A Russian rocket destroyed an apartment building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk late on Wednesday and at least two people were killed and seven injured, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said. “Rescuers, law enforcement and public utilities are working at the scene to go through the rubble of the destroyed building. It is likely that people are still underneath,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app. At least 44 people were killed last month when a Russian missile hit an apartment building in the eastern city of Dnipro.
Fierce fighting continued in eastern Ukraine, where Russian troops are trying to gain ground near the strategic logistics hub of Lyman, deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar said on Wednesday evening. Russian forces are trying to make gains that they can show on the anniversary of their 24 February 2022 invasion, said Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s president. “A definite increase has been noted in the offensive operations of the occupiers on the front in the east of our country. The situation has become tougher.”
A former commander of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group who fled to Norway told Reuters he wanted to apologise for fighting in Ukraine and was speaking out to bring the perpetrators of atrocities in the conflict to justice. Andrei Medvedev, who fled by crossing the Russian-Norwegian border on 13 January, says he witnessed the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners taken to Ukraine to fight for Wagner.
Britain’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, has said he does not think it is the right approach “for now” to send UK fighter jets to Ukraine. He said it was “not a solid decision”, adding: “I’ve learned two things: never rule anything in and never rule anything out.” Meanwhile, Downing Street has continued to rule out providing Kyiv with British jets, saying it was not practical given the complexity of the jets.
The UK’s statements came as its former prime minister Boris Johnson called on western leaders to “give the Ukrainians the tools to finish the job”, including heavy tanks and planes. Addressing the Atlantic Council in Washington, Johnson urged the west to “stop focusing on Putin and focus entirely on Ukraine”.
Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said he had a “frank and productive” conversation with France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, regarding his country’s “urgent operational needs for self-defence”.
Spain will initially send between four and six Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, El País is reporting. Italy is to join forces with France in supplying air defences to Ukraine, the FT reported. In an interview, Italy’s defence minister, Guido Crosetto, said a package of military aid now being prepared by Giorgia Meloni’s government would probably include “weapons of defence against Russian missile attack”. “Italy is expected to provide the missile launchers, while France would supply the rockets,” the paper reported.
Germany’s vice-chancellor, Robert Habeck, has spoken out against his country delivering fighter jets to Ukraine. Habeck, an early supporter of his government supporting Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 tanks, said such a move would probably be a step too far for western allies weighing up support for Kyiv’s cause against fears of being drawn into an outright war.
The US is readying more than $2bn worth of military aid for Ukraine that is expected to include longer-range rockets for the first time as well as other munitions and weapons, two US officials briefed on the matter told Reuters. The Kremlin said longer-range rockets reportedly included in the upcoming package of military aid would escalate the conflict but not change its course.
Norwegian academics, rights campaigners, bestselling authors and a former minister have urged Oslo to increase its support for Ukraine, saying the government must do more to help after earning billions in extra oil and gas revenue from Russia’s war. Norway’s oil and gas revenues have soared to record levels over the past 12 months as energy prices have tripled after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Norway has replaced Russia as Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas.
Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has said Russia and China’s growing relationship poses a threat not only to Asia but also to Europe. In a speech to Keio University in Tokyo, the Nato chief underlined the importance of stronger cooperation and more “friends” for Nato in the Indo-Pacific region, adding that the war in Ukraine had demonstrated “how security is interconnected”.
Pro-Russia forces have claimed in Russian media that the fiercely contested city of Bakhmut is nearly encircled. Tass quoted Col Vitaly Kiselev, on behalf of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, saying: “Bakhmut has practically been ‘embraced’ from three sides, an intensive knocking out of the enemy is under way. They are trying, and I am sure that they will succeed … to go to the Chasiv Yar area, from where intensive shelling is going on back to Soledar, Bakhmut.”
The Kinburn peninsula, a strip of land that protrudes from the southern side of Kherson oblast on the left bank of the Dnieper River, is in the “grey zone”, with neither Ukrainian or Russian military fully in control of the territory, according to Ukraine’s state broadcaster Suspilne.
A UK Ministry of Defence intelligence update said recent days have seen “some of the most intense shelling of the conflict” along the Dnieper River. “This has included continued shelling of Kherson city,” the ministry notes, adding that outside the Donbas, Kherson is the city most consistently shelled in the conflict.
The woman leading the Kyiv tax authority has been accused of a multimillion-dollar fraud after a raid on one of her four homes. Ukraine’s state bureau of investigation (SBI) said in a statement that the acting head of the inspectorate, who has not been named, had abused her “power and official position” along with other members of the authority.