UKRAINE UPDATE: 5 MAY 2023
Zelensky addresses International Criminal Court; Russia claims US behind drone strike on Kremlin
The European Union is considering ways to target third countries seen as doing too little to stop Russia evading sanctions, particularly those that can’t explain spikes in trade of key goods or technologies, according to people familiar with the matter.
President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he urged the creation of a “full-fledged” tribunal to punish Russia for its aggression. Ukraine’s leader and other officials also redoubled their push for allies to provide Kyiv’s troops with modern fighter jets.
Russia claimed the US was behind a drone strike on the Kremlin that it blamed on Ukraine, but provided no evidence. Ukraine has denied any responsibility, while the US on Wednesday expressed scepticism and said it had no advance warning. A US-based think tank said Russia “likely staged this attack” in a bid to “set conditions for a wider societal mobilisation”.
- EU aims to target nations through which Russia evades sanctions
- Russia says Washington put Kyiv up to alleged drone strike: Tass
- Russia says oil cut pledge backed by drop in EU pipeline flows
- The ugly case for supporting Ukraine: Leonid Bershidsky
Russia says it shot down drone over Crimea
A drone was shot down around Russia’s Belbek air base, near Sevastopol in Crimea, Tass reported, citing local authorities. “Another attack on Sevastopol. No objects were damaged,” the Russian news agency quoted the Russian-installed governor as saying.
Last weekend a massive fire broke out at a fuel depot in Sevastopol after it was hit by suspected drones. The Belbek air base has been a frequent target of attacks.
US spies can’t say if Ukraine drones targeted Kremlin
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said US spy agencies did not have enough information to assess Russia’s claim that Ukraine was behind the drone attack it said was aimed at President Vladimir Putin’s residence in the Kremlin.
“At this stage, we don’t have information that would allow us to provide an independent assessment on this,” Haines told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Lieutenant-General Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said there were reasons to believe Russia’s claims may be misinformation.
Answering questions from Republican Senator Tom Cotton, Berrier agreed that the video Russia said showed the attack indicated the drones didn’t appear large enough to inflict significant damage on Putin’s residence. He also agreed that Putin doesn’t sleep at the Kremlin very often.
US ambassador visits former Marine Paul Whelan in Russian prison
Lynne Tracy, the US ambassador to Russia, visited American Paul Whelan at a Russian prison, according to the US Embassy in Russia.
Whelan, a former US Marine, was arrested by Russia in 2018 and accused of spying. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020. The embassy, in a tweet, said securing Whelan’s release “remains an absolute priority” for the US.
Russian oil revenues slump in April amid Western sanctions
Revenues shrank to just a third of last year’s level in April, hit by Western sanctions and a currency impact.
Budget proceeds from crude and petroleum products fell by 7% to 496.9 billion roubles ($6.3-billion) last month, the Finance Ministry said on Thursday. Tax from oil accounted for 77% of total hydrocarbon revenues in April, according to Bloomberg calculations based on the ministry’s data.
Poland to boost anti-terrorist protection of Baltic infrastructure
The Polish government on Thursday proposed legislation to allow the country to destroy enemy ships or floating objects deemed to pose a terrorist threat to key energy infrastructure in the Baltic Sea. The draft law, which will next be debated by Parliament, could be executed only under “exceptional situations” when there’s no possibility of resorting to other measures.
Poland imports most of its natural gas through an LNG port in the Baltic as well as an undersea pipeline connecting the East European nation with Norway.
Zelensky says he’s getting good vibes on Nato bid
Ukraine’s president said he’s had positive messages from some Nato countries “who are ready to support and do something more” at the defence alliance’s summit in Vilnius in July.
Zelensky said the most important thing as Kyiv prepares for its spring counteroffensive against Russia was for allies to deliver the promised weapons aid as quickly as possible.
Netherlands says ‘no taboos’ on fighter jets
The Netherlands has “no taboos” on sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a joint press conference with Zelensky and Belgian Premier Alexander de Croo at The Hague. Talks were ongoing between allies to “getting that debate somehow to a conclusion”, Rutte said, adding that “we are not there yet”.
“It is time to take positive decisions for Ukraine on modern aircraft,” Zelensky said, adding: “There is no rationale to postpone decisions to train our pilots.”
On Twitter, Ukraine’s foreign minister said that Ukraine could use “a squadron of well-equipped F-16s” to patrol the Black Sea grain corridor. Russia has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the pact that’s allowed millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain to be shipped since last summer.
Polish grain ban ‘cost Ukraine $143m’
The Polish government’s move to ban imports of Ukraine’s agricultural goods cost Kyiv $143-million last month, Deputy Economy Minister Taras Kachka told the Brussels Economic Forum.
The EU Commission “will pay Polish farmers as a compensation for nothing; in my opinion, it was really a bluff from Polish farmers”, Kachka added.
Poland and several other eastern members of the EU imposed restrictions on Ukrainian food exports in April, citing plummeting prices on the market that hurt their farmers. The move drew a rebuke from the EU.
“With the commission’s intervention we are getting some kind of easing of the situation, but the situation has not been resolved,” Kachka said.
Ukraine to evacuate remaining civilians from Avdiivka
Ukraine plans to evacuate remaining civilians from Avdiivka as fighting intensifies in the area, Serhiy Telyatytskyi, chief of the southern defence forces, said on television. The Donestsk-region town had a pre-war population of 30,000 that has dwindled to a few thousand.
Russian forces mounted 24 storming attempts in the direction of Avdiivka and Maryinka in the past 24-hour period, up from 18 a day earlier. All residents left Maryinka in November.
Zelensky urges full-fledged tribunal to punish Russia
Ukraine demanded a complete effort to punish Russia for its aggression against Ukraine and to prevent a repetition, Zelensky said at The Hague. “We need a full-fledged tribunal and true and full justice,” he said.
The experience of Nuremberg, where the Allies tried representatives of Nazi Germany after World War 2, could be adapted into new operating rules, and shortcomings in the international law should be corrected to ensure justice and to make the punishment inevitable, he said.
Zelensky welcomed efforts by the International Criminal Court and the creation of the list of damages inflicted by Russia during the 14-month-old war, saying it was a “step forward” to set up a compensation mechanism for future reparations.
Russia’s strikes continue to damage Ukraine’s power grid near front line
Russia’s missile and artillery strikes are inflicting more damage on Ukraine’s power grid, though the nation’s electricity supplies remain stable, state-run company Ukrenergo said on Telegram.
While the backbone of the network had not been damaged by recent shelling, local electricity distribution companies’ equipment was affected in the regions close to the frontline. This caused localised temporary blackouts, such as in the southern city of Kherson, where more than 6,000 customers have been facing power outages.
Meanwhile, power engineers managed to restore electricity supplies to 186,000 consumers in the Donetsk region and to 15,000 customers in the Dnipropetrovsk region after recent shelling.
EU aims to target nations on sanctions evasion
The primary aim of a new mechanism would be to deter countries from helping Russia and crack down on trade channels that Moscow may be exploiting, said people familiar with the issue. If that doesn’t work, the bloc would have the option as a second step of imposing targeted restrictions on key goods.
The bloc also aims to widen the scope of several existing export measures and ban many goods transiting through Russia, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private matters.
Death toll from Russian strikes in Kherson rises to 23
Massive Russian strikes in the Kherson region on Wednesday killed 23 people, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on television. A railway station, a hardware store, a supermarket, a petrol station and a house were hit in several attacks during the day.
At least 48 people were injured, Zelensky said on Telegram on Wednesday night.
Ukraine’s international reserves keep climbing towards record levels
Ukraine’s foreign currency and gold reserves climbed 13% from the previous month to more than $35.9 billion, hitting an 11-year high, according to the central bank’s data.
The reserves increased as foreign aid from international partners kept flowing with an overall amount of assistance exceeding $5.8-billion last month, while the central bank has been spending less foreign currency on the foreign exchange market to prop up the hryvnia for the fourth consecutive month.
Pressure on the hryvnia has eased in the wake of a tight monetary policy aimed at boosting the attractiveness of hryvnia-denominated savings and the central bank’s refusal to purchase government bonds to support the budget. The country’s reserves peaked at $38.4-billion in April 2011.
Russia probably staged Kremlin drone incident, says US think-tank
Russia most likely staged Wednesday’s drone incident at the Kremlin “in an attempt to bring the war home to a Russian domestic audience and seek conditions for a wider societal mobilisation”, said military analysts at the Institute for the Study of War.
Several indicators suggest the incident, which Russia blamed on Ukraine, “was internally conducted and purposefully staged,” the US-based think tank said in a daily update. It was “extremely unlikely that two drones could have penetrated multiple layers of air defence and detonated or been shot down just over the heart of the Kremlin in a way that provided spectacular imagery caught nicely on camera”.
Ukraine shoots down 18 out of 24 Russian drones
Ukraine shot down 18 Iranian-made Shahed drones, launched by Russia from the northern Bryansk region and the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov in the south, the Air Defence said.
In the southern city of Odesa, three drones hit dormitories, causing fires to start, the Military Command South said on Facebook. Nobody was injured and 12 drones there were shot down, it said. In Kyiv, the Air Defence shot down all loitering munition and missiles according to initial reports, Serhiy Popko, the head of the capital’s military administration, said on Telegram.
Wheat prices climb to six-month high over drone tensions
Wheat prices extended their biggest jump in six months as tensions escalated in the Black Sea after Moscow blamed Ukraine for a drone attack on the Kremlin. Kyiv has denied Moscow’s allegations. The flare-up comes at a sensitive time for the future of the safe corridor that allows Ukraine to export crops through the Black Sea.
The deputy defence ministers of Turkey, Russia and Ukraine were due on Friday to discuss an extension of the deal, which Russia has said could end on 18 May. DM