Ukraine-Russia war: Nato sends 90,000 troops to deter Russia in largest exercise since Cold War

A Ukrainian soldier preparing a long-range drone for take-off near Bakhmut, Donetsk
A Ukrainian soldier preparing a long-range drone for take-off near Bakhmut, Donetsk - Ignacio Marin
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Nato members will send 90,000 troops to the alliance’s largest military exercise since the Cold War.

Britain is deploying 20,000 soldiers to Operation Steadfast Defender 2024, which starts next week and will continue until the end of May.

Gen Christopher Cavoli, Nato’s most senior commander, said the exercises would demonstrate the alliance’s ability to quickly “reinforce” its territory in the event of an attack.

Exercises will take place in Germany, Poland and the Baltic States in what is widely expected to be a simulation of war with Russia.

Troops from all 31 Nato members and Sweden, a candidate for membership, are taking part.

03:12 PM GMT

That’s all for today

Thank you for following the Telegraph’s coverage of the war in Ukraine.

03:11 PM GMT

Today’s headlines

  • A Ukrainian drone was shot down over a St Petersburg oil terminal in the early hours of Thursday morning in one of Kyiv’s northernmost attacks of the war so far

  • The drone flew apparently undetected over a luxury country estate said to be owned by Vladimir Putin, it was reported

  • Lord Cameron compared Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler and urges the West not to “appease” him

  • Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said the United States wants to “strangle” Russia and that there will be no peace deal with Ukraine until it promises to never join Nato

  • France said it would deliver 78 truck-mounted artillery pieces to Ukraine in 2024 as a row intensified over the weakness of its military aid contributions

  • Hungary rebuked comments by Ursula von der Leyen in which she said an agreement was close on the £43 billion European aid Viktor Orban vetoed in December

  • Ukraine is facing a “very real and pressing” ammunition shortage as it begins its third calendar year of war with Russia, Rustem Umerov, the defence minister said

  • Poland described international leaders in favour of a peace deal as “Chamberlain knock-offs”

03:04 PM GMT

Ukraine attacks oil terminal in rare St Petersburg drone strike

A Ukrainian drone was shot down over a St Petersburg oil terminal in the early hours of Thursday morning in one of Kyiv’s northernmost attacks of the war so far.

The attack on the Petersburg Oil Terminal was conducted by an aircraft carrying 3kg of high explosives, a Kremlin-appointed official in occupied Zaporizhzhia said.

Vladimir Rogov claimed there was no damage and no one had been injured, with debris found at the terminal and in the nearby Gulf of Finland.

The terminal is Russia’s largest oil export facility on the Baltic Sea.

Russia’s defence ministry said anti-air defences intercepted two drones overnight, one near St Petersburg and another near Moscow.

The defence ministry did not comment on damages or casualties.

A Ukrainian 10-missile salvo on the border region of Belgorod also left one person wounded and electricity lines damaged, Vyacheslav Gladkov, the city’s governor, said.

Ukraine’s air force said it shot down two missiles and 22 of the 33 drones launched by Russia overnight.

02:50 PM GMT

Watch: Soldiers hold anti-sabotage drills at Belarus border

02:38 PM GMT

France denies having mercenaries in Ukraine

France has denied claims by Russia that its mercenaries are fighting in Ukraine after Moscow said it had killed several in Kharkiv.

France’s foreign ministry said in a statement: “France helps Ukraine with supplies of military material and military training, in full compliance with international law, in order to help Ukraine in its fight to defend its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

“France has no mercenaries, neither in Ukraine nor elsewhere, unlike certain others.”

On Wednesday, Russia said its forces had killed more than 60 people when it bombed a building housing “foreign fighters” in the north-eastern city of Kharkiv, the second largest in the country.

It said a majority of the dead were French mercenaries.

02:28 PM GMT

Daytime missile strikes destroy apartment block in Zaporizhzhia

Daytime Russian air strikes have destroyed an apartment block in Zaporizhzhia.

Yuriy Malashko, the regional governor, said the city of Orikhiv was struck six times at 1.15pm local time (11.15am GMT).

“Mountains of construction debris are all that remains of civilians’ homes, their everyday life, comfort and family happiness,” he said.

“The impact sites are being examined by specialists. As of this moment, there is no information about casualties.”

02:16 PM GMT

Pictured: Ukrainian drone operators

Ukrainian drone operators control a drone near the town of Horlivka in Donetsk
Ukrainian drone operators control a drone near the town of Horlivka in Donetsk - Inna Varenytsia

02:05 PM GMT

Ukraine oil terminal drone ‘flew over Putin's house’

The Ukrainian drone that attacked a St Petersburg oil terminal early on Thursday morning flew over a luxury property said to belong to Vladimir Putin on its way to the city, it has been reported.

Ukraine’s RBC news agency said the drone flew directly over Valdai National Park, where Putin and his believed Olympic gymnast lover Alina Kabaeva have properties according to a March 2023 investigation by Russia’s independent Proekt outlet.

The national park is 250 miles north-west of Moscow in Novgorod Oblast, which is to the south of the Leningrad region where the drone attacked.

01:50 PM GMT

Pro-peace leaders are ‘Chamberlain knock-offs’, says Poland

Poland’s foreign minister has described leaders of other countries who support a peace deal between Ukraine and Russia as “Chamberlain knock-offs”.

Radoslaw Sikorski told a meeting in Davos, Switzerland: “As for the negotiations, I want to share one of ‘Sikorski’s laws’ on foreign policy: there is never a shortage of Chamberlain knock-offs who are ready to sacrifice other people and other people’s freedom for their own peace of mind.

“And we should not do this.”

He added: “This is what happens to Ukrainian people in the occupied territories: they are forcibly Russified, tortured, and their children are abducted.

“These are victims that concern Ukrainians, not us. Therefore, only Ukraine can make decisions [on peace negotiations].”

01:37 PM GMT

Ukraine facing ‘real and pressing’ ammunition shortage

Ukraine is facing a “very real and pressing” ammunition shortage as it begins its third calendar year of war with Russia.

“A shortage of ammunition is a very real and pressing problem that our Armed Forces are facing at present,” defence minister Rustem Umerov said.

01:12 PM GMT

In pictures: Kharkiv missile attack clean-up

Two workmen measure up plywood boards to temporarily replace windows broken in a Russian missile attack on the city of Kharkiv
Two workmen measure up plywood boards to temporarily replace windows broken in a Russian missile attack on the city of Kharkiv - Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy
The formerly occupied north-eastern city has been a regular target of Russian attacks
The formerly occupied north-eastern city has been a regular target of Russian attacks - Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy

12:55 PM GMT

Umerov postponed France visit to meet Zaluzhny

Rustem Umerov, Ukraine’s defence minister, postponed his planned visit to France to attend a meeting called by Gen Valery Zaluzhny and his staff officers.

Mr Umerov will instead attend today’s launch of a Western artillery coalition online.

12:28 PM GMT

Ukraine cancels final remaining contract with corruption suspect

Ukraine has cancelled its final remaining contract with a businessman awaiting trial on corruption charges.

Ihor Hrynkevych was arrested on Dec 30 and has been charged with offering £394,000 to a defence ministry official in exchange for the return of property confiscated during an investigation into an alleged large-scale corruption plot.

Mr Hrynkevych once had 23 contracts with the defence ministry.

But Ukrainian police allege he did not complete all of them and supplied low-quality supplies when he did, costing the ministry £25 million.

He is facing a maximum prison sentence of eight years.

12:05 PM GMT

Russia cannot trust the West, says Lavrov

Russia cannot trust the West, Sergei Lavrov has said.

“There had been some illusions that existed in the 1990s that the West is going to welcome us with open arms,” Russia’s foreign minister told an annual press conference in Moscow.

“Now these illusions are gone. We can no longer trust the West.

“The West wants just one thing – to live at somebody else’s expense and be smarter than everyone else.”

11:43 AM GMT

Estonia to expel Russian Orthodox bishop

Estonia will expel the Russian head of one of its Orthodox churches for supporting the war in Ukraine.

The country’s police and border force said Metropolitan Eugene, the primate of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, would not have his work permit extended beyond its current expiry on Feb 6.

“His actions are a security risk to Estonia,” they said in a statement.

The bishop, who was born in Russia and served in the Soviet army in the late 1970s, will now have to leave the country before that date.

Indrek Aru, the border force chief in Estonia’s northern region, said: “His public actions and speaking support the aggressor and he has not changed his behaviour despite warnings.”

The bishop’s church is aligned with the pro-Kremlin Russian Orthodox Church.

Orthodox Christians form 16 per cent of Estonia’s population. Some 150,000 belong to the Moscow-aligned church and 270,000 are members of the rival Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church.

11:28 AM GMT

Hungary: We are not close to a deal on EU aid

Hungary has rebuked Ursula von der Leyen for saying an agreement on the vetoed £43 billion Ukraine aid deal is close.

Gergely Gulyas, the chief of staff to Viktor Orban, said talks were ongoing but it was not certain that an agreement would be reached.

Ms von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said on Wednesday that she was “confident” that all 27 EU member states would approve the deal.

That would entail Hungary reversing its December decision to veto the aid package.

Mr Orban has said he will only support the four-year aid deal if the EU commits to review it every year.

11:15 AM GMT

France denies arms aid to Ukraine is insufficient

France’s defence minister has condemned a report that said his country’s military aid to Ukraine is insufficient as “neither trustworthy nor viable”.

Sebastien Lecornu said the report by the Kiel Institute confused pledges with deliveries of weapons that “work”.

His comments came a day after the French senate’s foreign and defence committee warned that arms deliveries by France and the rest of Europe are “not up to the mark”.

Cedric Perrin, the committee’s chairman, said: “National and European production is extremely low, and the economy is not up to Ukrainian expectations.”

Mr Perrin said France only produces 20,000 155mm artillery shells a year, which would only be sufficient for “three or four days’ fighting in Ukraine” if they were all sent to Kyiv.

10:53 AM GMT

Ukraine defence minister cancels France visit for ‘security reasons’

Ukraine’s defence minister has cancelled a planned visit to France for “security reasons”.

Rustem Umerov was due to visit Paris for the announcement of a 23-country “artillery coalition” to support Ukraine’s shelling needs.

It “aims to combine efforts to help Ukraine have an artillery force that meets the needs of its counter-offensive and its army of the future, in the short and long term”, the French defence ministry said.

Mr Umerov was due to visit an arms manufacturer in Bourges, 120 miles south of Paris.

10:41 AM GMT

Romanian farmers block Ukraine border crossing

Romanian farmers have blocked a border crossing with Ukraine in a bid to win greater European Union tariffs on Ukrainian agricultural imports.

Ukraine’s state customs service said: “The blockage is being carried out by large agricultural machinery.

“Traffic leaving Ukraine for trucks has been temporarily suspended to prevent passenger cars from being blocked.

“The duration of the blockade is not yet known.”

10:27 AM GMT

Lavrov: War in Ukraine has ‘purified’ Russian society

The war in Ukraine has enabled a “certain purification of society” in Russia by exposing those who are not sufficiently nationalistic, Sergei Lavrov has said.

Addressing an annual press conference in Moscow, Russia’s foreign minister said: “It helped us purge it of people who for one reason or another did not feel affinity with Russia, Russian history and Russian culture.

“Some of them have left the country – others have stayed and reconsidered.

“The overwhelming majority of our society have been united, have rallied around a common idea.”

10:06 AM GMT

France to deliver 78 artillery trucks to Ukraine

France will deliver 78 truck-mounted artillery pieces to Ukraine in 2024.

Sebastien Lecornu, the defence minister, said his government would pay for 12, Ukraine for six and other Western allies for the 60 others.

The £42million ($54million) needed to fund the French purchase of 12 would come from its government’s £171million ($217million) fund for supporting Ukraine in 2024.

09:51 AM GMT

St Petersburg oil terminal ‘operating normally’

The St Petersburg oil terminal that was targeted by a Ukrainian drone in the early hours of Thursday is operating normally.

“There was no fire, there were no casualties, the equipment was not damaged,” a spokesperson told Russian news outlet 47news.

The spokesperson added that “traces of an explosion” were found at the oil terminal where the drone struck the ground.

The Russian defence ministry said earlier that anti-air defences shot down the drone.

09:34 AM GMT

Russian cyber attack cost Kyivstar £75m

The Russian cyber attack on the Kyivstar mobile network in December will cost the company £75 million in lost revenue.

The firm, which is Ukraine’s largest mobile provider, said the costs predominantly came from compensation owed to customer for the widespread outages caused by the attack on Dec 13.

09:24 AM GMT

No peace until Ukraine agrees to never join Nato, says Lavrov

Russia will not agree to a peace deal with Ukraine unless it agrees never to join Nato, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has said.

“Everyone is clear that it is not Ukraine that will decide when to begin serious talks about realistic terms to put an end to the conflict,” he told a Moscow press conference.

“That would naturally mean rejecting its Nazi ideology and rhetoric, rejecting racism regarding everything Russian, rejecting their aspirations to Nato membership.

“These are not dreams. These are terms for persevering the Ukrainian nation as an independent nation that would have its own identity rather than just carrying out someone else’s orders to vex Russia.”

He added: “The West is not interested in any negotiations, clearly and evidently it is Washington that is calling the shots.

“In Davos, Blinken, if I remember correctly, said he did not see even a remote prospect for negotiations not just on the settlement but also on a long-term truce in Ukraine. They don’t even want to talk about Ukrainian settlement.”

Sergei Lavrov speaks at the Russian foreign minister's annual press conference in Moscow
Sergei Lavrov speaks at the Russian foreign minister's annual press conference in Moscow - MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS

09:17 AM GMT

Russia imprisons six who protested against activist's sentencing

Russia has imprisoned six people who protested against the sentencing of a prominent activist.

They were each jailed for between 10 and 13 days after being found guilty of organising an unsanctioned protest.

The rally saw protestors and riot police clash in Baymak, a small town in the central Bashkortostan region, across two days in temperatures of -20C.

The protests erupted after Fail Alsynov, a local activist, was sentenced to four years in prison for inciting ethnic hatred, which he denied.

Alsynov is a prominent local environmental activist and campaigner for the protection of the Bashkir language and culture.

08:55 AM GMT

US wants to ‘strangle’ Russia, says Lavrov

Sergei Lavrov has told a press conference in Moscow that the United States is attempting to “strangle” Russia.

“The United States has unleashed a total hybrid war in order to retain political and economic and diplomatic strangling of Russia, to choke us and also defeat us on the battlefield,” Russia’s foreign minister said.

He added: “The West has been leaning towards the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis which now creates additional strategic risks and perils.”

08:44 AM GMT

Ukrainian intelligence claims responsibility for oil terminal drone attack

Ukraine’s defence intelligence (HUR) has claimed responsibility for the drone attack on a St Petersburg oil terminal.

A source told Ukrainska Pravda: “This is a defence intelligence operation involving modern Ukrainian assets.

“Data collection continues, and there are confirmed strikes on targets.

“Now, military facilities in St Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast are within reach of Ukrainian forces.”

The source said it was not the first Ukrainian attack on the Leningrad Oblast, which borders Finland.

08:22 AM GMT

Woman, 57, killed in apartment by Russian shelling

A 57-year-old woman has died in her apartment after it was struck by Russian artillery shelling.

The attack on the city of Kupyansk, in the eastern Kharkiv region, also wounded two men, 57 and 61.

Oleh Sinehubov, the regional governor, said emergency services were attending the scene.

The damage done by Russian artillery shelling to an apartment block in Kupyansk, Kharkiv
The damage done by Russian artillery shelling to an apartment block in Kupyansk, Kharkiv - CHP

08:07 AM GMT

Lord Cameron compares Putin to Hitler

Lord Cameron has compared Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler and urges the West not to “appease” him.

“To me, Ukraine is the absolute number one priority,” the Foreign Secretary told Politico in Davos, Switzerland.

“This is the challenge for our generation. This is like being a foreign minister or a leader in Europe in the 1930s.

“We have got to not appease Putin. We have got to stand up to the evil that his invasion represents.”

He added: “Putin isn’t winning... he has lost 300,000 people, he’s lost a fifth of his Black Sea Fleet, he’s added two very important and powerful well-trained members of Nato.”

08:00 AM GMT

In pictures: Ukrainian soldiers in winter training

Ukrainian soldiers train in snowsuits in the Chernihiv region which borders Belarus
Ukrainian soldiers train in snowsuits in the Chernihiv region which borders Belarus - GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS
The mock drills saw the soldiers train how to fend off sabotage attacks by partisans
The mock drills saw the soldiers train how to fend off sabotage attacks by partisans - GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS

07:55 AM GMT

US Senate could vote on Ukraine aid deal ‘next week’

The United States Senate could vote on a new version of Joe Biden’s proposed $61 billion (£47 billion) aid package for Ukraine next week, Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said.

“My assumption is we’re likely to be on that in the Senate next week,” he said.

“We’re hoping to get a credible border package...I anticipate that will be before us next week.”

The package will then be voted on by Congress. The Senate rejected the bill in December in a bid to win concessions on migration measures.

07:52 AM GMT

Bulgaria delays sending Ukraine 100 armoured vehicles

Bulgaria has delayed sending 100 armoured vehicles to Ukraine in a bid to get Western countries to pay the shipping costs.

Todor Tagarev, its defence minister, said the costs of sending the vehicles was considerable.

“This is a very serious logistical operation,” he said.

Bulgaria’s parliament approved sending Ukraine the armoured vehicles for free with armaments and spare parts included in December, overriding a veto by Rumen Radev, the country’s president.

07:43 AM GMT

Zelensky: Surveillance of journalists is unacceptable

Volodymyr Zelensky has condemned the surveillance of journalists as “unacceptable” after investigative reporters were covertly filmed at a New Year’s party.

The journalists from were accused of buying and using drugs after footage and tapped phone calls of their get together were published online.

The SBU security service said it had opened a criminal investigation into the surveillance.

Yurii Nikolov, a prominent journalist who investigates defence procurement corruption, said on Wednesday that he had been visited at his home by unknown men and intimidated.

Mediarukh, an association of Ukrainian journalists, urged Mr Zelensky to stamp out the harassment and intimidation of reporters.

07:35 AM GMT

Watch: Ukrainian Bradley blows up advanced Russian tank

Video footage has emerged from the front line of a Ukrainian Bradley infantry fighting vehicle blowing up Russia’s advanced T-90 tank.

Rob Lee, senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said: “Infantry fighting vehicles can successfully engage and seriously damage modern main battle tanks.”

In June, Vladimir Putin said the T-90 is the “world’s best tank”.

07:30 AM GMT

German parliament rejects Ukraine missile proposal

Germany’s parliament has rejected a proposal to send Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine.

The Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union opposition parties introduced a bill to approve the deliveries but a majority of MPs voted it down.

Parties who opposed the proposal included the Greens and the Free Democratic Party, both of whom are in the governing coalition and both of whom have previously pushed for the Taurus missiles to be sent to Kyiv.

07:26 AM GMT

‘Putin will fight wars till he dies: Why should we negotiate?’

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, has said there is no point negotiating a peace deal with Vladimir Putin because he will continue to fight wars “until he dies”.

Speaking at an event at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Kuleba said: “Putin clearly said two days ago: ‘We are not going to give away what we have achieved’.

“What’s the point of talking to him? I think he will be fighting various wars until he dies.

“We just need to understand one thing: we – not just Ukrainians but also people who defend certain rules – have a historic responsibility to win this war.”

07:20 AM GMT

Republican block on Ukraine aid threatens free world, says Biden

Joe Biden warned Republicans on Wednesday that blocking new military aid for Ukraine threatens the “free world” after talks with congressional leaders at the White House failed to produce a breakthrough.

US aid to Ukraine has dried up after Republicans refused late last year to approve a new package worth $60 billion (£47 billion).

Mr Biden told the visiting House and Senate leaders that the months-long stand-off “endangers the United States’ national security, the Nato alliance, and the rest of the free world,” the White House said.

“The president called on Congress to quickly provide additional funding to support Ukraine and send a strong signal of US resolve. The president also made clear that we must act now to address the challenges at the border.”

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