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Head of Ukraine military intelligence tells Kremlin to expect strikes ‘deeper and deeper’ into Russia – as it happened

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Further strikes deep in Russian territory should be expected, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, has told the US TV channel ABC .

He added that the attacks would come “deeper and deeper” inside of Russia, without specifically saying whether Ukraine would be behind them.

Budanov said he would only be able to comment on his country’s responsibility for the attacks after the war was over.

Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the 26 December attack on Russia’s Engels airbase, which is located more than 800 miles from the Ukrainian border, but Budanov admitted he was “glad to see it.”

Of his visit to Bakhmut along the frontline in the Donetsk region in late December, he told ABC: “Soldiers showed me a section where dead bodies are piled up like something you would see in a movie.

“There are hundreds of dead bodies just rotting away in the open field, in places they are piled on top of other bodies like makeshift walls, when Russian troops attack on that field they use those bodies for cover, like a shield. But it’s not working. There are actual fields of dead bodies there.”

Budanov said he expects fighting to be the “hottest” in March, adding that Ukraine is planning a major push in the spring.

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The blog is now closing. Here is a round up of today’s main events.

  • Russia’s defence ministry on Wednesday blamed the illegal use of mobile phones by its soldiers for a deadly Ukrainian missile strike that it said killed 89 servicemen, raising the reported death toll significantly. Moscow previously said 63 Russian soldiers were killed in the weekend strike on Makiivka. Although an official investigation has been launched, the main reason for the attack was clearly the illegal mass use of mobile phones by servicemen, the ministry said. “This factor allowed the enemy to track and determine the coordinates of the soldiers’ location for a missile strike,” it said in a statement issued just after 1:00am in Moscow on Wednesday.

  • The UK Ministry of Defence, in its daily intelligence briefing, said: “Given the extent of the damage, there is a realistic possibility that ammunition was being stored near to troop accommodation, which detonated during the strike creating secondary explosions. The Russian military has a record of unsafe ammunition storage from well before the current war, but this incident highlights how unprofessional practices contribute to Russia’s high casualty rate.”

  • Denis Pushilin, who acts as the leader of pro-Russian occupiers in Donetsk, has praised the bravery of the soldiers who survived the attack. RIA quotes him saying: “We know, and we know first-hand, what it is to bear losses. And what real heroism is. Based on the information that I have, I can say with confidence that the guys from this regiment had many manifestations of courage and real heroism.”

  • Further strikes deep in Russian territory should be expected, the head of the Ukrainian military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, has told the US TV channel ABC. He added that the attacks would come “deeper and deeper” inside Russia, without specifically saying whether Ukraine would be behind them.

  • The French president, Emmanuel Macron, told his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, that France would send light AMX-10 RC armoured combat vehicles to help in the war against Russia, an Elysee official said after a phone call between the two leaders.

  • Ukraine’s military general staff said Russia had launched seven missile strikes, 18 airstrikes and more than 85 attacks from multiple-launch rocket systems in the past 24 hours on civilian infrastructure in three cities – Kramatorsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. “There are casualties among the civilian population,” it said. The reports have not been independently verified.

  • Ukraine’s efforts to increase exports under the Black Sea grain deal with Russia are focused on securing faster inspections of ships rather than including more ports in the initiative, a senior Ukrainian official said on Wednesday.

  • In a message posted to Facebook, Ukraine’s navy has claimed Russia has three combat-ready ships in action in the Black Sea and that it continues to “violate the international convention for the protection of human life at sea 1974 (Solas), disabling auto identification systems on civilian vessels in the Azov Sea”.

  • Vladimir Putin took part in a ceremony by video link while the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov went into combat service equipped with the Zircon hypersonic missile systems. The Russian president said: “I am sure that such powerful weapons will reliably protect Russia from potential external threats and will help ensure the national interests of our country”. The defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said the Gorshkov would sail to the Atlantic and Indian oceans and to the Mediterranean Sea.

In Russia, calls have mounted to draw conclusions after the Makiivka tragedy. The influential head of state television channel RT, Margarita Simonyan, welcomed the army’s promise that officials “will be held accountable”, AFP reports.

“I hope that the names of these persons” will be announced, she said. “It is time to understand that impunity does not lead to social harmony. Impunity leads to new crimes. And, as a result, to public dissent.”

There have been unconfirmed reports that the servicemen were quartered in an unprotected building that was destroyed because munitions were stored on the premises and detonated in the strike.

Heavy fighting around the largely ruined, Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut is likely to persist for the foreseeable future, with the outcome uncertain as Russians have made incremental progress, according to a senior US administration official, Reuters reports.

In a statement posted on Telegram, Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked President Emmanuel Macron for the decision to send the light armoured vehicles, and said the two leaders had “agreed on further cooperation to significantly strengthen our air defence and other defence capabilities”. He did not give further details. France last year supplied several Caesar howitzers to Ukraine. In October, Macron also said Paris would provide air defence weapons as Russia intensified missile strikes on critical infrastructure, Reuters reported.

More on France sending AMX-10 light armoured vehicles to Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters, the Élysée Palace official did not give any details about the volume or timing of the planned shipments but said the talks between the two countries would continue regarding the potential delivery of other vehicle types.

“This is the first time that western-made armoured vehicles are being delivered in support of the Ukranian army,” the official said.

The French-made AMX-10 is an armed reconnaissance vehicle with high mobility that carries four people, according to the French ministry of the armed forces’ website.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, told his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, that France would send light AMX-10 RC armoured combat vehicles to help in the war against Russia, an Élysée Palace official said after a phone call between the two leaders, Reuters reports.

Speaking to reporters, the official did not give any details about the volume or timing of the planned shipments.

You can read The Guardian report by Pjotr Sauer on the missile strike that Moscow said claimed 89 lives and which it has blamed on the use of mobile phones, here:

Further strikes deep in Russian territory should be expected, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, has told the US TV channel ABC .

He added that the attacks would come “deeper and deeper” inside of Russia, without specifically saying whether Ukraine would be behind them.

Budanov said he would only be able to comment on his country’s responsibility for the attacks after the war was over.

Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the 26 December attack on Russia’s Engels airbase, which is located more than 800 miles from the Ukrainian border, but Budanov admitted he was “glad to see it.”

Of his visit to Bakhmut along the frontline in the Donetsk region in late December, he told ABC: “Soldiers showed me a section where dead bodies are piled up like something you would see in a movie.

“There are hundreds of dead bodies just rotting away in the open field, in places they are piled on top of other bodies like makeshift walls, when Russian troops attack on that field they use those bodies for cover, like a shield. But it’s not working. There are actual fields of dead bodies there.”

Budanov said he expects fighting to be the “hottest” in March, adding that Ukraine is planning a major push in the spring.

  • Russia’s defence ministry on Wednesday blamed the illegal use of mobile phones by its soldiers for a deadly Ukrainian missile strike that it said killed 89 servicemen, raising the reported death toll significantly. Moscow previously said 63 Russian soldiers were killed in the weekend strike on Makiivka. Although an official investigation has been launched, the main reason for the attack was clearly the illegal mass use of mobile phones by servicemen, the ministry said. “This factor allowed the enemy to track and determine the coordinates of the soldiers’ location for a missile strike,” it said in a statement issued just after 1:00 am in Moscow on Wednesday.

  • The UK Ministry of Defence, in its daily intelligence briefing, said: “Given the extent of the damage, there is a realistic possibility that ammunition was being stored near to troop accommodation, which detonated during the strike creating secondary explosions. The Russian military has a record of unsafe ammunition storage from well before the current war, but this incident highlights how unprofessional practices contribute to Russia’s high casualty rate.”

  • Denis Pushilin, who acts as the leader of pro-Russian occupiers in Donetsk, has praised the bravery of the soldiers who survived the attack. RIA quotes him saying: “We know, and we know first-hand, what it is to bear losses. And what real heroism is. Based on the information that I have, I can say with confidence that the guys from this regiment had many manifestations of courage and real heroism.”

  • About 200 people gathered in the Russian city of Samara on Tuesday to hold a vigil for soldiers from the city killed in the Makiivka attack. Mourners laid wreaths and roses in Samara’s central square, while priests recited prayers for the dead.

Russian mourners hold vigil for soldiers killed in Makiivka – video

  • Ukraine’s military general staff said Russia had launched seven missile strikes, 18 airstrikes and more than 85 attacks from multiple-launch rocket systems in the past 24 hours on civilian infrastructure in three cities – Kramatorsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. “There are casualties among the civilian population,” it said. The reports have not been independently verified.

  • Ukraine’s efforts to increase exports under the Black Sea grain deal with Russia are focused on securing faster inspections of ships rather than including more ports in the initiative, a senior Ukrainian official said on Wednesday.

  • In a message posted to Facebook, Ukraine’s navy has claimed Russia has three combat-ready ships in action in the Black Sea and that it continues to “violate the international convention for the protection of human life at sea 1974 (Solas), disabling auto identification systems on civilian vessels in the Azov Sea”.

  • Vladimir Putin took part in a ceremony via video link while the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov went into combat service equipped with the Zircon hypersonic missile systems. The Russian president said: “I am sure that such powerful weapons will reliably protect Russia from potential external threats and will help ensure the national interests of our country”. Defence minister Sergei Shoigu said the Gorshkov would sail to the Atlantic and Indian oceans and to the Mediterranean Sea.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy has used his video address on Tuesday to reiterate warnings that Russia is set to launch a major offensive to improve its fortunes. “We have no doubt that current masters of Russia will throw everything they have left and everyone they can round up to try to turn the tide of the war and at least delay their defeat,” the Ukrainian president said.

  • Zelenskiy spoke to his Romanian counterpart, Klaus Iohannis, on Wednesday, saying: “We agreed on steps to further develop Ukrainian-Romanian cooperation, primarily in the defence sector. I thanked Romania for its solidarity and support in resisting Russian aggression.”

  • Germany is looking for further ways to help Ukraine protect its people and infrastructure, the German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said on Wednesday, stressing that any dip in Europe’s resolve on the issue would serve as a boon to Moscow

Newly released CCTV footage from the National Palace of Arts of Ukraine showed the moment a Russian missile hit the Alfavit hotel in Kyiv on 31 December, badly damaging it and a residential building.

Moment missile hits Kyiv on New Year’s Eve caught on newly released CCTV footage – video

The European Union says natural gas storage levels are high despite Russian attempts to choke off supplies to Europe, AP reports.

The 27 EU countries stocked up on gas last year in case of winter shortages. The EU Commission estimated that joint gas storage levels stand at almost 84% as of Wednesday. It said levels in December were 13% higher than the 2016-2018 average.

Tim McPhiem, a Commission spokersperson, said “It’s a fairly good position to be in.” Russian pipeline gas accounted for 40% of all gas Europe imported before Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine in February, but has now dropped to about 9%. Energy prices have also tumbled, partly due to mild winter weather in Europe.

Vladimir Putin sent a frigate to the Atlantic Ocean armed with new generation hypersonic cruise missiles on Wednesday, a signal to the west that Russia will not back down over the war in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

Russia, China and the United States are in a race to develop hypersonic weapons, which are seen as a way to gain an edge over any adversary because of their speeds – more than five times the speed of sound – and manoeuvrability.

In a video conference with Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defence minister, and Igor Krokhmal, the commander of the frigate named “Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov”, Putin said: “This time the ship is equipped with the latest hypersonic missile system – ‘Zircon’. I am sure that such powerful weapons will reliably protect Russia from potential external threats.”

The weapons, he added, had “no analogues in any country in the world”.

Shoigu said the Gorshkov would sail to the Atlantic and Indian oceans and to the Mediterranean Sea.

The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, has welcomed the award today of “honorary best city” of the year by PR agency Resonance Consultancy, in a move which seems designed to allow both parties to generate positive media coverage.

On Telegram earlier today, Klitschko posted:

The experts … noted the significant development of the city’s infrastructure over the past 10 years – the creation of new parks and squares and the improvement of old ones, putting parking in order, updating the rolling stock of municipal transport. Kyiv today is the heart of Europe. Which continues to fight – for life, for development, for the beauty of the city and the comfort of its inhabitants.

In announcing the award, the agency posted an assessment of the city by Anna Babinets, who is editor-in-chief of Slidstvo.Info, an investigative reporting outlet based in Kyiv. Writing about the city, she said:

How different things looked in February, when Russia launched its illegal war against Ukraine. Pundits around the world predicted the city’s imminent fall. Rockets rained on peaceful apartment blocks. Half of the city’s residents left. A column of Russian military vehicles stretched for kilometres on its murderous advance into the city.

Although the Russians intended to capture Ukraine’s capital in three days, they never came close. Facing determined resistance and crippled by their own incompetence, they soon abandoned their ambitious plans. A few months later, most Kyivans returned home. This isn’t the first time Kyiv has sprung back to life. The city’s history is full of wars and revolutions – after each of which it inevitably blooms again in a 1,500-year cycle of devastation and rebirth.

A general view of Kyiv from November 2022.

A general view of Kyiv from November 2022. Photograph: Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

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