President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian forces were withstanding "new and even tougher assau" />

Live: Zelensky hails ‘resilience’ of troops facing fierce assault in east Ukraine

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President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian forces were withstanding “new and even tougher assaults” on Soledar on Monday, near the eastern city of Bakhmut that Moscow has been trying to capture for months. Read FRANCE 24’s live blog for the latest developments. All times are Paris time [GMT + 1].

Smoke rises after shelling in Ukraine's Soledar, the site of heavy battles with Russian forces in the Donetsk region, on January 8, 2023. Smoke rises after shelling in Ukraine’s Soledar, the site of heavy battles with Russian forces in the Donetsk region,
on January 8, 2023. 
© Roman Chop, AP

10:30pm: Zelensky says defence of Donbas town has helped Ukraine win time

President Volodymyr Zelensky has praised the resilience of Ukrainian forces fighting off waves of attacks in the eastern region of Donbas, saying they helped the country win time and gain strength.

“Thanks to the resilience of our soldiers in Soledar, we have won for Ukraine additional time and additional strength for Ukraine,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address, referring to a mining town in the eastern Donbas.

Ukrainian military reports say the country’s troops are withstanding heavy attacks by Russian forces redeployed in Soledar, near the city of Bakhmut, which Moscow has been trying to capture for months.

Zelensky did not spell out what he meant by gaining time and strength, but Ukrainian officials and senior officers have warned that Russia is planning a new major offensive in the coming months.

9:45pm: Russia intensifies assaults along eastern front

Under pressure to deliver battlefield successes, Russia has stepped up its attacks on Ukrainian lines in the Donbas region, targeting the salt mining town of Soledar and nearby fronts with successive waves of attacks.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities have reported multiple Russian strikes across the country, including on Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, and infrastructure in the regions of Donetsk, Kherson and Mykolaiv – where the regional governor said 15 people were injured in the shelling of a coastal town.

FRANCE 24’s Luke Shrago brings us the latest from war-torn Kharkiv.

8:25pm: Russia probes target prominent Kremlin critics

Russian authorities have announced parallel criminal probes against a famous actor critical of the war in Ukraine and a philanthropist who supports the Russian opposition, the latest in a months-long, sweeping crackdown on dissent.

Russia’s Investigative Committee ordered the launch of a criminal case against Artur Smolyaninov, a prominent film and theater actor who left the country after Moscow’s forces invaded Ukraine and repeatedly spoke out against the war. It accused Smolyaninov of making “a series of statements directed against Russia in an interview to a Western media outlet”.

Smolyaninov’s most recent interview last week sparked outrage among Kremlin supporters. The actor told the Novaya Gazeta Europe that if he had to fight in the war, it would be on Ukraine’s side. “For me, it is on the side of my brothers who were attacked by my other brothers,” Smolyaninov said.

Separately, Russia’s interior ministry placed prominent philanthropist Boris Zimin on an international most wanted list on fraud charges. Zimin has funded several Russian independent media outlets as well as projects of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny. He was reported to have left Russia in 2015.

6:15pm: Two killed in Russian strike on east Ukraine market

A Russian strike on a village market in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine killed at least two people and injured six more, the regional governor has said.

“Six people were injured as a result of a rocket strike on Shevchenkoe. Two others died,” governor Oleg Synegubov said on social media. The victims were two women, a 50-year-old and a 60-year-old, he added.

The Kharkiv region, which borders Russia, has been targeted nearly daily by Russian artillery since February when Moscow’s troops invaded.

4:30pm: Ukraine school spurns Russian claim of troops killed there

Officials at a vocational school in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kramatorsk have dismissed claims by Russia that hundreds of Ukrainian troops were killed in a missile strike there, saying that a rocket merely blew out windows and damaged classrooms.

Russia specifically named the vocational school in Kramatorsk as the target of the attack on Saturday, claiming its missiles hit two temporary bases housing 1,300 Ukrainian troops in the city, killing 600 of them.

AP reporters visiting the scene on Monday saw a four-story concrete building with most of its windows blown out. Inside, locals were cleaning up debris, sweeping up broken glass and hurling broken furniture out into a missile crater below.

A separate, six-story school building was largely undamaged. There were neither signs of a Ukrainian military presence nor any casualties.

3:55pm: Chechen War veteran joins Bakhmut fight on Ukraine’s side

Abdul Hakim al-Shishani, a notorious Chechen commander who fought in Syria’s civil war and was a veteran of the Chechen-Russian war of the 1990s, has joined the fight in Ukraine along with a group of Chechen fighters battling Russian forces.

FRANCE 24’s expert in jihadist networks Wassim Nasr tells us more.

1:27pm: Moscow-backed separatist forces say they have captured village near Bakhmut

Russian-backed separatist forces in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine said Monday they had seized a village near the key city of Bakhmut that Moscow has been trying to capture for months.

The village of Bakhmutske in “the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic was liberated by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”, on Monday, read a statement from separatist authorities on Telegram.

AFP could not independently verify the claim.

The village lies northeast of Bakhmut, a wine-making and salt-mining city that used to have a population of 70,000 people and is now an epicentre of fighting.

1:03pm: Germany says it has no current plans to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine

Germany has no current plans to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, a government spokesperson told a regular briefing on Monday.

Germany last week announced it was sending Marder fighting vehicles to Kyiv, answering calls for more heavy weapons to repel Russian forces. Germany’s economy minister also said Berlin cannot rule out the delivery of the Leopard tanks, which are heavier fighting vehicles than the Marders.

11:43am: Western arms ‘prolong suffering’ of Ukrainians, says Kremlin

The Kremlin on Monday said moves by France and other Western countries to supply Ukraine with weapons – including light tanks – would only make life more difficult for Ukrainians.

“Fundamentally, these deliveries cannot and will not change anything … (they) can only prolong the suffering of the Ukrainian people,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in response to a question on France’s decision last week to send armoured vehicles to Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron last week pledged to send light tanks to Kyiv.

The move to supply the French-made AMX-10 RC to Ukraine – a light model in service since the 1980s – would make France the first Western country to send tanks to Ukraine.

11:13am: Kremlin rejects claim that Russia is pushing a potential peace deal in Europe

The Kremlin on Monday rejected a Ukrainian assertion that a senior Russian official has been floating the idea of a potential peace deal over Ukraine with European officials.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine‘s National Security and Defence Council, told the country’s public broadcaster on Thursday that Dmitry Kozak, deputy head of Russia’s presidential administration, had been holding meetings with European officials in an attempt to force Kyiv to sign what he characterised as an unfavourable peace deal.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, when asked about Danilov’s assertion, said it was “another fake”.

11:08am: Ukraine says its forces repelling constant Russian attacks in east

President Volodymyr Zelensky said in nightly video remarks on Sunday that the towns of Bakhmut and Soledar were holding on despite widespread destruction after months of attacks.

“Our soldiers are repelling constant Russian attempts to advance,” he said. In Soledar, “things are very difficult”.

Further north in the Kharkiv region, a Russian missile strike on a marketplace in the village of Shevchenkove killed a 60-year-old woman and wounded several other people, regional Governor Oleh Synehubov said.

11:06am: Kremlin ‘confident’ about defence ministry claim about Kramatorsk strike

The Kremlin said on Monday that it was confident its defence ministry was correct when it said that 600 Ukrainian servicemen had been “destroyed” in an attack on the city of Kramatorsk, despite reporting which showed the attack missed its target.

“The Kremlin has absolute confidence, I would like to remind you of the president’s words that the main source of information is the ministry of defence”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a daily briefing.

A Russian missile attack on the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk missed its targets and there were no obvious signs of casualties, a Reuters reporter said on Sunday, after Moscow claimed the strike had killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers.

Source:(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)