Ukraine war latest: Warship attacked by Ukrainian drone speedboats, Moscow claims; Russia must impose 'martial law', Wagner boss urges in angry rant (2023)

Key points
  • Russia claims warshiptargeted by Ukrainian drone boats
  • Wagner boss's warning: 'Russia must impose martial law'
  • UK defence secretaryBen Wallace makes surprise visit to Kyiv
  • White House will look into claims US vehicles used in Belgorod incursion
  • Moscow says Bakhmut will now be known by Russian name
  • 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 James Robinson and (earlier) Olive Enokido-Lineham


Devastation of Bahkmut revealed in before and after satellite images

Smoke rising, buildings collapsed, a city turned to rubble.

Here, satellite images from the town of Bakhmut reveal the destruction of war.

The pictures were taken of the same locations in the city in May 2022 and again in May 2023.

Bakhmut, a small city in eastern Ukraine, has been backdrop for one of the fiercest battles since the invasion last February.

After months of fighting, Russia's Wagner mercenary group, which has been involved in the bulk of the fighting, claimed control of the city last week.

But Ukraine, which claims it has been heavily defending the city to deplete Russian forces in a so-called meat grinder, has yet to admit defeat and says the battle is not over.

"They destroyed Bakhmut. They haven't taken it," said one Ukrainian commander.


'We s*** our pants in Kyiv and Kherson,' Wagner boss says

Russia "s*** our pants and retreated" from Kyiv in the early days of the war, the founder of the Wagner Group of mercenaries has said.

Speaking in an interview with pro-Kremlin strategist Konstantin Dolgov, posted on Telegram, Yevgeny Prigozhin said: "We approached Kyiv, then, as we say it in Russian, s*** our pants and retreated. Then s*** our pants and retreated in Kherson, then Izyum, Krasny Liman... And somehow everything didn’t work out."

Despite describing the invasion as a "special military operation" in the Donbas and Luhansk regions, Russian troops attacked Kyiv from Belarus at the start of its February 2022 invasion.

But Russia retreated after meeting stern Ukrainian resistance and then a counteroffensive which threatened to encircle its forces.

Russian forces also retreated from Izyum in September - leading to the discovery of mass graves - and Kherson in November.

Mr Prigozhin praised Ukraine's army as "one of the strongest armies", adding: "They have a high level of organisation, training, intelligence, they have various weapons.

"They work with any system - Soviet, NATO, whatever - and they are equally successful. And they are absolutely philosophical about what losses they bear.

"Everything goes in order to achieve the supreme goal, as we had during the Great Patriotic War. But more technological and well-managed."

He also addressed the recent Belgorod invasion - which he blamed on "saboteurs".

"Our defence is absolutely not ready to thwart them in any way..."


Norway to support efforts to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s

Norway will support efforts to teach Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets.

The announcement was made by Bjorn Arild Gram, the defence minister.

However, he said the Norwegian government had not yet decided whether to give their own F-16s.

It comes after the US agreed to allow Western nations to send American-made fighter jets to Ukraine.

Watch our explainer below about how F-16s could help Ukraine defend against Russia's invasion...


Russia releases footage of alleged Black Sea drone attack

The Russian defence ministry has released footage of what it claims is the Black Sea marine drone attack.

Sky News has not been able to independently verify the footage, which shows a small boat powering through the water while under fire.

One of the shells hits the craft, creating a huge explosion.

Russia claims the attack on the ship - the Ivan Hurs - was carried out by what it describes as uncrewed speedboats near the Bosphorus Strait.

In a statement posted on Telegram, the defence ministry said the warship had been protecting the TurkStream and Blue Stream gas pipelines at the time.

The pipelines carry gas from Russia to Turkey, partly across the Black Sea.

"All enemy boats were destroyed," the ministry added.

Here are some stills from the video...


White House will look into claims US vehicles were used in Belgorod incursion

Claims that US vehicles were used in an incursion into Russia's Belgorod region will be investigated by American officials, according to the White House.

Washington has provided billions of dollars of military assistance to Kyiv, but has sought to restrict its use to the defence of Ukrainian territory.

The Russian defence ministry has released pictures of what they claim are abandoned Western military vehicles used by Ukraine - including what Sky News has identified as US-made Humvees.

However, some critics have claimed that part of the pictures may have been staged - pointing to details in the images which they say suggest the scene could have been choreographed.

Moscow said yesterday that it had fought off an assault after two days of battles with attackers who had staged a cross-border raid.

Russia has pointed the finger at Ukrainian "saboteurs", but Kyiv has distanced itself from the raid.

Two Russian separatist groups have claimed responsibility for the attack.


What are drone boats?

As we reported earlier, Russia has today claimed that Ukraine has used sea drones to target one of its warships in the Black Sea.

Video purportedly of the attack - which Sky News is working to verify - shows a small black boat being shot at and destroyed.

Sea drones - which Russia has described as unmanned speedboats - are thought to have been used before in the Black Sea.

The 18ft radio-controlled boats can travel up to 50mph.

They are believed to have been used in an attack on Russia's Black Sea flagship vessel, the Admiral Makarov, in October last year.

Russia said 16 maritime drones were involved in the attack.

In January, Volodymyr Zelenskyy's United24 initiative set out on a quest to assemble a fleet of 100 sea drones - which cost around $250,000 (£205,000) each.

Speaking to Sky News previously, US Army Lieutenant Colonel and drone warfare expert Paul Lushenko said maritime drones are "just another axis of approach" to target Russian assets.

"There's only so many target acquisition systems on even these exquisite boats these days.

"And so when you have a swarming of capabilities, how do you prioritise targets?"


Which UK politicians have visited Ukraine during the war?

Ben Wallace, the UK defence secretary, has been in Kyivtoday to meet his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksii Reznikov.

He is the latest in a series of UK politicians to visit Ukraine since the war began - who else has made the trip?

Boris Johnson

The former prime minister made several trips to Ukraine - and was the first Western leader to visit Kyiv after Russia's invasion.

He visited in April 2022, two months after Vladimir Putin ordered troops over the border, and then again in August, before resigning as prime minister in September.

Mr Johnson, who positioned himself as one of Ukraine's biggest supporters, has visited Ukraine since his resignation, making a surprise visit in January where he again met Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Rishi Sunak

The prime minister followed in Mr Johnson's footsteps with a quick visit to Ukraine shortly after walking into Number 10.

He met Mr Zelenskyy and promised to continue the UK's support, writing in a Tweet: "We are with you all the way."

Mr Sunak’s arrival was accompanied by the announcement of a £50m package of defence aid, including anti-aircraft weaponry and equipment to help Ukraine counter Iranian-supplied drones.

Sir Keir Starmer

The Labour leader pledged his party's "unwavering support" to Ukraine during a visit in February.

He met Mr Zelenskyy just over a week after the Ukrainian president had visited London to meet Mr Sunak and the King.

"I was able to tell him that should there be a change of government when we have a general election here, the support for Ukraine will remain the same," Sir Keir said.


Russian warship attacked by Ukrainian drone speedboats, Moscow claims

Russia has claimed that one of its warships has been attacked in the Black Sea by Ukraine.

It says the attack on the ship - the Ivan Hurs - was carried out by what it describes as uncrewed speedboats near the Bosphorus Strait.

In a statement posted on Telegram, the defence ministry said the warship had been protecting the TurkStream and Blue Stream gas pipelines at the time.

The pipelines carry gas from Russia to Turkey, partly across the Black Sea.

"All enemy boats were destroyed," the ministry added.

No comment was immediately available from Kyiv.

The ministry cited the attack as a justification for Russiaexpanding defensive measures in the area.


Ukraine's main Orthodox church to move Christmas

Ukraine's main Orthodox church will move the date of its Christmas celebrations to distance itself from Russia.

Ukrainian Christians, a majority of whom are Orthodox, have traditionally celebrated Christmas on 7 January - in line with other predominantly Orthodox countries such as Russia.

But the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) says it will move forward the date to 25 December - in line with Western nations.

"Nowadays, the Julian calendar is perceived as connected with Russian church culture," the church wrote in a Facebook post announcing the move.

Ukraine's main Catholic church announced a similar change in February.


Massive US aircraft carrier sails into Oslo for NATO exercises

The world's largest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R Ford, sailed into Oslo in a show of NATO force at a time of heightened tension between the alliance and Russia.

The ship and its crew will be conducting training exercises with the Norwegian armed forces along the country's coast in the coming days, the Norway's military said.

Norwegian media reported the aircraft carrier would sail north of the Arctic Circle.

Jonny Karlsen, a spokesperson for the Norwegian Joint Headquarters, the operational command centre of the military, declined to comment on the reports.

Mr Karlsen said the visit is an "important signal of the close bilateral relationship between the US and Norway and a signal of the credibility of collective defence and deterrence".

The Russian embassy in Oslo condemned the aircraft carrier's Oslo visit.

It said in a Facebook post: "There are no questions in the (Arctic) north that require a military solution, nor topics where outside intervention is needed."

Norway shares a border with Russia in the Arctic and last year became Europe's largest gas supplier after a drop in Russian gas flows.

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