January 19, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Leinz Vales, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 1:21 a.m. ET, January 20, 2023
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7:14 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Estonia announces more military aid for Ukraine worth $122 million

From CNN's Teele Rebane and Radina Gigova 

Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas speaks during a joint press conference at the Tapa Army Base on March 1, in Tallinn, Estonia.
Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas speaks during a joint press conference at the Tapa Army Base on March 1, in Tallinn, Estonia. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Estonia will send another package of military aid to Ukraine worth 113 million euros ($122 million), Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas announced Thursday in a statement. The aid package includes dozens of howitzers, over a hundred anti-tank weapons, artillery support equipment, grenade launchers and ammunition, according to the statement.  

“All countries must look into their stockpiles and ensure that industries are able to produce more and faster. Russia's war against Ukraine comes at a price – a price we pay in euros, but the Ukrainians pay with their lives,” Kallas said. 

With the latest aid package, Estonia's total military assistance to Ukraine will increase to 370 million euros, or slightly more than 1% of Estonia's gross domestic product, according to the statement – a significant share compared to other European countries. 

“Our help and the help of our allies will have a direct impact on the fighting ability of Ukrainian soldiers and this is highly valued in Ukraine. Therefore, it is important to set an example and to motivate other allies to give help as well," Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said in the same statement. 

7:13 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

European Council president is in Kyiv to discuss further support for Ukraine

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

European Council President Charles Michel traveled to Kyiv Thursday to discuss "concrete measures" to support Ukraine's fight against Russia.

Michel's visit comes as Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky called on allied countries to provide Ukraine with more powerful weaponry, including tanks.

Speaking in a video posted on his official Twitter account on Thursday, Michel said he was going to the Ukrainian capital to meet with Zelensky, as well as Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and members of the parliament. 

We know that the Ukrainians are resisting, they are fighting. They are fighting for their land. They are fighting for the future and the future of their children," said Michel. 

Michel laid out his plan to discuss with Zelensky the "concrete measures" the European Union can take to ensure Ukraine is "stronger" and "more powerful" in the face of Russian attacks. 

"They need and deserve our support," he added.

Later on Thursday morning, Michel tweeted a photo of him hugging the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine, Olga Stefanishyna, after arriving in Kyiv. 

7:01 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Kremlin says Zelensky "would prefer that neither Russia nor Putin exist"

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Radina Gigova

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “would prefer that neither Russia nor (Vladimir) Putin exist,” according to Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, after Zelensky said Thursday that he was unsure if the Russian president "is alive."

It is clear that both Russia and Putin are a big problem for today's Ukraine and Zelensky. Purely psychologically, Zelensky would prefer that neither Russia nor Putin exist,” Peskov said during a regular call with journalists on Thursday.

“The sooner the Ukrainian regime shows readiness to take into account the demands of Russia – which will be achieved one way or another – the sooner everything will end and the sooner the people of Ukraine will begin to recover from the tragedy that the Kyiv regime staged," Peskov claimed. 

Earlier Thursday, Zelensky told attendees at Davos that he doesn't "understand who to talk to" on the Russian side in response to a question about the possibility of peace talks.

"I do not quite understand whether he (Putin) is alive or whether he makes decisions, or who is making decisions," he said.

"I don't quite understand how you can promise the European leaders one thing and start a war the next day," Zelensky added. 

6:46 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Pressure grows on Germany to ship tanks to Ukraine, as US defense minister meets new German counterpart

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt and Niamh Kennedy

Germany stands “shoulder to shoulder” with its allies in supporting Ukraine, the country's newly appointed Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Thursday.

"Together with our partners, we will continue to support Ukraine in its struggle for freedom and territorial independence and sovereignty," Pistorius told reporters in Berlin on Thursday ahead of talks with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.  

"As so often in history – but especially in times like these – Germany and the United States of America stand shoulder to shoulder," added Pistorius. 

Pistorius – sworn in as new defense minister only hours earlier – immediately faces a key decision as to whether to send modern battle tanks such as the German-made Leopard 2 to Ukraine.  

Ukrainian officials have called on Germany to provide the Leopard 2 battle tanks swiftly to push back Russian forces who invaded the country on 24 February last year. 

For his part, Austin thanked Germany on Thursday for its efforts to "strengthen Ukraine's self-defense."  

The US defense secretary also thanked Germany for its "strong support" of the United States' "increased presence" and for facilitating the movement of soldiers and equipment "to and through Germany to reinforce our eastern flank allies." 

High-level talks: Austin's meeting with Pistorius on Thursday comes as Germany faces increased pressure to send tanks to Ukraine.

Thursday's meeting is one of a series of high-level talks on Ukraine taking place this week.

Friday will see a key meeting of NATO's Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the US Ramstein Air Base, hosted by Austin, focusing on more military aid for Ukraine. 

Austin said the two defense chiefs will discuss Thursday "some of the issues that we'll tackle tomorrow at the contact group."  

"We'll also discuss other key issues for the NATO and for our bilateral defense relationship and ways that we can do even more together," Austin added.  

On Wednesday, a senior US defense official said that Austin will be “pressing the Germans” to allow their Leopard tanks to be transferred to Ukraine to give Kyiv the “capability in a crucial moment” to counter any potential Russian spring offensive.

“We are very optimistic that we will make progress on this requirement by the end of the week,” the official added.

6:42 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Poland may transfer German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine without Berlin's permission, PM says

From CNN's Antonia Mortensen

Polish military drive a Leopard tank during a live fire demonstration part of the Bear 22 military exercises at the Nowa Deba training ground on September 21, in Nowa Deba, Poland.
Polish military drive a Leopard tank during a live fire demonstration part of the Bear 22 military exercises at the Nowa Deba training ground on September 21, in Nowa Deba, Poland. (Omar Marques/Getty Images)

Poland will either receive permission to transfer German-made tanks to Ukraine "or we will do the right thing ourselves," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Thursday.  

Any transfer of the Leopard 2 battle tanks would typically require permission from Berlin as they are made in Germany.

When asked about the delay in Germany giving permission for the transfer, Morawiecki said Poland had offered Ukraine 14 tanks.  

“At the same time, we must ensure that others will also meet these needs. Among these others, the ones that have been the least proactive so far are the Germans," he said during a video interview on his way back from the International Economic Forum in Davos.

"We will continue to strive, we will continue to push the chancellor's office and Germany to respond to our proposal as soon as possible."

New defense minister: Morawiecki was also asked whether he expected a change after Boris Pistorius, who has called for the easing of sanctions against Russia, took over as Germany's defense minister.

“This worries me a lot. I don't know much about Germany's new Defense Minister. What I do know gives me some anxiety," said Morawiecki.

But Pistorius should be given "a few days time" to see "what his first steps will be," added Morawiecki.

We agreed that we would hand over the tanks together,” he said. “Consent is secondary. Either we will obtain this consent, or we will do the right thing ourselves.”

“The most important thing is for the Germans, Danes, Finns, French and other nations to offer their modern tanks and heavy equipment as soon as possible," said Morawiecki. "The ability to defend freedom in Ukraine, and thus the security of the whole of Europe, may depend on it."

'Encouraging and inspiring others': Poland has already sent 250 tanks to Ukraine, Morawiecki told CNN's Richard Quest on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the International Economic Forum.

"We were the first who have offered the Leopard tanks and we are now encouraging and inspiring others, in particular the Germans, to give their part," he said.  

"Now, the Leopard tanks is the next round of our support for Ukraine. Critically important point is, will Germans finally, finally give their part of heavy artillery, in particular heavy and modern tanks," said Morawiecki.

"And this is the major question, because 14 tanks on top of 250, is not the game changer, but if France and in particular Germany and some other countries gave 20-30 tanks each, then it could make a difference for Ukraine," he added. 

Some context: There is growing pressure for Western allies to provide Ukraine with heavy battle tanks.

FrancePoland and the United Kingdom have pledged to soon send tanks for the Ukrainian military to use in its efforts to protect itself from Russia. Finland is considering following suit.

Germany has said it would transfer infantry fighting vehicles to Kyiv but is yet to commit to sending tanks. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has insisted that any such plan would need to be fully coordinated with the whole of the Western alliance, including the United States.

The Western allies are set to meet tomorrow at the US Ramstein air base in Germany to discuss further military aid for Kyiv.

5:20 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Brovary helicopter crash death toll stands at 14 with more than a dozen injured

From CNN's Maria Kostenko and Radina Gigova

Rescue services work at the scene of a helicopter crash in Brovary, near Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 18.
Rescue services work at the scene of a helicopter crash in Brovary, near Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 18. (Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

More than a dozen people injured in Wednesday's helicopter crash in the Ukrainian city of Brovary do not have serious injuries and are in recovery, according to Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the Kyiv region military administration.

"By this morning, the dynamics had changed for the better, thanks to the efforts of our doctors," Kuleba said on national television on Thursday. "No one is seriously injured. All the injured are of moderate severity."

Particular attention is paid to the children who suffered complex burns but their condition is satisfactory," he said.

There were 16 people injured, including six children, when the helicopter crashed near a kindergarten and a residential block in the Kyiv suburb, killing 14 people.

All nine people on board the helicopter were killed, including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, with five more people killed on the ground, including one child.

The families of the victims will be provided with financial assistance, said Kuleba.

Utility teams are working at the scene of the crash, inspecting the damage to the residential building and the kindergarten, Kuleba said. Repair works in the residential building will start on Thursday, he added.

"The children who attended the kindergarten will be studying remotely this week, and then their parents will be offered options to transfer them to other kindergartens," said Kuleba.

5:01 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

New German defense minister speaks with French counterpart on first day of job

From CNN's Claudia Otto and Nadine Schmidt

Boris Pistorius, new Minister of Defense, gives a press conference after his reception in the Bendlerblock, Berlin, Germany, on January 19.
Boris Pistorius, new Minister of Defense, gives a press conference after his reception in the Bendlerblock, Berlin, Germany, on January 19. (Michael Kappeler/picture alliance/Getty Images)

New German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has spoken on the phone with his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu, according to the German defense ministry.

"France is our closest ally and oldest friend in the European Union. Paris and Berlin have also been working closely together on security policy for decades,'' Pistorius was quoted as saying in a statement published by the ministry. 

''That's why it was particularly important for me to talk with my French colleague Lecornu as quickly as possible." 

Pistorius officially took office on Thursday following the resignation of his predecessor Christine Lambrecht.

Both ministers are set to continue their exchange in person as early as Sunday at the Franco-German Council of Ministers in Paris, the statement continued.    

Relations between the two neighbors have recently come under strain over differences ranging from foreign and energy policies to defense procurement and anti-inflation relief measures as the war in Ukraine rages on. 

4:59 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Zelensky says Ukraine will reclaim Crimea

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Maria Kostenko 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears via video link an event on the sidelines on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on January 19.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears via video link an event on the sidelines on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on January 19. (Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Ukraine will reclaim Crimea as it is "our land," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said as he addressed the "Ukraine Breakfast" session at Davos on Thursday.

"It is not an intention, it is our land. Crimea is our sea and our mountains. Give us your weapons and we will regain [what is] ours," Zelensky said when asked by the panel if he intends to retake Crimea.  

"But there is still an opportunity for Russia to leave this territory, and not only this one. No one is saying that relations can be restored, but it can save the lives of their people," he said.

"The gap between our countries is enormous. It is not artificial. It has been dug by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. He is standing with this shovel and will remain with this shovel in history," Zelensky said. 

Asked about the possibility of peace negotiations, Zelensky said: "Peace talks are not peace. The parties need to realize it. For the past three years [since he became president] we did everything we could to liberate our land through diplomacy," he said.

"Someone did not want to, did not have time, did not believe, put forward conditions. There were many such people, and the center of that all was in Moscow," he added. 

"I don't understand who to talk to. I do not quite understand whether he [Putin] is alive or whether he makes decisions, or who is making decisions," said Zelensky. "I don't quite understand how you can promise the European leaders one thing and start a war the next day."

Some context: This isn't the first time that Zelensky has vowed to overthrow Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began last year. Speaking last August, he stressed that for Ukrainians, Crimea is "not just some territory" or even a "figure in the geopolitical game." "For Ukraine, Crimea is a part of our people, our society, a community of people to whom we guarantee freedom," he said at the time. 

3:27 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Zelensky renews plea to West for more weapons to fight Russia

From CNN's Maria Kostenko

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine talks from a video screen to participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 18.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine talks from a video screen to participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 18. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday once again called upon Western allies and partners to send more weapons to Ukraine to help fight Russian aggression.

Speaking during a live address streamed at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Zelensky said Ukraine urgently needs equipment, artillery and shells.

"We have talked hundreds of times about the shortage of weapons. We cannot go only on motivation," he said.

Ukraine's air defense remains a weakness and Russia is likely to launch another series of drone attacks soon, Zelensky added.

"There are moments when there is no need to hesitate. When people say, 'I’ll give you tanks if someone else does,'" he said.

International support: Zelensky's appeal comes as the US is set to finalize $2.5 billion in military aid for Ukraine that includes a first shipment of Stryker combat vehicles, sources told CNN. The package is not expected to include tanks or the long-range missiles sought by Kyiv.

All eyes are on now on Germany as defense leaders meet to discuss military support for Ukraine. With the United Kingdom and Poland announcing plans to send battle tanks, international pressure is growing on Berlin to approve the delivery of German-made Leopard battle tanks to Kyiv — or at least approve their transfer from third countries.

Germany's new defense minister is scheduled to meet with his US counterpart in Berlin Thursday ahead of a key meeting Friday with NATO's Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the US' Ramstein Air Base.