Our live coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine has moved here.
January 3, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news
By Rhea Mogul, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes and Leinz Vales, CNN
The Russian Defense Ministry said 89 servicemen were killed in the strike in eastern Ukraine that occurred on New Year’s Day. Among them was the regiment's deputy commander, Lt. Col. Bachurin, the ministry said in a statement.
The apparent Ukrainian strike took place just after midnight on Sunday at a vocational school housing Russian conscripts in Makiivka in the Donetsk region, according to both Ukrainian and pro-Russian accounts.
On Monday, in a rare admission, the Russian Ministry of Defense said 63 servicemen had been killed in Makiivka when Ukraine used HIMARS rockets to attack a building where Russian soldiers were quartering. The Russian Defense Ministry updated the death toll after more bodies were found under the rubble.
The Ukrainian military had claimed up to around 400 Russian soldiers were killed and a further 300 wounded, and then said the exact number was “being clarified.”
In any case, it would represent one of the deadliest single losses of the war for Moscow’s forces.
US officials “have had direct conversations with Russian officials regarding Paul Whelan,” an American wrongfully detained in Russia, since the release of fellow wrongfully detained American Brittney Griner, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday.
“Our imperative is to see that outcome brought about swiftly so it doesn’t do us any good to speak to the details of that. But we said we are going to be committed, we’re going to be relentless, we’re going to be creative in doing everything we can to bring about Paul Whelan’s return to United States, return to his family,” Price said at a State Department press briefing.
Some background: US officials were unable to secure Whelan's release in prisoner swaps this past year that secured the release of two other Americans wrongfully detained in Russia: Trevor Reed in April and Griner in mid-December. Multiple US officials said following Griner’s release that the Russians refused to negotiate a deal for Whelan, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges.
Whelan, who called CNN exclusively from his remote penal colony in the hours following Griner’s release, said he hoped President Joe Biden and his administration “would do everything they could to get me home, regardless of the price they might have to pay at this point.”
Ukraine's military on Tuesday alleged another devastating attack on Russian troops had taken place.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said around 500 Russian troops were either killed or wounded in a hit near Chulakivka, a town in Ukraine's southern Kherson region, on New Year's Eve.
"The enemy continues to suffer losses. It was confirmed that on December 31 Ukrainian Defense Forces hit an enemy troop and equipment stronghold near Chulakivka, Kherson region.
"Around 500 enemy troops were wounded and killed," the General Staff said.
Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian armed forces in the south, told Ukrainian television: "This is one of our achievements in this direction of the front."
"There will be more because we identify the enemy's locations," she said of the alleged hit.
CNN cannot verify the Ukrainian claim. Moscow has not publicly commented on the Chulakivka claim.
However, a widely read Russian war blogger known as "Operation Z" said in a Telegram post on Tuesday “there is no f***ing denying” that Ukraine is now targeting barracks and other Russian troop strongholds with HIMARS, a reference to High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems. He included Chulakivka in his list of hits on Russian troops he said had taken place in December.
It comes after both Russian and Ukrainian authorities acknowledged a strike that took place just after midnight on New Year’s Day at a vocational school housing Russian conscripts in Makiivka, in the Donetsk region.
The Russian defense ministry on Monday acknowledged the Makiivka attack and claimed that 63 Russian servicemen died, which would make it one of the deadliest single episodes of the war for Moscow’s forces.
Ukraine's military said Tuesday that Russian forces are continuing to focus efforts on offensive actions in the direction of Bakhmut in a bid to take full control over eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The United Kingdom pledged long-term support for Ukraine, adding that work is underway to provide additional equipment in the coming weeks to the embattled nation.
If you're just joining us, here are other key developments:
- Russian ammunition depot destroyed: Ukraine's military shared a video that it claimed shows the destruction of a Russian ammunition warehouse in Svatove in the eastern Luhansk region.
- Russian shelling of Kherson region: Russian forces shelled parts of Kherson region in southern Ukraine 79 times on Monday, killing two people, according to the head of Kherson region military administration, Yaroslav Yanushevych.
- Ukraine authorities uncover alleged Russian torture chamber: Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday detailed allegations of what they called “torture chambers” discovered in a village in the Mykolaiv region and the city of Kherson. Mykolaiv's regional prosecutor's office, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and forensic experts with the National Police of Ukraine established the location of an alleged “torture chamber” in the village of Oleksandrivka, in the southern Mykolaiv region, after it was taken back from Russian occupation.
- Top war blogger casts doubt on official Russian death toll in Makiivka: Semyon Pegov, who just weeks ago received an award from President Vladimir Putin, has cast doubts on Moscow's official death toll from an attack on Russian barracks in Makiivka in occupied eastern Ukraine. “Despite the official statement of the Ministry of Defense, the exact number of casualties is still unknown,” Pegov said in a video posted Tuesday.
- Ukraine charges two Russian commanders: Ukrainian authorities have for the first time charged two high-ranking Russian military commanders with crimes related to attacking Ukrainian civilians. Colonel-General Serhii Kobylash, commander of the Long-Range Aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces, and Admiral Igor Osipov, former commander of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, were charged in absentia. Were they to be captured and convicted, the two could face life in prison, the SBU said.
- Weather eases burden on Ukraine's electricity grid: Unseasonably warm weather in Ukraine is easing demand on the country’s electricity grid, the country’s state-owned electricity operator, Ukrenergo, said Tuesday. "Power plants produce enough electricity to cover the load," said Ukrenergo. Nonetheless, the company said that power restrictions would need to be implemented again by Tuesday afternoon as demand increased through the day and urged Ukrainians to “consume electricity wisely.”
Russia has kept targeting Ukraine’s energy system and civilian infrastructure, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president's office, said in a video message on Tuesday summarizing the information on Russian strikes for the past 24 hours.
Power lines and several civilian buildings suffered damage following Russian shelling in the Chervonohryhorivka community of the Dnipropetrovsk region, he said. "The city of Nikopol got hit but the strike fell on the open territory," he said.
“In the Donetsk direction, the cities of Bakhmut and Kurakhove came under shelling as well,” he continued. “One person got killed and two injured in the town of Kurakhove shelling. One shell flew directly into the high-rise building. The water supply facility in the town suffered damage.”
The Kyiv region got hit twice with ‘Iskander’ cruise missiles. “A residential area, ice arena and industrial area suffered damage,” he added. “One person was killed and one injured.”
In other details, Tymoshenko said:
- Zaporizhzhia region was attacked 86 times. “Almost all the strikes targeted civilian infrastructure in a total of 21 settlements.”
- The Mykolaiv region got hit with barrel artillery eight times overnight Tuesday.
- “Sumy region came under shelling 11 times. In the village of Pavlivka, a local school and power lines got damaged, and a car got destroyed. No casualties were reported,” he said.
- The Kharkiv region suffered from Russian shelling as well. In particular, Russian shelling caused fires in the settlements of Vovchansk and Dvorichna, where the emergency workers came under Russian shelling while putting out the fire.
- In the Chernihiv region, the villages of Lipivka and Yeline came under fire as well.
Tymoshenko added that Russia was also "shelling energy infrastructure in the eastern and southern Ukraine again," without giving any further details.
Russian forces are continuing to focus efforts on offensive actions in the direction of Bakhmut in a bid to take full control over eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Tuesday.
“Russian occupiers do not abandon their plans to reach the administrative border of Donetsk region. The main efforts are focused on maintaining offensive potential and replenishing losses,” the General Staff said.
“Russian occupiers are making attempts to improve the tactical situation at the Lyman and Avdiivka directions, reinforce the grouping at the Novopavlivka direction at the expense of units redeployed from the Kherson direction,” it added.
The General Staff said Russia continues to maintain a military presence in the border areas of Belarus and Russia, but there are “no signs of the formation of offensive groups.”
Tuesday’s situational update added Russia conducted eight air strikes and shelled Ukraine 18 times with multiple rocket launchers.
Some context on the city: For months, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, his advisers and generals have been calling the battles for Bakhmut “fierce” and “difficult.” The Russian advance on the city has left it in ruins but made it a symbol of Ukrainian resistance as it continues to hold on. Zelensky thrust the city onto the world stage as he discussed it during his speech in the US Capitol on Dec. 22, speaking about Bakhmut for 6 minutes.
Ukraine's military shared a video that it claimed shows the destruction of a Russian ammunition warehouse in Svatove in the eastern Luhansk region.
Serhiy Hayday, the Ukrainian head of Luhansk region military administration, said on Telegram on Monday that Russian forces had been bringing ammunition to occupied Svatove for two weeks.
"The Armed Forces of Ukraine were watching, noting the number of Ural vehicles that arrived to the base ... and waited ... until 'BAM' — and there is no more enemy warehouse," Hayday wrote.
Some background: Svatove is a strategic hub in Luhansk, which is the Ukrainian region that remains under the most amount of Russian control.
The video, shared by Strategic Communications Department of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Tuesday, shows a building with two trucks outside, the moment of impact at night and the warehouse destroyed afterward. The authorities did not say on which day the destruction took place.
The commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine outlined the battles on the Kreminna-Svatove line, in the eastern Luhansk region, in his first phone call of the new year with America’s top general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.
Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi also thanked Milley for the “foreign-manufactured anti-aircraft missile systems provided with his active assistance.”
He detailed how since Dec. 31, 2022, until Tuesday morning, Russia “launched 14 cruise missiles” at Ukraine and deployed 94 Iranian Shahed-136 drones.
“I told him about changes in the operational and strategic situation, primarily on the land and in the air space of Ukraine,” Zaluzhnyi said on Twitter Tuesday.
“Fierce fighting is going on along Svatove-Kreminna line, also in the direction of Lysychansk. The most challenging situation remains in Soledar-Bakhmut-Mayorsk area, Russia is virtually attempting to advance over their corpses, but Ukrainian Defense Forces units constrain the enemy's offensive,” Zaluzhnyi claimed.
Some context: The key Ukrainian city of Kreminna has been occupied by Russian forces since the spring of 2022 and is located on a key north-south road from Svatove, which Russian troops had been using to transport supplies. Losing Kreminna would limit Russia's ability to resupply its troops in the city of Severodonetsk.
Ukraine’s military chief said his forces had managed to hold positions and continue counteroffensive efforts in the direction of the Donetsk region.
He also said Ukraine has “securely” held defensive lines in the Zaporizhzhia direction, in southeastern Ukraine, “and put effort into protecting against the hostile shelling of Kherson, primarily civilians and city's critical infrastructure facilities.”