Air raid sirens heard from Lviv to Kharkiv; US’s Blinken and Austin to visit Kyiv

Air raid sirens heard from Lviv to Kharkiv; US’s Blinken and Austin to visit Kyiv
A man prays during an Easter church service at St Michaels Golden-Domed Cathedral on 24 April 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo: Alexey Furman / Getty Images)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has hailed accelerated weapons supplies from the US and European nations that he believes could help his country step up its counteroffensive, saying the Americans ‘should not come here with empty hands’.

Air raid sirens were heard across most of Ukraine on Sunday, 24 April.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are expected to visit Kyiv as Russia’s war on Ukraine enters its third month.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed accelerated weapons supplies that he said could help Ukraine step up its counteroffensive, and said the Americans “should not come here with empty hands”.

Strikes have continued on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are holding on. Russia said it struck a “large consignment” of foreign weapons in Odesa on the Black Sea coast. The missile attack killed eight people, including an infant, and wounded 18, Zelensky said.

Turkey closed its airspace to Russian jets flying to Syria, a significant shift in policy aimed at increasing the cost of the war in Ukraine for Russian President Vladimir Putin. UN chief António Guterres will meet with the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Ukraine in the coming days.

Key developments

Air raid alarms across Ukraine

Air raid sirens were heard across much of Ukraine on Sunday, 24 April, in the early evening, from Lviv in the far west to Odesa on the Black Sea to Kharkiv in the north, according to a national alert system on Telegram.

The sirens typically warn residents of the potential for Russian air strikes. Authorities warned Ukrainians of the possibility of stepped-up strikes over the Orthodox Easter weekend, which is celebrated on 24 April. (Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion in Ukraine and Russia.)

Earlier, one person was killed and three injured by an artillery strike on the town of Chuhuiv, southeast of Kharkiv, according to the regional prosecutor’s office. 

Ukraine PM hails ‘symbol’ of US officials’ visit

The expected visit to Kyiv of Blinken and Austin is a “very important political symbol”, Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Sunday, April 24, on CBS.

Shmyhal said Ukraine is having “negotiations with the United States, with all of our partners” on its proposal that Kyiv could use frozen Russian assets as part of its recovery funds.

‘Not a good idea’ for UN chief to meet Putin

Igor Zhovkva, a senior aide to Zelensky, said it was “not a good idea” for Guterres, the UN secretary-general, to meet with Russia’s leader on Tuesday, 26 April.

“We did not understand his intention to travel to Moscow and to talk to President Putin,” Zhovka said on NBC’s Meet the Press, adding that he doubted the talks would “end up with any result”.

Guterres will travel to Kyiv after the Putin meeting. On Saturday, 23 April, Zelensky said Guterres should “visit our towns where people were tortured and killed, and only after that find time for those esteemed in Moscow”.

No civilian corridor out of Mariupol

Ukraine was unable to evacuate civilians from Mariupol on Sunday, 24 April, without a ceasefire guarantee from Russia, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in televised remarks, adding, “We will continue trying tomorrow.”

She urged Guterres to demand in his planned meeting with Russian leaders on Tuesday, 26 April, that Moscow provide two evacuation corridors – one from the Azovstal steel plant; and one from the city of Mariupol itself.

There are about 1,000 women and children at Azovstal as well as hundreds of injured military personnel, of whom about 50 need urgent medical care, she said.




New missile ‘can carry hypersonic weapons’

The Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile test-fired on Wednesday, 20 April, can carry several hypersonic weapons, a senior Russian military officer said, according to the Associated Press.

General Sergei Karakayev, commander of the Russian military’s Strategic Missile Forces, described the weapon’s capabilities in televised remarks on Sunday, 24 April. The Telegraph reported earlier comments from the chief of Roscosmos, Russia’s space programme, that the missile would be ready to fire by “the autumn”.

Putin praised the “unique weapon” on Russian state TV as a way to “reliably guarantee Russia’s security against outside threats” and force Moscow’s foes to “think again”.

Zelensky speaks with Erdogan

Zelensky spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday, 24 April, the Ukrainian president said on Twitter. The evacuation of civilians from Mariupol was among the topics.

Zelensky said he “stressed the need for immediate evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, including Azovstal, and immediate exchange of blocked troops”.

Turkey’s leader is set to host Guterres in Ankara on Monday, 25 April. The UN chief will meet with Putin and Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Monday, 25 April, and later with Zelensky in Kyiv.

Germany’s opposition threatens to hold up army’s funds

Germany’s opposition leader threatened to block plans to borrow €100-billion to modernise the Bundeswehr. For the CDU to agree, Germany would have to permanently spend more than 2% of gross domestic product on defence and present a repayment plan for the new debt, party leader Friedrich Merz told Bild am Sonntag.

According to the newspaper, the Chancellery in Berlin is considering asking parliament to approve the special fund for the army without an attached economic plan and a concrete list of planned arms purchases. 

Separately, Bild am Sonntag reported that Germany will spend about €5-billion to buy 60 CH-47F Chinooks from Boeing to replace some of its 50-year-old transport helicopters.

Read more: Germany to Borrow Extra 40 Billion Euros to Cushion War Blow

UN demands Mariupol ceasefire

The United Nations crisis coordinator called for an “immediate stop” to fighting in Mariupol and the evacuation of trapped citizens. “They must be allowed to safely evacuate now, today. Tomorrow could be too late,” Amin Awad said, according to AFP.

Kyiv has proposed three steps to end the stand-off in Mariupol. On Thursday, 21 April, Russia said it had complete control over the city, apart from the Azovstal steelworks where Ukrainian fighters and civilians were sheltering.

Mykhailo Podolyak, Ukraine’s chief negotiator with Russia, called for a “real” truce around the Orthodox Easter period; the immediate provisions of humanitarian corridors; and a special round of talks focused on troop swaps.

Swiss reportedly veto German request to export ammo

Neutral Switzerland has held up German arms deliveries to Ukraine by refusing to allow the re-export of certain Swiss-made ammunition, SonntagsZeitung reported.

The ammunition produced in Switzerland is used in Marder infantry fighting vehicles made by German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall, according to the newspaper.

Rheinmetall has asked Germany’s government to approve the export of 100 Marder tanks to Ukraine, Welt am Sonntag reported on Friday, 22 April. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Germany’s Scholz Focuses Ukraine Policy on Avoiding Nuclear War

North Korea wants closer ties with Russia

North Korea wants to build on its “friendly ties” with Moscow on the eve of the third anniversary of a summit between leader Kim Jong Un and Putin in Vladivostok, eastern Russia.

“Relations, even in the face of challenges and pressure of the US and its vassal forces, continue to develop and strengthen,” Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said, according to the Yonhap News Agency. Those ties “are contributing to ensuring peace and security in the region and to establishing the international order based on independence and justice.”

From fields to the front line for farmers

Ukraine is the world’s largest producer of sunflower oil and among the top six exporters of wheat, corn, chicken and even honey.

The money it earns from agriculture — $28-billion last year — is now more vital because of the war effort, and the produce more critical for a world where record prices are raising concerns about food security.

Many farmers have swapped their workwear for fatigues, for now. “Once a farmer always a farmer,” said Yaroslav Andrushko, the chief executive of a small agriculture company. “But circumstances required us to take up arms.”




UN chief to meet Erdogan

Guterres will meet Erdogan in Ankara on Monday, 25 April, Turkey’s foreign ministry said. Guterres will then travel to Moscow, where he’ll meet Putin and Lavrov, and on to Kyiv for meetings with Zelensky.

The UN chief last week asked for separate meetings with Putin and Zelensky to discuss “urgent steps” for peace. Turkey has been a leading mediator during the two-month war.

Ukrainians return home from Poland

More travellers entered Ukraine from Poland on Saturday, 23 April, than departed, Polish border authorities said, continuing the recent trend of Ukrainians slowly returning after Russian forces pulled out of the north.

About 15,100 people were cleared to enter Poland on the day whereas 21,100 left Poland for Ukraine. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, more than 2.9 million people have entered Poland from Ukraine — a large proportion of the more than five million who’ve left the country.

Ukraine continues to repel Russia

Russia has made some territorial gains, likely at “significant cost” to its troops, but numerous assaults along the line of contact in the Donbas this week have been repelled, the UK said in an intelligence update.

“Poor Russian morale and limited time to reconstitute, re-equip and reorganise forces from prior offensives are likely hindering Russian combat effectiveness,” the UK said.

Russia continues to attack the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, including with strikes from long-range aircraft. Satellite images in towns near Mariupol show what appear to be mass graves. City officials have estimated 10,000 or more may have died during the week’s long siege.

Germany to borrow extra €40-billion

Germany will increase its borrowing plans this year to cushion the effect of the war in Ukraine, taking the total for net new debt to almost €140-billion, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The adjustment is needed to help finance measures to offset the economic impact of the war and surging energy prices on companies and consumers, said the people. The plan will be presented to the cabinet on Wednesday, 27 April, and then onto parliament for approval.

Zelensky says Austin, Blinken will visit

“We’ll be discussing the list of weapons we need and the pace of their delivery to Ukraine,” Zelensky said at a media conference in a Kyiv subway station. “I will emphasise again — the last week, the signals, the messages, the tone on weapon supplies — everything has improved.” Ukraine is waiting for the security situation to allow the US president to visit, he said.

The US National Security Council and the State Department did not immediately comment. The visits, if confirmed, would be the first by top American officials to Ukraine’s capital since the war began.

Weapons from US may bolster counteroffensive

Zelensky also said accelerated weapon supplies from the US and European nations may enable Ukraine’s military to step its counteroffensive: “Particularly, we see a change in the speed of response from the US, and if this speed increases, we’ll be able to speed up de-occupation of our territory.”

The president said Ukraine’s military wasn’t in a position to relieve forces and citizens trapped in the Azovstal factory in Mariupol, which is encircled by Russian forces. DM


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