January 19, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Jack Guy, Ed Upright, Leinz Vales, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 1:21 a.m. ET, January 20, 2023
7 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
12:40 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

US "optimistic" that Germany will send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, defense official says

From CNN's Michael Callahan

Slovakian military personnel walk on a German Leopard Tank in Bratislava, Slovakia, December 2022.
Slovakian military personnel walk on a German Leopard Tank in Bratislava, Slovakia, December 2022. (Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will be “pressing the Germans” to allow their Leopard tanks to be transferred to Ukraine to provide the “capability in a crucial moment” to counter any potential Russian spring offensive, a senior US defense official told CNN Wednesday.

“We are very optimistic that we will make progress on this requirement by the end of the week,” the official added.

Germany has signaled a reluctance to approve the transfer of German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine from other countries. Germany needs to sign off on the transfer before countries such as Poland and Finland, which have openly stated their willingness to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, are allowed to follow through on any shipments.

“We are never going alone, because this is necessary in a very difficult situation like this,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday.  

Austin is in Germany, where he is set to meet with the German defense minister before convening a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group Friday to discuss aid for Ukraine with approximately 50 countries and organizations.

“We're really opening the door to create this capability in a crucial moment. Europe is training Ukrainian forces on this capability. We are training Ukrainian forces. Now they actually need the actual capability, the tanks and that is why we are really focusing on," the US official told CNN. “Other countries are ready to do it.”

Some context: The US is set to finalize $2.5 billion in military aid for Ukraine that includes a first shipment of Stryker combat vehicles, sources told CNN. The package is not expected to include tanks or the long-range missiles sought by Kyiv.

12:38 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

US set to finalize $2.5 billion aid package for Ukraine

From CNN's Alex Marquardt and Oren Liebermann

Ukrainian soldiers use their phones next to an armored vehicle at the front line in Kreminna on January 6.
Ukrainian soldiers use their phones next to an armored vehicle at the front line in Kreminna on January 6. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

The United States is set to finalize a huge military aid package for Ukraine totaling approximately $2.5 billion worth of weaponry, including — for the first time — Stryker combat vehicles, two sources briefed on the next tranche of aid told CNN. The package is not yet finalized, one of the sources said, but could come before the end of the week. 

The new package is one of the largest to be announced since the war started last February, according to one source. It would include more armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles that, combined with the Strykers, is a significant escalation in the armored vehicles the US has committed to Ukraine for its fight against Russia. Mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, are also on the list, the source said.

The announcement is not expected to include tanks or the long-range missiles that Kyiv has repeatedly asked for. The US is expected to send Ukraine more ammunition for its artillery systems and HIMARS rocket systems that have been consistent in recent aid packages. 

Ukrainian officials have been fiercely lobbying Washington for longer-range missiles known as Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), which have a range of around 200 miles (300 kilometers). The Biden administration has resisted sending them out of fear of escalating the conflict. The administration has also pushed back on sending M1 Abrams tanks because of logistical and maintenance complications.

Funds for energy support: The Biden administration also intends to provide $125 million in additional energy support for Ukraine, according to the US Agency for International Development. The funding, which will be drawn from the 2023 Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act passed in December, builds on existing contributions to assist Ukraine in the face of attacks from Russia. 

“USAID will utilize the $125 million to procure vital equipment including additional gas turbines, high voltage autotransformers, distribution substation repair equipment, and backup power for Kyiv’s water supply and district heating services,” a statement read.
11:14 p.m. ET, January 18, 2023

UN nuclear watchdog finalizes deployment of permanent missions to Ukrainian power plants

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv and Lauren Kent

The UN nuclear watchdog finalized the deployment of permanent missions to Ukrainian power plants — including the plants in Rivne, Chornobyl, and south Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian prime minister following his meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Wednesday. 

The IAEA mission at Khmelnytsky nuclear power plant will also be functioning soon, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told a news conference, with all the mission's work continuing during wartime and afterward to restore any damage. 

The IAEA is expanding its presence in Ukraine, Director General Rafael Grossi said.

Following the meeting, Shmyhal said, "For the first time in the history of mankind, nuclear facilities have become an element of an offensive military strategy," adding that Grossi pledged the IAEA's full support in "our efforts to ensure nuclear safety," including at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Remember: Zaporizhzhia, with six reactors, is the largest nuclear power station in Europe. The area, and the nuclear complex, has been under Russian control since the beginning of the war. Grossi and other nuclear experts have been concerned about the threat of a nuclear accident amid shelling around the plant.

Shmyhal said Ukraine has asked that the control of the Zaporizhzhia facility be returned to Ukrainian authorities and for a "complete withdrawal" of Russian troops and Rosatom personnel from the plant. Grossi assured Ukraine the IAEA would never recognize Russia as the owner of the Zaporizhzhia plant, according to Shmyhal.

The prime minister added that Ukraine will "continue to insist on limiting Russia's rights and privileges in the IAEA and terminating cooperation with Russia in the nuclear sphere."

11:23 p.m. ET, January 18, 2023

NATO chief "is confident" that Turkey will finalize accession process for Finland and Sweden

From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin in London

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday said he believed that Turkey would finalize the process for Nordic countries Finland and Sweden to join the US-led military alliance.

“I'm confident that Turkey will finalize the accession process for Finland and Sweden,” Stoltenberg said at a World Economic Forum panel in Davos, Switzerland, adding he did not know when this would be.

This would be the “fastest accession process in NATO’s modern history,” he noted. “Normally, accession to NATO takes years. It’s less than a year since Finland and Sweden applied.”

Remember: NATO decisions are made by consensus, which means all 30 alliance member states must approve the two nations joining. Turkey is the only member that has voiced opposition to their membership, on the grounds of terror concerns. 

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in video remarks to the forum Wednesday again reiterated his desire for Ukraine to join NATO, saying the alliance "is the best security guarantee for us, for our country, for our kids."

7:34 p.m. ET, January 18, 2023

NATO must "support Ukraine as long as it takes," deputy chief says 

From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin

Mircea Geoană speaks to the media in Berlin, Germany, on May 15.
Mircea Geoană speaks to the media in Berlin, Germany, on May 15. Janine Schmitz/Photothek/Getty Images

NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană on Wednesday warned the alliance must be prepared “for the long haul” with regards to Russia's war on Ukraine.

Addressing defense chiefs at a NATO military committee meeting in Brussels, Geoană said allies should invest more in defense, ramp up their capacity to manufacture weapons and ammunition and “prepare for potential future wars.”

Echoing a warning issued previously by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Geoană said "underestimating Russia is dangerous.” He said Russian President Vladimir Putin had already mobilized more than 200,000 additional troops. 

“We have no indication that Putin’s goals have changed. So we must be prepared for the long haul. 2023 will be a difficult year. And we need to support Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Geoană said. 
7:30 p.m. ET, January 18, 2023

Putin says goal of so-called "special operation" is to "end the war" in Donbas, according to state media

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that the goal of what he calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine is to “end the war” in the eastern Donbas region, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

Speaking at a meeting with World War II veterans and survivors of the siege of Leningrad, Putin reportedly said that effectively “full-scale hostilities in Donbas have not stopped since 2014 — with the use of heavy equipment, artillery, tanks and aircraft.”

“Everything we do today, including in the special military operation, is an attempt to end this war," Putin said, according to RIA Novosti. "That is the meaning of our operation. And to protect our people who live there, in these territories."

In late December, Putin used the word “war” to refer to the conflict in Ukraine, the first known time he has publicly deviated from his carefully crafted description of Moscow’s invasion as a “special military operation.”

More on Donbas: The industrial region blankets much of eastern Ukraine and has been the front line of the country’s conflict with Moscow since 2014. The Donbas' longstanding industrial pull has attracted people from across Eastern Europe over the past century, and it has had strong social and economic ties to neighboring Russia as well as the rest of Ukraine.

Its distance from the capital Kyiv and other metropolitan centers has given rise to a vast collection of local movements, and that was the backdrop upon which pro-Russian separatists attempted to seize control following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

Putin’s annexation of Crimea and the occupation of parts of Donbas by Russian-backed rebels in 2014 brought to a crashing halt a period of increasing prosperity in the region.

War broke out in 2014 after Russian-backed rebels seized government buildings in towns and cities across eastern Ukraine. Intense fighting left portions of Luhansk and Donetsk in the hands of Russian-backed separatists.

CNN's Rob Picheta contributed reporting to this post.

12:29 a.m. ET, January 19, 2023

Helicopter crash near Kyiv kills 14, including Ukrainian interior minister

From CNN's Maria Kostenko, Sophie Tanno, Brent Swails and Ivana Kottasová

A helicopter carrying the leadership team of Ukraine’s Interior Ministry crashed near a kindergarten and residential block in the Kyiv region on Wednesday, killing at least 14 people, including all nine people on board, according to officials.

A further 25 people were injured following the incident in the city of Brovary Wednesday, including 11 children, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

Fourteen bodies were found at the crash site, including one child and all nine people who were on board the helicopter — six ministry officials and three crew members, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SES).

Ukrainian National Police confirmed that Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky, First Deputy Minister Yevheniy Yenin and State Secretary Yuriy Lubkovychis were among the dead.

The official cause for the crash has yet to be announced, and there has been no suggestion from any Ukrainian officials about Russian involvement.

“Ukraine lost the whole generation of young politicians…it’s a huge grief for everyone,” Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian government, told CNN on Wednesday.

When asked why the entire leadership of the Interior Ministry was traveling together, Gerashchenko replied: “I think this bloody lesson will be a clear example for us that such high politicians and ministers cannot travel altogether. But this tragedy brought the death of children which is amazingly horrible — and obviously everyone who died — every life of every Ukrainian is priceless.”

The crash has stunned the country at a critical moment in the war: Ukraine has been imploring Western allies for more weaponry as Russian strikes hit its critical infrastructure and civilian populations with abandon.

Read more here.