The Russian military reports the capture of several towns near Bakhmut. London estimates there are 50,000 Wagner mercenaries in Ukraine and describes the shadow army as Russia’s “key component”. North Korea is to equip the troops with weapons. All information about the Ukraine war can be found in the Newsticker.
12.37 p.m .: The chairwoman of the Bundestag Defense Committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (FPD), has warned against leniency with Russia in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She called for doing away with a “folkloric idea” of Russia. “The Bolshoi Ballet is not in eastern Ukraine and dances “Swan Lake”,” said Strack-Zimmermann on Saturday at the state party conference of the NRW-FDP in Bielefeld. “There are soldiers who murder, rape, kidnap and do many more terrible things – they also torture.”
FDP Federal Minister of Finance Cristian Lindner raised 100 billion euros after the Russian attack, so that the focus is again being placed strongly on the Bundeswehr, Strack-Zimmermann said. The fact that the traffic light coalition in Berlin is “discussing” is part of democracy. The Liberals demanded that the FDP should confidently present its issues in the coalition. “We’re not married, nor are we merged.”
Strack-Zimmermann had previously sharply criticized the postponed decision on the delivery of German battle tanks to Ukraine. “History is looking at us, and unfortunately Germany has just failed,” she said on Friday evening on ZDF’s “heute journal” and described the communication, especially from Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) on this issue as a “catastrophe”.
10:21 a.m .: According to British assessments, there is currently a military stalemate in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. “The conflict as a whole is at an impasse,” said the British Ministry of Defense on Saturday. “However, there is a realistic possibility of local Russian advances around Bakhmut.” The city in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk has been the focus of fighting for months.
There was heavy fighting on three front sections in particular, it said in London, citing intelligence information. Russian units, both regular military and Wagner’s private army, would redeploy in the recently captured small town of Soledar, north of Bakhmut. Also in the east, Ukrainian troops made small gains near the city of Kreminna in the Luhansk region. In the south, both sides had drawn together considerable forces in the Zaporizhia region. There are artillery battles and minor clashes, but so far there has been no major offensive.
Saturday, January 21, 7:46 a.m.: According to a senior US government official, Ukraine should not focus on defending the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, but should use the time to prepare a counteroffensive against Russian troops. The focus on defending Bakhmut is preventing Ukraine from concentrating on the more important task of preparing a spring offensive, the government official said on Friday.
In the long run, Russia would have an advantage in the battle for Bakhmut simply because of the numerical superiority of its troops and artillery resources. However, a possible capture of the city by Russia would not represent a significant change in the war because Ukrainian troops could retreat to well-protected positions, the US official said.
Instead of sacrificing soldiers and ammunition in the fight for a strategically unimportant target, the US government is advising Ukraine to reorganize its troops and use US-led training programs to send a sophisticated and heavily armed force on an offensive in the south of the country to be able to Appropriate weapons for a spring offensive are currently being sent to Ukraine, including several hundred armored vehicles in the past few days alone, the government representative said.
8:27 p.m .: According to the White House, the Wagner mercenary group should be equipped with weapons from North Korea, as “Skynews” reports. John Kirby, spokesman for the United States National Security Council, said in a press statement that satellite images would prove the shipments. North Korea has so far denied helping the Wagner mercenaries with weapons. Kirby called on the one-party dictatorship to halt shipments.
8:15 p.m .: The USA officially classifies the Russian mercenary group Wagner, active in the Ukraine war, as a “transnational criminal organization”. The group is committing “atrocities and human rights abuses,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in Washington on Friday. Declaring Wagner a transnational criminal organization would allow for additional sanctions against the mercenary group.
The group, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a longtime confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has around 50,000 fighters in Ukraine, according to Kirby. Of these, 40,000 were recruited from prisons. Wagner also received missiles from North Korea in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Kirby showed footage intended to show the armaments being transported from North Korea to Russia by train.
Mercenaries from the Wagner paramilitary group have been deployed in many conflict regions, including Syria and African countries, for years. Prigozhin only publicly admitted in September that he had founded the group, which had been operating secretly for a long time. In October, it opened an official headquarters in St. Petersburg.
1:43 p.m .: According to British military experts, the Russian mercenary force Wagner commands up to 50,000 fighters in Ukraine. That emerges from the daily intelligence update of the Ministry of Defense in London on Friday. Accordingly, the mercenaries have now become a “key component” in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
At the end of December, the previously opaque organization in Russia was also officially registered as a corporation, but only as a management consultancy, the British statement said. It is not clear to what extent this is used to manage paramilitary activities. Private security and military companies are actually illegal in Russia.
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigoschin probably financed the troupe partly from state funds, which came in through bloated government contracts to his other companies. “The registration is likely aimed at maximizing Prigozhin’s commercial profit and further legitimizing the increasingly prestigious organization,” the British statement continued.
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1:02 p.m .: The Russian Ministry of Defense has announced the capture of the village of Klishchiyivka on the southern edge of the small town of Bakhmut, which is considered strategically important. “In the Donetsk region, the village of Klishchiyivka was liberated by storm trooper volunteers with the support of the air force, missile forces and artillery,” military spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in Moscow on Friday. The information could not be independently verified. Heavy fighting is currently taking place on the front in the Bakhmut area in eastern Ukraine.
Last week, the Russian side had already reported the capture of the town of Soledar north of Bakhmut. Kyiv has not yet confirmed the loss of the city. According to the British secret service, the Ukrainians left there on Monday.
With the capture of Klishchiyivka, the danger of the Ukrainian garrison in Bakhmut becoming encircled increased. The city is a major transport hub and is considered part of Ukraine’s defensive wall between Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the last major agglomeration controlling Kyiv in the eastern Donbass region. The Kremlin has named the conquest of the Donbass as one of its war goals.
11:22 a.m .: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj has asked the West to speed up arms deliveries to his country attacked by Russia. The time is critical, he said in a video link at the meeting of defense ministers and military officials from numerous countries at the US Ramstein Air Force Base in Rhineland-Palatinate. Russia is currently gathering its strength, its last strength. “We have to get faster.” Russian terror doesn’t allow for lengthy discussions. “The Kremlin must lose.”
Zelenskyy thanked the assembled representatives of Western countries for their support to date. “We are seeing the results on the battlefield in Ukraine.” But the defenders of freedom were slowly running out of weapons. In Ramstein, concrete decisions would have to be made about the delivery of aircraft, missiles and long-range artillery, for example, in order to be able to end Russian terror.
9:32 a.m.: Last week, CIA Director William J. Burns traveled to Ukraine. The Washington Post reports. There he met in secret with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and informed him about Russia’s military plans in the coming weeks and months, as a US official reported to the medium.
The timing of the trip is particularly critical. While massive Russian attacks on and around the city of Bakhmut claim high casualties, Ukraine is concerned with the question of the support of its western partners. In the US, Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives and support for Ukraine is falling among the US public.
According to the report, Burns emphasized the urgency of the current situation on the battlefield and acknowledged that at some point it could become more difficult to get help. Nevertheless, Zelenskyj and his advisors left the meeting with the impression that US President Biden and his government still have strong support. It is estimated that the approved aid of 45 billion US dollars will last at least until July or August.
Burns is considered a confidante in Selenskyj’s inner circle. In January 2022, he had warned Ukraine that if Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine, they would try to take over Antonov Airport in Kyiv. This assessment helped Ukraine in defending the airport and repelling the Russian attack on Kyiv.
Friday, January 20, 8:37 a.m.: Federal Development Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) has promised Ukraine further support for electricity supply, warming rooms, medical care and municipal administrations in the amount of 52 million euros. According to her ministry on Friday, Schulze met the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for Reconstruction, Oleksandr Kubrakow, during a visit to Odessa on Thursday for talks on German-Ukrainian cooperation in the reconstruction of Ukraine.
“The supply of electricity, heat and water, especially now in the depths of winter, is one of the factors that determine the resilience of Ukrainian society in this war,” explained Schulze. Therefore, Ukraine needs not only weapons, but also civilian support “to stay strong”. With her visit, she wanted to show that Germany was also “solidarity with Ukraine” during reconstruction.
The minister visited four projects in and around Odessa. During a visit to a warming room, Schulze found out about the role of the municipalities in, among other things, the care of internally displaced persons. Among other things, generators and medical equipment from Germany are used there.
Schulze also visited a substation that had already been damaged twice by Russian shelling and then repaired. According to its own statements, the Development Ministry has been supporting the Ukrainian energy supplier Ukrenergo for many years in modernizing the power grid and also in repairing it during the war.
Schulze also visited a center of the UN children’s charity Unicef, which is also supported by the Federal Ministry for Development. The facility helps children and their families to cope with war trauma and refugee experiences.
With a visit to the Odessa grain port, Schulze wanted to make it clear, according to her ministry, “that Germany and Ukraine also have a common focus on solving global problems such as the global hunger crisis”.
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