February 1, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Sophie Tanno, Hannah Strange, Tara Subramaniam, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 1:28 a.m. ET, February 2, 2023
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11:16 p.m. ET, January 31, 2023

Russia struggling to replace its losses in Ukraine ahead of possible spring offensive, Western officials say

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in London

Russia is unlikely to see strategic success in any potential offensive in Ukraine this spring due to limited support on force ratios, equipment and logistics, according to Western officials speaking to media on background.

These limitations might not prevent Russia “from trying to launch an offensive,” but their “ability to change the course of the conflict at the moment is constrained,” the officials said.

Moscow is struggling to replace its losses, the officials added.

“There are severe constraints to their ability to really backfill the losses that they have suffered in Ukraine, which is why you see them reach out to international partners to try to fill the gap," they said.

Russia and Ukraine were fundamentally in "a race" as to "who can maintain the supply of weapons,” they said.

Moscow's current offensive is more about “the existing manpower and equipment being deployed and redeployed locally. You're seeing people kind of taking offensive action, but I don't think you're seeing the beginning of the offensive in big strategic terms. It's unlikely that hundreds of thousands of mobilized reservists have been formed into cohesive formations capable of major offensive, maneuver operations,” the officials explained.

Belarus' role: Meanwhile, the officials expressed doubt in Russia using its neighboring ally Belarus to launch an offensive in the coming months. 

“Belarus is providing a useful training ground for Russian forces where they can outsource for training and then siphon them back round into the front line in Ukraine,” the officials said. “We do see Russian forces in Belarus. We don't see them deployed to the border, and at the moment, they don't have the kind of capability in the logistics to project and threaten Kyiv.”

But the Russian troops' presence would prompt Ukraine into stationing its troops in that direction to "offset that potential risk," the officials said, even though they stressed it is "hugely unlikely" that Belarus "will be an axis of advance in the next several months.”

7:43 p.m. ET, January 31, 2023

US says Russia is violating nuclear arms control treaty by not allowing inspections

Michael Callahan, Jennifer Hansler, Haley Britzky and Kylie Atwood

Russia is violating a key nuclear arms control agreement with the United States and continuing to refuse to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities, a State Department spokesperson said Tuesday.

“Russia is not complying with its obligation under the New START Treaty to facilitate inspection activities on its territory. Russia’s refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control,” the spokesperson said in statement.
“Russia has also failed to comply with the New START Treaty obligation to convene a session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission in accordance with the treaty-mandated timeline.”

The US announcement is likely to increase tensions with relations between the two countries in the doldrums as Moscow continues its war on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber rattling during the war has alarmed the US and its allies.

In December, Putin warned of the “increasing” threat of nuclear war, and this month, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, threatened that Russia losing the war could “provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war.”

Read more here.

7:42 p.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.

Zhorin described several differences between the Russian forces and Wagner troops.

"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," Zhorin said. 
"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.