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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9:27 p.m. ET, January 24, 2023

US is finalizing plans to send 30 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, officials say

From CNN's Oren Liebermann and Natasha Bertrand

US soldiers stand with an M1 Abrams tank in a wooded area during a multinational exercise in Hohenfels, Germany, in June 2022.
US soldiers stand with an M1 Abrams tank in a wooded area during a multinational exercise in Hohenfels, Germany, in June 2022. (Nicolas Armer/dpa/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is finalizing plans to send approximately 30 US-made Abrams tanks to Ukraine and could make an announcement as soon as this week, according to two officials familiar with the deliberations.

The US will also send a small number of recovery vehicles, one of the officials said. Recovery vehicles are tracked vehicles used to assist in the repair of tanks on the battlefield or the removal from the battlefield for service and maintenance in a different location.

The timing around the actual delivery of the tanks is still unclear and it normally takes several months to train troops to use the tanks effectively, officials said. 

An announcement about the tanks could be part of an attempt to break a diplomatic logjam with Germany, which indicated to the US last week that it would not send its Leopard tanks to Ukraine unless the US also agreed to send its M1 Abrams tanks. 

Top national security officials in the administration have been actively considering steps they could take to convince Germany to send the Leopards. 

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Tuesday that she suspects that the matter of tanks “will be resolved relatively soon.”

Asked about what was happening on the provision of tanks — German Leopards or US Abrams — Sherman did not give a specific answer, but said, “I think you’ll see in the days ahead resolution of some of these issues.”

“This is hard for everybody. Each country as President Biden has said has to make its own decisions about what weapons it wants to provide,” Sherman said in remarks at the City Club of Cleveland in Ohio Tuesday. 

Some background: On Friday, at a meeting of Western defense leaders in Germany, the US and its allies failed to convince German officials to send the Leopards as part of Berlin’s next round of military assistance to Ukraine. But on Tuesday, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said, “We are preparing our decision, which will come very soon” on the tanks. 

Sky News Arabia was first to report the news that the US is considering sending the tanks.

The administration has never taken the possibility of shipping American tanks entirely off the table, but US officials said publicly last week that now is not the right time to send the 70-ton M1 Abrams tanks because they are costly and require a significant amount of training to operate. 

The tanks have instead repeatedly been floated as a long-term option — even as critics say the right time is now, as Ukraine braces for the possibility Russia will mobilize more troops and launch a new offensive. The UK has already announced it will send 12 of its Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, crossing what had previously appeared to be a red line for the US and its European allies.

Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelensky has consistently asked Western allies for modern tanks as his country prepares braces for an expected major Russian counteroffensive in the spring. 

CNN's Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

The post has been updated with more details on the tanks.

9:52 p.m. ET, January 24, 2023

White House official discusses complexity of learning to use Abrams tanks

From CNN's DJ Judd

John Kirby during a news conference at the White House in Washington, DC on Friday.
John Kirby during a news conference at the White House in Washington, DC on Friday. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The decision to send US-made Abrams tanks to Ukraine will rely on an “iterative" process around what Ukraine’s needs are, what aid is appropriate for the US to send and technical considerations surrounding the operation and maintenance of the tanks, White House National Security Council Senior Coordinator for Communications John Kirby told CNN on Tuesday.

“We have talked about the fact that the Abrams are an incredibly capable system but it's a very expensive system to operate and to maintain,” Kirby told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “It has a jet engine — it doesn't mean that the Ukrainians can't learn it, it just means that we have to factor all that stuff in with any system that we're going to potentially provide to them.” 

Earlier Tuesday, CNN reported that the Biden administration is finalizing plans to send tanks to Ukraine and could make an announcement as soon as this week, according to three US officials familiar with the deliberations. The timing around the actual delivery of the tanks is still unclear and it normally takes several months to train troops to use the tanks effectively, officials said.

Kirby acknowledged that the complexity of the Abrams systems could play a role in the US’ decision to share tanks with Ukraine. 

“Without getting ahead of any decision that hasn't been spoken to yet, I would just tell you that again, with any advanced system, you have to factor in things like supply chain and maintenance time and how often can you keep them operational and how do you use them effectively,” Kirby told Anderson, adding that ensuring Ukrainian troops are sufficiently trained on the systems “absolutely affects,” the US’ decision. 

To date, the US has begun supplying refurbished Soviet-era T-72 tanks, but modern Western tanks are a generation ahead in terms of their ability to target enemy positions. Still, Kirby dismissed the idea that providing the newer systems might escalate tensions with Russia.

“Look, let's make no mistake — the only party that's escalated the war is Russia, they started it and they have been escalating it ever since,” he said. “I mean, we don't talk about it as much in the last few days, but they're still using cruise missiles and drones to hit civilian targets and infrastructure, knock out the lights and the water while the Ukrainians are suffering through a brutal winter. So I mean it is Russia that is the aggressor here, it is Russia that has escalated.” 

 

6:00 p.m. ET, January 24, 2023

It's after midnight in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

Germany has decided to deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, according to German newspaper Der Spiegel. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made the decision after "months of debate," according to the exclusive report.

Here are the latest headlines:

Leopard 2 tanks: Berlin has not yet formally notified Warsaw about the reported decision to allow Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine, a Polish official told CNN Tuesday. Poland will ask for reimbursement from the European Union for any Leopard tanks sent to Ukraine, according to Poland's prime minister. German parliament is set to debate the contentious Leopard tank issue Wednesday morning.

Abrams tanks: The Biden administration is finalizing plans to send US-made Abrams tanks to Ukraine and could make an announcement as soon as this week, according to three US officials familiar with the deliberations. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the United States “is regularly engaged in” conversations with allies and partners about military equipment for Ukraine, but would not confirm reports about sending Abrams tanks or that Germany will send Leopards. 

Russian shortages and inflation: Russian President Vladmir Putin said Tuesday that inspections have indicated a shortage of some drugs in Russian pharmacies as well as an increase in prices, according to state news agency TASS. Shops in Moscow have shuttered as businesses face the economic fall-out from massive Western sanctions in response to the war in Ukraine.

Wagner appeal: The head of the Wagner private military company appealed Tuesday to the Russian State Duma to issue protections for the volunteers and convicts who fight as Wagner mercenaries in Ukraine.

British volunteer deaths: British volunteers Chris Parry and Andrew Bagshaw were killed during a humanitarian evacuation mission in the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar, according to a statement from the Parry family released Tuesday by the UK foreign office. The families of both men had previously said the two had gone to Ukraine to work as humanitarian volunteers. CNN has seen no evidence they participated in hostilities in Ukraine.

Debunked accusations: No military equipment is being stored in the Ukrainian nuclear power plants inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the chief of the UN nuclear watchdog Rafael Grossi told European Parliament lawmakers on Tuesday. Grossi’s comments come a day after Russia again accused Ukraine of using nuclear power plant sites to store Western-supplied weapons.  

4:39 p.m. ET, January 24, 2023

IAEA says no military equipment found in Ukrainian nuclear power plants

From CNN’s Eleanor Pickston and Katya Krebs

No military equipment is being stored in the Ukrainian nuclear power plants inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the chief of the UN nuclear watchdog Rafael Grossi told European Parliament lawmakers on Tuesday. His comments debunk previous accusations made by Russia.

"This morning I instructed my teams to address a comprehensive review of the facilities in collaboration and in cooperation with the Ukrainian management of these facilities to ascertain whether there is, in fact, any military equipment in store or stationed or being moved there. And, of course, the results of those inspections was negative,” Grossi told the assembly in Brussels.
“It's the second time that in a calm way, a technical way, the IAEA has been able to debunk accusations of illegal things, and very dangerous things, taking place in these facilities,” he said. 

Grossi’s comments come a day after Russia again accused Ukraine of using nuclear power plant sites to store Western-supplied weapons.  

On Monday, the Russian Foreign Intelligence (SVR) Director ​Sergey Naryshkin accused Ukraine in a statement of “stockpiling weapons and ammunition provided by the West on the territories of nuclear power plants.”

“This applies to the scarcest and most expensive missiles for the Armed Forces of Ukraine for the HIMARS MLRS and foreign air defense systems, as well as large-caliber artillery ammunition,” the statement added.

Regarding the situation on the ground in Ukraine, Grossi told European lawmakers that the possibility of increased military activity in the coming months “raises our degree of concern” about the potential impact on Ukraine’s nuclear infrastructure.

The situation in the recent days around Zaporizhzhia has been “pretty tense” with shelling in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzia nuclear site, Grossi added.

6:04 p.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Finland foreign minister calls reports that US and Germany will send tanks to Ukraine "very good news"

From CNN's Amy Cassidy and Isa Soares

A Polish Leopard 2 during an international military exercise on January 27, 2022, in Bavaria, Hohenfels, Germany.
A Polish Leopard 2 during an international military exercise on January 27, 2022, in Bavaria, Hohenfels, Germany. (Armin Weigel/dpa/AP)

Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto welcomed reports Tuesday that the United States and Germany are planning to send battle tanks to Ukraine, telling CNN’s Isa Soares that it is “very good news."

German news outlet Der Spiegel reported Tuesday that Germany is set to deliver its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, citing unnamed sources. CNN reached out to the German government for comment on Tuesday evening but has not received a response.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is finalizing plans to send US-made Abrams tanks to Ukraine and could make an announcement as soon as this week, according to three US officials familiar with the deliberations.

Haavisto noted that while there isn't a "final confirmation" of the reported German decision yet, “there can be a connection” between both developments. Germany had indicated to the US last week that it would not send its Leopard tanks unless the US also agreed to send its Abrams tanks.

“Now of course if the Leopard 2 is moving and the Abrams moving on the US side, Ukraine will get those weapons that they are in need of to defend their territory,” the Finnish foreign minister told CNN. “Very good news."

4:34 p.m. ET, January 24, 2023

UK volunteers killed in eastern Ukraine while helping with humanitarian evacuation, family says

From CNN's Lauren Kent in London

British volunteers Chris Parry, left, and Andrew Bagshaw.
British volunteers Chris Parry, left, and Andrew Bagshaw. (Reuters)

British volunteers Chris Parry and Andrew Bagshaw have been killed during a humanitarian evacuation mission in the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar, according to a statement from the Parry family, which was released Tuesday by the UK foreign office. Bagshaw was a dual national of New Zealand.

"It is with great sadness we have to announce that our beloved Chrissy has been killed along with his colleague Andrew Bagshaw whilst attempting a humanitarian evacuation from Soledar, eastern Ukraine," the Parry family statement said. "His selfless determination in helping the old, young and disadvantaged there has made us and his larger family extremely proud."

"We never imagined we would be saying goodbye to Chris when he had such a full life ahead of him. He was a caring son, fantastic brother, a best friend to so many and a loving partner to Olga," the statement added. 

"He found himself drawn to Ukraine in March in its darkest hour at the start of the Russian invasion and helped those most in need, saving over 400 lives plus many abandoned animals. It is impossible to put into words how much he will be missed but he will forever be in our hearts," it said.

"We feel so privileged that he chose our family to be part of," the statement said, which was signed by family members Rob, Christine, and Katy Parry. 

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has requested privacy for the family at this time. 

More on this case: The families of both men had previously said the two had gone to Ukraine to work as humanitarian volunteers. CNN has seen no evidence they participated in hostilities in Ukraine.

On Jan. 9, Ukrainian police reported that they were searching for Bagshaw and Parry. Ukrainian police noted that the two Britons “left Kramatorsk for Soledar" — the scene of intense recent fighting — "and contact with them was lost," CNN previously reported.

CNN's Seb Shukla, Mick Krever, Anna Chernova and Eve Brennan contributed reporting to this post.

3:25 p.m. ET, January 24, 2023

Incoming US ambassador to Russia met with Russian counterpart, State Department says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Incoming US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy met with Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday. 

“This was an opportunity for her to have a discussion with her counterpart here in DC,” he said at a press briefing.

Price said the two did not discuss “any form of a negotiated settlement over Russia’s brutal war with Ukraine.”

“She's currently in the process of having consultations with desks and individuals here in Washington, and in this case, she had an opportunity to have a discussion with Ambassador Antonov,” he said.

Price said that Tracy is expected to depart for Moscow “where she will present her credentials in the coming days” and she is expected to be in place as the top US diplomat in Russia “later this month.”

“We have been clear about our desire to maintain open channels of communication with Russia,” Price said.

He noted that the US Embassy in Moscow is “under duress because of the pressure and the limitations that the Kremlin has imposed on it,” but the US is also able to communicate with the Russian Embassy in the US. 

“There are open channels of communication. We use these channels to convey where we are on issues that are of the utmost priority to us,” including wrongfully detained American citizens and the costs of Russian escalation, Price said.

 

4:04 p.m. ET, January 24, 2023

State Department: US "regularly engaged in" conversations about military equipment for Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood 

State Department spokesperson Ned Price answers questions from press during the daily press briefing at the State Department in Washington DC, on January 9.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price answers questions from press during the daily press briefing at the State Department in Washington DC, on January 9. (Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the United States “is regularly engaged in” conversations with allies and partners about military equipment for Ukraine but would not confirm reports that the US is preparing to send Abrams tanks or that Germany will send Leopards. 

“We’re not going to get ahead of any potential announcements from other allies, other partners, we’re not going to preview anything else we may have to say,” Price said at a press briefing Tuesday. 

“We have not taken capabilities off the table,” he added.

The Biden administration is finalizing plans to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine, three US officials familiar with the deliberations said Tuesday. An announcement could come as soon as this week, the officials said.

The timing around the actual delivery of the tanks is still unclear, and it normally takes several months to train troops to use the tanks effectively, officials said. 

Price noted that “just because we’re in the same public place doesn’t necessarily mean we haven’t made progress on any given issue.”