Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and commander of military forces Gen. Valerii Zalushnyi (File)
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1936 GMT:
A Ukrainian “military intelligence source” says Ukraine has struck another oil facility deep inside Russian territory.
The governor of Saint Petersburg reported a loud blast at an industrial site outside Russia’s second city. Local media said S-400 missiles systems fired at a drone that crashed on an oil storage facility in the Nevsky district.
“It was a GUR [military intelligence service] operation,” the Ukrainian source said, explaining that the target served “military purposes”.
Ukraine has stepped up strikes on Russian oil and gas facilities in recent months. Earlier in January, it hit four refineries within a week.
UPDATE 1922 GMT:
The European Union expects to reach 52% of its target of 1 million rounds of shells to Ukraine by March this year, according to the latest data from the European Commission.
The report came just after five European leaders warned of the consequences of failing to meet the goal (see 1841 GMT).
Speaking after an EU ministers’ meeting in Brussels, foreign policy head Josep Borrell said EU countries plan to train another 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers, on top of 40,000 already completing instruction.
UPDATE 1915 GMT:
The International Court of Justice has found that Russia had violated a UN anti-terrorism treaty by not investigating financial support for separatist groups in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
However, the ICJ did not order compensation as requested by Ukraine.
The court also declined to rule on Russian responsibility for the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew.
The ICJ did rule that Russia had violated the UN anti-discrimination treaty by failing to protect education in the Ukrainian language in occupied Crimea. It rejected other claims of discrimination against ethnic Tatars and Ukrainians after Moscow’s seizure of the peninsula.
UPDATE 1901 GMT:
The Russian Defense Ministry says that Russia and Ukraine have completed an exchange involving 195 prisoners of war on each side.
The Ministry said the UAE helped broker the deal.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said 207 Ukrainian POWs — 180 privates and sergeants and 27 officers — were freed. Almost half defended the port city of Mariupol against 12 weeks of Russian bombing, ground assaults, and siege in spring 2022.
In total, 3035 Ukrainians have been returned. And we will make every effort to return each and every one. We have not forgotten about anyone.
Zelenskiy posted video of the released POWs with a one-word caption:
— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) January 31, 2024
Moscow claims that 65 Ukrainian POWs were killed in the downing of a Russian Il-76 military transport plane over Russia’s Belgorod region last week.
Ukrainian officials say Russia has produced no evidence to back up the assertion and has refused to return the bodies of the alleged victims.
UPDATE 1841 GMT:
Five European leaders have warned that the European Union has “fallen short” of its goal in the supply of Ukraine with artillery ammunition.
The quintet — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz; Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte; Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas; Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala; and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, the prime minister of Denmark — wrote in the Financial Times on the eve of an emergency summit of EU leaders, seeking to overcome the veto by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of £50 billion in aid to Ukraine through 2027.
At the beginning of last year, the EU committed itself to an ambitious goal of supplying Ukraine with 1m artillery rounds before the end of March 2024. The hard truth: we have fallen short of this goal.
Russia doesn’t wait for anybody and we need to act now. If Ukraine loses, the long-term consequences and costs will be much higher for all of us. We Europeans have a special responsibility. Therefore, we must act. Europe’s future depends on it.
They said EU support to Ukraine has had “tangible success”, preventing Russia from achieving its initial aim of capturing Kyiv within weeks.
But our efforts must not wither.
We must renew our resolve and redouble our efforts in order to ensure that we sustain our support for as long as it takes. What is urgent today is to provide the ammunition and weapon systems, including howitzers, tanks, UAVs and air defense, that Ukraine so urgently needs on the ground. Now. Because new orders we place today will only reach the battlefield by next year.
I am grateful to the leaders of Czechia @P_Fiala, Denmark @Statsmin, Estonia @KajaKallas, Germany @Bundeskanzler, and the Netherlands @MinPres for their unwavering support for Ukraine and timely call in @FT for collective efforts to arm Ukraine for the sake of Europe as a whole.…
— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) January 31, 2024
UPDATE 0657 GMT:
Ukraine’s Air Force says it downed 14 of 20 Iran-made attack drones launched by Russia overnight from Russian territory and from Russian-occupied Crimea.
In Kharkiv city in northeast Ukraine, three people were injured and civilian infrastructure damaged.
The Russians also fired three Iskander ballistic missiles.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: An opposition MP has claimed that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked the commander of armed forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, to step down on Monday, but that the general refused.
Oleksii Goncharenko, an ally of the commander, said he understood that “yesterday the President asked Zaluzhnyi to resign, but he declined to do so”.
Personally I think this is a a bad idea. There are not fundamental issues between them, but Zelenskiy’s office has been concerned that Zaluzhnyi has been making political not military statements.
Rumors have circulated for months of differences between the two men, sparked by Zalushnyi’s assessment last autumn of the limited gains of a Ukraine counter-offensive and of a “static and attritional stalemate” over Russia’s invasion.
On Monday evening, claims circulated on social media — initially from anonymous Telegram channels associated with Zelenskiy’s office — that Zaluzhnyi could be forced out. Politicians and journalists from pro- and anti-Zelenskiy camps supported the rumors.
Various outlets have reported that Zelenskiy offered to make Zaluzhnyi a defense advisor, Secretary of the National Security Council, or an ambassador to a European country. Zalushnyi said no and refused to write a resignation letter.
After 90 minutes, the Defense Ministry responded, “Dear journalists, we immediately answer everyone: No, this is not true.” Zelenskiy spokesperson Serhiy Nykyforov added, “The President definitely did not fire the commander-in-chief.”
Goncharenko said Zelenskiy could dismiss Zaluzhnyi and replace him, a process that requires the support of Defense Minister Rustem Umerov.
“Four people familiar with the discussions” said that while the decision had been made by Zelenskiy’s office to dismiss Zaluzhny, he may not be ousted for some time after the revelations on social media.
An eventual dismissal would be politically risky: in a December survey by the Kyiv International Institute for Sociology, 88% of Ukrainians said they trusted Zaluzhnyi, compared with 62% for Zelenskiy.
Zaluzhny, 50, was appointed by Zelenskyy to the post of commander-in-chief in July 2021. He has overseen Ukraine’s military operations throughout the 23-month Russian invasion.
At a press briefing on Tuesday, Zelenskiy’s Chief of Staff, Andriy Yermak, flatly repeated the denials of any showdown: “I think that all the comments on yesterday’s situation were given by the Minister of Defence and all those involved.”