As the war enters its 701st day, these are the main developments.
Here is the situation on Thursday, January 25, 2024.
- A Russian military transport plane carrying 74 people crashed in the Belgorod region of southern Russia not far from the Ukrainian border. Russia said there were 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war on board who were part of a planned prisoner swap, and accused Ukraine of shooting down the plane.
- Ukraine did not confirm it had shot down the plane, or that Ukrainian POWs were passengers. The Ukrainian military said it would continue to target military transport aircraft it believed were carrying missiles for Russia’s war on Ukraine, and air force commander Mykola Oleshchuk accused Russia of trying to discredit Ukraine over the aircraft crash. “Ukraine has the right to defend itself and destroy the means of the aggressors’ aerial attack,” he said.
- Ukraine’s military intelligence service said Kyiv had not been asked to ensure air space security on Wednesday around the Belgorod area as had been the case during previous prisoner-of-war swaps with Moscow. It said it had no reliable information on who was on board the crashed plane.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for full clarity on the circumstances of the crash and accused Moscow of “playing with the lives of Ukrainian prisoners of war”. The RBC Ukraine news outlet said he cancelled a planned regional trip as well as events linked to his birthday to deal with the crash.
- Two people were killed and eight injured in the town of Hirnyk, close to the front line in the east, after a Russian missile attack hit a residential area, Donetsk regional governor Vadym Filashkin said. Hirnyk lies to the northwest of Maryinka, a town still held by Ukraine but all but destroyed after many months of fighting with Russian forces.
- Regional governor Oleh Kiper said one person was injured in a Russian drone attack on Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa, that hit residential homes and started a fire.
- Avdiivka mayor Vitaliy Barabash said Russian forces entered the war-battered town for the first time but were pushed back. “Russian sabotage and reconnaissance groups entered the southern part of the city of Avdiivka, but they were dislodged,” Barabash told the AFP news agency but declined to say when the Russians entered the town or how long they were there. About 32,000 people lived in Avdiivka before Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Politics and diplomacy
- Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said he was worried that the war in Ukraine had been forgotten amid crises in other parts of the world. Speaking at the end of a week-long visit to Kyiv, Grandi told the Associated Press news agency that it was important to remind the international community that Ukrainians continued to live through a brutal war and that he was concerned humanitarian aid was being held up by political wrangling.
- Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico met Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in the western Ukrainian town of Uzhhorod where he reaffirmed support for Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union, but said policy differences remained on issues including NATO accession. Fico, elected after tapping into pro-Russian sentiments, said he did not believe there was a military solution to the war, and welcomed a peace plan proposed by Ukraine’s president, although he called it unrealistic.
- In the first of three required readings, Russia’s State Duma passed a bill to confiscate the property, money and valuables of anyone convicted of spreading criticism of the Russian army.
- A US Senate committee approved 20 to 1 in favour of the “Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity [REPO)] for Ukrainians Act”, which would help set the stage for the US to confiscate Russian assets and hand them over to Ukraine for post-war reconstruction. The bill has broad bipartisan support but needs to pass both houses of Congress before it can be signed by the president and become law. The EU, the US, Japan and Canada froze some $300bn of Russian central bank assets in 2022 when Russia launched its full-scale invasion nearly two years ago.
- Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska became the first women’s qualifier to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open in 45 years. After her latest victory, and wearing blue and yellow to match Ukraine’s flag, she said she was “proud” of those fighting for their country.
- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said European nations had to “do more” to provide the weapons for Ukraine to defend itself from Russia’s onslaught. “The contributions that European nations have earmarked for 2024 so far are not big enough,” Scholz told Die Zeit weekly in an interview.