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Live blog: Zelenskyy gets new pledges of military support from Poland

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy won new pledges of military and economic cooperation on a state visit to staunch ally Poland, and he also said that Kiev’s troops battling in the eastern city of Bakhmut could pull out if they face a threat of being encircled by Russian forces.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said Warsaw has provided four Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, with four more in the process of being handed over and another six being prepared.

At a news conference with his Polish counterpart, Zelenskyy described the perils in the grinding siege of Bakhmut, which has been all but destroyed by eight months of fighting that also has cost many lives on both sides.

“For me, the most important issue is our military,” he said. “And certainly, if there is a moment of even hotter events and the danger that we may lose personnel due to the encirclement, there will certainly be corresponding correct decisions of the general on the ground.” 

Poland heaped military honours and praise on Zelenskyy as it welcomed him and his wife on a joint visit, during which they thanked the country for its crucial military support as well as being a haven for Ukrainian refugees.

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1812 GMT — Russia criticises Macron’s remarks

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova blasted as “blackmail” remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron saying anyone helping Russia in the Ukraine war would become an “accomplice.”

Macron made the remarks on the first day of his trip to China where he arrived in an attempt to change Beijing’s position on Ukraine.

Commenting on his statement at a press briefing in Moscow, Zakharova said: “Threats to countries that intend to help, interact, cooperate with our country, are just open blackmail.”

“On what basis, and who gave the right to talk to sovereign countries in this way, it is impossible to understand. No one has such a right. … No one has the right to give us such ultimatums, threats, and blackmail, neither to us nor to other sovereign countries,” she stressed.

The spokeswoman added that France has to learn “how to implement their sovereign, independent policy and defend their national interests” before lecturing others on this point.

1757 GMT — Putin accuses Western spies of role in ‘terror attacks’ in Russia

President Vladimir Putin accused Western security services of having helped Kiev stage “terror attacks” in Russia, after giving an icy welcome to the new US and EU ambassadors.

Putin spoke at a meeting of the Kremlin’s security council dedicated to ensuring law and order in four Ukrainian territories he claimed to have annexed last year.

“There are grounds to assert” that other countries and Western intelligence services were involved “in staging sabotage and terrorist attacks”, Putin said in televised remarks. 

“There are grounds to assert” that other countries and Western intelligence services were involved “in staging sabotage and terrorist attacks”, Putin said in televised remarks.

In what appeared to be a reference to the Ukrainian authorities, Putin said “neo-Nazis and their accomplices were acting” in Russia as well as the annexed territories including the regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

1752 GMT — Zelenskyy says Poland will help form coalition to supply warplanes to Ukraine

Zelenskyy has said during a trip to Warsaw that Poland would help form a coalition of Western powers to supply warplanes to Ukraine, as it did with battle tanks.

The Ukrainian leader, in a speech on a square in Warsaw, said that Russia would not defeat Europe while Ukraine and Poland are standing “shoulder to shoulder”. 

1745 GMT — Ukraine: Situation at the front is completely under control

Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said that the situation at the front was “completely under control” despite repeated Russian attempts to take Bakhmut and other cities in eastern Ukraine.

Malyar wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian soldiers were repelling dozens of attacks a day around Bakhmut, Lyman, Avdiivka and Marinka. 

1740 GMT — White House confirms Russian ambassador’s call to State Department

The Russian ambassador to the US was summoned on March 30 to the State Department, following the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges, the White House confirmed. 

“We can confirm that Ambassador (Anatoly) Antonov was summoned to the State Department on the 30th of March and that’s where he met with Under Secretary Victoria Nuland,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at a news briefing.

Gershkovich was detained in Yekaterinburg on charges of “spying in the interests of the American government,” the Russian Federal Security Service said last Thursday.

The newspaper “vehemently denies” the allegations and demanded his immediate release.

1722 GMT — Poland accuses Russia of ‘war crimes’ in Ukraine

Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine which must be punished, the Polish president said during a visit to Warsaw by his Ukrainian counterpart Zelenskyy.

“(Ukraine) could not be intimidated even though the targets of attacks are civilian facilities, hospitals, kindergartens.. these are war crimes that must be brought to justice and the criminals must be punished,” Duda said.

1700 GMT — Russia says Ukrainian light aircraft ‘crashed’ in border region, pilot detained

Russia’s FSB security service said it detained a pilot of a Ukrainian light aircraft that crashed in the southern Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine, Russian state media said.

“The aircraft, for unknown reasons, crashed near the settlement of Butovsk in Bryansk region. The pilot (a citizen of Ukraine), who tried to escape to Ukrainian territory, was detained by a border patrol,” the FSB was quoted as saying by state news agency RIA Novosti.

1338 GMT — Poland says ready to send all its MiG-29 jets to Ukraine

President Andrzej Duda said Wednesday that Poland was prepared to send all its MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine “in the future”, having already pledged 14 Soviet-made planes to Kiev.

“I think that in the future we will be able to transfer our whole remaining fleet of MiG-29s to Ukraine if there is still such a need,” Duda told a news conference alongside visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Duda said the move, however, would require a green light from NATO allies as the remaining fighter jets in Poland’s possession had been “adapted to NATO standards”.

“We’ll still need some,” he said, adding that Poland would be able to pass on its old MiG-29s to Ukraine as it receives new South Korean FA-50 fighter jets and US-made F-35 stealth jets on order. 

1332 GMT —Putin tells US envoy Washington responsible for ‘Ukraine crisis’ 

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the new US ambassador in Moscow, Lynne Tracy, that Washington was responsible for the “Ukrainian crisis” while accepting her credentials in a Kremlin ceremony.

Ties between Moscow and Washington have disintegrated since Putin sent troops to Ukraine last year.

Putin spoke a week after Moscow detained a US reporter and charged him with espionage, sparking outrage.

“Relations between Russia and the United States, from which global security and stability directly depend, are going through a deep crisis,” Putin told the new US envoy as he swore in 17 ambassadors.

He said US foreign policy “in the end led to the current Ukrainian crisis”.

The longtime Russian leader has accused Washington of having orchestrated a revolution in Kiev in 2014 after which he had no choice but to intervene.

1332 GMT — NATO chief warns China of consequences if it supplies arms to Russia

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned China of the consequences if it supplies arms to Russia.

Speaking at a news conference after a two-day meeting of NATO foreign affairs ministers, Stoltenberg said “any provision of lethal aid by China to Russia would be a historic mistake with profound implications.”

He said China refused to condemn Russia’s war on Ukraine and is aligning itself more and more with Moscow.

China “echoes Russian propaganda, supports Russia’s economy” and holds joint military activities in air and sea, Stoltenberg explained.

He stressed that NATO does not “regard China as an adversary,” but Beijing’s “assertive behaviour” challenges the security interests and values that NATO stands for. 

1200 GMT — Ukraine will take ‘corresponding’ decisions if troops risk encirclement in Bakhmut – Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said the situation in the Ukrainian eastern city of Bakhmut was really difficult and that the “corresponding decisions” would be taken if Kiev’s troops there risk being encircled by Russian forces.

The Ukrainian leader told a news conference in Poland that the most important to him was to protect the lives of soldiers. 

1017 GMT — UN nuclear chief holds talks with Russian officials

UN nuclear chief Rafael Grossi met with Russian officials in Kaliningrad for talks to ensure the safety of the Moscow-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

His trip to the Russian exclave, which is wedged between Poland and Lithuania, came a week after he visited the embattled plant, where he said he was working on a safety plan that would suit both Kiev and Moscow.

The Russian forces took control of the six-reactor plant in southern Ukraine in March last year, days after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops across the border.

There have been persistent fears over the safety of the plant, which is Europe’s largest atomic power station. 

0916 GMT —
Polish agriculture minister quits over Ukraine grain influx

Poland’s agriculture minister has said that he was stepping down following protests by farmers over Ukrainian grain exports which they say are driving down market prices.

Warsaw says it has requested help from the European Union to counter the impact of Ukraine grain flowing into the bloc, as Russian forces restrict exports leaving Black Sea ports.

But Henryk Kowalczyk said the EU’s recent proposal to extend the duty-free import of Ukrainian grains had prompted his decision to resign.

0900 GMT Ukraine trains 40K new troops for counter-offensive

Ukraine has said it will use eight new storm brigades, totalling 40,000 soldiers, during a counter-offensive against Russia in coming weeks or months.

The new brigades, drafted by the Interior Ministry, will fight alongside regular army units bolstered by new Western battle tanks and thousands of fresh troops trained by allied armies outside Ukraine.

The units have benefited from an aggressive recruiting campaign on social media and billboards with the aim of attracting highly motivated volunteers.

Its forces have been weathering a Russian onslaught for months in towns like Bakhmut in the east, where thousands of soldiers have died. Kiev does not disclose its military losses.

0851 GMT — China can play ‘major role’ in finding ‘path to peace’ in Ukraine: Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that Beijing could play a “major role” in finding a “path to peace” in Ukraine, in his first speech since arriving in China for a three-day state visit.

Speaking to French citizens in the Chinese capital, Macron said France would engage “in this shared responsibility for peace and stability”.

0747 GMT — Spanish Leopard tanks to leave to Ukraine in second half of April

The six Leopard 2A4 tanks Spain committed to send to Ukraine will leave the country in the second half of April, Defence Minister Margarita Robles has said in an interview to 24H TV station.

She added the country’s army services are working on four additional tanks to make them ready for combat and possibly send them to Ukraine too.

0553 GMT — Ukraine’s Zelenskyy arrives in Poland to deepen ties

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has arrived in neighbouring Poland, a Polish presidential aide said, as he begins an official visit to a close ally that has galvanised Western military and political support for Kiev.

The visit, which was announced this week by Poland but has not been officially confirmed by Kiev, comes with Ukraine planning to conduct a counter-offensive in the coming weeks or months to recapture occupied land in its east and south.

“I can say that President Zelenskiy has crossed the Polish border,” Marcin Przydacz told private broadcaster TVN24.

Poland has taken in more than a million Ukrainian refugees over the past 13 months of war. The NATO member has also played an important role in persuading other Western powers to supply battle tanks and other weaponry to Ukraine.

0526 GMT — Ukrainian drone crashes near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

A Ukrainian drone has crashed near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Russia’s RIA news agency cited a Russian officer as saying, as the chief of the global nuclear watchdog was expected in Russia for talks on the plant’s security.

International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi was due to travel to Russia’s Kaliningrad region on Wednesday, a week after visiting the Zaporizhzhia facility in southern Ukraine, which is controlled by Russian forces.

According to the Russian military officer cited by RIA, a Polish-made drone weighing more than 2 kilograms had crashed near the plant. The news agency did not say when.

0233 GMT —  France, US want to engage China to end conflict

Macron and US President Joe Biden have agreed in a telephone call ahead of a visit to Beijing by Macron to engage China to hasten the end of the war in Ukraine, the Elysee Palace said.

“The two leaders have mentioned their joint willingness to engage China to accelerate the end of the war in Ukraine and take part in building sustainable peace in the region,” Macron’s office said in a statement.

The Elysee said Macron and Biden both hoped China could contribute to solidarity efforts between the global north and global south and build a joint agenda for the climate and biodiversity. It did not elaborate.

0205 GMT — Fighting rages in Bakhmut

Ukraine’s armed forces said they had repelled 45 Russian attacks during the past 24 hours as fighting raged in and around the city of Bakhmut.

After weathering a punishing, months-long assault in eastern Ukraine, Kiev’s military commanders have said a counteroffensive is not far off but have stressed the importance of holding towns, including Bakhmut, and inflicting losses in the meantime.

“The question of our counter-attack is under active discussion by American and European political circles – perhaps to excess,” said Serhiy Zgurets, director of the publication Defense Express.

Ukrainian diplomats will have to convince allies that a single advance pushing Russian troops back will not be sufficient for victory, he wrote on the Espreso TV website.

“It will mean training our soldiers in NATO member-states, securing the equipment and ammunition we need and planning to determine when and where to start the counter-attack, or if it should be in several places at once.”

For our live updates from Tuesday (April 4), click here.

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