UKRAINE UPDATE: 27 APRIL 2023
Xi holds first call with Zelensky since Russian invasion; Wagner chief complains again of munitions shortage
Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke with Volodymyr Zelensky for the first time since the Kremlin’s invasion began, telling the Ukrainian leader that the only way to achieve peace is through negotiations.
Russia put two companies owned by Finland’s Fortum and German utility’s Uniper under temporary state administration in response to asset freezes by the US and its allies. President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday night signed a decree, allowing the government to introduce temporary state control over property or securities owned by companies or individuals from so-called unfriendly states.
Russian prosecutors are pursuing new cases accusing jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny of “extremism” and “terrorism”, charges that carry sentences of up to 30 years and 35 years, respectively, according to his spokesperson.
- Russia seizes Fortum, Uniper plants in response to asset freezes
- Xi pushes Zelensky to negotiate in first call since invasion
- Ukrainian refugees see financial solidarity slip in Romania
- Russia steps up tactical-nuclear threats with Belarus training
Russia to crack down further on foreign NGOs
New draft laws proposed in Parliament would criminalise working with non-governmental organisations that don’t register with the authorities, adding to the pressure on civil society as the Kremlin seeks to eradicate outside influence.
The plan, proposed by a parliamentary commission that investigates alleged foreign interference, would impose fines and jail terms of up to three years for people who worked with such groups. Organisations that work with unregistered NGOs would face heavy fines.
Russia has shut down dozens of foreign-backed groups in recent years, declaring many of them “undesirable.”
Ukraine says 44 POWs returned from Russia
Ukraine returned home 42 servicemen and two civilians from Russian captivity, according to President Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak.
The prisoners included defenders of Mariupol, Azovstal, and Kherson, he said. The Russian Defence Ministry said 40 of its servicemen had been freed after negotiations and were due to arrive in Moscow.
Wagner chief complains again of munitions shortage
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, complained again that his forces don’t have enough shells and other munitions, and blamed unnamed commanders for holding them back.
“We have enough for about two to three weeks before we’re down to the last cartridge in the clip,” he said in a recording posted on his Telegram channel. “The Ukrainian offensive is inevitable, but there is betrayal under way within the Russian Federation — they aren’t letting us put up defences and attack further.”
He said the Ukrainian counteroffensive was likely to begin after the first week of May, once the mud on the battlefield dries. Earlier this year, he complained that the Russian Defence Ministry wasn’t giving his forces adequate supplies, but in recent weeks the conflict had appeared to fade.
China to send representative to Ukraine, says Xi
Xi Jinping told Zelensky during a phone call that the war can only be resolved through negotiations, according to China’s state TV, which cited the Chinese leader as saying his nation would send a representative to Ukraine. Zelensky said on his Telegram channel that there could “be no peace at the expense of territorial compromises”.
China recently put forward a 12-point ceasefire proposal that was dismissed by Kyiv’s allies as being a one-sided deal that would benefit the Kremlin, while French President Emmanuel Macron has sought to enlist Beijing’s help to intervene in Ukraine.
Putin critic Navalny risks decades in jail, says spokesperson
Prosecutors are pursuing new cases against Navalny of “extremism” and “terrorism”, his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said on Twitter.
A Moscow court gave Navalny until May 5 to familiarise himself with 196 volumes of case material alleging “extremism”. the state-run Tass news service reported. Navalny said via video link before the closed hearing that prosecutors were also preparing a “terrorism” case against him.
Putin’s most high-profile critic is already serving a nine-year sentence after he returned to Moscow in January 2021 from treatment abroad for a poisoning in Russia that he and the West blamed on the Kremlin.
Russia steps up tactical nuclear weapons threats
Russia trained troops from Belarus on tactical nuclear warheads for Iskander short-range missiles, taking a step toward following through on its threat to deploy the weapons on the territory of its ally.
Putin last month announced plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus for the first time. As its invasion of Ukraine has struggled, Russia has repeatedly suggested it may use nuclear weapons, drawing criticism from the US and its allies, as well as China and India, which have generally been more supportive of Russia in the conflict.
Poland to open repair hub for Leopard battle tanks
Poland will open a repair hub next week for German-made Leopard tanks returning from the Ukrainian battlefield, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday.
The decision follows a letter signed by Poland, Germany and Ukraine laying out the preliminary financial scheme for the creation of a service hub.
US Attorney-General meets with Ukraine’s Chief Justice
US Attorney-General Merrick Garland met in Washington on Tuesday with Vsevolod Kniaziev, the Chief Justice of Ukraine.
The two men discussed “the challenges posed by wartime conditions” in running a justice system, and “expanding access to justice, especially in those areas most affected by the war”, according to a Justice Department account of their encounter.
Sweden expels five Russian diplomats
Sweden expelled five diplomatic staff members from the Russian embassy, broadcaster SVT reported. The ambassador was summoned by Swedish authorities.
“Their activities on our territory have been incompatible with their status as diplomats,” said Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom in an interview. DM