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Putin orders screening of Ukraine war films showing ‘heroism’ of soldiers

President Vladimir Putin ordered his government on Tuesday to organise cinema screenings of documentaries showing the “heroism” of Russian soldiers in Ukraine and their fight against “neo-Nazi” ideology. Earlier on Tuesday, mourners in Russia voiced grief and anger at a rare public commemoration for soldiers killed by a Ukrainian strike on New Year’s Eve in the Donbas town of Makiivka. Follow our blog to see how the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+1). 

12:03am: Russia says 89 troops killed in New Year’s attack, blames unauthorised use of mobile phones

Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that 89 servicemen were killed in the Ukrainian attack on Makiivka in the Moscow-controlled parts of the Donetsk region, adding the main reason for the attack was unauthorised use of mobile phones by the troops.

“It is already obvious that the main reason for what happened was the switching on and massive use – contrary to the prohibition – by personnel of mobile phones in a reach zone of enemy weapons,” the ministry said in a statement.

7:34pm: Putin plans to talk to Turkish President Erdogan on Wednesday

Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to talk to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax news agency on Tuesday.

The two leaders have had several phone calls since Russia invaded Ukraine last February. Turkey acted as mediator alongside the United Nations in 2022 to set up a deal allowing grain exports from Ukrainian ports.

6:07pm: Putin orders screening of Ukraine war documentaries dedicated to ‘heroism of participants’

President Vladimir Putin ordered his government on Tuesday to ensure by February the screening in cinemas of documentary films dedicated to his assault on Ukraine and the fight against “neo-Nazi” ideology.

The Kremlin said in a statement that the culture ministry had until February 1 to implement the order.

Putin ordered the defence ministry to render assistance to Russian filmmakers who will produce documentaries dedicated to “the heroism of the participants of the special military operation”, the Kremlin said, using the official term for the offensive.

Since the start of Moscow’s military campaign, state television channels have ramped up propaganda lauding Russian troops fighting in Ukraine as heroes. Independent media outlets have been suspended or shut down in Russia, with many journalists leaving the country.

Criticism of the offensive in Ukraine is now punishable with jail time, while words such as “war” and “invasion” are banned.

4:45pm: British PM promises long-term support to Ukraine after Russian drone attacks

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky that the he can count on Britain for support over the long run following recent Russian drone attacks, Sunak’s office said on Tuesday.

“The leaders discussed the abhorrent drone attacks on Ukraine in recent days,” the spokesperson said in a statement issued after the two leaders spoke earlier in the day.

“The Prime Minister said Ukraine could count on the UK to continue to support it for the long term, as demonstrated by the recent delivery of more than 1000 anti-air missiles.”

2:17pm: Ukraine needs EU support ‘more than ever’, says Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that Ukraine “needs our support more than ever”, as he hosted Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Paris, with Sweden having taken over the rotating presidency of the European Union.

1:42pm: Mourners commemorate Russian soldiers killed in Makiivka 

Around 200 people laid roses and wreaths in a central square in the Russian city of Samara, home to many of the servicemen killed in the New Year’s Eve strike by Ukrainian forces on a building in the Donbas town of Makiivka.

An Orthodox priest recited a prayer and soldiers fired a gun salute at the commemoration. Some of the mourners could be seen holding flags for President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.

Local media reported similar gatherings in other parts of the Samara region.

Putin has yet to react to the Makiivka strike, which comes during a holiday season before Orthodox Christmas that many Russians spend with their families.

12:10pm: Russian bloggers blame ammunition storage for extent of Makiivka destruction

Russian nationalists and military bloggers accused the defence ministry of ignoring safety procedures days after a Ukrainian strike killed Russian soldiers in Makiivka in Ukraine‘s eastern Donbas region. 

Bloggers said the extent of the destruction at Makiivka was a result of ammunition stored in the same building as a barracks, despite commanders knowing it was within range of Ukrainian rockets.

Igor Girkin, a former commander of pro-Russian troops in eastern Ukraine who is now one of the highest-profile Russian nationalist military bloggers, said military equipment stored at the site was uncamouflaged.

“What happened in Makiivka is horrible,” wrote Archangel Spetznaz Z, a Russian military blogger with more than 700,000 followers on the Telegram messaging app.

“Who came up with the idea to place personnel in large numbers in one building, where even a fool understands that even if they hit with artillery, there will be many wounded or dead?” he wrote. Commanders “couldn’t care less”, he said.

The fury in Russia extended to lawmakers. Sergei Mironov, a legislator and former chairman of the Senate,  Russia’s upper house, demanded criminal liability for the officials who had “allowed the concentration of military personnel in an unprotected building” and “all the higher authorities who did not provide the proper level of security”.

In a rare disclosure, Russia’s defence ministry said 63 soldiers were killed in the attack. Ukrainian defence officials have put the figure at 400.

8:44am: Pressure on Putin likely to increase after Ukrainian New Year’s Eve attack

Russia has admitted that 63 of its soldiers were killed in a Ukrainian New Year’s Eve attack on a camp in Makiivka in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. The Ukrainian defence ministry put the death toll at 400.

Reporting from Kyiv, FRANCE 24’s Luke Shrago said regardless of the discrepancies in the figures, it was a “huge admission” as Moscow has consistently downplayed its losses in its war in Ukraine.

The Makiivka attack is likely to increase pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Shrago.

“[Putin is] already taking criticism from various areas of Russian society, in particular, nationalist bloggers and the far right wing, which are saying that Russia is not prosecuting this war well enough, it’s not going far enough,” he said.

2:45am: Ukraine, EU to hold summit in Kyiv

Ukraine and the EU will hold a summit in Kyiv on February 3 to discuss European financial and military support, President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s office said in a statement.

Zelensky exchanged details of the high-level meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in his first phone call of the year, the statement said.

The two leaders discussed the delivery of “appropriate” weapons and the launch of a new €18 billion financial aid programme for Ukraine, which was adopted by the European Parliament in December.

12:30am: Eastern Ukraine ice arena destroyed in Russian attack, hockey club says

A Russian missile attack in eastern Ukraine destroyed an ice rink in the town of Druzhkivka in the Donetsk region, Ukraine’s Donbas ice hockey club said in a statement on its website.

“As a result of rocket fire, the Altair ice arena was destroyed,” the statement said, following earlier reports of a missile hitting the town and injuring two people. The statement added that the venue had hosted Ukrainian championships, international competitions, and cultural and mass events.

12:15am: Ukraine’s strike on Russian soldiers among ‘largest losses of life in the war so far’

Ukraine reported its military killed nearly 400 Russian servicemen in a strike on a building in the city of Makiivka, in the east of the country, on New Year’s Eve, while Russia put the figure at 63. “Russia has been known to downplay its losses in the war,” said FRANCE 24’s Luke Shrago, reporting from Kyiv.

“Either way the numbers would make it one of the single largest losses of life in the war so far.”

The attack was reportedly carried out with High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) rockets, illustrating “the devastating effectiveness” with which Ukraine is using Western-supplied weapons, Shrago said.

Source: France24