Russia-Ukraine war live: Ukraine says it has shot down Russian spy plane; UK to send 20,000 troops to Nato military exercise | Ukraine

Ukraine says it has shot down a Russian spy plane and command aircraft

Ukraine has said it shot down a Russian A-50 spy plane and Il-22 command aircraft in the area of the Sea of Azov.

Army chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said on the Telegram messaging app:

Ukraine’s Air Force destroyed an enemy A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft and an enemy IL-22 air control centre. I am grateful to the Air Force for the perfectly planned and executed operation in the Azov Sea region!

Key events

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has held a phone call with Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, in which they discussed Ukraine, Russian state media reports.

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Reuters has the full writeup from the speech made earlier by the UK defence secretary, Grant Shapps:

This year must mark an “inflection point” to decide the future of British defence, Shapps said as he set out steps to better protect the UK against threats posed by a number of conflicts that are “likely to grow”.

In a speech setting out his view that 2024 will see the world become more dangerous and require Britain and its allies to deal with “irrational” powers, Shapps said the government was striving to increase defence spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product – something he urged other democratic nations to follow.

In five years’ time, we could be looking at multiple theatres including Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Ask yourself … is it more likely that that number grows or reduces? I suspect we all know the answer. It’s likely to grow.

So 2024 must mark an inflection point.

He said Britain was spending more money in cash terms on defence than it ever had, adding that the government was increasing funds for modernising its nuclear deterrent and replenishing stocks and should continue to do so, while studiously refusing to call directly for additional funds.

He said:

We’ve made the critical decision to set out our aspiration to reach 2.5% of GDP on defence, and as we stabilise and grow this economy, we’ll continue to strive to reach that as soon as possible.

In reference to Nato members who were not reaching the goal of spending 2% of GDP, Shapps added: “But now is the time for all allied and democratic nations across the world to do the same thing and ensure their defence spending is growing too.”

Asked whether the government would go beyond current spending, a spokesperson for the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said it was a matter for the finance minister, though the government was expanding defence spending.

Keen to underline Britain’s engagement in the world, Shapps said Britain was committing 20,000 military personnel to serve across Europe in a Nato exercise in the first half of this year, as well as warships and fighter jets.

He also said Britain had shown it would “step up to the plate when it is needed” through its strikes, coordinated with the US, against the Houthis in Yemen to protect international shipping.

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The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has arrived in Switzerland to participate in the World Economic Forum in Davos and meet Swiss officials.

He wrote on the Telegram app:

In Bern, I will hold talks with the heads of both chambers of the parliament, heads of the parties and factions, and President Viola Amherd.

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The United Nations has appealed for $4.2bn (£3.3bn) from donors to support Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees in 2024.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths urged diplomats in Geneva:

Please do not forget Ukraine while there are many other places in the world that grab our attention.

We are deliberately reducing the amount of money we are asking for – not because we think the needs are diminishing or the war is getting any better for the people of Ukraine – but because we need to prioritise.

We understand well that we are up in a severe competition with other parts of the world, the brutal truth of the competition of aid programmes with each other.

We continue to remain in negotiation with the Russian government about how to get access to those people who are perhaps in the most urgent of need, since it has now been two years since any real, effective, regular, reliable humanitarian aid has reached them.

As part of the appeal for funding, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is asking for $3.1bn to help 8.5 million people in dire need of humanitarian aid in 2024. The UN refugee agency is seeking $1.1bn to support 2.3 million Ukrainian refugees and their host communities.

OCHA received 67% of the $3.9bn it appealed for last year. It has reduced its appeal for 2024 to prioritise the people most in need as other humanitarian crises around the globe, including in Gaza and Sudan, require urgent funding.

OCHA said more than 14.6 million people, or 40% of Ukraine’s population, will need humanitarian assistance this year due to Russia’s invasion and attacks.

Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said:

Let us not forget. I’m very worried that two years into this crisis, we already have to say this.

We had to say, until recently, ‘don’t forget other crises’ because everybody was focusing on this one. This volatility is a killer, literally.

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Russia’s foreign and defence ministers Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu have held telephone calls with their Iranian counterparts today, Russian state news agency RIA reports.

Russia and Iran have drawn close in recent months, and Iran has provided Russia with weaponry to be used in Ukraine. The two sides have also criticised Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip.

Noting that the support package announced on Friday is bigger than the two previous packages, Shapps emphasised the significance of sustaining help:

There is such obvious read across from what happens in Ukraine.

The west just gets bored if you leave them long enough. It becomes an open season.

We are constantly working together to get Ukraine what it needs.

We have worked very closely on helping the Ukrainians to open up the Black Sea.

He added that this helps Ukraine get its economy going, enabling it to pay for its war effort.

Ukraine says it has shot down a Russian spy plane and command aircraft

Ukraine has said it shot down a Russian A-50 spy plane and Il-22 command aircraft in the area of the Sea of Azov.

Army chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said on the Telegram messaging app:

Ukraine’s Air Force destroyed an enemy A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft and an enemy IL-22 air control centre. I am grateful to the Air Force for the perfectly planned and executed operation in the Azov Sea region!

Shapps has cited the UK’s increase in support to Ukraine in the highest level ever as an example of its commitment to defence spending.

To some the cost may seem steep but Britain cannot afford to reverse the gains we have.

Under this Conservative government Britain never will.

The foundation of the world order has been shaken to its core.

He said we are now living in a “pre-war” not a “post-war” world, and that’s why the UK has increased defence spending to the highest level since the Cold War.

The British defence secretary, Grant Shapps, is delivering a speech on the UK’s defence plans. I’ll keep you posted on any Ukraine-related lines.

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Kremlin says Russia is developing relations with ‘our partner’ North Korea

The Kremlin has said Russia was developing relations with “our partner” North Korea in all areas and would build on agreements reached between the countries’ leaders when they met at a Russian space launch centre last year.

In September, Vladimir Putin welcomed the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to the Vostochny space launch facility in Russia’s far east and promised to help North Korea build satellites.

North Korea has made huge advances in its nuclear and ballistic weapons programmes despite years of UN-led sanctions supported by Russia, but it has fared less well in its attempts to launch a satellite.

“North Korea is our closest neighbour and partner, with whom we are developing and intend to further develop partnerships in all areas,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said as North Korea’s foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, began a visit to Moscow on Monday, according to Reuters.

“The visit is a development of the agreements that were reached at the Vostochny cosmodrome when Kim visited it, and based on the results of the negotiations that he had with Putin.

“Dialogue at all levels will continue …We look forward to intense and fruitful negotiations.”

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The Kremlin has said talks in Davos on Ukraine’s peace proposals would achieve nothing as Russia was not participating in the discussions, Reuters reports.

“This is simply talking for the sake of talking,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said when asked about the discussions on Ukraine at Davos.

“This process cannot be aimed at achieving any specific results for the obvious reason – we are not participating. Without our participation, any discussions are devoid of any prospect of any results.”

The exterior view of the Congress centre for the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
The exterior view of the Congress centre for the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron and key Middle East leaders are scheduled to attend this week’s World Economic Forum, putting talks to end wars in Gaza and Ukraine at the top of the forum’s agenda.

This year, the annual forum, being held between 15 and 19 January in the Swiss alps, will be under the theme “Rebuilding Trust”.

Ukraine says it will not rest until every Russian soldier is ejected from its territory and Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has decreed that any talks with Russia are illegal.

His 10-point peace plan calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops and cessation of hostilities and the restoration of Ukraine’s state borders with Russia.

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Russia has likely ‘substantially inflated’ troop numbers, UK’s MoD says

The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said that Russia has probably “substantially inflated” the number of people it says have joined the country’s armed forces, with new recruits being disproportionately drawn from some of Russia’s most impovershied and rural communities.

In its latest intelligence update, the MoD wrote on X:

On 11 January 2023, Russian deputy chair of the security council, Dmitri Medvedev, stated that 500,000 people had joined the Russian armed forces in 2023. It is highly likely that this figure has been substantially inflated.

In efforts to meet recruitment targets, the Russian military has since April 2023 allowed school-leavers to sign contracts with the Russian army. Recent data published by Mediazona and the BBC Russian service suggests that at least five Russians born in 2005 have died in the conflict.

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Russia has handed a five-year sentence to a 20-year-old student for allegedly working with Ukrainian special services and planning sabotage attacks on military bases, local authorities have said.

The branch of the FSB security services in the central Russian city of Kurgan said the man had been detained on suspicion of working with a foreign state, according to AFP.

“The defendant planned to commit sabotage at military and social infrastructure facilities,” the statement, distributed to Russian news agencies, said.

The FSB also claimed the student, whom it did not identify, had planned to distribute pro-Ukrainian propaganda online and hand over details of troop and law enforcement activity in the region.

Russian air defence systems destroyed three Ukraine-launched Tochka-U missiles (short-range tactical ballistic missiles) over south-west Russia’s Kursk region early on Monday, the Russian defence ministry wrote on Telegram.

The ministry did not say whether there was any damage or injuries due to the attack.

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UK to send 20,000 troops to largest Nato exercise since the cold war

The UK will send 20,000 service personnel to one of Nato’s largest military exercises since the cold war, PA Media reports.

The UK’s defence secretary, Grant Shapps, will announce the deployment of army, navy and RAF members to the 31-nation drill across Europe during a speech in London on Monday.

He will say the contribution to the Steadfast Defender exercise will provide “vital reassurance against the Putin menace” as he warns the west stands at a “crossroads”.

About 16,000 troops with tanks, artillery and helicopters will be deployed from the British army across eastern Europe starting next month as part of the exercise.

The Royal Navy will deploy more than 2,000 sailors across eight warships and submarines, while more than 400 Royal Marines commandos will be sent to the Arctic Circle.

The RAF will use F-35B Lightning attack aircraft and Poseidon P-8 surveillance aircraft.

Grant Shapps looks on during the signing ceremony at a Nato defence ministers’ meeting at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, in October 2023
Grant Shapps looks on during the signing ceremony at a Nato defence ministers’ meeting at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, in October 2023. Photograph: Johanna Geron/Reuters

In the Lancaster House speech, Shapps is expected to say:

We are in a new era and we must be prepared to deter our enemies, prepared to lead our allies and prepared to defend our nation whenever the call comes.

Today our adversaries are busily rebuilding their barriers, old enemies are reanimated, battle lines are being redrawn, the tanks are literally on Ukraine’s lawn and the foundations of the world order are being shaken to their core. We stand at a crossroads.

It comes after ministers announced a further £2.5bn support package to Ukraine and the RAF airstrikes, with the US, on the Houthis in Yemen.

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UN appeals for £3.3bn to support Ukrainian communities and refugees

The UN and its partners have appealed for $4.2bn (£3.3bn) from donors to support communities in Ukraine devastated by the war, as well as Ukrainian refugees, in 2024.

The UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA) said that more than 14.6 million people, or 40% of Ukraine’s population, will need humanitarian assistance this year due to Russia’s full-scale invasion, which has forced about 6.3 million people to flee abroad.

More than 3.3 million of the people in need live in frontline communities in the east and the south of Ukraine, including in territories occupied by Russia, access to which remains “significantly impeded”, according to the OCHA.

As part of the appeal, the OCHA is asking for $3.1bn (£2.4bn) to help 8.5 million people in desperate need of aid this year. It is also seeking $1.1bn (£863m) to support 2.3 million Ukrainian refugees and their host communities, Reuters reports.

Martin Griffiths, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinaton at the OCHA, said:

Hundreds of thousands of children live in communities on the frontlines of the war, terrified, traumatised and deprived of their basic needs.

That fact alone should compel us to do everything we can to bring more humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

Opening summary

Hello and welcome to live coverage of the war in Ukraine. Here is a summary of some of the latest events.

  • Ukraine pushed ahead with its peace formula to end nearly two years of war with Russia with a meeting of national security advisers from around the world in Davos on Sunday. Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, posted photos of the meeting’s opening and hailed a “good sign” that the number of participants in a string of conferences on Zelenskiy’s peace formula was growing; nearly half from Europe, as well as 18 from Asia and 12 from Africa. “Countries from the global south are increasingly getting involved in our work. It shows understanding that this European conflict is in fact a challenge for all humanity,” he wrote.

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will travel to Switzerland on Monday, his office said, as Ukraine tries to ensure stable support from allies as the war against Russia nears its second anniversary. Zelenskiy is due to “meet the heads of both houses of parliament, party leaders and the president of Switzerland, participate in the World Economic Forum” in Davos, said a statement from the presidency on Sunday.

  • China needs to be involved in efforts to end the war between Ukraine and Russia, Switzerland’s co-chair of the Davos meeting Ignazio Cassis told a news conference after a session.

  • France and Germany reaffirmed their support for Ukraine for as long as needed in its war with Russia. “We are in full agreement … that we must support the Ukrainians for as long as necessary,” the French foreign minister, Stéphane Séjourné, told journalists in Berlin, alongside the German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock. Baerbock said they would remain “on the side of Ukraine as long as necessary, until Russia has withdrawn” from Ukrainian territory. Newly appointed Séjourné met Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Saturday on his first official visit abroad, vowing that Paris would maintain its support. “Despite the multiplying crises, Ukraine is and will remain France’s priority,” Séjourné told Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, at a joint news conference earlier. Zelenskiy said he and Séjourné had discussed Ukraine’s defence needs including joint production of drones and artillery.

  • Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska said on Sunday in a Telegram post there was unlikely to be peace in Ukraine until at least May 2025, and constructive discussion at Davos on ending the conflict would not be possible because no Russian delegation would attend.

  • The North Korean foreign minister, Choe Son-hui, will visit Russia from Monday to Wednesday at the invitation of her counterpart Sergei Lavrov, the North’s KCNA news agency said.

  • Ukrainians are being urged to create drones for the military at home as part of the “People’s Drone” project. Participants can take a free engineering course to teach themselves how to assemble a 7in FPV (first-person-view) drone at home.

  • Denmark will allocate a new $21m (£16.5m) aid package to Ukraine for the restoration of the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv. The assistance package, among other things, includes projects for demining agricultural land and reconstructing the dormitory of the Mykolaiv State Agrarian University.

  • In its latest defence intelligence update, the UK Ministry of Defence said the impact of the war with Ukraine on healthcare in Russia was “highly likely” being felt by Russia’s civilian population as they struggled to access hospital services and experience shortages of medical products due to treatment of wounded personnel.

  • A prominent liberal priest faces expulsion from the Russian Orthodox church for refusing to read out a prayer asking God to guide Russia to victory over Ukraine. In a verdict, a church court said Aleksiy Uminsky should be “expelled from holy orders” for violating his priestly oath.

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