Ukraine war - latest: Russia hints it will do something to 'gain world's attention' on 24 February (2023)

Key points
  • Kremlin hints it will do something to 'gain world's attention' on 24 February
  • Ukrainian defence minister predicts when Russian push could begin
  • Russia's arms suppliers to 'significantly' increase deliveries this year
  • Crimea can't be regained, says Pentagon
  • Dominic Waghorn: The race is on to arm Ukraine before a spring offensive
  • Live reporting by Emily Mee.Updates also from Deborah Haynesin Ukraine and Diana Magnay in Moscow


Aerial photos show apartment building hit by missile strike

These latest photos reveal the extent of damage to an apartment building that was hit by a Russian missile in Kramatorsk yesterday.

At least three people were killed and 18 others injured in the attack.

Those first at the scene described people screaming under the rubble.


Guerrilla group 'may have carried out bomb attack in Crimea'

Two Russian officers have been killed in an IED attack allegedly carried out by a Crimean partisan group.

The officers were driving from Sevastopol to Simferopol in Crimea when the attack happened, according to the Ukrainian Resistance Center.

It said the attack had been carried out by members of the Atesh Ukrainian-Tatar resistance movement, a guerilla group operating in Crimea.

The territory of Crimea has been occupied by Russia since 2014.


Russian oligarch may have $5.4m confiscated

Sanctioned Russian businessman Konstantin Malofeyev could have $5.4m (£4.4m) confiscated by a US court, a judge has ruled.

US authorities have accused him of financing separatists in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

It is part of a crackdown by the US Department of Justice aimed at squeezing the finances of Russian President Vladimir Putin's allies.

The funds from Mr Malofeyev, the owner of Christian Orthodox television channel Tsargrad TV, could be used to finance the repair of Ukraine.

The oligarch has denied financing separatists.

He was sanctioned by the US in 2014 and charged with sanctions violations last year.


Explosions reported around occupied Mariupol and Melitopol

Ukrainian officials have reported explosions at Russian military sites around the occupied cities of Mariupol and Melitopol.

The city council said one blast was seen at a Russian temporary military base within the city.

Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov also reported explosions at a Russian base near the city, as well as at an oil depot in the village of Novobohdanivka.

Both Mariupol and Melitopol, in the south of Ukraine, are under the control of Russian forces.


'We are not sending our tanks to their borders, but we have something to answer with' - Putin

Russian Vladimir Putin has once again responded angrily to the decision by Western leaders to send tanks to Ukraine.

"Those who are dragging European countries, including Germany, into a new war with Russia, especially by irresponsibly declaring this as a fait accompli, those who expect to defeat Russia on the battlefield, apparently do not understand that a modern war with Russia will be completely different for them," he said at an event marking the anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad.

"We are not sending our tanks to their borders, but we have something to answer with. And it will not end with the use of armoured vehicles."

Russia has made repeated ominous comments since countries including the US, UK, Germany and Poland agreed to send Western tanks to Ukraine.

Earlier today, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia would "make greater use of its potential" to respond to Western arms supplies.


Army dog 'returned to Ukrainian trenches on three legs'

A former Ukrainian official has told the incredible story of an army dog named Vas'ka.

According to Sergiy Koshman, the animal became entangled in a wire near Russian positions - and ended up biting off his paw to escape.

Mr Koshman said the dog "returned to Ukrainian trenches on three legs" and is now being treated in Poland.


Former Ukrainian defence official to be detained on suspicion of corruption

A former deputy defence minister is suspected of involvement in ministry purchases of food at inflated prices and low-quality equipment for the military.

A Ukrainian court has ordered their detention, according to the State Bureau of Investigation.

The SBI did not name the former official.

It follows the resignation of deputy defence minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov last month after a media report alleged the defence ministry had bought food at inflated prices.

At the time, Mr Shapovalov denied any wrongdoing but said he would resign to help maintain public trust in the ministry.

The person detained will be held for two months unless they post bail of around £9m.

"The official not only knew about the supply of low-qualityproducts but also exerted pressure on subordinates to acceptlow-quality products at military warehouses," the SBI said.

Ukraine has been cracking down on corruption in recent days.

The EU previously said that this would be a requirement for Ukraine entering the bloc.


Wagner Group appears to be slowing prison recruitment - and could be 'sidelined' by Russia

Prominent mercenary group Wagner has been infamous for recruiting convicts from Russian prisons, offering them freedom if they complete a contract fighting in Ukraine.

According to the latest assessment from the Institute for the Study of War, the group may have slowed down its prison recruitment efforts in recent months.

Statistics show the number of Russian prisoners decreased by 6,000 between November 2022 and January 2023.

But between September and October last year, the number of prisoners had decreased by 23,000.

The ISW, a US-based thinktank, said the decline may partly be due to the Wagner Group's reputation for seeing a high number of casualties.

The fighters have been known to take part in "human wave" attacks, attempting to push through Ukrainian territory through sheer numbers.

"The likely substandard physical condition of the majority of Russia’s prison population for military service is likely also constraining the Wagner Group's prison recruitment effort," the ISW said.

It added there could also be efforts by the Russian defence ministry to "sideline" the group in future attacks - meaning it needs fewer recruits.


'No magic wand' that can help Ukraine, says British defence secretary

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has insisted that fighter jets are not what Ukraine needs right now.

He's been facing questions on the matter after former prime minister Boris Johnson called for the UK to send modern jets to Ukraine - something that the British government has been pushing back on.

Speaking at a news conference in Portsmouth, Mr Wallace said: "There is no magic wand in this horrendous conflict."

He continued: "What the Ukrainians need is the ability to form military formations on the ground in order to use combined arms manoeuvre to push back Russian forces.

"Because that is how you defeat the human wave attacks that the Russians are currently having to resort to... they're resorting to First World War-level type of attacks, with subsequent casualties to match."

He also repeated comments from Downing Street that it would take months to train Ukrainian soldiers on British jets.


Would a 'Big Bang' of Western support help Ukraine to win the war?

Positive signs are emerging that the West is willing to provide more, and better, weapons to Ukraine. But with the first anniversary of the conflict fast approaching, there are fears that Ukraine and Russia could remain locked in stalemate over the next year.

Professor Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, has warned in an essay for Foreign Politics that "incrementally expanding military and economic assistance" - as the West is doing currently - "is likely to only prolong the war indefinitely".

He wrote that Ukraine's allies should start rapidly expanding their weapons deliveries and sanctions on Russia to support a "breakthrough" in the conflict.

"Even though Putin must understand by now that Ukrainians are willing to fight for as long as it takes to liberate their country, he still believes that time is on his side. That is because Putin expectsWestern governments and societies to lose their will and interest to keep helping Ukraine," he said.

Professor McFaul said the support should be provided "swiftly" - and could even be part of a "Big Bang" to mark the anniversary.

"Rather than providing ATACMs in March, Reapers in June, and jets in September, NATO should go for a Big Bang," he said.

"Plans to provide all these systems should be announced on February 24, 2023, the first anniversary of Putin's invasion.

"An announcement of this size will produce an important psychological effect inside the Kremlin and Russian society, signaling that the West is committed to Ukraine's ambition to liberate all occupied territories."

He acknowledged there were risks to providing more support, but said there were also risks to taking no action.

For example, he said fears that Vladimir Putin could escalate the war have so far not come to fruition.

"The reason is simple: Putin has no good way of doing so," Mr McFaul said.

"He is already using very expensive cruise missiles to attack apartment buildings. He cannot attack NATO, lest he risk a broader war that Russia would lose quickly. That leaves him with only the nuclear option, but even that would not serve him well."

He added that if the war drags on for years, many more people will die - and this would be "the cost of incrementalism".

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