Ukraine war -- most recently as Russia claims it has taken the hard-fought town of Soledar -- while France and Finland prepare to send tanks to reinforce Ukrainian forces (2023)

Important points
  • Diana Magnay:Russian soldiers were buried every day, but relatives said to keep quiet
  • Russia claims it has taken control of bitterly contested Soledar
  • More than 500 civilians are still trapped in Soledar, Ukraine claims
  • Russia uses "convict labourers" to meet wartime needs, says UK MoD
  • The Ukrainian minister remains upbeat after the 'hot' night of fighting in the eastern city
  • Live coverage from Tom Gillespie and Emily Mee.Updates fromAlex Rossiin Kiew uDiana MagnayIn Moscow


'Hard work has paid off': EU President says gas prices are now lower than before the invasion

Gas prices in the EU are now lower than before Russia invaded Ukraine, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

"We must keep increasing the pressure on Russia and of course we will continue our unwavering support for Ukraine," she added in a press conference.

At the start of Sweden's six-month EU presidency, Ms von der Leyen said Russia had cut off 80% of gas supplies to the EU in eight months since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, but that the EU had compensated with diversification.

“Hard work has paid off. Gas prices are now lower than before the Russian invasion,” she said at the joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Kiruna, Sweden.


NATO plans to send surveillance planes to Romania to "monitor Russian military activities".

NATO has announced it will send three surveillance planes to Romania next week to conduct reconnaissance missions and monitor "Russian military activities" on the territory of the 30-nation military alliance.

The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) surveillance aircraft are part of a fleet of 14 aircraft normally based in Germany.

Three of the planes will be sent to an airbase near the Romanian capital Bucharest on Tuesday, where they are expected to last several weeks, the alliance said in a statement.

The aircraft "can detect aircraft hundreds of miles away, making them a key capability in NATO's deterrence and defense posture," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, NATO has increased its presence on Europe's eastern flank, including by deploying additional combat forces to Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia.

AWACS "conducted regular patrols over Eastern Europe and the Baltic region to detect Russian warplanes near NATO borders" during the Russia-Ukraine war, the statement said.

(Video) What's Russia's strategy to take Soledar and Bakhmut? | DW News


"I hate you foreigners, why are you helping them?": Russian soldiers are buried every day and their relatives are asked to keep quiet

Von Diana Magnay, Sky News-Correspondent in Samara

The grave is fresh, surrounded by memorial wreaths of the governor of the Russian city of Samara and the country's Ministry of Defense.

The woman who cried at his side must have been a close relative.

"I hate you foreigners," she screams through tears. "Why are you helping them?"

She means Western aid for Ukraine. It was a US-made HIMARS missile that killed the man she loved and at least 88 other Russian soldiers on New Year's Day in the town of Makiivka in the Donetsk region.

Kyiv says around four hundred were killed. Russia says 89. Whatever the true number, it is the greatest loss of life from a single incident that Russia has admitted to since the beginning of the war.

Russia's defense ministry promptly accused the soldiers themselves, with obvious frankness, of allegedly revealing their location through the unauthorized use of cell phones.

This did not sit well with the increasingly critical Russian military blogosphere, and blame was quickly placed on the commanders for allowing so many troops to be grouped in a single location.

Many of the men came from Samara and the surrounding area.

Funerals are held every day, but funeral notices are kept secret and loved ones have been ordered to keep quiet.


Aerial photos show "Russian position hit in Bakhmut"

Photos released by a Ukrainian volunteer unit in the east of the country allegedly show a Russian position hit in an attack.

(Video) Ukraine Admits Heavy Losses, As Russia Takes Podgorodnoye, Most Soledar, Encircling What's Left

Two images show a huge cloud of smoke in the middle of what appears to be an abandoned group of buildings.

Another picture shows a building that was largely destroyed by an explosion.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's State Border Guard Service has shared images of militants allegedly targeting Wagner Group mercenaries near Bakhmut.

The Wagner Group is a Russian private military company fighting in Ukraine.

Bakhmut is strategic for Moscow because it would allow Russian and Separatist forces to penetrate deep into south-eastern Ukraine.


A Sky News reporter says it looks like the Ukrainians have been expelled from Soledar

On the ground in the salt mining town of Soledar, where pro-Russian forces are fighting for a breakthrough, things are moving fast.

Russia earlier today said it had taken control of the city - days after pro-Russian Wagner militants claimed they had won the battle. There is no confirmation from Ukraine yet.

Ourinternational correspondent Alex Rossi, in nearby Sloviansk, said that yesterday "it looked like Ukrainians had been driven out of most if not all of the city".

However, there was still "very, very heavy fighting" with a "huge amount" of artillery and small arms fire, suggesting close combat.

Rossi says it's possible Ukrainian troops are still "trapped in the city and fighting to the last man."

Both sides appear to have taken heavy casualties, he says, and it "looked like Russian troops were moving through most of the city."


Ukraine claims Russia plans to build an army of two million people

The Ukrainian secret service suspects that Russia plans to create a military force of about two million people.

About 300,000 soldiers were drafted into Ukraine in a partial mobilization in September.

Ukraine's defense intelligence warned that Russia could announce another wave of mobilizations in the coming days.

"Preparations for the announcement of the next wave of mobilization in Russia are already actively underway," it said.

It goes on to say: "According to estimates by the military intelligence service of Ukraine, the extent of the mobilization measures taken by the aggressor country points to the plans of its leadership to create an army of about two million people."

It also pointed to recent changes in Russian laws regarding mobilization and said training was ongoing.

(Video) Update from Ukraine | Ukrainian Forces will leave Soledar | Ruzzian propaganda celebrates


Poland and Lithuania are calling for restrictions on Russia's nuclear sector

The two countries are urging the European Union to impose restrictions as part of new sanctions against Russia and Belarus.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve the necessary unanimity for more sanctions in the EU. Nevertheless, we will propose an ambitious new package,” said a senior diplomat.

Ukraine has already called on the EU to include Russian state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom in its next round of sanctions, a move that has so far been blocked by Hungary, among others.

A tenth package of EU sanctions should be ready in time for the first anniversary of the invasion on February 24.

Diplomats are expected to propose that the bloc ban more "Russian propaganda" media and remove more Russian banks from the global messaging system SWIFT.

Earlier this month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would impose sanctions on Belarus for helping Russia in the war.


Latest pictures from Ukraine

(Video) Big Ambush On The Russian Convoy from Ukraine: Ukrainian Army Has Cornered Russian Soldiers!

Here are some of the latest pictures from Ukraine as the war is already in its 11th month.

This first image shows Russian soldiers preparing a mortar to fire on the town of Ugledar in eastern Ukraine. The position of the soldiers in this image is unclear.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the Lithuanian Parliament via video link after winning the 2022 Lithuanian Freedom Prize.

A Russian Msta 152.4mm self-propelled howitzer fires on a mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine.

A view of shrapnel holes in a bus after shelling in Kherson.

A soldier runs through rubble of damaged buildings at what is believed to be Soledar, Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a farewell ceremony for Murtaza Rakhimov, the first President of Russia's Republic of Bashkortostan.



"Small niches" of Ukrainian resistance in Soledar, says a Russian-installed official

A Moscow-based Donetsk official said there were still "small niches" of Ukrainian resistance in Soledar after Russia claimed it had taken the eastern city.

Ukrainian authorities have denied Moscow's claims that they have taken the city, saying fighting there is continuing.

The capture of Soledar would be Vladimir Putin's first major victory in the war in some time after months of setbacks.

Andrey Baevsky, lieutenant colonel and deputy of the self-proclaimed parliament of the Donetsk People's Republic, told Russian state media: "At the moment there are actually still isolated small pockets of resistance in Soledar, (but) our boys continue to crush the enemy in these places.

"In general, operations have (have) developed successfully and the western outskirts of Soledar are already fully under our control."

(Video) Ukraine: Fighting continues despite Russia's claims that it would observe a 36-hour truce | DW News

The capture of Soledar is crucial to Russia's goal of capturing the nearby town of Bachhmut, which would allow Russian and Separatist forces to advance deep into south-eastern Ukraine.


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