The first shipment of German and British tanks have arrived in Ukraine, ahead of an expected spring counter-offensive.
Ukraine’s defense ministry said British Challenger 2 tanks had arrived in Ukraine, while Germany’s defense ministry said 18 Leopard 2 tanks, ammunition and spare parts had been sent Tuesday.
Germany has faced criticism during the war for an apparent reluctance to send heavy weaponry to Ukraine. It eventually decided to send battle tanks to Kyiv in January, with the US pledging to do likewise.
The UK was the first country to pledge tanks to Ukraine early on in the new year.
In other news, Russia’s Pacific Fleet fired supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles at a mock target in the Sea of Japan, the Russian defense ministry said Tuesday.
The combat exercise saw Russia fire Moskit cruise missiles, supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, at a “mock enemy.” It said the target was hit.
Japan’s foreign minister said his country would remain watchful of Moscow’s military operations.
EU countries seek legal option to stop Russian LNG imports
European Union countries agreed to seek a legal option to stop Russian companies sending liquefied natural gas to EU nations by preventing Russian firms from booking infrastructure capacity.
EU energy ministers proposed that new EU gas market rules should include the option for governments to temporarily stop Russian and Belarusian gas exporters from bidding up-front for capacity on the infrastructure needed to deliver LNG into Europe.
The proposal is part of their negotiating position on new EU gas market rules. It must be negotiated with the European Parliament – a process that can take months.
The 27-country European Union has pledged to ditch Russian gas in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Europe’s pipeline imports of gas from Russia have plunged since the invasion, but LNG imports have increased.
Zelensky visits Ukrainian positions near Russian border in Sumy region
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky visited positions of the Ukrainian border guards near the border with Russia in the Sumy region to mark the anniversary of its recapture from Russian troops.
The Sumy region was briefly occupied by Russian forces at the start of the war, but withdrew in early April 2022. In those early few weeks, several towns became the focus of fierce battles.
It is the latest stop in Zelensky’s tour of the country. In the past seven days, he has visited the Kherson and Kharkiv regions, as well as Bahkmut in the Donetsk region and Zaporizhzhia.
Addressing a crowd in a square in Okhtyrka, Zelensky promised that the battle-scarred city would be rebuilt.
“We won’t let any wound remain on the body of our state,” he said.
Russian forces continue to shell
Russian troops continue to shell. They hit the town of Bilopillia in the Sumy Oblast on Tuesday morning, damaging a school and an apartment building.
At least two people died and 25 were injured following Russian shelling on the city of Sloviansk in Donetsk.
Administrative office buildings, a high-rise building and seven residences were destroyed by S-300 rockets, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk Regional State Administration, said on Telegram, noting that the rescue operation was ongoing.
Intense attacks on the eastern Donetsk town of Avdiivka and the damage they’ve caused prompted a Ukrainian official to liken the destruction to what you would see in a “post-apocalyptic” movie.
Utility workers were evacuated from Avdiivka, a town just over 50 miles southwest of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, as fighting intensified at the weekend.
“Avdiivka is becoming more and more like a site from post-apocalyptic movies … Therefore, a difficult decision was made to evacuate the rest of our heroes — utility workers who at least tried to keep the city clean and livable,” Vitaliy Barabash, head of the Avdiivka City Military Administration, said on Telegram Sunday.
Barabash told any remaining residents to leave the town while they were still able to, saying: “Now I do not ask, I strongly recommend leaving Avdiivka, because Russian rockets and projectiles do not spare anyone or anything, no matter what views you hold,” he said.
Ukrainian military officials have already warned that the town could be a “second Bakhmut,” where there has been heavy fighting for over seven months.
On Monday, Ukraine’s general staff said Russia was concentrating its offensives around Lyman, Bakhmut and Avdiivka and two other settlements, and added that its forces had repelled more than 60 attacks in the past 24 hours along the eastern front.
Belarus says NATO’s behavior has pushed it to host Russian nukes
Belarus’ Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it had decided to host Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons reportedly because of NATO’s “coercive measures” and “the build-up of military potential” in neighboring countries.
“Unilateral coercive measures in politics and the economy are accompanied by the build-up of military potential in the territory of neighboring countries — NATO members in close proximity to our border,” Belarus’ Foreign Ministry said in a statement reported by Russian news agency Tass.
“Considering these circumstances and the legitimate concerns and risks in the field of national security arising from them, Belarus is taking forced response actions to strengthen its own security and defense capability,” the ministry said.
Russia’s ally Belarus is seen as something of a bulwark for Moscow against NATO, given that it borders Poland, Lithuania and Latvia — all NATO members — Ukraine to the south, and Russia to the east.
Over the weekend, Russia announced that it would locate tactical nuclear weapons (designed for use on the battlefield rather than mass wholescale destruction) within Belarus, saying President Alexander Lukashenko had made the suggestion to do so.
NATO criticized Russia’s nuclear rhetoric, calling it “dangerous and irresponsible.”
“We are continuing to monitor this very, very closely,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on a conference call. He added that so far, the US has not seen reason to change its own nuclear posture.
Ukraine at the Summit for Democracy
On the diplomatic front, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has taken part in a virtual session at the US-led Summit for Democracy.
“No other nation wants peace more than Ukraine,” he said. “But peace at any cost is an illusion. For peace to be a lasting one, it needs to be just. The cessation of Russia’s aggression and the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity are essential conditions for peace.”
Moscow says it is willing to talk peace but stresses security concerns come first.
Compiled by Ana Dumbadze