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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2:40 p.m. ET, January 19, 2023

It doesn't make sense to provide M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine "at this moment," Pentagon says

From CNN's Haley Britzky

"It just doesn’t make sense” for the US to provide M1 Abrams tanks “at this moment," Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary, said Thursday after German officials said that they will not provide tanks to Ukraine until the US decides to do so as well.

“As you know we’ve provided the Bradleys, we're seeing other nations step up and continue to provide equipment and material to Ukraine that they can,” Singh said.

“Ultimately this is Germany's decision. It's their sovereign decision on what security assistance they will provide. So we won't be able to speak to them but I think that we are certainly doing what we can to support Ukraine in what in what they need," she added.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is meeting with other allies on Friday in Germany during the eighth Ukraine Contact Group, where they will discuss what kind of equipment and weapons systems Ukraine may need in its fight against Russia. 

And while the issue of tanks is sure to come up, US officials have repeatedly said Germany can make its own decisions and that the M1 Abrams’ maintenance and sustainment demands make it a difficult piece of equipment to provide to the Ukrainians. 

“[W]e're continuing to work with other partners and allies around the world to see what else can be provided to Ukraine and that's, that's the whole point of tomorrow's meeting,” Singh said Thursday.

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.

2:05 p.m. ET, January 19, 2023

9 European countries pledge further weapon donations to Ukraine ahead of key Friday meeting

From CNN's Eve Brennan and Lindsay Isaac in London 

Nine European countries have pledged further militarily support to Ukraine, which will help forces move from “resisting to expelling Russian forces,” according to a joint statement published by the British government following a meeting in Tallinn, Estonia.

“We recognize that equipping Ukraine to push Russia out of its territory is as important as equipping them to defend what they already have,” they said in the statement. This latest pledge comes ahead of a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Group in Ramstein, Germany, on Friday, chaired by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. 

Beyond continued support for Ukraine, here's what the countries pledged:

  • Denmark: Train Ukrainian forces. The country has donated or financed military aid worth close to 600 million euros (about $649 million). 
  • Czech Republic: Increase production capacities for large caliber ammunition, howitzers and armored personnel carriers; increase maintenance, repair and operations capacity. 
  • Estonia: Tens of 155mm FH-70 and 122 mm D-30 howitzers; thousands of rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition; support vehicles for artillery units; hundreds of Carl-Gustaf M2 anti-tank grenade launchers with ammunition with the total replacement values of approximately 113 million euros (about $122 million) and training for hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers. 
  • Latvia: Tens of man-portable Stinger air-defense systems; two M-17 helicopters; tens of machine guns with ammunition; several tens of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); spare parts for M109 howitzers and training of about 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers in various programs.
  • Lithuania: Support package worth 125 million euros (about $135 million) consisting of dozens of L-70 anti-aircraft guns with tens of thousands of ammunition; two Mi-8 helicopters with the total replacement value of approximately 85 million euros (about $92 million); 40 million euros (about $43.3 million) for procurements like anti-drones, optics, thermo-visual devices and drones and 2 million euros (about $2.1 million) to the UK International Fund for financing heavy weaponry acquisitions projects. 
  • Poland: S-60 anti-aircraft guns with 70,000 pieces of ammunition; already donated 42 infantry fighting vehicles; training packages for two mechanized battalions; more 155mm Krab howitzers and various types of ammunition.
  • Slovakia: Increase production of howitzers, de-mining equipment and ammunition; train Ukrainian soldiers and expand the training as required by Ukraine.
  • UK: Challenger 2 tanks with armored recovery and repair vehicles; AS90 self-propelled 155mm guns; hundreds more armored and protected vehicles; minefield breaching and bridging capabilities; dozens more un-crewed aerial systems; 100,000 artillery rounds; guided multiple launch rocket system (GMLRS) rockets; Starstreak air defense missiles; medium-range air defense missiles; 600 Brimstone anti-tank munitions; spares to refurbish up to a hundred Ukrainian tanks and infantry fighting vehicles; continued training of soldiers and coordinate the International Fund for Ukraine which has raised almost 600 million pounds (about $742.7 million) with partners. 

2:30 p.m. ET, January 19, 2023

UN nuclear watchdog chief: There has been a "dramatic reduction" in Ukrainian staff at Zaporizhzhia plant

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen and Tim Lister in Kyiv

A general view of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on April 27, 2022.
A general view of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on April 27, 2022. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said there has been a "dramatic reduction" in the number of Ukrainian staff at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant since Russian forces occupied the facility and the nearby city in March 2022.

The UN nuclear watchdog chief said at a media briefing in Kyiv that "normally a facility like this has around 10,000 people working and now we are down to 3,000 more or less."

He added that the number was adequate in the current conditions," because the plant was operating at a low level. "But of course it is a matter of concern," he said.  

He said that the handful of IAEA staff at the plant were fine and are able do their work correctly.

Grossi said that despite difficult moments throughout the conflict the positive side is that the system at the plant showed resilience.

"The good side [is that] almost a year since the beginning of the conflict on a territory with a vast nuclear infrastructure we have had very difficult moments when facilities have been operating in emergency mode and we saw the resilience of the system," he said.

Even so, he explained that the situation remained precarious and the IAEA was "very worried" about the Zaporizhzhia plant.

The plant has always been on the frontline and on Thursday alone, there had been two major explosions in the vicinity of the plant, he said. 

"We know that a nuclear accident or an accident with serious radiological consequences is possible every day," he said, noting that a protection zone around the plant was indispensable.

Grossi said there was no sign that Russia was attempting to link the plant to its own grid.  

Asked if Russia showed goodwill and cooperative spirit, Grossi said, "I have a professional engagement with them." He said Russia had to comply with safety standards that had been agreed by everybody, and he planned to visit Russia soon.

Grossi said that he was concerned that the international community would pay less attention to the situation. "I worry that this is becoming routine ... that people might be asking whether the IAEA was crying wolf," he said.

12:10 p.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Zelensky: Supply of Western-made tanks to Ukraine remains "pressing and very sensitive"

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a news conference with European Council President Charles Michel after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a news conference with European Council President Charles Michel after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday the supply of Western-made tanks to Ukraine continues to be "pressing and very sensitive" in his nation's war against Russia.

Zelensky told journalists the impasse over the tanks “depends on a lot of reasons and unfortunately does not depend on Ukraine's wish.”

Speaking alongside European Council President Charles Michel in Kyiv, Zelensky celebrated the fact that several countries had come forward saying they would like to send some of their tanks to Ukraine, but added that in most cases they require permission from manufacturing countries.

“We all are waiting for the approval of the country which has the rights on the particular license,” Zelensky explained.

One of the countries concerned is Germany, which produces the Leopard tank. Poland, Denmark and others have said they want to send some of their Leopard to Ukraine but Berlin has been reluctant to approve the supply German-made tanks, to avoid escalation with Moscow.

“We put as much political pressure, as we can, but most importantly our pressure is based on the solid arguments,” Zelensky said. “The courage of our warriors and motivation of Ukrainian people is not enough against thousands of tanks of Russian Federation.”

Zelensky also said Ukraine was looking at other avenues, namely internal production, but added he did not want to give too much away to Russia.

“Time and speed are important. Each minute is a human life. The faster we are able to deoccupy our territory, the faster we become more powerful, the more our citizens' lives will be spared,” he added, saying current supplies were not coming in fast enough.


11:16 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Russian cyberattacks on Ukraine have eased in recent weeks but could pick up in the spring, Microsoft says

From CNN’s Brian Fung

Russia's cyberattacks against Ukrainian targets have eased over the past month, Microsoft President Brad Smith told CNN on Thursday, but he warned that could change with the arrival of springtime.

"The last 30 days have been quieter" for Russian cyberattacks, he told CNN at the World Economic Forum in Davos, adding that Microsoft has also observed a similar pullback on pro-Kremlin digital propaganda linked to the war.

"Right now, the Russian government, as we see it, is having to focus so many of its resources on the Russian population, to try to sustain support, that there's a little bit of a reprieve outside of Russia," Smith said.

But, he warned, that situation could rapidly change.

"Typically, when the spring comes, militaries wage offenses," Smith said. "We have to be ready for an offensive cyber war, offensive cyber influence activities, and that's part of what we are preparing for," he said. 

As of Jan. 19, Microsoft has spent $436 million in financial aid and technology assistance to Ukraine, Smith said.  

11:08 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Former Ukrainian president urges NATO to be united in sending German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stressed the importance of German-made Leopard tanks for Ukrainian defense in Russia's war, saying "it is impossible" to shore up a strong offensive operation without these tanks.

"All Western world, the NATO, should learn unity," he told CNN Thursday. "At the end of the day, we could [be in] the situation that Poland and other NATO members states will supply for us the tank without the permission of Germany."

He thanked Ukrainian allies, including the United States and Canada, for sending support for Ukrainian defense.

"We think that everybody now understands that we are not only protecting Ukraine, and you are not only supporting and helping Ukraine. We, together, protect freedom, democracy of the whole free world," he said.

10:41 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Dutch prime minister reaffirms calls for "broad coalition" for sending tanks to Ukraine

From CNN's Livvy Doherty

Mark Rutte, Netherlands prime minister, speaks an event on the sidelines on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on January 19.
Mark Rutte, Netherlands prime minister, speaks 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)

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he understands Germany and other countries who want a “broad coalition” for sending heavy battle tanks to Ukraine. 

In an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Rutte said “there has been broadly support to send military gear. We have sent so much since the start of the war. Of course, there is this debate going on tanks, and here the issue is, this will be a next step in the fight. It might be necessary, but I do understand the Germans and others are saying you need a broad coalition.”

Rutte noted that it was “crucial” that Ukraine wins the war but “you have to be also honest with him (Zelensky) and say, if you want tanks, for example, at this level he is asking for them, it is necessary that we do this not just by one country, but by a group of countries”

The Dutch prime minister said he was “fairly confident” that Europe and the US could bring their “dialogue” on tanks to a conclusion.

Some background: Kyiv has pleaded for modern tanks, a request the US is not yet willing to grant, even though the UK and other key allies are preparing to send tanks that could make a crucial difference in the war as Kyiv braces for a possible large-scale Russian counter-offensive.

9:41 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Ukrainian official repeats call for tanks and asks allies to stop fearing Putin

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Clare Sebastian in London

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has called on the nation's allies to supply Kyiv with tanks, saying they should stop fearing Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Time to stop trembling at Putin and take the final step,” Podolyak tweeted on Thursday. “From Washington to London, from Paris to Warsaw, one thing is said: Ukraine needs tanks; tanks — the key to end war properly.”

Podolyak also appeared to take a jab at Germany for its hesitation in sending its Leopard 2 tanks. 

“True leadership is about leading by example, not about looking up to others,” he wrote, following reports Germany wanted the United States to send their Abrams tanks first. 

9:37 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Dnipro apartment death toll rises to 46, according to regional official

From Maria Kostenko in Kyiv

Memorial area in front of the apartment building destroyed by a Russian missile in the city of Dnipro, Ukraine, on January 18.
Memorial area in front of the apartment building destroyed by a Russian missile in the city of Dnipro, Ukraine, on January 18. (Ximena Borrazas/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

 The death toll from Russia’s attack Saturday on an apartment building in Dnipro, Ukraine, has risen to 46, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk region military administration said Thursday.

According to Valentyn Reznichenko, 11 people remain missing. Of those killed, 11 are still yet to be identified, he said.  

The attack injured an additional 80 people, 24 of whom remain hospitalized. Three of those are in serious condition, among them a 9-year-old girl.