Russia-Ukraine war live: EU approves new €500m military aid package to Ukraine amid pressure on Germany to make tanks decision | Ukraine

EU approves new €500m military aid package to Ukraine

The EU has ratified a new military aid package to Ukraine worth €500m, as the EU’s 27 foreign ministers met in Brussels today amid increasing pressure on Berlin to release German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

The €500m package was approved along with a further €45m for “non-lethal equipment” for the EU’s military training mission for Ukraine, sources told Reuters.

Earlier, Hungary’s foreign minister Péter Szijjártó said his country would not block the EU move.

The EU has ratified a new military aid package to Ukraine worth €500m, as the EU’s 27 foreign ministers met in Brussels today amid increasing pressure on Berlin to release German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

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The €500m package was approved along with a further €45m for “non-lethal equipment” for the EU’s military training mission for Ukraine, sources told Reuters.

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Earlier, Hungary’s foreign minister Péter Szijjártó said his country would not block the EU move.

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The Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has said it is “too early” to talk about a potential 2024 re-election bid for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

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Asked if Putin was planning to run for a new term, Peskov said:

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The president has not made any statements on the matter.

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Asked if the Kremlin had already started preparing for a re-election campaign, Peskov said it is “too early” to talk about it as the Kremlin has “a lot of current affairs”.

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In 2021, Putin signed a law that will allow him to run for the presidency twice more in his lifetime, potentially keeping him in office until 2036. If he remained in power until 2036, his tenure would surpass even that of Joseph Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union for 29 years.

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The Kremlin has warned that the people of Ukraine will “pay the price” if the west decides to send tanks to support Kyiv.

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Germany has stubbornly declined to take a decision as it faces heavy diplomatic pressure to send its Leopard 2 tanks, or at least allow countries to re-export them, leading to growing frustration from Kyiv and its allies.

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Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the splits in Europe over whether to provide tanks to Kyiv showed there was increasing “nervousness” within the Nato alliance.

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He added:

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But of course all countries which take part, directly or indirectly, in pumping weapons into Ukraine and in raising its technological level bear responsibility (for continuing the conflict)

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The main thing “is that it is the Ukrainian people who will pay the price for all this pseudo-support”, he said.

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Peskov also dismissed Washington’s announcement that it was planning to impose sanctions on the Russian private mercenary Wagner Group.

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He said:

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I don’t think that in practical terms it has any significance for our country, and even less for the Wagner private military company (PMC).

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Hello everyone. It’s Léonie Chao-Fong taking over the live blog from Martin Belam to bring you all the latest news from the Russia-Ukraine war. I’m on Twitter or you can email me.

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  • Germany’s approval for the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is of secondary importance as Poland could send those tanks as part of a coalition of countries even without its permission, the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said on Monday. “We will ask for such permission, but this is an issue of secondary importance. Even if we did not get this approval … we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine”, Morawiecki told reporters.

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  • German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock’s comment on Sunday, that her country would not “stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, is causing some confusion in Berlin. It remains unclear whether her remarks are indicative of a shift in the government’s position. Baerbock did not repeat her comment when pressed on the matter on Monday morning. “It’s important that we as an international community do everything to defend Ukraine, so that Ukraine wins”, she told press at a meeting of the EU’s foreign affairs council in Brussels. “Because if it loses Ukraine will cease to exist”.

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  • Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said during his visit to South Africa that Ukraine was rejecting peace talks and the longer this continued, the harder it would be to resolve the conflict. Lavrov met South Africa’s foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, in a tripsome opposition parties and the small Ukrainian community in South Africa have condemned as insensitive. The South African military is set to host a joint military exercise with Russia and China on its east coast on 17-27 February.

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  • 18 people injured as a result of last weekend’s rocket attack on a high-rise building in Dnipro remain in hospital, including one child. Ukraine state broadcaster reports “There are no serious patients among these patients, all of them were transferred from intensive care units to general departments.”

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  • The top Moscow-installed official in the Russian-occupied parts of the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine said late on Sunday that he had visited the town of Soledar, which Russia claimed to have captured earlier this month. Denis Pushilin published a short video on the Telegram messaging app that showed him driving and walking amid desolate areas and destroyed buildings. The Guardian was not able to independently verify when and where the video was taken. On 11 January, the private Russian military group Wagner said it had captured Soledar. Ukraine has never publicly said that the town was taken by Russian forces.

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  • Russia claimed to have made advances in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region. After months of stalemate in the south-eastern region, Moscow-installed officials say the front is now “mobile” while the Ukrainian army reported that 15 settlements had come under artillery fire. “During offensive operations in the direction of Zaporizhzhia, units of the eastern military district took up more advantageous ground and positions,” the defence ministry said on Sunday.

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  • Russian state-owned news agency Tass is reporting that Russian forces claim to have destroyed a large Ukrainian ammunition depot in the Kherson region.

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  • Russian secret service the SVR has claimed – without presenting evidence –that Ukraine is storing weapons and ammunition supplied by the west on the territory of nuclear power plants.

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  • European Council president Charles Michel has urged the bloc’s national leaders to push forward with talks on using $300bn-worth of confiscated Russian central bank assets for the reconstruction of Ukraine, the Financial Times reports. Michael said he wanted to explore the idea of managing the Russian central bank’s frozen assets to generate profits, which could then be earmarked for reconstruction efforts.

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  • Russia has said it is downgrading diplomatic relations with the Nato member Estonia, accusing Tallinn of “total Russophobia”. The Russian foreign ministry said it had told the Estonian envoy he must leave next month, and both countries would be represented in each other’s capitals by an interim charge d’affaires instead of an ambassador.

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  • Russia said on Monday that no new date had been set for talks with the US on the New Start nuclear arms treaty, accusing the US of ramping up tensions between the two sides.

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That is it from me, Martin Belam, for now. I will be back later. Léonie Chao-Fong will be with you shortly.

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Germany’s approval for the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is of secondary importance as Poland could send those tanks as part of a coalition of countries even without its permission, the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said on Monday.

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Poland is pushing for countries who have German-made Leopards to send them to Ukraine, even if Germany does not want to join them.

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“We will ask for such permission, but this is an issue of secondary importance. Even if we did not get this approval … we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine”, Reuters reports Morawiecki told reporters.

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“The condition for us at the moment is to build at least a small coalition of countries.”

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“Pressure makes sense, because this weekend, the foreign minister of Germany sent a slightly different message that gives a glimmer of hope that not only Germany will not block [sending tanks] but will finally hand over heavy equipment, modern equipment to help Ukraine,” Morawiecki said.

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Germany would not stand in the way if Poland sent its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, the German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said on Sunday in an interview with French television LCI.

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On Monday, before a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Baerbock made further comments, saying “It’s important that we as an international community do everything we can to defend Ukraine, so that Ukraine wins and wins the right to live in peace and freedom again.”

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PM restates willingness to re-export tanks without German permission”,”contributors”:[],”primaryDateLine”:”Mon 23 Jan 2023 10.37 EST”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Mon 23 Jan 2023 00.31 EST”},{“id”:”63ce034f8f08475f7d94d42f”,”elements”:[{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

Heavy diplomatic pressure has been building on Berlin to send its tanks, or at least allow countries that bought them from Germany to re-export them. As the producer of the Leopard tanks, Berlin has a veto on their transfer.

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At a special international summit on Friday at the US military base in Ramstein, in south-west Germany, Berlin stubbornly declined to take a decision on whether to give Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, leading to growing frustration from Kyiv and its allies.

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On Sunday, Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, criticised Germany’s failure to supply the hardware to Ukraine.

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n

Germany’s attitude is unacceptable. It has been almost a year since the war began. Innocent people are dying every day.

n

Russian bombs are wreaking havoc in Ukrainian cities. Civilian targets are being attacked, women and children are being murdered.”

n

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He went on: “I try to weigh my words but I’ll say it bluntly: Ukraine and Europe will win this war – with or without Germany.”

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It had been hoped in Kyiv and the US that Germany would allow Leopards owned by countries such as Poland and Finland to be re-exported. However, Germany’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, said despite heightened expectations, “we still cannot say when a decision will be taken, and what the decision will be, when it comes to the Leopard tank”.

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Morawiecki said he was waiting for “a clear statement” from Berlin.

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The German defence minister, Boris Pistorius, said that he expected a decision soon on the delivery of tanks to Ukraine. Speaking in an interview on Germany’s ARD TV on Sunday, Pistorius said that Germany would not make a hasty decision because the government had many factors to consider, including consequences at home for the security of the German population.

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In a joint statement on Saturday, the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia had also urged Germany “to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now”.

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Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has vowed Ukraine will not tolerate corruption and promised forthcoming key decisions on uprooting it this week.

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n

I want this to be clear: there will be no return to what used to be in the past, to the way various people close to state institutions or those who spent their entire lives chasing a chair used to live,” he said in his Sunday night address.

n

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Zelenskiy said that his government dismissed a deputy minister after an investigation into allegations he accepted a bribe.

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He did not identify the official, but news reports cited by Reuters said an acting deputy minister of regional development, Vasyl Lozinskiy, was detained on allegations of accepting a bribe.

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n

I want this to be our signal to all those whose actions or behaviour violate the principle of justice,” Zelenskiy added.

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Ukraine has had a long history of rampant corruption and shaky governance, with Transparency International ranking the country’s corruption at 122 of 180 countries, not much better than Russia in 2021.

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The EU has made anti-corruption reforms one of its key requirements for Ukraine’s membership to the bloc, after granting Kyiv candidate status last year.

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Germany has said it will not “stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, in what appears to be the clearest signal yet from Berlin that European allies could deliver the German-made hardware.

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Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock was asked in an interview with French television station LCI what would happen if Poland sent its Leopard 2 tanks without German approval.

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Baerbock replied:

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n

For the moment the question has not been asked, but if we were asked we would not stand in the way.”

n

“,”elementId”:”27f251b1-2170-45a1-852c-94fa7ccb9807″},{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

Poland announced it is ready to deliver 14 Leopard tanks to Kyiv. Prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki had said that if Germany refused to supply the tanks to Ukraine, “we will set up a ‘small coalition’ of countries ready to donate some of their modern equipment, their modern tanks”.

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Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine. I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments as they unfold over the next few hours.

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Germany continues to come under heavy diplomatic pressure to send its tanks – or at least allow countries that bought them from Germany to re-export them – to Ukraine. As the producer of the Leopard tanks, Berlin has a veto on their transfer.

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The German defence minister, Boris Pistorius, said that he expects a decision soon on the delivery of tanks to Ukraine, in an interview on Sunday. Pistorius said that Germany would not make a hasty decision because the government had many factors to consider, including consequences at home for the security of the German population.

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Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has vowed Ukraine will not tolerate corruption and promised forthcoming key reforms on uprooting it. The EU has made anti-corruption reforms one of its key requirements for Ukraine’s membership to the bloc.

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If you have just joined us, here are all the latest developments:

“,”elementId”:”4c789138-005d-4b30-bde0-e7fee4bbaf23″},{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

    n

  • Germany will not “stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said, in what appeared to be the clearest signal yet from Berlin that European allies could deliver the German-made hardware. Asked in an interview with French television station LCI what would happen if Poland sent its Leopard 2 tanks without German approval, Baerbock replied through a translator: “For the moment the question has not been asked, but if we were asked we would not stand in the way.”

  • n

  • Poland announced it is ready to deliver 14 Leopard tanks to Kyiv but is waiting for “a clear statement” from Berlin, in comments made before German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock’s interview. Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, criticised Germany’s failure to supply tanks to Ukraine. “Germany’s attitude is unacceptable. It has been almost a year since the war began. Innocent people are dying every day,” he said.

  • n

  • Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Ukraine, where he said that it was “the moment to double down and to give the Ukrainians all the tools they need to finish the job”. Downing Street said Rishi Sunak is “supportive” of Boris Johnson’s visit, despite warnings that it would undermine the current prime minister’s authority.

  • n

  • French president Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he does not rule out the possibility of sending Leclerc tanks to Ukraine. “As for the Leclercs, I have asked the defence ministry to work on it. Nothing is excluded,” he said while speaking at a summit with German chancellor Scholz.

  • n

  • Russia claimed to have made advances in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region. After months of stalemate in the south-eastern region, Moscow-installed officials say the front is now “mobile” while the Ukrainian army reported that 15 settlements had come under artillery fire. “During offensive operations in the direction of Zaporizhzhia, units of the eastern military district took up more advantageous ground and positions,” the defence ministry said on Sunday.

  • n

  • Norway’s army chief has estimated 180,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded in over the course of the conflict, while the figure for the Ukrainians is 100,000 military casualties and 30,000 dead civilians. Norwegian chief of defence Eirik Kristoffersen gave the figures in an interview with TV2, without specifying how the numbers were calculated. The figures cannot be independently verified.

  • n

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For any updates or feedback you wish to share, please feel free to get in touch via email or Twitter.

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Key events

The BBC’s James Waterhouse has shared some interesting rankings, via the Kiel Institute, showing which countries have pledged the most support for Ukraine, militarily and in financial aid.

Given the disagreement over how to best support Ukraine – some interesting rankings:

(Between Jan-Nov 2022)

Overall support given (military/humanitarian/finanical)
1🇺🇸
2🇪🇺
3🇬🇧
4🇩🇪

Weapons and equipment
1🇺🇸
2🇩🇪
3🇬🇧
4🇵🇱

Total commitments
1🇺🇸
2🇩🇪
3🇫🇷
4🇬🇧

(@kielinstitute)

— James Waterhouse (@JamWaterhouse) January 23, 2023

n”,”url”:”https://twitter.com/JamWaterhouse/status/1617543035860008962″,”id”:”1617543035860008962″,”hasMedia”:false,”role”:”inline”,”isThirdPartyTracking”:false,”source”:”Twitter”,”elementId”:”be3f2852-d8f1-4e1a-85a3-633c268a6e12″}}”>

Given the disagreement over how to best support Ukraine – some interesting rankings:

(Between Jan-Nov 2022)

Overall support given (military/humanitarian/finanical)
1🇺🇸
2🇪🇺
3🇬🇧
4🇩🇪

Weapons and equipment
1🇺🇸
2🇩🇪
3🇬🇧
4🇵🇱

Total commitments
1🇺🇸
2🇩🇪
3🇫🇷
4🇬🇧

(@kielinstitute)

— James Waterhouse (@JamWaterhouse) January 23, 2023

EU approves new €500m military aid package to Ukraine

The EU has ratified a new military aid package to Ukraine worth €500m, as the EU’s 27 foreign ministers met in Brussels today amid increasing pressure on Berlin to release German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

The €500m package was approved along with a further €45m for “non-lethal equipment” for the EU’s military training mission for Ukraine, sources told Reuters.

Earlier, Hungary’s foreign minister Péter Szijjártó said his country would not block the EU move.

Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, governor of Sumy in Ukraine’s north-east, has posted to the Telegram messaging app to claim that an apartment building and railway infrastructure has been hit by Russian fire in Vorozhba. He posted:

At about 2pm 10 shells exploded in the centre of the city. There was a direct hit in an apartment building.

One of the apartments was completely destroyed. Three more residences have extensive damage. The explosions also destroyed the commercial premises of local residents.

Gas pipelines and electric lines were broken by shrapnel. Railway premises and tracks were also damaged.

The claims have not been independently verified. Sumy region borders Russia.

Associated Press is carrying some fuller quotes of Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who spoke today during his visit to South Africa, ahead of the African nation participating in joint military drills with Russia and China. Lavrov said:

It is well known that we supported the proposal of the Ukrainian side to negotiate early in the special military operation [Russia’s term for its invasion of Ukraine] and by the end of March, the two delegations agreed on the principle to settle this conflict.

It is well known and was published openly that our American, British and some European colleagues told Ukraine that it is too early to deal, and the arrangement which was almost agreed was never revisited by the Kyiv regime.

South Africa has been criticised in some quarters for hosting Lavrov, while it states it maintains a neutral stance on the war. Lavrov’s counterpart, Naledi Pandor, said:

We are fully alert that conflict, wherever it exists in the world, impacts negatively on all of us, and as the developing world it impacts on us particularly as the African continent. This is why as South Africa we consistently articulate that we will always stand ready to support the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the continent and throughout the globe.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, shakes hands with his South African counterpart, Naledi Pandor, in Pretoria.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, shakes hands with his South African counterpart, Naledi Pandor, in Pretoria. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The lawyer of the former commander with the Russian mercenary Wagner Group who sought asylum in Norway has said there is zero chance of him being deported to Russia.

Reuters quotes Brynjulf Risnes, Andrei Medvedev’s lawyer, saying: “The risk of him being deported? It is zero.”

Risnes said police detained Medvedev as there was “disagreement” between Medvedev and the police about the measures taken to ensure his safety.

Medvedev, 26, crossed the border into Norway near the Pasvikdalen valley earlier this month, where he was arrested and detained by border guards.

A Russian group that campaigns for prisoners’ rights had earlier claimed that Medvedev had been told he faced deportation. [See 12.49 GMT]

People at a distribution of humanitarian aid in the theatre building at Ark of Salvation Church, in Kramatorsk, Ukraine.
People at a distribution of humanitarian aid in the theatre building at Ark of Salvation Church, in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A woman receives vegetable oil during the distribution of humanitarian aid in Kramatorsk, Ukraine.
A woman holds bottles of vegetable oil during the distribution of aid in Kramatorsk. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Latvia will downgrade its diplomatic ties with Russia and inform its Russian ambassador to leave the country by 24 February, its foreign minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs, has said.

Due to the ongoing brutal Russian aggression against #Ukraine and in solidarity with #Estonia, #Latvia will lower level of diplomatic relations with #Russia effective February 24, demanding Russia to act accordingly

— Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) January 23, 2023

n”,”url”:”https://twitter.com/edgarsrinkevics/status/1617497763620737024″,”id”:”1617497763620737024″,”hasMedia”:false,”role”:”inline”,”isThirdPartyTracking”:false,”source”:”Twitter”,”elementId”:”727ae56d-9eda-4c20-81e9-f162aa354776″}}”>

Due to the ongoing brutal Russian aggression against #Ukraine and in solidarity with #Estonia, #Latvia will lower level of diplomatic relations with #Russia effective February 24, demanding Russia to act accordingly

— Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) January 23, 2023

He said the decision was made “in solidarity” with Estonia, which Russia earlier today accused of “total Russophobia”.

The Russian foreign ministry said it had told the Estonian envoy he must leave next month. In response, Tallinn told Moscow’s envoy to leave.

Germany has not received a request from Poland or any other country to authorise the transfer of German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, a government spokesperson has said.

“There are procedures for this,” Steffen Hebestreit said. “To this hour we have not received a request.”

He added that any application would be “processed with the necessary speed that is required, but of course also with the necessary thoroughness that such procedures demand”.

A former commander with the Russian mercenary Wagner Group who sought asylum in Norway has been told he will be deported, according to a Russian rights group.

Andrey Medvedev, 26, crossed the border into Norway near the Pasvikdalen valley earlier this month, where he was arrested and detained by border guards.

Andrey Medvedev, 26, crossed the border into Norway near the Pasvikdalen valley earlier this month, where he was arrested and detained by border guards.
Andrey Medvedev, 26, crossed the border into Norway earlier this month. Photograph: Gulagu.net

Officials in Norway said they had “apprehended” Medvedev and were considering whether to seek a court decision for internment.

Medvedev will face “brutal murder” if he is forcibly returned to Russia, the Gulagu.net group, a Russian group that campaigns for prisoners’ rights, said.

The group, which has been in contact with Medvedev, said he had been detained and handcuffed on Sunday evening and told he was being taken to a detention centre for subsequent deportation.

There was no confirmation from Norwegian authorities of any plan to deport him.

Medvedev is the first known soldier from the Wagner Group who fought in Ukraine to flee abroad. In an interview conducted in December in Russia with the Guardian, he spoke of how he feared for his life and that he had witnessed the summary killing of Wagner fighters accused by their own commanders of disobeying orders, sometimes in pairs.

‘Too early’ to discuss if Putin will seek re-election in 2024, says Kremlin

The Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has said it is “too early” to talk about a potential 2024 re-election bid for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Asked if Putin was planning to run for a new term, Peskov said:

The president has not made any statements on the matter.

Asked if the Kremlin had already started preparing for a re-election campaign, Peskov said it is “too early” to talk about it as the Kremlin has “a lot of current affairs”.

In 2021, Putin signed a law that will allow him to run for the presidency twice more in his lifetime, potentially keeping him in office until 2036. If he remained in power until 2036, his tenure would surpass even that of Joseph Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union for 29 years.

Poland has reiterated that it is ready to send tanks to Ukraine without Germany’s consent, as pressure builds on Berlin to supply the heavy weapons that Kyiv has been calling for.

The Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said his government would seek permission from Berlin to send its German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine, but described that consent of “secondary importance”.

Morawiecki said:

Even if we did not get this approval … we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine.

He added that “the condition for us at the moment is to build at least a small coalition of countries”.

Berlin is coming under heavy pressure to release the military hardware after failing to take a decision at a keenly anticipated international defence summit at the US military base of Ramstein in south-west Germany on Friday.

The German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock’s comment on Sunday that her country would not “stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine has caused some confusion in Berlin. For now, it remains unclear whether her remarks are indicative of a shift in the government’s position or merely a Green party attempt to correct the chancellor Olaf Scholz’s bungled communication strategy.

Read the full story by my colleagues Jennifer Rankin and Philip Oltermann here:

Ukraine’s western allies would need to supply “several hundred” tanks in order for Kyiv to conduct a counteroffensive against Russian forces to retake occupied territory, according to Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Yermak posted to Telegram:

We need tanks – not 10-20, but several hundred. Our goal is [restoring] the borders of 1991 and punishing the enemy, who will pay for their crimes.

Russian forces continue to “endure operational deadlock and heavy casualties”, according to the UK Ministry of Defence’s latest intelligence update.

The report also says new disciplinary measures introduced by Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of the general staff and newly appointed commander in Ukraine, have been met with “sceptical feedback”.

Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 23 January 2023

Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/CSN2KpKIMu

🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/6ubHQ5sXPr

— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) January 23, 2023

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Since Gerasimov’s appointment, officers have attempted to “clamp down on non-regulation uniform, travel in civilian vehicles, the use of mobile phones, and non-standard haircuts”, it says.

Some of the “greatest derision” has been reserved for the decision to ban soldiers from wearing beards, it says, with officials in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic describing the rule as a “farce”.

According to the intelligence update, Gerasimov, along with the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, is “increasingly seen as out of touch and focused on presentation over substance”.

The illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is continuing.

The map below is the latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 23 January 2023.

Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/clScJuvEiv

🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/3WW0tsjPmd

— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) January 23, 2023

n”,”url”:”https://twitter.com/DefenceHQ/status/1617483915488366598″,”id”:”1617483915488366598″,”hasMedia”:false,”role”:”inline”,”isThirdPartyTracking”:false,”source”:”Twitter”,”elementId”:”0a842286-6781-4c23-a61b-42ec93604c3c”}}”/>

Russia warns that Ukrainians ‘will pay the price’ for western tanks

The Kremlin has warned that the people of Ukraine will “pay the price” if the west decides to send tanks to support Kyiv.

Germany has stubbornly declined to take a decision as it faces heavy diplomatic pressure to send its Leopard 2 tanks, or at least allow countries to re-export them, leading to growing frustration from Kyiv and its allies.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the splits in Europe over whether to provide tanks to Kyiv showed there was increasing “nervousness” within the Nato alliance.

He added:

But of course all countries which take part, directly or indirectly, in pumping weapons into Ukraine and in raising its technological level bear responsibility (for continuing the conflict)

The main thing “is that it is the Ukrainian people who will pay the price for all this pseudo-support”, he said.

Peskov also dismissed Washington’s announcement that it was planning to impose sanctions on the Russian private mercenary Wagner Group.

He said:

I don’t think that in practical terms it has any significance for our country, and even less for the Wagner private military company (PMC).

Hello everyone. It’s Léonie Chao-Fong taking over the live blog from Martin Belam to bring you all the latest news from the Russia-Ukraine war. I’m on Twitter or you can email me.

Summary of the day so far …

  • Germany’s approval for the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is of secondary importance as Poland could send those tanks as part of a coalition of countries even without its permission, the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said on Monday. “We will ask for such permission, but this is an issue of secondary importance. Even if we did not get this approval … we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine”, Morawiecki told reporters.

  • German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock’s comment on Sunday, that her country would not “stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, is causing some confusion in Berlin. It remains unclear whether her remarks are indicative of a shift in the government’s position. Baerbock did not repeat her comment when pressed on the matter on Monday morning. “It’s important that we as an international community do everything to defend Ukraine, so that Ukraine wins”, she told press at a meeting of the EU’s foreign affairs council in Brussels. “Because if it loses Ukraine will cease to exist”.

  • Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said during his visit to South Africa that Ukraine was rejecting peace talks and the longer this continued, the harder it would be to resolve the conflict. Lavrov met South Africa’s foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, in a tripsome opposition parties and the small Ukrainian community in South Africa have condemned as insensitive. The South African military is set to host a joint military exercise with Russia and China on its east coast on 17-27 February.

  • 18 people injured as a result of last weekend’s rocket attack on a high-rise building in Dnipro remain in hospital, including one child. Ukraine state broadcaster reports “There are no serious patients among these patients, all of them were transferred from intensive care units to general departments.”

  • The top Moscow-installed official in the Russian-occupied parts of the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine said late on Sunday that he had visited the town of Soledar, which Russia claimed to have captured earlier this month. Denis Pushilin published a short video on the Telegram messaging app that showed him driving and walking amid desolate areas and destroyed buildings. The Guardian was not able to independently verify when and where the video was taken. On 11 January, the private Russian military group Wagner said it had captured Soledar. Ukraine has never publicly said that the town was taken by Russian forces.

  • Russia claimed to have made advances in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region. After months of stalemate in the south-eastern region, Moscow-installed officials say the front is now “mobile” while the Ukrainian army reported that 15 settlements had come under artillery fire. “During offensive operations in the direction of Zaporizhzhia, units of the eastern military district took up more advantageous ground and positions,” the defence ministry said on Sunday.

  • Russian state-owned news agency Tass is reporting that Russian forces claim to have destroyed a large Ukrainian ammunition depot in the Kherson region.

  • Russian secret service the SVR has claimed – without presenting evidence –that Ukraine is storing weapons and ammunition supplied by the west on the territory of nuclear power plants.

  • European Council president Charles Michel has urged the bloc’s national leaders to push forward with talks on using $300bn-worth of confiscated Russian central bank assets for the reconstruction of Ukraine, the Financial Times reports. Michael said he wanted to explore the idea of managing the Russian central bank’s frozen assets to generate profits, which could then be earmarked for reconstruction efforts.

  • Russia has said it is downgrading diplomatic relations with the Nato member Estonia, accusing Tallinn of “total Russophobia”. The Russian foreign ministry said it had told the Estonian envoy he must leave next month, and both countries would be represented in each other’s capitals by an interim charge d’affaires instead of an ambassador.

  • Russia said on Monday that no new date had been set for talks with the US on the New Start nuclear arms treaty, accusing the US of ramping up tensions between the two sides.

That is it from me, Martin Belam, for now. I will be back later. Léonie Chao-Fong will be with you shortly.

Philip Oltermann

Philip Oltermann

Philip Oltermann is the Guardian’s Berlin bureau chief, and sends this reports from Germany:

German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock’s comment on Sunday, that her country would not “stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, is causing some confusion in Berlin. For now it remains unclear whether her remarks are indicative of a shift in the government’s position or merely a Green party attempt to correct Chancellor Scholz’s bungled communication strategy.

Baerbock did not repeat her comment when pressed on the matter on Monday morning. “It’s important that we as an international community do everything to defend Ukraine, so that Ukraine wins”, she told press at a meeting of the EU’s foreign affairs council in Brussels. “Because if it loses Ukraine will cease to exist”.

Baerbock’s party colleague Robert Habeck, the German minister for economic affairs, had already signalled ten days ago that his ministry would not block the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks from other European countries to Ukraine. “There’s a difference between making a decision of your own accord and hindering the decision of others”, Habeck said at the time.

While the re-export of tanks manufactured in Germany has to be green-lit by the country’s economic ministry, Habeck’s carte blanche for such decisions has effectively shifted the decision-making process to the offices of chancellor Olaf Scholz.

That Scholz really would block Poland’s formal request to supply Kyiv with Leopard 2 tanks from its reserves, made explicit on Monday, is hard to imagine, not least because it would blow up the chancellor’s line that the allies’ position on such matters was more united than media reports made it sound.

On Sunday evening, Germany’s new defence minister Boris Pistorius rejected reports of an open disagreement between Washington and Berlin on the battle tank question. “Germany was not isolated”, Pistorius said of last Friday’s meeting at the Ramstein air base.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said during his visit to South Africa that Ukraine was rejecting peace talks and the longer this continued, the harder it would be to resolve the conflict.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, and in September 2022 the Russian Federation claimed to annex four regions of Ukraine whose territory it partially occupied. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, in a move that is not widely internationally recognised.

Reuters is carrying a quick snap that a government spokesperson from Germany has said on the topic of Poland seeking permission to re-export tanks: “There is a procedure for this, we would work with the swiftness and care required.”

Earlier today Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said: “We will ask for such permission, but this is an issue of secondary importance.” [See 9.43 GMT]

The Russian state-owned news agency Tass is reporting that Russian forces claim to have destroyed a large Ukrainian ammunition depot in the Kherson region. It quotes what it describes as a representative of the region claiming that eight Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the attack, and 12 more injured. Tass quotes the anonymous source saying:

An artillery strike was carried out near Chornobaivka on the ammunition depot of one of the brigades of the armed forces of Ukraine on the right bank of the Dnipro River, as a result of which the detonation of ammunition occurred.

The claims have not been independently verified.

Kherson is one of the regions that the Russian Federation claims to have annexed, despite not controlling any of the territory to the north of the region, having retreated behind the left bank of the Dnipro.

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