Here is the situation on Wednesday, January 17, 2024.
- At least 17 people were injured, two of them seriously, after two Russian missiles struck a residential area in the centre of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-biggest city. Rescue teams were sifting through piles of rubble to establish whether more people had been hurt after what the city’s mayor described as two “powerful explosions”.
- Officials in the southern Russian city of Voronezh declared a “state of emergency” after air defences shot down five alleged Ukrainian drones. Two children were injured. There were no other reports of casualties or damage. The city of more than 1 million people lies some 250km (155 miles) from the border with Ukraine and hosts a military air base.
- Authorities in the northeastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv urged more than 3,000 residents of more than two dozen villages near the front line to evacuate because of Russian attacks in the area.
Politics and diplomacy
- In an emotional speech to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged his country’s allies to tighten sanctions against Russia and step up their support for Kyiv to ensure that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not succeed in his war. Zelenskyy said Western hesitation was costing time and lives and could prolong the fighting by years.
- United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised sustained US support for Ukraine in a meeting with Zelenskyy, despite right-wing Republicans in the US Congress blocking new funding in a dispute over US border policy.
- European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed the need for continued European Union backing for Ukraine. “Ukraine can prevail in this war but we must continue to empower their resistance,” she told the Davos conference. EU leaders are due to meet on February 1 to try and salvage a 50 billion euro ($54 billion) aid package for Kyiv that was blocked by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is close with Putin.
- Following bilateral talks in Budapest, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said he agreed with Orban that the EU should not finance the aid package from the bloc’s common budget. Fico also echoed Orban’s claim that the war would not be resolved through military means.
- Putin dismissed Ukraine’s peace plan and said Russia would never give up the territory it had occupied in Ukraine. The current pattern of the war would lead to an “irreparable blow” to Ukrainian statehood, he insisted in televised comments. Putin said Ukraine’s “so-called peace formulas” entailed “prohibitive demands”. Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace formula, set to be discussed at the WEF, includes an immediate end to fighting, the withdrawal of all Russian troops and the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
- Putin held a meeting in Moscow with visiting North Korea’s top diplomat Choe Son Hui. The meeting was reported on state television but the Kremlin released no further details. Choe, who also held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, lauded the “comradely ties” between the two countries. The US and others have accused North Korea of providing weapons for Russia to use in its war against Ukraine.
- A Russian court sentenced Colonel Sergei Volkov, a former senior officer in the National Guard, to six years in a prison colony after he was found guilty of buying two ineffective radar-based air defence systems. The equipment was supposed to protect the Kerch bridge that links southern Russia to Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, by bringing down Ukrainian attack drones, but a court said it needed upgrading to work properly.
- Estonia’s internal security service said it was investigating University of Tartu academic Vyacheslav Morozov on suspicion of spying for Russia. The 53-year-old Russian national, a professor of international politics, has been in detention since January 3. The university said his contract had been terminated.
- French President Emmanuel Macron said he would head to Ukraine next month to finalise a bilateral security guarantee deal. Macron said France will send Ukraine 40 SCALP long-range missiles, which have a range of about 250km (155 miles), and several hundred bombs in the coming weeks. It has already delivered about 50 SCALP missiles to Ukraine.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies