Ukraine war live updates: Kyiv says it must use every day to ramp up defenses at the front, ahead of Russian offensive

‘Russification’ set to continue in annexed parts of Ukraine with elections

A schoolgirl looks at a computer screen showing a map of Russia including annexed Ukrainian territories in Moscow on Oct. 12, 2022.

Alexander Nemenov | Afp | Getty Images

Britain’s Ministry of Defense has commented on Russian plans to hold elections in annexed parts of Ukraine, saying these continue Moscow’s attempts to “Russify” such areas.

At the start of February, Russian Federation Council chair Valentina Matvienko said that regional elections will take place in the newly annexed areas of Ukraine later this year, on Sept. 10. That’s the same day as other regional elections across the Russian Federation.

By planning on holding elections in annexed areas of Ukraine on the same day, it “highlights the leadership’s ambition to present the areas as integral parts of the Federation,” the ministry said on Twitter Monday.

“This follows continued efforts to ‘Russify’ the occupied areas, which include revision of the education, communication, and transport systems,” it noted.

“While meaningful democratic choices are no longer available to voters at even regional level elections in Russia, leaders will likely make the self-vindicating argument that new elections further justify the occupation.”

Russia held illegal referendums in four areas of Ukraine (Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk) last fall asking residents whether they wanted to join Russian territory. The votes, widely seen as rigged, saw the four regions vote to join Russia. Ukraine and its international allies scorned the sham referendums, saying they would not recognize the votes.

— Holly Ellyatt

Canada’s Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine arrive in Poland

A Polish Leopard 2PL tank during a Defender Europe 2022 military exercise of NATO troops including those from France, the U.S. and Poland, at the military range in Bemowo Piskie, near Orzysz, Poland, on May 24, 2022.

Kacper Pempel | Reuters

The first of four Leopard 2 battle tanks that Canada is giving to Ukraine has arrived in Poland, the country’s National Defence Minister Anita Anand said on Twitter overnight.

“The first Canadian Leopard 2 main battle tank that we’ve donated to Ukraine has now arrived in Poland. Alongside our allies, we’ll soon be training the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the use of this equipment,” Anand said.

Canada said late last month that it would send four such tanks to Ukraine, joining other international allies in sending heavy tanks to the country. It also said it would buy a U.S.-made National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System for Kyiv.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine to replace defence minister in wartime reshuffle, top lawmaker says

Ukraine is set to replace Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov with the chief of its military spy agency, a close ally of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday, in a reshuffle at the forefront of Ukraine’s war campaign.

Reznikov would be transferred to another ministerial job and replaced by Kyrylo Budanov, head of the GUR military intelligence agency, said David Arakhamia, a senior lawmaker and chief of Servant of the People parliamentary bloc.

“War dictates changes in personnel policy,” Arakhamia said on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov talks during an interview with Reuters in Kyiv, Ukraine November 10, 2022. 

Murad Sezer | Reuters

Reznikov’s reshuffle would be the highest profile government change in a slew of resignations and sackings following a corruption scandal late last month and Zelenskyy’s pledge for Ukraine to meet Western standards of clean governance.

Arakhamia said that Ukraine’s “force” agencies like the defence ministry should not be headed by politicians during wartime, but people with a background in defence or security. He added that Reznikov would be made minister of strategic industries.

Reznikov, who had said earlier on Sunday that any decision on a reshuffle was up to Zelenskyy, told the Ukrainian Fakty ICTV online media later in the evening that the transfer to the new ministry was news to him.

“If I suddenly received such an offer from the president of Ukraine or the prime minister, I would refuse it, because I do not have the expertise,” Reznikov was cited as saying.

There was no immediate statement from Zelenskiy on replacing Reznikov, a former lawyer who became defence minister in November 2021, a few months before Russia launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022. Arakhamia did not say when the move would be formalised.

Budanov, 37, is an enigmatic intelligence operative decorated for his role in classified operations who rapidly rose through the ranks to head up Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence.

The shakeup coincides with Ukrainian fears that Russia is planning a major new offensive this month. Ukraine is planning its own counter-offensive but is waiting on Western supplies of battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.

— Reuters

‘Very difficult’ situation in Donetsk where battles are raging, Zelenskyy says

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the area of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine continues to be a hot spot in the war, with the country now preparing for a Russian offensive aimed at seizing the entire eastern Donbas region.

“There are already many reports that the occupiers want to do something symbolic in February. To try to avenge their last year’s defeats,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Sunday evening, referring to Russia’s expected offensive.

“We see this increased pressure in various areas of the frontline, as well as pressure in the information field,” the president added.

Ukrainian servicemen walk on the road toward their base near the front line in the Donetsk region on Feb. 4, 2023.

Yasuyoshi Chiba | Afp | Getty Images

Donetsk has been the scene of intense fighting for several months, with Ukrainian forces battling regular Russian army units as well as mercenaries belonging to the Wagner Group private military company. In recent weeks, Russian forces have been seen to have made gains around the area of Bakhmut, capturing which is a key aim for them.

Zelenskyy remarked Sunday that “it is very difficult in the Donetsk region – there are fierce battles. But no matter how hard it is and no matter how much pressure there is, we have to withstand it.”

He added that every day has to be spent reinforcing “our defense at the front, to strengthen our international position, to increase pressure on Russia and to give our people new opportunities to get through this difficult time.”

— Holly Ellyatt

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