(Bloomberg) -- Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi visited Ukraine, providing a total of $3 million to help buy ambulances.
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Russia may start drafting men as old as 30 this spring under a plan outlined by a senior legislator as the military pushes to expand its ranks after it lost ground in Ukraine.
Russia’s commander of land forces, Oleg Salyukov, visited Belarus a day after his superior, Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff, took over the combined forces in the invasion. Ukrainian troops were fighting to keep control of Soledar and Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region.
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On the Ground
Fierce fighting continues in Soledar as Russian attempts to capture the town in the easter region of Donetsk are failing, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said during a video briefing. Russia is likely to increase efforts to capture the part of Zaporizhzhia region on the left bank of Dnipro River, said Ukrainian General Staff representative Oleksiy Hromov. Russian forces hit Zaporizhzhia with missiles overnight, damaging private buildings and infrastructure facilities. To the east, Ukrainian troops repelled attacks near 12 settlements in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, including Bakhmut. One person was killed as Russia units shelled a settlement near the city of Kherson Thursday afternoon, regional Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said on Telegram.
(All times CET)
Austin Reaffirms Sweden’s Bid for NATO Membership (2:50 a.m.)
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin underscored his support for Sweden’s quest to join NATO after meeting that country’s defense minister, Pal Jonson, on Thursday. In a tweet, Austin also thanked Sweden for “its security assistance to Ukraine.”
Turkey has expressed strong misgivings about Sweden’s membership in the military alliance because Swedish courts have blocked extradition of suspects wanted by the Turkish government. Earlier Thursday, Turkey summoned Sweden’s ambassador after supporters of the Kurdish militant group PKK hanged an effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a protest in Stockholm.
Asked about the new tensions between Turkey and Sweden, John Kirby, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, said President Joe Biden continues to “firmly support” Sweden’s accession.
Fate of Two Donbas Towns Isn’t Crucial to the War, US Says (9:56 p.m.)
Kirby said the fate of two towns under Russian assault in the Donbas region isn’t crucial to the war’s outcome.
“Even if both Bakhmut and Soledar fall to the Russians, it’s not going to have a strategic impact on the war itself,” Kirby, told reporters at the White House. “And it certainly isn’t going to stop the Ukrainians, or slow them down in terms of their efforts to regain their territory.”
He also said the US welcomes moves by allies to provide increasingly advanced weapons to Ukraine, including battle tanks, which the US so far has declined to provide. “President Zelenskiy has said he’s interested in tanks, and now you have some countries that are showing willingness to provide tanks,” Kirby said. “That’s all to the good.”
Finland Should Contribute Leopard Tanks, President Says (8:20 p.m.)
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said his country should contribute Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine if a common European movement emerges around the issue, news agency STT reported.
Still, Finland can’t many of the tanks, given that it remains outside of NATO and has a long border with Russia, according to Niinisto, who said no decision has been made by the government.
Finland has about 200 Leopard main battle tanks.
Uber CEO Visits Ukraine, Raises $3 Million for Ambulances (7:50 pm)
Khosrowshahi, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc., visited Ukraine after the ride-sharing giant raised $1.5 million to buy ambulances through United24, the official fundraising arm of the Ukraine government.
Khosrowshahi came bearing an additional $1.5 million “to help heroic Ukrainian medics save thousands of lives, Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said on Twitter.
Red Cross Helped Ukraine Return Bodies of POWs (7:05 p.m.)
Ukraine returned the bodies of 54 prisoners who were killed by an explosion in a detention facility in Olenivka in a Russian-occupied part of the Donetsk region last year, the Ministry for Reintegration of Occupied Territories said on its website.
The International Red Cross helped in mediation to arrange the return. Ukraine called the attack on Olenivka in July a Russian war crime. The bodies still have to be identified as part of an ongoing larger investigation of the Olenivka shelling.
Zelenskiy Says He Seeks Assurance of Eventual NATO Membership (6:50 p.m.)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he doesn’t expect “strategic decisions” on his country’s ascension to NATO when the alliance’s leaders meet in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July.
“Of course we want that” and “we showed that our army is strong and we have all the standards that NATO needs,” Zelenskiy said in an interview with the Lithuanian TV program “Demesio Centre.”
Saying that “sometimes signals are more important than theoretical decisions,” Zelenskiy said, “What we need for today is a common signal to us, this common message to Ukrainian people that ‘you’re on the way, we can’t give you now the membership but you’ll get it the same way as Finland, and now we’ll give you security guarantees, weapons.’”
Turkish Ombudsman Says Erdogan Plans Talks With Putin, Zelenskiy (4:17 p.m.)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may speak separately with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Zelenskiy “today or tomorrow” about the establishment of a humanitarian corridor, the Ihlas news agency cited Seref Malkoc, the Turkish ombudsman, as saying.
Over 2.4 Million Ukrainians Live in Damaged Property, Minister Says (3:01 p.m.)
More than 2.4 million of Ukrainians live in homes and apartment blocks damaged or ruined as a result of Russia’s aggression, Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook.
More than 316,000 Ukrainians have already applied for state compensation via a digital government service, he said.
Russia May Raise Draft Age This Spring in Push for More Troops (1:53 p.m.)
Putin last month not only endorsed boosting the size of Russia’s army to 1.5 million from the current 1.15 million, but also approved a plan to raise the draft age to 21 to 30 years of age from the current 18 to 27.
In the transition period to the new system starting as early as this year, the upper limit may be raised before the lower one, meaning men from 18 to 30 who don’t have exemptions will be subject to the draft, Andrei Kartapolov, chairman of the Defense Committee in the State Duma, told a state newspaper.
Russia’s Chief of Land Forces Inspects Troops in Belarus (1 p.m.)
Oleg Salyukov, commander in chief of Russia’s land forces, arrived in Belarus on Thursday to inspect Russian troops training there, the Belarusian defense ministry said on Telegram.
Russia and Belarus are also scheduled to hold joint air force drills starting Jan. 16 and running through Feb. 1. Ukrainian officials have warned that the Kremlin plans another attack this winter staged out of Belarus, including a potential assault on Kyiv.
Lithuania Seeks to Boost Production of Anti-Drone Weapons (11:45 a.m.)
Lithuania needs to increase production of anti-drone weapons to assist Ukraine and to meet its own military needs, said president Gitanas Nauseda.
Nauseda also said NATO should find formulas on how to offer Ukraine security guarantees before membership in the military alliance. can be considered.
He said he hopes to find a way to move forward on that at the NATO leaders summit in Vilnius in July.
US’s Power Speaks With Ukraine Infrastructure Minister (11 a.m.)
Samantha Power, head of the the US Agency for International Development, spoke with Oleksandr Kubrakov on ““the need to create small-scale power generation, Ukraine’s infrastructure chief said on Twitter.
Russian Official Says IAEA’s Grossi to Visit Ukraine Next Week (11 a.m.)
Vienna-based Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov commented on a planned visit to Ukraine next week by Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency — the latest bid to establish a security zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
Grossi announced his trip earlier in the week while in Rome, and said he hoped to travel on to Moscow. He told the Italian public television station RAI that talks on getting a safety deal are getting harder.
While Grossi held out the prospect of meeting with President Putin, the Kremlin said Wednesday there are no plans for talks “so far.” Grossi and Putin met in October.
Generators Help Shops Keep Lights On for Ukrainians Hit by War (10:43 a.m.)
The roar of diesel generators is a symbol of how Ukrainians are adapting to war.
After months of blackouts caused by Russian attacks against the country’s energy infrastructure, everyone from mom-and-pop companies to international retailers is keeping the lights on with machines chugging away on sidewalks and cables snaking indoors.
Ukraine imported more than half a million generators in 2022, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.
Read: Generators Help Shops Keep Lights On for Ukrainians Hit by War
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