Ukraine War Updates: Explosions Heard Daily Near Zaporizhizhia Nuclear Plant

Live Updates
  • Russia launched a new series of attacks against Ukraine overnight Thursday as more Western allies agree to send tanks to Kyiv.
  • The Kremlin launched 55 missiles and drones on Ukraine, striking power systems and knocking out energy infrastructure, Ukrainian PM Denys Shmyhal said. At least 11 people died, and several buildings in Kyiv were damaged.
  • Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said Russia is trying to cause a "systemic failure in the energy system of Ukraine" after strikes hit infrastructure in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • As allies coordinate new military aid to Ukraine, Russia said the delivery of battle tanks constitutes "direct involvement" in the conflict.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he is not interested in speaking directly with his Russian counterpart on peace negotiations.
  • Germany and Britain hope to get their tanks to Ukraine by the end of March as Canada announced it will send four Leopard 2 tanks.

The live updates for this blog have ended.

Explosions Heard Daily Near Zaporizhizhia Nuclear Plant

Powerful explosions have been reported outside of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said these explosions indicate military activities near the site, which is located on the frontline of the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

IAEA nuclear safety and security officials have been reporting blasts near the facility "almost daily," Grossi said in a statement. This includes eight "strong detonation[s]" heard at around 10 a.m. local time Wednesday that caused office windows at the plant to vibrate.

"Some blasts apparently take place some distance away from Europe's largest nuclear power plant, while others seem much closer to the facility itself," he said.

He said these signs of combat near the ZNPP further underlined the "vital importance" of implementing a Nuclear Safety and Security Protection Zone around the site as soon as possible. This zone would help shield the ZNPP by making sure it is not targeted and also not used for attacks from the site.

Ukraine Reportedly Finds Torture Chamber in Kherson

Ukrainian counter-intelligence efforts have allegedly discovered a Russian torture chamber in an occupied area of the Kherson region.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine mentioned a torture chamber during a daily war update posted Thursday on Facebook. Russian troops allegedly set up the torture chamber within a building that previously served as office space for regional officials with Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ukrainian military officials said.

Throughout the parts of Kherson currently under Russian control, Russian troops are "actively looking for Ukrainian patriots," the General Staff's update warned.

Russian troops shelled Kherson on Thursday as part of a widespread attack across several Ukrainian regions, during which Ukrainian military officials said Russia launched 37 air strikes and 57 missiles. At least 11 people died and another 11 were injured in the fighting that took place between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, officials said.

Later Thursday in the Kherson region, the head of Ukraine's military in Kryvyi Rih said a Russian missile strike hit a local village council building in Kochubeivka. One man in his fifties died and four other people were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment of injuries sustained in the attack, he said. One of the injured individuals was identified as Lyudmila Kostyuk, the head of the village.

Auditors in Kyiv to Ensure No Funds Diverted, U.S. Official

The U.S. is working to ensure that all of the aid it provides to Ukraine is going where intended.

During a a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday, State Department Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told lawmakers that the U.S. has auditors in Kyiv working along side the World Banks and Deloitte consultant to ensure "that no aid or weapons are diverted."

"We continue to support essential reform and anti-corruption measures by the Ukrainian government across the country," she said.

This comes as Republican lawmakers call for greater transparency and accountability regarding U.S. funds to Ukraine.

Nuland also said that the U.S. is prepared to weaken sanctions on Russia if it withdraws its troops from Ukraine.

"In the context of Russia's decision to negotiate seriously and withdraw its forces from Ukraine and return territory, I would favor sanctions relief," she said.

Senator Rand Paul then clarified that he meant easing sanctions on Russian Duma members in exchange for an ease of sanctions on U.S. legislators.

Regarding U.S. tanks, Nuland said it will take "some time" to get the Abrams to the battlefield in Ukraine, adding that this is not something that's going to appear in time for the spring offensive.

Lockheed Martin Ready if U.S. Transfers F-16s, Report

American arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin is reportedly increasing production of its F-16 fighter jets in case the U.S. decides to allow the military aircraft be sent to Ukraine.

So far, the U.S. has not included F-16s as part of its ongoing support for Ukraine. But Frank St. John, the head of Lockheed Martin, told The Financial Times there is "a lot of conversation" about other countries wanting to send their F-16s to Ukraine. They would need U.S. approval in order to do so.

Lockheed Martin is not a direct part of those conversations, but the company plans to increase its production of F-16s so that it is ready to replenish any jets the U.S. or other countries might send to Ukraine at some point, St. John told the paper.

Ukraine has repeatedly called for fighter jets over the course of the 11-month war, but other nations' fears of escalation have largely prevented this specific military tool from being provided. With this week's announcement of several countries preparing to provide Ukraine with German-made and American-made tanks, some leaders are also now bringing the possible transfer of fighter jets into the discussion.

An adviser to Ukraine's defense minister recently told Newsweek that receiving fighter jets will be the "next big hurdle" for Ukraine as the war continues.

US Sanctions Individuals, Entities Related to Wagner Group

The U.S. is taking action against the Wagner Group, a Russian private military company, Thursday with a new set of sanctions.

The State Department said it's targeting Wagner Group supporters worldwide as well as producers of Russia's weapons and those administering Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine with these new sanctions.

"This action supports our goal to degrade Moscow's capacity to wage war against Ukraine, to promote accountability for those responsible for Russia's war of aggression and associated abuses, and to place further pressure on Russia's defense sector," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

The White House announced last week that the U.S. would make this designation and hinted at upcoming sanctions against the Wagner Group.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) officially designated the Wagner Group as a "significant transnational criminal organization."

Blinken said the group has a "pattern of serious criminal behavior" around the world, including violence and human rights violation against civilians as well as schools, hospitals, religious sites and refugee sites.

The State Department is designating:

  • Five of the Wagner Group entities and one key individuals to target a range of Wagner's key infrastructure, including an aviation firm, a propaganda organization and Wagner front companies
  • Three individuals for their roles as heads of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, which reportedly facilitates the recruitment of Russian prisoners into the Wagner Group
  • A Deputy Prime Minister who also serves as the Minister of Industry and Trade
  • The Chairman of the Election Commission of the Rostov Region
  • One individual and four entities associated with sanctioned Russian Oligarch Vladimir Potanin
  • Sergei Adonev, a financier of Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • Aktsionernoye Obshchestvo Dalnevostochnyy TsentrSudostroyeniya i Sudoremonta (AO DTSSS) and eight subsidiaries known for building and servicing Russia's military

The State Department will also impose visa restrictions on 531 members of the Russian military for "actions that threaten or violate the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of Ukraine."

The Treasury Department also enacted a set of new sanctions that target:

  • Individuals and entities connected to the Wagner Group's military operations
  • Individuals and companies connected to Russia's defense industrial complex
  • Putin's allies and their families
  • Two people involved in Russia's "illegal" annexation of four Ukrainian regions

The Treasury Department said it will continue to "choke off" Putin's access to resources for his "brutal war" and "curb Russia's wealth-extraction tactics and human rights abuses in Africa, Asia, Ukraine, and across the world."

"As sanctions and export controls on Russia from our international coalition continue to bite, the Kremlin is desperately searching for arms and support – including through the brutal Wagner Group – to continue its unjust war against Ukraine," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

"Today's expanded sanctions on Wagner, as well as new sanctions on their associates and other companies enabling the Russian military complex, will further impede Putin's ability to arm and equip his war machine."

Canada to Send Ukraine Four Leopard 2 Tanks

Canada will send four German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand announced Thursday.

Canada will send ammunition and spare parts along with the tanks, Anand added, and Canadian troops will help train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use them.

Anand told Ukrainian officials during a visit to the country last week that Canada will continue providing military support, according to the Canadian Department of National Defense.

"Today's announcement is proof of our enduring commitment," she said Thursday.

Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov thanked Anand for Canada's tanks pledge in a Thursday tweet.

"On January 18, I discussed our key needs with my Canadian colleague and friend Anita Anand in Kyiv and on January 20 at Ramstein 8," Reznikov said in a statement. "As a result, Canada will deliver Leopards 2 to Ukraine. Our tank coalition is growing! Ukrainian Army will have the tools to liberate our land!"

Anand's announcement came one day after Germany decided to provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks and allow other countries to similarly give Ukraine some of their German-made tanks. U.S. President Joe Biden also announced on Wednesday that the U.S. will gather 31 of its Abrams tanks to transfer to Ukraine.

Poland, Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark are also on the expanding list of nations that have said they plan to send tanks to Ukraine.

Four Things Ukraine Wants to Enter Peace Talks

Ukraine reiterated four requirements needed to engage in peace talks with Russia.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an aid to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia must do the following to consider peace proposals:

"The country that started the war must...

1. Realize it (so far impossible)
2. Stop "being at war with NATO" (which isn't the case)
3. Withdraw troops from [Ukraine]
4. Be ready to talk about intl. law & responsibility for war crimes"

Podolyak's comments come as Ukraine nears one full year since Russia's invasion began. It also came hours after Zelensky appeared in an interview on Sky News, saying he is not interested in peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"It will be only then that we will be resolving this situation," Zelensky said in the interview. "Then probably [peace] talks will be possible."

The Ukrainian president said Russia must pull its troops from Ukraine, admit "their big mistake" and establish a new government.

Watch: Pentagon, State Department Briefings

The U.S. State Department and Department of Defense will both hold press briefings soon.

State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel will address members of the media momentarily. The briefing is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET, watch live here.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh will also hold a news conference at 2 p.m. ET from the Pentagon. This follows President Joe Biden's announcement on Wednesday that the U.S. will send Abrams tanks to Ukraine.

Watch live on U.S. Department of Defense website.

Ukrainian Holocaust Survivor Finds Refuge in Poland

A Ukrainian woman who fled her home as a child years ago during the Holocaust had to again leave home in search of refuge last year when Russia's invasion of Ukraine began, Reuters reports.

Iya Rudzitskaya, now 92, told the international news agency she "did not believe that this could ever happen" when her Kyiv home once again became part of a war zone last year. Rudzitskaya said her father was a rabbi in Kyiv in 1941 when the family decided to leave amid heightening hostilities. They departed Kyiv just days before the Babyn Yar massacre placed the city's Jewish community under attack, she said.

Rudzitskaya is now reportedly with her son in Krakow, Poland. She told the outlet she wants to return to her "daily routine" back in Kyiv and that she doesn't understand Russia's objective for the invasion.

"They think that they are defending their country, they are defending themselves, but they came to us," she told Reuters.

Nearly 8 million Ukrainians have sought refuge throughout Europe since Russia's invasion began last February, and nearly 5 million have requested temporary protection within those countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

More than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees have requested temporary protection in Poland alone since the war began, UNHCR's January 24 report stated.

UK Expects Challenger Tanks to Arrive by March

Britain is hoping its Challenger 2 tanks will arrive in Ukraine in two months, according to Reuters.

When asked about a timeline for the tanks promised to Ukraine, Defence Minister Alex Chalk reportedly told parliament that "the intention is that it will be at the end of March."

The United Kingdom has pledged 14 of its battle tanks to Ukraine in coordination with other western allies.

Chalk added that Ukrainian troops would be trained on how to operate and maintain the Challenger 2 tanks between now and when the tanks arrive.

UK Challenger 2 Tanks
Challenger 2 main battle tanks are displayed for the families watching The Royal Tank Regiment Regimental Parade, on September 24, 2022 in Bulford, England. Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

Fox News Reporter Back on Air 10 Months After War Injury

Fox News reporter Benjamin Hall returned to the network Thursday for his first on-air appearance since he was seriously injured while covering Russia's invasion of Ukraine about 10 months ago.

Hall said during his appearance on Fox & Friends that he now has only one leg and no feet, as well as only one working eye and one working hand. Hall said identifying a "target" is what helped him get through his recovery.

"You have to get something to fight for. And this is it: Trying to get back, trying to speak to you, trying to be on air. Trying to tell people the stories so perhaps it can help them," Hall said.

Despite the injuries he suffered, Hall said he feels "stronger" and "more confident" than ever before.

"I think that you learn a lot, going through things like this," he said.

Hall was traveling near Kyiv last March with Fox News photojournalist Pierre Zakrzewski and Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova when their vehicle was struck in an attack. Zakrzewski and Kuvshynova both died in the attack.

Hall will be publishing a book about the attack and his experience covering the early days of the Russia-Ukraine war in a new memoir slated for release in mid-March.

Benjamin Hall Out of Ukraine
File photograph of Fox News journalist Benjamin Hall. Fox News

MTG Says US Should 'Stop Funding Ukraine,' Focus on China

Some Republicans in Congress are calling on the U.S. to pull back its funding to Ukraine amid its ongoing conflict with Russia.

Some lawmakers argue that the U.S. is giving away its military capabilities to Ukraine, leaving the U.S. weaker in a hypothetical fight against China.

Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene said the U.S. is "depleting" its own military arsenal by giving more weapons and tanks to Ukraine, "while China is building its military at the fastest pace in world history."

"It's time to put American first," she wrote in a tweet.

Freshman Ohio Senator J.D. Vance said the U.S. should really be worried about China, not Russia.

He told Fox News that the U.S. has spent so much of its munitions and military-grade equipment to help Ukraine stop Russia, that we won't have the means to fund a hypothetical war against China, who he says is a far more likely and more dangerous opponent.

"The focus on Russia comes at the expense of China," he said. "We cannot fight two enemies at once."

Vance added that funding Ukraine will not bring an actual solution and America should "focus where the real problem is," which in his view is China.

Others argue the money the U.S. is sending to Ukraine and not funding war efforts, but something more sinister and corrupt.

Greene called on the U.S. to "stop funding Ukraine" amid the recent corruption scandal hitting top federal and regional officials in Ukraine.

She said the $113 billion the U.S. sent to Ukraine is a "corrupt slush fund."

Representative Cory Mills of Florida told OAN that he will not support a "blank check" to Ukraine.

He said he told GOP leadership on his first day in office that he wanted "100 percent transparency and accountability" about where the American people's money has gone before he would be "willing to pledge another dollar" to Ukraine.

"I will not support a blank check or a blind check," he said. "We must ensure we have accountability."

Biden May Travel Near Ukraine for War Anniversary, Report

President Joe Biden might go to Europe next month as Ukraine marks the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion, multiple outlets report.

Three people with Biden's administration and another person with knowledge about the travel discussions told NBC News that the trip is a possibility.

Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine, is one of the countries Biden is considering visiting as part of his possible trip's itinerary, two of the unnamed people who spoke of the trip reportedly said. If the trip happens, it will be part of an effort by Biden to raise additional awareness about Ukraine's ongoing battle to defend its territory as February 24 brings the invasion to its one-year mark.

Fighting in Ukraine has intensified in the last few days, with Russia's overnight strikes Thursday resulting in the deaths of at least 11 people. NATO officials warned last week that Russia appears to be preparing for a long war, and Russia is widely believed to be planning a new offensive to begin in the coming weeks or months.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for more military support from NATO allies and other countries that support Ukraine in anticipation of this wartime acceleration. On Wednesday, Biden announced the U.S. will supply Ukraine with 31 Abrams tanks, the latest demonstration of U.S. support.

Joe Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to mayors from across the country during an event at the East Room of the White House on January 20, 2023 in Washington, DC. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

US Abrams Tanks to Arrive in Poland This Spring

Poland is set to receive the first set of U.S. tanks by the spring, according to a top defense official.

Polish Minister of National Defense Mariusz Błaszczak told public broadcaster Polskie Radio 1 Thursday that the first batch of U.S. Abrams tanks will arrive in Poland this spring.

These tanks will be used by the Polish army, he said adding that 58 Abrams tanks will arrive in Poland this year.

He said the first set of tanks will include older models of heavy tanks that have already been in use to replenish the tanks it sent to Ukraine.

Abrams M1A2 Battle Tank
A M1A2 Abrams battle tank of the US army that will be used for military exercises by the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, is pictured at the Baltic Container Terminal in Gdynia on December 3, 2022. MATEUSZ SLODKOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Poland signed a contract in April of last year to receive 250 M1 Abrams tanks from the U.S. to replace what it sent to Ukraine. Blaszczak said at the time that the deal would strengthen the Polish military and deter a potential aggressor. Poland then bought a second batch of Abrams tanks earlier this month. The $1.4 billion deal secured 116 tanks and related equipment and logistics.

Błaszczak spoke with his U.S. counterpart Wednesday about continued aid to Ukraine.

According to a readout from the Pentagon, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin commended Blaszczak on Poland's support for Ukraine, especially the Leopard tanks.

The two leaders also "reaffirmed the need to coordinate closely with Allies and partners to ensure effective and timely support for Ukraine," the Pentagon said.

Polish Deputy Defense Minister Wojciech Skurkiewicz told Radio Plus that Poland may deliver its shipments of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine "within a few weeks."

Zelensky Calls Direct Peace Talks With Putin 'Not Interesting'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he is not interested in peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In an interview with Sky News, Zelensky was asked about the ideal circumstances under which to consider peace negotiations.

He said Russia does not want these talks, which was the case even before the invasion began 11 months ago.

"President Putin decided so. I am convinced that Ukraine is just the first step for him. I am convinced that he is waging a big war," he said.

Zelensky said that peace negotiations will only be possible once Russia pulls its troops from Ukraine, "admits their big mistake" and establishes a new government.

"It will be only then that we will be resolving this situation," he said. "Then probably [peace] talks will be possible."

When asked if speaking directly with Putin would help resolve the war, Zelensky said the idea of meeting with or speaking to his Russian counterpart is "not interesting" to him.

He said he's seen Putin say one thing then do another, adding that the Russian president is "nobody" to him after launching a full-scale invasion.

In response to this interview, the Kremlin said Zelensky stopped being a possible negotiator a long time ago.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Zelensky has not fulfilled the promised he made when running for president, citing the situation in the Donbas and the Minsk Agreements. He also said Zelensky has been "preparing for war" since he was elected.

"This is why, let's put it this way, he himself has long ceased to be a potential interlocutor for President Putin," Peskov said.

At Least 11 Dead in Missile Strikes Across Ukraine

At least 11 people have died, 11 others are injured, after a series of Russian missile strikes across Ukraine early Thursday, according to Ukraine's State Emergency Services.

"Missile and drone attacks" hit several regions, including Kyiv, from midnight to 3 p.m., local time. The strikes damaged 35 buildings and caused two fires, the report states.

Dozens of rescuers are on scene and "88 generators are connected to supply electricity primarily to social and infrastructure facilities," Ukraine's State Emergency Services wrote on Telegram.

"The most damaged buildings, in particular private and residential high-rise buildings, were in Kyiv region," the report concluded.

Damage in Kyiv after series of strikes
Members of the public walk among broken trees as a result of Russian missile strikes to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on January 26, 2023. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

Several Regions Report Power Outages Amid Russian Strikes

Russia launched a new series of attacks across Ukraine early this morning, hitting several sites, including the capitol city of Kyiv.

In total, Russia launched 55 missiles, according to Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. The Armed Forces of Ukraine said they were able to destroy 47 of those missiles.

The Kyiv City Military Administration said it shot down 15 Russian UVAs and 20 missiles. Ukrainian forces, however, were unable to prevent the missile strikes from inflicting deadly damage.

About 20 missiles were launched within Kyiv, killing at least one person and sending two others to the hospital, Mayor Vitali Klitschoko said on Telegram.

In the Vinnytsia region, Russia launched 24 drones that were all shot down by Ukrainian forces, Governor Serhii Borzov said on Telegram. No casualties were reported.

There were also no civilian casualties reported in Odesa, according to Regional Governor Maxim Marchenko.

The target of these attacks were mostly civilian and energy infrastructure.

Ukraine's private energy company DTEK had to shut down energy in Kyiv city and Kyiv, Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk Oblasts due to a missile attack.

"This is a forced preemptive step that will avoid significant damage to the energy infrastructure if enemy missiles reach the target," DTEK wrote on Telegram. Most of the power supply in Kyiv and Odesa has since been restored, but blackouts continue is some areas.

The Historic Center of Odesa was just added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage List and World Heritage in Danger List this week.

At Least Three Dead in Zaporizhzhia Oblast Strike

At least three people have died and others are injured after an overnight missile attack in the Zaporizhzhia district, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office reported Thursday.

"The Russian military from the S-300 air defense system launched a missile attack on a critical infrastructure facility," around 3:40 a.m. local time, the office said.

Seven others were reported injured in the explosion, which started a fire. "Technical property" and buildings were also destroyed.

Fire after missile hits Zaporizhzhia
Crews respond on scene after a critical infrastructure facility was hit in an overnight strike, starting a fire. The Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine

As teams began search-and-rescue operations in the hours that followed, the infrastructure object was again "shelled by the enemy," the office reported.

Investigators are still working to clarify the number of casualties.

Rubble after deadly strike in Zaporizhzhia
Rubble and smoke is seen in the aftermath of a deadly overnight strike in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast. The Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine