UKRAINE UPDATE: 4 MAY 2023
Zelensky denies Moscow claim of Kremlin strike; Russia launches drone attacks on several cities
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denied the Kremlin’s claim that drones from Kyiv attempted to strike Moscow or assassinate Vladimir Putin. Russia said earlier it had the right to respond after it downed two drones on Tuesday night that it said were part of a ‘planned terrorist act’.
Russia launched attacks on several cities overnight using Iranian Shahed drones, most of which were shot down by air-defence systems, Ukrainian officials said. There were no immediate reports of casualties after strikes in the Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Mykolayiv regions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise visit to Helsinki to discuss the country’s defence against Russia’s invasion with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinistö, as well as with the prime ministers of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.
- Ukraine grain deal talks set as Russia threatens to exit pact
- Russia halts some oil wells but keeps production data secret
- Ukraine’s allies seek to close more Russia sanctions loopholes
- Russian litigants dominate London courts in spite of sanctions
- EU pledges €500m to boost ammunition output in Europe
- EU wants more commodity trading scrutiny after war exposed risks
More than half of Russians expect another mobilisation, poll shows
More than half of Russians surveyed expect the Kremlin to launch another wave of military mobilisation in the next three months, a new poll shows, despite official denials there are any such plans.
The Levada Center said 56% of those surveyed see another mobilisation as a possibility, with the percentage higher among people aged 25-39. New rules automating the call-up process and blocking evaders from leaving the country triggered “alarm” and “shock” among respondents.
The first wave of mobilisation last autumn triggered an exodus of Russians from the country and led to widespread public discontent. Since then, officials have said no new call-ups are planned.
Nato warns that Russia is mapping EU, US critical assets
Nato’s intelligence chief said that Russia is mapping critical undersea systems and warned of a significant risk that Moscow could target infrastructure in Europe and North America.
“There are heightened concerns that Russia may target undersea cables and other critical infrastructure in an effort to disrupt Western life and gain leverage against those nations that are providing support to Ukraine,” David Cattler, the military alliance’s assistant secretary-general for intelligence and security, told reporters.
Zelensky says Ukraine didn’t attack Moscow
The Ukrainian leader said his country didn’t attack Moscow or Putin, telling reporters in Helsinki: “We’ll leave it to the tribunal.”
He said the Kremlin was probably trying to distract Russians from its failures on the battlefield.
“We fight on our own territory, where we are defending our own villages and cities. We don’t have enough weapons for this.”
Ukraine must decide war’s course, says Blinken
The US was not dictating to Ukraine how to defend itself from Russia’s invasion, including in the anticipated spring counteroffensive, or what it would accept as the war’s outcome, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
“Where exactly this settles remains to be seen,” the top US diplomat said in Washington. “And Ukraine has to make important decisions about exactly where it’s going to go and how it wants to pursue this,” Blinken said. He said that the US and international community would continue supporting Kyiv.
Any proposed settlement must begin with a “clear understanding that in this instance, there’s a victim and there’s an aggressor,” Blinken said. “There’s no moral equivalence between the two positions.”
Ukraine’s offensive may be under way, says Wagner chief
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, said increasing Ukrainian military activity may be evidence that its counteroffensive had started.
“We see the highest level of activity of enemy aviation,” Prigozhin said in an audio message on his Telegram channel. “We see the highest level of activity along the perimeter and behind our front.”
Prigozhin reiterated that his forces were facing a shortage of shells in the fight over the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. Last week, he threatened to pull Wagner’s troops out of Bakhmut, after accusing the Russian Defence Ministry of failing to supply enough ammunition.
EU envoys approve €1bn ammunition plan
EU ambassadors signed off on plans to spend another €1-billion from the European Peace Facility to jointly buy ammunition, according to the bloc’s rotating presidency, currently held by Sweden. While foreign ministers had backed the plan in March, the effort stalled in technical talks as they sought to hammer out the legal terms of the deal.
This comes on top of a decision to tap €1-billion from the same fund to reimburse about 50% of the modern and Soviet-era ammunition that member states send to Ukraine from their own stockpiles.
Russian attacks in Kherson region kill 16
Ukraine’s Kherson region came under massive Russian attacks on Wednesday morning and 16 people were killed, the Prosecutor-General’s office said on Telegram. Twelve people were killed by Russian shells in the city of Kherson, and four people in the wider region, including three grid workers who were repairing power lines north of Kherson. At least 22 people were injured.
US assesses alleged drones near Kremlin
The US government was working to ascertain exactly what transpired near the Kremlin, but one American official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the US had received no advance warning of anything that may have taken place.
Ukraine denies link to drones near Kremlin
Ukraine uses all its resources and equipment to liberate its occupied territory, not to attack other countries, said Serhiy Nykyforov, a spokesperson for Zelensky.
“What happened in Moscow, is clearly an escalation of the situation before May 9” — when Russia celebrates Victory Day — “and it is an expected method from our enemies,” he said in a text message to Bloomberg.
Separately, Mykhailo Podolyak, a presidential aide, denied Ukraine had any links to the drone attack.
“We are not attacking the Kremlin because it doesn’t solve any military task and doesn’t change anything on the battlefield, and it is also very unbeneficial from the point of view of preparations for our offensive,” Podolyak said.
Kremlin says it downed drones headed for Putin’s residence
Russia has the right to respond “where and when it deems necessary” after two drones targeted Putin’s Kremlin residence, according to an emailed statement.
The Kremlin said it regarded the attack as an effort to assassinate Putin, but he was unharmed.
Zelensky says Ukraine needs more support from Nato before membership
The best security guarantee for Ukraine is Nato membership, Zelensky said in Helsinki at a joint news conference with Niinistö.
“Until the war goes on, we are not going to be in Nato, we clearly understand that. We would like our partners to move from the open door policy to more decisive steps to motivate the Ukrainian public,” Zelensky said. “We would like to have political support today.”
Grain talks to resume as Russia threatens exit
The deputy defence ministers of Turkey, Russia and Ukraine are due for talks on Friday to discuss the extension of the Black Sea crop-export corridor, according to Turkish media reports. Russia will hold talks with United Nations representatives in Moscow on the same date, the Foreign Ministry said, according to Tass.
Wheat held near a two-year low as officials from the Black Sea region agreed to negotiate the continuation of the Ukraine grain deal, before a looming Russian deadline for leaving the pact.
Ukraine rises in World Press Freedom Index
Ukraine rose 27 places to 79th in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index, while Russia dropped nine spots to 164th after the Kremlin used the war to begin a final “purge” of the country’s media, according to Reporters Without Borders.
In Ukraine, “journalists enjoy greater freedom in the free zones, despite the turmoil in the news media, the difficulties associated with covering a country at war, and reporting restrictions that, for the most part, are proportionate to the situation”, said the organisation, which seeks to defend press freedom.
“The war and the spirit of national unity have reduced the oligarchs’ hold on the media,” it added.
Zelensky to meet with Scholz in Berlin
Zelensky will travel to Berlin to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on 14 May, followed by a trip to Aachen later that day to receive the 2023 International Charlemagne Prize, German media reported.
EU pledges €500m for ammunition
The European Union is setting aside €500-million to boost the manufacturing of artillery shells, missiles and gunpowder in an effort to speed up the production of ammunition for Ukraine and galvanise the bloc’s defence industry.
Among a raft of measures, the European Commission proposed the funds to co-finance projects alongside EU governments. It offered around half of the funding for companies to ramp up output capacity or refit old stocks of ammunition to make them operational again.
UK Tory treasurer to suspend Russian business
A company co-owned by UK Conservative Party Senior Treasurer Mohamed Mansour is suspending its business activities in Russia after British media reported that the firm was supplying machinery to the country’s oil and gas industry.
Mansour, an Egyptian billionaire, is the chair and co-owner of Mantrac, a global Caterpillar equipment dealer that has been operating in Russia through a subsidiary. A Mantrac spokesperson told Bloomberg that the unit had scaled back its operations significantly and was in the process of suspending all business activities in Russia, in compliance with applicable laws.
Sanctioned Russian yacht raided in German port
A yacht belonging to a sanctioned 67-old Russian entrepreneur was raided by Frankfurt prosecutors at a port in northern Germany.
The man is suspected to have failed to notify the authorities about his “substantial” assets in the country, as required under sanctions rules, the prosecutors said in an emailed statement. No names were disclosed.
Ukraine imposes curfew in Kherson
A 58-hour curfew will come into effect in Ukraine’s southern city of Kherson starting at 8pm local time on Friday, according to the regional military authorities. The restrictions are needed to enable local law enforcement to do their jobs effectively, they said on Facebook, without elaborating.
People will be forbidden to go outside and drivers will be banned from entering and leaving the city. Since Russian troops left under pressure from Ukrainian forces in November, Kherson has frequently been shelled, with dozens of people killed and many wounded.
Drone attack sparks fire at Russian fuel depot: Tass
A drone struck a fuel-oil depot near Russia’s bridge to Crimea, causing a fire, officials said, according to state news agency Tass.
There were no injuries reported at the storage facility in the village of Volna, near the point where the bridge connects to the Russian mainland. The fire covered about 1,200 square metres and about 85 people were involved in efforts to tackle the blaze, Tass reported.
Zelensky says US didn’t reveal defence leaks
Zelensky said he was not informed by the US government about a recent leak of classified military documents — including sensitive information about Russia’s invasion — and first learnt about the breach from the media.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Zelensky said the disclosures had been damaging to both administrations. The Ukrainian leader suggested at the weekend that the leak affected the timing of Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive, along with other factors including weapons supplies and weather conditions.
US pledges additional military aid
The US is sending Ukraine about $300-million worth of additional military aid, including artillery rounds, howitzers, air-to-ground rockets and ammunition, the Associated Press reported, citing US officials it didn’t identify by name.
The weapons will come from Pentagon stocks so they can be delivered rapidly, AP said.
Russia ‘shifting attacks away from power network’
Russian cruise missile strikes against Ukraine on 28 April and 1 May were probably focused on military, industrial and logistical infrastructure, indicating a possible shift from targeting the country’s power network, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.
Both strikes used smaller numbers of missiles than previous attacks, probably due to attempts to rebuild stockpiles of air-launched cruise missiles, the ministry said in its latest Defence Intelligence update.
New Zealand expands Ukraine support
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced that his government was expanding its defence commitments to Ukraine along with additional humanitarian, legal and economic support.
The latest package includes a one-year extension to the deployment of 95 New Zealand Defence Force personnel training and supporting Ukrainian armed forces to the end of June 2024, Hipkins said in a statement on the government’s website.
Turkey to host grain talks on Friday
The deputy defence ministers of Turkey, Russia and Ukraine will meet on Friday in Istanbul to discuss the extension of the Black Sea grain corridor agreement, according to Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar.
“This agreement is very important for the peace and stability of the region as well as for countries in need,” Akar was quoted as saying in Turkish media. “In this context, we can say that the parties are warm to the extension of the deadline,” he added.
While a high-level meeting on the grain deal was being discussed, the dates had not been finally agreed, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, according to Tass. DM