More than 200 Russians die in just three days in 'fierce' fighting over strategic town – The Telegraph

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More than 200 Russian troops have died in "fierce" fighting over the strategic town of Vuhledar in Donetsk in recent days, according to reports.
"At least 200-230 people died in three days," a Russian marine told Russia’s Mediazona news outlet, adding that the Kremlin’s forces were suffering "heavy losses".
Ukraine has said its troops are locked in "fierce" fighting with Russian troops for control of the town on the eastern front.
Denis Pushilin, the Kremlin-appointed leader of the Donetsk region, said: "We are waiting for good news from Vuhledar. The encirclement and subsequent liberation of this city solves many problems."
Please follow along tomorrow for all the latest updates on Ukraine. 
Poland will send 74 main battle tanks to Ukraine in a bid to further bolster the defences of Ukraine ahead of an expected Russian offensive, writes Joe Barnes.
Warsaw will be sending 14 German-made Leopard 2s, as well as 60 modernised Soviet-era tanks from its stocks.
“If we don’t want Ukraine to to be defeated, we have to be very much open and brave in supporting Ukraine,” Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, told Canada’s CTV News.
“These were the arguments and also if Ukraine, God forbid, fails in defending their sovereignty and freedom, it would mean only the first step in the Kremlin’s mad strategy to rebuild the Russian Empire from the past. “
The latest donation was announced after the UK, US and Germany said they would send Nato-standard main battle tanks to Kyiv, which are expected to arrive before an expected Russian offensive this coming spring.
Poland became the first Nato country to donate tanks to Ukraine, when it last year sent more than 260 Soviet-built T-72s to its neighbour. 
There is no factual basis to allegations China provides aid to Russia, China’s embassy in Washington said late on Thursday, after the United States put sanctions on a China-based company for alleged support to Russian mercenary company Wagner Group.
The US Treasury Department on Thursday designated China-based Changsha Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute Co. LTD, known as Spacety China, accusing it of providing radar satellite imagery over locations in Ukraine to a Russia-based technology firm.
A source told Reuters earlier this week that the United States had observed non-lethal military assistance and economic support from some Chinese companies that "stops short of wholesale sanctions evasion", the source said. The source also said it was unclear if the Chinese government was aware of these activities.
Chinese embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu, when asked for comment on Thursday’s measures, said China opposed unilateral sanctions, adding that Beijing is committed to dialogue for peace on the Ukraine issue.
"The allegation that China provides ‘aid’ to Russia has no factual basis, but is purely speculative and deliberately hyped up," he said.
"The US must not undermine China’s legitimate rights and interests in any form when handling the Ukraine issue and the US-Russia relations."
A top EU official visiting South Africa expressed irritation on Friday at the country’s close ties with Russia amid Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
A continental powerhouse, South Africa has refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine and this month announced it will host joint maritime drills with Russia and China in February.
In Pretoria for talks with his local counterpart, the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said the planned naval exercises were "not the best thing".
All countries were free to develop their own foreign policy, he said, adding he understood "the desire" of some countries "to spare Russia for one reason or another".
"But… this coincidence between the starting of the war and these military drills for us is something that is not the best thing that we would have preferred," Borrell told a press briefing alongside South Africa’s foreign minister Naledi Pandor.
A planned guest appearance by Volodymyr Zelensky at Italy’s biggest showbiz event – the Sanremo song festival – is attracting cross-party criticism in a country where public support for Kyiv’s war effort is at best lukewarm.
Sanremo, running Feb. 7-11, is a glitzy affair that attracts record audiences on TV and inspired the more famous Eurovision song festival. The Ukrainian president is expected to briefly participate via video link on the closing night.
"I expect songs from the Italian song festival, not something else," Matteo Salvini, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and right-wing League leader said on the La7 TV channel on Thursday.
"If Zelensky has time … to link up to the Sanremo festival, it’s his choice," he continued, adding he was not sure "how appropriate" it was to mix entertainment with talk of war and death.
Ukraine said Friday its troops were locked in "fierce" fighting with Russian troops for control of the town of Vugledar in the region of Donetsk on the eastern front.
Russian-backed forces claimed they were "waiting for good news" from the town, which had a pre-invasion population of around 15,000 people, but Kyiv said Moscow’s troops were misrepresenting any gains.
"There is fierce combat there," Ukrainian military spokesman Sergiy Cherevaty told local media.
"For many months, the military of the Russian Federation… has been trying to achieve significant success there," he said.
Hitmen, murderers and alcoholics from in and outside Russia have been killed fighting for the notorious Wagner mercenary group.
New graves discovered in a plot in rural southern Russia expose the array of convicts sent to their deaths on the front lines after a major prison recruitment drive.
A Reuters investigation found many of the buried men were convicted for violent crimes, and some of the recruits were foreign nationals including from Ukraine and Moldova.
Read more from Nataliya Vasilyeva, our Russia Correspondent, here
Russia has twisted comments by Germany’s foreign minister about the war in Ukraine for propaganda purposes, the German foreign ministry has said, stressing Berlin’s position that Nato must not become party to the conflict.
"Russian propaganda continually takes statements, sentences, stances, positions of the government, our partners and uses them to serve their purposes," a ministry spokesperson said on Friday.
Annalena Baerbock, the German Foreign Minister, riled Moscow with comments at an event in Strasbourg earlier this week, when she said that "we are fighting a war against Russia, and not against each other".
Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman, in a post on her Telegram messaging channel cited by state Tass news agency on Wednesday, seized on Baerbock’s comments as evidence the West was waging a "premeditated war against Russia".
Russia is violating the "fundamental principles of child protection" in wartime by giving Ukrainian children Russian passports and putting them up for adoption, the UN’s refugee agency [UNHCR] chief told Reuters in an interview.
Speaking at the UNHCR offices in Kyiv following a six-day tour of the country, Filippo Grandi said Ukraine’s president had asked his agency to "do more" to help children from occupied regions to whom this was happening.
"Giving them (Russian) nationality or having them adopted goes against the fundamental principles of child protection in situations of war," Grandi said.
"This is something that is happening in Russia and must not happen," he added.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking after his meeting with Grandi on Wednesday, called for mechanisms to be set up to "defend and return" children and adults deported to Russia, as well as to punish those responsible.
European Union ambassadors are set to discuss extending sanctions to Russian ally Belarus to crack down on the circumvention of sanctions on Russia by companies routing banned products through its neighbour.
EU diplomats told Reuters that the latest discussions were intended to ensure sanctions on Belarus are aligned with those on Russia.
Areas they are likely to look at are restrictions on imports from Belarus of oil, coal and gold as well as exports to Belarus of certain machinery and technology that could be used by the military, the diplomats said.
The EU has placed a broad range of sanctions on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and prevented imports of a range of products including sea-borne oil, coal, steel, gold, wood and plastics.
It has also imposed restrictions on Belarus, which the bloc says has supported Moscow by allowing Russia to fire missiles from its territory and allowing Russian troops, tanks and aircraft to cross its land.
The European Union wants swift accountability for "horrific" crimes in Ukraine, EU justice ministers said on Friday, even as they differed over the methods in a debate about how to bring prosecutions, seek evidence or fund war damage repairs.
The bloc’s 27 justice ministers met in Stockholm ahead of the Feb. 24 anniversary of Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine.
"There absolutely will have to be accountability for horrific international crimes and the brutality of what we’re seeing in Ukraine… the clear and apparent war crimes," said Ireland’s Simon Harris.
The ministers discussed collecting evidence as well as setting up a new international tribunal to prosecute Moscow’s aggression.
"Nobody doing this kind of war crimes shall go free. It’s very, very important that we will find a way to hold responsible people accountable," said Gunnar Strommer, justice minister of Sweden.
Marta Kostyuk, the Ukrainian tennis player, said that it "hurts a lot" to see Russian flags at the Australian Open despite the ban on them and was surprised by the lapse in security that allowed spectators to display the flags in and around Melbourne Park.
"It hurts a lot because there were specific rules, they were printed out outside that this is not allowed to bring flags," Kostyuk told reporters after bowing out of the women’s doubles competition with Elena-Gabriela Ruse.
"It’s not impossible, but you’re not allowed to bring out the flags and so on. It really hurts that they were there for quite some time.
“They were there on the court, in the stands as well and I just don’t understand as well. It really hurts and I don’t understand how this can be possible.”
Novak Djokovic’s father Srdjan said earlier on Friday he would not attend his son’s semi-final against Tommy Paul after a video emerged showing him posing at Melbourne Park with fans holding Russian flags.
Novak Djokovic’s father Srdjan has said that he wishes “only for peace” after his family “lived through the horror of war” during his son’s childhood.
In the wake of his brief association with pro-Russian demonstrators, Srdjan also said that he will not be attending the Australian Open semi-finals on Friday in order to avoid “disruption”.
Srdjan became the focus of controversy on Wednesday when he posed for photos outside Rod Laver Arena alongside a man wearing the “Z” emblem, shortly after his son had defeated Russia’s Andrey Rublev in the Australian Open quarter-finals.
A video published on a pro-Putin YouTube channel suggested that Srdjan had also made a comment supporting the Russian people.
Read more from Simon Briggs in Melbourne here
Japan tightened sanctions against Russia on Friday following its latest wave of missile attacks in Ukraine, adding goods to an export ban list and freezing the assets of Russian officials and entities.
The decision comes after Russia launched missile attacks in Ukraine killing at least 11 people on Thursday following a pledge by Germany and the United States to supply tanks that could help Ukraine counter any new Russian offensive.
"In light of the situation surrounding Ukraine and to contribute to international efforts to secure peace, Japan will implement export bans in line with other major nations," the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry said in a release.
Among the new sanctions, Japan will prohibit shipments of items to 49 organizations in Russia from February 3 that could be used to enhance its military capability.
The head of Germany’s defence committee said on Thursday that Berlin would not be sending fighter jets to Kyiv as the next step in military support, reports Jörg Luyken.
Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann said that jets are "a totally different thing" to battle tanks and "don’t come into question."
Speaking to public broadcaster SWR, she explained that: "We made it clear at the beginning of the war that we could not create a no-fly zone. That would mean bombing positions on Russian soil so that your own planes would not be brought down. I can say: that would be out of the question for me."
On Wednesday, Olaf Scholz also appeared to say that Berlin would not consider delivering jets, saying that "it’s not about fighter jets, I made that clear early on."
The Kremlin has demanded an explanation from Berlin after German foreign minister said that "we are fighting a war against Russia," reports Jörg Luyken.
Russian foreign office spokeswoman Maria Sacharova said that she had asked for an explanation from Germany’s ambassador for the "contradictory" statements coming out of Berlin.
Ms Baerbock made the comment in Strasbourg on Tuesday during a conversation on weapons deliveries in which she appealed to people to remember that "we are fighting a war against Russia and not against each other."
The German foreign office later clarified that Germany is not a party to the war and that its military support to Kyiv is in line with the UN Charter, which enshrines a country’s right to self defence.
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That is why it is so important that everyone who values ​​life should show determination.

Eternal memory to all victims of the Holocaust!
Russia has said the promised delivery of Western tanks to Ukraine is evidence of the growing “direct involvement” of the United States and Europe in the war.
“There are constant statements from European capitals and Washington that the sending of various weapons systems to Ukraine, including tanks, in no way signifies the involvement of these countries or the alliance in hostilities in Ukraine,” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said on Thursday.
“We categorically disagree with this and, in Moscow, everything the alliance and the capitals I mentioned are doing is seen as direct involvement in the conflict. We see that this is growing.”
Western allies have committed around 150 tanks to aid Ukraine as both Moscow and Kyiv, which have relied on Soviet-era T-72 tanks, are expected to mount new ground offensives in the spring.
The Kremlin said on Friday that Joe Biden, the US President, had the key to end the conflict in Ukraine by directing Kyiv, but that Washington had so far not been willing to use it.
In a daily briefing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the U.S. could end the conflict quickly if it wanted but was instead "pumping weapons into Ukraine".
Moscow has in the past accused Ukraine of taking orders from Washington and says that the U.S. is prolonging the conflict by supplying Kyiv with weapons. The U.S. says that Moscow unleashed the war and it can only end if Russia withdraws its troops.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 27 January 2023

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A far-Right journalist with links to the Kremlin organised the Quran-burning stunt that has threatened Sweden’s attempt to join Nato
Chang Frick, who has previously worked for Russia Today (RT) and sister agency Ruptly, paid the administrative fee for the demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm where Rasmus Paludan torched the holy book.
Mr Frick’s Twitter feed includes pictures of him posing in a Putin t-shirt and showing off a Putin calendar. 
Read more on the story – from Roland Oliphant and Campbell MacDiarmid – here
Volodymyr Zelensky’s party has kicked out an MP for violating a ban on overseas travel in the latest high-profile moves to crack down on abuse of office, writes Roland Oliphant, in Kyiv.
MIkola Tyshchenko, a member of the parliament for Servant of the People, Mr Zelensky’s party, travelled to Vietnam last month and is currently in Thailand, on what he says is a work trip to drum up support for the Ukrainian cause.
But party chiefs said on Friday that no one sent him on a diplomatic mission and that he was in violation of a security council order announced by Mr Zelensky this week barring officials from overseas travel. 
"I see that not everyone understands how deputies should behave in war time," David Arakhamia, the head of Servant of the People’s parliamentary faction, wrote on Telegram. 
He said Mr Tyshenko had been stripped of his position as deputy chairman of the parliamentary party and called for him to be kicked out of the party altogether. 
The UN’s nuclear watchdog reported powerful explosions near Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station on Thursday, and renewed calls for a security zone around the plant.
A Russian official dismissed the comments by Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), saying they suggested Moscow could not uphold nuclear safety.
"Yesterday [Wednesday], eight strong detonations were heard at around 10 a.m. local time, causing office windows at the plant to vibrate, and more were audible today," he said in a statement.
Grossi, who visited Ukraine last week, said IAEA monitors routinely reported explosions near the plant.
But Renat Karchaa, an adviser to the head of Rosenergoatom, the company operating Russia’s nuclear plants, said Grossi’s comments were unfounded.
The US is to send a modified version of its Abrams tank to Ukraine that is missing its “secret” uranium armour, likely out of fears they could end up in Russian hands.
President Joe Biden’s administration is planning to offer 31 of its main battle tanks in their more advanced M1A2 configuration to Kyiv, rather than the older A1 version that the military has in storage, but will strip it of its secret armour mix that makes the US army’s newest version so lethal.
According to Politico, federal policy forbids the export of Abrams with classified armour packages used by the US military, which includes depleted uranium – a highly dense and sometimes volatile metal.
Read more from our US Correspondent Josie Ensor here
Russian forces have probably conducted probing attacks near the Ukrainian cities of Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region and Vuhledar in the Donetsk region, but were unlikely to have achieved "substantive advances," Britain said in a regular intelligence update on Friday.
The head of the Russian-controlled part of Ukraine’s Donetsk region said on Wednesday that units of the Wagner contract militia were advancing in the town of Bakhmut. According to a senior Ukrainian official, fighting in Bakhmut and in Vuhledar was growing fiercer.
Hungary will veto any European Union sanctions against Russia affecting nuclear energy, Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister has said. 
He told state radio on Friday that sanctions on nuclear energy "must obviously be vetoed".
"We will not allow the plan to include nuclear energy into the sanctions be implemented," the Hungarian premier said. "This is out of the question."
Ukraine has called on the EU to include Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom in sanctions but Hungary, which has a Russian-built nuclear plant it plans to expand with Rosatom, has blocked that.
France could agree to Volodymyr Zelensky’s demands for fighter jets to defend Ukraine’s skies, the chairman of the French defence committee said on Thursday.
It came as the UK confirmed that British tanks would arrive in Ukraine in time for an expected Russian spring offensive, joining German-made Leopards being sent to Kyiv within weeks.
“Everyone should feel very proud of the leadership role that we have played, one of the early nations to provide tanks to Ukraine," said Rishi Sunak, the prime minister.
Read more on the story here
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