A Russian warship armed with new-generation hypersonic cruise weapons will participate in joint exercises with the navies of China and South Africa in February, the Russian state agency, Tass, said on Monday.
It was the first official mention of the participation by the frigate, ‘admiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov,’ which is armed with Zircon missiles.
The missiles fly at nine times the speed of sound, with a range of more than 1,000 km (620 miles), Russia says. They form the centrepiece of its hypersonic arsenal, along with the Avangard glide vehicle that entered combat duty in 2019.
Admiral Gorshkov … will go to the logistic support point in Syria’s Tartus, and then take part in joint naval exercises with the Chinese and South African navies,” Tass said, citing an unidentified defence source.
On Thursday, the South African National Defence Force said the drills, to run from 17 to 27 February near the port city of Durban and Richards Bay, aim “to strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia and China.”
The exercise will be the second involving the three countries in South Africa, after a drill in 2019, the defence force added in its statement.
The Gorshkov held exercises in the Norwegian Sea this month after President Vladimir Putin sent it to the Atlantic Ocean in a signal to the west that Russia would not back down over the war in Ukraine.
The news comes as Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, arrived on a visit to South Africa on Sunday.
Morocco has reportedly sent an unknown number of T-72B main battle tanks to Ukraine, according to Ukraine’s armed forces.
In its latest update, the military said:
A week ago, Morocco sent 20 T-72B tanks to Ukraine, which underwent modernisation in the Czech Republic.”
Morocco originally bought the tanks from Belarus but was reportedly persuaded to send tanks to Ukraine during the Ramstein summit last year.
Heavy diplomatic pressure has been building on Berlin to send its tanks, or at least allow countries that bought them from Germany to re-export them. As the producer of the Leopard tanks, Berlin has a veto on their transfer.
At a special international summit on Friday at the US military base in Ramstein, in south-west Germany, Berlin stubbornly declined to take a decision on whether to give Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, leading to growing frustration from Kyiv and its allies.
On Sunday, Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, criticised Germany’s failure to supply the hardware to Ukraine.
Germany’s attitude is unacceptable. It has been almost a year since the war began. Innocent people are dying every day.
Russian bombs are wreaking havoc in Ukrainian cities. Civilian targets are being attacked, women and children are being murdered.”
He went on: “I try to weigh my words but I’ll say it bluntly: Ukraine and Europe will win this war – with or without Germany.”
It had been hoped in Kyiv and the US that Germany would allow Leopards owned by countries such as Poland and Finland to be re-exported. However, Germany’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, said despite heightened expectations, “we still cannot say when a decision will be taken, and what the decision will be, when it comes to the Leopard tank”.
Morawiecki said he was waiting for “a clear statement” from Berlin.
The German defence minister, Boris Pistorius, said that he expected a decision soon on the delivery of tanks to Ukraine. Speaking in an interview on Germany’s ARD TV on Sunday, Pistorius said that Germany would not make a hasty decision because the government had many factors to consider, including consequences at home for the security of the German population.
In a joint statement Saturday, the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia had also urged Germany “to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now”.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has vowed Ukraine will not tolerate corruption and promised forthcoming key decisions on uprooting it this week.
I want this to be clear: there will be no return to what used to be in the past, to the way various people close to state institutions or those who spent their entire lives chasing a chair used to live,” he said in his Sunday night address.
Zelenskiy said that his government dismissed a deputy minister after an investigation into allegations he accepted a bribe.
He did not identify the official, but news reports cited by Reuters said an acting deputy minister of regional development, Vasyl Lozinskiy, was detained on allegations of accepting a bribe.
I want this to be our signal to all those whose actions or behaviour violate the principle of justice,” Zelenskiy added.
Ukraine has had a long history of rampant corruption and shaky governance, with Transparency International ranking the country’s corruption at 122 of 180 countries, not much better than Russia in 2021.
The EU has made anti-corruption reforms one of its key requirements for Ukraine’s membership to the bloc, after granting Kyiv candidate status last year.
Germany has said it will not “stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, in what appears to be the clearest signal yet from Berlin that European allies could deliver the German-made hardware.
Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock was asked in an interview with French television station LCI what would happen if Poland sent its Leopard 2 tanks without German approval.
For the moment the question has not been asked, but if we were asked we would not stand in the way.”
Poland announced it is ready to deliver 14 Leopard tanks to Kyiv. Prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki had said that if Germany refused to supply the tanks to Ukraine, “we will set up a ‘small coalition’ of countries ready to donate some of their modern equipment, their modern tanks”.
Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine. I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments as they unfold over the next few hours.
Germany continues to come under heavy diplomatic pressure to send its tanks – or at least allow countries that bought them from Germany to re-export them – to Ukraine. As the producer of the Leopard tanks, Berlin has a veto on their transfer.
The German defence minister, Boris Pistorius, said that he expects a decision soon on the delivery of tanks to Ukraine, in an interview on Sunday. Pistorius said that Germany would not make a hasty decision because the government had many factors to consider, including consequences at home for the security of the German population.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has vowed Ukraine will not tolerate corruption and promised forthcoming key reforms on uprooting it. The EU has made anti-corruption reforms one of its key requirements for Ukraine’s membership to the bloc.
If you have just joined us, here are all the latest developments:
Germany will not “stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said, in what appeared to be the clearest signal yet from Berlin that European allies could deliver the German-made hardware. Asked in an interview with French television station LCI what would happen if Poland sent its Leopard 2 tanks without German approval, Baerbock replied through a translator: “For the moment the question has not been asked, but if we were asked we would not stand in the way.”
Poland announced it is ready to deliver 14 Leopard tanks to Kyiv but is waiting for “a clear statement” from Berlin, in comments made before German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock’s interview. Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, criticised Germany’s failure to supply tanks to Ukraine. “Germany’s attitude is unacceptable. It has been almost a year since the war began. Innocent people are dying every day,” he said.
Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Ukraine, where he said that it was “the moment to double down and to give the Ukrainians all the tools they need to finish the job”. Downing Street said Rishi Sunak is “supportive” of Boris Johnson’s visit, despite warnings that it would undermine the current prime minister’s authority.
French president Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he does not rule out the possibility of sending Leclerc tanks to Ukraine. “As for the Leclercs, I have asked the defence ministry to work on it. Nothing is excluded,” he said while speaking at a summit with German chancellor Scholz.
Russia claimed to have made advances in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region. After months of stalemate in the south-eastern region, Moscow-installed officials say the front is now “mobile” while the Ukrainian army reported that 15 settlements had come under artillery fire. “During offensive operations in the direction of Zaporizhzhia, units of the eastern military district took up more advantageous ground and positions,” the defence ministry said on Sunday.
Norway’s army chief has estimated 180,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded in over the course of the conflict, while the figure for the Ukrainians is 100,000 military casualties and 30,000 dead civilians. Norwegian chief of defence Eirik Kristoffersen gave the figures in an interview with TV2, without specifying how the numbers were calculated. The figures cannot be independently verified.