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Ukraine war latest: Latvia announces new aid for Kyiv, including artillery, munitions, helicopters

by The Kyiv Independent news desk January 11, 2024 11:21 PM 9 min read
Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Riga, Latvia, on Jan. 11, 2024. (President Volodymyr Zelensky/X)
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Key updates on Jan. 11:

  • Latvia announces new aid for Kyiv, including artillery, munitions, helicopters
  • Prosecutor General: Kyiv has preliminary evidence Russia uses North Korean missiles in Ukraine
  • Defense Minister says new version of mobilization bill ready, condemns 'politicization' of issue
  • Commander: Situation on eastern front difficult as Russia conducts offensives in 3 sectors
  • Defense Ministry approves second design of body armor for female soldiers
  • Ukraine designates Subway as 'international sponsor of war'

Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics announced on Jan. 11 a new military aid package for Ukraine, including howitzers, drones, munitions. He said this during a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine's head of state arrived in Latvia earlier on Jan. 11 as the final step in his tour of the Baltic countries.

"Today I also informed the president of Ukraine about the next aid package, which includes howitzers, 155 mm ammunition, anti-tank weapons, rockets, grenades, helicopters, drones, communication devices, generators, as well as (other) equipment," Rinkevics said.

A staunch supporter of Ukraine against Russian aggression, Latvia has committed over 1% of its gross domestic product to military assistance for Kyiv, one of the highest shares of all the allies.

"I am grateful to Latvia for the latest military aid package for Ukraine and a clear understanding that the strength of Ukrainian warriors, positions, and future is the strength that secures Latvia's independence as well," Zelensky said on the social media platform X.

Riga will also lead a drone coalition, one of the several military capability coalitions formed to support Kyiv, Rinkevics noted.

The Latvian president further said that the prime ministers of Latvia and Ukraine would sign a memorandum on military cooperation and an intergovernmental assistance agreement later on Jan. 11.

As part of non-military assistance, Latvia's parliament voted to provide over 500 million euros ($547 million) for Ukraine's reconstruction over the next three years, focusing on Chernihiv Oblast, according to Rinkevics.

As part of his Baltic tour, Zelensky also visited Lithuania on Jan. 10 and Estonia a day later, receiving new pledges of long-term assistance from both countries. While Vilnius promised almost $220 million in the next three years, Estonia announced assistance of $1.3 billion until 2027.

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Prosecutor General: Kyiv has preliminary evidence Russia uses North Korean missiles in Ukraine

Ukrainian authorities received the first preliminary evidence that Russia used a North Korean missile against the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Jan. 2, Prosecutor General Andrii Kostin said on Jan. 11.

Last week, the White House reported that Moscow had deployed North Korean-supplied ballistic missiles in recent attacks against Ukraine, though the information was unconfirmed by Ukrainian officials until now.

"Regarding North Korea... we received the first evidence on the possible use of missiles manufactured in this country by the Russian military," Kostin said on air on Suspilne.

"The results of preliminary scientific and technical examination confirm that the missile launched against central Kharkiv on Jan. 2 is a short-range missile produced in North Korea."

Kostin added that military experts from the interagency working group at the Prosecutor General's Office reached the same conclusions. The specialists were present at the impact site and analyzed the missile parts, the prosecutor general added.

"A comprehensive examination is currently underway, which should finally confirm this fact."

Experts are working to identify other ammunition fragments found at the sites of recent attacks against Kharkiv and Odesa oblasts, he added.

Washington said on Jan. 4 that Russia launched North Korean missiles on Dec. 30, hitting an open field in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, and then again on Jan. 2 during a mass attack against Ukrainian cities.

While Ukraine's Air Force reported at the time it could not confirm the information, Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Syniehubov later said that Russia indeed used missiles of unknown foreign origin.

The U.S. and nearly 50 countries condemned the transfer and the reported use of North Korean missiles by Russia, calling for an immediate end to the delivery of weapons from Pyongyang to Moscow.

South Korea warned earlier on Jan. 11 that its northern neighbor may also sell Russia new types of tactical guided missiles as military cooperation between the two countries strengthens.

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Defense Minister says new version of mobilization bill ready, condemns 'politicization' of issue

The Defense Ministry has prepared a new version of the draft law on mobilization and is ready to submit it to the government for approval, Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said on Facebook on Jan. 11

Lawmakers returned the bill on mobilization and military service, which had been submitted by the government on Dec. 25, for a revision earlier on Jan. 11.

The bill was scheduled to be introduced to parliament on Jan. 11, but its plans for further conscription and restricting the rights of draft evaders had already attracted controversy.

A new law on mobilization is needed "as soon as possible" to protect the country and soldiers on the front line, Umerov said.

"Now mobilization, military registration, and rotations, which are critically important for the state, are being politicized and stalled. This is unacceptable in wartime," Umerov said.

"Our soldiers need rotations and vacations. Our soldiers need an opportunity to recover. Our soldiers have the right to know what awaits them and to plan their own lives."

According to Umerov, a working group made up of the Defense Ministry, the General Staff, representatives from all political parties, and "a number of other ministries and agencies" worked on the draft law on mobilization for six months.

After the bill was registered in parliament, Umerov, Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi, and Chief of the General Staff Serhii Shaptala then came to parliament on Jan. 4 to start talks with the parliament's committee on security and defense on the bill.

The new version takes into account all proposals agreed upon at the meetings of the committee, Umerov said.

Discussions on mobilization have been ongoing since Dec. 19, when President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine's military leadership had proposed to mobilize up to 500,000 additional conscripts.

Zaluzhnyi then denied that the military had submitted a formal request to mobilize 500,000 people but said that the military did have a plan for mobilization numbers for 2024.

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Commander: Situation on eastern front difficult as Russia conducts offensives in 3 sectors

The situation on Ukraine's eastern front remains difficult as Russian forces continue offensive operations in the Kupiansk, Lyman, and Bakhmut directions, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi said on Jan. 11.

"Despite the large-scale offensive actions of the enemy, our soldiers firmly hold the defensive lines in all directions and inflict significant losses on the enemy," the commander of the Ukrainian ground forces reported on Telegram.

According to Syrskyi, the "occupiers keep trying to push our units out of the Kupiansk forest and capture Synkivka, aiming to cut off Kupiansk."

"Thanks to our defenders, the enemy is suffering significant losses," Syrskyi said, adding that Russia is nevertheless increasing its efforts at the expense of its manpower.

The northeastern city of Kupiansk in Kharkiv Oblast was liberated from Russian occupation during a surprise counteroffensive in the autumn of 2022. The Ukrainian military has recently warned that Moscow aims to capture it again.

According to the U.S.-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russia may intensify localized attacks with fresh troops in the Kupiansk sector in the next few weeks.

In the Lyman direction, Moscow's troops are concentrating efforts in the Serebrianskyi forest area and launching unsuccessful attacks in the directions of Dibrova, Torske, and Yampil, Syrskyi said.

They are also trying to push Ukrainian defenders beyond the Chornyi Zherebets River with the support of artillery and fresh assault troops deployed from Russia, he added.

Near occupied Bakhmut, Russia is making "every effort to cross the Siverskyi Donets-Donbas canal," according to Syrskyi.

Russia is attacking Bohdanivka from the north of the city and trying to "create favorable conditions for the offensive on Chasiv Yar and to restore the lost positions near lakes east of Klishchiivka and Kurdiumivka," the general said.

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Defense Ministry approves second design of body armor for female soldiers

A second type of bulletproof vest specifically designed for women has been approved after undergoing testing, Ukraine's Defense Ministry announced on Jan. 11.

The first sample of body armor for female soldiers was approved on Dec. 27. The company responsible for the design, Ukrainian Armor, led a campaign to draw attention to the need for body armor for women serving in the military.

Over 62,000 women voluntarily serve in Ukraine's Armed Forces, 5,000 of whom have active combat roles. They generally rely on uniforms and armor designed for men, or buy their own gear or find supplies via non-profits.

Temp3000, a major supplier of protective gear to the Ukrainian military, produced the second design.

The vest features adjustable shock absorbers, allowing each woman to alter the armor to fit her body.

Like the Ukrainian Armor vest, the Temp3000 vest weighs at least 10.5 kilograms, which does not differ from other body armor currently used by the Ukrainian military.

"Both samples are available for centralized procurement," the Defense Ministry said, adding that the General Staff will indicate how many are needed.

Ukrainian Armor has indicated it can produce up to 10,000 vests within 90 days, while Temp3000 can produce 5,000 vests per month if ordered in advance, Deputy Defense Minister Vitalii Polovenko said.

The Defense Ministry approved a standard sample of summer field uniforms for female soldiers in August, 18 months into the full-scale invasion.

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Ukraine designates Subway as 'international sponsor of war'

American fast food chain Subway has been added to Ukraine's list of "international sponsors of war" for its continued presence in the Russian market, the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) announced on Jan. 10.

The "international sponsor of war" list is designed to be "a powerful reputational tool" to encourage the exit of international business from Russia and reduce Moscow's financial ability to continue its war against Ukraine, the NACP explains on its website.

Over 500 Subway franchises continue to operate in the Russian market, which pay "hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes to the budget of the Russian Federation," the NACP said.

Since the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022, the company has not reported any reduction in its operations in the Russian Federation.

Unlike other American fast food chains, Subway made no announcement to scale down or close operations in Russia,  and "there were no attempts by the company's management to condemn Russia's war," the NACP said.

Fast food chain MacDonald's, for example, temporarily suspended all operations in the country in March, and announced in May that McDonald's restaurants in Russia would be sold.

The same month, Subway found out that Russian banks had begun to block the payment of franchisee royalty fees to Subway's headquarters in the U.S., which had been designated an "unfriendly country" by the Russian government.

A solution was found with the help of a Russian law firm, which determined Subway could legally collect royalties from the franchisees through a holding company.

Subway joins alcohol company Bacardi, multinational food giant Nestle, and multinational snack and beverage companies like Mars and PepsiCo on the "international sponsors of war" list. Nearly 50 companies are currently included on the list in total.

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