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UKRAINE UPDATE: 26 APRIL 2022

US vows to step up arms deliveries; Biden officials meet Zelensky in Kyiv

US vows to step up arms deliveries; Biden officials meet Zelensky in Kyiv
A handout photo made available by the US Department of Defense shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (centre) posing for a photograph with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 24 April 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / US DOD HANDOUT)

The US pledged new arms assistance and a stepped-up diplomatic presence as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin went to Kyiv for the highest-level talks between Biden administration officials and President Volodymyr Zelensky in the country since Russia invaded.

The US authorised a $165-million ammunition sale and a return of diplomats in the coming days. The visit came as Russia shifts its forces to the east and south after failing to take Kyiv or topple Zelensky’s government in the early weeks of the conflict. Air raid sirens were heard across most of Ukraine on Sunday evening. 

Attacks continued on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol where some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are holding on. United Nations chief António Guterres will meet the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Ukraine in the coming days. 

Key developments

 Blinken, Austin meet Zelensky in Kyiv 

The US announced it would start sending diplomats back to Ukraine and provide more military aid as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv late on Sunday night.

US diplomats will return to Ukraine as early as this week, starting with day trips into the western city of Lviv and eventually resuming a presence in Kyiv, according to a senior State Department official. The US officials plan to inform President Volodymyr Zelensky it authorised the sale of $165-million for ammunition in addition to other funds to help the country’s forces, especially on the eastern frontier.

On Monday morning in Washington, President Joe Biden planned to formally nominate Bridget Brink, currently the US ambassador to Slovakia, to be its next envoy in Ukraine, a State Department official said.

Read more: US sending diplomats back to Ukraine as Blinken, Austin visit

Air raid alarms sound across Ukraine 

Air raid sirens were heard across much of Ukraine early on Sunday 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 airstrikes. Authorities had warned Ukrainians of the possibility of stepped-up strikes over the Orthodox Easter weekend. 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.  

Ukrainian prime minister hails ‘symbol’ of US officials’ visit 

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

Ukraine aide says ‘not a good idea’ for UN chief to meet Putin 

Igor Zhovkva, a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said it was “not a good idea” for Guterres to meet Russia’s leader next Tuesday. 

“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, 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, official says  

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

Vereshchuk urged UN Secretary-General António Guterres to demand in his planned meeting with Russian leaders next Tuesday that Moscow provide two evacuation corridors, one from the Azovstal steel plant and one from the city of Mariupol itself. 

New Russian missile ‘can carry several hypersonic weapons

The Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile test-fired on Wednesday 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. Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the “unique weapon” on 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 before diplomacy round-robin  

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on Sunday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he said on Twitter. The evacuation of civilians from Mariupol was among the topics. 

Turkey’s leader was set to host UN chief António Guterres in Ankara on Monday. The UN chief will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov in Moscow next Tuesday, and later with Zelensky in Kyiv.  

Germany’s CDU threatens to hold up Bundeswehr funds 

Germany’s opposition leader threatened to block plans to borrow €100-billion to modernise the Bundeswehr (armed forces). For the CDU to agree, Germany would have to permanently spend more than 2% of its 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. 

Read more: Germany to borrow extra €40bn to cushion war blow

UN demands Mariupol ceasefire; Zelensky aide calls for talks 

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 Agence France Press. 

Kyiv has proposed three steps to end the stand-off in Mariupol, which Russia said on Thursday it now has complete control over, apart from the Azovstal steelworks where Ukrainian fighters and civilians are sheltering. 

Mykhailo Podolyak, the 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 ‘veto German request’ to export ammo to Ukraine 

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. 

Germany’s Scholz focuses Ukraine policy on avoiding nuclear war

North Korea wants to build on ‘friendly ties’ with Moscow 

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 President Vladimir 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.  

Traveller flow between Poland, Ukraine reversing 

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

Some 15,100 people were cleared to enter Poland on the day while 21,100 left Poland for Ukraine. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 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 along line of contact 

Russia has made some territorial gains, probably 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 continued 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 weekslong siege.

Germany to borrow extra €40bn to cushion war blow 

Germany will increase its borrowing plans this year to cushion the effect of the war in Ukraine, taking the total 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, and then on to Parliament for approval. 

Zelensky says weapons flow may bolster counteroffensive 

Zelensky said accelerated weapon supplies from the US and European nations may enable Ukraine’s military to step up 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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