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UKRAINE UPDATE: 17 JANUARY 2023

Death toll rises from Dnipro missile strike; South Africa set to welcome Russian warships despite criticism

Death toll rises from Dnipro missile strike; South Africa set to welcome Russian warships despite criticism
Emergency workers search the remains of a residential building in in Dnipro, Ukraine, that was hit by a Russian missile on 15 January 2023. (Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

The death toll from a missile strike on a nine-storey apartment building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro climbed to 40 as Russian attacks spread to other cities.

‘There will be no impunity for these crimes,” the European Union’s top foreign policy official, Josep Borrell, said on Twitter, adding that the bloc would support Ukraine “for as long as it takes”. Ukraine’s air command said the missile strike on Dnipro was from a Russian long-range anti-ship missile. 

South Africa will next month go ahead with naval exercises off its eastern coast with Russian and Chinese warships in a decision that could further strain its relationship with some of the nation’s biggest trading partners.

German defence minister Christine Lambrecht resigned following days of speculation over her future, a blow to Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government as it weighs crucial decisions over arming Ukraine, including the delivery of Leopard 2 battle tanks. 

Key developments

On the ground

Russian troops launched two missile attacks and six aviation strikes on targets in Ukraine, and fired 20 salvos from multiple-launch rocket systems over the past 24 hours, according to Ukraine’s Military Staff. The attacks targeted the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, killing and wounding several civilians. 

Three children were among those killed in the Dnipro strike, while 75 people were injured, according to emergency services. About 34 remain unaccounted for. 

Russian missiles also struck the southern city of Zaporizhzhia and its suburbs overnight, hitting civilian, residential and industrial infrastructure, regional authorities said on Telegram.  

 

 

 

Germany proposes war crimes court changes

German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock proposed reforms to international law to make it easier to prosecute war crimes committed in Ukraine, including establishing a “Special Tribunal for Aggression” in The Hague that would be based on Ukrainian law and help strengthen the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) ability to act.

In a speech in the Dutch city, Baerbock also said that the so-called Rome Statute governing the ICC should be updated “so that aggression can be prosecuted in the same way as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes” and “it would be sufficient for only the victim state to fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction”. 

TotalEnergies wins dismissal of war crimes accusations in France

TotalEnergies won the dismissal of allegations that it aided Russian war crimes in Ukraine by indirectly supplying fuel used in Russian military aircraft.

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US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman visits Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s head of presidential staff, Andriy Yermak, met a US delegation led by deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman, according to his press service.

Volodymyr Kudrytsky, the CEO of Ukraine’s national grid operator Ukrenergo, military command and intelligence officers were present at the briefing, it said. They informed the US delegation about the situation on the frontlines and discussed support for rebuilding Ukraine’s energy system.

Russia keeps nearly 50 aircraft in Belarus, says border guard chief

Most Russian military jets and helicopters dispatched in Belarus are based in two airfields, one near Minsk and another in Baranovichi in central-western Belarus, the head of Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service, Serhiy Deyneko, said on Ukrainian television.

Russia relocated six Su-34 bombers and two multipurpose Su-30sm fighter jets to Belarus from Voronezh and Kursk on Sunday, according to Deyneko. So far, Ukraine doesn’t see any military activities in Belarus as part of air force drills announced for 16 to 31 January.

Russia has nearly 11,000 troops in Belarus, with some units moving out and others into the country, Deyneko said. Ukraine doesn’t observe any major build-up near its border in the north, he said.

Ex-Wagner military unit commander requests asylum in Norway

A former unit commander in Wagner, the Russian private military contractor, has asked for political asylum in Norway after fleeing across the land border from Russia late last week.

Andrey Medvedev said in a video posted by a Russian human rights activist that he escaped Russia because his life was in danger after he quit his command on the front line in Ukraine. He said he can testify about the extrajudicial killings of servicemen in Wagner who refused to fight. One of the members of his unit, made up of ex-inmates who volunteered in return for a promise of a pardon, was bludgeoned to death after he surrendered to Ukrainian forces and later fell back into Wagner’s hands.

Wagner, founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, was at the forefront of a military assault last week that Russia says succeeded in capturing the salt-mining town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine. The advance, Russia’s first in months, came at the cost of huge casualties.

South Africa set to welcome Russian warships despite criticism

South Africa will next month go ahead with naval exercises off its eastern coast with Russian and Chinese warships in a decision that could further strain its relationship with some of the nation’s biggest trading partners.

Operation Mosi, which means smoke, will take place from 17 to  26 February. South Africa’s reluctance to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its decision to allow sanctioned Russian vessels to dock at its ports have already ramped up tensions with the US, the UK and European Union. The country’s biggest opposition party questioned the wisdom of going ahead with the exercises. 

Up to six million Ukrainians remain without power daily

Some five to six million Ukrainians are going without power on a daily basis as a result of the widespread damage to the supply system from Russian missile and drone attacks, according to Maksim Tymchenko, the chief executive of DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private energy company.

“Ukraine will survive this winter, will become stronger and we will definitely win the war,” Tymchenko told the Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi. DTEK facilities have been hit by more than 170 rockets and drones since September 10, damaging more than 11,000 equipment units of DTEK thermal power plants, he said. 

Lambrecht departure creates conundrum for Scholz

The departure of Lambrecht (57) forces Scholz to reshuffle his Cabinet at a critical moment for German security. Pressure has mounted on his government to support Kyiv with more heavy combat weapons after allies Poland and Finland said they wanted to supply German-made Leopard tanks. 

Lambrecht was criticised for a New Year’s Eve video in which she said the war in Ukraine allowed her to meet “many interesting and excellent people”. A former deputy during Scholz’s time as finance minister, her qualifications for the job were widely questioned. In her first media interview as defence minister in December 2021, she said she struggled with the sequence of military ranks.

Poland wants prompt German approval for tank transfer

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki signalled that he expects Germany to offer approval soon to send Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine. Warsaw intends to deliver a “company” of German-made Leopard 2 tanks as part of a coordinated effort among allies. 

Any decision would require approval from Berlin. “We need to have consent” from Germany, Morawiecki told a news conference in Warsaw before departing for talks in Berlin. 

 

 

 

Ship traffic in Istanbul strait suspended after vessel runs aground

Turkey shut its vital Bosphorus Strait to shipping early on Monday after a vessel wedged itself on the banks of the waterway that connects the Black Sea to global markets. 

Tugboats have been dispatched to shift the stranded bulk carrier, named MKK-1, an official at Turkey’s Directorate General of Coastal Safety said. A picture of the vessel appeared to show it at a slight angle on the side of the strait.

IAEA expands its presence in Ukraine to bolster nuclear safety

The United Nations nuclear watchdog is expanding its presence in Ukraine to help prevent a nuclear accident during the war, according to International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi. 

The organisation is deploying in all of the country’s nuclear power plants to provide assistance in nuclear safety and security, he said on Twitter on Monday without elaborating on details. 

Germany starts transfer of Patriot system to Poland

The German military has begun the transfer of a Patriot anti-air system to Poland, as agreed between the two countries, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported, citing security sources. The weapons should arrive in the coming days. DM

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