January 27, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Amy Woodyatt, Hannah Strange, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Leinz Vales, CNN

Updated 12:12 p.m. ET, January 29, 2023
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11:29 a.m. ET, January 27, 2023

Russia fired 2 hypersonic Kinzhal missiles Thursday, Ukraine says

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London and Maria Kostenko in Kyiv

A man helps a woman to get out from a crater next to damaged residential buildings following a Russian missile attack on January 26, in Hlevakha, outside Kyiv, Ukraine.
A man helps a woman to get out from a crater next to damaged residential buildings following a Russian missile attack on January 26, in Hlevakha, outside Kyiv, Ukraine. (Roman Pilipey/Getty Images)

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.

“We need Patriot and SAMP/T systems to be able to (intercept these missiles),” Ukrainian Air Force Command spokesperson Yurii Ihnat said during a briefing.

SAMP/T systems are used for air defense primarily in Europe.

The United States has said it will send Patriot air defense systems to Ukraine, but the systems do not appear to be operational in the country yet. Ukrainian troops were set to begin training on the Patriot system this month at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where the US conducts its own training on operating and maintaining the advanced air defense system.

France and Italy are finalizing an agreement to send SAMP/T systems to Ukraine, with an agreement expected in the coming weeks. 

10:38 a.m. ET, January 27, 2023

Spanish judge says man arrested over letter bombs aimed to suppress Spain's support to Ukraine 

From CNN’s Al Goodman in Madrid 

Spanish national police officers lead away a 74-year-old man under arrest on suspicion of being the sender of letter-bombs in November and December to the Ukrainian and U.S. embassies and several institutions in Spain, in Miranda de Ebro, Spain, on January 25.
Spanish national police officers lead away a 74-year-old man under arrest on suspicion of being the sender of letter-bombs in November and December to the Ukrainian and U.S. embassies and several institutions in Spain, in Miranda de Ebro, Spain, on January 25. (Vincent West/Reuters)

A court in Spain ordered prison on remand for a Spanish man suspected of sending letter bombs late last year to Spain's prime minister and the US and Ukrainian embassies in Madrid. The judge said Friday that the man's intention was to disturb public peace in a way to create pressure for Spain to suppress its support to Ukraine.  

The suspect’s actions aimed to send “a message of actions carried out by people linked to Russia to suppress the interests of Spain and the United States for their support of Ukraine against the Russian occupation,” the court's order said.   

The six letter bombs, also “aimed to oblige” Spain “to drop its support shown for Ukraine against the Russian aggression,” investigating magistrate Jose Luis Calama wrote in the ruling, which the court sent to CNN and other media.   

The suspect, arrested on Wednesday at his home in northern Spain, is 74-year-old Pompeyo Gonzalez Pascual. He used Russian instant messaging apps like VK and the Swiss encrypted end-to-end email system, and is considered a flight risk, the judge added in the ruling.   

More on the suspect: CNN reported last Monday that US officials believe that Russian intelligence officers directed a Russian White supremacist group to carry out a letter-bombing campaign that rocked Spain late last year, citing current and former US officials.   

The suspect consulted Russian news websites, such as Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as other sites focused on weapons and chemicals, the judge wrote.   

A Spanish interior ministry statement last Wednesday said that although “it’s presumed that the suspect made and sent the explosive devices on his own, the police don’t rule out the participation or influence of other people in these events.”   

Spain's aid to Ukraine: Spain has provided humanitarian and military support to Ukraine since the Russian invasion. More recently, Spain said it was willing to provide Ukraine with its Leopard tanks, but in coordination with the allies.

10:16 a.m. ET, January 27, 2023

5 Russian men escaping conscription stranded at Seoul airport for months as they seek refugee status  

From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo in Seoul   

Five Russian men who have fled Russia after the government's military mobilization order last September have been stranded at South Korea's Incheon International Airport for months after authorities refused to accept them.

Three of the men arrived at the airport last October and two in November, according to their lawyer Lee Jong-chan. But since their applications for refugee status were denied by the South Korean Justice Ministry, they’ve been at the airport’s departure lounge for months waiting for a ruling on their appeal, according to Lee.

“They’re provided with one meal a day, which is lunch, but for the rest of the day, they’re living off of bread and drinks. They’re able to shower but have to wash their clothes by hand and they cannot leave the departure and duty-free areas,” Lee told CNN. “They have limited access to medical care but no support for their mental health which is important considering their precarious situation,” he added.

A news release issued last month by a South Korean human rights advocacy group called on the government to accept the men's applications on grounds the men refuse to become a “tool of murder” and if they return home, “it is highly likely for them to be detained or forcibly drafted.”

South Korea's Ministry of Justice has dismissed their applications as “not being worthy of evaluation,” on the ground that a refusal of conscription was not a reason for refugee recognition,” according to Lee, who has reviewed the document from the ministry.

Lee argues that the men’s refusal to serve in the military “should be recognized as a political reason considering the current situation that the war [in Ukraine] is condemned by international law.” 

"[The men] are political refugees who face persecution," the news release from the activist group said, adding, "Those who apply for refugee status upon escaping political and religious persecution from their home countries have rights to protection under international law. … As a developed, democratic state that guarantees human rights, [South] Korea has been inconspicuously rejecting refugees who have objected to war.”  

The men have appealed the decision, and three of them will face their first court ruling on Jan. 31, during which the court will decide whether or not their case is "worthy of evaluation," according to Lee. If the court rules in their favor, the Justice Ministry will then have to review their applications for refugee status. 

South Korea has mandatory military service and takes draft evasion seriously.

9:42 a.m. ET, January 27, 2023

It will take "many months" for Abrams tanks to be on the ground in Ukraine, White House spokesperson says

From CNN's DJ Judd and Kaitlan Collins

A US Army M1 Abrams tank drives across a road during a multinational exercise at the Hohenfels training area in Bavaria, Germany, on June 8, 2022.
A US Army M1 Abrams tank drives across a road during a multinational exercise at the Hohenfels training area in Bavaria, Germany, on June 8, 2022. (Nicolas Armer/picture alliance/Getty Images)

John Kirby, a White House national security spokesperson, 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.

Pressed by CNN's Kaitlan Collins, however, Kirby declined to say if he believes they’ll arrive by the end of 2023.

“I don't want to get too specific, because we're still working the plans out, but it'll be many months,” Kirby told Kaitlan, but that in the meantime, a shipment of Leopard tanks courtesy of Germany will arrive on the ground in Ukraine “in short order.”

Kirby also wouldn’t say whether US President Joe Biden is considering a trip to the region to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion, but told CNN Biden is “in close contact with President Zelensky — they speak quite frequently, quite often.”

“I think that, you know, the President would certainly, at whatever appropriate time, would be willing to do [travel] to Ukraine. But we're not at that point right now,” he said.

9:02 a.m. ET, January 27, 2023

First Ukrainian soldiers have arrived in Germany for tank training, defense ministry says

From CNN’s Nadine Schmidt in Berlin and Allegra Goodwin in London 

Germany’s defense ministry on Friday confirmed Ukrainian soldiers have arrived in the country for training on the Marder infantry fighting vehicles Berlin has agreed to provide to the war-torn nation. 

“Ukrainian soldiers have arrived in Germany for training on the Marder infantry fighting vehicle,” a spokesperson from the country's defense ministry told reporters at a press briefing.  

Earlier this month, Germany said it would provide Ukraine with 40 of the Marder vehicles and an additional Patriot anti-aircraft missile battery.   

Germany's defense ministry told CNN Friday that the training would take place in Munster, Lower Saxony, and is expected to be completed by the end of March.  

The Marder is an infantry fighting vehicle used by the German military since the early 1970’s but continuously upgraded. While the German military is in the process of phasing the vehicle out, hundreds are still in service.   

An infantry fighting vehicle is a heavily armed armored vehicle used to move soldiers around the battlefield. It’s usually deployed together with main battle tanks.  

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the additional delivery of 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks to Ukraine. Training for Ukrainian soldiers on how to use the advanced battle tanks is set to begin “soon” in Germany, according to the defense ministry.  

12:12 p.m. ET, January 29, 2023

Ukrainian officials say troops are facing "permanent" assault in the east as heavy shelling continues 

From CNN’s Jo Shelley in London and Maria Kostenko in Kyiv 

Ukrainian servicemen fire a 2S7 Pion self-propelled gun toward Russian positions on a frontline near Bakhmut in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on January 24.
Ukrainian servicemen fire a 2S7 Pion self-propelled gun toward Russian positions on a frontline near Bakhmut in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on January 24. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters)

Ukraine’s eastern front line is under heavy shelling, with the town of Vuhledar facing “permanent” assault, the governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo 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."

Russian forces continued to shell towns in the east during the day on Friday, Kyrylenko said in a later post. 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.” 

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s military told one broadcast outlet that Russia was “constantly” trying to advance in the east, using “a barrage of personnel” to try and break through Ukrainian defenses. 

“The Russians are trying to break through our defenses, ignoring enormous losses of their own. It used to be a barrage of fire, now it is barrage of personnel," Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukraine's armed forces in the east, told UATV on Friday.

“They are constantly assaulting, trying to move forward,” he said. “Their key weapon now is manpower. In Bakhmut, those are the Wagner PMC but not exclusively… In Vuhledar, the key assault forces are marines and infantry units, along with conscripts.” 

7:58 a.m. ET, January 27, 2023

It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's the latest on Russia's war in Ukraine

From CNN staff

A senior European Union official accused Russia on Friday of taking its war against Ukraine to a “different stage” by taking aim at civilians and non-military targets, prompting Germany and the US to supply military equipment to Ukraine in order for the country to better defend themselves.

Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo, the secretary general of the European Union’s European External Action Service, Stefano Sannino, said Russia had “moved from a concept of special operation to a concept now of a war against NATO and the West.”

“I think that this latest development in terms of armed supply is just an evolution of the situation and of the way Russia started moving the war into a different stage,” Sannino, said, adding that Putin was launching “indiscriminate attacks against civilians and against cities.”

Here's what else is happening:

Annexed Ukrainian regions to be put on Moscow time: The occupied parts of four Ukrainian regions -- the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions -- which Russia declared it had annexed in September will be ordered to use Moscow time, according to a post on Russia's Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Telegram channel. 

Kremlin says Washington "demonizing" Russian private mercenary Wagner group: The Kremlin said Friday that Washington has been “demonizing” the Russian private mercenary organization Wagner Group for years, following the US Treasury's decision to designate the group as a significant transnational criminal organization. The Treasury Department on Thursday designated the group, which is heavily involved in the war in Ukraine, as a significant transnational criminal organization, and imposed a slew of sanctions on a transnational network that supports it.

"Substantial damage” to Ukraine’s power grid after missile attack: Ukrenergo, Ukraine's state-run energy operator, has said Thursday's Russian missile strikes resulted in “substantial damage” to the power grid. Russia launched 70 missiles at Ukraine on Thursday, 47 of which were intercepted, the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in its daily operational update on Facebook, and Moscow's forces also carried out 44 airstrikes, including 18 using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones.

Djokovic's father responds to criticism after posing with fan wearing pro-Russia "Z" symbol: The father of tennis star Novak Djokovic has responded to criticism after a video emerged on Wednesday of him at the Australian Open posing with fans holding Russia flags, voicing his support for Russia. In a statement Friday that stopped short of an apology, Srdjan Djokovic said he was in Melbourne "to support my son only," and "had no intention of causing such headlines or disruption."  

9:43 a.m. ET, January 27, 2023

"It’s disgusting": Russians react with defiance, anger and worry as a new phase of war looms

From CNN's Rob Picheta and Claudio Otto

Russia’s tightly-controlled state media has responded angrily to the shipments of Western tanks pledged to Ukraine this week -- and that anger is shared by some Moscow residents.

Ukraine’s tanks “are going to hinder our troops,” Sergei told CNN in Russia’s capital. “But we are going to win regardless. It’s just enlarging the conflict,” he said, repeating the Kremlin narrative that Ukraine is a puppet government of the West.

“It’s going to bring on another world war,” an older woman added. “We remember WWII well, when I was just a kid. No one is going to win another world war.”

But that isn’t the only view found on Moscow’s streets. A number of Russians expressed exasperation with the conflict, and some were directly critical of President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s disgusting... they never should have started the war,” one woman said, calling Putin “guilty” of the invasion.

“There is a lack of public information,” another person said, expressing their frustration with the pro-war propaganda that fills Russia’s airwaves. “People should be explained things … it would be good if the experts started expressing their real opinions instead of obeying orders, from the government and Putin.”

Others feel the time is right for a Russian exit. “I think that this is a political war, and not a war for the people. Let them resolve this,” another woman said.

"What are we supposed to do? Our opinion means diddly squat.”

A film student, who has friends fighting in the conflict, said: “I’m on the verge of tears here. I just wish this special military operation never started in the first place, this war, and that human life was really valued.”

7:46 a.m. ET, January 27, 2023

Chief of UN refugee agency says Russia is violating "fundamental principles of child protection" in Ukraine

From CNN’s Duarte Mendonca in London

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi talks with a journalist in Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 26.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi talks with a journalist in Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 26. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

The United Nations' refugee agency chief on Friday accused Russia of violating the "fundamental principles of child protection in situations of war" by giving Ukrainian children Russian passports and putting them up for adoption.  

“In a situation of war, you cannot determine if children have families or guardianship. And therefore, until that is clarified, you cannot give them another nationality or having them adopted by another family,” said Filippo Grandi, high commissioner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "This is something that is happening in Russia and must not happen.” 

Due to limited access in Russia, Grandi said he could not provide statistics because it was “difficult to pinpoint the concrete aspects” to determine the number of children who had been given passports or put up for adoption.

"We are seeking access all the time, and access has been rather rare, sporadic and not unfettered,” he added.  

Russia had previously dismissed accusations that Ukrainian children have been abducted.  

"We categorically reject unfounded allegations that the Russian authorities are kidnapping children," Russian diplomat at the United Nations Dmitry Polyansky said last year, Russian state media TASS reported.  

Following a meeting with UNHCR's Grandi on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a mechanism to return children and adults "forcibly deported to Russia" and "to bring to justice all those responsible for deportation."

Maria Kostenko and Anna Chernova contributed to this report.