen," Kirby told reporters.  

When asked later about whether the US plans to meet Ukrainian calls to provide Western fighter jets to Kyiv, Kirby wouldn't go into details and said it's unsurprising the Ukrainians are continuing to seek further capabilities.

"We're in constant discussions with the Ukrainians about their capabilities, and as I've said, we evolve those as the conditions change. Can't blame the Ukrainians for wanting more and more systems. It's not the first time that they've talked about fighter jets, but I don't have any announcements to make on that front," Kirby said. 

2:31 p.m. ET, January 25, 2023

Ukraine's "wish list" includes Western fighter jets, defense minister says

From CNN's Mick Krever in London

Ukraine’s “wish list” for Western-supplied weapons includes fighter jets, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told CNN on Wednesday.

“I sent a wish list card to Santa Claus last year, and fighter jets also [were] including in this wish list,” Reznikov said.

But he said that his government’s first priority was air defense systems so it could prevent Russia from carrying out air and missile strikes.

“We have to close our sky, to defend our sky,” Reznikov said. “That’s priority number one. After that, we need to get more armed vehicles, tanks, artillery systems, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), et cetera, et cetera. We have people, but we need weaponry.”

Quoting Winston Churchill, he said, “Give us the tools, we will finish the job.”