UPDATE ON THE SITUATION – Kyiv expects Westerners’ support through strong decisions and without delay at a crucial allied meeting this Friday.
Meeting of the allies in Ramstein, threats from the Kremlin, arrival of the first UN convoy in Soledar… This Friday, January 20, Le Figaro takes stock of the war in Ukraine.
Decisive meeting of the Allies at Ramstein
Germany said no decision was made on the delivery of heavy tanks to Ukraine at the allied meeting in Ramstein on Friday, dampening hopes in Kiev, which is clamoring to hold off the Russian invasion. When the issue of supplying Leopard tanks was discussed, “no decision was made,” declared the new German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius, without being able to say when that would be made. “It was clear that the positions are not nearly as homogeneous as one might think,” he said on the sidelines of the Ramstein meeting, which brings together defense ministers and senior military officials from fifty countries.
Poland and Finland have offered to supply such weapons, but any shipment of German war material has to get the green light from Berlin. Boris Pistorius, who has only been in office since Thursday, dismissed the “impression” that his country was opposed to their delivery, assuring that Berlin was acting and making an inventory of leopard stocks available to its army and industry. For his part, the Polish Defense Minister said he was “confident” that the Allies would be able to form a coalition to supply Ukraine with Leopard tanks. Opening the meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zekensky called on allies to speed up deliveries of heavy weapons. “It is in your power,” “to start a great supply that will stop the evil,” he said via video link.
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According to the United States, this year it will be “very difficult” to expel the Russian army
It will be “very difficult” to expel the Russian army from Ukrainian territory by the end of the year, the US chief of staff said on Friday during a press conference at the US base in Ramstein, Germany. “From a military point of view, I continue to maintain that it will be very, very difficult to expel Russian forces from all occupied territories of Ukraine,” United States chief of staff General Mark Milley said at a meeting of allies continuing military support in Kiew.
“Great increase in intensity” of fighting in the south
“In the direction of Zaporizhia, the intensity of hostilities has increased sharply,” a leader of the Moscow-installed Russian regional occupation authority of Zaporizhia, Vladimir Rogov, told Telegram. “If we look at the entire front, fighting is going on everywhere right now,” he told the Russian news agency Ria Novosti. “It had never happened before,” he said. The line of contact between the Ukrainian and Russian armies in the Zaporijia region has been stabilized for several months and, unlike the Donetsk (east) and Kherson (south) regions, no major fighting took place there.
Earlier on Friday, the Russian army claimed to have captured the small village of Lobkové near the Dnieper River, more than 60 kilometers southeast of Zaporizhia, the capital of the region of the same name. For his part, Vladimir Rogov stated that “there is no attack on Orikhiv (the nearby capital, ed.) but active fighting is underway in its nearby suburbs”. “The heights (um) were taken, which determines the control of the fire on Orikhiv and other places,” he said. According to a morning report by the Ukrainian army, “more than 20 locations were hit by Russian tank, mortar and artillery fire” in the Zaporizhia region on Thursday. Elsewhere in Ukraine, the Russian army announced on Friday that it had taken control of Klichchiivka, a small town south of Bachmout (east), a town that has become the epicenter of fighting.
The delivery of tanks “wouldn’t change anything,” Moscow said
The Kremlin reacted to the delivery of western tanks to Ukraine on Friday, declaring that this would “change nothing” about the situation on the ground. “Such (tank) supplies cannot fundamentally change anything, they will create new problems for Ukraine,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that Western countries maintained the “illusion” of a possible Ukrainian victory “on the battlefield.”
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Finland releases 400 million euros
For its part, Finland announced on Friday that it would provide 400 million euros, its largest contribution to date, which includes artillery and ammunition but no Leopard heavy tanks. Special adviser Miikka Pynnonen told AFP that the aid did not include a German-made Leopard heavy tank. The ministry also clarified that Finland will sign a memorandum of understanding with Sweden to support Ukraine, ensuring the aid does not “endanger the national defenses of either country”.
Seven “Russian agents” arrested near Dnipro
The Ukrainian security services (SBU) announced on Friday that they had arrested “seven Russian agents” suspected of spying for Moscow in the Dnipro region (east). “The SBU conducted another important special operation to expose and arrest enemy agents,” its leader Vasyl Maliouk said in a statement.
According to the SBU, the detainees “gave the Russians the coordinates of Ukrainian critical infrastructure” and “collected information about (…) the movements of the units of the (Kiev) Armed Forces in the region” before sharing them with the Russian army. Their “possible involvement in the attack on a residential building in Dnipro on January 14,” in which at least 45 people were killed, including six children, is “under investigation”, the Ukrainian security services also said.
Residential building bombed by a Russian missile in Dnipro January 18, 2023. CLODAGH KILCOYNE/ Portal
London wants to help Ukraine recognize Russia’s “criminal responsibility”.
The UK has pledged to help Ukraine secure Russia’s “criminal responsibility” for the “unlawful invasion” of the country. British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly described the invasion of Moscow, which began almost a year ago, as a “scandalous breach of the international order”.
He claimed London accepted Kiev’s invitation to join “a core group of like-minded partners” to establish Russia’s legal accountability. “Together with other international partners invited by Ukraine, the UK will inform deliberations on how to determine criminal responsibility for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” British diplomacy said. “This includes evaluating the feasibility of a new hybrid dish,” he added.
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The first UN convoy arrived near Soledar
The UN said its first humanitarian aid convoy arrived on Friday near Soledar in eastern Ukraine, one of the most contentious locations since Russia invaded. “This is the first inter-agency humanitarian convoy to reach this area,” Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said at a United Nations news conference in Geneva. The convoy consists of three trucks carrying water, food and basic necessities and medicines for around 800 people.
It will be unloaded, said the spokesman. The aid convoy is in the territory controlled by the Ukrainian government. In its morning bulletin, the Ukrainian army said its forces had “repelled” Russian “attacks” in a dozen towns in the Donetsk region, including Soledar, over the past 24 hours. “Soledar was under attack from enemy fire,” the army also said. The town with mining industry, which has been largely destroyed today, had about 10,000 inhabitants before the war.
Trenches ashore near Soledar, Donetsk, January 14, 2023. ANATOLII STEPANOV / AFP
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