President Zelenskyy says Ukrainian forces defending Bakhmut and Soledar would be armed with everything to keep Russian troops at bay in one of the bloodiest battles of the conflict — now in its 324th day.

"We need to keep increasing the pressure on Russia and we will continue, of course, our unwavering support for Ukraine," Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference. (Reuters)

Friday, January 13, 2023

15:38 GMT - EU needs to keep increasing pressure on Russia - von der Leyen

The European Union needs to keep increasing pressure on Russia and supporting Ukraine, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said. 

"We need to keep increasing the pressure on Russia and we will continue, of course, our unwavering support for Ukraine," she told a news conference.

At the start of Sweden's six-month presidency of the European Union, von der Leyen said that Russia had cut 80 percent of gas supplies to the EU in eight months since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, but that the EU had compensated by diversifying.

13:25 GMT - Italy backs Turkish efforts to resolve Russia-Ukraine war, says foreign minister

Ankara is playing a key role in ongoing work to resolve the Russia-Ukraine war and Italy supports Türkiye's efforts for peace, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani has said.

"Rome today supports Ankara's negotiating efforts for a solution to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine," said Tajani, who was in Türkiye as part of a working visit.

"Türkiye plays an important role in starting the negotiation process toward peace thanks to its geostrategic position and relations with all parties," Tajani said, adding that it was critical for efforts to persuade Russia to continue until Moscow is open to talking about the conditions for a ceasefire and then "negotiations over a just peace under Kiev's full ownership."

Asserting that there would be "no peace without justice," the Italian foreign minister said Türkiye, along with other international players, "can certainly make a difference at the diplomatic level."

13:08 GMT - NATO planes to be sent to Romania to eye Russian activity

NATO said it plans to deploy three surveillance planes to Romania next week to perform reconnaissance missions and to “monitor Russian military activity ” within the 30-nation military alliance’s territory.

The Airborne Warning and Control System surveillance planes, or AWACS, belong to a fleet of 14 usually based in Germany.

Three of the aircraft will be sent Tuesday to an airbase near Romania’s capital, Bucharest, on a mission expected to last several weeks, the 30-nation alliance said in a statement.

11:05 GMT - Russia claims Soledar under Russian army

Russia's Defense Ministry said that its forces have captured Soledar.

The ministry said Soledar, the focus of a bloody battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces, was captured on Thursday night.

There was no immediate confirmation from Ukrainian authorities to Russia's claim to have seized the town in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk province, one of four Ukrainian regions that Moscow has illegally annexed.

TRT World is unable to verify Russia’s claim independently.

11:00 GMT - 'What are you fooling around for?'

Russian President Vladimir Putin could not hide his discontent with the country's deputy prime minister at a recent government meeting.

In a video call, Putin asked Denis Manturov on Wednesday if he received a note from his office on a state order to procure aircraft, including helicopters, to which the deputy prime minister confirmed the reception and started speaking about different aspects of the matter.

To each of the Russian president's several attempts to draw Manturov back to why there were no enterprise contracts for this year, Manturov said "everything has been fully drawn up".

Losing his patience, Putin raised his voice and scolded Manturov: "You say everything is ready to go, but there are no contracts! This is what I am telling you!"

Gathering himself again, he added in a calmer voice: "Let's discuss this after the meeting. There is no point in our splitting hairs at this point.

I know no contracts have been signed with the enterprises, the directors told me so. What are you fooling around for?"

He then once again repeated the questions he wanted answers for: "When will the passports be available? When will the contracts be signed? These are the questions I need answers to."

Commenting on the incident, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there were currently no serious complaints about Manturov's work, the criticism voiced at the meeting on Wednesday, January 11, was "a normal working process".

10:30 GMT - EU should end its sanctions on Russia: Hungarian PM

Hungary’s prime minister said that the European Union's sanctions on Russia due to the Ukraine war are a mistake and should be ended.

Speaking to Hungarian state radio, Viktor Orban said that if the sanctions on Russia are lifted, energy prices and inflation would fall in half.

According to Orban, a political decision must be taken by the EU bloc.

"It is certain that America won the war and Europe lost. 

10:20 GMT - Putin ally suggests seizing property of critics

A close ally of Putin suggested confiscating the property of Russians, who have left the country, and who "insult" the state and its armed forces from abroad.

"Recently, some of our fellow citizens consider it possible to insult Russia, its inhabitants, soldiers and officers, and openly support villains, Nazis and murderers," said Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the lower house of parliament.

10:15 GMT - Ukraine resisting 'high intensity' offensive in Soledar

The assessment came hours ahead of a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the situation in Ukraine. 

"It was hot overnight in Soledar. Hostilities continued. The enemy relocated almost all of its main forces to the Donetsk front and is maintaining a high-intensity offensive," Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar said.

"This is a difficult phase of the war," she added.

09:45 GMT - Finland could send small number of tanks

Finland could donate a small number of German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine if a wider group of European nations also decided to do so, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said.

Kiev has requested heavy military vehicles such as the Leopard 2, which would represent a significant step-up in Western support.

Finland, which has applied for NATO membership, could only share a limited number of tanks as the country's arms are needed to guard its long border with Russia, the president told Finnish news agency STT. 

04:45 GMT - US calls Russia’s replacement of commander ‘insanity’

The US State Department has called Russia's replacement of the commander of its war in Ukraine "insanity," saying numerous reshuffles would not change the result.

Asked by Anadolu Agency about the possible implications of the appointment of General Valery Gerasimov to take over from Sergei Surovikin three months later, spokesman Ned Price said:

"From our perspective, I'm reminded of one of the definitions of insanity, namely doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result," Price told reporters.

04:35 GMT - Ukraine supports Türkiye’s humanitarian proposal

“Last night, we talked about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's new initiative on a humanitarian corridor. I said this is a very good idea and Ukraine supports it,” said Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian parliament commissioner for human rights, speaking at an international conference on the future of human rights in the 21st century in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Lubinets said the initiative could serve as "a new platform where the representatives of Ukraine, Russia and Türkiye will try to find solutions to many humanitarian problems."

No agreement has yet been reached.

2:00 GMT - US questions importance of Russian victory in Soledar

"Even if both Bakhmut and Soledar fall to the Russians, it's not going to have a strategic impact on the war itself," US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House, "and it certainly isn't going to stop the Ukrainians or slow them down".

If Russia captured Soledar, it would likely use that position to intensify its assault on Bakhmut. Soledar is also home to cavernous salt mines, which could be a commercially lucrative asset.

23:00 GMT - Ukrainians holding on in Soledar: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian forces in Soledar are holding their positions and inflicting significant losses on Russian forces, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

Zelenskyy thanked two Ukrainian units in Soledar, which he said "are holding their positions and inflicting significant losses on the enemy."

He did not give more details. The mercenary group Wagner, run by an ally of Putin, claims to have taken Soledar after intense fighting that it said had left the town strewn with Ukrainian dead.

TRT World is unable to verify on-ground fighting reports independently.

Russian capture of Bakhmut might inflict a psychological blow to Ukraine, but not taking it might lead to even more grave consequences for Moscow’s standing, according to experts.
Russian capture of Bakhmut might inflict a psychological blow to Ukraine, but not taking it might lead to even more grave consequences for Moscow’s standing, according to experts. (Elif Cansın Senol / TRTWorld)

22:30 GMT - Wagner Group's activities intolerable: US envoy 

A senior US envoy has expressed strong concern about the activities of the Wagner Group and its alleged attempts to recruit soldiers in Serbia and elsewhere in the world.

The group has claimed control of Ukraine's Soledar town, saying it killed hundreds of Ukrainian troops there, a claim Kiev rejected.

US State Department Counselor Derek Chollet said he voiced these concerns during talks in Belgrade with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

"We have seen that the Wagner Group is seeking to recruit soldiers from Serbia and elsewhere and that's something we think cannot stand," he told reporters after the meeting.

For live updates from Thursday (January 12), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies