Air raid sirens wail in Ukraine as Russian missiles allegedly kill 11 people and wound 11 others in capital Kiev, as fighting rages on its 337th day.

Local woman with kids walks next to a residential house allegedly damaged by a Russian military strike in the town of Hlevakha, outside Kiev.
Local woman with kids walks next to a residential house allegedly damaged by a Russian military strike in the town of Hlevakha, outside Kiev. (Reuters)

Thursday, January 26, 2023

1946 GMT — 'Be ready': UN warns of more displacements  

With Russian forces pushing in eastern Ukraine, the UN's Refugee Agency chief has told the AFP news agency that Kiev and European governments should prepare for a possible wave of people fleeing the fighting.

And he said that, despite repeated offers of assistance, Russia was still only granting the agency limited access to Ukrainians there.

"I cannot make military predictions — this is not my expertise," the High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in the Ukraine capital.

"But one thing I can say is, of course any exacerbation of war risks causing further displacement, one way or another, and we need to be ready for that.

Here are the other key developments:

1831 GMT  — Canada to send combat-ready Leopard tanks to Ukraine

Canada has said it will join the United States, Germany and other countries in supplying heavy tanks to Ukraine to fight off Russian forces, with a shipment of four fully operational Leopards.

"These four tanks are combat-ready and will be deployed over the coming weeks," Defence Minister Anita Anand told a news conference, adding that the number of tanks provided by Canada could eventually rise.

Canada will also deploy experts to train Ukrainian soldiers to operate the tanks, she said.

1724 GMT  — France, Italy close to deal on air defence system for Ukraine

France and Italy are close to finalising the technical details to supply an SAMP/T air defence system to Ukraine, two diplomatic sources have said, although it was unclear how quickly a final decision would come.

France's Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu will travel to Italy on Friday to meet his Italian counterpart Guido Crosetto, with both sides wanting to push ahead with the SAMP/T talks.

"We are finalising it with the Italians. It's not very far off," said a French diplomatic source.

The system, a joint Franco-Italian consortium can track dozens of targets and intercept 10 at once and is the only European-made system that can intercept ballistic missiles.

READ MORE: Berlin to send Leopard battle tanks for Ukraine after months of hesitation

1351 GMT - Russia outlaws news site in latest media crackdown

Russian authorities have designated the independent news outlet Meduza an "undesirable organisation", effectively outlawing the site from operating in Russia and banning any Russian from co-operating with Meduza or its journalists.

The designation is the latest in a years-long campaign by the Kremlin to curb independent media and stop their reporting from reaching ordinary Russians in a crackdown that has escalated since Russia began its offensive in Ukraine last year.

In a statement announcing the decision, Russia's General Prosecutor said the Latvia-based news outlet "poses a threat to the foundations of the constitutional system and the security of the Russian Federation".

There was no immediate response from Meduza, one of Russia's most widely read independent news sites, though it did publish a news story on its website, including details about what the designation could mean.

1346 GMT - French FM says France and allies not at war with Russia

Neither France nor its allies are fighting a war against Russia, the French foreign ministry has said, following a Western decision to send heavy tanks to Ukraine to repel the Russian offensive

"We are not at war with Russia and none of our partners are," ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said.

"The delivery of military equipment... does not constitute co-belligerence."

Legendre spoke after German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday said it was important for Western partners to coordinate military aid to Kiev.

"The crucial part is we do it together and we do not do the blame game in Europe because we are fighting a war against Russia and not against each other," she said.

1333 GMT - Ukraine's wheat, corn crops seen shrinking again: UGA

Ukraine's corn and wheat production is set to fall for a second year in 2023, with corn output not expected to exceed 18 million tonnes and wheat production 16 million tonnes as farmers reduce planting due to the war, a grain sector group has said.

The projections were a best case scenario, and production could fall more sharply depending on weather and financial difficulties of farms, Ukraine Grain Association (UGA) head Nikolay Gorbachov told Reuters on the sidelines of Argus Media's Paris Grain Conference.

Disruption to export trade following Russia's offensive last year has left many farmers producing at a loss, he said.

1244 GMT - Britain wants Challenger tanks in Ukraine - minister

Britain hopes the Challenger 2 tanks it is supplying to Ukraine will arrive in the country at the end of March, defence department minister Alex Chalk has said.

Earlier this month, Britain said it would send 14 of its main battle tanks along with additional artillery support to Ukraine.

"The intention is that it will be at the end of March," he told parliament in response to a question asking when the tanks would arrive in Ukraine.

He said between now and then, Ukrainian forces would be trained intensively on how to operate and maintain the vehicles.

1233 GMT - Tank deliveries 'direct involvement' of Europe, NATO: Moscow

Raising the specter of escalation of the Ukraine war, a Kremlin spokesman has said that Russia sees European and NATO countries supplying weapons to Ukraine – including a host of just-announced tank supplies – as their "direct involvement" in the "conflict."

"Statements are constantly being made from European capitals and Washington that sending various weapons systems, including tanks, to Ukraine in no case means that these countries or the alliance are involved in the fighting that is taking place in Ukraine.

We categorically disagree with this," Dmitry Peskov told a press briefing in Moscow.

"In Moscow, everything that the alliance and the capitals I mentioned are doing is perceived as direct involvement in the conflict," he explained. He added that Moscow noted that this involvement has been growing.

1050 GMT - French foreign minister arrives in Odessa 

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna has arrived in Odessa, the strategic port city on Ukraine's Black Sea coast, as part of France's efforts to boost its relationship with Ukraine and discuss its needs in the coming months.

UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, on Wednesday designated the city's historic centre a "World Heritage in Danger" site.

Colonna was in Odessa shortly after missile strikes hit crucial power infrastructure facilities in the surrounding region, causing blackouts in the city. She was due to visit one of the damaged sites.

The visit aims to send a message to Moscow amid Western fears that Russia, almost a year after starting its offensive in Ukraine, may still want to launch an attack on the city to deprive Ukraine of its key maritime outlet for grain products.

1026 GMT - Russian missiles damages Ukraine power facilities

Russian forces fired dozens of missiles at Ukraine in a blistering wave of strikes targeting energy infrastructure, a day after Germany and the US pledged modern tanks for Kiev.

Ukrainian energy operator DTEK said it was instituting emergency power cuts around Kiev and also in the southern Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk regions.

Those assaults have crippled the electricity grid with temperatures near zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) as winter deepens.

Two critical infrastructure facilities in the Odessa region on the Black Sea were damaged, the head of the regional military administration said.

0950 GMT - Leopard tanks to arrive in Ukraine 'early April'

Leopard tanks pledged by Germany to help Ukraine repel Russia's attacks will arrive in "late March, early April", Defence Minister Boris Pistorius has said.

Training of Ukrainian troops on German Marder infantry fighting vehicles will start in the next few days, he added, "and for the Ukrainian soldiers who will be trained on the Leopard, it will be a little later".

Germany will provide 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its Bundeswehr supplies, Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the German parliament.

Scholz had been under criticism for weeks for hesitating to decide on sending the Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

0915 GMT - One killed after missile attack on Kiev

Kiev's mayor Vitali Klitschko has posted to Telegram saying:

"As a result of a rocket hitting a non-residential building in the Holosivskyi district, there is currently information about one dead and two wounded. The injured were hospitalised by medics."

Vitali Klitschko

0815 GMT - Ukraine downed 24 Iran-made drones 

Ukraine said it had shot down a cluster of Iranian-made attack drones launched by Russian forces from the Sea of Azov in the south of the country.

"Attack UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) was launched from the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov. According to preliminary information, the enemy used 24 Shaheds. All 24 were destroyed," the Ukrainian air force said in a statement online.

0500 GMT - 'No chance'

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz drew red lines for further military support to Ukraine, ruling out the delivery of combat aircraft or the deployment of ground troops.

“I made it clear very early on that we are not talking about combat aircraft, and I am doing the same here,” he said. 

Scholz added: “We will not send ground troops under any circumstances. I have said there will be no direct involvement of NATO soldiers in the Ukraine war. That has not been the case so far, and that will not be the case in the future. And everyone can rely on that.

Scholz had announced on Wednesday morning that Ukraine would receive 14 Leopard 2 battle tanks from Bundeswehr stocks. 

Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk had demanded the delivery of fighter jets on Tuesday evening after the German government’s decision was widely reported.

0630 GMT - Ukraine declares air raid alert

Two Russian missiles have been spotted over the territory of the Mykolaiv region, its governor Vitaly Kim said on the Telegram messaging app, warning of a possible missile attack.

"WARNING! There is a threat of a missile attack! Now it is necessary to reduce the load on the energy system of the region and the country as much as possible. This will allow energy companies to better prepare for emergency situations. Turn off all unnecessary electrical appliances! Be prepared for emergency power outages! Do not use elevators. ‼️ Do not ignore the air alarm signals. Take care of yourself and your loved ones, stay in shelters. We believe in our air defense and Victory!"

Vitaly Kim

0545 GMT - Switzerland imposes new raft of sanctions on Russia

The Swiss Federal Council enacted further sanctions against Russia, adopting the latest measures introduced by the European Union.

"In response to Russia's ongoing military aggression against Ukraine and its continued destabilizing actions that undermine Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty and security, the EU adopted new measures against Russia on 16 December 2022 as part of a ninth package of sanctions," said the council in a statement.

Switzerland is not part of the EU, but its economy is closely intertwined with its neighbors.

2100 GMT - Zelenskyy seeks long-range missiles, jets from West

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he wanted the West to send long-range missiles and jets to his war-torn country to help repel Russian troops.

"I've spoken with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today," Zelenskyy said after the United States and Germany announced they would send heavy tanks to Ukraine.

"We must also open deliveries of long-range missiles to Ukraine, it is important - we must expand our co-operation in artillery," Zelenskyy said, also adding Ukraine needed jets. "This is a dream. And this is a task."

Zelenskyy has said that the key to supplying tanks for Ukraine's war effort was speed and sufficient numbers.

1930 GMT - Giving Odessa UNESCO status 'politically motivated'

Moscow has decried a "politically motivated" decision by UNESCO to add the historic centre of Ukraine's port city of Odessa to its World Heritage List.

The Foreign Ministry accused a group of Western countries of pushing through a "politically motivated" decision in violation of the standard procedures.

"It was prepared hastily, without respecting the current high standards of UNESCO," the Foreign Ministry said.

1900 GMT - Britain sounds alarm on Russia-based hacking group 

A Russia-based hacking group named Cold River is behind an expansive and ongoing information-gathering campaign that has struck various targets in government, politics, academia, defence, journalism, and activism, Britain has said.

In an advisory, the National Cyber Security Centre [NCSC], part of Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping intelligence agency, said Cold River researches its targets and impersonates people around them using faked email addresses and social media profiles.

"There is often some correspondence between attacker and target, sometimes over an extended period, as the attacker builds rapport," the advisory said.

Russia's embassies in London and Washington did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment about the NCSC's comments. The advisory did not directly attribute the digital attacks to the Russian government.

For live updates from Wednesday (January 25), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies