Russian forces have pressed on with a multipronged offensive in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as Kyiv’s Western allies continue to display a united front in their support.
Ukraine’s military said on January 27 that heavy shelling was seen in Ukraine’s north, northeast, and east amid expectations that Russia is gearing up for a renewed offensive sometime in the coming months.
In the face of those expectations, Ukraine’s Western allies continue to pledge military equipment and aid to shore up Kyiv’s defenses as the first anniversary of the conflict, launched by Russia on February 24 last year, approaches.
U.S. national security spokesman John Kirby said Washington anticipates an “intense period of fighting” in the coming months,” adding that there was “no sign” of the war stopping.
The European Union on January 27 extended its economic sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine for another six months, as EU justice ministers vowed to seek swift accountability for the “horrific” crimes in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said his country was earmarking another 90 million euros ($100 million) in military support to Ukraine, its largest aid package to Ukraine to date.
“Ukraine must be able to defend itself against brutal Russian aggression,” he wrote on Twitter.
Ukrainian troops repelled attacks in 11 locations in the two eastern regions over the past 24 hours, a day after Moscow unleashed another wave of missile strikes across Ukraine, killing at least 11 people and damaging energy infrastructure despite Kyiv’s air defense destroying most of the incoming projectiles.
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“The defense forces over the past day repelled the invaders’ attacks in Ploshanka, Nevske, and Chervonpopyivka in Luhansk, and Verkhnyokamyanske, Paraskoviyivka, Bakhmut, Klishchiyivka, Vodyane, Nevelske, Maryinka, and Vuhledar in Donetsk,” Ukraine’s General Staff said in its daily report, which
Oleh Synehubov, governor of the northeastern region of Kharkiv, said that “fierce fighting” continued along the front lines in the area. “Our defenders are firmly holding their positions and inflicting losses to the enemy,” he said.
RFE/RL could not independently verify the reports.
Poland announced on January 27 that it will send an additional 60 tanks to Ukraine to strengthen its defenses. It comes on top of media reports that NATO members will donate around 100 German-manufactured Leopard 2 tanks.
Separately, the United States and Britian have promised to contribute 31 M1 Abrams and 14 Challenger 2 respectively, bringing the total tank donations this month to about 200. Ukraine said it needs 300 tanks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiyin his nightly video address on January 26 thanked “everyone in the world who is truly fighting against terror together with us” and reemphasized the need for “speeding up” the delivery of heavy tanks to his country.
The United States said it could take “many months” before the Abrams can be delivered to Ukraine, while the Leopards could take a few months as well, due to the need for training and logistics build-out, experts said.
The 60 tanks promised by Poland could be deployed sooner. They include 30 PT-91, a modernized version of the Soviet-era T-72, which is the main tank used by Ukraine and thus requires little training or additional logistics support
Canada was the latest country to declare its intention to give Ukraine tanks. Ottawa will send four Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, the Canadian defense minister said, after Germany this week allowed other countries to reexport the German-built tank.
Poland, the Netherlands, and Spain previously announced their readiness to transfer some of the Leopard 2 tanks in their stocks to Ukraine, something they can only do with manufacturer Germany’s express permission.
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said that they need 300 tanks as they seek to drive Russian forces from their territory. Ukraine lost more than half of its 850 tanks during the 11-month, according to Oryx, a website that uses open-source tools to count destroyed equipment.
However, Ukraine will need weeks to months to train on those new weapon systems and build out supply chains to service them.
As the PT-91s are similar to the T-72, they could be quickly deployed with little additional training.
NATO’s Eastern European members have sent hundreds of modernized T-72 tanks and tank parts to Ukraine since February, with Poland having sent about 250 tanks, according to Morawiecki.
According to two diplomatic sources quoted by Reuters, France and Italy are close to finalizing the technical details to supply an SAMP/T air-defense system to Ukraine.
Zelenskiy said that “there are already 12 countries in our tank coalition” to provide advanced Western battle tanks to help Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s 11-month Russian invasion.
Zelenskiy was also pressing for the Western supply of long-range missiles and aircraft to Ukraine.
Morawiecki was quoted by dpa as telling a French broadcaster on January 26 that his country would be willing to send fighter jets to Ukraine if Warsaw’s NATO allies decided on such a move.
Those weapons would help Ukraine counter Russian missile attacks that have knocked out much of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure over the past several months. The United States, Germany, and the Netherlands earlier promised a total of four Patriot air-defense systems.
Kirby said there were no plans at the moment for the United States to send aircraft to Ukraine.
In addition to offering military and financial aid to Ukraine, the West continues to seek reparations and justice for Russia’s unprovoked invasion.
EU justice ministers gathered in Stockholm on January 27 said the 27-member bloc wants swift accountability for Russia’s “horrific” crimes in Ukraine, even as they differed over the methods about how to bring prosecutions, seek evidence or fund war damage repairs.
The same day, the Council of the European Union extended sanctions targeting specific sectors of Russia’s economy by six months, until July 31.
“They currently consist of a broad spectrum of sectoral measures, including restrictions on trade, finance, technology and dual-use goods, industry, transport and luxury goods,” the statement said.
Sanctions also include a ban on the import or transfer of seaborne crude oil and certain oil products from Russia to the EU, as well as the de-SWIFTing of several Russian banks.
The suspension of the broadcasting activities and licenses of several Kremlin-backed disinformation outlets is also part of the restrictive measures.
The Kremlin has reacted with fury to the latest gesture of Western solidarity with Ukraine, saying it saw the promised delivery of advanced tanks as evidence of escalating “direct involvement” of the United States and NATO in Russia’s war of aggression, something both deny.