(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov will be replaced by the head of military intelligence, substituting a general for a civilian as the country braces for a possible Russian offensive, a lawmaker from President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s party said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz dismissed concern that supplying battle tanks could drag his country into war with Russia. Western allies have a “consensus” with Ukraine’s leader that weapons provided to Kyiv won’t be used to attack Russian territory, he said.   

Russia’s defense ministry claimed, without offering evidence, that Ukraine plans a major “provocation” in Donetsk to extract more promises of military aid from Western allies. Russian missiles struck the Kharkiv, damaging a university and residential neighborhoods in the Ukrainian city.

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On the Ground 

Two Russian S-300 missiles hit the center of Kharkiv in Ukraine’s northeast Sunday morning, mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Telegram. Emergency services are still at work; at least five injuries were reported. Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odesa and the surrounding area are still struggling with power outages, the energy group DTEK said. Over the past day, Ukrainian troops repelled assaults near 9 settlements in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the east, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Facebook. Civilian targets in the southern Kherson regions were shelled more than 60 times from multiple launch rocket systems, according to the General Staff. 

(All times CET)

Ukraine Defense Minister to Be Replaced, Lawmaker Says (9:55 p.m.)

Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov will be replaced by the head of military intelligence as Ukraine braces for a Russian offensive, a senior lawmaker from President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s party said.

David Arakhamiya, the Servant of the People party’s parliamentary leader, didn’t specify when Reznikov would be replaced. Picking the defense minister is up to the president and Zelenskiy’s office had no comment late Sunday.

Major General Kyrylo Budanov will take over at defense as Russia “is preparing to launch an offensive,” Arakhamiya said in a Telegram post. The Defense Ministry has faced allegations of graft, which Reznikov and the ministry have denied.

Clarity on Defense Minister to Come Within Days, Zelenskiy Aide Says (6 p.m.)  

Ukraine’s Kyiv will continue its crackdown on graft, as demanded by the public and to retain the trust of foreign donors amid recent corruption scandals, an adviser to Zelenskiy’s chief of staff said Sunday.

Defense chief Reznikov will “undoubtedly resign” if the president insists on it, said Mykhailo Podolyak.  

Russia Claims Ukraine Plans ‘Provocation’ With Hospital Strikes (4 p.m.)

Ukraine is planning a “massive provocation,” striking hospitals and health clinics in Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region, as a way to speed up military donations from allies, Russia’s defense ministry said. 

Russia cited unnamed independent sources, without offering evidence. It has regularly forecast provocations by Ukraine during the almost year-old conflict.  

Kramatorsk last week was hit by Russian missile strikes that destroyed a dozen residences, a children’s clinic, a school and garages, killing three and injuring at least 17 people. Russia in April shelled the Kramatorsk railway station, killing an estimated 60 people, including children, who were waiting to evacuate by train.   

Moscow, Tehran Plan Drone Factory in Russia: WSJ (3:30 p.m.)

Moscow and Tehran are moving ahead with plans to build a factory in Russia that could make thousands of Iranian-designed drones for the war in Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

A high-level Iranian delegation flew to Russia in early January to visit the planned site, the newspaper reported, citing officials from “a country aligned with the US.”   

Defense Minister Nods at Zelenskiy After Resignation Report (3:45 p.m.)

Oleksii Reznikov said it was up to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy whether he stays or goes after Ukrainska Pravda reported on Sunday that the defense minister may be replaced. Ukrainian media reported he may be removed amid probes into food procurement for the military. 

Reznikov said Sunday his ministry’s anti-corruption department will have to be “rebooted”.

Reznikov: Continued Bakhmut Offensive ‘Political’ Question (3:15 p.m.) 

Surrendering Bakhmut to Russia is a “political” question and will be decided by Ukraine’s chief commander, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said. The Donestsk town has been the site of an extended battle. 

At a press briefing in Kyiv, Reznikov said that on average, 500 Russian soldiers are being killed or wounded every day in the Bakhmut offensive. The figure couldn’t be verified and Reznikov didn’t estimate Ukrainian losses. 

He pledged that Ukraine won’t use long-range weapons pledged by allies including the US to strike targets in Russia. 

Ukraine Sees Possible Russian Offensive in February (2:49 p.m.)

Ukraine’s government expects a big new Russian offensive to start this month, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said at a press briefing in Kyiv. The one-year mark of Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor will be Feb. 24.  

Reznikov said the main directions of Russia’s attack are likely to be from the east and south. He discounted the possibility of an invasion from the north, saying Ukraine doesn’t see signs of Russia massing a large enough strike force there.  

Ukraine is amassing reserves ahead of Russia’s expected offensive, he said. 

Israel’s Bennett Says Putin Promised Not to Kill Zelenskiy (1 p.m.)

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said President Vladimir Putin promised not to kill Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy when the pair met in Moscow weeks into Russia’s invasion. 

Bennett, who left office in June, made the comments on a podcast broadcast on Sunday. He briefly emerged as a potential intermediary in the conflict after making a trip to Moscow in March. 

“I asked ‘what’s with this? Are you planning to kill Zelenskiy?’ He said ‘I won’t kill Zelenskiy,’” Bennett said.  

Ukraine Concerned About Sluggish Tank Deliveries (12 p.m.)

Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk urged European states with Leopard 2 tanks to contribute to the tank coalition without delay. In an interview with Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Melnyk warned that “every day counts,” referencing the threat of new Russian offensives. 

Melnyk, who until October was Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, this weekend also suggested allies should provide naval vessels, including submarines.

Germany, which has decided to supply the German-made main battle tanks, is waiting for concrete offers from several states that promised such deliveries. Finland and the Netherlands, for instance, haven’t yet made concrete offers, Sueddeutsche reported. 

Ukraine Specialists Training on Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense (11:12 a.m.)

A team of Ukrainian military specialists is headed abroad for training on SAMP/T-Mamba air defense systems provided by the governments of France and Italy, the country’s Air Force commander said. 

The service members will return in the spring with the systems, Mykola Oleshchuk said. The SAMP/T-Mamba systems are able to guard against tactical ballistic missiles.  

Bakhmut ‘Increasingly Isolated’ by Russian Advances, UK Says (8 a.m.)

Kremlin forces have continued to make small advances in their attempt to encircle Bakhmut in Donetsk, leaving the Donestsk town increasingly isolated, the UK defense ministry said. 

The M03 and the H32 – the two main roads into the city for Ukrainian defenders – are likely now both threatened by direct fire, following the Russian advances, the UK said. Earlier, Wagner paramilitary forces highly likely seized a subordinate route which links Bakhmut to the town of Siversk.

Germany’s Scholz Says ‘Joint Approach’ in Ukraine to Prevent Escalation (6 a.m.) 

Chancellor Olaf Scholz rejected concerns that war with Russia is bound to escalate after Germany’s move to donate Leopard battle tanks to Kyiv in interview with the Bild on Sonntag tabloid.

“We have carefully weighed every arms shipment [to Ukraine], coordinated them closely with our allies, first and foremost with the United States,” Scholz told Bild. “This joint approach prevents an escalation of the war.” 

Scholz said there was a “consensus” involving Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that weapons provided by Western allies would not be used to strike Russian territory.


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