January 24, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Jack Guy, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:14 a.m. ET, January 25, 2023
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4:40 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Ukraine's deputy defense minister resigns amid corruption allegations

From CNN’s Kostan Nechyporenko 

Ukraine’s deputy defense minister Viacheslav Shapovalov has resigned after allegations of corruption surfaced in the media.

Shapovalov submitted his resignation after a “campaign of accusations related to the procurement of food supply (to the Armed Forces of Ukraine),” according to a statement from the ministry, which described the allegations as “unfounded and baseless.” 

The minister was responsible for the logistics of the Armed Forces, the statement said. 

On Monday, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine said that it was investigating “high-profile media reports about possible abuses by the Ministry of Defense in the procurement of food for the military.” 

In his resignation letter, Shapovalov said he was leaving so as not to distract from the war effort.

“Due to the large public outcry, which was largely provoked by unsubstantiated manipulations around the issue of supplying the Armed Forces of Ukraine, there are risks of destabilizing the army supply processes. This is unacceptable during the war with Russia," reads the letter.

"In this situation, the priority is to ensure the stable work of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and to create conditions for transparent, unbiased inspections by law enforcement and other authorized bodies.” 

4:03 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

UK Defense Ministry says Russian general "likely" dismissed from key role in Ukraine

From CNN's Radina Gigova

A top Russian general who oversaw a withdrawal of Moscow's forces from Ukraine's southern Kherson region two months ago has "likely" been dismissed as a key operational commander in the war, according to Britain's Ministry of Defence.

In an intelligence update on Twitter, the UK ministry said Gen. Col. Mikhail Teplinsky "was the officer on the ground in charge of Russia's relatively successful withdrawal from the west of the Dnipro [River] in November 2022, and he has received praise in Russia as a capable and pragmatic commander."

It remains unclear whether Teplinsky will retain his additional remit as head of Russia's Airborne Forces (VDV), the UK ministry added. 

"There is a realistic possibility that debate over the tasks VDV has been given has contributed to his dismissal: VDV has often been employed in ground holding roles traditionally given to the mechanized infantry," the UK ministry said.

The UK ministry said Teplinsky's removal could be a sign of discord within the Russian military hierarchy amid Moscow's faltering campaign following the appointment of Gen. Valery Gerasimov as overall commander earlier in January. 

"Teplinsky's dismissal is likely another symptom of continued divisions within the senior hierarchy of Russia's operation as General Valery Gerasimov attempts to impose his personal authority on the campaign," the ministry said.

CNN hasn't been able to independently verify the UK ministry's claims. 

1:58 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Here's Tymoshenko's resignation notice in full

In a post on Telegram announcing his resignation, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, said he was "grateful to all Ukrainians for their trust in our work."

Here's a translation of his statement:

"I am grateful to the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, for his trust and the opportunity to do good deeds every day and every minute.
"I am grateful to every head of the regional military administrations. Together we have managed to build the most powerful team in the country. You are really cool. You are real warriors of light!
"I thank the mayors of the cities. For being constructive in disputes.
"Thanks to the cool team of the Directorate for Regional Policy of the Presidential Office. Without you, nothing would have happened.
"I am grateful to all Ukrainians for their trust in our work.
"Thank you to the Armed Forces for protecting and defending our country.
"I thank my wife and son. For understanding and support.
"Honored!
"See you soon."

Tymoshenko did not specify a reason for his resignation in his Telegram post.

The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed Tymoshenko's resignation on Tuesday, a day after the president had signaled there would be changes to “personnel” within the Ukrainian government, without naming specifically affected people.

3:17 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Top Ukrainian official Kyrylo Tymoshenko steps down

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko and Irene Nasser

Deputy head of the Presidential Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko speaks to the press at the scene of the fatal helicopter crash in Brovary, Ukraine, on January 18.
Deputy head of the Presidential Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko speaks to the press at the scene of the fatal helicopter crash in Brovary, Ukraine, on January 18. (Ukrinform/Shutterstock)

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, has resigned from his post, according to a statement posted on his official Telegram account Tuesday. 

Tymoshenko shared a photo of his resignation notice and said: "I would like to ask you to dismiss me from the post of Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine at my own request."  

In his statement, Tymoshenko thanked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, heads of regional military administrations and mayors, and his wife and son. 

“I am grateful to all Ukrainians for their trust in our work,” he added.

Tymoshenko did not specify a reason for his resignation in his Telegram post.

Zelensky's office confirmed Tymoshenko's resignation on Tuesday, a day after the president had signaled there would be changes to “personnel” within the Ukrainian government, without naming specifically affected people.

“There are also personnel decisions —  some today, some will be made tomorrow —  regarding managers of various levels in government ministries and other central government agencies, in the regions, and in the law enforcement system,” Zelensky said during his nightly address.
12:56 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

US raised concerns with Beijing over Chinese firms' non-lethal aid in Russian war effort

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis, Natasha Bertrand, Alex Marquardt and Kylie Atwood

The Biden administration has recently raised concerns with China about evidence it has suggesting that Chinese companies have sold non-lethal equipment to Russia for use in Ukraine, in an effort to ascertain how much Beijing knows about the transactions, according to two US officials.

That equipment includes items like flak jackets and helmets, multiple sources familiar with US and European intelligence told CNN, but stops short of the more robust military assistance that Russia has requested.

The equipment transfers are “concerning,” one of the US officials said, but at this stage, it’s not clear to Washington whether the central government is aware of it. Although state-owned enterprises dominate China’s economy, not all are subject to day-to-day oversight.

Some US officials believe the Chinese government knows about the equipment transfers and should take steps to upend them, the second official said.

While the Biden administration is still weighing the impact and overall significance of the support, it is a matter of increasing concern among US officials.

The US officials declined to offer details on the communications between the Biden administration and Beijing.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken travels to China in the coming weeks, and the transfers are expected to be a topic of discussion, the second official said.

CNN has reached out to the Chinese Embassy in Washington for comment. Bloomberg first reported the contact between the Biden administration and Beijing.

Read more here.

12:53 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Wagner's brutal tactics in Ukraine revealed by intelligence report

From CNN's Tim Lister, Frederik Pleitgen, and Victoria Butenko in Kyiv, Ukraine

Wagner Group fighters have become the disposable infantry of the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine, but a Ukrainian military intelligence document obtained by CNN sets out how effective they have been around the city of Bakhmut — and how difficult they are to fight against.

Wagner is a private military contractor run by oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been highly visible on the front lines in recent weeks — and always quick to claim credit for Russian advances. Wagner fighters have been heavily involved in taking Soledar, a few miles northeast of Bakhmut, and areas around the town.

The Ukrainian report, dated December 2022, concludes that Wagner represents a unique threat at close quarters, even while suffering extraordinary casualties. “The deaths of thousands of Wagner soldiers do not matter to Russian society,” the report asserts.

“Assault groups do not withdraw without a command… Unauthorized withdrawal of a team or without being wounded is punishable by execution on the spot.”

Phone intercepts obtained by a Ukrainian intelligence source and shared with CNN also indicate a merciless attitude on the battlefield. In one, a soldier is heard talking about another who tried to surrender to the Ukrainians.

“The Wagnerians caught him and cut his f**king balls off,” the soldier says.

CNN can’t independently authenticate the call, which is alleged to have taken place in November.

Wounded Wagner fighters are often left on the battlefield for hours, according to the Ukrainian assessment. “Assault infantry is not allowed to carry the wounded off the battlefield on their own, as their main task is to continue the assault until the goal is achieved. If the assault fails, retreat is also allowed only at night.”

Read the full story:

12:12 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Russia has sent tens of thousands of new troops to reinforce front lines, US military official says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann and Haley Britzky

Russian reservists recruited during a partial mobilization of troops walk toward a banner with a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a ceremony before their departure in Omsk, Russia, on January 6.
Russian reservists recruited during a partial mobilization of troops walk toward a banner with a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a ceremony before their departure in Omsk, Russia, on January 6. (Alexey Malgavko/Reuters)

Russia has sent tens of thousands of new troops to reinforce the front lines in Ukraine over the past few months, a senior US military official said Monday.

The troops have made little difference in the conflict, the official said, arriving on the front lines “ill-equipped, ill-trained” and “rushed to the battlefield.”

Russia has sent the troops in as replacements or reinforcements for existing units instead of newly organized and cohesive units. The troops began arriving on the battlefield following Russia’s stated mobilization of 300,000 new personnel in October, the official later said.

On Friday, Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley said Russia had suffered “significantly well over 100,000 [casualties] now,” including killed in action and wounded in action.

12:12 a.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Russian intelligence believed to have directed bombing campaign in Spain, US officials say

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis, Kylie Atwood and Alex Marquardt

US officials believe that Russian intelligence officers directed a Russian White supremacist group to carry out a letter-bombing campaign that rocked Madrid late last year, targeting the prime minister, the American and Ukrainian Embassies as well as the Spanish Defense Ministry, according to current and former US officials.

Spanish authorities have yet to make any arrests in connection with the attacks, which wounded one Ukrainian Embassy employee, but they were widely suspected at the time to be linked to Spain’s support for Kyiv.

Some details of how, exactly, the campaign was directed and carried out remain fuzzy, two US officials said. It’s not clear how much knowledge — if any — the Kremlin or Russian President Vladimir Putin himself had.

Still, US officials now believe the attack was likely a warning shot to European governments which have rallied around Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February of last year.

The New York Times first reported on the alleged involvement of Russian intelligence in the attacks.

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment “on matters involving leaked intelligence or active law enforcement investigations,” and referred to the Spanish government “for information related to their ongoing investigation.”

Read more here.

8:03 p.m. ET, January 23, 2023

It's overblown to say tank dispute is dividing NATO, White House official tells CNN

From CNN’s Amy Cassidy, Christiane Amanpour and Ben Kirby

John Kirby, US national security council coordinator for strategic communications, on Monday downplayed the notion that Germany’s indecision on providing advanced military tanks to Ukraine is dividing NATO.

“To say that this is dividing the alliance or somehow putting national security at risk in Ukraine because there’s a discussion over tanks is just way overblowing this thing,” the White House official told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

Some Western allies continue to pressure Germany to authorize the delivery of its modern Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.

No decisions have been made “one way or another,” Kirby told CNN.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said earlier on Monday that a decision would be taken “soon,” as EU Foreign Ministers meet in Brussels for talks on Monday. 

Kirby affirmed that “NATO has never been more staunchly united than it has been over the last year with this war in Ukraine,” but acknowledged the alliance is “not going to ever agree on every single aspect of every decision”. 

“What’s really important to remember is that these are national decisions, they’re sovereign decisions,” he said. 

“I certainly can't speak for the Germans on what’s going into their calculus about the Leopard tanks. The Leopards are very good and there [are] a lot of them on the European continent, and certainly, they could be effective on the battlefield. But again, what Germany does, they’ve got to decide," Kirby added. “They have to work through this in a sovereign way.”