US says 20 nations pledging new military aid; Zelensky urges global investors to shun Russia

US says 20 nations pledging new military aid; Zelensky urges global investors to shun Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is displayed on a large-scale screen via videolink during the opening plenary session hosted by WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab (left) during the 51st annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 23 May 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / LAURENT GILLIERON)

A Russian diplomat in Geneva quit over Moscow’s conduct in Ukraine in a rare protest by a public official. A court in Kyiv sentenced a Russian soldier to life in prison for murdering a Ukrainian civilian, ending the first war crimes trial stemming from Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said 20 nations had agreed to send more security assistance to Ukraine, including a Harpoon anti-ship missile system contributed by Denmark and artillery systems from a number of nations.

Russia’s economy should be shut off from the world, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in Davos, as he invited global investors to shift resources to Ukraine to help rebuild the country.  

Key developments

Twenty nations sending more weapons, Austin says 

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said 20 nations have agreed to send more security assistance to Ukraine. “We are intensifying our efforts,” Austin told reporters after more than 40 nations participated in a Zoom meeting of the Pentagon-hosted Ukrainian defence Contact Group.

Denmark has committed to sending a Harpoon anti-ship missile system, while Italy, Greece, Norway and Poland will be providing artillery systems, Austin said.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon’s stockpile of critical munitions remained adequate after drawdowns to send weapons to Ukraine. “We are doing okay and our risk is managed appropriately,” Milley said.

Putin confidant gives PhosAgro stake to spouse 

Vladimir Litvinenko, the former chairman of PhosAgro, transferred a 20.6% stake in the Russian fertiliser producer to his spouse, Tatyana Litvinenko, the company said.

Litvinenko cut his holdings to 0.39%, it said.

Litvinenko, who was board chairman until 2011, was President Vladimir Putin’s campaign manager in St Petersburg during successive presidential elections and is rector of the St Petersburg Mining University, where Putin got a doctorate degree in 1997.

Latvia wants Nato brigade to deter Russia 

Latvia needs a Nato brigade, a military contingent that would amount to as many as 5,000 troops, to deter Russia from a potential attack, President Egils Levits said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.  

“Russia is not provoked by strength, but Russia is provoked by weakness,” Levits said on Monday. “So we are looking also for Nato troop presence at a brigade scale,” he said, a level that “can deter Russia”. 

EU stalemate deepens on Russian oil embargo 

The European Union is increasingly unlikely to approve a ban on Russian oil when the bloc’s leaders meet next week as Hungary continues to oppose the measure, according to people familiar with the matter.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had said several weeks earlier that it would take a summit of European leaders to forge an oil embargo deal, but his government is signalling now that any progress will likely slip to next month at the earliest, said the people. Talks between the commission and Hungary are ongoing and could still lead to a breakthrough before leaders meet for a two-day summit in Brussels next week. 

Member states disagree over aid package for Ukraine 

European Union nations are wrangling over how to design a plan for a new aid package of €9-billion for Ukraine. 

Some countries, including Germany, want to offer grants instead of loans as the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, proposed, people familiar with the discussion said. In addition, Austria, Luxembourg, Finland, Malta, Denmark, Hungary and Greece are reluctant to spell out the financial instrument that would be used to support Kyiv in the conclusions that will be reached at next week’s EU summit.




Russian envoy resigns in war protest 

A diplomat at Russia’s United Nations mission in Geneva resigned in protest at Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, becoming the country’s first envoy to publicly criticise the war.

“Putin has become both a war criminal and a dictator,” Boris Bondarev (41), who was involved in disarmament work at the mission, said in a phone interview. 

“I can’t work with colleagues who seriously talk about launching nuclear strikes on the suburbs of Washington to scare the Americans into surrendering. These conversations have become more and more frequent.”

While some officials such as the Kremlin’s climate envoy Anatoly Chubais have quietly left their positions since the war started, Bondarev posted a resignation statement in English and Russian on Facebook, saying he’d “never been so ashamed of my country as on February 24” when Putin announced the invasion. He said he’d waited until now to leave his post because he’d wanted to ensure his family’s safety.

Ukraine says food crisis will start to bite in July 

Ukraine was unable to export five million tonnes of wheat that it had planned to export from its current crop because Russia is blocking its ports, Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi said in comments over the weekend to Voice of America that were also posted Monday on the ministry’s website. 

“The world will start to feel this acutely some time in mid-July,” he said, adding that farmers were facing problems exporting last year’s crop and harvesting the current crop, half of which is located in occupied territories and areas of active fighting. 

Farmers may switch in the new season to lower-volume, more profitable crops that are easier to transport, like sunflower and rapeseed, rather than maize, he said, or decide not to sow at all.

Austin pledges US support to Ukraine ‘for the long haul’ 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the US is committed to helping Ukraine repel Russian forces from its territory “for the long haul” in remarks opening a conference of the “Ukraine Contact Group” that he said drew Zoom participation by representatives of 44 nations, Nato and the European Union.

“As Ukraine’s fight continues, our efforts must intensify,” Austin said, noting that the US recently sent 18 additional howitzers to Ukraine as well as vehicles, radar equipment and spare parts and that President Joe Biden had signed into law a $40-billion aid package that will provide additional weapons.

Russia starts rouble zone in occupied Ukraine region 

Russia is introducing the rouble in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia from May 23, Tass reported, citing the head of the occupation authority.

The move, part of a Russian strategy to eventually annex the territories it seized in Ukraine, was to have happened on May 1. The rouble will be introduced at a fixed rate of two roubles to one hryvnia, said Vladimir Saldo.

Latvian leader says unity on Russian threat will endure  

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created a moment of “unusual unity” against it but even so, it is likely to last as countries now have “no illusions” about the dangers posed by Moscow, according to Latvian President Egils Levits. That includes an appreciation of the threat to the global agricultural supply posed by the conflict, he told Bloomberg News on the sidelines of Davos.

Weaning themselves off Russian oil and gas will be difficult for all countries in Europe, Levits added, and is harder for some nations than others. But even as the European Union struggles to get an agreement on embargoing oil, let alone gas, Levits insisted that the overall will remains to reach a deal, and that “we shouldn’t finance the war against Ukraine”.

There was, he added, an understanding that some countries require special consideration and exemptions on potential timelines in order to get an agreement on oil.

Russian soldier sentenced in first war crimes case 

Vadim Shyshymarin was sentenced to life in prison by a Kyiv court for killing a Ukrainian citizen in the Sumy region just after Russia’s invasion began in late February, news service Interfax reported.

The 21-year-old “violated the laws and customs of war”, the court ruled, according to Interfax. He had earlier pleaded guilty and asked the widow of the man he killed to pardon him. The Kremlin didn’t have an immediate response to the verdict, in a case that got little coverage inside Russia.

Ukraine is seeking an international tribunal to try thousands of cases of alleged Russian war crimes and ways to swap captured soldiers, like Shyshymarin, for Ukrainians who defended Mariupol and are currently held by Russia. 




Ukraine calls for further Russian isolation 

Zelensky reinforced his call for a blockade of oil, technology and other trade with Russia, including no exceptions to sanctions against the country’s banking sector. He said the international community needed to establish a precedent to deter the Kremlin now as well in the future.

“If brute force dominates, then there is no need to gather in Davos,” he said in a keynote address. “Brute force does not discuss, it kills.” He said that Ukraine was open for companies that leave Russia. 

“You will have access not only to a market of 40 million consumers but also to the EU market,” he said, with reference to his country’s bid for membership in the trading bloc. 

Ukraine makes war crimes case in Davos  

The site of the Ukrainian exhibit in Davos was particularly poignant – the building usually occupied by “Russia House” at the World Economic Forum (WEF), but now dubbed “Russian War Crimes House”.

The WEF this year features a large Ukrainian contingent with zero Russian presence. A keynote speech was delivered by Zelensky by video link.

Speaking at the exhibition launch, also by video address, Zelensky aide Andriy Yermak said the exhibit, which features 4,600 pieces of evidence, was not just a symbolic move. “It is honest, it is fair,” he said.

Biden, Kishida meet in Tokyo 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told US President Joe Biden at their meeting that “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine shakes the foundations of the global order, and changes to the status quo by force such as this cannot be tolerated anywhere”.

Read more: Japan’s Kishida says phasing out Russian oil to take time 

Resource-poor Japan plans to phase out its use of Russian oil and coal, but Kishida has said it would take time to make the change. The Kishida administration’s sanctions against Russia have proved popular with the public ahead of a key upper house election in two months. 

US, Apec group partners slam Russia 

The US and several of its partners in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) group jointly condemned Russia’s aggression, issuing a statement expressing “grave concern” after a gathering of the bloc’s trade ministers over the weekend. 

The unified stance among the US, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea comes after the gathering of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group failed to issue a customary joint statement. The US and Russia staged tit-for-tat walkouts during their presentations at the meeting.  

Read more: Apec meeting fails to issue statement after US-Russia walkout

New Zealand sends artillery training team 

A New Zealand Defence Force artillery training team of up to 30 will be deployed to the UK to help train Ukrainian military personnel in operating L119 105mm light field guns, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. 

Forcibly displaced exceed 100 million, UNHCR says 

The global figure must “serve as a wake-up call” for more action, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said in a statement on the report, adding that the war in Ukraine has displaced eight million within the country this year.

“The international response to people fleeing war in Ukraine has been overwhelmingly positive,” Grandi said. The number of forcibly displaced worldwide had risen toward 90 million by the end of 2021 before Russia’s invasion started, propelled by new waves of violence or protracted conflict in countries including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UNHCR said.

Zelensky says Ukraine suffers high casualties in Donbas  

As many as 100 Ukrainian soldiers may be dying each day in the most severe battles in the country’s east, Zelensky told reporters in a joint press conference on Sunday with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda.  

It was a rare instance of Zelensky hinting at the level of casualties the nation’s troops are incurring. He made the comment after being asked whether he plans to lift a ban on leaving Ukraine for men of conscription age. 

In his address to the nation on Saturday night, Zelensky described the situation in the Donbas as “really hard”. DM


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