WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden on Friday authorized the shipment of another $150 million in military assistance for Ukraine for artillery rounds and radar systems in its fight against Russia’s invading forces.
Biden said the latest spending means his administration has “nearly exhausted” what Congress authorized for Ukraine in March and called on lawmakers to swiftly approve a more than $33 billion spending package that will last through the end of September.
“We are sending the weapons and equipment that Congress has authorized directly to the front lines of freedom in Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement. “U.S. support, together with the contributions of our Allies and partners, has been critical in helping Ukraine win the battle of Kyiv and hinder Putin’s war aims in Ukraine.”
A U.S. official said the latest tranche of assistance includes 25,000 155mm artillery rounds, counter-artillery radars, jamming equipment, field equipment and spare parts.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
- 50 more civilians rescued from besieged Mariupol steel plant
- UN council backs UN chief’s peace effort in its first action
- Europe’s farmers stir up biogas to offset Russian energy
- With Ukraine’s ports blocked, trains in Europe haul grain
- US seeks to downplay role in sinking of Russian warship
- Jill Biden brings thanks, ketchup to US troops in Romania
UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted its first statement since Russia’s military action began Feb. 24, expressing “strong support” for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ efforts to find a peaceful solution to the “dispute” in Ukraine.
The short statement adopted at a brief meeting Friday does not mention a “war,” “conflict” or “invasion” as many council members call Russia’s ongoing military action, or a “special military operation” as Moscow refers to it. Russia, which holds veto power in the council, has blocked all previous attempts to adopt a statement or resolution.
Instead, the statement “expresses deep concern regarding the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine” and “recalls that all member states have undertaken, under the Charter of the United Nations, the obligation to settle their international disputes by peaceful means.”
During recent visits to Moscow and Kyiv, Guterres reached an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the evacuation of civilians, first and foremost from the besieged southeastern port city of Mauripol and the Azovstal steel plant where the last Ukrainian forces are holding out along with hundreds of civilians in underground bunkers.
ROME - The Italian finance minister has adopted a decree that will impede a mega-yacht from sailing away from a Tuscan port, after investigation indicated the luxury vessel Scheherazade has links to “prominent elements of the Russian government.’’
The finance ministry also said in statement Friday evening that the probe, carried out by Italy’s financial police corps, found “significant economic business links of the beneficial owner” of the Scheherazade as well to other subjects included in a list issued in 2014 as part of European Union measures prompted by Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
There have been fears that the 140-meter (459-foot) long yacht, which has been in dry dock in the port of Marina di Carrara, was preparing to sail out of Italian waters soon. Based on the Italian investigation, Minister Daniele Franco adopted a “freezing decree’’ regarding the yacht, which flies the flag of the Cayman Islands and which had “long been under the attention of the authorities,’’ the statement said.
A few weeks after Russia’s war against Ukraine began, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a speech to Italian lawmakers, urged Italy to continue freezing assets of Russian oligarchs and officials. He cited by name the Scheherazade, which, according to some reports, belongs to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Italian ministry statement didn’t identify the boat’s owner nor specify who are the “prominent” elements of the Russian government. But it said the “actual owner” of the Scheherazade should be included in the 2014 EU sanctions list.
“Russia is killing civilians! On May 6, as a result of Russian shelling, one civilian of the Donbas was killed in Lyman. Three more people were injured,” Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote in a Telegram post.
The Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, encompasses the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Kyrylenko’s claims could not be immediately verified.
Speaking to Ukraine’s state-run Ukrinform agency, First Deputy Interior Minister Yevhen Yenin said authorities were carrying out “special operations” in a number of Ukrainian cities to “prevent possible provocations.”
“We receive information about the potential shelling of peaceful territories, and therefore I appeal to every Ukrainian, especially these days, not to ignore air raid sirens,” he added.
Moscow commemorates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II on May 9 each year.
Fifty civilians were evacuated Friday from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine.
In a statement, the Russian Interdepartmental Humanitarian Response Center says the 50 civilians include 11 children.
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, also said 50 civilians left the plant without giving a breakdown of how many were children.
Both Vereshchuk and the Russian body said the evacuation of civilians from Azovstal will continue Saturday.
Ukrainian fighters holed up at the sprawling complex are making their last stand to prevent Moscow’s complete takeover of the strategic port city.
UNITED NATIONS - Members of the United Nations Security Council, including Russia, have agreed on a statement expressing “strong support” for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ efforts to find a peaceful solution to the “dispute” in Ukraine.
The statement, drafted by Norway and Mexico, “expresses deep concern regarding the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine” and “recalls that all member states have undertaken, under the Charter of the United Nations, the obligation to settle their international disputes by peaceful means.”
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reached an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the evacuation of civilians, first and foremost from the besieged southeastern port city of Mauripol and its last Ukrainian forces holdout at the Azovstal steel plant where hundreds of civilians are also still living in underground bunkers.
The U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross have carried out two successful evacuations from Mariupol and surrounding areas so far and are currently trying to arrange a third from the steel plant.
Olga Makeeva, the deputy chair of the legislative assembly of the Donetsk People’s Republic, was chosen by the territory’s Russia-backed government as its representative. Her counterpart from the Luhansk People’s Republic is Rodion Miroshnik, a foreign policy adviser to the separatist territory’s leader.
A Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman condemned the appointments, saying Makeeva and Miroshnik will likely face criminal punishment for high treason.
“It’s a country of crooked mirrors. Russia has created pseudo-republics. It appointed ambassadors, from itself to itself… These ‘diplomats’ will face the most severe responsibility. As will other traitors,” Oleg Nykolenko wrote in a Telegram post Friday.
The Russian foreign ministry has released a statement congratulating Makeeva and Miroshnik on taking office, wishing them success in “establishing and developing multifaceted and mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries.”
KYIV, Ukraine - Officials from Ukraine’s national security council warned residents Friday against the increased risk of shelling on Sunday and Monday, coinciding with Russia’s Victory Day celebrations.
A Facebook post published on the profile of the Center for Counteracting Disinformation, under the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, urged Ukrainians not to ignore air raid sirens.
“Since Russian troops cannot boast of any significant achievements on the front by Victory Day, the risk of massive shelling of Ukrainian cities these days is increasing,” the post said.
Moscow commemorates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II on May 9 each year.
AIR FORCE ONE - White House press secretary Jen Psaki says President Joe Biden will meet virtually with other Group of Seven leaders Sunday along with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The virtual meeting will occur just before Russia’s Victory Day on Monday. Psaki says the date of the meeting is significant because it shows the unity of the allies ahead of a day when Russian President Vladimir Putin hoped to mark his victory over Ukraine. But Russia has been bogged down by Ukrainian forces and hampered by financial and trade sanctions.
Speaking Friday aboard Air Force One, Psaki says the G7 countries will discuss the war, its global impact, Ukraine’s future and building on the existing sanctions.
Psaki says she does not have any additional sanction details to share.
“As a result of the offensive by units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine, control was restored over the settlements of Aleksandrovka, Fedorovka, Ukrainka, Shestakovo, Pobeda and part of the village of Cherkassky Tishki,” said a Facebook post published Friday afternoon on the official profile of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram that as of Friday afternoon, fewer than 30 people remained in the village of Nekhoteevka, located directly next to a border crossing.
“We have already taken most of the residents to a safe place,” he said, adding that five houses had been damaged by shelling. His post featured two photos of what appeared to be the same damaged building.
The accuracy of Gladkov’s claims could not be immediately verified, nor did his post specify the number of people currently living in Nekhoteevka. Russia’s 2010 census referenced the village as having 145 permanent residents.
KYIV, Ukraine - The Ukrainian governor of the eastern Luhansk region accused Russian troops Friday of “terrorizing” residents of a frontline city as they try to advance across the Seversky Donets River.
In a Telegram post, Serhiy Haidai said more than 3,500 residents of the city of Kreminna had found themselves in Russian-controlled territory.
“The captured city is teeming with Russian military equipment. Fighting is going on in the vicinity,” he wrote. “The Russians are terrorizing the population in every possible way: from checking phones to forcibly disappearing Ukrainian patriots. … Almost every house has been looted.”
He added that Kreminna suffered from food and electricity shortages and that mobile communications had been shut down.
The accuracy of his statements could not be immediately verified.
SONCHAMP, France - In lush fields southwest of Paris, farmers are joining Europe’s fight to free itself from Russian gas.
They’ll soon turn on the tap of a new facility where crops and agricultural waste are mashed up and fermented to produce “biogas.” It’s among energy solutions being promoted on the continent that wants to choke off funding for Russia’s war in Ukraine by no longer paying billions for Russian fossil fuels.
Small rural gas plants that provide energy for hundreds or thousands of nearby homes aren’t - at least anytime soon - going to supplant the huge flows to Europe of Russian gas that powers economies, factories, business and homes. And critics of using crops to make gas argue that farmers should be concentrating on growing food - especially when prices are soaring amid the fallout of the war in Ukraine, one of the world’s breadbaskets.
Still, biogas is part of the puzzle of how to reduce Europe’s energy dependence.
TURIN, Italy - Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra’s upbeat, melodic entry for this month’s Eurovision Song Contest was written as a tribute to the frontman’s mother.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has become an anthem to the war-ravaged motherland.
“Stefania” is the most-watched song on YouTube among the 35 national entries that are slated to compete when the Eurovision contest takes place next week in Turin, an industrial city in northern Italy.
While some oddsmakers and data analysts have predicted other contestants will win, the song by Kalush Orchestra is quickly becoming a sentimental favorite.
“I’ll always find my way home, even if all roads are destroyed,’’ Kalush Orchestra frontman Oleh Psiuk wrote in the lyrics for “Stefania.”
His words have become more poignant as missiles pound Ukrainian cities and villages, forcing more than 11 million to flee since Russia invaded the country.
Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram that the 41 people who’ve been returned include 28 military personnel and 13 civilians.
MOSCOW - Russia has no intention of deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Friday, a day after Moscow’s top diplomat in the U.S. chided Western officials for targeting it with “baseless” accusations.
“Russia firmly abides by the principle that there can be no victors in a nuclear war and it must not be unleashed,” Alexey Zaitsev said. He added that Russian nuclear doctrine does not envisage any scenarios for potential strikes which would apply to Moscow’s military goals in Ukraine.
Nevertheless, Zaitsev added that “any provocations whatsoever can be expected” from Ukraine and the West, and that Russia has to “be ready for any development in the media space and directly on the ground.”
In an interview with Newsweek, Anatoly Antonov slammed what he called “a flurry of blatant misrepresentation of Russian officials’ statements on our country’s nuclear policy.” He accused top U.S. military leaders - including the Defense Secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff - of falsely blaming Moscow for escalating nuclear tensions, calling their claims “baseless” and “part of a propaganda campaign against Russia in response to the steps taken to neutralize threats to our national security emanating from the Ukrainian territory.”
He also blamed the wider Western bloc for what he called its “irresponsible” handling of the situation in Ukraine, implying that NATO’s rhetoric and continuing support for Kyiv contributed to heightening nuclear tensions.
“The current generation of NATO politicians clearly does not take the nuclear threat seriously,” Antonov told Newsweek.
Andrey Turchak from the ruling United Russia party visited Kherson on Friday, meeting with its Russian-appointed governor Volodymyr Saldo.
“We will live together, develop this rich region, rich in historical heritage, rich thanks to the people who live here,” he added.
When asked about the future formal status of the Kherson region, Turchak cautioned against “running too far ahead” and said that “in any case, the status is determined by the residents.”
LONDON - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he has invited Germany’s head of government and its head of state to visit Ukraine on May 9, the day Russia marks the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Germany is part of the Western alliance supporting Ukraine, but Chancellor Olaf Scholz has yet to make a solidarity visit to the country. Scholz has traded barbs with Ukrainian officials in recent weeks because of Kyiv’s refusal to invite Germany’s head of state, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whom Ukraine accuses of cozying up to Russia during his time as foreign minister.
Speaking at London’s Chatham House think-tank on Friday, Zelenskyy said he had spoken to Steinmeier and invited both him and Scholz to come to Kyiv.
He said Scholz “can make this very powerful political step to come here on the 9th of May, to Kyiv.”
There was no immediate word on whether the German politicians had agreed. German Parliament President Baerbel Bas is scheduled to visit Ukraine on Sunday and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is due to visit soon.
The German leader said that Russia’s position as a global power with a seat on the U.N. Security Council means that “if (Vladimir) Putin gets away with it then there’s a risk of international lawlessness.”
Zelenskyy told a meeting at London’s Chatham House think-tank on Friday that “regaining the situation as of the 23rd of February” - the day before the invasion - is a prerequisite for talks.
Asked whether Russia would soon take full control of the besieged port city of Mariupol, Zelenskyy said: “Mariupol will never fall. I’m not talking about heroism or anything … There is nothing there to fall apart. It is already devastated.”
Berlin’s police chief Barbara Slowik said authorities have banned the use of Russian or Ukrainian flags, the playing of military music or the wearing of uniforms or the orange and black ribbon of St. George showing support for the Russian military anywhere near the memorial sites.
German news agency dpa quoted police saying that some 3,400 officers will be deployed throughout the city on both days.
Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.