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Ukraine updates: UK to supply Kyiv with 14 tanks

January 15, 2023

The UK became the first Western power to supply Ukraine with main battle tanks, as Moscow intensifies strikes all across the country. DW has the latest.

Ukrainian soldiers on a tank
Ukraine has long sought to be supplied with heavier tanks from the WestImage: Diego Herrera Carcedo/AA/picture alliance

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised on Saturday to provide tanks and artillery systems to Ukraine, as Russian missile attacks on the Ukrainian capital and other cities intensify. The pledge was made during a phone call between Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

The UK will deliver 14 Challenger 2 tanks in the coming weeks, followed by around 30 AS-90 self-propelled guns.

"The UK will begin training the Ukrainian Armed Forces to use the tanks and guns in the coming days, as part of wider UK efforts which have seen thousands of Ukrainian troops trained in the UK over the last six months," the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the two leaders had agreed on the "need to seize on this moment" after Ukrainian victories had "pushed Russian troops back."

Ukraine has long sought to be supplied with heavier tanks, including the US Abrams and the German Leopard 2 tanks, but Western leaders have been reluctant to provide them.  

With the move, the UK is the first Western power to supply Kyiv with main battle tanks.

Sunak believes "that a long and static war only serves Russia’s ends," Downing Street said.

"That’s why he and his ministers will be speaking to our allies across the world in the days and weeks ahead to ramp up pressure on Putin and secure a better future for Ukraine," a spokesperson added.

Zelenskyy thanked Sunak on Twitter "for the decisions that will not only strengthen us on the battlefield but also send the right signal to other partners.'' 

Russia's embassy in the UK was quick to respond and said: "Bringing tanks to the conflict zone, far from drawing the hostilities to a close, will only serve to intensify combat operations, generating more casualties, including among the civilian population."

Here are other updates concerning the war in Ukraine on January 14:

Rocket debris found in Moldova

Moldova's Interior Ministry said on Saturday that the remains of a missile "originating from Russia's air attacks on Ukraine" were found by border officials in Larga, a village in the north of the country.

Authorities did not specify who fired the rocket.

"Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine directly impacts Moldova again," President Maia Sandu tweeted later on Saturday.

"We strongly condemn today’s intensified attacks of Russia and stand with those who lost loved ones in Dnipro across Ukraine. Peace must prevail."

Deaths reported after missile strike in Dnipro

 A Russian missile hit an apartment building in the eastern city of Dnipro, Dnipropetrovsk governor Valentyn Reznichenko said on Saturday. On Sunday, Ukrainian officials said 21 people were killed, with dozens missing. 

Reznichenko had said Saturday that nine people had been killed by the missile attack, including a 15-year-old girl, in addition to 64 wounded.

He later posted on Telegram that the strike "has already claimed 12 innocent lives … at 23:02 (local time)."

According to the governor, over 100 rescuers worked to retrieve victims trapped under the rubble.

The strike destroyed 72 apartments. Trapped victims used their mobile phones to signal their location under the debris, Ukrainian media reported.

The southern city of Odesa, the eastern city of Kharkiv and the western city of Lviv were also struck on Saturday, alongside the capital, Kyiv. The strikes damaged civilian infrastructure including electricity sites and were the first major missile attacks in the new year, the German DPA news agency said.

More missile attacks reported in Kyiv 

Explosions rang out once again across the Ukrainian capital on Saturday morning before being joined by the sound of air raid sirens.

The deputy head of Ukraine's presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said that critical infrastructure in the city had been targeted by a Russian missile attack, while Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on Telegram that "explosions were heard in Dniprovskyi district."

"Stay in shelters!" Klitschko added.

Officials said that at least one infrastructure location was hit, without specifying where. Emergency services were deployed to the scene.

Tymoshenko also said that a residential building on the outskirts of Kyiv was hit. No casualties have been reported from the strikes.

The governor of Ukraine's second city, Kharkiv, reported two missile strikes on the city's industrial district earlier on Saturday. There were also no reports of casualties.

Kyiv has not been attacked since New Year's Eve

Ukraine claims it still controls Soledar

The Ukrainian governor of Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces are still in control of the salt mining town of Soledar, despite Russian claims on Friday that they had taken control of the strategically important town.

"Soledar is controlled by Ukrainian authorities, our military controls it," Kyrylenko said, adding that "battles continue in and outside of the city."

The Ukrainian claim could not be verified but the fought-over city is believed to provide strategic access to the bigger city of Bakhmut.

UK has 'ambition' to send tanks to Ukraine

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak held a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday in which he spoke of his government's desire to send tanks and artillery support to Ukraine.

"They agreed on the need to seize on this moment with an acceleration of global military and diplomatic support to Ukraine," a spokesperson for Sunak said.

"The Prime Minister outlined the UK’s ambition to intensify our support to Ukraine, including through the provision of Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems."

It was not clear what time frame Sunak had in mind. The announcement follows similar declared plans by France, Germany and the US to send armored vehicles.

Western tanks to turn the tide?

UK says Russia moving fleet out of fear of attack

The UK Ministry of Defence's daily intelligence update reported on Saturday that part of Russia's Black Sea Fleet (BSF) had left the Novorossiysk Naval Facility on the Black Sea coast.

The departure of 10 vessels on January 11, according to the ministry, is "likely a fleet dispersal in response to a specific threat to Novorossiysk that Russia believes it has identified."

According to the update, the ministry doubts the vessels are preparing to conduct missile strikes or amphibious assault operations.

"The BSF largely remains fixed by perceived threats from Ukraine, and continues to prioritise force protection over offensive or patrol operations," the update said.

Ukrainian forces have previously carried out successful strikes on Russian naval ships.

Russia has used its dominance in the Black Sea to block Ukraine's free access to global maritime trade — with the exception of grain exports, thanks to an agreement overseen by the UN and Turkey.

Zelenskyy hopes to visit UN on anniversary of Russian invasion

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is hopeful that he can join a high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly on the eve of the anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova told The Associated Press.

"Our president would want to come, he has a will or intention to come," she said, "but it's still a question if there will be a security situation that will allow him to come.''

Zelenskyy made his first trip outside of Ukraine since the beginning of the war in late December to talk to members of the US Congress in Washington DC.

Ukraine's UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya has said that a meeting of the 163 members of the General Assembly is already planned for February 23, to be followed by a ministerial meeting of members of the Security Council on February 24.

zc, ab, jcg/wmr (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)