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.

Kyiv denies Soledar has been captured by Russia and says fighting continues in the city.


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

Why has Russia changed the commander-in-charge of Ukraine war yet again

Moscow has picked Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, as the new commander of the unified group of forces in Ukraine.

The reshuffle, which was formally ordered by defence minister Sergei Shoigu, clearly came on Russian president Vladimir Putin‘s approval, signaling that he still has trust in his top military leaders who have faced broad criticism for the troops’ performance in the conflict.

It also suggests a recognition of flaws in carrying out what Mr Putin calls “the special military operation” in Ukraine and comes weeks after hundreds of Russian soldiers were killed in an attack on barracks.

Arpan Rai12 January 2023 06:00

Body of one of two British men missing in Ukraine found, Russian mercenary group claims

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

The men 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 were identified on Monday as Andrew Bagshaw, 48, and Christopher Parry, 28. Reports suggest they had been voluntary workers sent to Ukraine to support humanitarian efforts.

In a statement, Russia’s Wagner group claimed it had found the body of one of the two men. It did not mention the name of the dead man but said documents belonging to both Britons had been found on his body.

Liam James12 January 2023 06:00

Soledar city ‘littered with corpses of Ukrainian soldiers’ – Wagner chief

The leader of Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries has claimed that the heavily contested city of Soledar is littered with the remains of Ukrainian troops.

“I want to confirm the complete liberation and cleansing of the territory of Soledar,” said Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Wagner and a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

He claimed that a Wagner unit has killed about 500 Ukrainian soldiers after heavy fighting.

“The whole city is littered with the corpses of Ukrainian soldiers,” he said.

Arpan Rai12 January 2023 05:38

Satellite images show scale of destruction in Soledar

Thousands of bomb craters have pierced fields in eastern Bakhmut and schools and agricultural warehouses have been reduced to charred remains in the hottest spot of fighting in the war in Ukraine, new satellite images show.

The fresh satellite images taken by Maxar between 3 and 10 January show fields and adjoining roads completely destroyed by bombs in eastern Ukraine’s Bakhmut. Aerial views of the region taken in August — before the continuing Russian military offensive — showed lush green farms.

Another image shows several civilian buildings such as schools and agricultural warehouses hollowed out by multiple Russian shelling attacks and reduced to their skeletons and surrounded by ashes.

Read the full story here:

Arpan Rai12 January 2023 05:13

Deal on safe zone for Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant getting harder – IAEA

Brokering a deal on a safe zone around Ukraine‘s Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is getting harder because of the involvement of the military in talks, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday.

The Soviet-era plant, Europe’s largest, was captured by Russian forces in March, soon after their invasion of Ukraine. It has repeatedly come under fire in recent months, raising fears of a nuclear disaster.

“I don’t believe that [an agreement] is impossible, but it is not an easy negotiation,” International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Grossi said in an interview with Italian public television RAI.

Mr Grossi, who previously said he hoped to broker a deal on protecting the plant before the end of 2022, said talks with Kyiv and Moscow had become more complicated because they involve not just diplomats, but also military officers.

“It has become… a longer and more difficult (negotiating) table,” said Mr Grossi, speaking in Italian.

Reuters12 January 2023 05:00

Putin says Russian economy stable despite sanctions

Vladimir Putin said the Russian economy, financial and banking system were stable and would remain so this year depsite sanctions.

The Russian president said he planned to embark on a series of socio-economic reforms to make life better for Russians, amid mounting anger over the Ukraine invasion.

The Kremlin said it had not yet seen any cases of the price caps on Russian oil imposed by the West last month.

Liam James12 January 2023 04:00

Russian forces fire on 13 Kharkiv areas, officials say

Russian forces shelled 13 settlements in and around Kharkiv region largely returned to Ukrainian hands in September and October, the Ukrainian military said.

Local officials said rockets hit a pyrotechnics storage facility, setting off a chain of fireworks explosions.

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Firefighters outside the facility as fireworks turn the night sky red

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Fireworks explode after a missile hit the pyrotechnics storage facility in Kharkiv

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Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at the warehouse

Liam James12 January 2023 03:00