Zelensky says invasion won’t escalate to World War 3; Russia puts hardened Wagner units near Soledar

Zelensky says invasion won’t escalate to World War 3; Russia puts hardened Wagner units near Soledar
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a press conference on 11 January 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Mykola Tys)

Ukraine will stop Russian aggression and the conflict won’t turn into World War 3, president Volodymyr Zelensky said as his forces battled to keep control of Soledar and Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region. 

The Kremlin had positioned the most experienced units from the Wagner military-contracting company near Soledar, according to Ukrainian operational command spokesman Serhiy Cherevatyi.

The Pentagon said 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers will arrive at a US Army base in Oklahoma for training starting next week on operating and maintaining the Patriot air defence system that Washington is providing.

Key developments

On the ground

Russian troops have not taken control of Soledar despite their claims that the town in the Donetsk region has fallen, analysts at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said in a report. 

Even if Soledar were to be captured, that would not portend an immediate encirclement of Bakhmut, the nearby strategically important city, it added. 

Ukraine’s General Staff said on Facebook that Russia has taken heavy losses in their offensive. Ukraine launched 13 airstrikes on Russian strongholds and shot down a Russian Ka-52 helicopter and two reconnaissance drones over the past 24-hour period, the General Staff added. 



Russia appoints new commander of forces in Ukraine

Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu appointed Valery Gerasimov, the current chief of the general staff, as head of the nation’s combined forces in Ukraine, Interfax reported, citing a ministry statement. 

Sergei Surovikin, who commanded the Russian army in the annexed regions of Ukraine, will become one of his deputies.

The changes in the leadership of the Russian forces in Ukraine are due to the “expanded scale” of the mission, as well as the need for closer cooperation between different parts of the army, according to the statement.

Ukraine to produce 82mm artillery shells abroad: Ukroboronprom 

Ukrainian state-run military-industrial concern Ukroboronprom will produce artillery shells abroad using the capacities of one of Nato’s member countries, according to its website. Serial production of an upgraded version of 82mm shells has been launched.

Poland offers Ukraine ‘company’ of Leopard tanks

Poland decided to provide Ukraine with “a company” of Leopard 2 tanks that will become part of delivery from wider coalition of countries, Polish president Andrzej Duda said at a meeting with Ukrainian and Lithuanian counterparts in Lviv, west Ukraine. 

Poland is in talks with partners regarding supplies of tanks, and wants more Nato members to understand the importance of such support in the current phase of the war, Duda said.

Ukraine needs a joint solution from its partners on supplies of modern tanks as no single country will be able to supply enough to resist Russia’s aggression, Zelensky said at the same briefing. 

“We fight for common values, so we need joint help.”

Zelensky meets officials in Lviv 

The Ukrainian president discussed the Ukrainian–Belarusian border and the Rivne nuclear power plant, according to a statement on his website. 

“We don’t see anything powerful there, but we have to be ready both at the border and in the regions near Belarus,” Zelensky said. 

He also honoured the memory of Ukrainian soldiers who died in battles with Russian forces.

Kherson shelled 1,200 times since November; 65 dead

The southern city has come under permanent Russian shelling since November, when it was liberated by the Ukrainian Army, with attacks launched from the still-occupied right bank of the Dnipro river, city military administration head Halyna Luhova said in an online briefing. 

The strikes since 20 November have destroyed critical infrastructure, educational institutions and hospitals, as well as hundreds of residences, according to Luhova. 

So far, 65 people have been killed, including a child, she said. 

One of the city districts remains without heating, as it is impossible to repair the local electricity substation due to bombarding, shelling and snipers.

Battles continue for Soledar in Donetsk region, Russia says 

Russian troops are still fighting to retake Soledar in the Donetsk region, the Defence Ministry in Moscow said after a Kremlin-backed mercenary group said its forces had conquered the town.

Ukrainian officials said their defenders are holding on in Soledar, which has been largely destroyed by weeks of intense fighting.

If the Russians were to succeed in taking the town, it would mark a rare victory after months of setbacks in the face of Ukraine’s counteroffensive. Still, Soledar’s strategic value is limited and Russia hasn’t been able to capture Bakhmut, the much larger neighbouring town, despite months of efforts.

Italy ready to send more weapons to Ukraine 

Italy would do so “to reach a fair peace”, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said in an interview with Radio Capital, adding that parliament “would need to be informed first.”

The country has already sent 50 tons of electric material to rebuild Ukrainian electricity networks that were destroyed in Russian raids, Tajani said. 

Russian mercenaries say they took Soledar; Ukraine denies claim

Founder of Russian military-contracting company Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, claimed in a video published early Wednesday that his forces had taken Soledar in Donetsk region and surrounded a group of Ukrainian troops there.

The claims are “not true”, Suspilne News cited Ukraine military spokesman Serhiy Cherevatyi as saying. 

EU, Nato set up task force to shield critical infrastructure 

Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, and Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of Nato, said the EU and the military alliance were starting Wednesday a joint task force to protect critical infrastructure.

Experts from both organisations “will work hand-in-hand to identify key threats to our critical infrastructure” and focus initially on the transport, energy, digital and space sectors, Von der Leyen told reporters. 

“We want to look together at how to make our critical infrastructure technology and supply chains more resilient to potential threats,” Stoltenberg said.



Bad weather holds up Ukraine crop exports and inspections

No crop-laden vessels departed Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Tuesday or Monday due to unfavourable weather, according to emailed updates from the Joint Coordination Centre, which facilitates the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Zelensky addressed Golden Globes awards ceremony 

The tide is turning in the war even though it is still not over, Zelensky said in a video address at the Golden Globes Awards ceremony.

There will be no Third World War as Ukraine is going to stop Russian aggression in its territory, according to Zelensky. 

“It is not a trilogy”, he said.

US says it’s working with EU, Ukraine to prevent weapons diversion

The US is working with the European Union and Ukraine to prevent the weapons pouring into Ukraine from being diverted into the international arms market, a State Department official told reporters.

While the US focuses its efforts on protecting portable and high-tech weapons, the EU is concentrating on small arms and light weapons, said the official, who briefed on condition of anonymity.

The official dismissed reports of large-scale diversions of western military equipment as Russian disinformation, and said the US isn’t aware of any credible reports of weapons shipments going astray. DM


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