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Ukraine updates: Russia intensifies front-line offensive

DW - South Africa logo DW - South Africa 2023/01/27
Russia is said to be escalating its offensive in the Donbas and further north © Provided by DW - South Africa Russia is said to be escalating its offensive in the Donbas and further north

Russian forces ratcheted up their attempts to break Ukraine's defenses on Friday, with an fighting escalating along the front line, Ukrainian officials said.

A day earlier, Russia launched a barrage of missile and drone attacks on Ukraine in an apparent response to Western pledges to supply tanks to Kyiv.

Officials reported heavy shelling in northern and eastern parts of the country, with some of the heaviest fighting since Russia launched its invasion in February last year.

"Fierce fighting continues along the front lines. Our defenders are firmly holding their positions and inflicting losses to the enemy," said Oleh Synehubov, governor of the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

Front lines have stayed largely unchanged in the past two months, although Russia has made small gains in the east while also seeking to hold a corridor of seized land in southern Ukraine.

Both sides are expected to launch spring offensives, though the United States has publicly urged Ukraine to wait until the latest weapons promised to it are in place. That process, including training, could take several months.

Russian forces have increased their efforts along the eastern front line, seeking to build on their recent capture of the town of Soledar to put pressure on the besieged city of Bakhmut.

Here are other updates on the war in Ukraine on Friday, January 27:

Germany says Russia twisting minister's comments

The German Foreign Ministry says Russia is seeking to twist the words of Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock over her commments about the war in Ukraine.

Calling for cohesion among Western allies at an event in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Baerbock commented in English that "we are fighting a war against Russia, and not against each other."

Moscow has seized on the words as evidence the West was waging a "premeditated war against Russia" and demanded an explanation from Baerbock.

In response to the uproar, a ministry spokesperson said Moscow was using the commments to its own ends.

"Russian propaganda continually takes statements, sentences, stances, positions of the government, our partners and uses them to serve their purposes," said the spokesperson.

The German government has also stressed that Germany is not a warring party in Ukraine.

"NATO and Germany are not a party to the war in Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine," said deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann in Berlin on Friday.

Poland to deliver 60 more tanks

Poland is to deliver an extra 60 tanks to Kyiv, in a move that was hailed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Warsaw would send 60 "modernized tanks" in addition to 14 Leopard 2 that it has also promised.

Morawiecki added that, since the start of the war, Poland had "sent 250 tanks... or even more than that" to Ukraine.

"Thank you... Poland for these important decisions to deliver to Ukraine 60 Polish tanks — 30 of which are the famous PT-91 Twardy, along with 14 Leopards," Zelensky tweeted.

The tanks already supplied by Poland are mainly T-72 Soviet models, of which the PT-91 is a modernized version.

Earlier this week, Germany and the US announced that they would be delivering heavy Abrams and Leopard combat tanks to Ukraine.

Belgium pledges cash and weapons

Belgium has announced a new package of military aid for Ukraine, pledging cash, missiles, machine guns, and armored vehicles.

Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder admitted that Belgium had no main battle tanks to match the offers of NATO allies like Britain, Germany, Poland, and the US. Belgium sold its tanks more than a decade ago.

Instead, Dedonder said the €93.8-million ($100-million) package would include anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank missiles, grenades, and other military equipment.

Separately, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced an additional €86 million in humanitarian and civil aid, along with 38,000 tons of diesel fuel.

More DW coverage on the war in Ukraine

Some Russian and Belarusian athletes may be a step closer to being allowed to return to international competition. An International Olympic Committee proposal has been sharply criticized by Ukraine and athletes' representatives.

Germany recently said it will supply 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Soon after that, videos surfaced online purporting to show the tanks already en route to the embattled country. DW checks the facts.

With Kyiv again hit by Russian air attacks, the city's mayor says Ukrainians are prepared to die for their freedom. He tells DW Russia is "unhappy" about Western tank deliveries because it is afraid of modern hardware.

A German citizen is suspected of passing intelligence to Russia. Concerns about Russian espionage in Europe have increased since the invasion of Ukraine.

Germany says Ukraine will receive promised Leopard 2 tanks by early April. Russia has meanwhile fired more missiles as it continues its invasion. This and more from Thursday's updates.

rc/ (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)

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