UKRAINE UPDATE: 19 APRIL 2023
Germany ships Patriot system to Kyiv to bolster defence; Putin visits troops in occupied regions
A Russian court rejected an appeal by Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich against his detention on allegations of espionage in a case that has highlighted the growing pressure on journalists in the country.
Germany followed through on a pledge to supply Ukraine with a Patriot surface-to-air missile defence system, bolstering Ukraine’s defences ahead of an intensification of fighting expected in the coming weeks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited troops in the occupied part of Ukraine’s Kherson and Luhansk regions. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited frontline positions in Avdiyivka, near Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.
- Putin stages surprise visit to troops in occupied Ukraine
- Why China’s Xi still isn’t calling Zelensky: Balance of Power
- Russia court rejects WSJ reporter’s appeal of spying arrest
- Brazil’s foreign minister criticises Russia sanctions
- Ukraine says vital Black Sea crop exports remain disrupted
Germany ships Patriot air-defence system
Germany has followed through on a pledge to supply Ukraine with a Patriot surface-to-air missile defence system, according to a list of military support for the government in Kyiv updated on Tuesday.
The Patriot, which stands for Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target, is manufactured by a unit of Raytheon Technologies Corp. and is used by the US and many of its Nato allies.
Poland to allow Ukraine’s grain to pass through
Ukraine can resume transport of its grain through Polish territory beginning on Friday after an agreement in talks between ministers from both countries in Warsaw, Polish Economy Minister Waldemar Buda told reporters.
A blanket ban imposed over the weekend sparked criticism from the European Union and followed weeks of protests from Polish farmers angered by falling prices.
Poland still won’t let Ukrainian grain and produce be sold on its market, the minister said. The agreement includes sealing and monitoring cargoes of grain moving through Polish territory to four ports on the Baltic Sea.
Russia to increase penalties for treason, terrorism
Russians convicted of treason would face up to life in prison under amendments approved by the lower house of Parliament, part of a broad crackdown on opponents amid the war.
The draft law would also lengthen jail terms for terrorism and related crimes, which have been used at times against critics.
In addition, the changes make it a crime to help implement the decisions of international organisations of which Russia isn’t a member, a move targeted at the International Criminal Court, which last month issued a warrant for Putin on war crimes charges.
Sweden’s Absolut stops exporting to Russia
The Swedish maker of Absolut Vodka has stopped all exports of its branded liquor to Russia with immediate effect following a consumer backlash.
The drink manufacturer’s parent, Pernod Ricard, said this month that product shipments to Russia had resumed, which sparked an outcry in Sweden because of the invasion of Ukraine.
Nato ‘planning faster response for Baltics’
Nato has shifted its plans from an earlier strategy to defend the three Baltic countries in force within 180 days of a theoretical Russian attack, Estonian Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur told the country’s public broadcaster.
Pevkur said Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are no longer as vulnerable to an attack on the Suwalki corridor — which would cut the countries off from its allies to the south — after Finland joined the alliance.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas shocked her nation last summer when she said the capital, Tallinn, would be “wiped off the map” in the event of a Russian invasion and that Nato’s defence plans at the time were not sufficient.
Zelensky visits Ukrainian troops near Donetsk
Zelensky heard a report from the commander of the Donetsk operational-tactical group on the regional situation and thanked servicemen for their efforts, according to a statement from his office.
“Congratulations on the holidays, on Easter, I wish you only victory — this is what I wish for every Ukrainian, this is what is very important to all of us,” Zelensky said. “I am sincerely grateful on behalf of every Ukrainian for the great path that you overcome every day.”
Ukrainian foreign minister meets Kuwait fund head
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba invited the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development to take part in the future reconstruction of his country, according to a ministry statement.
Cooperation with Ukraine would become a priority for the fund, which is ready to take part in an international conference on the nation’s reconstruction in London this June, Waleed Al-Bahar, the acting director-general of the organisation, said during the meeting in Kuwait, according to the statement.
Russian court rejects WSJ journalist’s appeal over spying arrest
The Moscow City Court rejected an appeal by The Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich following his detention last month, the state-run Tass news service reported.
The arguments were closed to the public, but journalists were allowed to hear the judge read the ruling. Lynne Tracy, the US ambassador to Russia, attended the hearing.
The State Department has formally determined that Gershkovich has been “wrongfully detained”, which opens the way for the US to negotiate on his behalf.
Ukraine says Russian attack on Kherson kills one
Russian artillery shelled a food market in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, killing at least one person and wounding nine others, Oleksandr Tolokonnikov, a regional military administration spokesperson, said on television.
The attack also damaged residential buildings, the spokesperson said.
Ukraine invites Brazilian leader to visit the country
Ukraine has invited Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to visit the country and understand “the real reasons and essence of Russian aggression and its consequences for global security”, Ukraine’s spokesperson for the foreign ministry, Oleh Nikolenko, said on Facebook.
The invitation comes after Brazil criticised sanctions placed on Russia and a meeting between Lula and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday. Brazil is among the nations that have not participated in sanctions imposed on Russia since its February 2022 invasion.
“Ukraine is watching with interest the efforts of the president of Brazil to find a solution to end the war, but putting the victim and the aggressor on the same scale, as well as accusing Ukrainian partners does not correspond to the real situation,” Nikolenko said.
Ukraine’s vital Black Sea crop exports remain disrupted
Kyiv said its crop shipments through the Black Sea safe-passage corridor remained suspended for a second day with Russia blocking the inspection of vessels.
The latest disruption to the seaborne shipments comes at the same time as three of Ukraine’s European Union neighbours have stopped allowing imports of some of its agricultural cargoes — threatening a key alternative route to export markets.
Ukraine’s delegation was in Poland to discuss the issue while the infrastructure minister was visiting Turkey for talks on a possible grain deal.
Estonia says Ukraine needs pathway to Nato
Kyiv needs a clear message on how it can move toward full Nato membership at the organisation’s Vilnius summit in July, Estonia’s new foreign minister, Margus Tsahkna, said on TV late on Monday night after taking office earlier in the day.
Tsahkna added that if Western allies begin to tire of the war and pressure Ukraine to seek peace terms, it would mean the continuation of Putin’s regime and a new “test” for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the region in three or four years.
Putin makes surprise visit to occupied Ukraine
The Russian president on Sunday visited officers of the Vostok National Guard in the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk and at the headquarters of the Dnepr grouping of troops in the southern Kherson region, according to video shown on state TV.
Putin said he wanted to hear about military developments and also congratulated troops. He presented a copy of an icon to the Dnepr forces that he said had belonged to “one of the most successful defence ministers of the Russian Empire”.
G7 pledges to support Ukraine indefinitely
The Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting in Japan vowed to support Ukraine for “as long as it takes” in its fight against Russian forces.
In a communique released on Tuesday after top G7 diplomats met in Japan, the bloc condemned Russia’s war against Ukraine “in the strongest possible terms.” The nations reiterated support for the Ukrainian leader’s peace plan, while assailing Russia’s “irresponsible nuclear rhetoric”.
“We recommit today to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes and to providing sustained security, economic, and institutional support to help Ukraine defend itself, secure its free and democratic future, and deter future Russian aggression,” the ministers said. DM