© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A satellite view shows a closer view of exploding munitions, in Bakhmut, Ukraine, January 3, 2023. Satellite image 2023 Maxar Technologies./Handout via REUTERS
(Reuters) – Russia said on Friday its forces had taken control of Soledar in eastern Ukraine, in what would be a rare success for Moscow after months of battlefield reverses, but Kyiv said its troops were still fighting in the town.
* President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces continued to fight in Soledar, a small salt-mining town, and other cities in the Donetsk region.
* Reuters could not verify the accounts.
* CNN said reporters outside Soledar could hear mortar and rocket fire on Friday afternoon and saw Ukrainian forces ferrying troops in what appeared to be an organised pullback.
* Ultra-nationalist mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose Wagner Group includes prisoners promised pardons for service, complained after Russia’s military took credit for Soledar without mentioning his fighters.
* Finland joined Poland in saying it could send German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine as part of a Western coalition apparently being put together to supply them.
* France hopes to deliver “AMX 10-RC” light combat tanks to Ukraine in two months, said armed forces minister Sebastien Lecornu.
* Belarus may enter the conflict, a Russian foreign ministry official said. Russia used Belarus as a springboard to invade Ukraine in February, but the border area is now heavily waterlogged, making an imminent attack from there unlikely. 4pm
* Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, after meeting U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, stressed the importance of standing up to Russia’s invasion, saying that if a unilateral change to the status quo went unchallenged, the same would happen elsewhere, including in Asia – an apparent reference to China’s vow to reunite with self-ruled Taiwan, by force if necessary.
* Russia is becoming too dependent on oil revenues to support its budget as it ramps up military spending, economists said, warning that the government may have to raise taxes if crude prices fail to meet expectations this year.
* A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested confiscating property and assets of Russians who discredit the armed forces and oppose the war in Ukraine.
* At least four Chinese-owned supertankers are shipping Russian Urals crude to China, according to trading sources and tracking data, as Moscow seeks vessels for exports after a G7 oil price cap restricted the use of Western cargo services and insurance.