The United Nations’ cultural agency, Unesco, has added the historic centre of Ukraine’s city of Odesa to its World Heritage List, describing it as “the duty of all humanity” to protect it.
The status, awarded by a Unesco panel meeting in Paris on Wednesday, is designed to help protect the port city’s cultural heritage, which has been under threat since Russia’s invasion.
“As the war continues, this inscription embodies our collective determination to ensure that this city, which has always risen from the heartbreak of the world, is preserved from further destruction,” Unesco director-general Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.
The world heritage committee’s 21 member states approved the designation with six votes in favour, one against and 14 abstentions.
Russia repeatedly tried to delay the vote and denounced the eventual decision, saying the only threat to Odesa came from the “nationalist regime in Ukraine”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who requested the listing in October to shield the city from Russian bombardment, welcomed the decision:
Ukraine has now declared an air raid alert over most of the country with regional authorities warned of a possible missile attack.
The DTEK electricity company says it is performing emergency shutdowns of electro power in the capital Kyiv, the rest of the Kyiv region, and also the regions of Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk due to a danger of missile attack.
Meanwhile the new US ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy has arrived in Moscow, the US embassy said on Thursday.
“Welcome back to Russia, Ambassador Tracy!” the embassy said on Twitter.
The Kyiv City Military Administration says that “about 15 enemy UAVs were shot down in the airspace” over Kyiv overnight.
The Ukrainian military says that Russian forces launched an unsuccessful overnight drone attack on Ukraine in the very early hours of Thursday morning, mainly targeting central regions and the capital.
Kyiv residents have also been urged to head to shelters amid air raid alarms, according to presidential advisor Anton Gerashchenko.
The Zhytomyr governor, Vitaliy Bunechko, has also posted an air raid warning on Telegram. It is currently just before 8am in Ukraine.
WARNING! There is a threat of a missile attack! Now it is necessary to reduce the load on the energy system of the region and the country as much as possible. This will allow energy companies to better prepare for emergency situations. Turn off all unnecessary electrical appliances! Be prepared for emergency power outages! Do not use elevators. ‼️ Do not ignore the air alarm signals. Take care of yourself and your loved ones, stay in shelters. We believe in our air defense and Victory!”
The governor of Mykolaiv region has just posted an air raid warning on Telegram.
“!!! Air alarm !!! The whole area”, he wrote a few minutes ago.
The United States and Germany have announced plans to arm Ukraine with dozens of battle tanks in its fight against Russia, which denounced the decisions as an “extremely dangerous” step.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy praised the commitments and urged allies to provide large quantities of tanks quickly.
In his nightly address, Zelenskiy said:
Today is a day of extremely good news for Ukraine. There is a tank coalition. There is a decision to launch the supply of tanks for our defense – modern tanks.
I thank all of our allies for their willingness to provide us with modern and much-needed tanks.
All this proves the most important fact for the world right now – the fact that freedom is only getting stronger. And the way we are all working together to strengthen freedom, to defend Ukraine and Europe, is a historic achievement of the leaders who are working now.
The key thing now is speed and volume. The speed of training of our military, the speed of supplying tanks to Ukraine and the volume of tank support.
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the war in Ukraine. My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest developments for the next few hours.
Our top story this morning: Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, hailed the promise of modern tanks for Ukraine “extremely good news for the country” in his nightly address, but added that, “The key thing now is speed and volume. The speed of training of our military, the speed of supplying tanks to Ukraine and the volume of tank support.”
Here are the other key recent developments.
Joe Biden has approved sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. The US had resisted providing its own M1 Abrams tanks, citing maintenance and logistical challenges with the hi-tech vehicles. Earlier, the US president had spoken by phone with leaders Emmanuel Macron of France, Olaf Scholz of Germany, Giorgia Meloni of Italy and Rishi Sunak of Britain. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, thanked Biden for the “powerful decision” and described it as “an important step on the path to victory”.
Germany has confirmed it will make 14 Leopard 2A6 tanks available for Ukraine’s war effort. The chancellor, Olaf Scholz, also said his government plans to send further military support to Ukraine beyond the tanks. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine welcomed the decision, and said he was “sincerely grateful” to Scholz.
The key to providing tanks for Ukraine’s defence against Russia was speed and sufficient numbers, Zelenskiy said on Wednesday. “The key now is speed and volumes. Speed in training our forces, speed in supplying tanks to Ukraine. The numbers in tank support,” he said in his nightly video address.
By agreeing to send the Abrams, the US is able to meet Scholz’s demand for an American commitment but without having to send the tanks immediately. In public statements, Washington and Berlin had denied any connection between their respective decisions, although media reports said German officials had made clear in private that the Leopards were conditional on the US making a similar commitment.
Germany will also approve other European countries supplying German-made Leopard 2 tanks from their own stock. Finland, Spain and the Netherlands will contribute the same model, according to German media reports. A second battalion will be made up of Leopard 2A4 tanks from Poland and Norway.
Germany’s offer has prompted calls for more heavy armour by Ukraine’s government. Zelenskiy and his ministers are also seeking to break a “taboo” on the provision of jets such as US-made F16s. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said he had spoken to Poland’s foreign minister, Zbigniew Rau, about further military aid, including fighter jets, a request that has been repeatedly put to Nato allies without success.
The Russian embassy in Germany has accused Berlin of taking the conflict in Ukraine “to a new level of confrontation”. The decision to approve the delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine means the “final refusal” of the German government “to recognise its “historical responsibility” to Moscow, ambassador Sergei Nechayev said in a statement.
The Kremlin has downplayed the impact that western tanks will have, saying that the military aid to Ukraine would “burn like all the rest”. In remarks to reporters, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the expected transfer of Leopard 2 and Abrams tanks to the Ukrainian army a “failed plan”.
Ukraine’s military spokesperson, Serhiy Cherevatyi, has said Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from the eastern town of Soledar in the Donetsk region, according to the country’s state broadcaster Suspilne. The withdrawal of forces was made “in order to preserve the lives of service personnel”, he said. His comments are the first Ukrainian confirmation of Soledar’s capture by Russian forces.
One person was killed in Kherson oblast due to Russian shelling, six others were injured, 10 others were wounded in Donetsk oblast, according to Ukraine’s state broadcaster Suspilne. It said over the past 24 hours, the Russian Federation carried out four missile and 26 airstrikes, as well as more than 100 shellings from multiple launch rocket systems in Ukraine.
In Ukraine, 15 senior officials have left their posts since Saturday, six of whom have had corruption allegations levelled at them by journalists and Ukraine’s anti-corruption authorities. On Wednesday prosecutor general Andriy Kostin signed orders on the voluntary dismissal of the heads of the Zaporizhzhia, Kirovohrad, Poltava, Sumy, and Chernihiv regional prosecutor’s offices. Oleksiy Kuleba, who was removed as governor of Kyiv on Tuesday, has been appointed deputy head of the president’s office as part of the reshuffle.