US presses its allies to move "heaven and earth" to keep Kiev well-supplied with weapons as Russia rains fire on eastern and southern Ukraine in ongoing fighting – now in its 63rd day.

British PM Boris Johnson's spokesperson says there were
British PM Boris Johnson's spokesperson says there were "no plans" for the UK to send planes to Ukraine. (Reuters)

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

UK diplomat: Allies should send tanks, planes

Britain's top diplomat has said the Western allies should send tanks, planes and other heavy weapons to Ukraine, saying "inaction would be the greatest provocation."

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said, "this is a time for courage, not caution." Despite Truss' call for jets, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesperson said there were "no plans" for the UK to send planes to Ukraine.

Truss also said Russia's attack on Ukraine must be a wake-up call for international institutions. She called for a new focus on "military strength, economic security and deeper global alliances."

US: War shows need to reject Russian oil, gas

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has said that Russia's attack on Ukraine "screams" that the world needs to stop importing oil and gas from Russia and instead move toward other forms of energy.

At an international forum on offshore wind energy in Atlantic City, Granholm said the US as well as its energy industries "are on a war footing," and called for a rapid acceleration of renewable energy including offshore wind power.

Her comments were echoed by Kadri Simson, the European Commissioner for Energy, who noted that Europe recently committed itself to a large-scale move away from Russian fossil fuel imports, and considers wind energy an important part of that transition.

Their comments came as Russia cut off natural gas to NATO members Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday and threatened to do the same to other countries. 

UN chief Guterres pledges to expand humanitarian support

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has announced his arrival in Kiev following talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I have arrived in Ukraine after visiting Moscow. We will continue our work to expand humanitarian support and secure the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones. The sooner this war ends, the better - for the sake of Ukraine, Russia, and the world," he wrote on his official Twitter account.

Canada sanctions more than 200 loyal to Putin

The Canadian government has said that it has imposed sanctions on more than 200 people who are loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region.

The Canadian sanctions are focused on the renewed Russian attempt to annex areas of the Donbass by targeting people attempting to support the next phase of the two-month-old conflict.

“Canada will not stand idly by and watch President Putin and his accomplices attempt to redraw the borders of Ukraine with impunity,” Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement. “International law must be respected.”

Microsoft discloses onslaught of Russian cyberattacks 

Russian government hackers carried out multiple cyber operations against Ukraine that appeared to support Moscow's military attacks and online propaganda campaigns, Microsoft said in a report.

The reported intrusions - some of which have not been previously disclosed - suggest that hacking has played a bigger role in the conflict than what has been publicly known.

The digital onslaught, which Microsoft said began one year prior to Russia's onslaught on Feb 24, may have laid the groundwork for different military missions, researchers found. Between Feb 23 and April 8, Microsoft said, it observed a total of 37 Russian destructive cyberattacks inside Ukraine.

Italian president urges world to achieve ceasefire

The Italian president has called on the international community to achieve a ceasefire in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and initiate a roadmap for peace.

Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Sergio Mattarella said: “The international community has a task: to obtain a ceasefire and restart with the construction of a respectful and shared international framework that leads to peace.”

Mattarella, who is the head of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, told European lawmakers at the Strasbourg-based assembly’s spring session that the European continent is living with the nightmare of war again due to Russia’s “atrocious invasion of Ukraine,” which is disguised under the expression of “national interest.”

Russia suspended from UN tourism body over Ukraine

The United Nation's tourism body has suspended Russia from the agency over its attacks on Ukraine, arguing that it had breached its statutes.

Most of the 159 member states of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) backed the move, taken at an extraordinary general assembly, said a spokesperson for the Madrid-based body.

The motion, which required a two-thirds majority, was proposed by 22 member states including Spain, Japan, Poland and France in March.

Putin warns of 'lightning response' to intervention in Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin has warned that if any other country intervenes in Moscow's operations in Ukraine, Russia will launch a quick-fire military response.

Speaking to lawmakers, Putin said that "if anyone sets out to intervene in the current events from the outside and creates unacceptable threats for us that are strategic in nature, they should know that our response... will be lightning-fast".

The Russian leader said that the military would not hesitate to use the most modern weaponry.

"We have all the tools for this, that no one else can boast of having. We won't boast about it: we'll use them, if needed. And I want everyone to know that," Putin said. "We have already taken all the decisions on this."

Ukraine president invited to G20 summit 

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that his Indonesian counterpart had invited him to attend the summit of Group of 20 (G20) major economies to be held in the Southeast Asian country later this year.

"Had talks with President @jokowi... Appreciate inviting me to the @g20org summit," he said in a tweet, referring to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the current G20 chair, by his nickname.

Zelenskiy did not confirm whether he would accept the invitation to the summit on the island of Bali in November. Russia has said its President Vladimir Putin plans to attend.

Ukrainians to decide on issue of joining Russia: Lavrov

Ukrainians will decide themselves on the issue of joining Russia, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

"The citizens of Ukraine will determine their own fate. It's up to them, not someone else," Lavrov said at a news conference with his Eritrean counterpart Osman Saleh in Moscow, in response to a question about the possibility of Ukraine's southern regions becoming a part of Russia.

One woman killed in Russian shelling in east Ukraine

A woman was killed in Russian shelling of a hospital in the east Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, the regional governor has said.

Russia did not immediately comment on the accusation by the Luhansk region's governor, Serhiy Gaidai. Moscow has denied targeting civilians or hospitals in its "special military operation" launched on Feb. 24.

The hospital was one of only two still working in the area, Gaidai said. The other is in nearby Lysychansk.

Another 52,000 Ukrainians flee

More than 5.3 million Ukrainians have fled their country since the start of Russia-Ukraine conflict.

In total, 5,317,219 people have fled Ukraine as refugees since February 24, according to the latest data from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

That marks an increase of 52,452 over the figure given on Tuesday.

Other European nations could see gas cut: Kremlin

The Kremlin has said that Russia may halt gas supplies to other European customers following a cutoff to Poland and Bulgaria if they also refuse to switch to payment in roubles. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, argued that the Russian demand to switch to roubles in payments for gas resulted from the Western action to freeze Russian hard currency assets. 

He said those were effectively “stolen” by the West in an “unprecedented unfriendly action.”

Poland, Bulgaria get gas from EU neighbours : EU chief

Poland and Bulgaria are now receiving gas from their EU neighbours after Russia's state energy giant Gazprom turned off the taps, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen has said.

"Today, the Kremlin failed once again in its attempt to sow division among member states. The era of Russian fossil fuels in Europe is coming to an end," von der Leyen said.

UN nuclear agency seeks plant access

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director-general has said that the level of safety at Europe’s largest nuclear plant, currently under Russian control in Ukraine, is like a “red light blinking” as his organisation tries in vain to get access for work including repairs.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Rafael Grossi said that the IAEA needs access to the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine so its inspectors can, among other things, reestablish connections with the Vienna-based headquarters of the UN agency.  And for that, both Russia and Ukraine need t o help.

The plant requires repairs, “and all of this is not happening. So the situation as I have described it, and I would repeat it today, is not sustainable as it is,” Grossi said. “So this is a pending issue. This is a red light blinking.”

EU begins emergency gas talks

European Union officials have been holding emergency gas talks following Russia’s decision to abruptly turn off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, according to the bloc’s top official. 

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the announcement by Gazprom “is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail.” Leyen lashed out at what she described as an “unjustified and unacceptable” move underlining “the unreliability of Russia as a gas supplier.”

Von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive branch, said a meeting of the gas coordination group was underway, adding that the region’s 27 countries are prepared to weather Russia’s cutoffs. “We are mapping out our coordinated EU response. We will also continue working with international partners to secure alternative flows.” 

Turkish president, UN secretary-general discuss Ukraine conflict 

Russia's offensive in Ukraine was on the agenda in a phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. 

During the conversation, Guterres briefed Erdogan about his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, according to a statement by Türkiye's Communications Directorate. 

The development comes two days after Guterres met Erdogan in Ankara, and both reaffirmed their common objective to end the war that began on February 24.

Russia withdraws from UN tourism body: UNWTO

Russia is withdrawing from the United Nation's tourism body, the UN World Tourism Organization has said ahead of a vote by its executive council to suspend Moscow's membership over its offensive in Ukraine.

"Russia has announced its intention to withdraw from UNWTO," the organisation said in a tweet, adding that Russia's suspension "is effective immediately".

Russia bans entry to 287 British MPs: foreign ministry

The Russian foreign ministry has banned entry to 287 British MPs in response to the UK's sanctions against Russian parliamentarians.

"In response to the decision taken by the British government on March 11 to add 386 State Duma deputies to a sanctions list, in a reciprocal move, personal restrictions are being placed on 287 members of the House of Commons," the ministry said in a statement. The House of Commons has a total of 650 members.

Bulgarian PM accuses Russia of blackmail over gas supplies

Russia's warning it is shutting off gas supplies to Bulgaria over demands to change the payment scheme is a grave breach of a current contract and amounts to blackmail, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has said.

Petkov said Bulgaria was currently reviewing all of its contracts with Gazprom, including for transit of Russian gas to Serbia and Hungary, because "one-sided blackmail was not acceptable".

Moldovan breakaway region says shots fired from Ukraine towards village

The Interior Ministry of Moldova's pro-Russian breakaway region of Transdniestria has said that shots have been fired from the territory of Ukraine overnight towards a village that houses a large ammunition depot.

The ministry also said that it had detected drones that it said were launched from Ukraine.

22,400 Russian troops killed in war so far: Ukraine

At least 22,400 Russian soldiers have so far been killed in Ukraine, the Ukrainian military has claimed.

In addition, the Ukrainian troops destroyed 939 Russian tanks, 2,342 armoured personnel vehicles, 421 artillery systems and 149 multiple launch rocket systems, the Ukrainian General Staff announced in a statement.

The Ukrainian forces also destroyed 185 aircraft, 155 helicopters, 71 air defence systems, 1,666 vehicles, eight ships and light speedboats, 76 fuel vehicles, as well as 207 unmanned aerial vehicles, the statement added. Ukraine also announced that the Russian army lost 300 more soldiers in the last 24 hours.

Polish PM decries Russian 'gas blackmail'

Poland’s prime minister has lashed out at Russia for trying to “blackmail” his country with an abrupt cutoff of gas supplies. He says he believes the move was revenge for new sanctions that Warsaw imposed this week against Russia.

The sanctions announced Tuesday targeted 50 Russian oligarchs and companies, including Gazprom. 

Hours later Poland said it had received notice that Gazprom was cutting off supplies to Poland for failing to comply with new demands to pay in Russian rubles. Speaking to the Polish parliament, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki vowed that Poland would not be cowed by the gas cutoff.

Russian forces pummel Ukrainian fighters holed up in Mariupol steel plant – mayoral aide

Russian forces have been pounding a huge steel works in Mariupol where the southern Ukrainian city's last defenders and some civilians are holed up, a local official has said.

Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to the city mayor, said there had been no let-up in air strikes on the Azovstal plant despite Russian President Vladimir Putin saying there was no need to storm it after declaring victory in Mariupol.

"Air attacks on Azovstal are not subsiding. No ceasefire, but attempts to storm again and again. Despite the statements (by Putin)," Andryushchenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app. "At the same time, street fighting continues again in the sector between the Azovstal plant's management (buildings) to the street."

Russia cuts off gas, European prices spike

European gas prices have spiked by as much as 24 percent following Gazprom's statement that it is suspending deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria starting Wednesday because it hasn’t received any payments from them since April 1. 

Benchmark Dutch futures traded at one point around $132 (125 euros) per megawatt hour.

The spike comes even as the weather turns warmer in the Europe, lessening the demand for the natural gas for heating homes and businesses.

Ukraine: Several villages in east captured by Russian forces

Ukraine has said that Russian forces have pushed deeper into the east of the country and captured several villages as part of Moscow's offensive to take control of Donbass.

The defence ministry said that Russian forces had pushed out Kiev's army from Velyka Komyshuvakha and Zavody in the northeastern Kharkiv region and had gained control over Zarichne and Novotoshkivske in Donetsk.

Russia says it hit US, European weapons in missile strike in Ukraine

Russia's defence ministry has said its Kalibr missiles have struck an arms depot in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region housing weapons from the United States and European countries.

The ministry said its air force had destroyed 59 Ukrainian military targets overnight.

Swiss have frozen $9B in sanctioned Russian wealth - NZZ

The amount of Russian assets frozen under sanctions Switzerland has adopted has risen to around $9.34 billion (9 billion Swiss francs), the Neue Zuercher Zeitung paper has reported, without citing its sources.

That would be around 1.5 billion francs more than Swiss authorities had reported on April 7.

Britain says Ukraine controls majority of its airspace

Ukraine retains control over the majority of its airspace, Britain's defence ministry has said, adding that Russia has failed to effectively destroy the country's air force or suppress its air defences.

"Russia has very limited air access to the north and west of Ukraine, limiting offensive actions to deep strikes withstand-off weapons," it said on Twitter. 

"Russian air activity is primarily focused on southern and eastern Ukraine, providing support to Russian ground forces," the ministry added in a regular bulletin. 

Russian gas supplies resume to Poland - operator data

Gas supplies under the Yamal contract to Poland edged up after dropping to zero earlier, data from the European Union network of gas transmission operators have shown.

Physical gas flows via the Yamal-Europe pipeline from Belarus to Poland were at 3,449,688 kWh/hour at 0422 GMT.

US: Allies must move 'at the speed of war' to help Ukraine

The US defence chief urged Ukraine's allies to “move at the speed of war” to get more and heavier weapons to Kiev.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin convened a meeting of officials from about 40 countries at the US airbase at Ramstein, Germany, and said more help is on the way.

“We’ve got to move at the speed of war,” Austin said. He said he wanted officials to leave the meeting “with a common and transparent understanding of Ukraine’s near-term security requirements because we’re going to keep moving heaven and earth so that we can meet them.”

Russian gas continues to flow to Bulgaria - Bulgartransgaz

Russian gas supplies to Bulgaria continue to flow for the time being, Vladimir Malinov, executive director of Bulgarian gas network operator Bulgartransgaz, has said.

Bulgaria's energy ministry said Russia's Gazprom has informed Bulgarian state gas company Bulgargaz it will halt gas supplies as of Wednesday. The ministry will give a news briefing on the situation later on Wednesday morning.

'Ramp up' tank and warplane production for Ukraine

Ukraine's fate is hanging in the balance and its allies must brace for the long haul and "ramp up" military production including tanks and planes to help, Britain's foreign minister will say on Wednesday.

The global security structures that should have prevented Russian President Vladimir Putin's offensive have failed, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will say in a speech calling for "a new approach".

"We cannot be complacent –– the fate of Ukraine remains in the balance," she will say, according to a preview of her address to diplomats and business leaders in London.

Blasts heard in Russia's Belgorod, ammunition depot on fire

A series of blasts were heard in the early hours of Wednesday in the Russian city Belgorod near the Ukrainian border, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov has said, and an ammunition depot in the province was on fire.

Gladkov said no civilians had been hurt by the fire which broke out at a facility near Staraya Nelidovka village. Russia this month accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters and opening fire on several villages in the province.

The Belgorod province borders Ukraine's Luhansk, Sumy, and Kharkiv regions, all of which have seen heavy fighting since Russia began attacking Ukraine two months ago.

Chinese drone maker DJI suspends business in Russia, Ukraine

Drone giant DJI Technology Co Ltd has said it will temporarily suspend business in Russia and Ukraine, making it the first major Chinese company to halt sales to Russia since the country launched its offensive in neighbouring Ukraine in February.

"DJI is internally reassessing compliance requirements in various jurisdictions," the privately held company said in a statement. "Pending the current review, DJI will temporarily suspend all business activities in Russia and Ukraine."

Although Western firms have pulled out of Russia in protest, many Chinese companies have stayed there, taking a cue from Beijing's stance of refraining from criticism of Moscow over the assault.

Ukrainian officials and citizens have accused DJI, the world's largest maker of consumer and industrial drones, of leaking data on the Ukrainian military to Russia.

India's ONGC struggling to move Russian oil to Asia – sources

India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) is struggling to find a vessel to ship 700,000 barrels of crude from Russia's Far East, in a growing sign that complex trades involving one of Moscow's biggest partners are being interrupted by Western sanctions, sources say.

Several Indian companies including ONGC have stakes in Russian oil and gas assets, and India has been buying more Russian crude since Moscow attacked Ukraine, snapping up the popular Urals crude grade, while other buyers have shunned Russian exports.

ONGC has a 20 percent stake in the Sakhalin 1 project that produces a Russian grade known as Sokol, which ONGC exports through tenders. Sokol is mostly bought by North Asian buyers and loaded from South Korea.

However, Moscow's ability to ship that grade, which requires vessels that can break through the ice, is becoming harder due to concerns from shippers over reputational risk and the increasing difficulty for Russian assets to find insurance coverage.

For live updates from Tuesday (April 26), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies