Ukraine war latest: Russia moves ahead with plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus; footage 'shows sea drone hitting Russian warship' (2023)

Key points
  • Tactical nuclear weapons already on their way to Belarus, claims Lukashenko
  • Ukraine shares new footage of drone 'striking' Russian warship
  • US imposes sanctions on Wagner head in Mali amid weapons plot accusations
  • Zelenskyy gives surprise talk to US students
  • Prigozhin 'positioning himself as credible alternative' to Putin
  • Anti-Putin paramilitary group says there will be more incursions|Who are the fighters behind Belgorod incursion?
  • Wagner Group fighters begin withdrawal from Bakhmut
  • Your questions answered: Can the UK defend itself after sending weapons to Ukraine?
  • Got a question about the war? Ask our experts
  • Live reporting by Samuel Osborne


Kyiv reports increased danger of Russian missile strikes

Military authorities in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv have reported an increased danger of Russian missile strikes in the early hours of this morning.

They said anti-aircraft defences were working across the region.

Russia has launched hundreds of rocket attacks at targets across Ukraine since last October, seeking to destroy critical infrastructure and other targets.

In recent weeks Ukraine said it knocked out most of the missiles.

"Increased missile danger! Air defences are working in theregion," the Kyiv regional military administration said in amessage on Telegram.

No details of possible damage were available.


War could last for decades, Putin ally warns

The war in Ukraine could last for decades, a key ally of Vladimir Putin has said, Russia's RIA news agency reported.

Former president Dmitry Medvedev said it could turn into a conflict characterised by long periods of fighting interspersed by truces.

Mr Medvedev, deputy head of Mr Putin's powerful security council, made the characteristically hardline comments during a visit to Vietnam - last month he described Ukrainian authorities as an infection.

"This conflict will last a very long time, most likelydecades," RIA quoted Mr Medvedev saying.

"As long as there is such a power in place, there will be,say, three years of truce, two years of conflict, and everythingwill be repeated," he continued, reiterating Moscow's claim thatUkraine is a Nazi state.

In January, Mr Medvedev said if Russia were defeated it couldtrigger a nuclear war.


Good morning - here's the latest

Welcome to our live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Before we bring you all the latest updates, here's a reminder of the key events from yesterday:

  • Ukraine's defence ministry shared new footage of a sea drone 'striking' a Russian warship;
  • President Zelenskyy gave a surprise talk to US students. He also revealed Ukraine had secured 106 Ukrainians in a prisoner swap with Russia;
  • Our military expert said Wager chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was likely "positioning himself as a credible alternative" to Mr Putin;
  • US intelligence said they believed Ukraine was behind a drone attack on the Kremlin;
  • An anti-Putin paramilitary group vowed there will be more incursions following on from Belgorod.


US to announce new military aid package for Ukraine - reports

The US is set to announce a $300million (£243million) worth of military aid for Ukraine, according to Reuters.

The package, which is expected to contain surface-to-surface rocket launchers and other general ammunition, could be announced on Friday, reports the news agency, quoting two official sources.

The US has pledged more than $35billion (£28.5billion) worth of security assistance to Ukraine since Russia's February 2022 invasion.

It comes after Finland earlier announced plans for a 109 million Euros (£94.6million) military aid package.


Footage claims to show sea drone hitting Russian warship

Footage has been posted online, which appears to show a Russian warship being struck by a sea drone.

It comes after Russia claims it had foiled an attack on one of its ships - the Ivan Khurs - in the Black Sea on Wednesday.

Russia's defence ministry shared footage which it claimed showed gunners destroying an unmanned sea drone approaching the ship.

It described the attack as "unsuccessful".

Now footage - which Sky News has been unable to verify - appears to show a drone hitting the boat.

It has been shared on the official Twitter account of Ukraine's defence ministry, which tweeted: "When the Russian reconnaissance ship "Ivan Khurs" met a Ukrainian drone.

"Indeed, a perfect match!"


US imposes sanctions on head of Wagner in Mali amid accusations of weapons plot

The US has imposed sanctions on the head of the Wagner mercenary group in Mali.

It comes amid accusations from Washington that the group have been plotting to buy weapons for Russia from foreign nations then and route them through the west African nation.

The US Treasury Department has now announced sanctions on Ivan Aleksandrovich Maslov, who it describes as the head of Wagner paramilitary units and its principal administrator based in Mali.

In the statement announcing the sanctions, the department also accuses Wagner of working in close coordination with Mali's government to execute its deployment in the country.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday dismissed the US allegations as a "hoax".


Two Russian 'SU-type' aircraft downed in Zaporizhzhia region, says Zelenskyy

Another interesting note from Zelenskyy's nightly address - he claims Ukraine's National Guard has downed two Russian 'SU-type' aircraft in the Zaporizhzhia region.

He does not give any further details about the aircraft.

An SU call sign relates to aircraft made by Sukhoi - makers of Russian military aircraft.

"I am grateful to two of our particularly accurate warriors," he says.

"By the way, one of them has already been awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine, and has downed not only enemy aircraft but also a cruise missile."


Zelenskyy gives more detail on Ukraine prisoner swap - and reveals eight military officers among those released

President Zelenskyy, speaking in his nightly address, reveals more details about the prisoner swap we reported on earlier today.

He says that 106 people have been returned to Ukraine, including eight military officers and 98 soldiers and sergeants.

Zelenskyy does not give any further details about the Russian prisoners given back.

He does, however, issue a reminder to Ukrainian troops about how taking prisoners allows them to make such deals.

"I am grateful to each of our soldiers who ensured we had an appropriate exchange fund.

"Everyone on the frontline should remember this: The more Russian prisoners of war we take, the more of our people we will return."

He adds: "I thank everyone who gave this result."


Wagner chief's video showing respect to Bakhmut dead could be start of 'international PR campaign', experts suggest

Video has emerged of the founder of Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, standing beside two coffins - one draped in a US flag and the other in a Turkish flag.

The coffins are said to be for a former US marine killed in Bakhmut and a Turkish citizen who died alongside his wife in a building which Prigozhin claims was blown up by Ukrainian forces.

Wagner forces have been involved in the vast bulk of the fighting in Bakhmut, which has been the backdrop to one of the fiercest and bloodiest conflicts of the war so far.

Experts say the video, in which Prigozhin pays his respect to the dead, could be a PR exercise designed to curry favour with world leaders and an international audience.

Maxim Mironov, a Russian-born economics professor, now working for IE University in Madrid, wrote on Twitter: "I interpret this video as the beginning of Prigozhin's international PR campaign.

"Look at everything, 'I am a normal person, I respect the fallen in battle, here are their bodies, in coffins, with flags. You can do business with me, I am adequate'."

Cold War Historian Sergey Radchenko, sharing the video, added: "Agree with this analysis, very interesting."

Earlier, our military analyst Sean Bell said how the Wagner Group chief appears to be "positioning himself as a credible alternative" to the Russian president.

Bell told Sky News that the businessman and paramilitary chief was "savouring victory" in Bakhmut - the eastern city where his fighters claim to have taken control.


'Time is the most valuable resource': Zelenskyy makes surprise speech to US graduates

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made a surprise speech to graduates in the US.

The Ukrainian president made the speech - via video link - to Johns Hopkins University students during their commencement ceremony today.

"Time is the most valuable resource on the planet," he told them.

"Some people realise this sooner, and these are the lucky ones.

"Others realise it too late, when they lose someone or something."

Zelenskyy also described a recent visit with Ukrainian troops on the front lines, saying many have dreams and aspirations similar to those of the American graduating students.

However, he said that the tragedy of war was now their focus.

"You have to know exactly what you need today — and what you want your tomorrows to look like," he said.

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