The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, April 27. Click here for updates from April 26.
Explosions in Ukrainian City of Kherson
In the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, a series of explosions boomed near the television tower late Wednesday and at least temporarily knocked Russian channels off the air, Ukrainian and Russian news organizations reported.
The Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said missiles and rockets were fired at the city from the direction of the Ukrainian forces to the northwest.
Kherson has been occupied by Russian forces since early in the war.
Ukrayinska Pravda, an online newspaper, said the strikes set off a fire and knocked Russian television channels off the air.
RIA Novosti said the broadcast later resumed. It said Russian channels began broadcasting from Kherson last week.
Russia has been determined to strengthen its control over the city, but residents have continued to come out onto the streets to protest the occupation.
Biden to Tour Facility Making Weapons for War
The White House says President Joe Biden will tour a Lockheed Martin facility that makes weapons systems, such as Javelin anti-tank missiles, that the administration is providing to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia’s 2-month-old invasion.
Biden plans to visit the facility in Alabama on May 3.
A Javelin is a long-range guided anti-tank missile that can be carried by one person. The United States says it has provided several thousand of the systems to Ukraine.
Germany Biggest Buyer of Russian energy
An independent research group says Germany was the biggest buyer of Russian energy during the first two months since the start of the war in Ukraine.
A study published by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air calculates that Russia earned $66.5 billion from fossil fuel exports since Russian troops attacked Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Using data on ship movements, real-time tracking of gas flows through pipelines, and estimates based on historical monthly trade, the researchers reckon Germany paid Russia about 9.1 billion euros for fossil fuel deliveries in the first two months of the war.
The German government says it can’t comment on estimates and declines to provide any figures of its own.
Putin Promises ‘Lightning’ Response to Strategic Threats to Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned outside forces against interfering in the Ukrainian conflict, promising a “lightning-speed” response to such actions, with the use of Moscow’s most advanced weaponry.
“If someone decides to intervene in the ongoing events from the outside and create unacceptable strategic threats to us, they should know that our response to those oncoming blows will be swift, lightning-fast,” Putin said in an address to lawmakers on Wednesday.
“We have all the tools to do this. Tools that no one except us can brag about. But we’re not going to brag. We’ll use them if such a need arises,” the president said, without specifying which tools could be deployed.
Russian authorities have already made all necessary decisions to prepare for such a response, he added.
Pentagon Warned About Replacing Missiles Sent to Ukraine
Raytheon’s CEO warned on Tuesday that the company won’t be able to replenish the Pentagon stockpiles for at least several years, citing a shortage of electronic components.
“We’re going to have to go out and redesign some of the electronics in the missile and the seeker head,” Raytheon Technologies CEO Greg Hayes told investment analysts during the company’s quarterly earnings call, according to Defense One. “That’s going to take us a little bit of time.”
Hayes was specifically referring to the FIM-92 Stinger, the portable air defense missile that the Pentagon has been supplying to Ukrainian troops. The FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile, which the U.S. has also been sending to Kyiv, is produced jointly with Lockheed Martin. Ukrainian officials told the U.S. last month that they required 500 Stingers and Javelins per day.
Raytheon hasn’t made Stingers for the U.S. military in almost 20 years, and the ones being sent to Ukraine are coming out of the Pentagon stockpiles. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks has said Raytheon had “a very limited stock of material for Stinger production” and that the Pentagon was “actively trying to resource some of the materials,” again according to Defense One.
Hayes said he doesn’t expect the Pentagon to place “large” replenishment orders for either missile until 2023 or 2024.
Russia Withdraws From UN Tourism Organization
Russia announced Wednesday it was withdrawing from the United Nations World Tourism Organization just hours before the body’s assembly voted to temporarily suspend the country’s membership over the invasion of Ukraine, officials said.
UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili made the announcement on his official Twitter account. He said it was the first U.N. body to address Russia’s membership.
The organization went ahead and approved the suspension at a special meeting in Madrid on Wednesday, where the organization has its headquarters.
The assembly resolution included a clause that said the suspension could be reversed if a change in the politics of the Russian Federation were noted.
Spain was one of 22 European nations that had promoted the motion.
NATO Member Pledges to Block Sweden and Finland’s Candidacy
Finland and Sweden joining NATO is “very dangerous charlatanry” and amounts to provoking Russia, Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said on Tuesday. Zagreb will refuse to ratify their membership until the United States and E.U. pressure the neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina into guaranteeing ethnic Croats their basic voting rights, Milanovic added.
“As far as I’m concerned, they can get into NATO, they can poke the rabid bear in the eye with a pen,” Milanovic told reporters in Zagreb on Tuesday.
“However, until the electoral law issue in Bosnia-Herzegovina is resolved, until the Americans, the English, the Germans—if they can and want to—compel Sarajevo and Bakir Izetbegovic to update the electoral law in the next six months and grant Croats their elementary rights, the Sabor must not ratify anyone’s admission to NATO,” he added, referring to the Croatian parliament.
NATO cannot admit new members without the approval of the current ones, Milanovic pointed out, adding that he sees Croatia’s role at this moment as “a historic silver bullet.”
“Let the U.S. president or secretary of state hear this now. Let’s see what they can do for Croatia. I’ve had enough of them ignoring and neglecting a NATO and E.U. member, and sidelining Croatia,” Milanovic said, adding that if the U.S. and its Western European allies want the two Scandinavian countries in NATO, “they will have to listen to Croatia.”
Putin Vows Aims in Ukraine Will Be Achieved
Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to Russia’s parliament that the goals of the country’s military operation in Ukraine will be achieved.
Putin said in an address on Wednesday to both houses of parliament: “I want to emphasize again that all the tasks of the special military operation we are conducting in the Donbas and Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24, will be unconditionally fulfilled.”
That, he said, will “guarantee the security of the residents” of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine that Russia recognized as independent shortly before launching its military action in Ukraine, as well as Crimea “and our entire country in the historical perspective.”
EU Accuses Russia of Gas ‘Blackmail’
The head of the European Union’s executive Commission says energy companies in the 27-nation bloc that agree to Moscow’s demands to pay for gas deliveries in Russian rubles will be breaching the sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ursula von der Leyen spoke after Polish and Bulgarian officials said Moscow was cutting off natural gas deliveries to their countries due to their refusal to pay in rubles, a demand made by President Vladimir Putin after sanctions were levied against his nation.
Von der Leyen said Wednesday that “our guidance here is very clear.”
She said that “to pay in rubles, if this is not foreseen in the contract, is a breach of our sanctions. We have round about 97 percent of all contracts that explicitly stipulate payments in euros or dollars, so it’s very clear. And the request from the Russian side to pay in rubles is a unilateral decision and not according to the contracts.”
Von der Leyen said Russia’s decision to cut off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria is another “provocation from the Kremlin” and an attempt to “blackmail” the EU.
She said that, following an urgent meeting of member states, both Poland and Bulgaria are now receiving gas from their EU neighbors.
Russia Sanctions 287 British MPs; Expels Three Norwegian Diplomats
The Russian Foreign Ministry has announced sanctions against 287 British lawmakers in response to the UK sanctioning 368 members of Russia’s lower house of parliament.
The ministry on Wednesday released a list of both government and opposition lawmakers, and a few former lawmakers. They are now barred from entering Russia because they “took the most active part in the establishment of anti-Russian sanctions instruments in London (and) contribute to the groundless ramping-up of Russophobic hysteria in the UK.”
The ministry’s statement said that “hostile rhetoric and far-fetched accusations coming from the mouths of British parliamentarians not only condone the hostile course of London aimed at demonizing our country and (at) its international isolation, but are also used by opponents of mutually respectful dialogue with Russia to undermine the foundation of bilateral cooperation.”
Russia has also expelled three Norwegian diplomats following the expulsion from Norway earlier this month of three Russian diplomats.
Kremlin: Other Countries Could See Gas Cut
The Kremlin says that Russia may halt gas supplies to other European customers following a cutoff to Poland and Bulgaria if they also refuse to switch to payment in rubles.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, argued that the Russian demand to switch to rubles in payments for gas resulted from the Western action to freeze Russian hard currency assets. He said those were effectively “stolen” by the West in an “unprecedented unfriendly action.”
Speaking in a conference call Wednesday with reporters, Peskov warned that other European customers may see the taps turned off if they refuse to pay for gas in rubles by the time payment is due. Peskov argued that refusing to switch to rubles reflects a Western desire to “punish Russia at any cost to the detriment of their own consumers, taxpayers, and producers.”
He rejected the EU’s description of the Russian move to halt supplies to Bulgaria and Poland starting Wednesday as blackmail, insisting that “Russia has remained a reliable supplier of energy resources” and stuck to its contractual obligations.
Peskov argued that the demand for payment in rubles is purely technical and doesn’t change price or other contract conditions for consumers.
Polish PM Decries Russian ‘Gas Blackmail’
Poland’s prime minister has lashed out at Russia for trying to “blackmail” his country with an abrupt cutoff of gas supplies. He says he believes the move was revenge for new sanctions that Warsaw imposed this week against Russia.
The sanctions announced Tuesday targeted 50 Russian oligarchs and companies, including Gazprom. Hours later Poland said it had received notice that Gazprom was cutting off supplies to Poland for failing to comply with new demands to pay in Russian rubles.
Speaking to the Polish parliament, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki vowed that Poland would not be cowed by the gas cutoff. He said Poland was safe thanks to years of efforts aimed at securing gas from other countries.
Russia made up some 45 percent of Poland’s overall gas usage until the cutoff. But Poland is far more reliant on coal to heat homes and fuel industry, with gas accounting for only 9 percent of the country’s overall energy mix.
West Should Provide Warplanes, Says UK Liz Truss
Britain’s top diplomat says the West should send planes to Ukraine to bolster its fight against Russian invasion.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss claims “the fate of Ukraine remains in the balance,” and is calling for Western nations to increase military support to Kyiv.
In a speech in London on Wednesday, Truss will say: “Heavy weapons, tanks, aeroplanes—digging deep into our inventories, ramping up production.”
Truss is also calling for tougher economic sanctions on Russia, saying the West must cut off Russian oil and gas imports “once and for all.”
Extracts of the speech were released in advance by the Foreign Office.
NATO nations have supplied Ukraine with military gear including missiles and armored vehicles, but have been reluctant to send fighter planes out of concern about escalating the conflict.
Jailed Ex-US Marine Reed Exchanged for Russian Pilot Yaroshenko: Moscow
U.S. national Trevor Reed, sentenced to nine years’ jail in Russia in 2020, has been exchanged for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who had been serving a 20-year sentence in a U.S. prison since 2010, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday.
Russian diplomats told journalists that the swap was the result of a “lengthy negotiation process.”
Putin Tells UN Chief Kosovo Set Donbass Precedent
Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the Kremlin on Tuesday for talks revolving around the Ukrainian crisis. The two discussed the situation on the ground, with Putin explaining to the U.N. chief Russia’s reasons for launching its military operation against the neighboring country in late February.
Moscow’s move to recognize the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk was based on the Kosovo precedent, set up by a U.N.-backed court, Putin told Guterres. The republics emerged after people living in Ukraine’s east rejected the Western-backed 2014 Maidan, he explained.
Putin added that the post-coup Kyiv government opted for a military solution that led to the eight-year standoff in the Donbass.
“I remember very well the decision of the International Court of Justice, which states that in exercising the right to self-determination, a territory of any state is not obliged to apply for permission to declare its sovereignty to the central authorities of the country,” Putin said.
Guterres pointed out that the U.N. itself still does not recognize Kosovo as an independent entity, viewing it as a part of Serbia. Putin, however, parried that the legal precedent still exists, as Kosovo received wide recognition in the West.
Shots and Drones From Ukraine Reported Near Huge Arms Depot in Transnistria
Several shots were fired from across Ukraine’s border with Transnistria into the territory of the self-proclaimed republic and in the direction of a huge arms depot, its interior ministry said on Wednesday. Two drones were also sighted in the area.
“At 8:45 in the morning on April 27, shots were fired from Ukrainian territory in the direction of Kolbasna village,” the ministry’s statement reads. Transnistrian officials said that no casualties had been reported as a result.
In a separate incident preceding the alleged shooting on Wednesday, “several drones were spotted over the village of Kolbasna” overnight, according to the ministry. The Transnistrian authorities also claim that the drones “had been launched into Transnistrian territory from Ukraine.”
Major Batch of Western-Supplied Arms in Ukraine Destroyed: Russia
A large batch of weapons and ammunition shipped to Kyiv by Western countries was destroyed in southeastern Ukraine on Wednesday, Russia’s Defense Ministry has said.
A military warehouse set up on the territory of the Zaporozhye industrial aluminum plant was struck by Kalibr missiles, fired from Russian Navy vessels in the Black Sea.
The facility hosted “a large batch of foreign weapons and ammunition, supplied by the U.S. and European countries to the Ukrainian army,” the ministry said.
Russian warplanes hit 59 Ukrainian military targets overnight, while artillery performed 573 strikes against Kyiv forces; 18 drones were also shot down, it added.
On Monday, Moscow announced the destruction of six railway hubs in western Ukraine, saying they were used to deliver “foreign weapons and military hardware to the Ukrainian forces.”
Blinken, Paul Clash Over Support for Ukraine in NATO
Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine’s admission to NATO, after Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said that support, at least in part, led to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a heated exchange during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday, Paul accused the Biden administration of “beating the drums to admit Ukraine to NATO” even though it was a position Russia “absolutely hated and said was a red line.”
Blinken responded that the issue “goes to the heart of the international system and the international order.”
“And part of that is a basic principle that one country can’t dictate to another the choices it makes about with whom it allies, its foreign policies,” he said.
Blinken said the White House would be open to an eventual deal between Russia and Ukraine that results in Ukraine becoming “an unaligned, neutral nation.”
“We, Senator, are not going to be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians. These are decisions for them to make,” Blinken said to Paul.
“Our purpose is to make sure that they have within their hands the ability to repel the Russian aggression and indeed to strengthen their hand at an eventual negotiating table,” he claimed.
Blinken was appearing before the committee to urge lawmakers to fully fund the Biden administration’s proposed budget for the State Department, telling the panel the spending is critical to ensuring that the war in Ukraine is a “strategic failure” for Russia and a message to other countries that might invade their neighbors.
Russia Reports Blasts in South That Ukraine Calls Payback for Invasion
Russia reported a series of blasts in the south of the country and a fire at an ammunition depot on Wednesday, the latest in a spate of incidents that a top Ukrainian official described as payback and “karma” for Moscow’s invasion.
Without directly admitting that Ukraine was responsible, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said it was natural that Russian regions where fuel and weapons are stored were learning about “demilitarisation.”
The use of that word was a pointed reference to Moscow’s stated objective for the nine-week-old war in Ukraine, which it calls a special military operation to disarm and “denazify” its neighbor.
The blasts on Wednesday followed a major fire this week at a Russian oil storage facility in the Bryansk region near the border.
Earlier this month, Russia accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters, which a top Kyiv security official denied, and opening fire on several villages in the province.
In the latest incidents, Belgorod regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said a fire at an ammunition depot had been extinguished and no civilians have been injured.
He later said that a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle was intercepted in the sky over the Kursk region, adding that there were no casualties or damage.
In Voronezh, the administrative center of another southern province, TASS news agency cited an emergencies ministry official as saying that two blasts had been heard and the authorities were investigating.
Regional governor Alexander Gusev said in the morning that an air defense system had detected and destroyed a small reconnaissance drone.
Russia said it was sending investigators to Kursk and Voronezh regions to document what it calls “illegal actions by the Ukrainian army.”
Putin Agrees to UN, Red Cross Help to Evacuate Civilians From Mariupol Steel Plant: UN
Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed “in principle” to U.N. and International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) involvement in the evacuation of civilians from a besieged steel plant in Ukraine’s southern city of Mariupol, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
During a meeting in Moscow, Putin and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres discussed the situation at the huge Azovstal steel plant, where the last Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol are hunkered down after months of Russian siege and bombardment.
“Follow-on discussions will be had with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Russian Defence Ministry,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement after the meeting.
Earlier on Tuesday, Putin told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan that there were no military operations underway in Mariupol and that Kyiv should “take responsibility” for the people holed up in the Azovstal steel plant.
Ukraine on Monday appealed for the United Nations and the ICRC to be involved in the evacuation of civilians from Azovstal. Guterres is expected to meet with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Thursday.
During a news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Guterres said he has proposed a “Humanitarian Contact Group” of Russia, Ukraine, and U.N. officials “to look for opportunities for the opening of safe corridors, with local cessations of hostilities, and to guarantee that they are actually effective.”
EU and Russia Should Rebuild Relations: Brussels
Rebuilding the relationship between the E.U. and Russia will be a “very difficult and lengthy process,” but it must be done, the E.U.’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell wrote on his blog on Tuesday.
Until Brussels is able to “reorganize” that relationship “and agree on security guarantees and mechanisms to allow for peaceful coexistence to take hold again,” it will back Ukraine in its fight against Moscow, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy continued.
Insisting that the E.U., U.S., and NATO had “replied carefully to Russian proposed treaties and letters,” Borrell argued that his bloc has always been “ready to discuss all aspects of security.” However, months of dialogue between the two sides failed to produce an agreement, with the U.S. and its European allies unwilling to promise to exclude Ukraine from NATO prospects or provide other security guarantees with regard to stationing missiles in eastern Europe.
Poland Ramps Up Reverse Gas Supplies From Germany
Poland on Wednesday significantly raised its bid for reverse gas supplies from Germany after Russia halted deliveries due to Warsaw’s refusal to pay for the commodity in rubles, data from the German operator of the gas transmission network Gascade shows.
According to the company, the bid for April 27 was 1.232 million cubic meters per hour, while the day before it was just 237,000 cubic meters.
The fivefold increase in gas demand comes after Russia’s state energy giant and major gas exporter Gazprom announced a complete halt of gas exports to Poland due to Warsaw’s failure to pay for the fuel in rubles in accordance with the new payment mechanism, launched earlier this month.
According to a Gazprom, supplies will not resume until Warsaw complies with the new terms. Deliveries were also halted to Bulgaria, for the same reason.
US Wants No ‘Spillover’ of Ukraine Conflict to Moldova: Pentagon
The U.S. is still analyzing the recent incidents in the breakaway region of Transnistria and does not want to see the conflict in Ukraine “spilling over” to the area, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday at a conference in Germany on supplying Kyiv with weapons and equipment.
“We’re still looking into the cause of that, still doing analysis there, so not really sure what that’s all about, but that’s something we’ll stay focused on,” Austin told reporters at the Ramstein military base in Germany.
“Certainly, we don’t want to see any spillover, and again, it’s important to make sure we do everything we can to ensure that Ukraine is successful,” he added.
Austin was in Germany to organize some 40 U.S. allies to send weapons to Ukraine, promising to “move heaven and earth” to help Kyiv “win” the conflict with Russia.
His remarks came as the government in Chisinau convened an emergency meeting on the situation in Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova where a series of attacks have taken place over the past two days.
Austria Will Pay in Rubles for Russian Gas: Official
Austria has accepted the new ruble gas payment mechanism, introduced by Russia earlier this month, and will abide by it, Chancellor Karl Nehammer announced on Wednesday.
“We, that is, [state energy company] OMV, accepted the terms of payment, as did the German government. They [the terms] were found to be in line with the terms of the sanctions. For us, this was important,” Nehammer said at a press conference.
He added, however, that Austria still supports Ukraine-related anti-Russia sanctions.
According to the official, Austrian oil and gas company OMV has already opened an appropriate account with a Russian bank for transferring payments. Nehammer noted that during his recent trip to Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin explained the new payment mechanism and assured him of further gas supplies in full.
Swiss Ok Agreement on Classified Information Exchange With NATO
Switzerland’s government approved on Wednesday an agreement that forms the basis for exchanging sensitive information with NATO, it said.
Such agreements make it possible, among other things, for Swiss companies to apply for contracts with classified content that are advertised by the NATO defense alliance, it added.
Putin Hopes Talks With Ukraine Will Yield Positive Result
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia and Ukraine were continuing talks in an online format.
At the start of his meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Moscow, Putin also said he hopes that the talks would yield a positive result.
EU Begins Emergency Gas Talks; It Says Russian Gas Halt Is ‘Unjustified’
European Union officials are holding emergency gas talks following Russia’s decision to turn off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, according to the bloc’s top official.
Russian gas giant Gazprom’s announcement that it halted supplies to some European customers is “unjustified and unacceptable”, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday, adding the E.U. was working on a coordinated response to the escalation by Moscow.
Gazprom on Wednesday said it had halted gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria for failing to pay for gas in rubles, Moscow’s toughest response yet to sanctions imposed by the West over the conflict in Ukraine.
“The announcement by Gazprom that it is unilaterally stopping delivery of gas to customers in Europe is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail,” von der Leyen said in a statement.
“This is unjustified and unacceptable. And it shows once again the unreliability of Russia as a gas supplier,” she said.
Von der Leyen claimed the E.U. was prepared for this scenario, and would continue its work to ensure alternative supplies of gas and ensure gas storage is filled. E.U. rules require all countries to have a contingency plan to cope with a gas supply shock.
Von der Leyen said the E.U. was working on a coordinated response to Russia’s escalation, and its “gas coordination group” of representatives from national governments and the gas industry was meeting on Wednesday morning.
E.U. gas storage is currently 32 percent full. E.U. countries are negotiating emergency rules that would require them to fill storage 80 percent by November this year, to form a supply buffer in time for winter, when gas heating demand peaks.
Britain Says Ukraine Controls Majority of Its Airspace
Ukraine retains control over the majority of its airspace, Britain’s defense ministry said on Wednesday, claiming that Russia has failed to effectively destroy the country’s air force or suppress its air defenses.
“Russia has very limited air access to the north and west of Ukraine, limiting offensive actions to deep strikes with stand-off weapons,” it said on Twitter.
“Russian air activity is primarily focused on southern and eastern Ukraine, providing support to Russian ground forces,” the ministry claimed in a regular bulletin.
Russia continues to target Ukrainian military assets and logistics infrastructure nationwide, British military intelligence said in the update.
Reuters could not immediately verify the report.
Russia Cuts Off Gas, European Prices Spike
European gas prices have spiked by as much as 24 percent following Gazprom’s statement that it was suspending deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria starting Wednesday because it hasn’t received any payments from them since April 1. Benchmark Dutch futures traded at one point around 125 euros per megawatt hour.
Fatih Birol, the executive director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, tweeted Wednesday morning that his organization “stands firmly with Poland.”
“Gazprom’s move to completely shut off gas supplies to Poland is yet another sign of Russia’s politicization of existing agreements & will only accelerate European efforts to move away from Russian energy supplies,” he wrote.
The spike comes even as the weather turns warmer in Europe, lessening the demand for natural gas for heating homes and businesses.
Blasts Heard in Russia’s Belgorod, Nearby Ammunition Depot on Fire: Governor
A series of blasts were heard in the early hours of Wednesday in the Russian city Belgorod near the Ukrainian border, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said, and an ammunition depot in the province was on fire.
Gladkov said no civilians had been hurt by the fire which broke out at a facility near Staraya Nelidovka village. Russia this month accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters and opening fire on several villages in the province.
The Belgorod province borders Ukraine’s Luhansk, Sumy, and Kharkiv regions, all of which have seen heavy fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago.
Kyiv Pulls Down Soviet-Era Monument Symbolizing Russian-Ukrainian Friendship
Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday dismantled a huge Soviet-era monument in the center of Kyiv meant to symbolize friendship between Russia and Ukraine, a response to Moscow’s invasion, according to the city’s mayor.
The eight-meter (27-foot) bronze statue depicted a Ukrainian and Russian worker on a plinth, holding aloft together a Soviet order of friendship. The statue was located underneath a giant titanium “People’s Friendship Arch,” erected in 1982 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union.
“We now see what this ‘friendship’ is—destruction of Ukrainian cities … killing tens of thousands of peaceful people. I am convinced such a monument has an entirely different meaning now,” Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitschko said.
Workmen started by removing one of the two bronze heads, which fell to the ground with a hollow clang.
As a crane lifted the monument off its moorings and gradually lowered it to the ground, a crowd of around 100 people cheered and shouted “Glory to Ukraine” and other slogans.
“Russia invaded Ukraine … Can we be friends with Russia? What do you think? This is our worst enemy, that is why the monument to Russian-Ukrainian friendship doesn’t make sense anymore,” said Serhiy Myrhorodsky, one of the designers.
“We should not have any relations with the nation of aggressors … no friendship, no relations, nothing,” said Diana, a young woman, who did not give her full name.
Klitschko said the arch would remain in place but be renamed the Arch of Freedom of the Ukrainian People.
Blasts Heard in Russia’s Belgorod: Regional Governor
A series of blasts were heard in the early hours of Wednesday in the Russian city Belgorod near the Ukrainian border, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a Telegram message.
Gladkov said the authorities were trying to establish the location and cause of the explosions. Russia this month accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters and opening fire on several villages in the province.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.