UKRAINE UPDATE: 23 JANUARY 2023
Russia claims advances in Zaporizhzhia region; Ukraine anticipates training on Leopard tanks soon
Some Ukrainian officials criticised allies’ indecision over battle tank donations at a key meeting in Germany, but defence minister Oleksii Reznikov said he expected Kyiv’s troops to start training soon on Leopard tanks in Poland.
Poland said it planned to build a “smaller coalition” of nations prepared to deliver tanks to Ukraine. Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson travelled to Kyiv and urged Ukraine’s allies to “double down” on support.
Russia’s defence ministry claimed advances in the Zaporizhzhia region, where fighting has intensified after a lull. Offensive operations “have resulted in taking more advantageous lines and positions,” the ministry said.
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On the ground
Russian forces are “likely making incremental gains” around Bakhmut, the hotly contested city in Donetsk, said the Institute for the Study of War. Russia’s defence ministry said its forces were also making advances in the Zaporizhzhia region. Ukraine’s troops have repelled attacks in the direction of Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Lyman, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Facebook. Russia has recently increased the use of aviation in the Bakhmut offensive. Russia in the past day carried out one missile strike and 27 air strikes, the general staff said. Ukrainian aviation delivered 14 strikes at Russian strongholds and three strikes at Russian anti-aircraft complexes.
Johnson meets Zelensky, urges weapons donations
Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson travelled to Kyiv on Sunday to meet with Volodymyr Zelensky at the Ukrainian president’s request. He also visited the town of Bucha, northwest of the capital, site of alleged atrocities by Russian forces during their occupation in the early months of the war.
“The only way to end this war is for Ukraine to win — and to win as fast as possible,” Johnson said in a statement. “This is the moment to double down, and to give the Ukrainians all the tools they need to finish the job.”
Current UK leader Rishi Sunak announced this month the donation of Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine.
Ukrainian deputy minister dismissed in corruption probe
The Ukrainian government dismissed Vasyl Lozynskyi, deputy minister of communities, development and infrastructure, in line with its principle of “zero tolerance” toward corruption, according to a statement on the cabinet’s website.
Ukrainian anti-corruption officials detained Lozynskyi amid an investigation for abuse of office and bribery, Ukrainska Pravda reported late Saturday, citing officials it didn’t identify. The news outlet said an investigation had been initiated in September.
Italy to send missile defence equipment
Italy has provided five defence aid packages to Ukraine so far of about €1-billion and is preparing a sixth, Antonio Tajani, deputy prime minister and foreign minister, said in an interview with Corriere della Sera. It will include the SAMP-T air defence missile system to be provided in collaboration with France, he said.
Tajani said it had to be clear to Ukraine’s allies “that we must do everything possible to help this nation in its battle for independence.”
Poland plans coalition to transfer tanks
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki described, in an interview with PAP state newswire on Sunday, as “unacceptable” Germany’s reluctance to send Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine.
The Polish government would build a “smaller coalition” of countries willing to deliver tanks, he said. Poland wants to send 14 German-made combat vehicles. Morawiecki has signalled previously that his government may do so without consent from Berlin, which is required.
German defence chief to visit Ukraine soon
German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius has announced that he will travel to Ukraine as soon as possible. “What is certain is that I will travel to Ukraine quickly. Probably even within the next four weeks,” Pistorius told newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
On the decision on the delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine, Pistorius said: “We are in very close dialogue on this issue with our international partners, first and foremost with the USA. To be best prepared for possible decisions, I instructed my ministry on Friday to check everything to such an extent that we do not lose unnecessary time if the worst comes to the worst.”
Russia’s RT says its French unit will close
RT France, a unit of the Russian television channel RT, said it was closing after the French government froze its bank accounts.
“Under the guise of the ninth package of sanctions against Russia, which doesn’t target our channel but our shareholder and parent company, the Treasury has decided to freeze RT France’s accounts, making it impossible to continue operating,” it wrote in a statement published on the Twitter account of Xenia Fedorova, the channel’s president. DM