While European countries bicker over sending Kiev Leopard 2 tanks, reports of a fresh scandal in Ukraine, which has a long history of shaky governance, come to light, as the fighting rolls into day 335.

US officials said on Tuesday that the Biden administration is poised to approve sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, while Germany said it will encourage its allies to start sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
US officials said on Tuesday that the Biden administration is poised to approve sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, while Germany said it will encourage its allies to start sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. (Reuters Archive)

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

1848 GMT

In what would be a reversal, the Biden administration is poised to approve sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, US officials have said, as international reluctance to send tanks to the battlefront against the Russians begins to erode.

The decision could be announced as soon as Wednesday.

One US official said the tanks would be bought under an upcoming Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative package, which provides longer-range funding for weapons and equipment to be purchased from commercial vendors.

Here are the other developments:

1844 GMT Germany to provide Ukraine with Leopard tanks: reports

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has decided to send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries such as Poland to do so, according to several reports.

A government spokesperson, the foreign ministry and the defence ministry declined to comment.

The decision concerns at least one company of Leopard 2 A6 tanks that will be provided out of Bundeswehr stocks, said Spiegel magazine, which first reported the news.

Other allies, in Scandinavia for example, intend to go along with Germany in supplying their Leopard tanks to Kiev, the magazine reported.

1841 GMT - Russian athletes should not be allowed at Paris Olympics: Zelenskyy

Russian athletes should have "no place" at the 2024 Paris Olympics, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told French counterpart Emmanuel Macron as his country marked 11 months of war.

"I particularly emphasised that athletes from Russia should have no place at the Olympic Games in Paris," Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram following a telephone call with Macron.

1756 GMT - US says some Chinese companies helping Russia's Ukraine effort

The United States has determined that some Chinese companies are providing non-lethal assistance to Russia for use in the Ukraine war and officials are noting their concern to the Chinese government, a source familiar with the matter has said.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters, said: "What we're seeing is non-lethal military assistance and economic support that stops short of wholesale sanctions evasion."

The United States has warned the Chinese government of consequences should China provide weaponry to Russia for use against Ukraine.

1744 GMT - 25 killed in Russia border region since Ukraine assault: governor

Twenty-five people have been killed and more than 90 injured in Russia's border region of Belgorod since the start of Moscow's assault on Ukraine, the region's governor has told President Vladimir Putin.

"Ukraine, the enemy, is targeting peaceful settlements. There are 25 dead, 96 people were wounded," governor Vyacheslav Gladkov told Putin in televised remarks.

This is the first time Russian officials have announced an official death toll for a Russian region since the start of Moscow's offensive in Ukraine.

1735 GMT -Wagner chief asks Russian parliament to ban negative media reports

The founder of Russia's Wagner mercenary group fighting in Ukraine has asked parliament to ban negative media reports about his men by amending the criminal code to make "discrediting" his fighters punishable by up to five years in jail.

Yevgeny Prigozhin made the request in a letter sent to Vycheslav Volodin, the chairman of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament. Prigozhin's press service published the letter on Tuesday.

Volodin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, is already advocating amending the criminal code to allow the authorities to confiscate the property and assets of Russians living abroad who publicly insult Russia and its armed forces.

1700 GMT - Putin says Russia's anti-air defences among world's best

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia's anti-aircraft defences were among the world's best during a televised meeting with the governor of Belgorod region.

Belgorod is on the Ukrainian border and is regularly shelled by Kiev's forces.

1634 GMT - Finland underscores training strength in Ukraine tank talks

Finland's president has suggested the Nordic nation could offer its training capabilities to prospective tank units as European countries mull supplying Ukraine with powerful Leopard tanks.

"We are the few countries in Europe which still have conscripts. That means our training system is very developed," Sauli Niinisto said in a press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during a surprise visit to Kiev.

"They take in every year newcomers, train them and we have very experienced training and premises for trainees," he added.

1418 GMT - Polish premier refutes Ukraine partition claims

Poland's prime minister has slammed claims by a former foreign minister that the government had considered an agreement to partition Ukraine in the early days of its war with Russia.

"The former foreign minister must weigh his words. I expect these shameful statements to be withdrawn. I call on the opposition to dissociate themselves from Radoslaw Sikorski's declarations," premier Mateusz Morawiecki said on social media, referring to the comments by Radoslaw Sikorski

Sikorski on Tuesday was obliged to explain the comments he made on Monday that the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party had a "moment of hesitation" on the partition of Ukraine in the first days of the war in February 2022.

1400GMT - Ukraine has enough energy reserves to see out winter: PM

Ukraine has enough coal and gas reserves for the remaining months of winter despite repeated Russian attacks on its energy system, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has said.

Shmyhal said the situation in the energy sector remained difficult but under control after a months-long Russian campaign of drone and missile strikes on critical infrastructure that damaged about 40 percent of the energy system.

"For now all Russia's attempts to plunge Ukraine into darkness have failed," Shmyhal told a government meeting.

1318 GMT - Russia should be forced to make concessions: Kiev's top diplomat

Kiev’s partners should force Russia, not Ukraine, to make concessions towards a resolution to end the 11-month-old war, Ukraine’s top diplomat has said.

This is one of the lessons that needs to be drawn from the failure of the 2014 Minsk Protocol to solve the longstanding conflict in eastern Ukraine, shown by the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine last February, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote in a piece for the website Politico.

Among other lessons outlined by Kuleba include not postponing solving territorial problems and asserting that Russia does not negotiate “in good faith” or “reciprocate with constructive language and policy.”

One of the gravest mistakes of the Minsk dialogue was “to allow Russia to believe that the issue of Crimea was off the table,” he added, referring to the Ukrainian Peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

1314 GMT - Russia's Medvedev says Moscow has enough weapons

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has hit back at Western reports that Russia is running low on missiles and artillery, saying Moscow's weapons stocks were enough to continue fighting in Ukraine.

"Our opponents are watching, they periodically make statements that we don't have this or that... I want to disappoint them. We have enough of everything," Medvedev said during a visit to a Kalashnikov factory in Izhevsk, around 1,000 kilometres east of Moscow.

Medvedev also told officials during the visit that drones were in especially high demand for what Moscow calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

1241GMT - More EU sanctions should hit Russian arms production: Czech FM

The European Union should introduce more sanctions against Russia's technology sector to curb Moscow's ability to produce arms and rockets it is using to wage war on Ukraine, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky has told Reuters news agency.

He spoke after EU member states' foreign ministers agreed to allocate another $542 million in military aid for Ukraine, as well as discussing more sanctions against Russia and how to hold the Kremlin accountable for starting the war.

"We need to be looking for new and creative ways of how to make our sanctions stronger... how to decrease (Russia's) ability to produce weapons, rockets used for shelling Ukraine's critical infrastructure," said Lipavsky.

1157 GMT - Start training Ukrainians to use Leopard tanks, Germany says

Germany has said that allies could start training Ukrainian forces to use the Leopard battle tanks desperately sought by Kiev to repel Russian troops, provoking a defiant response from the Kremlin.

Berlin stopped short of granting permission for the tanks to be sent to Ukraine, but underscored that the pending decision was imminent.

Poland sought to push Germany to speed up its decision with Warsaw putting forward a formal application for the transfer of the German-made armament from its stocks to Ukraine.

1143 GMT - Ukraine officials quit in corruption probe

Five regional governors and four deputy ministers are stepping down in Ukraine against the backdrop of several corruption scandals, a senior official has said.

They include the heads of the central Dnipropetrovsk region, the northeastern Sumy region, the southern Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, as well as the region surrounding the capital Kiev, according to Oleg Nemchinov, a senior government official.

Nemchinov also announced the dismissal of a deputy defence minister, two deputy ministers of development of communities and territories, and a deputy minister of social policy.

1037 GMT - Poland formally requests Germany's consent to send tanks to Ukraine

Poland has formally requested Germany's permission to send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, the country's defense minister has said. 

"The Germans have already received our request for consent to the transfer of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine," Mariusz Blaszczak said on Twitter. "I also appeal to the German side to join the coalition of countries supporting Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks."

"This is our common cause, because it is about the security of the whole of Europe" he stressed.

1034 GMT - Belarus say Ukraine proposed a non-aggression pact with Minsk

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said Ukraine had proposed a non-aggression pact with his country, the Belta state news agency reported.

Lukashenko was cited as disclosing the alleged offer to a meeting of government and law enforcement officials at which he also accused the West of arming fighters in Ukraine who could potentially destabilise the situation in Belarus.

1000 GMT - 'Nothing good' would come of German tanks in Ukraine: Kremlin

"These deliveries would bring nothing good to the future relationship" between Berlin and Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in his daily briefing, adding: "They will leave a lasting mark."

0915 GMT - NATO calls on Germany, allies to supply Ukraine with tanks

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said he expects a decision "soon" on sending German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

"We must provide heavier and more advanced systems to Ukraine, and we must do it faster," Stoltenberg said during a visit to Berlin, adding that consultations among NATO allies are continuing.

The NATO chief also warned that Moscow has shown no signs of changing course. "The only way to lasting peace is to make it clear to Putin that he will not win on the battlefield," he said.

READ MORE: US, Germany bicker over tanks as Kiev desperately needs military aid

0835 GMT - Sites damaged in Ukraine

Ukraine’s state emergency service has posted to the Telegram messaging app that in the last day it attended 132 sites of damage caused by “the consequences of hostilities of the Russian Federation”. 

"During the day, units of the state emergency service carried out 132 trips to eliminate the consequences of shelling by the occupiers of populated areas and infrastructure facilities, 12 fires were extinguished. Assistance was provided to 74 persons".

The message added: “78,124 trips were made to eliminate the consequences of shelling, 13,794 fires were extinguished, 3,880 people were rescued”.

0830 GMT - EU: Sanctions, oil price cap 'big hit' for Russia

Economic sanctions and the price cap on Russian oil are “a big hit on Russia’s financial stability,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said.

“Today, Russian oil is being sold at $40 a barrel, while Brent is at $80. This means that the Russian oil is being sold at a discount of 50 percent, and it is being bought by mainly India and China,” Borrell said in a press briefing after the year’s first meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council.

He added that EU states have reached a political agreement for the seventh tranche of military support for Ukraine, with an additional $543 million (€500 million).

READ MORE: Ukrainian directors highlight Russian aggression at Sundance Film Festival

0800 GMT - Zelenskyy flags more changes after corruption probe

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said personnel changes were being carried out at senior and lower levels.

“There are already personnel decisions – some today, some tomorrow – regarding officials at various levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in the regions and in law enforcement,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Monday.

He did not identify the officials to be replaced and said part of the crackdown would involve toughening oversight on travelling abroad for official assignments.

A top ally of Zelenskyy said corrupt officials would be "actively" jailed, setting out a zero-tolerance approach.

0623 GMT - Deputy head of Ukraine's presidential office tenders resignation

Kyrylo Tymoshenko said he had asked President Zelenskyy to relieve him of his duties.

"I thank the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for the trust and the opportunity to do good deeds every day and every minute," Tymoshenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

0333 GMT – Hungary to oppose any EU nuclear sanctions against Russia

Hungary will not support any sanctions by the European Union that restrict Hungarian-Russian nuclear cooperation, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has said.

Szijjarto's remarks came at a meeting of the foreign ministers of EU countries in Brussels.

"We will not support any step, no matter how small, that restricts Hungarian-Russian nuclear cooperation,'' Szijjarto said of a new sanctions package planned by the EU against Russia.

He said sanctions harm the bloc more than they do Russia.

0135 GMT – Russia's new army plan considers NATO's expansion, Ukraine

Russia's Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov has said that the new plan on changes to the country's armed forces considers possible NATO expansion and the use of Ukraine against Russia.

"The plan is approved by the President of the Russian Federation (Vladimir Putin) and can be adjusted when existing and new threats to the military security of the Russian Federation change," Gerasimov told the news website Argumenty i Fakty.

"Today, such threats include the aspirations of the North Atlantic Alliance to expand to Finland and Sweden, as well as the use of Ukraine as a tool for waging a hybrid war against our country."

READ MORE: Russia's Wagner group denies recruiting Serbs for Ukraine fight

For live updates from Monday (January 23), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies