January 12, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Rhea Mogul, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer and Leinz Vales, CNN

Updated 12:59 a.m. ET, January 13, 2023
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8:00 p.m. ET, January 11, 2023

UK government discussing "accelerating" support for Ukraine, including provision of tanks

From CNN's Lauren Kent

The British government is working with partners to discuss how to go "further and faster" in supporting Ukraine, including the provision of tanks, according to the prime minister's spokesperson on Wednesday. 

When asked by lobby journalists if the United Kingdom would supply tanks to Ukraine, the prime minister's spokesperson said, “We are accelerating our support to Ukraine with the kind of next-generation military technology that will help them win this war." 

"It is clear that tanks could provide a game-changing capability to the Ukrainians and the prime minister told President Zelensky last week that we’ll provide whatever support we can," the spokesperson added. "The prime minister has asked the Defence Secretary to work with partners in the coming weeks to discuss how we can go further and faster on our support to Ukraine including the provision of tanks."

But, while it is "constantly looking at what equipment we can provide," that does not mean that any decisions have been made about providing Challenger 2 tanks right now, the spokesperson said.

7:59 p.m. ET, January 11, 2023

Ukrainian soldier in eastern town of Soledar tells CNN: "We're hanging in there"

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva

A Ukrainian soldier in the contested eastern town of Soledar told CNN Wednesday evening that he and his comrades remained in the settlement, but the situation was “very difficult” and the next 24 hours or so would be critical.

“It is tough here, but we are more alive than anyone else,” the soldier, whom CNN is not identifying for security reasons, said via text message.

The head of Wagner, the Russian private military company, claimed Tuesday that his forces had taken control of the “entire territory of Soledar.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tempered that sentiment on Wednesday, saying only there was a “positive trend.” The Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that its forces had “blocked Soledar from the northern and southern parts” of the settlement.

“Don't believe what they say,” the Ukrainian soldier told CNN. “We're hanging in there. Though practically on our own. Without commanders.”

He said that the next 24 hours would be “very difficult.”

“During these days everything will be determined for the city. Because we are being trapped, they want to encircle us," he said.

The soldier said that if the nearby Ukrainian units held their ground, his unit would be able to safely retreat. He said the Russians were jamming Ukrainian communications, making coordination extremely difficult.

“It is not clear who our neighbors are, but someone is there and fighting. We have no connection with them," the solider said.

3:10 a.m. ET, January 12, 2023

Why is Russia so keen to capture the town of Soledar?

From CNN's Rob Picheta, Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

Smoke raises after shelling in Soledar, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on January 11.
Smoke raises after shelling in Soledar, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on January 11. (Libkos/AP)

Fighting is still raging in Soledar, a salt mine town in eastern Ukraine, despite Russian claims that it has gained control of the region.

Should Russian troops indeed capture the town, it would mark Moscow’s first gain in the Donbas for months — potentially offering President Vladimir Putin some welcome news after a string of defeats on the battlefield since last summer.

The significance of Soledar in military terms is minimal. However, its capture would allow Russian forces, and especially the Wagner mercenary group, to turn their focus on nearby Bakhmut, which has been a target since the summer.

Taking Soledar would also represent a symbolic PR win for the man who runs Wagner — oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has frequently criticized the Russian Defense Ministry’s management of the “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine.

Read more about Soledar here.

7:57 p.m. ET, January 11, 2023

Russia appoints new head of so-called Ukraine "special military operation"

From CNN’s Mick Krever

Russia’s defense minister has appointed Gen. Valery Gerasimov as commander of the Joint Group of Forces leading the country's so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Gerasimov replaces Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who had been appointed to the role on Oct. 8, 2022, and was in charge of Russian forces during their retreat from large swaths of Ukraine’s Kherson region. Surovikin will now serve as a deputy commander, according to a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry.

“On 11 January 2023, Russian Defence Minister General of the Army Sergei Shoigu assigns new leadership of special military operation,” the ministry said Wednesday on its official Telegram channel

“Chief of General Staff General of the Army Valery Gerasimov has been assigned the commander of the Joint Group of Forces,” it said.

“The deputy commanders are: the Commander-in-Chief of Aerospace Forces General of the Army Sergei Surovikin, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army General of the Army Oleg Salyukov, as well as the Deputy Chief of General Staff of Russian Armed Forces Colonel General Aleksey Kim,” it added.

The ministry said the changes were necessary because of “the amplified range of tasks, the necessity of closer cooperation between services and branches of the Armed Forces, as well as of improving the quality of all types of maintenance and efficiency of commanding the groups of forces.”