US President Joe Biden's announcement to send 31 US-made M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine follows Germany's decision to supply Kiev with Leopard 2 tanks amid Moscow's objections, as fighting rages on day 336.

Bidens says the weapons will
Bidens says the weapons will "enhance" Ukraine's "capacity to defend its territory and achieve its strategic objectives." (Reuters)

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

1740 GMT

US President Joe Biden has formally announced his decision to send 31 US-made M1 Abrams tanks in response to Kiev's appeals.

Biden said the weapons will "enhance" Ukraine's "capacity to defend its territory and achieve its strategic objectives."

Biden's announcement comes as Germany said that it will supply Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks.

Training Ukrainian troops to use, maintain and supply the tanks will begin "as soon as possible," said the president, noting that deliveries of the advanced weapons system "is going to take time."

A senior administration official who briefed reporters earlier on the matter said the tanks will be delivered in a matter of months, rather than weeks, but did not have a firm timeline.

Here are the other updates:

1601 GMT - Slovakia ready to send tanks to Ukraine

Slovakia is ready to send 30 T-72 tanks to Ukraine "immediately" provided it can receive Western tanks to replace them, Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad has said.

Nad told an online media briefing in Ukraine's Odessa that Slovakia had sent 30 Soviet-era BVP-1 infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine last year after agreeing that Germany would deliver 15 Leopard 2 tanks to Slovakia to take their place.

"We still have 30 T-72 tanks and would be ready to send them immediately to Ukraine, even tomorrow, if there would be an option to receive Western tanks - Leopards or any other in exchange," Nad said.

1538 GMT - Ukraine's Odessa put on UNESCO heritage in danger list

The United Nations' cultural agency has decided to add the historic centre of Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odessa to its list of endangered World Heritage sites.

The decision was made at a session of the World Heritage Committee in Paris.

Read more here:

1527 GMT - Panel seeks to allow re-exports of Swiss weaponry to Ukraine

A parliamentary panel in Switzerland has recommended waiving a law that bars countries from re-exporting Swiss armoured vehicles, weapons and other war materiel to Ukraine for its defence against Russia, insisting the move would not violate the country's much-vaunted neutrality.

The Security Policy Committee of the lower house of Switzerland's parliament voted 14-11 on Tuesday to allow an re-export exception for cases involving a use of force that violates international law — notably, Russia's offensive in Ukraine.

Adherence to the concept of “neutrality” is enshrined in the Swiss constitution. The National Council committee's vote amounts to only a small first step, and it remains far from certain whether the government would authorise such a waiver.

1525 GMT - France studying whether to send tanks to Ukraine

France continues to study the possibility of sending its heavy Leclerc tanks to Ukraine, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has said.

The French tanks are comparable to the German-made Leopards, but are available in far smaller numbers and would pose different maintenance and logistical challenges.

"Regarding the Leclerc tanks, we are continuing our analysis with the armed forces ministry," Borne told parliament. "The issue of assistance for Ukraine is not limited to this or that weapon."

France has provided its state-of-the-art Caesar artillery system, Crotale air defence system and most recently pledged its highly mobile AMX-10 RC light tank among other weapons.

1518 GMT - Self-proclaimed Russian 'hacktivists' knock German websites offline

Russian activist hackers have knocked several German websites offline in response to Berlin's decision to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, although Germany's BSI cyber agency said the digital blitz had little tangible effect.

Hacking group Killnet said it was targeting government websites, banks and airports with a coordinated distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) campaign, a relatively unsophisticated attack which works by directing high volumes of internet traffic towards targeted servers in order to knock them offline.

"Currently, some websites are not accessible. There are currently no indications of direct effects on the respective service and, according to the BSI's assessment, these are not to be expected if the usual protective measures are taken," the BSI said in a statement.

Some financial sector targets had also been affected, the statement added.

Killnet is a self-proclaimed Russian "hacktivist" group that has actively targeted opponents of Russia's offensive in Ukraine.  According to Anadolu Agency, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refuted reports that the hacker group is of Russian origin.

1517GMT - Germany eyes air defence support for Ukraine

Germany plans to send further military support to Ukraine beyond the delivery of 14 Leopard 2 battle tanks, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said. 

"Alongside the tanks that are being discussed now, we continue to intend to expand what we have delivered," Scholz said at a press conference in Berlin with the Icelandic prime minister.

As possible future arms deliveries, he listed for example air defence systems, heavy artillery and multiple rocket launchers.

1510 GMT - European court rules Ukraine cases against Russia admissible

Europe's top human rights court has ruled that it can adjudicate on cases brought by the Netherlands and Ukraine against Russia for alleged rights violations in eastern Ukraine in 2014, including the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

The ruling by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights marks significant progress in efforts by the Netherlands and Ukraine to hold Russia legally accountable for its actions in Ukraine and could pave the way for compensation orders.

The court said a judgment on the merits of the cases will follow at a later date.

The cases were filed before Moscow launched its full-scale war with Ukraine nearly a year ago.

1456 - Ukraine forces pull back from Donbass town after onslaught

Ukrainian forces have conducted an organised retreat from a town in the eastern region of the Donbass, an official has said, in what amounted to a rare but modest battlefield triumph for Russia after a series of setbacks in its attack.

The Ukrainian army retreated from the salt mining town of Soledar to “preserve the lives of personnel,” Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s forces in the east, told The Associated Press.

The soldiers pulled back to previously prepared defensive positions, he said. Russia claimed almost two weeks ago that its forces had taken Soledar, but Ukraine denied it.

1453 GMT - Kremlin says 'no prospects' for resumption of peace talks

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said that there are no prospects for the resumption of Russia-Ukraine peace talks.

Speaking at a press briefing in Moscow, Peskov said long discussions may be held about what may prompt the sides to get back to the negotiating table, but that it is not his area of expertise.

"Right now we can only state that the prospects for stepping on a diplomatic path are not visible at present," he stressed.

1358 GMT - Cost of war damage in Ukraine near $138B: Official

The total amount of damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure during the ongoing war with Russia has increased to almost $138 billion, an official has said. 

“As of December, 149,300 residential buildings were damaged or destroyed,” First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzheppar wrote on Twitter, citing research by the Kiev School of Economics.

Russia has deprived “hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian families” of their homes, she added. The research showed housing and infrastructure – $54 billion and $35.6 billion, respectively – account for most of the total of $137.8 billion.

1357GMT - Russia's oldest human rights group shut down by court

Russia's oldest human rights organisation, the Moscow Helsinki Group, has been liquidated after a court ruled it did not have the correct registration, the latest in a series of closures that critics say is reminiscent of the Soviet era.

Founded in 1976 by Soviet dissident scientists, the group produced annual reports on Russia's human rights situation and was one of the country's few remaining independent rights organisations after the closure of Nobel Prize-winner Memorial in 2021.

Russia's Justice Ministry filed a lawsuit against it in December, arguing that the group was only registered to defend human rights in Moscow - not other parts of the country - an argument that the group called nonsensical.

In an emotional plea to the court on Wednesday, co-chair of the group Valery Borshov told the judge and representatives from the Justice Ministry that liquidating the group would put an end to decades of work by activists.

1324 GMT - Germany wants to avoid possible NATO-Russia war: Chancellor

Germany will do anything necessary to support Ukraine, but at the same time, wants to avoid a possible war between Russia and NATO, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said. 

During a question and answer session in the parliament, Scholz defended his government’s decision to send heavy weapons and Leopards to Ukraine, but also underlined that Berlin does not want further escalation with Russia.

“These are all measures helping Ukraine defend itself and all these decisions were made in close co-operation and agreement with our allies,” he said, adding that it would be “a terrible mistake” to take unilateral decisions on this issue.

Scholz ruled out sending warplanes or deploying German ground troops in Ukraine, warning that this can lead to a military conflict between Russia and NATO.

1320 GMT - NATO foreign ministers to meet in Norway this May

Norway will host the next informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers, an official statement has said. 

The extraordinary meeting will be held in the capital Oslo from May 31 to June 1, with the announcement coinciding with Germany’s landmark announcement that it would send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.

"This will be an important opportunity for ministers to address the fundamentally changed security situation due to Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, and our unwavering support for the Ukrainian people so that they can prevail," NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

1300 GMT - Russian envoy slams Germany's decision to send tanks to Ukraine

Germany's decision to send Kiev Leopard 2 tanks takes the war in Ukraine to a new level, the Russian ambassador to Berlin has said. 

"This extremely dangerous decision takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation and contradicts the statements of German politicians about Germany's unwillingness to get involved in it," Sergey Nechayev said in a statement, published on the embassy's website.

His remarks came soon after Germany announced on Wednesday that it would send 14 Leopard 2A6 battle tanks to Ukraine and allow its allies to export them to do the same.

1255 GMT - 6 European countries to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine

With Ukraine pressing for a beefed-up capacity to repel Russian forces, so far six European countries have given the green light to support Ukraine with Leopard 2 battle tanks.

Following Germany's approval to send the tanks, which was welcomed by European countries, the focus now falls on countries that already voiced their intention to send the tanks to Ukraine, despite warnings by Russia.

Along with Berlin, Norway, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, and Poland also announced that they would support Kiev by sending the German-made tanks.

1243 GMT - Germany approves Leopard 2 tanks deliveries to Ukraine

Berlin has agreed to deliver German-made Leopard tanks to help Ukraine repel Russia's offensive, a decision hailed by Kiev and its allies but slammed by Moscow as "extremely dangerous". 

"The first step on tanks has been taken," said Kiev, urging its allies to now build a "tank coalition".

Germany will provide a company of 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its Bundeswehr stocks, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.

It is also granting approval for other European countries to send tanks from their own stocks to Ukraine, with the aim of quickly assembling "two tank battalions with Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine," he said.

Pressure has been building for weeks on Scholz's government's hesitation to send the tanks and allow other NATO allies to do the same ahead of expected spring offensives by both sides that could help turn the tide of the fight.

Read more here.

0820 GMT - Former Ukrainian official under house arrest

A former deputy minister in Ukraine has been placed under house arrest amid a report by the country's anti-corruption office that found the official had illegally accepted $400,000.

Ukraine's high anti-corruption court has placed Vasyl Lozynsky, who served as former deputy minister for the development of communities, territories and infrastructure, under house arrest until March 22, 2023, according to state news agency Ukrinform.

The report also said that the specialised anti-graft prosecutor in the case had earlier filed a petition with the court asking that Lozynsky be taken into custody with the possibility of bail amounting to 50 million Ukrainian hryvnia ($1.3 million).

0652 GMT - NATO chief calls allies to raise defence spending cap

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expects the alliance's member states to raise their current spending target on defence of 2 percent of national output when they meet for a summit in Vilnius in July, he told German newspaper Die Welt.

"The two percent target was initially for a decade, so until 2024, so we have to update it now."

Stoltenberg said he could not yet say what the member states would agree on, but many allies have increased their military spending since the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. 

0601 GMT - Norway mulls sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine 

The Norwegian government is considering whether to send some of its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Oslo-based newspapers Aftenposten and Dagens Naeringsliv have reported.

NATO member Norway, which itself borders Russia, may contribute either four or eight of the country's 36 Leopard 2 tanks, according to Dagens Naeringsliv.

No decision to send the heavy battle tanks has yet been made, according to each of the papers, quoting anonymous sources familiar with the deliberation.

0302 GMT -  IAEA conducts inspection at Ukraine nuclear plants

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has rejected claims by Russia that Ukraine stores arms at Ukrainian nuclear power plants.

"This morning, I instructed my teams to address a comprehensive review of the facilities in collaboration and in co-operation with the Ukrainian management of these facilities to ascertain whether there is, in fact, any military equipment in-store or stationed or being moved there. And, of course, the results of those inspections were negative,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said.

He also repeated concerns about the security situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is currently under Russian control, due to ongoing battles in areas close to the plant.

2200 GMT - Zelenskyy seeks modern tanks amid fighting

Zelenskyy has said that Kiev needs decisions on real deliveries of modern tanks that would strengthen the country's defence.

"Discussions must be concluded with decisions," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

"Decisions on real strengthening of our defence against 'terrorists'. Allies have the required number of tanks. When the needed weighty decisions are made, we will be happy to thank you for each weighty decision."

While Berlin and Washington have not officially confirmed the news, sources say Germany will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries to do the same, while the United States may supply Abrams tanks.

For live updates from Tuesday (January 24), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies