Russia–Ukraine War (April 28): US Congress Revives World War II-Era ‘Lend-Lease’ Program for Ukraine

Russia–Ukraine War (April 28): US Congress Revives World War II-Era ‘Lend-Lease’ Program for Ukraine
Service members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces fire a Javelin anti-tank missile during drills at a training ground in an unknown location in Ukraine, in a photo released on Feb. 18, 2022. (Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation Press Service/Handout via Reuters)

The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, April 28. Click here for updates from April 27.

US Congress Revives World War II-Era ‘Lend-Lease’ Program for Ukraine

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly backed legislation on Thursday that will make it easier to export military equipment to Ukraine, reviving the “Lend-Lease Act” that helped defeat Hitler during World War II.

The House passed the “Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022” by 417 to 10, three weeks after it sailed through the Senate with unanimous support. It next goes to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law.

The measure revives a World War II-era program that allowed Washington to lend or lease military equipment to U.S. allies. In this case, it will help those affected by Russia’s invasion, such as Poland and other eastern European countries as well as Ukraine.


Blasts Hit Kyiv While UN Chief Visits

Russia fired two missiles into the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Thursday during a visit by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Ukrainian officials said.

The rockets shook the central Shevchenko district of the city and one struck the lower floors of a 25-story residential building, wounding at least 10 people, Ukrainian officials said.

Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba both said the blasts were caused by Russian missiles.

The explosions occurred after U.N. chief Guterres completed talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy focusing on efforts to evacuate civilians from the Russian-besieged southern port of Mariupol.

Guterres told Portuguese broadcaster RTP when asked about the blasts: “There was an attack on Kyiv … it shocked me, not because I’m here but because Kyiv is a sacred city for Ukrainians and Russians alike.”


Biden: Idea of Larger Proxy War ‘Not True’

President Joe Biden is rejecting the idea that Russia’s war in Ukraine could grow into a larger proxy conflict between Moscow and the United States and NATO allies that may even bring the world closer to nuclear confrontation.

At an event at the White House where Biden asked Congress for an additional $33 billion to aid Ukraine, the president said Thursday that the idea of a larger proxy war was concerning but “not true.”

He blamed Russian authorities for exaggerating such speculation, saying “it shows the desperation that Russia is feeling about their abject failure” with the invasion of Ukraine.

He added that “no one should be making idle comments about the use of nuclear weapons” and called doing so “irresponsible.”


Kremlin Accuses Britain of ‘Threatening’ European Security

Moscow has warned London that by “pumping” Ukraine with weapons, Britain is undermining European security. The remark came after the British foreign secretary urged allies to provide Ukraine with “heavy weapons, tanks, aeroplanes,” while also bolstering the defense capabilities of Moldova and Georgia.

Speaking to journalists by phone on Thursday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the “tendency itself to pump weapons, including heavy weapons, into Ukraine and other countries is something that threatens the continent’s security and provokes instability.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss delivered her keynote speech on Wednesday.

She argued against the view that “we shouldn’t provide heavy weapons for fear of provoking something worse,” insisting that “inaction would be the greatest provocation” in the current circumstances.


NATO Says It’s Ready to Back Kyiv for Years in War Against Russia

NATO is ready to maintain its support for Ukraine in the war against Russia for years, including help for Kyiv to shift from Soviet-era weapons to modern Western arms and systems, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.

He spoke after the Kremlin warned that Western arms supplies to Ukraine, including heavy weapons, posed a threat to the security of the European continent “and provoke instability.”

“We need to be prepared for the long term,” Stoltenberg told a youth summit in Brussels. “There is absolutely the possibility that this war will drag on and last for months and years.”

The NATO chief said the West would continue to put maximum pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation,” through sanctions and economic as well as military aid to Kyiv.

“NATO allies are preparing to provide support over a long period of time and also help Ukraine to transit, move from old Soviet-era equipment to more modern NATO-standard weapons and systems that will also require more training,” Stoltenberg said.

Most of the heavy weapons NATO countries have sent to Ukraine so far are Soviet-built arms still in the inventories of east European NATO member states, but the United States and some other allies have started to supply Kyiv with Western howitzers.

Germany on Tuesday announced the shipment of Gepard tanks equipped with anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine, the first time Berlin has approved heavy weapons deliveries for Kyiv.

Ukraine’s pleas for heavy weapons have intensified since Moscow shifted its offensive to the Donbass, an eastern region with largely flat, open terrain seen as better suited for tank battles than the areas in the north around the capital Kyiv where much of the earlier fighting took place.


Two Powerful Blasts Heard in Russian City Near Ukraine Border: Witnesses

Two powerful blasts were heard on Thursday in the Russian city of Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine, two witnesses told Reuters.

The blasts were heard in the southern part of the city. It was not immediately clear what caused them and whether there were any casualties or damage.

Russia has in recent days reported what it says are a series of attacks by Ukrainian forces in Belgorod and other southern regions which border Ukraine, and has warned that such attacks raise a risk of significant escalation.

Ukraine has not directly accepted responsibility but has described the incidents as payback for Russia.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the West earlier on Thursday of openly calling on Kyiv to attack Russia, and warned it not to “test our patience.”


Biden Seeks $33 Billion More for Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden has asked Congress for an additional $33 billion in funding to prop up Ukraine in the ongoing conflict with Russia. A vast part of the massive package is destined for additional military and security aid, while the rest will be used for economic and humanitarian assistance.

“The Administration is requesting $20.4 billion in additional security and military assistance for Ukraine and for U.S. efforts to strengthen European security in cooperation with our NATO allies and other partners in the region,” the White House said in a statement.

Unveiling the package during his speech at the White House, Biden said it was “critical” for the lawmakers to adopt it. “We need this bill to support Ukraine and its fight for freedom,” he said, admitting the price was not “cheap.” “But caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen,” he stressed.


Kremlin Says Musk May Fail in Twitter Mission

Billionaire entrepreneur and the new owner of Twitter, Elon Musk is unlikely to bring the “free speech” he had promised to the platform, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said, expressing doubts whether a “full palette” of opinions could be presented on any Western social media.

“Russia’s attitude towards this company is based on the actions of this company, on censorship, selective repressive actions against the company’s clients, on the distortion and manipulation of information,” Peskov stated on Thursday.

Let’s see what happens under the new owner. Now, given that this is a global company, we have already heard official voices from Europe that they will not allow absolute freedom there,” Peskov added, apparently referring to a warning made by EU Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton to Musk.

The senior EU official cautioned the billionaire against being too lax on content moderation, suggesting the platform could face a continental ban should it fail to abide by the bloc’s rules. The EU has recently adopted the so-called ‘Digital Services Act’, a package of regulations designed to force social network platforms to police their content much more aggressively and to cooperate closer with regulators.

“We welcome everyone. We are open but on our conditions. At least we know what to tell him: ‘Elon, there are rules. You are welcome but these are our rules. It’s not your rules which will apply here,’” Breton told The Financial Times.

Elon Musk bought the social media platform for a staggering $44 billion on Monday, proclaiming himself a “free speech absolutist” and pledging to return Twitter to its roots as “the free speech wing of the free speech party.”

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in a statement announcing the purchase.


Ukraine Welcomes Back 33 Soldiers and 12 Civilians in Prisoner Exchange With Russia

Russia has handed over 33 Ukrainian soldiers, including 13 officers, in an exchange of prisoners of war with Ukraine, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Thursday.

“We are also bringing home 12 civilians,” Vereshchuk wrote on the Telegram messaging app. Five of the troops exchanged on Thursday had been wounded, she said.

Vereshchuk did not say how many Russians were involved in the exchange.


Swedish PM Rejects Referendum on Possible NATO Membership

Sweden’s government does not plan to hold a referendum if its parliament decides to proceed with an application for NATO membership, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Friday.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced both Sweden and Finland to review long held beliefs that military neutrality is the best means of ensuring national security, with both countries expected to make a decision in the coming few weeks.

Andersson said that a referendum was a “bad idea.”

“I don’t think it is an issue that is suitable for a referendum,” she told reporters.

“There is a lot of information about national security that is confidential, so there are important issues in such a referendum that cannot be discussed and important facts that cannot be put on the table.”

Sweden’s parliament is reviewing security policy with a report expected in mid-May. Separately, Andersson’s own party, the Social Democrats, are looking at whether to drop their objections to NATO membership.

With a majority in parliament backing membership, the ruling Social Democrats are seen as the biggest hurdle to Sweden applying to join the 30-nation alliance.

The leader of the Moderates, the biggest opposition party, has also rejected calls for a referendum on the issue.


Poland Still Buying Russian Gas: Gazprom

Poland continues to buy Russian natural gas from Germany via reverse flows, after its direct supplies were suspended due to non-payment in rubles, Russia’s energy giant Gazprom said on Thursday.

“This week Poland refused to pay for the Russian gas with the new terms, in rubles. It was grandly announced that they no longer needed Russian gas and would not buy it any more. But in fact, Poland keeps buying Russian gas after the direct supply was halted. It now buys the gas from Germany, and it comes back to Poland with the reverse flow via the Yamal-Europe pipeline,” Gazprom’s official representative Sergey Kupriyanov said.

Poland raised its bid for reverse gas supplies from Germany fivefold on Wednesday, data from the German operator of the gas transmission network Gascade showed.


Ukraine Military Says Russia Increasing Pace of Attack in ‘Almost All Directions’

Ukraine’s military on Thursday warned residents that Russia is now increasing its attacks across the country in “all directions.”

In a statement, Ukraine’s general staff said Russia is stepping up its main military assault in the eastern portion of the country.

“The enemy is increasing the pace of the offensive operation. The Russian occupiers are exerting intense fire in almost all directions,” the military said on April 28.

Read the full article here


Biden Wants New Powers to Seize Russian Assets

President Joe Biden is asking Congress or new powers to seize and repurpose the assets of Russian oligarchs as part of a new funding request to aid Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s invasion.

In remarks at the White House on Thursday morning, Biden will formally ask for billions of dollars in additional U.S. spending earmarked for supplying Ukraine’s military, bolstering its economy and supporting the millions of refugees who fled Russia’s invasion two months ago. The White House said he will also seek new authorities from Congress to strengthen U.S. sanctions against the Russian government and those who profit from it, the White House said.

Biden is asking lawmakers to make it a criminal offense for a person to “knowingly or intentionally possess proceeds directly obtained from corrupt dealings with the Russian government,” double the statute of limitations for foreign money laundering offenses to 10 years, and expand the definition of “racketeering” under U.S. law to include efforts to evade sanctions.


Russia Warns West: Don’t Test Our Patience

Russia on Thursday warned the West that there would be a tough military response to any further attack on Russian territory, accusing the United States and its key European allies of openly inciting Ukraine to assault Russia.

Two months since Russia invaded Ukraine, Russia has in recent days reported what it says are a series of attacks by Ukrainian forces on Russian regions which border Ukraine, and has warned that such attacks risk a significant escalation.

Ukraine has not directly accepted responsibility but says the incidents are payback, while Russia has taken umbrage at statements from NATO-member Britain that it is legitimate for Ukraine to target Russian logistics.

“In the West, they are openly calling on Kyiv to attack Russia including with the use of weapons received from NATO countries,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow.

“I don’t advise you to test our patience further.”

Russia’s defense ministry said on Tuesday that if such attacks continued then Moscow would target decision-making centers in Ukraine, including those where it said Western advisers were helping Kyiv.

“Kyiv and West capitals should take the statement from the Ministry of Defence seriously that further inciting of Ukraine to strike Russian territory will definitely lead to a tough response from Russia,” Zakharova said.

Zakharova cast Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a puppet of the West, who was being used by the United States to threaten Russia.

The United States has ruled out sending its own or NATO forces to Ukraine but Washington and its European allies have supplied weapons to Kyiv such as drones, Howitzer heavy artillery, anti-aircraft Stinger, and anti-tank Javelin missiles.


Germany Leader Defends Ongoing Gas Purchases

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is defending his country’s ongoing purchase of gas and other fossil fuels from Russia.

Speaking during a visit to Japan on Thursday, Scholz said that “it is a challenge that many European countries, including Germany, are dependent on imports of fossil resources from Russia.”

Scholz said his government aims to end imports of Russian coal and oil this year. He said that “the same will happen for gas, but that is a process that will require more time.”

Asked whether he was concerned Russia might stop shipping gas to Germany, as it did this week for Poland and Bulgaria, Scholz acknowledged that “any interruption would have consequences for the economic situation.”

He said this was also the reason why there no sanctions have so far been imposed on energy supplies from Russia, adding this had been decided “in close cooperation with our partners who themselves are energy exporters and therefore in a different starting position, such as the United States.”

Scholz said: “Whether and what decisions the Russian government takes in this regard one can only speculate, but it makes little sense to do so.”


In Call With Putin, Erdogan Calls for ‘Peace, Dialogue, and Cooperation’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has discussed the war in Ukraine in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The leaders also discussed a prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia that took place in Turkey on Wednesday. Erdogan’s office said he told Putin on Thursday that Turkey’s mediation in the exchange was an indication of the importance Ankara attaches to “peace, dialogue, and cooperation.”

He reiterated Turkey’s readiness to mediate between Russia and Ukraine and its wish to establish peace in the region “by increasing the momentum” generated in face-to-face talks that were held between the two countries’ delegations in Istanbul late last month.

It was the second telephone call between the two presidents this week. On Tuesday, Erdogan urged Putin to agree to direct talks with his Ukrainian counterpart.


Biden Urged to Confiscate Russian Assets

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding bill on Wednesday, calling on President Joe Biden to impound the assets of wealthy Russian individuals believed to have ties to the Kremlin. Under the plan, confiscated capital would go toward supporting Ukraine.

Named the Asset Seizure for Ukraine Reconstruction Act, the bill was backed by 417 lawmakers, with eight voting against it.

The document urges the U.S. president to “confiscate any property or accounts subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, valued over $2,000,000, and belonging to Russian energy companies or to foreign persons whose wealth is derived in part through corruption linked to or political support for the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”


Russian Spy Boss Reveals Polish Plans for Ukraine Split

Intelligence obtained by Russia suggests that Poland and the United States are working on a plan for Warsaw to regain control of Ukrainian areas that Warsaw considers as “historically belonging” to it, Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) chief Sergey Naryshkin has said.

According to the alleged plan, the first stage of this “reunification” will see Polish “peacekeepers” deployed in western Ukraine under the pretext of “protection from Russian aggression,” Naryshkin revealed in a statement on Thursday.

The details of the operation are now being discussed between Warsaw and the Biden administration, he claimed, adding that it’s going to be carried out without a NATO mandate, with only volunteer countries taking part.

Warsaw has so far been unable to find any other nations to join its cause, he added. But the Polish authorities aren’t bothered by it all as they’re themselves interested in having less “unnecessary witnesses” to their actions, Naryshkin claimed.


‘Up to Ukraine’ to Decide on Attacking Russia, Says US

It is up to Ukraine to decide whether to expand the conflict with Russia beyond their own borders, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Senate on Wednesday. His comments come after Moscow condemned a senior British official who said it would be “legitimate” for Kyiv to use NATO-supplied weapons to attack Russian territory.

“We are determined to get them what they need to deal with this Russian aggression and to push the Russians out of the country. It’s another matter as to whether the Ukrainians should take actions that go beyond their borders,” Blinken said on Wednesday afternoon, at a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee considering the State Department’s 2023 budget.


4 Dead in Luhansk Region: Local Official

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, says Thursday that four civilians have died in the region over the past 24 hours and four more were wounded.

The Russian shelling has also destroyed 10 houses in the city of Popasna, Haidai said in the messaging app Telegram.


UN Chief Tours Damaged Areas Outside Kyiv

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has toured areas outside the Ukrainian capital that suffered damage during the Russian advance there.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Guterres said that “civilians always pay the highest price” in any war.


UK: Russian Navy Is Still Able to Strike Ukraine

Britain’s defense ministry says the Russian navy still has the ability to strike coastal targets in Ukraine, even after the losses of two warships.

In an intelligence briefing posted Thursday morning, the ministry says that about 20 Russian naval vessels, including submarines, are currently operating in the Black Sea operational zone.

But the ministry says Russia isn’t able to replace the cruiser Moskva, which sank earlier this month in the Black Sea, because the Bosporus remains closed to all non-Turkish warships.

Russia also lost the landing ship Saratov, which was destroyed by explosions and fire on March 24.


Poland Says Countries Paying for Russian Gas in Rubles Should Be Penalised

The European Union should penalize countries that use rubles to pay for Russian gas, Poland’s climate minister said, following Moscow’s decision to cut off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria over their refusal to do so.

EU member states appear split on how they can keep paying for gas without breaching European sanctions imposed over Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. Many nations in Europe remain heavily reliant on Russian energy imports.

Poland, one of the EU’s staunchest proponents of punitive sanctions against Moscow, says the bloc should ban purchases of Russian gas altogether.

“Today what is missing is full sanctions on gas, that would solve the problem with Gazprom, the problem with following sanctions 100 percent. We expect these sanctions,” Anna Moskwa told private broadcaster Polsat News late on Wednesday.

The main EU member states resisting tougher gas sanctions on Russia are Austria, Germany, and Hungary, she added.

“We are counting on there being consequences for these countries (which pay in rubles) and that as a result they will cease paying in rubles.”

She did not specify what kind of consequences Poland wanted to see.

Russia’s new gas payments system, involving opening accounts at Gazprombank where payments in euros or dollars would be converted to rubles, offers wiggle room that could see some countries continue to buy Russian gas, fraying the bloc’s united front against Moscow.

German power utility Uniper told the newspaper Rheinische Post on Thursday that it would transfer payments for Russian gas to a Russian bank and no longer to a Europe-based bank.


German Parliament Approves Petition to Deliver Heavy Arms to Ukraine

Germany’s Bundestag lower house of parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a petition on support for Ukraine backing the delivery of weapons including heavy arms to the country to help it fend off Russian attacks.

“Alongside the broad economic isolation and decoupling of Russia from international markets, the most important and effective means to stop the Russian invasion is to intensify and speed up the delivery of effective weapons and complex systems including heavy arms,” the petition read.

The petition was backed by both the three parties in the ruling coalition as well as the opposition conservatives, passing with 586 votes in favor, 100 against and seven abstentions, according to Bundestag Vice President Wolfgang Kubicki.


Moldova Turns Down Kyiv’s Suggestions on Transnistria

Moldova has turned down the “offer” to capture its breakaway region of Transnistria by force floated by Kyiv, stating that it seeks to reintegrate the self-proclaimed republic only through political means.

“The settlement of the Transnistrian issue can be achieved by political means and only on the basis of a peaceful solution, excluding military and other forcible actions, as well as on the basis of the principles of democratization and demilitarization of the region, [and] respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova,” the country’s office for reintegration told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.

The statement came in response to remarks made by Alexey Arestovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The official suggested the country was capable of “capturing” Transnistria should Chisinau formally request Kyiv’s help in conquering the breakaway region.


Third EU State Balks at ‘Ruble Payments’ for Gas

Helsinki has rejected Moscow’s ruble-based payment scheme for gas, the local media reported on Wednesday. Russia imposed the payment mechanism last month on countries that have placed sanctions on Russia but continue to import its gas.

“We have made the decision in the government’s economic policy committee that Finland will not agree to ruble payments. The decision was already made at the beginning of April,” Finland’s Minister for European Affairs and Ownership Steering Tytti Tuppurainen told the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper. She said that it could be seen as blackmail and part of “Russia’s geopolitical efforts.”

Russia has denied using natural gas exports as a tool to “blackmail” Europe, a charge also leveled by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.


UK Calls for a ‘Global NATO’

The world order created after the Second World War and the Cold War isn’t working anymore, so the West needs “a global NATO” to pursue geopolitics anew, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss argued, in a major foreign policy speech on Wednesday. Truss also urged the U.S.-led bloc to send more “heavy weapons, tanks” and airplanes to Ukraine, and said China would face the same treatment as Russia if it doesn’t “play by the rules.”

“My vision is a world where free nations are assertive and in the ascendant. Where freedom and democracy are strengthened through a network of economic and security partnerships,” Truss said in a speech at a Mansion House banquet in London.

Dubbing this arrangement “the Network of Liberty,” Truss argued it was necessary because the economic and security structures developed after 1945—such as the UN Security Council—“have been bent out of shape so far, they have enabled rather than contained aggression.”

Beyond that, NATO must ensure that “the Western Balkans and countries like Moldova and Georgia have the resilience and the capabilities to maintain their sovereignty and freedom,” and uphold the “sacrosanct” open-door policy, Truss said.

Her ambitions went beyond Europe, though, as Truss denounced the “false choice between Euro-Atlantic security and Indo-Pacific security.”

“In the modern world we need both. We need a global NATO,” she said. “And we must ensure that democracies like Taiwan are able to defend themselves.”


UK Says Ukraine Can Attack Russian Logistics

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on Thursday it would be legitimate for Ukrainian forces to target Russian logistics to cripple their supply of food, fuel, and munitions but they were unlikely to use British weapons to do so.

Tensions between Britain and Russia increased this week when Moscow accused London of provoking Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia, saying there would be an immediate “proportional response” if it continued.

Wallace said under international law Ukraine had every right to defend itself.

“Part of defending itself in this type of invasion is obviously where Ukraine will go after the supply lines of the Russian army because without fuel and food and ammunition, the Russian army grinds to a halt and can no longer continue its invasion,” he told the BBC.

Wallace said Britain had sent artillery to Ukraine that was being used within Ukraine on Russian forces, but he claimed that it had not, and was unlikely, to send weapons that could be used for longer-range attacks.

He said that it was not clear if attacks seen in Russia in recent weeks had come from the Ukrainian state. He claimed that Ukraine did not have British weapons that could do that.

Ukrainian forces, he said, tend to use mobile launchers while the British army would deliver them from the air or sea.

Wallace also denied that NATO was locked in a proxy war with Russia but said the West would provide increasing support to Ukraine if the Russian attacks continued. “Sometimes that will include planes and tanks,” he told Times Radio.

Russia on Wednesday reported a series of blasts in the south of the country and a fire at an ammunition depot.

Responding to a similar British statement on Tuesday which said Russian military targets inside Russia were fair game for Ukraine, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova suggested that British logic meant Russia was also theoretically entitled to strike targets in NATO countries like Britain if they were related to arms deliveries for Ukraine.


Germany’s Scholz Says Putin Clinging to Idea of ‘Forced Peace’ in Ukraine

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said a strong German military was necessary as a deterrent against a Russian attack and criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for clinging to the idea of a “forced peace” in Ukraine, which he said would not work.

Scholz, speaking in Tokyo on Thursday, said Germany was looking to create closer ties with countries that share its values, naming Japan and India, among others.


Former US Marine Reed Lands in US After Prisoner Swap With Russia: Spokesperson

Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who was detained in Russia and released in a prisoner swap between Russia and the United States, landed in his home country, Reed’s spokesperson said on Thursday.

The location where Reed landed was not immediately clear.


Russian Forces Disperse Pro-Ukraine Rally, Tighten Control in Occupied Kherson

Russian forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally in the occupied city of Kherson on Wednesday, Ukraine’s prosecutor general said, as Moscow tightened its grip over the southern region.

Local authorities say Russia appointed its own mayor of Kherson on Tuesday after its troops took over the administration headquarters in the regional capital, which was the first big urban center to be seized after the Feb. 24 invasion.

Some residents have staged occasional anti-occupation rallies and crowds gathered in the center again on Wednesday, the date Kyiv had said Russia planned to stage a referendum to create a breakaway region like those in eastern Ukraine.

“During a peaceful pro-Ukrainian rally on Freedom Square in the city of Kherson, servicemen of the Russian armed forces used tear gas and stun grenades against the civilian population,” the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general said in a statement.

It said it was investigating the incident, and that at least four people were wounded.

Russia did not immediately comment on the incident.

On Tuesday, Russia said it had gained full control of the Kherson region, which is strategically important as it provides part of the land link between the annexed Crimea peninsula and Russian-backed separatist areas in the east.


Russia Accuses OSCE of Handing Information to Western Intelligence

Russia on Thursday accused the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of handing information on the location of Russian and pro-Russian forces to Western and Ukrainian intelligence.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova made the allegation during a briefing with reporters but did not provide evidence for it. She said investigators from the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic would provide additional proof.

The OSCE has a monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian army have been fighting since 2014.


EU to Suspend Tariffs on Ukraine Imports for 1 Year, Kyiv Grateful

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday a one-year suspension of import duties on all Ukrainian goods not covered by an existing free trade deal to help the country’s economy during the war with Russia.

The measures will apply in particular to fruit and vegetables, subject to minimum price requirements, agricultural products facing quotas, and certain industrial goods, tariffs on which were only due to be phased out by the end of 2022.

That phase-out, set out in the 2016 EU–Ukraine free trade agreement, applies to fertilizers, aluminum products, and cars.

The European Union will also exempt Ukraine from safeguard measures that limit steel imports, and lift anti-dumping tariffs the EU currently imposes on Ukrainian steel tubes, hot-rolled flat steel products, and ironing boards.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had discussed the proposal with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday and expressed his gratitude.

“Right now this will allow us to maintain economic activity in Ukraine, our national production, as much as possible. But this decision needs to be considered not only in the Ukrainian context,” he said in a late-night video address.

The proposal will now need to be agreed on by the European Parliament and EU governments to come into force.

The European Commission, which oversees trade policy in the 27-nation EU, said the unprecedented measures were designed to alleviate difficulties for Ukrainian producers and exporters in the face of Russia’s invasion.

Last year, bilateral EU–Ukraine trade was more than 52 billion euros ($55 billion), double its level before the 2016 free trade deal.

With Ukrainian shipping via the Black Sea now cut off by the Russian navy, the EU has also moved to help land transport of Ukrainian goods, for example by easing the entry conditions for Ukrainian truck drivers.


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 two-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 Center 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.

Jack Phillips, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.

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