Day 341 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Putin Threatened Boris Johnson with a Missile (UPDATED)
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
British intelligence: A new wave of mobilization in Russia is not excluded
Russian authorities do not rule out the possibility of a new round of "partial mobilization" calls for a future large-scale offensive in Ukraine, the British Ministry of Defense reported on Twitter, citing intelligence.
The briefing notes that Russian border guards are preventing Kyrgyz labor migrants with two passports from leaving Russia, telling the men among them that their names are on mobilization lists.
Also, on January 23, Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for the Russian president, said that the "partial mobilization" decree was still in effect.
"It is very likely that the Russian leadership will continue to seek ways to meet the need for large numbers of personnel needed to support a major offensive in Ukraine in the future, while minimizing internal discontent," wrote the British Ministry of Defense.
Kremlin: Further supplies of Western weapons to Ukraine lead to a new escalation of the conflict
The Kremlin said further supplies of Western arms to Ukraine would only lead to a further escalation of the conflict there, Reuters reported.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said that NATO member states are becoming more involved in the conflict, but providing arms to Ukraine will not change its course.
"Ukraine is asking for more and more new weapons. The West is encouraging these requests and has declared its readiness to provide these weapons. The situation is at an impasse," Peskov said, but added that the Russian military operation "will continue."
Last week, the United States and Germany announced they would supply tanks to Ukraine to help it resist Russian forces. And over the weekend, Ukrainian tank crews arrived in the UK for training on how to operate Britain's Challenger 2 tanks.
Sergei Ryabkov: US decision to supply tanks to Ukraine makes peace talks pointless
The United States' decision to supply tanks to Ukraine renders peace talks meaningless. This was stated by Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Ryabkov in an interview with RIA Novosti.
According to Sergei Ryabkov, under the current conditions, it is pointless to talk not only with the Kyiv authorities, whom he called "Ukranazis", but also with their "puppet masters". According to him, the United States is "the main conductor of the Ukrainian crisis" and has the greatest benefit from it.
Ryabkov expressed his belief that Washington is forcing its allies to send their old military equipment to Ukraine in order to force multibillion-dollar contracts on them to buy new American weapons. He pointed out that Russia is ready to consider any serious initiative for the regulation of the Ukrainian crisis, but at the same time added that these are not clearly formulated.
Ryabkov also said he would meet personally with the new US ambassador to Moscow, Lynne Tracy, this week to receive her credentials. He assured that Russia continues to implement the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty and blamed the United States for the suspension of bilateral consultations under the agreement.
Zelensky: Ukraine is facing a "very difficult" situation in the Donetsk region, we need fast arms deliveries
Ukraine is facing a "very difficult" situation in the eastern Donetsk region and needs faster arms deliveries and new types of weaponry to resist Russian attacks, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. One person was killed and three others were injured when a rocket struck a residential building in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, last night. This was announced by the mayor of the city, Igor Terekhov.
During the attack in Kharkiv, the building was partially destroyed, and the residents were evacuated. The Russians are believed to have attacked the city with S-300 missile, Ukrainian media reported, citing the military in the region.
In his late video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the situation on the front remains very difficult.
"The situation in Bakhmut and Vuhledar and other parts of Donetsk region is very difficult. Russian attacks are constant. Russia wants the war to drag on and exhaust our forces. We must turn time into our weapon. We must speed up events and supplies and provide new weapons and opportunities for Ukraine," said the Ukrainian president.
Meanwhile, the head of the Munich Security Conference, Christoph Heusgen, said he supports the delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine for defense against Russia. Heusgen explained to Air TV that from the point of view of international law, the delivery of combat aircraft to Kyiv does not make the West a participant in the hostilities. According to him, it will be questioned whether to supply American F-16 fighters or Soviet-designed fighters from the GDR's old stocks. Earlier, Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated that Germany would not send fighter jets to Ukraine, amid increasing calls from Kyiv for more advanced weapons from the West to help repel a Russian invasion.
At the same time, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is visiting Seoul, called on South Korea to increase its military aid to Ukraine, citing other countries that have changed their policy not to provide weapons to countries in conflict.
A rocket hit a residential building in Kharkiv, one person was killed, there are injured
One person was killed when a rocket struck a residential building in Kharkiv. Three injured were also reported. The mayor of the city said that the impact destroyed the fourth floor of one of the entrances to the building.
Zaporizhzhia remained another hot spot of the war. Russian attacks there have intensified in recent days. The International Atomic Energy Agency expressed concern that the new strikes could affect Europe's largest nuclear power plant.
Nuclear experts have again called for a safety zone around the plant.
The organization's director general said he would visit Moscow in the coming days to discuss nuclear safety with Russian authorities.
Scholz: Germany will not send fighter jets to Ukraine
Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated that Germany would not send fighter jets to Ukraine, as Kyiv stepped up its calls for more advanced weapons from the West to help repel a Russian invasion.
Scholz only agreed on Wednesday to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allow other European countries to send theirs, after weeks of intense debate and mounting pressure from allies.
"I can only advise against entering into a permanent bidding war when it comes to weapon systems," Scholz said in an interview with the Tagesspiegel newspaper.
"If as soon as a decision (on the tanks) is made, the next debate starts in Germany, it does not look serious and undermines the confidence of citizens in government decisions."
Scholz's decision to give the green light for the tanks was accompanied by the US announcement that it would send 31 of its Abrams tanks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Berlin and Washington for the step, seen as a breakthrough in efforts to support the war-torn country.
But Zelensky immediately stressed that Ukraine needed more heavy weapons from NATO allies to repel Russian troops - including fighter jets and long-range missiles.
In his interview, Scholz warned against raising the "risk of escalation", while Moscow has already strongly condemned promises to supply tanks.
"There is no war between NATO and Russia. We will not allow such an escalation," Scholz said.
The chancellor added that it was "necessary" to continue talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The last phone conversation between the leaders was in early December.
"I will talk to Putin again on the phone," Scholz said.
"But, of course, it is also clear that as long as Russia continues to wage war with unrelenting aggression, the current situation will not change."
Stoltenberg calls on South Korea to provide additional military support to Ukraine
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on South Korea to send additional military support to Ukraine. Stoltenberg is in Seoul, the first stop on a trip that will include Japan and is aimed at strengthening ties with US allies in the face of the war in Ukraine and growing competition with China, Reuters reported.
"Ultimately you have to make a decision, but I will note that several NATO allies who had a policy of never exporting arms to countries in conflict have now changed that policy," he told the Institute for Advanced Studies "KIAS" in Seoul.
Stoltenberg also stressed the importance of "extended deterrence" provided by nuclear powers such as the United States in relation to South Korea. "As we see the authoritarian powers in Russia have nuclear weapons and invest heavily in mobilizing them, as we see what China is doing and also what North Korea is doing, then nuclear deterrence still has an extremely important job to do," he said.
Meanwhile, North Korea warned that Stoltenberg's words could bring the region closer to conflict.
According to North Korean state media, NATO's relationship with South Korea and Japan could provoke a confrontation in the region.
"The NATO Secretary General's trip to South Korea and Japan is a prelude to confrontation and war as it brings the dark clouds of a 'new Cold War' to the Asia-Pacific region," said an article published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
According to South Korea's Yonhap news agency, this information in KCNA was written by Kim Tong-myong, a member of the North Korean Organization for International Policy Studies. Kim Tong-myung also accused Stoltenberg of turning Ukraine into a "theater of proxy war".
Boris Johnson: Putin threatened to hit me with a missile
Russian President Vladimir Putin personally threatened Boris Johnson with a missile attack just before he ordered Russian forces into Ukraine, the former UK prime minister has claimed.
The apparent threat was made in a telephone conversation shortly before the February 24 invasion, according to a new BBC documentary to be broadcast today.
Johnson and other Western leaders had rushed to Kyiv to show their support for Ukraine and try to deter the Russian attack.
"At one point he seemed to threaten me and said, 'Boris, I don't want to hurt you, but with a missile it will only take a minute' or something like that," Johnson quoted Putin as saying.
Johnson has become one of the fiercest Western supporters of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
But before the invasion, he says he went out of his way to tell Putin there was no imminent prospect of Ukraine joining NATO, while warning him that any invasion would mean "more NATO, not less NATO" on the borders of Russia.
"He said, 'Boris, you are saying that Ukraine is not going to join NATO anytime soon. What's soon?‘ And I replied, ‘Well, they’re not joining NATO in the foreseeable future. You know that very well.’"
The BBC documentary depicts the growing divide between the Russian leader and the West in the run-up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
In it, Zelensky also talks about his thwarted ambitions for his country to join NATO before the Russian attack.
The Ukrainian Prime Minister wants his country to become a member of the EU in two years
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has a two-year timetable for securing his country's EU membership, which is sure to dominate discussions at this week's historic EU-Ukraine summit - the first to be held on Ukrainian soil, Politico reported. According to the publication, no one in the EU thinks this is realistic.
EU commissioners will travel to Kyiv later this week ahead of a summit on Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the heads of the European Commission and Council.
Shmyhal himself sets a difficult deadline. "We have a very ambitious plan to join the European Union within the next two years," he told Politico. "So we expect that this year, in 2023, we will already be able to hold this preliminary stage of the accession negotiations," he said.
Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron said it could be "decades" before Ukraine joins the EU, Politico recalls. Even EU leaders, who backed Ukraine's candidate status at their summit in June last year, admit in private conversations that the prospect of the country actually joining is years away. After all, candidate countries such as Serbia, Turkey and Montenegro have been waiting for many years - since 1999 in the case of Ankara, the publication recalls.
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