Ukraine’s priority for 2024 is to “throw Russia from the skies”, Kyiv’s top diplomat has said, after the Kremlin fired nearly two dozen drones and missiles over the border.

“In 2024, of course the priority is to throw Russia from the skies,” Dmytryo Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, told a conference in Davos, Switzerland. “Because the one who controls the skies will define when and how the war will end.”

His comments augur the arrival of the first batch of F-16 fighter jets in Ukraine later this year, which Kyiv has been requesting since the start of the war.

Kyiv views these fighter jets as the key to unlocking air superiority over the Russians, which in turn, they believe, could prove invaluable to their aims to remove Kremlin forces from Ukraine.

It comes as at least 20 civilians have been injured after Russia fired nearly two dozen drones and missiles across Ukraine, according to local officials.

Ukraine’s interior minister Ihor Klymenko reported that it had been “a difficult night for Odessa and Kharkiv”, cities in the south and north east of Ukraine respectively.

Key Points

  • Russia fires dozens of drones in latest overnight attack

  • Ukraine launches drone strike across the border, claims Kremlin

  • Kyiv claims to have shot down two Russian planes, including £250m spy aircraft

  • EU 27 states will provide further funds to Ukraine – Von der Leyen

Russian official says Ukrainian drone tried and failed to hit Baltic oil terminal

07:56 , Tom Watling

Ukraine tried and failed to target a Russian Baltic Sea oil terminal with a drone overnight, a Russian-appointed official said on Thursday, in what appeared to be a rare attempt to strike a facility in St Petersburg.

Air defences had downed the drone which carried explosives, and it had caused no damage, Vladimir Rogov, an official in the Russian-installed administration of Ukraine‘s Zaporizhzhia region, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) also claimed that they intercepted a drone “over the territory of the Leningrad region”, a reference to St Petersburg’s old name prior to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The alleged drone attack has been covered widely by Russian state media on Telegram – popular outlet Baza reported that a 130 square metre fire broke out after the drone exploded between two fuel tanks – but no pictures have emerged of the incident.

Both Russia and Ukraine have targeted each other’s infrastructure with drone and missile strikes, with Kyiv aiming to damage objects such as bridges connecting Crimea to Russian-controlled territories, as well as military airports and oil depots.

Russian authorities also reported a fresh missile attack on the city of Belgorod located close to the Russian-Ukrainian border. Regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said air defences had downed all 10 missiles, but that one person had been injured.

Ukrainian air force shoots down 22 out of 33 Russian drones, Kyiv says

07:23 , Tom Watling

Russia has launched 33 drones and two missiles at Ukraine, with air defences destroying 22 drones, the Ukrainian military has reported.

“The main areas of attack were the south and north. The Ukrainian Air Force and Defence Forces destroyed 22 enemy drones. Several more drones did not reach their targets,” Ukraine’s Air Forces said on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukrainian military said Russian drones hit residential neighbourhoods in the southern city of Kherson where several buildings were damaged and a woman was wounded.

Drones also hit agribusiness facilities in the Beryslav community of Kherson region.

Oleksandr Prokudin, the governor of Kherson Oblast, said one 50-year-old woman had been injured as a result of the nighttime attack in the western Dnipro district of Kherson City.

In the Mykolaiv region, which was also hit, debris from downed drones caused damage to a warehouse of an agricultural enterprise. There were no casualties, military said.

Ukrainian firefighters tackle flames resulting from an Russian strike on Sumy, northeast Ukraine (Ukraine’s state emergency service / Telegram)

Ukrainian firefighters tackle flames resulting from an Russian strike on Sumy, northeast Ukraine (Ukraine’s state emergency service / Telegram)

Cameron plays down need for general election in Ukraine as war continues

07:06 , Maira Butt

Lord Cameron has played down any urgent need for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to hold an election in the country later this year.

The Foreign Secretary, who appeared alongside Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, also insisted that the best way to ensure peace was to continue supporting Ukraine.

The former prime minister downplayed the need for a presidential election this year, something hard-right Republicans in the US have pressed for amid wrangles in Congress over military funding for Ukraine.

 (AP) (AP)

(AP)

Polish lawmaker who extinguished Hanukkah candles loses immunity

06:06 , Maira Butt

Poland’s parliament has voted to remove the immunity from prosecution of a lawmaker who used a fire extinguisher to put out Jewish Hanukkah candles in the country’s parliament in December, an incident that caused international outrage.

The vote opens the way for prosecutors to press charges against Grzegorz Braun from the far-right Confederation party for seven acts committed during 2022 and 2023, including the incident involving the candles.

Braun, who has also made pro-Russian statements in the past, had gained notoriety even before the Hanukkah incident with stunts such as dumping a Christmas tree decorated in the colours of the European Union and Ukraine in the bin and damaging a microphone during a talk by a Holocaust historian.

 (via REUTERS) (via REUTERS)

(via REUTERS)

Russia says it killed French foreign mercenaries in strike on Ukraine’s Kharkiv

05:06 , Maira Butt

Russia said on Wednesday its forces had carried out a precision strike a day earlier on a building housing “foreign fighters” in Ukraine‘s second city Kharkiv.

The defence ministry said the fighters were mostly French mercenaries and the building was destroyed, with more than 60 people killed. It did not provide evidence, and Reuters could not verify the claims.

Local officials in Kharkiv said two Russian missiles struck a residential area in the centre of the city on Tuesday, injuring 17 people, two of them seriously, and badly damaging homes.

The French foreign ministry did not immediately respond for comment.

American dating coach turned Kremlin propagandist dies in Ukraine

04:06 , Maira Butt

The US State Department has confirmed the death of Gonzalo Lira, 55, an American dating coach in Ukraine.

In May 2023, Mr Lira had been charged with spreading Russian propaganda videos that supported Russian acts of aggression against Ukraine. He had been released on house arrest before being imprisoned again in July.

Mr Lira died of pneumonia and his father has blamed the Biden administration and the Ukrainian president for his son’s death.

New doctrine in Russia ally Belarus for the first time provides for using nuclear weapons

03:06 , Maira Butt

The defense minister of Belarus said Tuesday that the country closely allied with Russia will put forth a new military doctrine that for the first time provides for the use of nuclear weapons.

Russia last year sent tactical nuclear weapons to be stationed in Belarus, although there are no details about how many. Russia has said it will maintain control over those weapons, which are intended for battlefield use and have short ranges and comparatively low yields.

It was not immediately clear how the new doctrine might be applied to the Russian weapons.

Hundreds clash with police in Russian region after activist jailed in largest demonstration since Ukraine invastion

02:06 , Maira Butt

Hundreds of protesters have clashed with police in the Russian region of Bashkortostan in a rare display of public anger after a court convicted a local activist and sentenced him to prison, media reports and rights groups said.

The unrest – one of the largest reported demonstrations since the war in Ukraine began in 2022 – erupted amid the trial this week of Fail Alsynov in the town of Baymak, in the southern Ural Mountains.

Several thousand people had gathered outside the courthouse to support Mr Alsynov, who was convicted of inciting hatred and sentenced to four years in prison, according to OVD-Info, a Russian rights group that tracks political arrests and offers legal aid.

 (SOTA/AFP via Getty Images) (SOTA/AFP via Getty Images)

(SOTA/AFP via Getty Images)

In Pictures: Aftermath of Russian bombing in Ukraine

01:06 , Maira Butt

 (Future Publishing via Getty Imag) (Future Publishing via Getty Imag)

(Future Publishing via Getty Imag)

 (Future Publishing via Getty Imag) (Future Publishing via Getty Imag)

(Future Publishing via Getty Imag)

 (Future Publishing via Getty Imag) (Future Publishing via Getty Imag)

(Future Publishing via Getty Imag)

Ukraine needs money from the US and Europe to keep its economy running. Will the aid come?

00:06 , Maira Butt

Ukraine’s hard-won economic stability is under threat again as the government faces a large budget hole and its two biggest allies and sponsors — the United States and the European Union — have so far failed to decide on extending more aid.

Without pledges of support by the start of February — when EU leaders meet to decide on aid — and if no money arrives by March, that could risk the progress Ukraine has made against inflation. It has helped ordinary people keep paying rent, put food on the table and resist Russia‘s efforts to break their society’s spirit.

Ukraine needs money from the US and Europe to keep its economy running. Will the aid come?

Top Nato military officer says the war in Ukraine could ‘determine the fate of the world’

Wednesday 17 January 2024 23:06 , Maira Butt

Ukraine is locked in an existential battle for its survival almost two years into its war with Russia and Western armies and political leaders must drastically change the way they help it fend off invading forces, a top Nato military officer said on Wednesday.

At a meeting of the 31-nation alliance’s top brass, the chair of the Nato Military Committee, Admiral Bob Bauer, also said that behind President Vladimir Putin’s rationale for the war is a fear of democracy, in a year marked by elections around the world.

Over two days of talks in Brussels, Nato’s top officers are expected to detail plans for what are set to be the biggest military exercises in Europe since the Cold War later this year. The wargames are meant as a fresh show of strength from Nato and its commitment to defend all allied nations from attack.

Russian attack outside Ukraine’s Kharkiv kills one, regional governor says

Wednesday 17 January 2024 22:30 , Maira Butt

One person has been killed as Russian missiles have struck a town outside Ukraine‘s second largest city Kharkiv on Wednesday.

The attacks have also damaged an educational institution, the regional governor and the military said.

Governor Oleh Synehubov, writing on the Telegram messaging app, said there were two strikes on the town of Chuhuyev, southeast of Kharkiv.

A military source, also reporting on Telegram, said the attack involved S-300 missiles

Biden brings congressional leaders to White House at pivotal time for Ukraine and US border deal

Wednesday 17 January 2024 22:06 , Maira Butt

President Joe Biden will convene top congressional leaders Wednesday at the White House pressing for his $110 billion national security package at a pivotal time as senators narrow on a landmark immigration deal that could unlock the stalled aid to Ukraine, Israel and other US allies.

The sit down with Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate leaders, including the chairmen of influential national security committees, could make or break the political trade-off that has been simmering for weeks as lawmakers have failed, so far, to reach a compromise over Biden’s broader aid package.

Ahead of the meeting, Johnson, in a first big test of his new speakership, said he needs to see “transformative” changes to restrict the record number of migrants at the US-Mexico border as part of any deal for the overseas wars.

Russian missiles hit Ukrainian apartment buildings in latest deadly strikes on civilian areas

Wednesday 17 January 2024 21:06 , Maira Butt

Russia fired two missiles at Kharkiv during the night, hitting apartment buildings and a medical center and injuring 17 people in the city in northeastern Ukraine, officials said Wednesday, in Moscow’s latest strikes on civilian areas in the almost two-year war.

The S-300 missiles landed after dark Tuesday, Kharkiv regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram.

Normally surface-to-air missiles, the S-300s have been adapted by Russia to hit targets on the ground and are cheaper to make than ballistic or cruise missiles. However, they are inaccurate and have a shorter range, analysts say.

Both sides are looking to replenish their weapons stockpiles as fighting along the 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) front line is largely bogged down during winter and the war’s focus turns to long-range missile, drone and artillery strikes.

Russia’s recently intensified aerial attacks sharply increased civilian casualties in December, with more than 100 Ukrainians killed and nearly 500 injured, according to the United Nations.

 (Global Images Ukraine via Getty) (Global Images Ukraine via Getty)

(Global Images Ukraine via Getty)

Russia’s intense attacks on Ukraine has sharply increased civilian casualties in December, UN says

Wednesday 17 January 2024 20:06 , Maira Butt

Russia’s intense missile and drone attacks across Ukraine in recent weeks sharply increased civilian casualties in December with over 100 killed and nearly 500 injured, the United Nations said in a new report Tuesday.

The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said there was a 26.5% increase in civilian casualties last month – from 468 in November to 592 in December. With some reports still pending verification, it said, the increase was likely higher.

Danielle Bell who heads the U.N.’s monitoring mission. said: “Civilian casualties had been steadily decreasing in 2023 but the wave of attacks i n late December and early January violently interrupted that trend.”

Russia’s intense attacks on Ukraine has sharply increased civilian casualties in December, UN says

Russia cannot and must not win in Ukraine, France’s Macron says

Wednesday 17 January 2024 19:01 , Maira Butt

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday in Davos that Russia cannot be allowed to win the war in Ukraine and for that Europeans must renew their efforts this year to help Kyiv, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election.

 (AP) (AP)

(AP)

Ukraine security service probes possible secret surveillance of journalists

Wednesday 17 January 2024 17:50 , Maira Butt

Ukraine‘s domestic security service said on Wednesday it was investigating whether several employees of an investigative journalism outlet had been put under illegal surveillance, after a video online claimed to show them taking recreational drugs.

The video, posted on Tuesday by a little-known online site, whose name translates as “people’s truth”, purported to show secret recordings of employees of the Bihus.info investigative journalism project.

In separate, recorded phone calls that were also posted online, several people could be heard talking about procuring cannabis and MDMA. A video showed a group of people snorting a powdered substance off a table.

“Such surveillance should be given a legal assessment, regardless of whether or not a possible violation of the law related to the circulation of narcotic substances was made public in the covertly filmed material,” the SBU security service said.

Cannabis and MDMA are illegal in Ukraine, although it is currently in the process of legalising the former for medicinal purposes.

Fighting intensifies in Ukraine’s east as Russia steps up offensive action with 98 combat clashes in last 24 hours

Wednesday 17 January 2024 17:06 , Maira Butt

Ukrainian artillery forces fighting near the Russian-occupied city of Bakhmut say Russian troops are constantly making offensive assaults as fighting intensifies and Kyiv waits for more military aid from the West.

Ukrainian forces have taken up a more defensive stance in many areas of the snow-bound front after a counteroffensive last year was unable to break through heavily-defended Russian lines in the occupied south and east.

“Now because of the weather, we switched to defensive actions. The enemy constantly tries to conduct offensive actions,” said Mykhailo, a fighter for Ukraine‘s 92nd separate assault brigade.

The Ukrainian General Staff’s daily readout on the war with Russia reported 98 combat clashes in the last 24 hours on Wednesday, double the figure given at the end of last week.

 (REUTERS) (REUTERS)

(REUTERS)

Ukraine’s ally Poland looking into how to make more ammunition – foreign minister

Wednesday 17 January 2024 15:52 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Poland’s new government is looking into how it can make more ammunition and military equipment as it works on a new aid package for Ukraine, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said in Davos on Wednesday.

Warsaw has been a close ally of Kyiv during Russia‘s war in Ukraine, but relations were dealt a blow last year by a dispute over grain imports and a blockade of some border crossings by Polish truckers demanding that the European Union reinstate a permit system for Ukrainian hauliers.

Sikorski signalled his intention to put ties back on a stronger footing by visiting Ukraine last month, shortly after his appointment to the new Western-looking government, and the new government has announced a new aid package for Kyiv.

“We are looking at all issues to do with Ukraine with fresh eyes,” Sikorski told Reuters in an interview at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

“We’re examining what options we have of making more ammunition and equipment and also what we still have in our stores.”

“What we think and communicate to our allies is that the cost of deterring Mr Putin after he’d conquered Ukraine would be much bigger than the cost of supplying Ukraine to effectively defend itself against his act of aggression,” he said.

Cameron plays down need for presidential election in Ukraine as war continues

Wednesday 17 January 2024 15:21 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Lord Cameron has played down any urgent need for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to hold an election in the country later this year.

The Foreign Secretary, who appeared alongside Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, also insisted that the best way to ensure peace was to continue supporting Ukraine.

The former prime minister downplayed the need for a presidential election this year, something hard-right Republicans in the US have pressed for amid wrangles in Congress over military funding for Ukraine.

Cameron plays down need for presidential election in Ukraine as war continues

Wednesday 17 January 2024 14:52 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A billionaire ally of Russian businessman Roman Abramovich renewed his bid to overturn British sanctions at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday, saying he was targeted because of pressure put on then Foreign Secretary Liz Truss by a Cabinet colleague.

Oil tycoon Eugene Shvidler was sanctioned in March 2022 on the grounds of his association with former Chelsea Football Club owner Abramovich. His two private jets were also seized.

Britain also cited Shvidler’s position as a director of London-listed Russian steel producer Evraz and role at Russian oil company Sibneft, sold by Abramovich in 2005, as evidence he obtained a financial benefit from Abramovich.

But Shvidler, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes magazine at $1.5 billion, argues that Britain was wrong to impose sanctions just because of his relationship with Abramovich, whom he described as a close friend.

He lost his initial challenge to the sanctions in August and is asking the Court of Appeal in London to rule that the imposition of sanctions was unlawful.

The case is the first substantive appellate test of British sanctions imposed following Russia‘s Ukraine invasion. In response, Britain has sanctioned more than 1,600 people and frozen over 18 billion pounds ($22.8 billion) in assets.

 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.) (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Western officials looking at confiscating Russian assets

Wednesday 17 January 2024 14:32 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Western officials said in Davos on Wednesday they were open to the idea of confiscating $300 billion of Russian assets to help Ukraine, but cautioned that the devil was in the legal detail and that, even if it could be done, it would be no panacea for Kyiv.

After President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in 2022, the United States and its allies prohibited transactions with Russia‘s central bank and finance ministry, blocking around $300 billion of sovereign Russian assets in the West.

G7 countries are discussing possibly confiscating the frozen Russian assets, though some G7 members have concerns about the precedent, mechanism and potential impact of taking such a step against central bank assets.

“The first thing you know is a ton of lawyers need to get involved. No decisions been made,” Penny Pritzker, U.S. special representative for Ukraine‘s economic recovery, told a panel on Monday.

“If a decision gets made it’s going to end up being collective. It’s a misperception to think this is going to be a panacea effect. There’s real effort going on but we are far from a conclusion.”

Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron, left, and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba take part in a panel discussion at the Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos (AP)Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron, left, and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba take part in a panel discussion at the Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos (AP)

Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron, left, and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba take part in a panel discussion at the Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos (AP)

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (AP)Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (AP)

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (AP)

Russia got components worth $2.9 bln from West despite sanctions, Kyiv says

Wednesday 17 January 2024 14:05 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Western companies supplied Russia with $2.9 billion worth of components that can be used for military production in the first 10 months of 2023 despite sanctions on Moscow, the Ukrainian president’s office said on Wednesday.

Kyiv has been pressing its allies to tighten sanctions on Russia and close export control loopholes, saying that Moscow is still able to import military goods for its war in Ukraine.

Russia‘s 2023 imports of military goods totalled 90 per cent of the levels that were registered before the full-scale invasion in February, 2022, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said.

It cited research by a working group run by Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, and Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow. The research focused on Russian attempts to circumvent export control sanctions on military goods.

“The products of more than 250 Western companies were found in samples of destroyed or captured Russian weapons,” Zelensky’s office said.

The Kyiv School of Economics, which participated in the research, said that almost 2,800 foreign components were found in Russian military equipment, including the “Kinzhal” hypersonic missiles that Moscow uses for air strikes on Ukraine.

“In fact, 95 per cent of all parts found in Russian weapons on the battlefield were sourced from producers in coalition countries, with 72 per cent accounted for by U.S.-based companies alone,” the study said.

Ukrainian foreign minister says he felt urge to punch Russia’s Sergei Lavrov in the face

Wednesday 17 January 2024 13:45 , Tom Watling

Ukraine’s foreign minister says he felt the urge to punch his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in the face when the two met in the early stages of Moscow’s invasion.

Dmytro Kuleba made the remarks in an hour-long informal interview with a Ukrainian video blogger published on Monday.

“The most difficult talks are those in which you feel simply that you want to go and punch your opposite number in the nose, but you really can’t do that,” the minister said.

“And I can say that this occurred two or three times. One occasion was with Lavrov in (the Turkish resort of) Antalya in spring of 2022,” he said.

Ukrainian foreign minister says he felt urge to punch Russia’s Lavrov in the face

Russia’s intense attacks on Ukraine has sharply increased civilian casualties in December, UN says

Wednesday 17 January 2024 13:15 , Tom Watling

Russia’s intense missile and drone attacks across Ukraine in recent weeks sharply increased civilian casualties in December with over 100 killed and nearly 500 injured, the United Nations said in a new report Tuesday.

The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said there was a 26.5% increase in civilian casualties last month – from 468 in November to 592 in December. With some reports still pending verification, it said, the increase was likely higher.

Russia’s intense attacks on Ukraine has sharply increased civilian casualties in December, UN says

Slovakia’s leader voices support for Hungary’s Orbán in EU negotiations on funding for Ukraine

Wednesday 17 January 2024 12:45 , Tom Watling

The leaders of Hungary and Slovakia on Tuesday said they agree on the need to rework a European Union plan to provide financial assistance to Ukraine. It’s a potential boon to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who last month derailed EU efforts to approve the funding for the war-ravaged country.

Following bilateral talks in Budapest, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said he agrees with Orbán’s position that the EU should not finance a planned 50 billion euro ($54 billion) aid package to Kyiv from the bloc’s common budget, and echoed Orbán’s assertions that the war in Ukraine cannot be resolved through military means.

“We have listened very carefully to the proposals that Prime Minister (Orbán) … has already put forward in relation to the review of the budget and aid to Ukraine, and I will repeat that we consider them to be rational and sensible,” Fico said.

Slovakia’s leader voices support for Hungary’s Orbán in EU negotiations on funding for Ukraine

Ukraine needs money from the US and Europe to keep its economy running. Will the aid come?

Wednesday 17 January 2024 12:15 , Tom Watling

Ukraine’s hard-won economic stability is under threat again as the government faces a large budget hole and its two biggest allies and sponsors — the United States and the European Union — have so far failed to decide on extending more aid.

Without pledges of support by the start of February — when EU leaders meet to decide on aid — and if no money arrives by March, that could risk the progress Ukraine has made against inflation. It has helped ordinary people keep paying rent, put food on the table and resist Russia‘s efforts to break their society’s spirit.

The issue was on the minds of U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy when they met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday.

Ukraine needs money from the US and Europe to keep its economy running. Will the aid come?

Clashes break out in Russian region over jailing of rights activist

Wednesday 17 January 2024 11:45 , Tom Watling

Clashes have broken out between the police and a large crowd of people who had gathered in support of the activist, Fail Alsynov. At a trial that was closed to the media, a court found him guilty of inciting ethnic hatred, a charge he denied.

Videos published on social media showed people shouting “Gas!” and moving away. One clip showed a line of police lashing out with batons at the crowd. In another, a woman remonstrated with police to stop beating a person lying on the ground.

Large protests in Russia are extremely rare because of the risk of arrest over any gatherings which the authorities deem unauthorised. Thousands of people have been detained in the past two years for opposing the war in Ukraine.

The timing is sensitive for the authorities, at the start of an election campaign in which President Vladimir Putin is seeking a new six-year term. While Putin’s victory is not in doubt, analysts said there would be pressure on Bashkortostan’s regional head, Radiy Khabirov, to keep the situation in hand in order to avoid embarrassment for the Kremlin.

Alsynov was accused of insulting migrant workers in a speech he made in April 2023 at a protest over plans to mine for gold in Bashkortostan, which is located in Russia’s southern Ural mountains near the border between Europe and Asia.

His supporters said the case against him was delayed revenge for his role in protests several years earlier in which activists successfully blocked plans to mine for soda on a hill that local people consider a sacred place.

Earlier, we reported that the crowds had begun to swell.

Russia got components worth £2.3bn from West despite sanctions, Kyiv says

Wednesday 17 January 2024 11:17 , Tom Watling

Western companies supplied Russia with critical components worth $2.9 bn (£2.3bn) in the first 10 months of 2023, despite sanctions on Moscow, the Ukrainian president’s office has said.

“The products of more than 250 Western companies were found in samples of destroyed or captured Russian weapons,” the office said, citing research by a working group run by the president’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak and by Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia.

The research focused on Russia’s attempts to circumvent export control sanctions on military goods, the president’s office said.

Belgium PM says a mechanism is needed for confiscation of 280 billion euros of Russian assets

Wednesday 17 January 2024 10:45 , Tom Watling

Belgium does not oppose the confiscation of 280 billion euros (£240bn) worth of frozen Russian central bank assets, but there needs to be a clear mechanism such as using the assets as collateral for Ukraine, the country’s prime minister has said.

After President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in 2022, the United States and its allies prohibited transactions with Russia’s central bank and finance ministry, blocking around $300 billion of sovereign Russian assets in the West.

G7 countries are discussing possibly confiscating the frozen Russian assets, though some G7 members have concerns about the precedent, mechanism and potential impact of taking such a step against central bank assets.

Belgian leader Alexander De Croo told Reuters in Davos that Belgium was ready for a discussion about what to do with the interest on the frozen Russian assets and the actual assets themselves.

“We don’t say no to asset confiscation. But we need to work on a mechanism. For example, they can be used as collateral for raising funds for Ukraine,” he said.

“We are open to further discussion and are willing to participate in a solution of finding a legal basis for those transfers to Ukraine, without destabilising the global financial system,” he said.

Mr De Croo said the risk was that financial stability could be undermined as central banks often deposit assets with each other.

The lion’s share of the assets – essentially securities in which the Russian Central Bank had invested – are frozen in Euroclear, a depository based in Brussels.

Some securities mature and hence are being converted into cash – a transaction that is taxed at 25 percent, he said.

“If there is any taxable revenue, we will isolate it so it can go to Ukraine,” Mr De Croo told Reuters in Davos. He said tax on the frozen assets totalled about 1.3 billion euros in 2023 and in 2024 would total about 1.7 billion euros.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last year had expressed concerns about significant legal obstacles to confiscating frozen Russian assets, but more recently has embraced exploring the idea in a tighter funding environment.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) meets with Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (L) at the World Economic Forum in Davos (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) meets with Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (L) at the World Economic Forum in Davos (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) meets with Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (L) at the World Economic Forum in Davos (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

Russia ally Belarus to permit use of nuclear weapons for first time in new military rulebook

Wednesday 17 January 2024 10:00 , Tom Watling

Russia ally Belarus has amended its military doctrine to permit the use of nuclear weapons for the first time, months after its decision to host Vladimir Putin’s nukes sent alarm bells ringing across Europe.

Belarus borders Poland, Latvia and Lithuania to its north and west, and the prospect of Russian tactical nuclear weapons being housed so close to Nato allies sparked an international furore late last year.

Defence minister Viktor Khrenin said at a national security council meeting on Tuesday that the change in military doctrine represented a “new chapter” for Belarus, which does not have its own nuclear weapons.

Russia ally Belarus to ‘use nuclear weapons for first time’ in new military doctrine

EU 27 states will provide further funds to Ukraine – Von der Leyen

Wednesday 17 January 2024 09:34 , Tom Watling

The chief of the European Union’s executive Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has said she is “confident” all 27 member states will find a solution to provide funds to Ukraine, an issue currently in gridlock over Hungary’s resistance.

Ms Von der Leyen spoke to lawmakers in the EU parliament after EU leaders last month had agreed to start accession talks with Ukraine but failed to green-light a financial package worth 50 billion euros (£43bn) to Kyiv over Hungary’s veto.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, left, and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy react during a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, (AP)President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, left, and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy react during a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, (AP)

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, left, and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy react during a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, (AP)

Crowd protests jailing of activist in Russian region of Bashkortostan

Wednesday 17 January 2024 09:03 , Tom Watling

A rights activist in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan has been sentenced to four years in a penal colony on Wednesday after a court found him guilty of inciting ethnic hatred, prompting clashes between his supporters and police.

Independent Russian-language news outlets said police fired tear gas and made arrests after scuffles broke out with a large crowd of people who had gathered in support of activist Fail Alsynov. It was not clear how many people had been detained.

Alsynov was accused of insulting migrant workers in a speech he made in April 2023 at a protest over plans to mine for gold in Bashkortostan, which is located in Russia’s southern Ural mountains near the border between Europe and Asia.

His supporters said the case against him was delayed revenge for his role in protests several years earlier in which activists successfully blocked plans to mine for soda on a hill that local people consider a sacred place.

“Huge thanks to everyone who came to support me. I will never forget this. I don’t admit my guilt. I always fought for justice, for my people, for my republic,” Alsynov told a reporter from online media outlet RusNews after the verdict.

Videos published on social media showed hundreds of people gathered near the court in the small town of Baymak, 1,380 km (860 miles) east of Moscow. Some reports said there were several thousand.

Large protests in Russia are extremely rare because of the risk of arrest over any gatherings which the authorities deem unauthorised. Thousands of people have been detained in the past two years for opposing the war in Ukraine.

Bashkortostan, an oil-producing region of 4.1 million people, is one of more than 80 entities that make up the Russian Federation.

Alsynov was a leader of Bashkort, a grassroots movement to preserve the culture, language and ethnic identity of the region’s people, which was banned as an extremist organisation in 2020.

Here is some footage of Kharkiv after the Russian missile attack last night

Wednesday 17 January 2024 08:38 , Tom Watling

Below is some footage from Kharkiv, northeast Ukraine, this morning after a Russian missile attack injured at least 17 people overnight.

Local officials said Russia fired two S-300 anti-aircraft missiles at the city, which sits by the border with Russia.

Russia’s intense attacks on Ukraine has sharply increased civilian casualties in December, UN says

Wednesday 17 January 2024 08:28 , Tom Watling

Russia’s intense missile and drone attacks across Ukraine in recent weeks sharply increased civilian casualties in December with over 100 killed and nearly 500 injured, the United Nations said in a new report Tuesday.

The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said there was a 26.5 percent increase in civilian casualties last month – from 468 in November to 592 in December. With some reports still pending verification, it said, the increase was likely higher.

Danielle Bell who heads the UN’s monitoring mission. said: “Civilian casualties had been steadily decreasing in 2023 but the wave of attacks i n late December and early January violently interrupted that trend.”

You can read the full story below.

Russia’s intense attacks on Ukraine has sharply increased civilian casualties in December, UN says

Nato needs ‘warfighting transformation’, top military official says, after speaking with Ukraine chief

Wednesday 17 January 2024 08:08 , Tom Watling

A top Nato military official has called on public and private actors in the West to change their mindsets from a focus on efficiency to a focus on effectiveness to live up to an era in which anything can happen at any time – hours after he spoke with Ukraine’s top soldier.

“We need a warfighting transformation of NATO,” the chief of the alliance’s Military Committee, Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, said as he addressed a meeting of national defence chiefs in Brussels.

In the past, public and private actors had lived in an era in which everything was plentiful, foreseeable, controllable, and focused on efficiency, he noted.

Now they would have to change their mindsets to “an era in which anything can happen at any time, an era in which we need to expect the unexpected, an era in which we need to focus on effectiveness in order to be fully effective”.

His comments came hours after he held a phonecall with the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s military, General Valery Zaluzhny. The pair will both be present for a Ukraine-Nato council later today, though Gen Zaluzhny will be present via videocall.

A statement from Gen Zaluzhny’s office said he “exchanged views on the tactics and strategy of Ukraine and the Alliance” and “emphasised that in a war of such intensity, technologies play an important role”.

Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny spoke with Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer on Tuesday night (AP)Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny spoke with Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer on Tuesday night (AP)

Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny spoke with Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer on Tuesday night (AP)

Russian missiles hit Ukraine’s Kharkiv, 17 injured

Wednesday 17 January 2024 07:45 , Tom Watling

Two Russian missiles have struck a residential area in the centre of Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, injuring 17 people, two of them seriously, and badly damaging homes, local officials have said.

Rescue teams were sifting through piles of rubble to establish whether others were hurt. The city’s mayor described two “powerful explosions” and said at least 10 dwellings had been damaged.

Ukraine’s Emergency Services said one of the missiles had hit a three-storey building that had previously housed a medical centre. Fires were extinguished in two buildings and residential and other buildings sustained damage. Regional Police Chief Volodymyr Tymoshko told public broadcaster Suspilne that one of the missiles had hit a roadway.

Emergency services posted online photos showing rescue teams poring over piles of smashed building materials, tackling fires, scrambling up ladders to damaged upper storeys and helping evacuees board minibuses.

Kharkiv Regional Governor Oleh Synehubov, writing on the Telegram messaging app, said 17 people had been injured. Fourteen were in hospital, including two women who were seriously hurt.

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov, also writing on Telegram, said the missiles struck “precisely where there is no military infrastructure and precisely where there are in fact residences.”

“There are at least 10 damaged buildings. Rescue teams are continuing to go through the rubble. And there is plenty of rubble.”

Kharkiv, in Ukraine’s northeast, has been a frequent target of attacks, but in the space of the nearly two-year-old conflict, the city has not fallen into Russian hands. Russian missiles hit a hotel in the city last week, injuring 11 people.

A general view this morning shows the damage sustained by a building hit last night by a Russian missile strike (REUTERS)A general view this morning shows the damage sustained by a building hit last night by a Russian missile strike (REUTERS)

A general view this morning shows the damage sustained by a building hit last night by a Russian missile strike (REUTERS)

Municipal workers remove debris this morning at the site of a second Russian missile strike in Kharkiv (REUTERS)Municipal workers remove debris this morning at the site of a second Russian missile strike in Kharkiv (REUTERS)

Municipal workers remove debris this morning at the site of a second Russian missile strike in Kharkiv (REUTERS)

Ukrainian war crimes investigators inspect one of the two sites last night, hours after the attack (Telegram / Kharkiv Regional Military Administration)Ukrainian war crimes investigators inspect one of the two sites last night, hours after the attack (Telegram / Kharkiv Regional Military Administration)

Ukrainian war crimes investigators inspect one of the two sites last night, hours after the attack (Telegram / Kharkiv Regional Military Administration)

Russia drones hit southern Ukraine port, injuring three

Wednesday 17 January 2024 07:34 , Tom Watling

At least three civilians have been injured after Russia fired nearly two dozen Iranian-made drones in southern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s air force said they successfully intercepted 19 out of the 20 Iranian-made Shahed drones fired by the Kremlin across Ukraine during this latest overnight long-range assault – but the main thrust of the attack appears to have been the port city of Odessa in the south.

The Ukrainian military said Russian targeted Odessa and other southern regions for at least three hours while the southern military command specified that Russia had fired at least 11 drones at Odessa.

Oleh Kiper, governor of Odessa Oblast, said three people, including two women and one 62-year-old man, had been injured by strikes on the region’s namesake city after drone debris caused a fire.

The intercepted drones hit residential buildings, and damaged a gas pipe and a dozen cars in one of the port’s districts, the Interior Ministry said. About 130 were evacuated, it added.

Moscow has repeatedly tried to hit infrastructure in Ukraine’s southern Black Sea ports since it pulled out of a United Nations-brokered deal that allowed safe passage of Ukrainian grain shipments via the sea.

A fire broke out in an Odessa apartment block after drone debris fell in the area, Ukrainian officials said (Telegram / Ukraine’s State Emergency Service)A fire broke out in an Odessa apartment block after drone debris fell in the area, Ukrainian officials said (Telegram / Ukraine’s State Emergency Service)

A fire broke out in an Odessa apartment block after drone debris fell in the area, Ukrainian officials said (Telegram / Ukraine’s State Emergency Service)

An elderly woman is seen being rescued from the fire; about 130 people were evacuated from the apartment (Telegram / Ukraine’s State Emergency Service)An elderly woman is seen being rescued from the fire; about 130 people were evacuated from the apartment (Telegram / Ukraine’s State Emergency Service)

An elderly woman is seen being rescued from the fire; about 130 people were evacuated from the apartment (Telegram / Ukraine’s State Emergency Service)

A Ukrainian firefighter tackles a fire in an Odessa apartment block after the drone debris hit (Telegram / Ukraine’s State Emergency Service)A Ukrainian firefighter tackles a fire in an Odessa apartment block after the drone debris hit (Telegram / Ukraine’s State Emergency Service)

A Ukrainian firefighter tackles a fire in an Odessa apartment block after the drone debris hit (Telegram / Ukraine’s State Emergency Service)

Biden invites congressional leaders to discuss national security spending as Ukraine-immigration negotiations continue

Wednesday 17 January 2024 07:12 , Maira Butt

Eric Garcia reports:

President Joe Biden has invited Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries to the White House to discuss a proposed supplemental spending bill for national security.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed the meeting during a press conference on Tuesday.

“As it relates to the meeting that the President is having tomorrow here at the White House with congressional ranking members and leaders to talk about the very important supplemental requests that this President made a couple months ago at this point,” she told reporters.

Biden invites congressional leaders to discuss national security spending

Another lawyer for Kremlin foe Navalny faces extremism charges

Wednesday 17 January 2024 06:05 , Maira Butt

A lawyer for imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny said Tuesday that Russian authorities charged her in absentia with participating in an extremist group.

The same charges were brought against three other lawyers who represented Navalny and were jailed in October in a move his allies had decried as designed to put additional pressure on the politician.

Olga Mikhailova, who defended Navalny for over a decade and has left Russia, revealed on social media that the charges were brought against her.

“For 16 years, you defend a person” who was accused of embezzlement, fraud, defamation and “and recently (became) an ‘extremist,’ so it means you yourself are an extremist,” she wrote in a Facebook post, rejecting the charges against her.

Read the full article here.

France’s Macron to travel to Ukraine in February to finalise bilateral security deal

Wednesday 17 January 2024 05:26 , Maira Butt

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday he would travel to Ukraine in February to finalise a bilateral security guarantee deal and Paris would deliver more sophisticated weaponry in the coming weeks.

He said Russia could not be allowed to defeat Ukraine otherwise the security of Europe would be put at risk.

 (AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

(AFP via Getty Images)

French president announces missiles and bombs for Ukraine, saying: ‘We cannot let Russia win’

Wednesday 17 January 2024 05:03 , Maira Butt

France’s president Emmanuel Macron announced fresh aid for Ukraine on Tuesday evening.

The support package will include dozens of missiles and hundreds of bombs with Macron adding: “We cannot let Russia win, and we must not do that.”

Macron made the announcement at a wide-ranging news conference Tuesday evening.

He said he will travel to Ukraine next month and that a Russian victory in Ukraine would undermine the international order.

 (AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

(AFP via Getty Images)

In case you missed it: Ukrainian foreign minister says he felt urge to punch Russia’s Sergei Lavrov in the face

Wednesday 17 January 2024 04:02 , Maira Butt

Arpun Rai reports:

Ukraine’s foreign minister says he felt the urge to punch his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in the face when the two met in the early stages of Moscow’s invasion.

Dmytro Kuleba made the remarks in an hour-long informal interview with a Ukrainian video blogger published on Monday.

“The most difficult talks are those in which you feel simply that you want to go and punch your opposite number in the nose, but you really can’t do that,” the minister said.

Ukrainian foreign minister says he felt urge to punch Russia’s Lavrov in the face

Video: Zelensky addresses World Economic Forum as he tries to rally support for Ukraine

Wednesday 17 January 2024 03:04 , Maira Butt

More than 60 heads of state and government and hundreds of business leaders are gathering in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the biggest global challenges during the annual event.

Mr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, will aim to keep his country’s long and largely stalemated defence against Russia on the minds of political leaders, as Israel’s war with Hamas has garnered much of the world’s attention.

Watch: Zelensky addresses World Economic Forum as he tries to rally support

Zelensky meets Poland’s President Andrzej Duda ahead of Nato summit

Wednesday 17 January 2024 02:05 , Maira Butt

President Zelensky met with Polish president Andrzej Duda on Tuesday. He hinted that the meeting had been productive as the pair “coordinated” their positions ahead of the Nato summit in Washington.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Ukrainian leader said:

“I met with @AndrzejDuda to discuss our bilateral relations, including our cooperation on Ukraine’s path to EU membership.

“We discussed the battlefield situation and further defense assistance for Ukraine. We also coordinated our positions ahead of the NATO summit in Washington.”

 (EPA) (EPA)

(EPA)

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