Ukraine live briefing: France and Australia to produce artillery shells for Ukraine; Zelensky calls for faster weapons deliveries

Ukrainian soldiers stand atop an armored personnel carrier before going to the front line in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on Saturday. (Andriy Dubchak/AP)
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France and Australia will jointly supply Ukraine with thousands of 155-millimeter shells, the two nations’ defense ministers said Monday, calling the ammunition an “urgent need” as Ukrainian forces battle Russian troops in the east.

The first shells, produced by a French manufacturer in cooperation with Australian companies, will be sent in the coming weeks. The move comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged allies to speed up weapons deliveries.

“Russia hopes to drag out the war, to exhaust our forces. So we have to make time our weapon,” he said in a nightly address Tuesday. “We must speed up the events, speed up the supply and opening of new necessary weaponry options for Ukraine.”

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • The Kremlin denounced as false a claim by former British prime minister Boris Johnson that Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to kill him with a missile strike in the run-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “What Boris Johnson said is not true. More precisely, it is a lie,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday after Johnson discussed Putin’s alleged threat in a BBC documentary — though he conceded that Putin might have been joking.
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged South Korea to increase military support to Ukraine during a visit to Seoul on Monday. In a speech, he noted that other countries have changed their stance on not providing weapons to countries in conflict since Russia’s invasion, and he said there is an “urgent need” for ammunition, Reuters reported.
  • Poland plans to increase its defense spending to 4 percent of its GDP, a boost Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called “unprecedented” in remarks to reporters Monday, Deutsche Welle reported. The nation currently spends about 2.2 percent of its GDP on defense, according to the International Trade Administration.
  • Ukrainians can trade in five old lightbulbs for energy-efficient LEDs to help their nation save up to 10 percent of its energy during peak hours through a winter of Russian attacks, the European Union’s delegation to Ukraine announced Monday. Thirty million bulbs have been supplied by the E.U., and 5 million by France, Ukrainian Economy Minister Yuliia Svyrydenko said in a statement.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Jan. 29 that his forces need new weapons to confront a “very tough” situation in the eastern Donetsk region. (Video: Reuters)

2. Battleground updates

  • Zelensky described the situation on the front lines in the eastern Donetsk region as “very tough.” Bakhmut, Vuhledar and other areas in the region are under “constant Russian attacks,” he said in his nightly address, as Russian forces attempt to break through Ukraine’s defenses.
  • Training with German-made Leopard 2 tanks is set to begin within days as Germany and Poland rush deliveries for spring. Separately, Ukrainian tank operators have also arrived in the United Kingdom to receive training on how to use Challenger 2 tanks that London pledged to Kyiv. Britain’s Defense Ministry on Sunday posted photos of more than a dozen individuals, with their faces blurred, disembarking from a Royal Air Force plane.
  • An overnight Russian missile strike badly damaged a residential building in Kharkiv, governor Oleh Synyehubov said Monday on Telegram, adding that at least one person died and three others were injured in the attack. He later said that a 62-year-old man was killed in another shelling attack in the city’s Chuhuiv district.

3. Global impact

  • Crimea will “never again be part of Ukraine,” Croatian President Zoran Milanovic told reporters Monday, adding that the decision to send tanks to Kyiv would only prolong the war. Croatia is a NATO member but Milanovic, who won the presidential election in 2020 as a left-leaning liberal candidate, “has since made a turn to populist nationalism and criticized Western policies toward Russia,” the Associated Press reported.
  • Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen joined Zelensky on a visit to see injured Ukrainian fighters at a hospital in the southern Mykolaiv region. In April, Frederiksen became the first Scandinavian leader to visit Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
  • A group of people outside the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow heckled the new U.S. ambassador, Lynne Tracy, as she entered the ministerial building Monday, Reuters reported. One protester held up a sign reading, “Your tanks are killing civilians.”

4. From our correspondents

Along a front-line river, this deadly road shows toll of Russia’s war: As Ukraine awaits new tanks from the United States and Europe and fighting rages over strategic towns in the east, a war of attrition is underway along the Dnieper River, write Siobhán O’Grady and Anastacia Galouchka. Russia controls the east bank, and Ukraine controls the west, with the river limiting territorial advances and permitting — for now at least — destruction only from a distance.

Washington Post journalists spent several days traveling along the Ukrainian-controlled main and back roads that connect the towns and villages along the river to see how civilians are surviving winter, frequently without gas or electricity. Often only the elderly are left, surviving on food handouts, without heat. Residents fear they could be killed at any moment, and still whisper of collaborators living among them.