Russia-Ukraine war live: Protesters clash with Russian police after activist jailed; Ukraine plans to ‘throw Russia from skies’, says minister | Ukraine

Protesters clash with Russian police after activist jailed

Protesters in a small town in Russia’s central Bashkortostan region clashed with riot police on Wednesday after a court sentenced eco-activist and campaigner for the protection of the Bashkir language, Fail Alsynov, to four years in prison for “inciting hatred”.

Crowds of men in the town of Baymak fought with riot police in temperatures hovering around -20 celsius (-4 fahrenheit), social media footage showed, with some showing police violently detaining a man lying on the ground, reports AFP.

Police later used teargas to disperse the protests, according to OVD-Info, which monitors protests across Russia. Videos shared on social media showed men washing their eyes with water in freezing temperatures outside.

Alsynov’s case had already sparked protests of several hundred people in Baymak earlier this week. The local interior ministry said it had opened a criminal case into Wednesday’s “mass rioting” – a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Alsynov was accused of making a racist comment in a speech to a village council meeting against gold digging. He said his words were mistranslated from the Bashkir language.

Sota, an online outlet that is independent of the state and publishes mostly on the Telegram messaging app, showed a video of a handcuffed Alsynov in the courtroom after the verdict on Wednesday. He said: “I do not admit my guilt. I always fought for justice, for my nation, for my republic.” He also vowed to appeal against the ruling.

According to Sota, the clashes started after protesters blocked the court building in a bid to try to stop Alsynov from being taken away. Anticipating a public response, police had on the eve of the verdict warned people not to take part in “illegal public gatherings”.

The head of the local interior ministry, Rafail Divayev, urged demonstrators to back down on Wednesday. “Mass riots threaten our country’s national security, therefore the punishment under this article is quite serious,” the state-run RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying. “I advise you to come to your senses and not ruin your life.”

The protests are some of the country’s biggest demonstrations since Russia sent troops into Ukraine and escalated a decade-long crackdown on opposition to the Kremlin.

Alsynov was last year fined for criticising Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine online, saying it was not in Bashkortostan’s interests.According to local media, he called Russia’s mobilisation drive a “genocide of the Bashkir people” and said Moscow’s offensive “was not our war”.

Key events

Here is a video showing protesters clashing with riot police in a small town in the central Bashkortostan region in Russia. The protests occurred on Wednesday after a court sentenced an eco-activist and campaigner, Fail Alsynov, to four years in prison for inciting hatred. Alsynov was accused of making a racist comment in a speech to a village council meeting against gold-digging but he claims his words were mistranslated.

Russia protest: crowds clash with riot police as activist jailed – video

One person killed and five injured in Russian attacks on Kherson, say authorities

One person has been killed and five people have been injured after Russian attacks on multiple settlements in Kherson oblast, according to regional authorities.

The Kyiv Independent reports that a 37-year-old man was killed and an 81-year-old woman was injured after a Russian strike hit a garage in a residential area of Kherson. Medics treated the woman at the site of the attack.

The head of the city’s military administration, Roman Mrochko, said the man had been outside at the moment of the strike. According to the Kyiv Independent, Kherson oblast governor, Oleksandr Prokudin shared a video of the damage to the area and said that Russian forces fired at the area for an hour.

Prokudin also said that a 60-year-old woman, a 62-year-old man and a 54-year-old man were injured when Russian forces attacked Beryslav, a city 65 kilometers east of Kherson.

An attack on the village of Romashkove, a village 12 kilometers outside Kherson, was also reported on Wednesday afternoon by the Kherson regional military administration, says the Ukranian news outlet. Homes, farms, and a car were damaged, and an 81-year-old local woman was injured in the strike.

Russian professor arrested in Estonia on espionage charges

Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth

Authorities in Estonia have arrested a Russian professor on espionage charges in a case that his university said shows Russia’s intent to “orchestrate anti-democratic action” in the Baltic country. But some fellow academics have condemned the university for summarily cutting ties with him before a trial was held.

Viacheslav Morozov, a professor of international political theory at the University of Tartu was detained on 3 January by Estonia’s internal security service (ISS), public broadcaster ERR said. The arrest was only revealed on Tuesday.

Margo Palloson, the director general of the ISS, told the public broadcaster that Morozov had shared information with Russian intelligence services when he travelled back to the country with “a measure of regularity”.

Palloson did not say what information Morozov had shared, but warned Estonians against travelling to Russia because of pressure from the security services.

A veteran professor who had previously taught Russian-EU studies at the university, Morozov was well known for his research into Russian political identity and foreign policy. He had condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine but had called on others not to “burn bridges” with Russians opposed to the invasion.

Here are some of the images of Ukraine coming through the newswires on Wednesday.

They show Kharkiv after Russian missile attacks overnight damaged apartment buildings and a medical centre, injuring at least 17 people. There is also a photograph showing people taking shelter in a metro station during an air raid alarm in Kyiv and Ukrainian volunteers unloading bags with fuel briquettes at the home of civilians in Donetsk.

A damaged apartment building, with a destroyed roof, in Kharkiv after a Russian missile attack on Wednesday.
A damaged apartment building in Kharkiv after a Russian missile attack on Wednesday. Photograph: Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images
Ukrainian rescuers clean debris at the site of a missile attack in Kharkiv on Wednesday.
Ukrainian rescuers clean debris at the site of a missile attack in Kharkiv. At least 17 people were injured in Russian strikes in the city centre, the regional governor said. Photograph: Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images
A group of people takesshelter in a metro station during an air raid alarm in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday.
People takes shelter in a metro station during an air raid alarm in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday. Photograph: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP
Ukrainian volunteers unload bags with fuel briquettes at the home of civilians, in Donetsk oblast, Ukraine on Wednesday.
Ukrainian volunteers unload bags with fuel briquettes at the home of civilians, in Donetsk oblast, Ukraine on Wednesday. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

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Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov will travel to New York next week for a meeting of the UN’s security council, reports AFP.

Asked whether Lavrov would attend the 23 January security council debate on the Middle East in person, foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said “yes,” Tass news agency reported on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s priority is to ‘throw Russia from the skies’, says foreign minister

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba said his country’s priority for 2024 was to gain control over its skies. “In 2024, of course the priority is to throw Russia from the skies,” Kuleba said in an address to the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, reports AFP.

“Because the one who controls the skies will define when and how the war will end,” he added.

Kuleba continued:

We are fighting a powerful enemy, a very big enemy that doesn’t sleep. It takes time. We defeated them on the land in 2022. We defeated them in the sea in 2023 and we are completely focused on defeating them in the air in 2024.”

His comments echo remarks by Zelenskiy, who on Tuesday said that Ukraine “must gain air superiority” to enable “progress on the ground”.

Kuleba called for patience among Ukraine’s key western backers, and said that with the right support, Ukraine could be victorious.

Cameron: working very hard on using Russian assets for Ukrainian reconstruction

Graeme Wearden

Graeme Wearden

My colleague Graeme Wearden is in Davos for the Guardian. He has been reporting on the latest from the second day of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting for this live blog. British foreign secetary, David Cameron has been speaking on a panel discussion on the Ukraine war, reports Wearden:

Lord Cameron has told delegates in Davos that there is a clear case for frozen Russian assets to be used to help pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine.

David Cameron is speaking on a panel discussion on the Ukraine war, as it moves towards its third year.

The UK foreign secretary points out that the countries backing Ukraine have a combined GDP 25 times larger than Russia.

We just need to make our support count, Cameron says.

And he argues that if you zoom out and look at the big picture, the Ukraine war has been a catastrophic disaster for Putin.

Russia has lost half the territory it captured early in the war, and has been sanctioned by a large swathe of the global economy.

Cameron also points to Ukraine’s progress in the Black Sea; with the Black Sea open, Ukraine is trading through its ports again.

Cameron says “Ukraine has done well, is doing well”, so the priority is to help Ukraine through this winter, and set up a system so that Ukraine can win in what will be a longer war.

Cameron is then asked about whether using Russian assets for Ukraine’s reconstruction would be legal.

He points out that the assets have already been frozen; the question is what we do next.

Legally, Cameron says there is growing support for the idea that these resources can be used in some way.

As a moral issue, he says Russia will have to pay reparations when the war is over, so why not use the assets now?

And the political angle, is that when Putin launched this illegal invasion, the world changed, and we need to change with it, Lord Cameron says.

We are now in a more uncertain world, so we need innovative thinking, Cameron says.

He adds that he is “certainly working very hard” on the issue, the rest of the G7 are too, and he’s confidence there will be progress.

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Protesters clash with Russian police after activist jailed

Protesters in a small town in Russia’s central Bashkortostan region clashed with riot police on Wednesday after a court sentenced eco-activist and campaigner for the protection of the Bashkir language, Fail Alsynov, to four years in prison for “inciting hatred”.

Crowds of men in the town of Baymak fought with riot police in temperatures hovering around -20 celsius (-4 fahrenheit), social media footage showed, with some showing police violently detaining a man lying on the ground, reports AFP.

Police later used teargas to disperse the protests, according to OVD-Info, which monitors protests across Russia. Videos shared on social media showed men washing their eyes with water in freezing temperatures outside.

Alsynov’s case had already sparked protests of several hundred people in Baymak earlier this week. The local interior ministry said it had opened a criminal case into Wednesday’s “mass rioting” – a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Alsynov was accused of making a racist comment in a speech to a village council meeting against gold digging. He said his words were mistranslated from the Bashkir language.

Sota, an online outlet that is independent of the state and publishes mostly on the Telegram messaging app, showed a video of a handcuffed Alsynov in the courtroom after the verdict on Wednesday. He said: “I do not admit my guilt. I always fought for justice, for my nation, for my republic.” He also vowed to appeal against the ruling.

According to Sota, the clashes started after protesters blocked the court building in a bid to try to stop Alsynov from being taken away. Anticipating a public response, police had on the eve of the verdict warned people not to take part in “illegal public gatherings”.

The head of the local interior ministry, Rafail Divayev, urged demonstrators to back down on Wednesday. “Mass riots threaten our country’s national security, therefore the punishment under this article is quite serious,” the state-run RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying. “I advise you to come to your senses and not ruin your life.”

The protests are some of the country’s biggest demonstrations since Russia sent troops into Ukraine and escalated a decade-long crackdown on opposition to the Kremlin.

Alsynov was last year fined for criticising Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine online, saying it was not in Bashkortostan’s interests.According to local media, he called Russia’s mobilisation drive a “genocide of the Bashkir people” and said Moscow’s offensive “was not our war”.

Western companies supplied Russia with critical components worth $2.9bn in the first 10 months of 2023, despite sanctions on Moscow, the Ukrainian president’s office said on Wednesday.

Citing research by a working group run by the president’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak and by Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, the office said:

The products of more than 250 western companies were found in samples of destroyed or captured Russian weapons.

The research focused on Russia’s attempts to circumvent export control sanctions on military goods, the president’s office said, Reuters reports.

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Belgium does not oppose the confiscation of €280bn worth of frozen Russian central bank assets, but there needs to be a clear mechanism such as using the assets as collateral for Ukraine, prime minister Alexander De Croo told Reuters.

After Russian president Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in 2022, the US and its allies prohibited transactions with Russia’s central bank and finance ministry, blocking around $300bn of sovereign Russian assets in the West, Reuters reports.

G7 countries are discussing possibly confiscating the frozen Russian assets, though some G7 members have concerns about the precedent, mechanism and potential impact of taking such a step against central bank assets.

De Croo told Reuters in Davos that Belgium was ready for a discussion about what to do with the interest on the frozen Russian assets and the actual assets themselves.

He said:

We don’t say no to asset confiscation. But we need to work on a mechanism. For example, they can be used as collateral for raising funds for Ukraine.

We are open to further discussion and are willing to participate in a solution of finding a legal basis for those transfers to Ukraine, without destabilising the global financial system.

De Croo said the risk was that financial stability could be undermined as central banks often deposit assets with each other.

The lion’s share of the assets – essentially securities in which the Russian Central Bank had invested – are frozen in Euroclear, a depository based in Brussels.

Some securities mature and hence are being converted into cash – a transaction that is taxed at 25%, he said.

“If there is any taxable revenue, we will isolate it so it can go to Ukraine,” De Croo told Reuters in Davos. He said tax on the frozen assets totalled about €1.3bn in 2023 and in 2024 would total about €1.7bn.

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Arnel Hecimovic

Arnel Hecimovic

My colleague, news picture editor Arnel Hecimovic has put together a picture gallery showing winter arriving at the Ukrainian frontline. Below are a selection of the images. You can view the full gallery here:

Military activity on frontlines, which until recently had been covered in mud, continues under difficult conditions. As temperatures drop below zero, Ukrainian forces from Kupyansk to Zaporizhzhia keep on active defence duty, according to Ukraine’s ground forces commander, Col Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi. He added that Russian forces were continually attacking different parts of the front, with Ukrainian forces conducting small counterattacks. ‘This is active defence when we are not just sitting on the defensive but constantly counterattacking, and in some directions switching to the offensive,’ he said

An aerial view shows destroyed buildings as a result of intense fighting in Bakhmut, Ukraine.
An aerial view shows destroyed buildings as a result of intense fighting in Bakhmut, Ukraine. Photograph: Reuters
A Ukrainian serviceman stands next to a M777 howitzer at a position near a frontline in Zaporizhzhia region.
A Ukrainian serviceman stands next to a M777 howitzer at a position near a frontline in Zaporizhzhia region. Photograph: Reuters
Ukrainian soldiers stand by an anti-aircraft vehicle near positions at the Bakhmut frontline.
Ukrainian soldiers stand by an anti-aircraft vehicle near positions at the Bakhmut frontline. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images
Ukrainian soldiers scan the skies for for a Russian drone at the Bakhmut frontline. Drone and airstrikes have become increasingly important as the war enters into a stalemate with both sides heavily fortified.
Ukrainian soldiers scan the skies for for a Russian drone at the Bakhmut frontline. Drone and airstrikes have become increasingly important as the war enters into a stalemate with both sides heavily fortified. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

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EBRD: Ukraine needs more financial support

Larry Elliott

Larry Elliott

My colleague Larry Elliott is in Davos for the Guardian. He has written the below for the Davos day two live blog:

Ukraine needs financial support as well as military support in order to prevent the government in Kyiv resorting to printing money to keep the economy afloat, the chief economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has said.

Interviewed in Davos, Beata Javorcik said that Ukraine’s economic situation was challenging, despite growth of just short of 5% last year.

Javorcik says:

“The big risk is that if money doesn’t come in from abroad things could spiral and the government might have to resort to the printing press. The government has done a very good job in ensuring macro-economic stability but we don’t want to have a failed state on our hands.

We need to support Ukraine not only militarily but through budget support.”

Javorcik said the EBRD was planning to invest between €7.5bn and €15bn over the next five years in Ukraine, with the focus on supporting the private sector.

She said there was a “substantial risk”, given the likelihood of the war continuing, of the economy being derailed.

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Russian missiles have injured 17 people in Kharkiv, say officials

Russia fired two missiles at Kharkiv in north eastern Ukraine during the night, hitting apartment buildings and a medical centre, and injuring 17 people, officials said on Wednesday.

Kharkiv regional governor, Oleh Syniehubov, said the S-300 missiles landed after dark on Tuesday, reports Associated Press citing an update on messaging service, Telegram.

The night-time attack on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, struck 20 residential buildings and a medical center, authorities said, stating that the missile attacks came from the Russian border region of Belgorod. Deeper inside the Kharkive region, areas close to the frontline came under artillery fire, according to officials.

The Russian defence ministry said Wednesday that two winged Ukrainian drones and four missiles were shot down over the Belgorod region overnight and another around noon local time on Wednesday. It provided no details about damage or injuries.

Ukraine’s air force said it intercepted 19 out of 20 Shahed-type drones fired by Russia overnight, though regional officials reported that other drones made it through air defenses.

In the southern city of Odesa, three people were injured in a drone attack that forced the evacuation of about 130 people from an apartment building, regional governor Oleh Kiper said.

In Kherson, another southern city, artillery fire injured three people and damaged residential districts overnight, according to its regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin.

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Senior Nato military officer urges allies and leaders to plan for the unexpected in Ukraine

A top Nato military officer said the war in Ukraine could “determine the fate of the world” and western armies and political leaders must drastically change the way they help Kyiv fend off invading Russian forces, reports Associated Press.

At a meeting of Nato’s senior officers at its headquarters in Brussels, the chair of the Nato military committee, Adm Rob Bauer also said that behind Putin’s rationale for the war is a fear of democracy.

“We need public and private actors to change their mindset for an era in which everything was plannable, foreseeable, controllable and focused on efficiency to an era in which anything can happen at any time. An era in which we need to expect the unexpected,” Bauer said as he opened the meeting. “In order to be fully effective, also in the future, we need a warfighting transformation of Nato,” he added.

Nato would continue to support Ukraine long-term said Bauer: “Today is the 693rd day of what Russia thought would be a three-day war. Ukraine will have our support for every day that is to come because the outcome of this war will determine the fate of the world.”

“This war has never been about any real security threat to Russia coming from either Ukraine or Nato,” Bauer added. “This war is about Russia fearing something much more powerful than any physical weapon on earth — democracy. If people in Ukraine can have democratic rights, then people in Russia will soon crave them too.”

Over two days of talks in Brussels, Nato’s top officers are expected to detail plans for what are expected to be the biggest military exercises in Europe since the cold war later this year.

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