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January 28, 2023 6:42 pm

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Russia-Ukraine war: Moscow’s ceasefire ends with no let up in fighting; Ukraine strikes power plants in Donetsk, officials say – as it happened


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Reuters is reporting two thermal power plants were damaged by Ukrainian shelling in Russian-controlled parts of the country’s Donetsk region, according to Moscow-installed officials on Sunday.

Preliminary information indicated injuries in the shelling in Zuhres and Novyi Svit, the officials said on their Telegram monitoring channel.

Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia or on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.

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It is just after 8pm in Kyiv, and that concludes today’s Ukraine blog. Thank you for reading along.

Kazakhstan has set up a yurt in Bucha – an area ouside of Kyiv that suffered a massacre last March – offering a space for residents to warm up and find food.

The Odesa Journal reports that the “Yurt of Invincibility” was supported by the citizens of Kazakhstan, the embassy of Kazakhstan in Ukraine and Sergei Nagornyak, chair of Ukraine’s group on interparliamentary relations with Kazakhstan.

The newspaper reports that six such yurts are due to be set up in cities across Ukraine.

It was previously reported that the killings in Bucha in March last year were part of a deliberate and systematic effort to ruthlessly secure a route to the capital, Kyiv.

The “Yurt of Invincibility” will serve as a heating point for the city’s residents during the blackout.

The ‘Yurt of Invincibility’ opens in Bucha

Visitors enter the ‘Yurt of Invincibility’, which has opened in Bucha amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine Photograph: Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Around 50 Ukrainian soldiers who were released from Russian detention on Sunday as part of a prisoner swap posed for a photo on their release.

Nicola Slawson

Nicola Slawson

Here’s a roundup of the key developments of the day:

  • Russia and Belarus have expanded their joint military training exercises in Belarus, the country’s defence TV channel said on Sunday, as concern grows that Moscow is pressuring its closest ally to join the war in Ukraine.

  • One person was killed as a result of the attack on the Starobesheve power plant in Novyi Svit, Russia’s state Tass news agency said on Sunday. The thermal power plant was one of two in part of Ukraine’s Donetsk region that is controlled by Russian forces that were damaged in a rocket attack by the Ukrainian army, Moscow-installed officials said.

  • Officials said at least two people were killed during fighting in eastern Ukraine, AP reports. Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said one person was killed in strikes on Bakhmut, and eight others in the region were wounded. He also reported rocket attacks on Kramatorsk and Konstantynivka.

  • Moscow claimed on Sunday to have killed 600 soldiers in a strike on the eastern town of Kramatorsk, near the frontline in Bakhmut. But the town’s mayor said there had been no deaths from strikes over the weekend, and the Russian claim seems suspicious for several reasons.

  • Demands for a special tribunal to investigate Russia for a “crime of aggression” against Ukraine have been backed by senior UK politicians from across the political divide in a move to show Vladimir Putin and his generals that they will be held to account.

  • Russian attacks were reported on Saturday in at least seven regions in Ukraine’s east and south over the previous 24 hours, despite Moscow’s ceasefire declaration for Orthodox Christmas. At least three people were killed.

  • Russian troops shelled the Kherson region 39 times on Friday, according to the governor, Yaroslav Yanushevych. Residential buildings and a fire station building came under fire in the liberated city of Kherson, where a first responder was killed. Seven civilians were also wounded in the region.

  • Ukraine’s military said two were killed and 13 injured in Russia’s shelling of Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, during the purported ceasefire. The two dead were a 66-year-old man and 61-year-old woman.

  • Russian troops were “terrorising” civilians in the north-eastern region of Kharkiv, said its governor, Oleh Syniehubov. No casualties have been reported, but residential and commercial buildings continued to come under fire.

  • Russian forces shelled Ukrainian positions 14 times and stormed one settlement three times in the frontline eastern Luhansk province in the first three hours of the purported ceasefire, said its governor, Serhiy Haidai, Reuters reported. It heard explosions of what Ukrainian troops at the frontline described as incoming Russian rocket fire. Ukrainians fired back from tanks.

  • The Russian-installed governor of the occupied Crimean city of Sevastopol has said air defences shot down a drone in an apparent attack on the port where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based. Mikhail Razvozhaev alleged that the incident took place early on Saturday.

  • The UK Ministry of Defence said fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces continued at a “routine level” into the Orthodox Christmas period. The ministry’s daily intelligence update stated that fighting was focused in heavily forested terrain to the west of the town of Kremina in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province, where “combat has devolved to dismounted infantry fighting, often at short range”.

  • The US has asked Italy to provide air defence systems to Ukraine as soon as possible. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that the request was made in a conversation between the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and Francesco Talo, an adviser to the Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni.

I’m logging off for the day now and handing over to my colleague Allan Glen. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Emma Graham-Harrison

Emma Graham-Harrison

Russia and Belarus have expanded their joint military training exercises in Belarus, the country’s defence TV channel said on Sunday, as concern grows that Moscow is pressuring its closest ally to join the war in Ukraine.

The two countries added weapons, soldiers and specialised equipment to the exercises and are doing drills drawing on Russian experience in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

On Friday the Belarusian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, visited a military base where Russian troops are stationed to meet troops and discuss the joint military drills.

Unofficial Telegram channels monitoring military activity in Belarus reported that between 1,400 and 1,600 Russian troops arrived in the city of Vitebsk, in north-east Belarus, on Sunday. Reuters said it could not independently verify the information.

A unilateral, self-declared Russian ceasefire – announced for the Orthodox Christmas celebrations – drew to an end on Sunday but there had been little letup in fighting or civilian deaths during the period.

In the final hours when Russia was meant to be holding off fire, at least two people were killed by shelling, one in northern Kharkiv and another in Soledar, eastern Donetsk, Ukrainian officials said.

Overnight temperatures are falling well below freezing across Ukraine, which could pave the way for more intense fighting as it becomes easier to move heavy machinery that would have become bogged down in autumn mud.

Read more here:

People look at the site of a missile strike that occurred during the night, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kramatorsk, Ukraine.

People look at the site of a missile strike that occurred during the night, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

A Russian rocket strike on the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk caused damage but did not destroy buildings and there were no obvious signs of casualties, a witness told Reuters on Sunday, after Russia said the attack killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers.

The ministry said the strike was revenge for Ukraine’s New Year’s Day attack that killed at least 89 Russian soldiers at a barracks in part of the Donetsk region controlled by Moscow’s forces.

Reuters reporters visited the two college dormitories Russia’s defence ministry said had been temporarily housing Ukrainian servicemen close to the front line of the war at the time of the overnight strike.

Neither appeared to have been directly hit by missiles or seriously damaged. There were no obvious signs that soldiers had been living there and no sign of bodies or traces of blood.

Officials said at least two people were killed during fighting in eastern Ukraine, AP reports.

Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said one person was killed in strikes on Bakhmut, and eight others in the region were wounded. He also reported rocket attacks on Kramatorsk and Konstantynivka.

In the Kharkiv region, the town of Merefa was hit during the night, killing one person and two other settlements in the region were shelled, governor Oleh Syniehubov said.

The latest developments come after Russian forces ended a partially observed, unilateral cease-fire timed to coincide with Orthodox Christmas celebrations on Saturday.

Emma Graham-Harrison

Emma Graham-Harrison

Moscow claimed on Sunday to have killed 600 soldiers in a strike on the eastern town of Kramatorsk, near the frontline in Bakhmut.

But the town’s mayor said there had been no deaths from strikes over the weekend, and the Russian claim seems suspicious for several reasons.

It comes just days after Ukraine killed hundreds of Russian fighters in an attack on a temporary barracks in the town of Makiivka, that was also used for storing ammunition.

It would be stupid for Ukrainian forces to gather in large numbers within range of artillery guns – the very mistake they exploited to kill so many of their enemy.

And on a recent trip to the frontline in Donetsk, near the site of the claimed strike, Guardian reporter Artem Mazhulin noted that Ukrainian soldiers were wary of clustering together. “They are all spread in smaller groups across various locations,” he said.

The huge death toll caused anger and outrage at home in Russia, so there would be a clear propaganda motive to claim that Russia had been able to retaliate in kind.

Within hours Russian news agency RIA had labelled it a “retaliation operation”, quoting the ministry of defence.

And finally, unlike in Russia, where the media is tightly controlled, Ukraine has been largely open to the media, and hosts a huge domestic and international press pack.

Even if the site of a deadly attack is kept off limits to individual reporters, every battlefield death and injury affects relatives and friends around the country.

Thousands would be grieving if hundreds had been killed, and it would be hard to cover up such a tragedy in a country with a free press.

A Ukrainian serviceman is seen in a destroyed school building at a frontline in the Donetsk region, Ukraine

A Ukrainian serviceman is seen in a destroyed school building at a frontline in the Donetsk region, Ukraine. Photograph: Reuters

There has been no immediate comment from Ukraine on Russia’s claim it killed more than 600 Ukrainian servicemen in a rocket strike.

However, the mayor of Kramatorsk, the eastern Ukrainian town Russia said it had targeted, said earlier on Sunday via Facebook that nobody had been killed in an attack on various buildings in the city.

Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement that it had used what it called reliable intelligence to target the Ukrainian troops. It said more than 700 Ukrainian troops had been housed in one hostel and more than 600 in another.

“As a result of a massive missile strike on these temporary deployment points of Ukrainian army units, more than 600 Ukrainian servicemen were destroyed,” the defence ministry said.

If true, it would be the single largest loss of Ukrainian troops since Russia invaded on 24 February last year.

Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday it had killed more than 600 Ukrainian servicemen in a massive rocket strike on buildings in eastern Ukraine temporarily housing Ukrainian forces, Reuters reports.

It said the strike on Kramatorsk was revenge for Ukraine’s deadly attack earlier this year on a Russian barracks in Makiivka in part of the Donetsk region controlled by Moscow’s forces.

Reuters could not immediately verify the defence ministry’s assertion. We’ll update you when we have more on this.

A Ukrainian serviceman is seen in a trench at a frontline in the Donetsk region.

A Ukrainian serviceman is seen in a trench at a frontline in the Donetsk region. Photograph: Reuters