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Ukraine updates: Kyiv expected to replace defense minister

February 5, 2023

Defense Minister Reznikov could be replaced by the head of the military intelligence. Meanwhile, Scholz cited "consensus" with Kyiv that Western arms wouldn't be used to attack Russian territory. DW rounds up the latest.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (L) and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov in Kyiv, pictured on February 3, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (L) and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov in Kyiv, pictured on February 3, 2022Image: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov will be replaced, a senior lawmaker announced on Sunday, following  a corruption scandal over which his deputy had already resigned

The announcement came hours after Reznikov had said he would only resign if President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked him to.

Ukrainian lawmaker David Arakhamia said that military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov would become the new defense minister, justifying the decision to relieve Reznikov of his duties by saying: "War dictates personnel policies."

He said that Reznikov would be transferred to another ministerial job.

A timeline for the reshuffle has yet to be provided.

Reznikov, who has served since November 2021, recently came under fire after his deputy Vyacheslav Shapovalov resigned after Ukrainian media reports suggested that the ministry was overpaying on food for the military.

Graft allegations started to emerge in January, prompting Zelenskyy to promise personnel changes in the government.

One day later, on January 24, Shapovalov and the deputy head of Ukraine's presidential office resigned from their posts.

In a statement acknowledging Shapovalov's resignation, the Defense Ministry described it as a "worthy deed" that would help retain trust in the ministry.

Here are other updates on the war in Ukraine on Sunday, February 5:

Scholz says tank agreement stops escalation

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has an understanding with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that any tanks or other weapons provided by Germany would not be used to attack Russian territory, he said in remarks published Sunday.

"There is a consensus on this point," Scholz told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

After weeks of hesitation, Germany has agreed to deliver 14 Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, along with similar deliveries from the United States and the United Kingdom.

"We have carefully weighed each delivery of weapons, in close coordination with our allies, starting with America," Scholz said.

"This joint approach prevents an escalation of the war."

On the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed: "Again and again we are forced to repel the aggression of the collective West."

However, Scholz said Putin made "no threats" against him or Germany in their phone calls.

But because it was Germany's view that Russia's actions violated Europe's peace framework, it was providing Ukraine with financial, humanitarian and military help, the German chancellor added.

Putin says Russia 'again' threatened by German tanks

Price caps hit Russia's export revenue by about $8 billion in Jan — IEA

Price caps on Russian oil likely hit Moscow's revenues from oil and gas exports by nearly 30% in January, or about $8 billion (€7.4 billion), from a year ago period, International Energy Agency (IEA) chief Fatih Birol said.

He also added that the growth in global oil demand this year will come from China and that may need the OPEC+ countries to look at their (output) policies.

The EU in December imposed an embargo on Russian crude oil coming in by sea and together with its G7 partners set a $60-dollar-per-barrel cap for exports around the world.

Battlefield strength swiftest way to Ukraine peace — UK

Arming Ukraine so it can defend itself against Russia is the swiftest path to achieving peace, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in an article published in a Maltese newspaper.

"Like all authoritarian rulers, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin responds only to strength in his opponents," Cleverly wrote in the Times of Malta

He added that he was delighted Germany and the United States had joined Britain in agreeing to send tanks to Ukraine. "Giving the Ukrainians the tools they need to finish the job is the swiftest — indeed the only — path to peace," he wrote.

Meanwhile, the British Defense Ministry wrote in its daily intelligence update that for the past week Russia has continued to make small progress in its attempt to encircle the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.

The two main roads into the city for Ukrainian troops "are likely now both threatened by direct fire, following the Russian advances," the ministry said. "Bakhmut is increasingly isolated."

Ukraine's forces still hold Bilohorivka in Luhansk region — governor

Ukrainian forces remained in control of the village of Bilohorivka, Luhansk region Governor Serhiy Haidai said, adding that the situation there is tense, but under control.

"Information is being spread in the Russian Federation about the alleged capture of Bilohorivka and the removal of our people from there," Haidai told the national broadcaster. "Our troops remain in their positions, nobody has captured Bilohorivka, nobody has entered there, there is no enemy there."

"The number of Russian attacks has ... increased, but all of them have been repulsed by our troops, who remain in their positions," the governor added.

In the meantime, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the head ofRussia's private Wagner Group said that fierce fighting was ongoing in the northern parts of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, which has been the focus of Russian forces' attention for weeks.

According to Prigozhin, his soldiers were "fighting for every street, every house, every stairwell" against Ukrainian forces who were not retreating.

The Russian state news agency TASS also reported that Russian troops killed 18 Ukrainian soldiers with artillery in the Kherson region.

Russian missile hits residential building in Kharkiv

Two Russian missiles hit the center of Kharkiv, the administrative capital of the Kharkiv region in Ukraine's northeast, with one of the missiles striking a residential building, said the city's mayor, Ihor Terekhov.

"At this time, it known that there is a fire in one of the residential buildings and one injured person," Terekhov said on the Telegram messaging platform.

Meanwhile, Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synyehubov reported that three people were injured — one woman and two men. "The woman was hospitalized with shrapnel wounds, the men were treated on the spot," he wrote on Telegram.

First Leopard 2 tank from Canada en route to Ukraine

The first of four Leopard 2 tanks promised by Canada is on its way to Ukraine. A Canadian Air Force aircraft "departed Halifax carrying the first Leopard 2 main battle tank that Canada is sending to Ukraine," Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand tweeted on Saturday.

"Canada stands with the people of Ukraine — and we’ll continue to provide Ukraine’s Armed Forces with the equipment that they need to win," the minister added.

In another post on Twitter, Anand posted a video showing the tank being loaded onto the plane and the machine taking off.

Canada announced at the end of January that it wanted to deliver four German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Ukraine claims victory over Russian assault in Bakhmut

Ukraine said it defeated a fresh Russian offensive in Bakhmut on Saturday, amid a wave of Russian shelling across the Donetsk region.

"This week, the Russian occupation forces threw all their efforts into breaking through our defense and encircling Bakhmut, and launched a powerful offensive in the Lyman sector," Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said.

"But thanks to the resilience of our soldiers, they did not succeed."

In his evening address late Saturday, Zelenskyy added that the situation is "very difficult now" in the front-line cities of Bakhmut, Vugledar and Lyman.

"The enemy keeps throwing in new forces to break through our defenses," he said.

EU embargo on Russian diesel comes into effect

A European Union embargo on refined oil products from Russia, like diesel and gasoline, comes into effect on Sunday.

The measure had been agreed upon in June last year.

Russia exported these products to the EU to the tune of €2.5 billion ($2.3 billion) to the EU in October. The embargo is designed to limit Russia's ability to finance its invasion of Ukraine.

On Saturday, the EU, the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized countries and Australia announced a price cap on these refined oil products like diesel. Russian crude oil is already subject to similar embargoes and price caps.

Zelenskyy welcomes British tanks

In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy thanked the United Kingdom for training Ukrainian troops to use the Challenger 2 main battle tank.

"This is a good vehicle and will be a serious reinforcement on the battlefield," he said.

The Challenger 2 is one of the main battle tanks pledged by the West in recent weeks, alongside Germany's Leopard 2 and the US M1 Abrams.

Russia and Ukraine exchange prisoners

Ukraine and Russia traded almost 200 soldiers on Saturday in a prisoner swap confirmed by both sides.

Zelenskyy said 1,762 Ukrainian citizens have been freed from captivity since the beginning of the war.

Russia's Defense Ministry said the swap was made possible through mediation by the United Arab Emirates.

Prisoner exchanges sometimes happen but are not advertised: Frank Ledwidge, military analyst

More DW coverage on the war in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine has at times threatened to spill over into other Eastern European countries. DW looks at how Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has ramped up threats against Moldova.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, thousands of international students at Ukrainian universities were forced to flee. DW spoke with the international students who have continued their studies in Serbia.

dh, zc/sms, fb (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)