January 31, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

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

Updated 12:23 a.m. ET, February 1, 2023
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11:49 a.m. ET, January 31, 2023

US likely to announce another Ukrainian security assistance package soon, White House says

From CNN's Sam Fossum

President Joe Biden announcing sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine last week.
President Joe Biden announcing sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine last week. (Susan Walsh/AP)

The US will likely announce further security assistance for Ukraine "soon," according to White House spokesperson Olivia Dalton.  

"I expect we're going to have more security assistance to announce soon," Dalton told reporters aboard Air Force One. 

Asked about whether the US would send F16 jets to Ukraine, Dalton reiterated President Joe Biden's comments on Monday and pointed to the billions of dollars in aid provided so far.

Biden said "no" when asked by a reporter Monday on whether he would send the jets to Ukraine. His answer comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has sought fighter jets to help sustain his war effort against Russia. Biden has consistently said the planes aren't on the table, even as he has given aid in other areas, including providing Abrams tanks.

Dalton also emphasized that the US remains in "regular contact" with Ukrainian officials about their needs. 

More on US aid to Ukraine: As of Jan. 19, the United States has committed $26.7 billion to Ukraine in security aid since the beginning of the war nearly a year ago.

11:05 a.m. ET, January 31, 2023

UK says it's "not practical" to send fighter jets to Ukraine

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy 

The UK said Tuesday it believes it's "not practical" to send its fighter jets to Ukraine. 

The fighter jets are "extremely sophisticated and take months to learn how to fly," a Downing Street spokesperson told journalists Tuesday, adding that given those conditions they “believe it is not practical to send those jets into Ukraine.”

The comments come as Ukrainian officials continue to pressure their Western allies for further resources. 

The spokesperson said the UK is committed to continuing to "discuss with our allies about what we think what is the right approach" when it comes to assisting Ukraine. 

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that although France had not received any request from Ukraine to send fighter jets, “nothing is off limits in principle.”

Other nations saying no to jets for Kyiv: On Monday, US President Joe Biden responded "No," when asked by a reporter if he would send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. 

Germany's Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has also ruled out sending fighter jets to Ukraine, according to an interview with German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Friday. "This is out of the question," Pistorius was quoted as saying.

11:39 a.m. ET, January 31, 2023

Bakhmut continues to be one of the main directions for Russian attacks, Ukrainian military says

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Svitlana Vlasova  

A Ukrainian serviceman looks out into Bakhmut amid Russia's attack on January 27.
A Ukrainian serviceman looks out into Bakhmut amid Russia's attack on January 27. (Yan Dobronosov/Reuters)

The key eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut continues to be one of the main directions for Russian attacks and "everything is being done" to prevent Russian forces from blocking the movement of Ukrainian units, Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the eastern grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said during an interview on Ukrainian television on Tuesday. 

"Bakhmut continues to be one of the main directions of the enemy's attack – they’ve hit our positions there with cannon and rocket artillery 197 times, and there were 42 combat encounters. The enemy got significant losses in personnel during the last 24 hours: 277 enemies were killed, 258 were injured to varying degrees," Cherevatyi said.

CNN is not able to independently confirm the number of sustained casualties. 

When asked whether the Russians have been able to cut off the transport artery to Bakhmut, Cherevatyi replied "not yet."

"They didn’t succeed and everything is being done not to allow them to block the movements of our units. All necessary ammunition, equipment, food anything else that our forces need is being supplied to Bakhmut," he said. 

When asked to comment on reports about a Russian offensive north of Bakhmut in the Lyman direction, Cherevatyi said Russian forces "do counteroffensive in this direction from time to time" and that he "can’t say it’s a big offensive operation."

"They are moving there — their motorized rifle units and artillery — first of all, to hold the line there, and secondly, as I said, to regain an advantage. In particular, during the last 24 hours in Bilohorivka and Novoselivske the enemy did a counteroffensive, but they were repulsed and pulled back," he said. 

9:57 a.m. ET, January 31, 2023

Farewell ceremony for US volunteer who died fighting in Ukraine held in Lviv, mayor says

From CNN's Viktoria Butenko and Radina Gigova 

A farewell ceremony for American volunteer Daniel Swift who died fighting in Ukraine took place in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Tuesday, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said in a message on his official Facebook page. 

"He fought with the International Legion and was awarded with [Ukrainian commander] Bohdan Khmelnitskiy award of the 3rd degree. The brave seal is now taking his last path home," Sadovyi said. 

"Sincere condolences and eternal memory to the Defender," he added. 

Swift, a former US Navy SEAL, who deserted the military nearly four years ago, was killed fighting in Ukraine earlier in January, according to a statement by the US Navy.  

In his post, Sadovyi went on to say that Ukraine needs "powerful weapons to stop these deaths."

"We are calling on the whole world not to postpone what can save lives today. This year all of us have understood the war can be stopped with force only. So we are calling to give us tanks, give us fighter jets," he said. 

"Russia is a wounded bear at the moment. It needs to be put back into its cave. And this we can do only if we are unite all our resources," Sadovyi said. 

11:44 a.m. ET, January 31, 2023

Russian troops are turning Bakhmut into "a total ruin," Ukrainian regional military chief says

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

A building destroyed by shelling in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on January 29.
A building destroyed by shelling in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on January 29. (Marek M. Berezowski/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Russian troops are pummeling the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut into what the Donetsk region military administration head Pavlo Kyrylenko called a “total ruin.” 

Two people were killed in the last few hours, including one underage boy, Kyrylenko says on Telegram. Four civilians were wounded, he added. 

“Russians are levelling Bakhmut to the ground, killing everyone they can reach. We are carefully documenting all war crimes. They will be held accountable for everything!,” he wrote on Telegram.

CNN reported in January that the US and Western officials are urging Ukraine to shift its focus from the brutal, months-long fight in the eastern city of Bakhmut and prioritize instead a potential offensive in the south, using a different style of fighting that takes advantage of the billions of dollars in new military hardware recently committed by Western allies.

8:10 a.m. ET, January 31, 2023

Russia sent more than 9,000 "illegally mobilized" citizens back home, Russian prosecutor general says

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Russia had to send home more than 9,000 people who were “illegally mobilized,” Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

“Through the efforts of [the Prosecutor General Office] supervision, more than 9,000 citizens who were illegally mobilized were returned home, including those who, due to their health condition, should not have been mobilized in any case,” Krasnov said at a televised meeting with Putin in the Kremlin.

Mobilization had not been carried out for a long time in Russia, he added, and it “revealed a lot of significant problems.”

In addition, most issues with supplying body armor and uniforms to the front “have been resolved,” according to Krasnov. 

“Now we control the supply of winter uniforms to mobilized military personnel, as well as the formation of appropriate warehouses and their safety,” he said.

Russian citizens had used crowdfunding to equip soldiers deployed to Ukraine as troops said they've been short of even basic equipment.

Some background: Putin announced a "partial mobilization" in late September 2022 after Russia suffered a series of major setbacks on the battlefields in Ukraine. The controversial draft sparked protests and an exodus of men from the country before it was suspended Nov. 1 after the target of 300,000 personnel was met.

8:10 a.m. ET, January 31, 2023

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

From CNN staff

The area around the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine is seeing fierce fighting as Russian forces mount an offensive intended to take a key highway.

Russian forces have also carried out strikes in Luhansk region and Kharkiv region, where one civilian was killed by shelling.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • Intense fighting around Bakhmut: The eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut continues to see fierce fighting as Russian forces try to take control of a key highway and disrupt supplies to Bakhmut. Russian airborne units have joined Wagner mercenaries in the fight for the city, according to a former Ukrainian military commander. Ukrainian forces have also repelled Russian attacks in the wider Donetsk region in the last 24 hours, including Avdiivka, Vuhledar and other towns.
  • Luhansk region also under attack: The situation in Luhansk region also remains "difficult," the Luhansk regional military administration said Tuesday. Russian forces have launched attacks in the areas of Novoselivske and Bilohorivka, regional authorities said.
  • Civilian killed by Russian shelling in Kharkiv region: A 62-year-old man died in the town of Vovchansk as a result of shelling, the Kharkiv region military administration said Tuesday. An 83-year-old woman was injured. The shelling also damaged the police department building, apartment buildings and warehouses.
  • IOC rejects criticism over Russia position: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it rejects “defamatory statements” by Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak following the committee's decision to consider ways for Russian athletes to compete in the 2024 Olympic Games. The IOC has indicated that Russian and Belarusian athletes could be allowed to “participate in competitions as ‘neutral athletes.’"
  • Japan and NATO to strengthen ties: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have pledged to deepen cooperation in the face of "an authoritarian pushback against the international rules-based order" led by Russia and China. "Transatlantic and Indo-Pacific security is deeply interconnected," said the pair in a joint statement.

See the latest map of control:

7:16 a.m. ET, January 31, 2023

Russian airborne units have joined Wagner fighters in Bakhmut, says former Azov commander

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Yulia Kesaieva

Russian airborne units have joined Wagner mercenary fighters in the battle for the key eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, according to Maksym Zhorin, a former co-commander of Ukraine's Azov regiment.

Zhorin is not fighting on the battlefield but is in contact with Ukrainian soldiers and helps with supplies. 

"Not only the Wagnerites are fighting in the Bakhmut sector on the Russian side," Zhorin said on his official Telegram channel Tuesday.

"Previously, the assaults were carried out first by convicts, followed by more 'elite' Wagner units, but now airborne units have also joined the fight," he said.

"First of all, this is notable because of the use of their regular equipment. Wagner's troops are forced to advance on foot, while Russian paratroopers have armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, which they actively use," added Zhorin. 

"Another difference is that for some reason regular troops are less willing to die than Wagner's men. That is why they act a little more cautiously. But they are still dying, just not in such huge numbers."

CNN is unable to independently verify those claims. 

Other Ukrainian military commanders have echoed Zhorin's assessment in recent days, saying that regular Russian military troops are now assisting Wagner private military contractors in the fight for Bakhmut. 

7:10 a.m. ET, January 31, 2023

NATO, Japan pledge to strengthen ties amid threat to "international rules-based order"

From CNN’s Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, and Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shake hands after holding a joint media briefing on January 31, in Tokyo, Japan.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, and Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shake hands after holding a joint media briefing on January 31, in Tokyo, Japan. (Takashi Aoyama/Reuters)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged on Tuesday to strengthen ties, saying Beijing and Moscow are leading "an authoritarian pushback against the international rules-based order."

"The Indo-Pacific faces growing challenges from China's coercive behavior to provocations by North Korea. And in Europe, Russia continues to wage its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine. This war is not just a European crisis, but a challenge to the world order," Stoltenberg said in a joint statement with Kishida on Tuesday, adding that he and Kishida agree that "transatlantic and Indo-Pacific security is deeply interconnected."

"If President Putin wins in Ukraine, this would send a message that authoritarian regimes can achieve their goals through brute force. This is dangerous. Beijing is watching closely and learning lessons that may influence its future decisions," said Stoltenberg.

During a visit Tuesday to Japan's Iruma Air Base, Stoltenberg said that "the war in Ukraine matters for all of us, and therefore we're also very grateful for the support that Japan is providing, also using the planes and the cargo capabilities."

Japan has provided nonlethal aid to Ukraine in the form of drones, bulletproof vests, helmets, tents and medical supplies. However, due to defense guidelines that effectively ban weapons exports, Tokyo has not delivered weapons.

Stoltenberg arrived in Tokyo on Monday from South Korea, where he had urged Seoul to increase its military support for Ukraine.

Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol became the first leaders from their countries to attend a NATO summit last year, joining alliance leaders as observers.