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Ukraine updates: Russia used North Korean missiles, US says

Published January 4, 2024last updated January 4, 2024

The White House has said North Korea provided Russia with ballistic missiles and launchers for its invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Putin sped up the Russian citizenship process for foreign fighters. DW has the latest.

North Korea fire off an interncontinental ballistic missile
North Korea frequently fires intercontinental ballistic missiles in violation of international resolutionsImage: Korean Central News Agency/AP/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

The United States said Thursday that Russia has recently used North Korean missiles on Ukraine, most recently on Tuesday.

White House official John Kirby, citing declassified intelligence, said one of the North Korean missiles was also fired on December 30.

In addition, Kirby said Russia was striving to procure ballistic missiles from Iran for its war on Ukraine, but a deal on the matter between Moscow and Tehran had not been completed.    

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is in favor of expediting the citizenship process for its foreign fighters who serve in the Russian military.

Foreign fighters will only need a minimum of a one-year enlistment in the military to acquire a Russian passport for themselves and their families, bypassing residency and Russian language requirements.      

Here are the latest developments in Russia's war on Ukraine on Thursday, January 4: 

Skip next section North Korea recently gave Russia missiles for assault on Ukraine, US says
January 4, 2024

North Korea recently gave Russia missiles for assault on Ukraine, US says

North Korea recently provided Russia with missiles and launchers for it to use in its invasion of Ukraine, the White House said.

"This is a significant and concerning escalation," White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told journalists in a press conference.  

Kirby, citing recently declassified intelligence, said Russia had shot one of the North Korean ballistic missiles into Ukraine on December 30. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin last met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in September.

Concerns grow that North Korea is sending weapons to Russia

The visit raised suspicions that the two sides could engage in a weapons deal. Russia is seeking more arms for war in Ukraine, while North Korea wants to modernize its Soviet-era military equipment.  

Kirby also said Russia is seeking to procure short-range ballistic missiles from Iran as the invasion of Ukraine presses on. 

Skip next section Russia to expedite citizenship for foreign fighters
January 4, 2024

Russia to expedite citizenship for foreign fighters

Russian President Vladimir Putin backed a decree to facilitate the process for foreign fighters to apply for Russian citizenship.

Foreigners who sign a Russian military enlistment contract of at least a year can apply for Russian nationality both for themselves and their spouses. 

Foreigners not only in the regular armed forces will be eligible, but also those in other "military formations." This phrase could allude to those foreigners involved in the Russian Wagner mercenary organization.   

Foreigners usually need to live in Russia for five straight years on a residency permit and speak Russian before they can gain citizenship. 

There are no public figures available on the number of foreigners fighting in the Russian military against Ukraine. Reuters news agency has previously reported that Cubans have signed up to join the Russian army at lucrative rates.  

Skip next section Ukraine says it hit 2 Russian targets in Crimea
January 4, 2024

Ukraine says it hit 2 Russian targets in Crimea

Ukraine said Thursday it struck a Russian command post near the Crimean port city of Sevastopol and also hit a military unit in a separate strike on the peninsula.

Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk posted a video from social media on the Telegram messaging app that showed smoke rising from an explosion near Sevastopol, thanking pilots for their work.

He also published a screenshot of a social media post saying that a Russian military base in the city of Yevpatoria had been hit in a strike.

Russia reported that it had shot down ten guided missiles over the peninsula and foiled a "terrorist attack" by Kyiv's forces.

One person was wounded after shrapnel fell on a house, Sevastopol's Russian-installed governor Mikhail Razvozhayev said.

DW could not independently verify the reports.

Skip next section Zelenskyy's office says peace plan to be discussed
January 4, 2024

Zelenskyy's office says peace plan to be discussed

The Office of the President of Ukraine has announced that talks on President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's peace plan will take place on January 14 in Switzerland.

That comes a day before the World Economic Forum (WEF) kicks off in the Alpine resort of Davos.

The meeting follows on from a similar one in Malta in October, attended by representatives of more than 60 states. However, Russia is not invited to the meetings.

Skip next section German conservative urges Taurus missiles for Kyiv
January 4, 2024

German conservative urges Taurus missiles for Kyiv

A leading German politician has urged Berlin to adequately supply Ukraine with armaments material such as Taurus cruise missiles

The missiles have a range of more than 500 kilometers (just over 300 miles), which would make it easier for Kyiv to target weapons depots and supply lines on Russian territory.

"Further support such as the delivery of German Taurus rockets is overdue," Christian Social Union (CSU) European politician Manfred Weber told the Funke media group of newspapers.

Foreign policy experts from Germany's Green Party and the neoliberal Free Democratshave joined conservative politicians in pushing for the delivery. 

"A strategy of letting Ukraine fight but not making it so strong that it can win would be cynical," Weber stressed, adding that Western allies must provide Ukraine with "the best possible support."

Weber, whose CSU is the Bavarian sister party to the larger opposition conservative Christian Democrats, is currently the president of the center-right European People's Party (EPP) bloc in the European Parliament. 

Cruise missiles dominate Germany-Ukraine talks

Skip next section Hopes high for more prisoner swaps
January 4, 2024

Hopes high for more prisoner swaps

Ukrainian human rights commissioner Dmytro Lubinets says he is hoping for the return of more soldiers imprisoned by Russia and pro-Russian officials.

Moscow and Kyiv exchanged prisoners on Tuesday for the first time in several months, and Lubinets said the aim was to bring all detained military personnel back home. Previously, there had been dozens of such exchanges.

"The task is to bring absolutely everyone back," said Lubinets.

Official figures say 230 Ukrainian men and women returned from Russian captivity in the most recent swap.

Meanwhile, reports say Ukraine released 248 Russian prisoners to their home country. 

More than 2,800 Ukrainians taken captive by Russia have been released in total, but Kyiv says that more than 4,000 Ukrainians are still being held.

Skip next section Ukraine says draft dodge smugglers detained in Moldova
January 4, 2024

Ukraine says draft dodge smugglers detained in Moldova

Ukrainian police have announced the arrest of two people in Moldova who were allegedly helping men to escape being drafted into the army to fight invading Russians.

The arrests come amid a national debate on further mobilization to boost the Ukrainian army after almost two years of fighting Russian troops.

"Two members of a criminal group were detained in Moldova, one of them while transporting four Ukrainians," the Ukrainian police said.

Police said the detainees had "brought men of recruiting age from Odesa region to the border with Transnistria," it added, referring to the pro-Russian breakaway region in Moldova, a former Soviet republic wedged between Ukraine and Romania. 

"From there they led them along forest paths, away [from] checkpoints ... and took them to the capital of Moldova," the police said.

The men escaping the draft were said to have paid between $4,500 and $5,000 to the smugglers.

There has been a ban on the departure of Ukrainian men aged between 18 and 60 since the war began in February 2022.

Draft evaders face up to five years in prison and those who desert the military face 12 years.

Moldova's border villages fear Russian invasion

Skip next section Ukraine to hold urgent talks with NATO on air defense
January 4, 2024

Ukraine to hold urgent talks with NATO on air defense

Ambassadors from Ukraine and NATO countries are set to hold a special meeting next week, as Kyiv calls for urgent deliveries of air defense equipment to protect it from increasingly intense Russian strikes.

Over the New Year period, Russia launched some of its heaviest missile and drone attacks on Ukraine since the early days of the invasion in February 2022. At least 32 people were killed in Ukraine in the December 29 attack.

"NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will convene a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council next Wednesday," NATO spokesman Dylan White said. 

"The meeting will be held at ambassadorial level and is convened at Ukraine's request following recent Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian civilians, cities and towns."

White added that NATO allies had already delivered a vast array of air defense systems to Ukraine and they were "committed to further bolstering Ukraine's defenses."

Ukraine says the latest attacks highlight the need for Western allies to speed up the delivery of air defense gear, combat drones and long-range missiles.

However, the appeal comes at the same time that support from leading NATO power the United States is running dry due to a stalemate in the US Congress. 

Germany has had a key role in ensuring that Ukraine can better protect itself against Russian air attacks. In addition to the US-built Patriots and German-made IRIS-T air-to-air missile systems, Gepard anti-aircraft tanks supplied by Germany have proven to be highly effective.

Russia targets Kharkiv in latest strikes on Ukraine

rc/nm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)