Western allies pledge billions of dollars in weapons for Kiev and some promise to send tanks but Berlin gives no sign of lifting veto on deliveries it fears would provoke Moscow, as fighting rages on day 331.

"In the direction of Zaporizhzhia, the intensity of military activity has sharply increased," Russian official Vladimir Rogov said on the Telegram social media platform. (Reuters)

Friday, January 20, 2023

1515 GMT – Fighting in south Ukraine 'sharply' increases – Russian official

Fighting has "sharply increased" in the southern Ukraine region of Zaporizhzhia, where the front has been largely stagnant for months, a senior Moscow-installed official there said.

"In the direction of Zaporizhzhia, the intensity of military activity has sharply increased," the official, Vladimir Rogov, said on the Telegram social media platform.

Here are the other developments: 

1512 GMT – Turkish president condoles with Ukrainian leader over deadly helicopter crash

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan extended his condolences to Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy over Wednesday's helicopter crash, which killed 17 people, including the country's interior minister.

In a phone call, Erdogan and Zelenskyy addressed the latest developments in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, Türkiye's Communications Directorate said in a statement.

Erdogan reiterated that Türkiye is ready to provide "strong diplomatic support" for the establishment of a lasting peace between Russia and Ukraine and "facilitate and mediate" it, according to the statement.

1435 GMT — Germany says no decision yet on delivering Leopard tanks to Ukraine 

Germany and its allies discussed sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine but no decision was made during the Ramstein meeting, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said.

“We cannot say today when a decision will be taken on Leopard tanks, and what this decision will be,” he told reporters after the morning session of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Pistorius stressed that due to the possible repercussions of such a bold move, the allies should carefully analyse the benefits and risks of it in the coming days before reaching a final decision on the issue.

1430 GMT — UK joins alliance to hold Russia accountable for war in Ukraine

The British government says London will play a leading role in a core group of like-minded partners to pursue criminal accountability for the Russian attack on Ukraine, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly announced.

A written statement released by the Foreign Office said along with other countries invited by Ukraine, the group will assess the feasibility of a new “hybrid” tribunal, a specialized court integrated into Ukraine’s national justice system with international elements.

The UK encourages other Group of Seven partners to join the core group.

1352 GMT — UK vows to aid Ukraine's bid for 'criminal accountability' over war

The UK vowed to help Ukraine "pursue criminal accountability" for Russia's illegal attack, as international support grows for a special tribunal to prosecute Russian leaders.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly branded Moscow's renewed military assault on its neighbour, launched last February, "an outrageous violation of the rules-based international order".

He said London had accepted an invitation from Kiev to join "a core group of like-minded partners" seeking legal accountability, with a new "hybrid" tribunal among the potential options to be assessed.

1247 GMT — Ukraine pleads for tanks to 'stop evil' at US-led donor meeting

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Western allies to deliver tanks to Ukraine at a key defence conference in Germany, although the Kremlin denied the weapons would change anything on the battlefield.

Addressing the US-hosted donor meeting at the Ramstein Air Base, Zelenskyy implored Western allies to "speed up" arms deliveries in the face of the Russian onslaught.

Partners needed "not to bargain about different numbers of tanks but to open that principal supply that will stop evil", the Ukrainian leader said via video-link.

1055 GMT — Need to focus on ammunition, maintaining weapons to Ukraine- NATO chief

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that countries backing Ukraine needed to focus not only on sending new weapons to Kyiv, but looking at ammunition for older systems and helping maintain them. 

NATO and defence leaders from about 50 countries are meeting at Ramstein Air Base, the latest arms-pledging conference since Russia attacked Ukraine nearly 11 months ago.

"We need also to remember that we need to not only focus on new platforms but also to ensure that all the platforms which are already there can function as they should," Stoltenberg told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting.

1044 GMT — Ukraine says detained seven 'Russian agents'

Ukraine said it had detained seven people suspected of handing coordinates to Russian forces for strikes in the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region, where dozens of civilians were recently killed in a missile attack.

The SBU security service said in a statement it had carried out a multi-stage operation to expose an active network of Russia's military intelligence and that as a result "seven Russian agents" were detained.

"The detainees gave the Russians the coordinates of critical infrastructure facilities, including energy enterprises," their statement said, without specifying whether those detained were Russian or Ukrainian.

1000 GMT – West has 'dramatic delusion' that Ukraine can win - Russia

The West has a "dramatic delusion" that Ukraine can win on the battlefield against Russia, the Kremlin said, as Kiev's allies gather in Germany to discuss support for Ukraine.

"We see an adherence to the dramatic delusion about the possibility of Ukraine having success on the battlefield," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, referring to Western countries, adding that the conflict was "developing in an upward spiral."

Western countries supplying additional tanks to Ukraine would not change the course of the conflict and that would add to the problems of the Ukrainian people, he added.

0940 GMT — Allies need to 'dig deeper' at 'decisive' time for Ukraine: US

Western allies need to "dig even deeper" to support Ukraine with military aid at a crucial time in its battle against Russia, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told a major donor meeting.

"We need to dig even deeper. This is a decisive moment for Ukraine," Austin said at the talks at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany. "The Ukrainian people are watching us, the Kremlin is watching us, and history is watching us," he said.

0630 GMT — Western allies to discuss future military aid for Ukraine

Representatives from 50 countries are set to gather in Germany to discuss support for the next stage of Ukraine's war with Russia, one day after the United States and European allies announced substantial new arms shipments.

The Pentagon released earlier a long list of $2.5 billion worth of supplies for Ukrainian forces. Britain also announced it would send 600 Brimstone missiles, Denmark said it would donate 19 French-made Caesar howitzers, and Sweden promised its Archer artillery system.

The arms announcements came as defence and other officials from some 50 countries, including all 30 NATO members, prepared to meet in Ramstein, Germany to discuss what further support they could offer the war-torn country. 

0630 GMT — Poland ready for 'non-standard' action if Germany opposes tank transfer - deputy FM

Poland is ready to take "non-standard" action if Germany opposes sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski told private radio RMF FM.

Asked whether sending tanks to Ukraine would be possible even with Germany opposition, Jablonski said, "I think that if there is strong resistance, we will be ready to take even such non-standard action ... but let's not anticipate the facts." 

0030 GMT — CIA director visits Kiev, meets with Ukraine's Zelenskyy

CIA Director William Burns visited Kiev last week to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a US official said, in the latest example of high-level contacts between the US and Ukraine.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the director's classified schedule, said Burns emphasised Washington's "continued support for Ukraine" in the war. Burns also met with Ukrainian intelligence officials.

The CIA director has briefed Zelenskyy repeatedly before and since Russia launched its offensive on Ukraine last February, passing on US intelligence findings about Moscow's war plans and intentions. 

2300 GMT — Bradley, Stryker among new US weaponry for Kiev

The United States has announced a massive new package of arms and munitions for Ukraine as the country prepares for a new stage of war against Russia.

The package does not feature battle tanks requested by Kiev, but includes 59 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, 90 Stryker Armoured Personnel Carriers, Avenger air defence systems, large and small munitions, according to a Pentagon statement.

The 59 Bradley IFVs included in this package, together with the 50 Bradleys previously committed on January 6, and the 90 Stryker APCs will provide Ukraine with two brigades of armoured capability

Pentagon statement

The United States has said it is reluctant to provide its Abrams tanks to Ukraine due to difficulties with maintenance and training.

2149 GMT — Zelenskyy expects powerful Western military support

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Ukraine is waiting for a "decision from one European capital that will activate the prepared chains of cooperation on tanks."

"I believe that the strength of German leadership will remain unchanged," said Zelenskyy in his new video-address, while also thanking the European Council President Charles Michel "who very clearly calls on Europe to make a decision on tanks."

"I am grateful to Estonia for another — and the largest — package of military assistance from this country. For howitzers and ammunition, I thank Sweden for a new military package. For the NLAW, Archers and APCs, I am grateful to Denmark for the decision to purchase Caesars for our soldiers," he said.

I thank Lithuania for the new military package. For anti-aircraft guns, ammunition and helicopters. And as we prepare for tomorrow's Ramstein (regular coordination meeting of Ukraine's Western allies at the United States' Ramstein Air Base in Germany), we expect strong decisions

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

2100 GMT — US throws its weight behind Crimea mission

The Pentagon has said that the US would continue to support Ukraine in the event of a potential operation by Kiev to take back Crimea.

"This department has said that we will be with Ukraine for as long as it takes. That includes an operation in Crimea," said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh at a press conference.

"The Ukrainians make the decisions about their operations and when they conduct them. Crimea is a part of Ukraine.

"We've made that very clear from the beginning. If they decide to conduct an operation within Crimea, they're well in their bounds. That is a sovereign part of their country that was illegally invaded by Russia in 2014," said Singh.

For live updates from Thursday (January 19), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies