‘There are already personnel decisions… regarding officials at various levels,” says Ukraine leader; Rheinmetall says it could deliver 139 Leopard battle tanks if asked
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said personnel changes were being carried out at senior and lower levels, following the most high-profile graft allegations since Russia’s invasion that threaten to dampen western enthusiasm for the Kyiv government, Reuters reports.
Reports of a fresh scandal in Ukraine, which has a long history of shaky governance, come as European countries bicker over giving Kyiv German-made Leopard 2 tanks – the workhorse of armies across Europe that Ukraine says it needs to break through Russian lines and recapture territory.
Germany’s approval for the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is of secondary importance as Poland could send those tanks as part of a coalition of countries even without its permission, the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said on Monday. “We will ask for such permission, but this is an issue of secondary importance. Even if we did not get this approval … we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine”, Morawiecki told reporters.
German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock’s comment on Sunday, that her country would not “stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, is causing some confusion in Berlin. It remains unclear whether her remarks are indicative of a shift in the government’s position. Baerbock did not repeat her comment when pressed on the matter on Monday morning. “It’s important that we as an international community do everything to defend Ukraine, so that Ukraine wins”, she told press at a meeting of the EU’s foreign affairs council in Brussels. “Because if it loses Ukraine will cease to exist”.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said during his visit to South Africa on Monday that Ukraine was rejecting peace talks and the longer this continued, the harder it would be to resolve the conflict. Lavrov met South Africa’s foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, in a trip some opposition parties and the small Ukrainian community in South Africa have condemned as insensitive. The South African military is set to host a joint military exercise with Russia and China on its east coast on 17-27 February.
18 people injured as a result of last weekend’s rocket attack on a high-rise building in Dnipro remain in hospital, including one child. Ukraine state broadcaster reports “There are no serious patients among these patients, all of them were transferred from intensive care units to general departments.”
Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, governor of Sumy in Ukraine’s north-east, has said that an apartment building and railway infrastructure has been hit by Russian fire in Vorozhba. There were no details of casualties.
The top Moscow-installed official in the Russian-occupied parts of the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine said late on Sunday that he had visited the town of Soledar, which Russia claimed to have captured earlier this month. Denis Pushilin published a short video on the Telegram messaging app that showed him driving and walking amid desolate areas and destroyed buildings. The Guardian was not able to independently verify when and where the video was taken. On 11 January, the private Russian military group Wagner said it had captured Soledar. Ukraine has never publicly said that the town was taken by Russian forces.
Russian state-owned news agency Tass is reporting that Russian forces claim to have destroyed a large Ukrainian ammunition depot in the Kherson region.
Russia has said it is downgrading diplomatic relations with the Nato member Estonia, accusing Tallinn of “total Russophobia”. The Russian foreign ministry said it had told the Estonian envoy he must leave next month, and both countries would be represented in each other’s capitals by an interim charge d’affaires instead of an ambassador.