Ukraine War Updates: France, Australia to Produce Artillery Shells for Ukraine
- Fighting continues in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine as Russian forces advance toward Lyman, Bakhmut and Avdiivka. The city of Vuhledar has also become a key battle point in this region, military officials on both sides report.
- Shelling in the Kharkiv region has killed one woman and wounded others, according to regional officials Monday. In Kherson, shelling killed five civilians and wounded 13 others.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is asking Western allies to send more weapons, including long-range missiles, following promises to transfer tanks to Kyiv.
- As Western allies continue to support Ukraine, NATO's military official said the alliance is ready for direct confrontation with Russia.
- Russia has blasted the West for their involvement in the conflict with Kyiv. Russia's deputy foreign minister said the U.S. risks a "direct confrontation" with Moscow over Ukraine.
- The Kremlin is also looking to order another partial mobilization as Russia moves troops to the Kursk region along the Ukrainian border.
The live updates for this blog have ended.
France, Australia to Produce Artillery Shells for Ukraine
France and Australia will produce "several thousand" artillery shells for Ukraine, officials said in a joint meeting.
"Several thousand 155-millimeter shells are going to be manufactured in common, with an unprecedented partnership between Australia and France," French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu during a press conference.
He said French arms company Nexter will partner with Australian companies to provide the powder for the shells.
"This forms part of the ongoing level of support that both France and Australia is providing Ukraine to make sure that Ukraine is able to stay in this conflict and be able to see it concluded on its own terms," Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said.
The exact quantity of shells manufactured was not mentioned, but officials said this would be a long-term collaboration.
In a joint statement, the minister said they "reiterated their unequivocal condemnation of Russia's illegal, immoral and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and called once more for Russia's immediate withdrawal."
They also reaffirmed that Russia's "flagrant and repeated" violations of the fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the Helsinki Decalogue will "elicit a united and firm response as long as they continue."
Mayor Warns of Prisons in Zaporizhzhia, Report
Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov warned Monday that Russia is allowing new prisons to operate within some Russian-controlled territories in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian media outlets.
Fedorov, who was held captive by Russian troops for about six days at the start of the war last spring, issued his warning during a Monday briefing, according to UkraineWorld. Fedorov reportedly said the prisons, some of which allegedly include places of torture, are located in cities like Melitopol and other areas within the Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
Fedorov said that, since the start of the war, about 1,000 of his city's residents have been kidnapped and thousands more have been moved to either Russia or Russian-occupied territories.
"Hundreds are still in captivity in different cities," Fedorov said, according to an English translation of a report by The Odessa Journal.
Fedorov said Russian soldiers took about 3,500 people to prisons in Crimea, according to UkraineWorld and the Odessa paper.
Last week, Fedorov said on Telegram that occupied Ukraine was being transformed into "a concentration camp." A Russian official reportedly "issued an order to create 28 prisons in the occupied territories of Ukraine," at least three of which Fedorov said would be located in Zaporizhzhia.
"The occupiers have turned hundreds of thousands of civilians into hostages, but now they will make thousands of them real prisoners," he said at the time.
Norway to Send Leopard Tanks 'As Fast As Possible'
Norway will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine "as fast as possible."
Norwegian Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram told AFP news agency that the tanks will be transferred to Ukraine as quickly as they can be. The number of tanks that Norway will send is still unknown.
"We haven't yet determined the number," he said. "It's important that we coordinate closely with our partners, so that this aid makes a real difference for Ukraine."
Norway has 36 total Leopard 2 tanks and is among the handful of European nations who have pledged the vehicles to Ukraine this month.
Germany and Poland will send 14 tanks each, Canada has pledged four. Spain and the Netherlands said they are also considering sending Leopard 2 tanks.
The United States will send 31 of its M1 Abrams tanks and 14 of the United Kingdom's Challenger 2 tanks are set to arrive in Ukraine before the summer.
During a visit to Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace, Norway's top defense and space systems supplier, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said Norway is committed to sending military aid to Kyiv.
"Norway is a small country, but we have a world-class defense industry here in Kongsberg," he said, according to a government statement. "It is crucial for our own security, and not least important now that Ukraine is fighting for freedom."
Norway has also supplied Ukraine with NASAMS air defense systems and anti-ship missiles to help in their defense against Russia.
Five Civilians Killed, 13 Wounded in Shelling, Report
Five civilians were killed and another 13 were injured in Russian attacks carried out across Ukraine over the weekend and into Monday, according to regional leaders.
The total number of casualties recorded throughout the day was compiled by The Kyiv Independent, which reported the greatest number of casualties in the Kherson Oblast. Regional authorities said in a Sunday post on Telegram that three civilians were killed in Russian shelling and another eight civilians were wounded at "varying degrees of severity." The Kherson region was shelled 42 times and the city of Kherson was shelled 13 times, with Russian troops striking a local hospital, school, residential buildings and more.
In the Donetsk region, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said one civilian in Krasnohorivka was killed and another was injured.
Oleg Sinegubov, the head of the Kharkiv regional state administration, said an elderly woman was killed when a Russian missile hit a four-story residential building in Kharkiv. The woman's husband "was nearby at the time of the impact and miraculously was not seriously injured," he said, but three others were injured.
A 41-year-old man was also later reported as being in "moderate" condition after suffering injuries in Russian shelling in Kupiansk, according to Sinegubov.
Russia Moves More Troops to Border Region of Kursk
Russia has moved additional forces to the Ukraine border amid security concerns, according to a regional official.
More troops and equipment have been moved to Russia's Kursk region, regional governor governor Roman Starovoit said, according to Interfax news agency.
Local authorities report repeated Ukrainian shelling in the region since Russia began its invasion nearly one year ago.
Starovoit said this move is "necessary to provide comprehensive support for the reception, deployment and arrangement of additional forces."
A few days ago, Starovoit said Ukrainian shelling had damaged power lines in the area, leaving at least two villages without electricity.
Ukrainian officials have said in recent weeks that Russia is preparing for its renewed offensive in the east on the one year anniversary of the conflict.
National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksii Danilov said Russian troops have been instructed to "go beyond the borders" of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. He said Ukraine has been testing its defense capabilities near Zaporizhzhia.
Another 'Partial Mobilization' Likely an Option in Russia
Russian authorities are likely "keeping open the option of another round of call-ups" under the partial mobilization as the war in Ukraine continues, according to the latest British intelligence.
"On 22 January 2023, media reported that Russian border guards were preventing dual passport holding Kyrgyz migrant workers from leaving Russia, telling the men that their names were on mobilisation lists," the U.K. Ministry of Defence said Monday.
The next day, "Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the decree on 'partial mobilisation' continues to remain in force, claiming the decree remained necessary for supporting the work of the Armed Forces."
The potential move would be in an effort to meet the " high number of personnel" needed for future major offensives in Ukraine, the ministry added.
The ministry's latest map released Monday shows the areas of Ukraine currently under Russian control, shaded in pink. It includes the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, which Russia annexed in late September of 2022, and stretches down to Crimea.
Russia Tells US to Stay Out of Its Internal Affairs
Russia told United States officials to stay out of Russian internal affairs after the U.S. accused the Kremlin of human rights violations.
In a statement, the Russian Embassy in the U.S. called out "another anti-Russian statement" from the Biden administration.
The embassy said Russia is charged with "non-observance of human rights" after the Moscow City Court decided to liquidate the Moscow Helsinki Group, the leading human rights organization in the country.
"We call on American officials to stop interfering in our internal affairs and the work of the Russian competent authorities," the embassy said.
Russia added that the principle of independence of the judiciary is "enshrined" in the Constitution of the Russian Federation, saying that the courts are not governed by anyone's will and are subject to the law.
"We will not tolerate attempts to demean the constitutional foundations of our State," Russia said. "Instead of blaming others for neglecting democratic freedoms, Washington should be concerned about the human rights situation in its own country."
Last week, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Moscow Helsinki Group is "among the most recent targets of Russian authorities' expanding crackdown on the exercise of human rights, including freedom of expression."
He also called out Russian designations of the Andrey Sakharov Foundation and independent news outlet Meduza as "undesirable" as further examples of the Kremlin's "intensifying campaign to cut off independent sources of information and silence voices of conscience."
The United Nations called the Moscow city court this week to liquidate the human rights organization as "the latest example of clampdown on human rights organization in Russia."
Ukraine Alleges 'Destruction' of Troops Near Vugledar
Ukrainian troops caused "complete destruction" of some Russian troops operating near Vugledar in the Donetsk region, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Intelligence data analyzed by Ukrainian troops indicates an attack on a Russian intelligence unit linked to a Russian military brigade was recently taken out. That military brigade was responsible for attacks on Vugledar, the General Staff said in a Monday post on Facebook.
Ukrainian troops in the area that defend Vugledar recently "met the occupiers and turned their temporary stay on our land into a real hell," the Facebook update said.
"Within just a few days, Russian occupation forces suffered very heavy losses," it added.
The Russian intelligence unit that suffered "complete destruction" likely had between 50 and 80 soldiers, according to Ukrainian media outlets.
Russia, Iran Link Banking Systems Amid Western Sanctions
Russia and Iran have reportedly linked their banking systems amid strict economic sanctions from the West.
Tehran and Moscow signed a deal over the weekend connecting their interbank communication and transfer systems to boost trade and financial transactions, according to Reuters.
"Iranian banks no longer need to use SWIFT... with Russian banks, which can be for the opening of Letters of Credit and transfers or warranties," Deputy Governor of Iran's Central Bank Mohsen Karimi told the semi-official Fars news agency.
The Islamic Republican has been disconnected from the Belgium-based SWIFT financial messaging service since the U.S. pulled out of the Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Karimi said "about 700 Russian banks and 106 non-Russian banks from 13 different countries will be connected to this system." He did not name the foreign banks.
Russia's central bank declined to comment on the deal, Reuters said.
Iran's Central Bank chief Mohammad Farzin said in a tweet that the "financial channel between Iran and the world is being repaired."
Both Russia and Iran have been hit with economic sanctions from the U.S., especially following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
NATO Says North Korea Is Giving Russia Rockets, Missiles
North Korea is supporting Russia's war effort in Ukraine by providing rockets and missiles, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
NATO is aware that North Korea "is providing military support to the Russian war efforts with rockets and missiles," Stoltenberg said at the conclusion of his recent visit to South Korea. North Korea's ties to the war demonstrate how NATO and South Korea "are interconnected," he said.
U.S. officials alleged late last year that North Korea was providing Russia with military support. Iran has also reportedly been doing the same. Both North Korea and Iran have denied assisting Russia in Ukraine.
South Korea is supportive of Ukraine's efforts to defend its territory against Russian aggression, a position South Korea shares with NATO. Stoltenberg and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol discussed the war in Ukraine during Stoltenberg's visit on January 29 and 30, NATO said in a Monday news release. The two also discussed "the need to keep pressure on North Korea to abandon its reckless missile and nuclear activities," the release said.
Stoltenberg applauded South Korea's efforts to provide humanitarian support through NATO and said during an appearance at the CHEY Institute for Advanced Studies in Seoul that "what happens in Europe matters to the Indo-Pacific, and what happens in Asia matters to NATO."
Stoltenberg also told South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin he is looking forward to "deepening cooperation between NATO and the Republic of Korea in areas including cyber defence, technology and arms control and non-proliferation." Stoltenberg encouraged South Korea to "step up on the specific issue of military support" and begin providing Ukrainian troops with this assistance directly, according to The Associated Press.
Boris Johnson Claims Putin Threatened Him With a Missile
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his Russian counterpart said he could easily kill him with a missile.
In a new BBC documentary, Johnson said that he tried to dissuade Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine during a phone call in early Feb. 2022.
"From the very relaxed tone that he was taking, the sort of air of detachment that he seemed to have, he was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate," he said in the BBC series Putin vs the West.
Johnson then said Putin "threatened me at one point and said, 'Boris, I don't want to hurt you, but with a missile, it would only take a minute', or something like that."
According to the Associated Press, Norma Percy, the director of the documentary, said she did not believe Putin was making a direct threat, but "it was a reminder that he could do it, and [Johnson] should remember that when he is dealing with him."
The Kremlin has denied Putin made this threat.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that his account was untrue, "or, more precisely, it was a lie." He said Johnson may have deliberately lied or did not understand what Putin was saying.
"There were no threats with missiles," Peskov said on a conference call with reporters. "While talking about security challenges to Russia, President Putin said that if Ukraine joins NATO the potential deployment of U.S. or other NATO missiles near our borders would mean that any such missile could reach Moscow in minutes."
He added that Johnson's interpretation creates "a very awkward situation."
NATO 'Ready' to Confront Russia
NATO is "ready" for a direct confrontation with Russia, a military chief said.
NATO Military Committee Chairman Rob Bauer responded to a question from Portuguese television channel, RTP, saying the alliance is "ready" to engage if Russia crosses the red line by invading a NATO member state.
Bauer said the battlegroups in areas like the eastern Balkan flank of NATO should be strengthened and made larger.
"I think that's an important message for the Russians, that our posture has changed, to show them that we are ready if they would have an idea to come to NATO," he said.
He said NATO should be better prepared that it currently is for battle, adding that Russia has better weapons.
"The fact that your enemy has better weapons is not the problem of the enemy. That is your problem," he said.
Bauer has reportedly been advocating for a "peaceful war economy," saying defense industries need to ramp up production as fighting on the battlefield increases.