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Russia launches 45 drones in mass barrage of Ukraine as Zelensky continues war cabinet reshuffle

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Another person was injured in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region when a fire broke out, caused by falling debris from a destroyed drone, said the head of the region’s military administration, Serhiy Lysak.

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The strikes come as Zelensky continues his shake-up of military commanders in a bid to maintain momentum against attacking Russian forces.

Kyiv announced on Sunday that former deputy defence minister Lieutenant General Alexander Pavlyuk would become the new commander of Ukraine’s ground forces.

The post was previously held by Colonel General Oleksandr Syrsky, who was named on Thursday as the replacement for Ukraine’s outgoing military chief, General Valery Zaluzhny.

New presidential decrees also named Yuri Sodol, the former head of Ukraine’s marine corps, as the new commander of Ukraine’s combined forces; Brigadier General Ihor Skibiuk as commander of Ukraine’s air assault forces; and Major General Ihor Plahuta as commander of Ukraine’s territorial defence forces.

Incoming commander-in-chief Syrsky has signalled that his immediate goals include improving troop rotation at the front lines and harnessing the power of new technology at a time when Kyiv’s forces are largely on the defensive.

In a statement on Telegram on Saturday, Zelensky said: “Now, people who are well-known in the army and who themselves know well what the army needs are taking on new responsibilities.”

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Ukraine’s military intelligence service said on Sunday that attacking Russian forces had been found using Starlink terminals to aid their attack. It released what it said was a recording of an intercepted conversation between two Russian soldiers as proof.

Starlink terminals, which use a series of satellites run by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX to provide high-speed communications, have been vital in giving Ukraine’s military an edge over invading Russian troops.

The Ukrainian intelligence officials published an audio file, said to originate from the Russian side of the front line, in which a male voice speaking in Russian can be heard saying: “Starlink works, there is internet.”

Local residents use a Starlink terminal amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Chasiv Yar, Donetsk region, Ukraine. Photo: Reuters
In a statement last week, SpaceX said it “does not do business of any kind with the Russian government or its military”.
“SpaceX has never sold or marketed Starlink in Russia, nor has it shipped equipment to locations in Russia,” the company wrote on social media platform X, also owned by Musk.
However, Western tech components have regularly been found among Russia’s arsenal as Moscow has become more skilled at evading sanctions, often importing goods via third countries.

SpaceX said it would investigate cases in which Starlink terminals are being used without permission and would shut down the terminal if necessary.

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Elsewhere, a 71-year-old Ukrainian man died in a Russian prison while on trial for espionage, activists said on Sunday.

Court documents found by human rights group Memorial revealed that the Russian state had closed its case against the late Viktor Demchenko, who was accused of spying, participation in a terrorist group, and the illegal possession of weapons and ammunition.

Officials later told Russian state news agency Tass that Demchenko died on December 31 as the result of a stroke several days earlier, but did not say why it had taken so long for the news to become public.

Demchenko, who was born in the town of Mospino in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, had been on trial in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don since August 2023. By the time of his death, there had been seven hearings in the case, all of them behind closed doors.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Moscow, Russia on January 26. Photo: AP
Russian authorities have detained a number of people on spying charges since the start of its full-scale war against Ukraine, including Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was jailed in March 2023 on espionage charges he denies.
The secretive nature of such trials, which are closed to the press on the grounds of national security, means that information is scarce. However, in his recent interview with US television host Tucker Carlson, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was ready to negotiate a prisoner exchange for Gershkovich’s freedom, suggesting that Moscow wanted the release of a Russian imprisoned in Germany.

Additional reporting by dpa

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