Ukraine war: Leopard tanks from Germany, sanctions slam Russian oil exports, Russian army shake up

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By Euronews  with Reuters
A woman reacts looking at the damage caused to an apartment building that was destroyed in a Russian rocket attack in  Dnipro, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.
A woman reacts looking at the damage caused to an apartment building that was destroyed in a Russian rocket attack in Dnipro, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.   -   Copyright  Evgeniy Maloletka/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved

Could Germany now send Leopard tanks to Ukraine?

Ukraine came a step closer on Tuesday to securing a fleet of modern battle tanks, after the West's big holdout Germany said this would be the first item on its new defence minister's agenda.

Kyiv hopes German-made Leopard battle tanks, a workhorse of armies across Europe, could turn the course of the war against Russia. 

There have been loud calls for German to supply the tanks, especially after the UK pledged to give Ukraine 12 of its Challenger tanks. 

But Berlin has been reluctant to cave into Kyiv's demands, fearing an escalation of the conflict with Russia. The Leopards can only be delivered with Berlin's approval. 

Germany lifting its objections could be one of the most consequential shifts in western aid so far. 

ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP or licensors
A stuffed toy leopard is placed on a Leopard 2/A4 battle tank during a handover ceremony of tanks at the army base of Tata, Hungary, on July 24, 2020.ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP or licensors

The decision sits on the desk of Germany's new Defence Minister Boris Pistorius, named on Tuesday to replace Christine Lambrecht, who quit after missteps including a cheerful New Year's message about the war that opponents called tone deaf.

In his first comments in the job, Pistorius, a regional politician with close ties to Chancellor Olaf Scholz, made no mention of weapons for Ukraine:

"I know the importance of the task," he said in a statement. "It is important to me to involve the soldiers closely and to take them with me."

Sanctions hit Moscow's oil exports - Russian source

Russia expects Western sanctions will have a significant impact on its oil products exports and its production,  a senior Russian source with detailed knowledge of the situation told reporters. 

This surplus will likely leave more crude oil to sell, though Russia currently does not have the capacity to store it. 

Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the west slapped unprecedented sanctions on Russia, which President Vladimir Putin considers a declaration of economic war. 

The United States and its allies are trying to constrict the economy of Russia, the world's second-largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia.

The European Union banned seaborne Russian crude imports in December and will ban Russian oil products this February. 

"The oil products' embargo will have a greater impact than the restrictions on crude oil," said the senior Russian source, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation.

The source said the sanctions will lead to more crude oil supplies from Russia, which lacks storage capacity for oil products.

The senior Russian source gave a median projection for the decline in refinery runs at 15% this year, in line with an official forecast.

In 2022, Russian oil products output grew by almost 3% to 272 million tonnes and is set to decline to 230 million tonnes this year, according to the official forecast.

Ukrainian presidential adviser offers to resign after public outcry

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych offered his resignation on Tuesday, following a public outcry. 

There was popular anger after Arestovych suggested a Russian missile that killed at least 44 people in Dnipro over the weekend was shot down by Ukraine, accidentally implying they were involved in the devastation. 

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave no immediate public response to Arestovych's offer to resign.

Hours after the missile strike on Saturday, Arestovych said it appeared that the Russian missile had fallen on the building after being shot down by Ukrainian air defences.

Alluding to these comments, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian attacks "do not strike residential buildings" and suggested the strike was the result of Ukrainian action -- a conclusion he said they had reached from "some representatives of the Ukrainian side."

Pavel Petrov/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
, a Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighter carries a wounded woman out of the rubble from a building after a Russian rocket attack on Saturday in Dnipro.Pavel Petrov/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

Arestovych later rowed back on his comments, citing fatigue, but also said he had made clear that he had been voicing only a preliminary theory.

"I offer my sincere apologies to the victims and their relatives, the residents of Dnipro and everyone who was deeply hurt by my prematurely erroneous version of the reason for the Russian missile striking a residential building,"  Arestovych wrote on Tuesday morning, saying he had made a "fundamental error".

Ukraine says the Kh-22 missile used by Russia in Dnipro is inaccurate and that it lacks the equipment to shoot it down.

Dnipro, a city of almost 1 million people, serves as a supply hub for Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbas region. It has come under repeated bombardment from Russian missiles.

Dutch to send Patroit missile system to Ukraine

The Netherlands will send a Patriot missile defence system to Ukraine, Dutch news agency ANP reported on Tuesday, citing Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Rutte -- or 'Teflon Mark' as he is occasionally referred to -- is currently in Washington meeting the US President Joe Biden.

ANP, citing a fireside chat between the two leaders, quoted Rutte as saying they would participate in a US-German initiative to send the defence systems to Ukraine.

The Ukrainians have long asked for Patriot missile systems, especially since Russia began hammering the country's energy infrastructure this winter. 

Russia to make 'major changes' to armed forces from 2023

Russia said on Tuesday that it would make "major changes" to its armed forces from 2023 to 2026, promising to shake up its military structure.

Moscow has made numerous changes to its leadership over the 11 months of war in Ukraine, during which its forces seized large areas of southern and eastern Ukraine, but then suffered a series of painful defeats and retreats.

The Defence Ministry said it would strengthen the combat capabilities of its naval, aerospace and strategic missile forces, besides administrative reforms. 

"Only by strengthening the key structural components of the Armed Forces is it possible to guarantee the military security of the state and protect new entities and critical facilities of the Russian Federation," Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added that the changes were necessary because of the "proxy war" being conducted in Ukraine by the West, which has been sending increasingly heavy weaponry to Kyiv to help it resist Russian forces.

The defence ministry, which has faced sharp domestic criticism for the ineffectiveness of its drive to take control of large tracts of Ukraine, vowed in December to boost its military personnel to 1.5 million.

More than 9,000 civilians killed in Ukraine since invasion began

More than 9,000 civilians, including 453 children, have been killed in Ukraine since the start of Russia's invasion, a senior Ukrainian presidential aide said on Tuesday.

"We have registered 80,000 crimes committed by Russian invaders and over 9,000 civilians have been killed, including 453 children," Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential staff, said at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos.

Evgeniy Maloletka/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved
A wife looks at the grave of her husband Serhiy Klymenko, a Ukrainian serviceman who was killed in Russian shelling, Friday Dec, 23. 2022.Evgeniy Maloletka/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved

"We will not forgive a single [act of] torture or life taken. Each criminal will be held accountable," he said. 

The Ukrainian official reiterated that Ukraine wants a special international tribunal to try Russian political leaders and reparations for the destruction caused by Russia's invasion.

The Office of the UN high commissioner for human rights said on Monday that more than 7,000 civilians had been killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded. 

The true number is likely to be much higher, as the fighting and chaos of war makes it difficult to accurately calculate how many people have died.