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Russo-Ukrainian war, day 707: Ukraine returns 207 POWs from Russian captivity

The Ukrainian defenders have been exchanged in the first swap since the crash of a Russian IL-76 plane that Moscow claimed had 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war (PoWs) on board.

Exclusive

“We must help people make this unnatural choice” – Ukraine fighters on mobilization. Soldiers argue that while war goes against human nature, new mobilization rules would help civilians do their duty for the greater good and avoid a much worse evil – Russian occupation.
Corruption problem in Ukraine is exaggerated, European experts assert. Although Ukraine has made significant progress in anti-corruption measures, the country is still perceived as highly corrupted, a viewpoint exacerbated by media emphasis and a deep-seated distrust among citizens in state institutions.
Does Zelenskyy want to fire top general Zaluzhnyi? Everything we know. “The number of disagreements between Zelensky and Zaluzhny has reached a critical point,” an analyst said, as attempts to dismiss the revered commander sparked backlash.
Ukraine moves to plug loopholes, demand equal sacrifice in mobilization. With manpower shortages mounting, exhausted Ukrainian soldiers lacking rest demand overhauled mobilization enacting defined terms and universal obligation as lawmakers debate new law.

Military

Blood Gold: How Kremlin mercenaries loot Africa to wage war in Ukraine. Seizing African gold mines and building smuggling networks, the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group has generated over $2.5 billion to fund Russia’s war in Ukraine. But there is a way to close the tap on Wagner’s Africa blood gold pipelines.

Politico: Ukraine to receive first GLSDB rocket-propelled bombs with 150 km range on Jan. 31. Ukraine will receive the first ground-launched small-diameter bombs with 150 km range on 31 January, per Politico sources. The US announced GLSDB supplies early last year, but the new weapon’s testing lasted months.

International

Switzerland bans import of Russian diamonds. Yet Switzerland still refuses to send arms to Ukraine, citing neutrality.

Ukraine, US sign memorandum to enhance monitoring of defense aid. On 31 January, Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov held a meeting with US Inspector General of the Department of Defense Robert Storch in Kyiv.

FP: US, Germany push to delay Ukraine NATO membership invite. Ukraine and its key allies are pushing NATO to invite Kyiv to join the military alliance at an upcoming summit this summer but face opposition from the US and Germany, say officials, according to FT.

Belarusian Monitoring Group suspects Chinese military deliveries to Minsk by Air China cargo jets. The alleged military shipment could end up on the Russian-Ukrainian frontline, surpassing Western sanctions.

Media: Crimean athlete faces a life sentence after accusations of state treason by Russian occupation authorities. Russian authorities have intensified charges against Kyrylo Barannikov, a Crimean resident and a master of sports in orienteering.

Melitopol mayor: Moscow relocated at least 100,000 Russians into city since 2022 invasion outset. In the wake of the Russian occupation, Melitopol, once home to around 150,000 residents, witnessed a mass exodus, with over half of its citizens fleeing to Ukrainian-controlled territories and abroad after 24 February 2022.

Explosion rocks St. Petersburg oil refinery in reported Ukraine intel’s attack. In the early hours of 31 January, a drone hit an oil refinery in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city and the Baltic Sea port, in a reported Ukrainian intelligence-orchestrated attack.

Ukraine returns home 207 POWs (photos). Ukraine returns home 207 POWs in this year’s second large-scale prisoner exchange with Russia.

UK intel: Russia shifts from short to extended prison conscription. Russia ceased polemical short-term recruitment of prisoners for the military in September 2023, transitioning to offering standardized long-term conscription contracts until mobilization ends, per UK intelligence.

Latvian Defense Minister outlines steps to supply Ukraine with 1,000,000 artillery rounds. Latvian Defense Minister believes the EU can still supply Ukraine with 1 mn shells by providing more shells from its own stocks, scaling up production, and procuring the shells in Europe and elsewhere.

New developments

Nuland: “Putin to get some nice surprises on the battlefield”. US Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland visited Kyiv on 31 January.

Pentagon confirms GLSDB supplies to Ukraine, avoids confirming timelines. The Pentagon confirms that Ukraine will receive ground-launched rocket-propelled bombs but doesn’t confirm specific timelines due to “operation security reasons.”

Crimean partisans allegedly find Sevastopol depot with Kalibr missiles used by Russia to strike Ukraine. The “Atesh” underground movement in Crimea claims to have uncovered a military depot in Sevastopol, where occupiers are reportedly storing Kalibr missiles used to target Ukraine.

Read our earlier daily review here.

As of 31 Jan 2024, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

    • Personnel: 385230 (+1090)
    • Tanks: 6310 (+10)
    • APV: 11757 (+32)
    • Artillery systems: 9195 (+51)
    • MLRS: 974 (+2)
    • Anti-aircraft systems: 663
    • Aircraft: 332
    • Helicopters: 324
    • UAV: 7100 (+16)
    • Cruise missiles: 1846
    • Warships/boats: 23
    • Submarines: 1
    • Vehicles and fuel tanks: 12231 (+40)
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