1. Poland to send Kyiv ‘a company of Leopard tanks’
Poland has decided to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine as part of an international coalition, the Polish president said on Wednesday, as Warsaw seeks to play a leading role in reaching a consensus among Western allies on such support.
Kyiv has been requesting heavy military vehicles, such as the German-made Leopard 2, which would represent a significant step up in Western support to Ukraine.
“A company of Leopard tanks will be handed over as part of coalition-building,” Andrzej Duda said during a visit to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. “We want it to be an international coalition.”
A company typically consists of 14 tanks.
Duda said that he hoped that the Polish tanks, together with tanks from other countries, would soon travel to Ukraine.
Speaking alongside Duda, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that a joint decision was necessary, as one country would not be able to provide Kyiv with a sufficient number of tanks.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Saturday that Poland did not intend to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine without forming a broader coalition.
Any re-export of Leopard tanks requires approval by the government in Berlin.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday that he remained convinced of the need to coordinate arms deliveries to Ukraine with allies.
However, a German government spokesman said on Wednesday that he was unaware of any requests from his allies to send Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine.
2. Russians not in control of Soledar, Ukrainian military says
Ukraine’s military denied on Wednesday that Russian forces had taken control of the eastern town of Soledar, saying the intensity of battles in the area could be compared to fighting in World War II.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for the eastern military command, told Ukrainian television that Kyiv forces had not allowed Russian units to break through the front lines.
“The town is not under the control of the Russian Federation. There are fierce battles going on now,” he said. “There is a complicated situation there.”
He said the military command was “working now on how to stabilize the situation with the maximum impact for the enemy and minimum losses for Ukraine.”
Russian mercenary group Wagner has said it has taken control of Soledar, a salt-mining town near the city of Bakhmut where fighting has also been fierce as Russia tries to capture the entire Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
“The intensity of battles near Bakhmut can be compared with World War II,” Cherevatyi said.
Cherevatyi said Russian forces still had a lot of Soviet-era weapons and were using old armored vehicles with some modernized elements.
“Our partners are providing us with more modern weapons,” he said, adding that Western weapons were more precise and gave Ukraine an advantage.
Euronews could not independently verify the claims made by either of the two sides.
3. Kyiv and Moscow to exchange 40 captives after agreement in Turkey
Russia and Ukraine have agreed on an exchange of 40 prisoners of war, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said on Wednesday after meeting her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Lubinets in Turkey.
Moskalkova and Lubinets met on the sidelines of an international ombudsman conference in Ankara. Photos showed them sitting on opposite sides of a table.
The initial talks lasted for some 40 minutes, followed by a second round that began at around 10:30 CET.
As they met, a battle raged for the small town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine.
Earlier, Moskalkova had said on the Telegram messaging app that she and Lubinets had discussed humanitarian assistance for citizens of both Russia and Ukraine.
They were later expected to visit the Turkish presidential palace, where President Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to make a speech for the conference at 1130 GMT.
A Turkish source said Moskalkova and Lubinets might discuss a humanitarian corridor and the situation of children who had fled the war.
Russia and Ukraine have conducted numerous prisoner swaps — most recently on Sunday — in the course of the war, which is now in its 11th month.
4. Ukrainian crews to train on how to use Patriot systems in the US
About 100 Ukrainian troops will head to Oklahoma’s Fort Sill as soon as next week to begin training on the Patriot missile defense system, getting Kyiv closer to obtaining the long-sought protection against Russia’s missile attacks.
Ukraine for months requested that the US provide the Patriot surface-to-air guided missile defense system because it can target aircraft, cruise missiles and shorter-range ballistic missiles.
During his late December visit to Washington, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the battery would make a significant difference in bolstering Kyiv’s defenses against Russia’s invasion.
The number of Ukrainians coming to Fort Sill is approximately the number it takes to operate one battery, and they will focus on learning to operate and also maintain the Patriot, Pentagon spokesman Air Force General Pat Ryder said Tuesday.
Kyiv’s decision to take troops off the battlefield to train across the Atlantic in the US is unusual, although Ukraine has sent forces for short-term training at European bases for other complex systems it has received, such as on the longer-range High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS.
Patriot training normally can take several months, but “the longer those troops are off the line, they’re not actually engaged in combat,” Ryder said, so the training would be shortened.
Fort Sill was selected because it already runs Patriot training schools, Ryder said.
The US pledged one Patriot battery in December as part of one of several large military assistance packages it has provided Ukraine in recent weeks. Last week Germany pledged an additional Patriot battery.
Each Patriot battery consists of a truck-mounted launching system with eight launchers holding up to four missile interceptors each, a ground radar, a control station and a generator. The US Army said it currently has 16 Patriot battalions.
The Patriot batteries will complement various air defense systems that both the US and NATO partners have pledged to Ukraine as it faces an evolving barrage of missiles and drones against its civilian population and infrastructure from Russia in the nearly 11-month-old conflict.
In the last few months, Germany has pledged four IRIS-T air defense systems. The US has also pledged eight mid-range National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, and Avenger air defense systems.
5. Zelenskyy ‘terminates’ citizenship of four high-profile pro-Moscow MPs
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stripped four political figures of their Ukrainian citizenship on Tuesday, including pro-Kremlin politician Viktor Medvedchuk.
Medvedchuk, a close ally of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, was transferred to Moscow last year in a prisoner swap deal.
“I have decided to terminate the citizenship of four persons: Andriy Leonidovych Derkach, Taras Romanovych Kozak, Renat Raveliyovych Kuzmin and Viktor Volodymyrovych Medvedchuk,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.
“If people’s deputies choose to serve not the people of Ukraine, but the murderers who came to Ukraine, our actions will be appropriate.”
Medvedchuk headed a banned pro-Russian party, the Opposition Platform — For Life, in Ukraine and faced treason charges before the September 2022 prisoner exchange.
Kozak and Kuzmin were elected to Ukraine’s parliament as members of Medvedchuk’s party.
The US imposed sanctions on Kozak, the owner of three television channels, in January of 2022 for the alleged spreading of Russian disinformation after Kyiv sought his arrest on treason charges.
Ukraine has also charged Kuzmin with high treason.
Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker also sanctioned by Washington, was charged in the US in December with money laundering and sanctions violations.
He was accused of helping Russia interfere in the US presidential election in 2020.
6. New Russian-Belarusian air defense units ‘moved into position’, Minsk says
Belarus’s defense ministry said on Wednesday that the joint Russian-Belarusian air defense forces had been reinforced, with new missile units moved into position.
“Anti-aircraft missile units advanced to designated areas and took up combat duty,” the ministry said in a brief statement.
Belarus’ strongman leader Alexander Lukashenka is a close ally of the Kremlin, allowing President Vladimir Putin to use its territory as one of the launchpads for his February 24 full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The two countries plan to hold joint aviation drills in the second half of January, starting next Monday.
Ukraine has repeatedly warned that Putin may try to use Belarus to launch a new invasion of Ukraine from the north, a step that would open a major new front in the war.
By reopening the northern front line, Russia would stretch Kyiv’s forces, which have been focused for months on battles raging in the east and south, forcing it to divert troops to the north.
7. Gerasimov is now in charge of Russia’s troops in Ukraine in the Kremlin’s latest shuffle
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu appointed Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov on Wednesday to oversee Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine in the latest shake-up of Moscow’s military leadership.
Shoigu appointed Gerasimov as commander of the combined forces group for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the defense ministry said in a statement.
Russia had promoted Sergey Surovikin, nicknamed “General Armageddon” by the Russian media for his reputed ruthlessness, to be its top battlefield commander only last October following a series of Ukrainian counter-offensives that turned the tide of the conflict.
Surovikin will remain as a deputy of Gerasimov, the defense ministry said.
He said the changes were designed to increase the effectiveness of managing military operations in Ukraine more than 10 months into the campaign.
Gerasimov, like Shoigu, has faced sharp criticism from pro-war military bloggers for Russia’s multiple setbacks on the battlefield and failure to secure victory in a campaign the Kremlin had expected to take just a short time.