We've wrapped up our live coverage for the day. You can read more on Russia's invasion of Ukraine here.
January 27, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news
By Tara Subramaniam, Amy Woodyatt, Hannah Strange, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Leinz Vales, CNN
Russian forces continued to shell towns in the east on Friday, according to the governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko. The town of Chasiv Yar, to the west of Bakhmut, had been shelled for over an hour and a half on Friday morning, leaving two people dead and five wounded, and damaging “around ten houses.”
Here's what else is happening:
Eastern attacks: Ukraine’s eastern front line is under heavy shelling, with the town of Vuhledar facing “permanent” assault, Kyrylenko said on Telegram Friday morning. Two people died over the past 24 hours in what Kyrylenko described as the “permanent shelling of Vuhledar.” He also reported two instances of "massive artillery shelling of Avdiivka overnight."
Thursday's missile attack: Two of the 70 missiles fired by Russia toward Ukraine on Thursday were Kinzhal-type hypersonic missiles, the Ukrainian Air Force said, calling on the West to provide them with advance air defense systems that are capable of shooting these down. At least 11 people were killed across Ukraine after Moscow fired 70 missiles — including two hypersonic missiles — aimed at energy facilities on Thursday. Ukraine's state energy operator warned Friday the strikes caused “substantial damage” to the power grid.
And in Belgium, the government announced its largest ever assistance package for Ukraine, including $97.5 million in military aid. The military aid is part of a larger package that also contains humanitarian and civilian assistance.
As for the US, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told CNN Friday the newly announced tranche of Abrams tanks announced by the US as part of this week’s aid to Ukraine “will take many months before they can get on the ground.” Despite this timeline, Kirby said the Biden administration is “not going to waste time” in providing training and shoring up supply chains to ensure Ukrainian forces are best equipped to use them when they eventually arrive in Ukraine.
And in Germany, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has ruled out Germany sending fighter jets to Ukraine, according to an interview with German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Friday.
Morawiecki is glad Poland could "convince our allies and partners from Western Europe that they should be much more active in supporting Ukraine," the prime minister told Canadian broadcaster CTV on Friday.
Germany's decided earlier this week to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine after much diplomatic discussion.
Morawiecki said Poland likes to "lead by example," and touted the country's decision to send 250 tanks to Ukraine last year, adding that they were first country to do so.
"Right now, we are ready to send 60 of our modernized tanks, 30 of them PT-91," the prime minister said, referencing the country's main battle tank, PT-91 Twardy. "And on top of those tanks, 14 tanks, Leopard 2 tanks, from in our possession."
Poland, he said, has made a habit of telling its partners “how many tanks we've already delivered.”
“I have quoted President Zelensky (to explain) how important it is in this kind of war to have modern tanks. Russians have several thousands, or some say even more than 15,000, of the tanks in their stores,” Morawiecki added.
Poland last week harshly criticized Germany’s initial hesitancy to approve Warsaw's request to transfer some of its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
Ukrainian pilots will take “about six months” to master the F-16 multi-role fighter jet, the spokesperson for the Ukrainian Airforce, Yurii Ihnat, said at a briefing on Friday.
“Our pilots can learn how to fly those aircraft in a couple of weeks. It will take time to master how to fight with those airplanes, about six months,” Ihnat said. “They would have to learn how to use all kinds of weapons carried by modern aircraft.”
After Western nations acceded to provide Ukraine with tanks, some analysts quickly suggested that European and NATO allies would eventually provide Ukraine with older aircraft such as the F-16.
Ihnat added that in addition to pilots, “intensive training” would be necessary for ground crews servicing the F-16.
Germany's Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has ruled out Germany sending fighter jets to Ukraine, according to an interview with German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Friday.
''This is out of the question," Pistorius is quoted as saying when asked whether Germany would send fighter jets to Kyiv.
It follows renewed public appeals by Ukraine’s government for Western fighter jets after Germany approved the delivery of Leopard 2 battle tanks earlier this week.
"Fighter aircrafts are much more complex systems than main battle tanks and have a completely different range and firepower. We would venture into dimensions that I would currently warn against," Pistorius said in the interview.
Pistorius, who took office last week following his predecessor's resignation, also told the newspaper that Germany's 100 billion euro ($108 billion) special defense fund, which was set up last year, is no longer enough to cover its requirements.
"The 100 billion will not be enough," Pistorius said, adding that he believes Germany would also need to increase its annual regular defense budget, which is currently set at around 50 billion euros (about $54 billion).
Pistorius also said that Germany's decision to suspend compulsory military service in 2011 "was a mistake," adding that he was open to discussing a new model to strengthen the relationship between citizens and the state.
The Belgian government has announced its largest ever assistance package for Ukraine, including $97.5 million in military aid.
"Today the ministerial council has decided to add a new package of 90 million euros ( $97.5 million) in military aid. That is the largest military aid package for Ukraine that our country has decided to date," Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told journalists on Friday. "This new package is on top of the 146 million euros (around $158 million) Belgium has already donated in military assistance."
The military aid is part of a larger package that also contains humanitarian and civilian assistance.
The military aide will include anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank missiles, grenades and munitions, which will enable Ukraine to continue to "protect its citizens," Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder said, adding that Belgium will also deliver military vehicles, trucks and light armored vehicles to Ukraine in the "coming weeks."
Separate from the military aid, the package also contains 86 million euros ($93.3 million) in civilian aid, including 69 million euros ($74.9 million) dedicated towards humanitarian aid and 10.6 million euros ($11.5 million) dedicated towards the reconstruction of Ukraine.
This civilian aid will include medical supplies and ambulance, De Croo added.
Satellite images of an area near a village in Russia show a rapidly expanding cemetery where many of those killed fighting for the Wagner Group — a Russian private mercenary organization heavily involved in the war in Ukraine — are buried.
Pictures of rows of fresh graves near the village of Bakinskaya in the Krasnodar region first started emerging on social media in December. And on Jan. 2, Russian State News Agency RIA Novosti showed Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin visiting the site and laying a wreath on one of the graves.
“Here we bury fighters who indicated in their will that they want to be buried here,” Prigozhin explained, according to RIA. “Or orphans and those whose bodies, for some reason, relatives do not want to take.”
Satellite pictures taken by on Nov. 24, 2022, show three rows of graves on a new plot. When Prigozhin visited in early January, he told RIA Novosti that 93 graves had been dug. Another Maxar satellite picture taken on Jan. 24 shows the plot already virtually full, with 14 additional rows.
According to the Institute for the Study of War, the Bakinskaya cemetery seen in satellite pictures, as well as a nearby secondary location in the nearby town of Goryachy Klyuch, may hold around 1,000 dead Wagner soldiers.
Local activists reported the mercenary group began using the Bakinskaya cemetery after it ran out of space at a Wagner-affiliated chapel in Goryachy Klyuch.
“The majority of the Wagner Group personnel buried at these sites were reportedly prisoners, a result of the Wagner Group‘s overwhelming reliance on prison recruitment and its operational use of these personnel in costly assaults,” the ISW said in its analysis on Friday.
“The high number of casualties is likely constraining the Wagner Group’s ability to continue offensive operations at a high pace and will likely prompt further prison recruitment efforts,” it added.
More on Wagner's role in Ukraine: Wagner fighters have been locked in a long battle of attrition with Ukrainian forces as they've taken the town of Soledar and are now engaged in the assault on Bakhmut and surrounding villages. Ukrainian officials say Wagner has sent waves of infantry toward their positions and have suffered heavy losses in the process.
The high number of casualties earned the area the nickname of “meat grinder,” and the rapidly expanding graveyard in Bakinskaya illustrates the high death toll.
According to Wagner founder Yevgeny Prighozin, only some of the group’s fighters are buried there.
The US Treasury Department on Thursday designated Wagner a significant transnational criminal organization and imposed a slew of sanctions on a transnational network that supports it.
A senior official for the European Union on Friday called for the creation of a "Free Radio Russia" project to enable independent Russian journalists to report without censorship from the Kremlin.
“I want to launch a Radio Free Russia project,” said EU Commission Vice President Vera Jourová, similar to the idea of Radio Free Europe or Voice of America, founded to counter propaganda and transmit uncensored news and information during the Cold War and World War II respectively.
It would not mean creating a brand-new radio station, she said during a speech in the Estonian capital of Tallinn, rather a platform “to support those who are doing a lot already, help them to create economy of scale and fill the gaps so they can produce more content and distribute it more widely without any editorial interference."
Many independent journalists have been expelled from Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in wake of its censorship, and so a number of news outlets such as Novaya Gazeta now operate in the EU, providing a “unique opportunity," she said.
“We need to create the conditions for them to work and tell the story of the EU they see and experience to their Russian audiences,” Jourová continued. “It is not only a moral duty, it is in our self-interest.”
The commissioner reflected on her childhood in Soviet-era Czech Republic to “reject” the argument that “all Russians” support Moscow’s government, urging Europe not to “give up on the Russian society [...] regardless of how few or how many want to hear the real news, not Kremlin propaganda.”
Some background: The Russian government adopted a law criminalizing the dissemination of what it calls “deliberately false” information about the Russian armed forces in early March, just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The maximum penalty under the law is 15 years in prison.
Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday that it has ordered Latvian Ambassador to Moscow Maris Riekstins to leave Russia within two weeks in a tit-for-tat move.
“Ambassador of Latvia M. Riekstins was ordered to leave the Russian Federation within two weeks,” according to a statement from the ministry.
Earlier this week, Latvia expelled Russia’s ambassador in Riga, citing solidarity with Estonia.
Moscow has blamed Riga for the deterioration of bilateral relations between the two countries.
“It is emphasized that the provocative démarche of the Latvian authorities to lower the level of diplomatic relations will have consequences,” according to the statement.