Jan 31 (Reuters) – Russia claimed to have captured a village just to the north of Bakhmut, a city it is trying to surround in a major push for what would be its biggest battlefield prize in Ukraine since last summer.
* There was no immediate response from Kyiv to Moscow’s assertion about the village of Blahodatne in Ukraine’s east and Reuters was not immediately able to verify the situation there. Three days before, the head of Russia’s Wagner Group said the mercenary force had seized Blahodatne in an attack Kyiv said it had repelled.
* A Belarusian volunteer fighting for Ukraine told Reuters from inside Bakhmut that Russia was shelling the city constantly and its troops were trying to encircle it. Fighting was under way building by building, the volunteer said.
* Ukraine’s military said its forces had repulsed Russian attacks on a road near Bakhmut, preventing Moscow gaining control of an important Ukrainian supply line.
* Separately, a large Russian force launched an assault on the Ukrainian-held bastion of Vuhledar this week, further south along the same eastern front. Russia claims to have gained a foothold there, while Kyiv says it has largely repelled that attack so far.
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* In an unusually detailed intelligence update, the British defence ministry said Russian forces had advanced hundreds of metres across a river toward Vuhledar and could make more localised gains there. It said the assault was unlikely to lead to a significant breakthrough, but could be intended to draw Ukrainian efforts away from defending Bakhmut.
* Ukraine’s general staff said Russia had carried out air strikes and three missile strikes in the past 24 hours, one of them on Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine. It is also continuing offensive operations in the areas of Bakhmut, Avdiivka and elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, it said.
* Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
* Human Rights Watch called on Ukraine to investigate accusations it used thousands of rocket-fired antipersonnel landmines in and around the eastern city of Izium when Russian forces occupied the area. Human Rights Watch said using such mines violates international humanitarian law as the devices cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants.
* Ukraine protested to Hungary’s ambassador over “disparaging” comments made by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and urged Budapest to stop what it called anti-Ukrainian rhetoric.
* The United States put new trade restrictions on seven Iranian entities for producing drones that Russia has used to attack Ukraine, the U.S. Department of Commerce said.
* German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s bid to rally support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion during his first South American tour fell flat, with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reiterating his view both parties shared blame.
* Ukraine’s defence minister is expected in Paris to meet Macron amid a debate among Kyiv’s allies over whether to provide fighter jets for its war against Russia, after Biden ruled out giving F-16s.
* Biden said he would visit Poland but did not know when after reports suggested he was mulling a trip to Europe to coincide with the Feb. 24 anniversary of Russia invading Ukraine.
* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in the southern city of Mykolaiv during a rare visit by a foreign leader to a region close to the war front.
* Ukraine hopes to secure widespread international support for banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paris Olympics due to Moscow’s invasion, its sports minister said.
* France said on Tuesday it will send 12 additional Caesar howitzers to Ukraine and has discussed training Ukrainian pilots to fly French fighter jets as part of military assistance to Kyiv in the war with Russsia.
* Poland aims to get training time on Leopard 2 battle tanks down to five weeks at a centre where Ukrainian soldiers are likely to be taught how to operate the Western battlefield workhorse against Russia’s invasion.
* Ukraine will receive 120 to 140 modern Western battle tanks in a “first wave” of deliveries from a coalition of 12 countries, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
* France and Australia on Monday unveiled plans to jointly manufacture ammunition for Ukraine as the two countries seek to shore up defence cooperation and move past a row over Canberra’s decision to ditch plans to buy French submarines two years ago.
* Ukraine’s military will spend nearly $550 million on drones in 2023, and 16 supply deals have already been signed with Ukrainian manufacturers, its defence minister said.
* Tanks donated by Britain to Ukraine will be on the front line before summer, Defence Minister Ben Wallace said, without giving an exact timetable.
* Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said further supplies of Western weaponry to Ukraine would lead to more escalation of the conflict there and draw NATO members more deeply into it.
Compiled by Simon Cameron-Moore, Mark Heinrich, William Maclean
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