Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said on Thursday that Ukrainian forces defending Bakhmut and Soledar in the east would be armed with everything they need to keep Russian troops at bay in some of the bloodiest fighting of the war. Kyiv said earlier its troops were fighting to retain control of the now-battered industrial towns in the east, which Russian mercenaries claimed earlier this week to have taken.
Hundreds of civilians remain trapped in Soledar, Ukraine has said, as bloody fighting continues over control of the largely destroyed salt mining town. Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk, told Ukrainian state TV that 559 civilians remained in Soledar, including 15 children, and could not be evacuated.
Ukraine’s military has denied that Russian forces have encircled and captured Soledar. Ukrainian forces are “holding on” as “fierce fighting” continues in the town, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, said on Thursday. Ukraine’s military claimed its forces killed more than 100 Russian soldiers in a single strike in Soledar, while Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier mocked Russia’s claims it had captured the town and said fighting was ongoing.
President Vladimir Putin’s move to replace his top commander in Ukraine after a few months is a sign of military disarray and his growing impatience in a war Russia is not winning, analysts said. The defence ministry in Moscow said Wednesday it had, again, replaced its top commander in Ukraine, putting army chief of staff Valery Gerasimov in charge. It is the latest of several major shake-ups of Moscow’s military leadership.
More than a dozen senior EU officials will meet members of the Ukrainian government in Kyiv on 2 February, a day before the EU-Ukraine summit, a European Commission spokeswoman said Thursday.
A spokesperson for Ukraine’s air force command has warned of the possibility of missile attacks from Belarus. In a televised statement today, Yurii Ihnat said it was from Belarusian territory that most of the ballistic missiles were launched at the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. During a visit to Lviv on Wednesday, Zelenskiy called for his forces to be “ready both at the border and in the regions” near Belarus amid fears Russia may launch a fresh assault from the north.
The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has claimed his forces have found the body of one of two British voluntary aid workers reported missing in eastern Ukraine. In a statement published on his Telegram channel late on Wednesday, Prigozhin did not mention the name of the dead man but said documents belonging to both Britons had been found on his body.
A former Russian deputy minister of defence has suggested the country could increase the upper age limit for conscription from 27 to 30 for this year’s spring draft campaign. Andrey Kartapolov, the head of the State Duma defence committee, suggested the change could take place without altering the lower bar for conscription of 18 years.
The commander of Russia’s ground forces, Oleg Salyukov, visited Belarus on Thursday to inspect the combat readiness of a joint force stationed there, the Belarusian defence ministry said. Salyukov was yesterday named as one of the deputy commanders of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine in the latest of a series of reshuffles. His visit came as Russia and Belarus have expanded their joint military training exercises in Belarus.
A US navy veteran has been released after almost a year in Russian detention, according to his family. Taylor Dudley, 35, of Michigan, was taken into custody by Russian border police last April after crossing the border from Poland into Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania.
A Ukrainian soldier has had successful surgery to remove an unexploded grenade from his chest, senior officials in Kyiv have said. Surgeons removed the weapon from just beneath the heart of the injured serviceman, while two sappers ensured the operation was conducted safely, said Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy minister of defence.
The British government is planning to provide tanks to Ukraine to help the country defend itself, according to a spokesperson for No 10. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday the spokesperson said Rishi Sunak had asked his defence secretary, Ben Wallace, to “work with partners” and to provide further support to Ukraine “including the provision of tanks”.
Germany should not stand in the way of other countries’ military support for Ukraine, the vice-chancellor, Robert Habeck, has said. It comes after Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, announced plans to send 10 German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine as part of an international coalition. The transfer would require permission from Germany.
Turkey has summoned Sweden’s ambassador over a protest in Stockholm in which a puppet of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was hung from its feet. Footage shared by pro-government Turkish media showed what they said were supporters of the Kurdish militant group PKK hanging an effigy of the Turkish leader at a demonstration outside the Stockholm city hall. Sweden has been seeking Turkey’s approval of its Nato membership bid, which it applied for after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Ankara has said Stockholm needs to clamp down on Kurdish groups it views as “terrorists”.