Ukraine news – live: Putin demotes most brutal military chief ‘General Armageddon’

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Kharkiv: Fireworks explode in sky after Russian strike hits Ukrainian factory

Vladimir Putin has replaced Russia’s most senior general leading the war in Ukraine in a reshuffle that has seen chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov named overall commander.

It means General Sergei Surovikin, dubbed “General Armageddon” by the Russian media for his reputed ruthlessness, has been demoted from leading Russia’s invading forces just three months after being given the job.

General Surovikin had led the heavy attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure which crippled power connections to Kyiv and other major areas as the harsh winter set in.

The reshuffle comes as the head of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Progozhin claimed his forces have captured the contested Soledar city in Donetsk oblast.

The Wagner chief said his forces have killed about 500 Ukrainian soldiers.

New satellite images have revealed the extent of the damage to infrastructure in Soledar as thousands of bomb craters have pierced buildings and fields there and in eastern Bakhmut, as well as schools and agricultural warehouses which have been reduced to charred remains.


In Ukraine, power plant workers fight to save their ‘child’

Around some of their precious transformers — the ones that still work, buzzing with electricity — the power plant workers have built protective shields using giant concrete blocks, so they have a better chance of surviving the next Russian missile bombardment.

Blasted out windows in the power plant’s control room are patched up with chipboard and piled-up sandbags, so the operators who man the desks 24/7, keeping watch over gauges, screens, lights and knobs, are less at risk of being killed or injured by murderous shrapnel.

“As long as there is equipment that can be repaired, we will work,” said the director of the plant.

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Maryam Zakir-Hussain12 January 2023 10:37

Ukrainian troops hold out in Soledar as Russia builds up forces – Kyiv

Russia is building up its forces in Ukraine but Ukrainian forces are holding out in fierce fighting for the eastern town of Soledar, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said on Thursday.

She told a news briefing that the number of Russian military units in Ukraine had risen to 280 from 250 a week earlier as Moscow tried to gain the “strategic initiative”.

“Fighting is fierce in the Soledar direction,” Malyar said. “They (the Russians) are moving over their own corpses.”

“Russia is driving its own people to the slaughter by the thousands, but we are holding on,” she said.

Another senior military official, Brigadier General Oleksiy Gromov, told the briefing that the military situation in Ukraine remained “difficult”, with the heaviest fighting on the eastern front.

Russian forces were trying to cut through Ukrainian lines and surround Ukrainian troops, he said.

Gromov also said the danger of an attack being launched from Belarus, a Russian ally to the north of Ukraine, would remain throughout this year.

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Ukrainian troops holding out in Soledar

Maryam Zakir-Hussain12 January 2023 10:06

Russia says it is interested in future talks with Ukraine’s human rights commissioners – TASS

Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatiana Moskalkova said on Thursday that both Moscow and Kyiv are interested in future contacts between their rights commissioners, the TASS news agency reported.

Following a meeting this week in Turkey with her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Lubinets, Moskalkova said she believed Ukraine had adopted a pragmatic approach to ongoing discussions between the two sides, TASS reported.

At that meeting, the pair agreed the latest prisoner exchange between the two sides, with each releasing another 40 captured fighters.

“They have taken a pragmatic approach and are ready for dialogue,” Moskalkova said on Thursday, speaking of her Ukrainian counterparts.

“We already have concrete results on the search for missing people, and return of children to their families. I hope the dialogue is continued. The most important thing is that it should not be politicised, but based exclusively on humanitarian and human rights principles,” TASS quoted her as saying.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain12 January 2023 09:10

Russian mercenary group claims body of British man missing in Ukraine found

A Russian mercenary group has claimed the body of one of two British men who went missing in eastern Ukraine last week has been found.

Andrew Bagshaw, 48, and Christopher Parry, 28, were last seen on 6 January heading to the town of Soledar, where fighting has been especially fierce in recent days. There has been no contact with the pair since they left Kramatorsk at 8am on Friday.

They had been voluntary workers sent to Ukraine to support humanitarian efforts.

Emily Atkinson reports:

Maryam Zakir-Hussain12 January 2023 08:39

While evacuating a psychiatric hospital in Ukraine, there was one question on my mind

“For several kilometres, the destruction was absolute, with towns and villages wiped off the map by continuous shelling – not a single school, home or medical facility left intact.

“When we reached Kherson city, the explosions were near constant. In different parts of the city, there were incoming Russian shells, outgoing Ukrainian shells and demining teams detonating ordinance left behind by retreating Russian forces.

“In two to three minutes, we heard around 10 blasts from the demining teams. The sound was deafening; we felt the resonance of each explosion in our chests.”

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Maryam Zakir-Hussain12 January 2023 08:15

Demoted Russian general made military ‘fall guy’

A Russian defence ministry statement said its latest command reshuffle was meant to improve contacts between military branches and the effectiveness of the command structure.

One prominent military blogger who posts on the Telegram messaging app under the name of Rybar said Surovikin was being made the fall guy for recent Russian military debacles.

Those included a Ukrainian attack on a Russian barracks that killed at least 89 Russian soldiers over New Year’s.

Surovikin was ordered to head the campaign after Ukrainian offensives turned the tide of the war and drew attention to poor training, equipment and morale among Russian forces.

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Russian president Vladimir Putin and now demoted General Sergei Surovikin

If pro-Russian forces succeed in taking Soledar, it would be a stepping stone in Moscow’s thrust to capture Ukraine‘s eastern Donbas industrial region. The town would be a base to attack the nearby city of Bakhmut, a supply line hub in eastern Ukraine, where defenders have held out for months.

Before Wagner’s latest statement, the Kremlin stopped short of claiming victory and acknowledged heavy casualties.

“Let’s not rush, let’s wait for official statements. There is a positive dynamic in progress,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

A Reuters photographer who reached the outskirts of Soledar in recent days said many residents had fled the town in perishing cold. Smoke could be seen rising over the town and the incoming artillery fire was relentless, she said.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain12 January 2023 07:45

Ukrainian military says strike kills over 100 Russian solders in Soledar

More than a hundred Russian soldiers were killed in the battle of Soledar after Ukrainian forces launched a missile at a grouping of troops, the command of Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces said.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain12 January 2023 07:26

Putin authorises military shake-up in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has authorised another shake-up in the military leadership leading the invasion of Ukraine – while Kyiv mocked claims that it had lost the town of Soledar which is at the centre of a furious Russian assault.

Defence minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, had been appointed as overall commander of forces in Ukraine, one of a number of changes in recent months as Mr Putin seeks a success story to sell at home.

It is clear that pressure is building on the Kremlin, with the move in effect demoting General Sergei Surovikin, who had been named Russia’s top battlefield commander in Ukraine only last October after a spate of offensives by Kyiv’s troops that turned the tide of the war. General Surovikin had earned the nickname “General Armageddon” from the Russian media for his reputed ruthlessness.

A Defence Ministry statement said the reshuffle was meant to improve contacts between different military branches and the “quality and effectiveness” of the command structure.

Moscow seeks control of Soledar to strenghten its position around the nearby besieged city of Bakhmut and provide a stepping stone to other cities in the eastern Donbas region. On Wednesday evening, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky mocked claims by the Russian mercenary Wagner group that it has taken control of the town – the scene of some of the most intense fighting since Moscow’s invasion began.

Liam James12 January 2023 07:00

Russia redeploying airborne forces in ‘vulnerable’ eastern Ukraine – MoD

Russia has now moved almost all elements of its airborne forces for heavy fighting this month in eastern Ukraine’s Kremina front line after finding it “vulnerable”, the British defence ministry has said.

“…Russia has almost certainly allocated elements of the 76th Guards Air Landing Division of the VDV (airborne forces) to reinforce the Kremina front line after assessing the sector was significantly vulnerable,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

The defence ministry noted heavy fighting around the town of Soledar, Donetsk oblast, and on the approaches to Kremina, Luhansk oblast over the last two days.

“Until November 2022, Russia committed almost the whole of the deployable VDV as long-term, ground-holding troops along the frontline in the Kherson area.” the MoD said.

“Now redeployed to the Donbas and southern Ukraine, commanders are likely attempting to employ VDV more in line with their supposed doctrinal role as a relatively elite rapid reaction force,” it added.

Arpan Rai12 January 2023 06:48

Fighting continues in Donetsk, says Zelensky

Volodymyr Zelensky has said that the military offensive in Ukraine’s eastern region is continuing as he suggested the deployment of “Western-type tanks” in the war.

“Now the terrorist state and its propagandists are trying to pretend that some part of our city of Soledar – a city that was almost completely destroyed by the occupiers – is allegedly some kind of Russian achievement,” he said in his nightly address.

Mr Zelensky added: “But the fighting continues. The Donetsk direction is holding out. And we do everything, without stopping for a single day, to strengthen Ukrainian defence. Our potential is growing. And I thank all our partners who help in this.”

“Western-type tanks are the work of our entire anti-war coalition and this is a new level of our potential,” Mr Zelensky said.

Arpan Rai12 January 2023 06:11