January 30, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Aditi Sangal, Leinz Vales, Mike Hayes and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 12:24 a.m. ET, January 31, 2023
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2:04 a.m. ET, January 30, 2023

Russia's deputy foreign minister says talks with Ukraine are "pointless" after US agreed to send tanks

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Jake Kwon

The decision by the United States and NATO allies to send tanks to Ukraine has made it "pointless" for Moscow to engage in any talks with Kyiv, Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told state news agency RIA Novosti in an interview released Monday.

"Under the current conditions, when Washington announced the decision to supply tanks, and its vassals, including Ottawa, are competing over who will supply armored vehicles, especially old ones, to Ukraine, and how many of them... it's pointless to talk," Ryabkov said, accusing Washington of using Ukraine as a "testing ground" for its weapons. 

"We are willing to consider any serious initiatives to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, but so far no one has articulated them properly," he added.

Ukraine received a boost last week when Germany said it would send 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv, while also permitting other countries that possess the Leopards, including Norway, to supply them.

In addition to the Leopards, Ukraine is set to receive heavy armor from both the United States, which is sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks, and the United Kingdom, which has pledged 14 Challenger tanks.

Prisoner swaps: Ryabkov also said Russia and the US will continue negotiations on the exchange of prisoners, but such an ultra-sensitive issue "loves silence," he said, adding there are few realistic options for an "all for all" prisoner exchange, RIA reported. 

1:57 a.m. ET, January 30, 2023

NATO secretary general urges South Korea to allow direct arms exports to Ukraine

From CNN's Brad Lendon in Seoul, South Korea

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday asked South Korea to reconsider its rule on not exporting weapons to countries in conflict so it could help arm Ukraine in repelling Russia’s invasion.

“I urge the Republic of Korea to continue and to step up the specific issue of military support,” he said in a question and answer session after a speech to the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies in Seoul.

“Several NATO allies who had as a policy never to export weapons to countries in conflict have changed that policy now,” Stoltenberg said, citing Germany, Norway and NATO applicant Sweden as those which have changed their arms export policies to help Ukraine.
“After the brutal invasion of Ukraine, these countries changed their policy because they realized that when you are facing a brutal invasion where a big power – Russia – invades another one in a blatant way as we have seen in Ukraine, if we believe in freedom, if we believe in democracy, if we don’t want autocracy and tyranny to win, then they need weapons.
“When the full-fledged invasion happened last year, many countries changed their policy because they realized that the only way to stand up for democracy, to help Ukraine prevail, and to create the conditions for a lasting peace was to deliver military support.”

Some context: A South Korean presidential decree that enforces the country’s Foreign Trade Act says its exports can only be used for “peaceful purposes” and “shall not affect international peace, safety maintenance, and national security.”

South Korea is also a signatory to the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty, ratified in 2014 with the intention of keeping close control on who gets weapons and under what conditions they can be used.

Read more here.

4:03 p.m. ET, January 30, 2023

Boris Johnson says Putin "threatened" him with a missile strike 

From CNN's Alex Stambaugh

Former British prime minister Boris Johnson said Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile strike in a phone call last year prior to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

"He threatened me at one point and said, 'You know, Boris, I don't want to hurt you, but with a missile it would only take a minute. Or something like that. You know...jolly," Johnson said in an interview with the BBC.
"I think that from the very relaxed tone that he was taking, the sort of air of detachment he seemed to have, he was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate."

Johnson told the BBC he warned Putin during the phone call in February 2022 that invading Ukraine would lead to Western sanctions and more NATO troops on Russia's borders.

"[Putin] said, 'Boris, you say that Ukraine is not going to join NATO any time soon.' He said it in English: 'Any time soon. What is any time soon?' And I said, 'Well, it's not going to join NATO for the foreseeable future. You know that perfectly well," Johnson said of the call. 

The exchange was released as a preview to a BBC documentary "Putin vs the West," scheduled for release Monday, which examines the Russian president's interactions with world leaders.

Neither Putin nor the Kremlin have publicly commented on the alleged threat. 

Watch more

12:15 a.m. ET, January 30, 2023

Ukraine is relying on Soviet-era tanks to hold the line until Western reinforcements arrive

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen, Tim Lister and Matthias Somm near Bakhmut, Ukraine

Dug in amid the rolling hills west of Bakhmut, the tanks of the Ukrainian army's 28th Mechanized Brigade are helping to hold the line against a growing Russian offensive.

They are battered and bruised by nearly a year of combat, but despite their age they are cherished by their crews.

The young tank commander, who goes by the call sign David, sees his unit's role as crucial in holding the line, and preventing a Russian advance towards the straggling industrial town of Konstantinyvka.

"We just work against them. If we don't, they will come closer and we will lose our houses and families. We stand here to let people peacefully live in their houses. If the Russians come to Konstantinyvka — what will happen? They will destroy it, not leaving a stone standing."

The 28th has had a long war already. It was in the south helping to liberate Kherson before being sent half-way across the country. But it prides itself on one of the lowest casualty rates among Ukrainian brigades.

As David talks, the air is split by the sound of outgoing fire from tanks and artillery. A howitzer is in action on the other side of the hill. Their targets are positions held by the Russian mercenary group Wagner south of Bakhmut, several miles away.

But the 28th uses its 125-millimeter shells sparingly. "We have problems with ammunition, we are running low on it," David says. "But that's the only problem we have. We get enough spare parts, our commanders work all the time to sustain and repair the tanks."

Sometimes, all it needs is the appearance of a tank in forward positions to scatter Wagner fighters, who are mostly lightly-armed infantry.

"When we come and fire, the enemy goes silent for two to three days," David says. "They won't fire at our guys in the trenches. If our tanks and artillery don't fire, our infantry will suffer."

Read more:

12:31 a.m. ET, January 30, 2023

Russian missile strike on Kharkiv residential building kills 1, officials say

From CNN's Josh Pennington and Jake Kwon

Ukrainian rescue workers disassemble the damaged structures of a building in the center of Kharkiv on Monday.
Ukrainian rescue workers disassemble the damaged structures of a building in the center of Kharkiv on Monday. (Sofiia Bobok/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

An elderly woman was killed and three other people were injured after a missile hit a residential building in the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, on Sunday, Ukrainian officials said said on Telegram.

Oleh Syniehubov, head of Kharkiv's military administration, said on Telegram that the building in the city's Kyivskyi district was struck by a Soviet-era S-300 long-range missile.

"Three of the victims sustained light injuries. Unfortunately, an elderly woman was killed," Synehubov said. 

The building was partially destroyed and residents have been evacuated, Synehubov said, adding emergency services are on site. 

11:37 p.m. ET, January 29, 2023

Erdogan says Turkey could respond differently to Finland's NATO bid than to Sweden's 

From CNN's Alex Stambaugh, Jack Guy and Niamh Kennedy

Turkey may respond "differently" to Finland's NATO bid than to Sweden's, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, according to state news agency Anadolu, amid rising tensions between Stockholm and Ankara.

Both Sweden and Finland have applied to join the 30-member military alliance after Russia's invasion of Ukraine sparked renewed security concerns across the region. All NATO members, of which Turkey is one, must accept their bids for membership to be approved.

"We may respond differently to Finland if necessary. Sweden would be shocked when we respond differently to Finland," Erdogan said at a meeting with youth in the country's Bilecik province.

Turkey has previously urged Sweden to take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.

Erdogan said Ankara has given a list to Sweden of 120 people to be extradited to Turkey, according to Anadolu. 

"You need to extradite these terrorists so that you can enter NATO," Erdogan said Sunday.

Last week, Ankara called for a February meeting between Turkey, Sweden and Finland to be postponed, according to Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber, which cited unnamed diplomatic sources.

More context: Turkey-Sweden relations suffered a further blow this month following a rally outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm at which an anti-immigration politician set a copy of the Quran alight. The incident sparked anger in Ankara, where protesters took to the streets and burned the Swedish flag outside the Swedish Embassy in response.

7:19 a.m. ET, January 30, 2023

What we know about the number of tanks pledged to Ukraine

In addition to the 14 Leopard 2 tanks pledged, Poland said Friday that it will send 60 more modern battles tanks to Ukraine.

7:41 p.m. ET, January 29, 2023

Negotiations underway with allies to supply Ukraine with long-range missiles and aircraft, adviser says

From CNN’s Mariya Knight and Yulia Kesaieva

“Fast-paced” negotiations are underway with Western allies to supply Ukraine with long-range missiles and aircraft, according to Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.

“In my opinion, there are two very important positions on the negotiating table for this stage of the war right now: long-range missiles — key missiles that will allow the destruction of the Russian rear infrastructure, primarily the artillery depots, a large number of which are located, for example, on the territory of Crimea — and also aviation,” Podolyak said on Ukrainian media Saturday, adding the negotiations are “fast-paced.”

Podolyak said the process of training Ukrainian soldiers to use new equipment is also underway. He added that Ukraine requested “a concrete number of tanks” from its Western partners without mentioning how many. 

For context: Germany earlier this week promised to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, while the US pledged 31 M1 Abrams tanks, Poland said it will provide 60 tanks and the UK already committed 14 Challenger 2 tanks.

The German defense minister said, however, that it was "out of the question" for Germany to supply fighter jets.

Read CNN analysis on the potential for Western jets to enter the Ukrainian arsenal here.

7:39 p.m. ET, January 29, 2023

Russian shelling kills at least 3 people and wounds 6 in Kherson, city council says

From CNN's Maria Kostenko and Kostan Nechyporenko

At least three people have died and six more were wounded by Russian shelling in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson on Sunday, a statement from the city council said.

A nurse and a canteen employee were among those hurt, both of whom were described to have “moderate injuries.”

The shelling hit warehouses, a hospital, a bus station and a school playground, and damaged buildings and vehicles in the region, the Kherson City Council said earlier Sunday.

More context: Russian President Vladimir Putin claims he’s annexed the region and that the people there are now Russians. But his troops have left Kherson, and now they’re shelling civilians they once vowed to protect.