Ukraine Latest: Biden, McConnell Pay Tribute to Crash Victims

(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration is planning to send Stryker armored vehicles in its next package of military aid to Ukraine, adding another new and more powerful weapons system that it had previously withheld, people familiar with the matter said.

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Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky and his deputy were among at least 14 people who died in a helicopter crash in the town of Brovary, near the capital Kyiv. They are the highest-ranking Ukrainian officials to have lost their lives since Russia’s war began in February.

A child was among those killed when the emergency services helicopter went down in flames near a kindergarten and an apartment building this morning, authorities said after search and rescue operations ended, revising an earlier count. An additional 25 people were injured, including 11 children. President Joe Biden and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell paid tribute to the victims.

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Key Developments

  • US Weighs Sending Stryker Vehicles in a Ukraine Aid Package

  • Ukrainian Interior Minister Killed in Helicopter Crash Near Kyiv

  • Ukraine Seeks to Add Steel to Grain Export Deal, Minister Says

  • War in Ukraine Strains Ties Between Putin and His Old Serb Ally

  • Enterprising Russians Plug Consumer Gaps Caused by Sanctions

On the Ground

Russian troops are focusing their main efforts on the assault toward the eastern city of Bakhmut, while also conducting unsuccessful offensive operations on the Avdiyivka axis, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Facebook. Ukrainian forces repelled attacks near nine settlements in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and shot down a Russian Su-25 jet near Soledar, according to the General Staff’s statement. The Nikopol district in the central Dnipropetrovsk region was shelled again overnight, local authorities said on Telegram.

(All times CET)

Biden, McConnell Express Condolences After Crash (5:20 a.m.)

President Joe Biden and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell were among those who expressed condolences over the death of Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky and at least 13 other people who died in a helicopter crash near Kyiv on Wednesday.

Biden, in a Twitter post, called Monastyrsky “reformer and patriot.” McConnell tweeted of the crash victims: “I know their commitment to the defense of their country and its freedom and sovereignty will live on as Ukraine keeps up its brave fight.”

US Plans to Send Stryker Vehicles in Next Aid Package (5:20 a.m.)

The US plans to send about 100 Stryker armored vehicles to Ukraine as part of a new package of military aid worth about $2.5 billion, adding another more powerful weapons system that it had previously withheld, people familiar with the matter said.

The US was poised to unveil a new aid package as part of a broader announcement by western allies of new hardware for Ukraine that’s set for Friday, when defense ministers meet at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.

The people added that the plans remain incomplete and could change.

Ukraine Welcomes IAEA Missions on Nuclear Power Plants (7:39 p.m.)

Ukraine and the International Atomic Energy Agency have coordinated their actions to ensure safety at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities by deploying permanent IAEA missions at four nuclear power plants, including Chernobyl and the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Telegram.

“We will continue to work on withdrawal of Russian troops and ‘Rosatom’ personnel from the territory of Zaporizhzhya NPP and return the plant under the control of Ukraine,” Shmyhal said.

Allies Escalate Talk of Sending Heavier Weapons to Ukraine (7:07 p.m.)

“There is an urgent need” to seen heavier weapons to Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg said. “Time matters.”

Sending such weapons — including potentially full-fledged battle tanks — will be on the agenda when western allies meet in Ramstein Germany, on Friday.

“We believe that the provision of modern tanks will significantly help and improve Ukrainians’ ability to fight where they’re fighting now and going forward more effectively,” John Kirby, spokesman for the US National Security Council told reporters in Washington.

But the US so far has declined to commit its Abrams tanks, which officials portray as gas-guzzlers that are especially difficult to maintain on the battlefield.

‘We Simply Do Not Know’ Cause of Copter Crash, US Says (6:50 p.m.)

“We don’t have any notion right now as to what caused that crash to occur” and “we simply do not know” if Russia caused it, Kirby, the US spokesman, said of the helicopter crash that killed 14 people in Urkaine, including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky.

Zelenskiy at Davos Urges Allies to Speed Aid to Ukraine (6:00 p.m.)

“The world must not hesitate today and ever,” the Ukrainian leader told the World Economic Forum via a video link. “Mobilization of the world must outpace next military mobilization of our joint enemy. The supplying of Ukraine with air defense systems must outpace Russia’s next missile attacks.”

Canada to Provide Ukraine 200 Armored Personnel Carriers (3:00 p.m.)

The machines are additional Canadian military aid to Ukraine, which has already reached $1 billion, Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand said in Kyiv at a joint press conference with Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov.

According to Anand, the Canadian government is buying the armored carriers from manufacturer Roshel Inc. valued at 90 million Canadian dollars. Earlier Canada announced plans to provide air defense system, ammunition and howitzers as well as continuing military training of Ukrainian soldiers.

Ukraine Expects to Discuss Leopard Tanks Supply to Ukraine (2:45 p.m.)

Ukraine will urge it’s partners to provide more air defense systems, as well as tanks, including German Leopards, and other armored vehicles, which would boost Ukrainian counteroffensive and reclaiming of its territory, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said at a joint press conference with his Canadian counterpart.

“As of now Germany has no arguments to suspend the supply, the ball is on their side,” Reznikov said. “Hope will hear the position of German government at upcoming Ramstein meeting.”

Zelenskiy Hails Helicopter Crash Officials as Patriots (12:30 p.m.)

The Ukrainian officials who died in Wednesday’s helicopter crash were true patriots, Zelenskiy said on Telegram. Ukraine’s Security Service started an investigation, with possible causes including a flight rules violation, a technical malfunction and intentional actions to damage the aircraft.

NATO’s top military official, Admiral Rob Bauer, told a meeting of alliance chiefs in Brussels: “Even though the cause of the accident remains unclear, it is yet another stark reminder of the senseless destruction and immense grief that this war causes.”

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