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Russia-Ukraine war live: Kyiv opens investigation into helicopter crash; as British, Polish and baltic defence ministers to meet over tanks


UK to send 600 Brimstone missiles to help Ukraine

Wallace says Britain has “unlocked” a number of military aid packages in the last year, and will be “going further” by sending a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine.

The UK will also send at least three batteries of AS-90 155 long-range deep dire artillery, a number of armoured vehicles, including the Bulldog, he said.

He continued:

Today I can say we’re also going to send another 600 Brimstone missiles into theatre which will be incredibly important in helping Ukraine dominate the battlefield.

He said the UK will be working with the US and others “to make sure that this package is put in Ukraine in the right way”.

‘We’re here for the long haul’: Ben Wallace announces 600 Brimstone missiles for Ukraine – video

Key events

Moldova has requested air defence systems from its allies with the aim of strengthening its capabilities as the war in neighbouring Ukraine continues, its president, Maia Sandu, said.

Moldova’s spy chief, Alexandru Musteata, warned last month of a “very high” risk of a new Russian offensive towards his country’s east and said Moscow still aimed to secure a land corridor through Ukraine to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria.

Moldova has long had Russian troops based in Transnistria, a predominantly Russian-speaking region in eastern Moldova. The area has been controlled by pro-Russia separatists since 1992, after a short war when Moscow intervened on the side of the rebels.

Russian efforts to destabilise Moldova have so far failed, Sandu told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Several countries ‘to announce sending hundreds of Leopard tanks to Ukraine’

Lithuania’s defence minister, Arvydas Anušauskas, has said several countries will announce sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine at tomorrow’s meeting of defence ministers at the Ramstein airbase in Germany.

Anušauskas told Reuters:

Some of the countries will definitely send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, that is for sure.

The total number of armoured vehicles pledged at tomorrow’s meeting would go into hundreds, Anušauskas said.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a political adviser to the Ukrainian president, has called on allies to “stop trembling at Putin and take the final step” to send tanks to Kyiv.

True leadership is about leading by example, not about looking up to others. There are no taboos. From Washington to London, from Paris to Warsaw, one thing is said: 🇺🇦 needs tanks; tanks — the key to end war properly. Time to stop trembling at Putin and take the final step.

— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) January 19, 2023

“True leadership is about leading by example, not about looking up to others,” he said in a tweet likely aimed at Germany, after a German government source said Berlin will send German-made tanks to Ukraine as long as the US agrees to do likewise.

Summary of the day so far

It’s 6pm in Kyiv. Here’s where things stand:

  • A group of 11 countries have pledged a raft of new military aid for Ukraine, ahead of a crunch meeting on arms for Kyiv in Germany on Friday. The aid from countries including Estonia, Latvia and Poland will include tens of stinger air defence systems, s-60 anti-aircraft guns, machine guns and training, according to a statement.

  • Britain plans to send 600 Brimstone missiles to Ukraine to support the country in its fight against Russia, defence minister Ben Wallace has announced. Speaking at a meeting with other defence ministers at the Tapa army base in Estonia, Wallace outlined a previously announced package of military support for Ukraine, including sending Challenger tanks. “We’re in it for the long haul,” he said.

  • Sweden’s government has announced a new package of military aid to Ukraine that will include armoured infantry fighting vehicles and the Archer artillery system. Estonia’s defence minister, Hanno Pevkur, announced his country will send military equipment to Ukraine worth €113m in its latest package of support. Denmark announced it will donate 19 French-made Caesar howitzer artillery systems to Kyiv.

  • The US and German defence ministers met today as Berlin faces pressure to allow the transfer of German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine. The meeting between Lloyd Austin and Boris Pistorius came as a German government source told Reuters that Berlin would allow Leopard tanks to be sent to Ukraine to help its defence against Russia if the US agreed to send its own tanks. But US officials have publicly and privately insisted that Washington has no plans to send US-made tanks to Ukraine for now, arguing that they would be too difficult for Kyiv to maintain and would require a huge logistical effort to simply run.

  • Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has signalled that it could send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine as part of a wider coalition even without Germany’s approval. “Consent is of secondary importance here, we will either obtain this consent quickly, or we will do what is needed ourselves,” Morawiecki said.

  • The Kremlin has said Russia will achieve its goals in Ukraine “one way or another” and the sooner Kyiv accepts its demands, the sooner the conflict will end. The Kremlin has repeatedly said Russia is ready to halt military operations if Ukraine meets its demands, but Moscow has not publicly outlined details of its negotiating position or what it is seeking from Kyiv in order to end hostilities.

  • The Kremlin said on Thursday that Ukrainian strikes on Russian-annexed Crimea would be “extremely dangerous” after the New York Times reported that US officials were warming to the idea of helping Kyiv strike the peninsula. “This will mean raising the conflict to a new level that will not bode well for European security,” the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters at his daily briefing. Crimea, which is internationally recognised as part of Ukraine, was annexed by Russia in 2014.

  • Dmitry Medvedev, the hawkish longtime ally of Vladimir Putin, has warned of a nuclear escalation if Russia is defeated in Ukraine, saying that western politicians “repeated like a mantra: ‘To achieve peace, Russia must lose’”, but “it never occurs to any of them to draw the following elementary conclusion from this: the loss of a nuclear power in a conventional war can provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war”. Peskov later said the comments made by the deputy chairman of the security council of Russia were fully in accordance with Russia’s nuclear doctrine.

  • Boris Johnson has urged the west not to fall for Russia’s threat of nuclear war but instead increase its supply of heavy weaponry to Ukraine. The former UK prime minister appeared at the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss Ukraine – with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, joining via video link.

  • The number of children confirmed dead in Wednesday’s helicopter crash in Brovary is one, Ukraine’s state emergency services has said, not three, as previously stated. The crash took place near a nursery outside Kyiv, killing interior minister Denys Monastyrskiy and 14 other people. As of Thursday morning 16 victims were still in hospital, including six children, and 14 people were confirmed dead, including the child, according to the head of Kyiv region, Olekskiy Kuleba.

  • A Swedish court has sentenced two brothers to prison for spying for Russia and its military intelligence service GRU for a decade. Iranian-born Peyman Kia, 42, was sentenced to life, while his younger brother, Payam Kia, was sentenced to nine years and 10 months. Between 2014 and 2015, Peyman Kia worked for Sweden’s domestic intelligence agency, and worked with a top-secret unit within the agency that dealt with Swedish spies abroad, according to local media. The case is believed to be one of the most damaging instances of espionage in Sweden’s history.

  • Serbian and pro-Ukraine activists have filed criminal complaints against Russia’s Wagner paramilitary group and its supporters, accusing it of recruiting Serbs to fight in Ukraine. “We have reasonable suspicion that Vulin … gave orders, directives and guidelines that the activities of the Wagner Group in Serbia should not be prevented,” the group’s leader said.

  • Ukraine has suffered a threefold growth in cyber-attacks over the past year, with Russian hacking at times deployed in combination with missile strikes, according to a senior figure in the country’s cybersecurity agency. The attacks from Russia have often taken the form of destructive, disk-erasing wiper malware, said Viktor Zhora, a leading figure in the country’s SSSCIP agency.

Hello everyone. It’s Léonie Chao-Fong here still, with all the latest developments from the Russia-Ukraine war. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter or via email.

Denmark becomes the latest country to send further military support to Ukraine, announcing that it will donate 19 French-made Caesar howitzer artillery systems to Kyiv.

The Danish defence minister, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, said in a statement:

We have been in continuous contact with the Ukrainians about the Caesar artillery in particular and I am happy that we have now received broad support from the Danish parliament to donate it to Ukraine’s freedom struggle.

Serbian and pro-Ukraine activists filed criminal complaints against Russia’s Wagner paramilitary group and its supporters on Thursday, accusing it of recruiting Serbs to fight in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

Čedomir Stojković, a Belgrade-based lawyer who also leads the October civic group, said that those accused include Russia’s ambassador to Serbia, Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, and Aleksandar Vulin, the head of Serbia’s state Security and Information Agency.

“We have reasonable suspicion that Vulin … gave orders, directives and guidelines that the activities of the Wagner Group in Serbia should not be prevented,” he said.

Stojković said that Botsan-Kharchenko, who enjoys diplomatic immunity, could not be prosecuted in Serbia but that he should be ordered to leave the country.

Once a criminal complaint is filed, it is up to the state prosecutor to decide whether or not to proceed.

Neither Russian embassy to Belgrade nor the BIA replied to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Poland’s prime minister has signalled that it could send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine as part of a wider coalition even without Germany’s approval, raising pressure on Berlin before a crunch meeting of allies on more military aid for Kyiv.

“Consent is of secondary importance here, we will either obtain this consent quickly, or we will do what is needed ourselves,” the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, told the private broadcaster Polsat News late on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

A government spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on whether Morawiecki meant Poland or a group of countries could send tanks without Germany’s consent. Poland had repeatedly signalled that it would only send the tanks as part of a larger coalition.

“The most important thing is for Germany, but not only Germany … to offer their modern tanks, their modern heavy weapons, because Ukraine’s ability to defend its freedom may depend on that,” Morawiecki said.

Poland and Finland have said they would provide Leopards if Germany lifts its veto as part of a wider coalition, and other countries have indicated they are ready to do so too.

The British ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, has joined the backlash against comments yesterday by Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign secretary.

In his lengthy annual new year press conference yesterday, Lavrov compared the behavious of the west towards Russia with Hitler and Napolean, saying that, using Ukraine as a proxy, “they [the west] are waging war against our country with the same task: the ‘final solution’ of the Russian question. Just as Hitler wanted a ‘final solution’ to the Jewish question, now, if you read Western politicians … they clearly say Russia must suffer a strategic defeat.”

Responding to a call for Jewish organisations to condemn the comments by Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, the British ambassador in Kyiv tweeted:

I don’t think it’s just Jewish organisations that should be calling out this insufferable Russian state sponsored antisemitism. It’s been going on for ages, repeatedly articulated, and it has repercussions for everyone when states reduce Holocaust history in this cynical way.

We call on Jewish organizations to condemn Sergey Lavrov’s shameful statement equating Russians, who are waging a war of aggression against a sovereign nation, with Jews murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Russia’s state sponsored anti-Semitism must not be tolerated.

— Oleg Nikolenko (@OlegNikolenko_) January 19, 2023

I don’t think it’s just Jewish organisations that should be calling out this insufferable 🇷🇺 state sponsored #antisemitism. It’s been going on for ages, repeatedly articulated, and it has repercussions for everyone when states reduce Holocaust history in this cynical way. https://t.co/Bv6NxPpcRk

— Dame Melinda Simmons (@MelSimmonsFCDO) January 19, 2023

Reuters reports that Lavrov has caused outrage before with remarks about Hitler. Last May he said the Nazi leader had “Jewish blood”, drawing angry protests from Israel.

Estonia’s defence minister, Hanno Pevkur, has announced his country will send military equipment to Ukraine worth €113m in its latest package of support for the war against Russia.

Wallace says the UK has just started another round of basic training of Ukrainian soldiers, with the aim of training at least 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers to repel Russia’s aggression.

He concludes by saying:

We’re not going anywhere, Mr Putin. We’re here for the long haul. We’re standing by Ukraine. You need to recalculate. You need to make a change. You need to leave Ukraine.

UK to send 600 Brimstone missiles to help Ukraine

Wallace says Britain has “unlocked” a number of military aid packages in the last year, and will be “going further” by sending a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine.

The UK will also send at least three batteries of AS-90 155 long-range deep dire artillery, a number of armoured vehicles, including the Bulldog, he said.

He continued:

Today I can say we’re also going to send another 600 Brimstone missiles into theatre which will be incredibly important in helping Ukraine dominate the battlefield.

He said the UK will be working with the US and others “to make sure that this package is put in Ukraine in the right way”.

‘We’re here for the long haul’: Ben Wallace announces 600 Brimstone missiles for Ukraine – video

Wallace: We’re in it for the long haul

Defence ministers from around the world will gather at the US airbase in Ramstein in Germany on Friday to make it clear to President Vladimir Putin that they stand by Ukraine, Wallace says.

President Putin is banking on us getting bored this year. He’s wrong. We will plan for this year and next year and the year after.

He adds:

We’re in it for the long haul.

It is now time to turn the momentum that Ukrainians have achieved and to make sure Russia “understands that the purpose now is to push them back out of Ukraine” and to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty, he says.

‘We’re here for the long haul’: Ben Wallace announces 600 Brimstone missiles for Ukraine – video

Britain’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, is speaking at a joint news conference with his Estonian counterpart, Hanno Pevkur.

Wallace says Putin made a number of assumptions when he ordered his troops to invade Ukraine last February: the first, that Ukrainians would not fight. The second, that his military would quickly crush any resistance.

Finally, Putin banked on the fact that he “thought the international community was fickle, that it wouldn’t stick together, that we wouldn’t see it through”. Wallace added:

None of those have turned out to be true. 2023 is about demonstrating to Putin that the international community isn’t fractured, that the international community is more than ever determined to stand by Ukraine to see it through.

Child among 14 confirmed dead in helicopter crash

Isobel Koshiw

Isobel Koshiw

Ukraine’s state emergency services has said the number of children confirmed dead in yesterday’s helicopter attack in Brovary is one, not three, as previously stated.

The child died when a helicopter carrying the leadership of Ukraine’s interior ministry crashed near a nursery outside Kyiv on Wednesday morning.

A woman cries as Orthodox priests hold a service at the site of a helicopter crash in the town of Brovary, outside Kyiv, Ukraine.
A woman cries as Orthodox priests hold a service at the site of a helicopter crash in the town of Brovary, outside Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Nacho Doce/Reuters

Ukraine’s national police carried out forensics on body fragments and as a result, the number of dead decreased, said Ukraine’s emergency services.

As of Thursday morning 16 victims were still in hospital, including six children, and 14 people were confirmed dead, including the child, according to the head of Kyiv region, Olekskiy Kuleba.

The Kremlin has said Russia will achieve its goals in Ukraine “one way or another” and the sooner Kyiv accepts its demands, the sooner the conflict will end.

Speaking to reporters, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said:

The sooner the Ukrainian regime shows its readiness to meet Russia’s demands – which will be achieved one way or another – the sooner everything will end, and the sooner Ukrainian people can begin to recover after this tragedy, which was started by the regime in Kyiv.

The Kremlin has repeatedly said Russia is ready to halt military operations if Ukraine meets its demands, but Moscow has not publicly outlined details of its negotiating position or what it is seeking from Kyiv in order to end hostilities.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy says he is “sincerely grateful” to the Swedish government after it announced a new package of military aid to Ukraine that will include armoured infantry fighting vehicles and the Archer artillery system.

The package is worth 4.3bn Swedish crowns (£339m), and will include about 50 of Sweden’s tracked and armoured Type 90 infantry fighting vehicles, which can be used to transport up to eight infantry soldiers and is equipped with a 40-mm automatic cannon.

The government did not specify how many Archer systems it would supply. The package will also include light, portable NLAW anti-tank weapons, mine-clearing equipment and assault rifles.

The infantry fighting vehicles, Archer systems and NLAW anti-tank weapons are “powerful weapons that Ukraine’s army needs”, Zelenskiy tweeted.

Sincerely grateful to the Government of Sweden & @SwedishPM for the new military assistance package to 🇺🇦. CV90 IFVs, Archer self-propelled howitzers & NLAW ATGMs are powerful weapons that 🇺🇦 army needs to liberate our land from the Russian invader. Together to a common victory!

— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) January 19, 2023

Before the package was presented today, Sweden had announced around 5bn Swedish crowns of military aid to Ukraine as well as several instalments of humanitarian supplies.

Ukraine’s victory is of “almost indescribable importance” Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, told a news conference, adding that Ukraine was fighting for the freedom of all of Europe.

Sweden is increasing military assistance to Ukraine with heavy and advanced weapons. We stand with Ukraine together with our international partners. Ukrainian victory is essential for a free Europe. https://t.co/NPI4Cl0lXV

— SwedishPM (@SwedishPM) January 19, 2023

US, German defence ministers meet to discuss support for Ukraine

The US and German defence ministers met today as Berlin faces pressure to allow the transfer of German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

Germany remains “one of our most important allies”, the US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, said at the start of his meeting with Boris Pistorius, who hours earlier had been sworn in as Germany’s new defence minister.

Before the meeting, Austin thanked the German government “for all that it has done to strengthen Ukraine’s self-defence”, without specifically mentioning the issue of tanks.

The new German defence minister, Boris Pistorius, and the US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin.
The new German defence minister, Boris Pistorius, and the US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin. Photograph: Michael Sohn/AP

Pistorius said Germany was ready to support Ukraine and that Berlin stood shoulder to shoulder with its allies. He said:

Together with our partners, we will continue to support Ukraine in its struggle for freedom and territorial independence and sovereignty.

Their meeting came as a German government source told Reuters that Berlin would allow Leopard tanks to be sent to Ukraine to help its defence against Russia if the US agreed to send its own tanks.

But US officials have publicly and privately insisted that Washington has no plans to send US-made tanks to Ukraine for now, arguing that they would be too difficult for Kyiv to maintain and would require a huge logistical effort to simply run.

Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s top policy adviser, said the Pentagon still was not prepared to meet Ukraine’s calls for M1 Abrams main battle tanks.

A Swedish court has sentenced two brothers to prison for spying for Russia and its military intelligence service GRU for a decade, in what has been called one of the country’s worst cases of espionage.

Iranian-born Peyman Kia, 42, was sentenced to life, while his younger brother, Payam Kia, was sentenced to nine years and 10 months. A life sentence in Sweden generally means a minimum of 20-25 years in prison.

Between 2014 and 2015, Peyman Kia worked for Sweden’s domestic intelligence agency, and worked with a top-secret unit within the agency that dealt with Swedish spies abroad, according to local media.

Payam Kia, 35, helped his brother and “dismantled and broke a hard drive which was later found in a trash can” when his brother was arrested, according to the charge sheet obtained by the Associated Press.

The pair appeared before Stockholm district court, where they faced charges of working together to pass information to Russia between September 2011 and September 2021.

In its verdict, the court said it was “beyond reasonable doubt that the brothers, together and in consultation, without authorisation and for the benefit of Russia and the GRU, acquired, forwarded and disclosed information” to a foreign power with the purpose of damaging Sweden’s security.

Explaining the verdict of a life sentence, the court said the older brother had a “full understanding of the damaging effects – he has acquired, forwarded and disclosed the information to Russia, which constitutes the main threat to Sweden’s security”.

Although it had “not been possible to reach full certainty as to what happened”, the court said a picture of what happened “is sufficiently clear for the defendants to be held responsible”.

The brothers denied any wrongdoing throughout the trial, which was held behind closed doors and with evidence that is secret.

The case is believed to be one of the most damaging instances of espionage in Sweden’s history because the men compiled a list of all the employees within the Swedish security and intelligence service, known by its acronym Sapo.





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