Russia Says Warship Seriously Damaged by Explosion, Ukraine Claims Missile Strike
Russia said on Thursday the flagship of its Black Sea fleet was seriously damaged and its crew evacuated following an explosion that a Ukrainian official said was the result of a missile strike.
Russia’s defense ministry said a fire on the Moskva missile cruiser caused ammunition to blow up, Interfax news agency reported.
It did not say what caused the fire but Maksym Marchenko, the Ukrainian governor of the region around the Black Sea port of Odesa, said the Moskva had been hit by two Ukrainian-made Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles.
“Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage,” he said in an online post.
Ukraine’s defense ministry did not respond to a request for comment and The Epoch Times was unable to verify either side’s claims.
US Gives Ukraine $800 Million More in Military Aid, Adds Heavy Weapons
President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday announced an additional $800 million in U.S. military assistance to Ukraine, expanding the scope of the systems provided ahead of a wider Russian assault expected in eastern Ukraine.
The latest package, which brings the total military aid tally since Russian forces invaded in February to more than $2.5 billion, includes artillery systems, artillery rounds, armored personnel carriers, and unmanned coastal defense vessels, Biden said in a statement after a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Biden said he had also approved the transfer of additional helicopters, saying equipment provided to Ukraine “has been critical” as it confronts the invasion.
The new security assistance package, according to the Defense Department, includes 11 Mi-17 helicopters that had been earmarked for Afghanistan before the U.S.-backed government collapsed and 18 155mm howitzers, along with counter-artillery radars and 200 armored personnel carriers.
This was the first time howitzers have been provided to Ukraine by the United States.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said some of the systems, like the howitzers and radars, will require additional training for Ukrainian forces.
The new aid will be funded using the Presidential Drawdown Authority, or PDA, in which the president can authorize the transfer of articles and services from U.S. stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency.
Russia Says US-NATO Arms Convoys in Ukraine Legitimate Targets
Russia will perceive convoys delivering arms from NATO states to Ukraine as legitimate targets for its military once they reach Ukrainian territory, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov warned in an interview published on Wednesday.
Regular contact with the United States is impossible for Russia, considering “Washington’s unabashed support for militaristic intentions of the Kyiv regime, the pouring of modern weapons” into the country by NATO members, the diplomat said. Moscow’s goal now is to make it abundantly clear for the United States and its allies that Russia will use harsh methods in response to attempts to hurt its military in Ukraine.
“We are warning that American–NATO transports carrying weapons across the Ukrainian territory are considered legitimate military targets,” he stressed.
Finland Moves Toward NATO Membership Decision ‘Within Weeks’
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Wednesday said Helsinki is moving toward a decision on applying to join the NATO military alliance “within weeks” and “not within months.”
“I won’t give any kind of timetable when we will make our decisions, but I think it will happen quite fast, within weeks, not within months,” Marin said during an April 13 joint news conference with her Swedish counterpart in Stockholm.
Marin made the announcement while meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in the country’s capital. The two leaders discussed how to strengthen the security of both Nordic countries in the changing security environment.
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Ukraine Explains Decision to Turn Down German President
Ukraine would welcome any foreign “high-ranking official” as long as they come with “specific offers related to either economic or military support,” an aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told Die Welt newspaper, explaining Kyiv’s decision to turn down a visit by the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
“Any visits that take place nowadays end up with a [specific] result,” the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s administration, Igor Zhovkva, told the German outlet, adding that Kyiv would very much like to see “any high-ranking politicians” coming to Ukraine “bringing” such “results” with them. He then went on to say that, in Germany’s case, it could put an “embargo on [Russian] oil” or provide “guarantees” for Ukraine’s accession to the EU or “heavy equipment” supplies.
The presidential aide also hinted that Berlin may not be as steadfast in its support for Ukraine as Kyiv would like. All nations that are “friendly” to Ukraine “demonstrate a similar attitude to Russia and the Russian leadership,” Zhovkva said, adding that they do not “make any exceptions for the energy sector, banking sector or certain members of [the Russian] political establishment.”
However, The German government is defending the country’s president after the diplomatic snub by Ukraine.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the largely ceremonial head of state, said Tuesday that his presence apparently “wasn’t wanted in Kyiv.” He said his Polish counterpart had suggested that they both travel to Ukraine along with the presidents of the three Baltic countries.
Government spokesman Wolfgang Buechner defended Steinmeier, saying that he “has clearly taken a stand on Ukraine’s side.”
Putin Says Russia Can Redirect Energy Exports Away From West
Russia can easily redirect exports of its vast energy resources away from the West to countries that really need them, while increasing domestic energy consumption, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.
“When it comes to Russian oil, gas, and coal, we will be able to increase their consumption on the domestic market and stimulate the deep processing of raw materials,” Putin said speaking at a meeting on the development of the Russian Arctic.
“We will also increase the supply of energy resources to other regions of the world where they are really needed,” he added.
The statement comes amid the latest ban on Russian oil imports imposed by the United States, Canada, Britain, and Australia in response to Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine. The ban on energy imports was part of broader anti-Russian sanctions that are aimed at cutting the country’s economy off from the global trade and financial system.
Putin attributed the current energy crunch in Europe to the refusal by countries to “cooperate with Russia normally, thus, hitting millions of Europeans.”
“Of course, we are also facing problems but this opens up new opportunities,” he said.
Kyiv Says Moscow Puts Pressure on Peace Talks With ‘Public Statements’
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak on Tuesday accused Russia of putting pressure on the peace talks process through making “certain public statements.” The remarks came after Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted the talks had run into a “deadlock.”
“Negotiations are extremely difficult. Online in working subgroups. But they go on. It is clear that the emotional background in the negotiation process today is grim. It is clear that the Ukrainian delegation works exclusively within a framework that is pro-Ukrainian and transparent,” Podolyak told the local media, accusing Moscow of deliberately complicating the process.
The remarks came after Russia’s president admitted that the negotiations had effectively run into a “deadlock.” Putin blamed the Ukrainian side for the stalemate, stating that Kyiv had reneged on what had been agreed on during talks in Istanbul, Turkey late in March.
Russia Says Over 1,000 Ukrainian Marines Surrender in Mariupol
Russia’s defense ministry said on Wednesday that 1,026 soldiers of Ukraine’s 36th marine brigade, including 162 officers, had surrendered in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
Mariupol, which has been encircled by Russian troops for weeks, has seen the fiercest fighting and the most comprehensive destruction since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.
The main Sea of Azov port is the biggest target in the eastern Donbass region that Moscow now calls the focus of its campaign, and if captured would be the first major city to fall since the war began. Its capture would help secure a land passage between separatist-held eastern areas and Crimea, which Russia seized and annexed in 2014.
“In the town of Mariupol, near the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works, as a result of successful offensives by Russian armed forces and Donetsk People’s Republic militia units, 1,026 Ukrainian soldiers of the 36th Marine Brigade voluntarily laid down arms and surrendered,” the ministry said in a statement.
Reuters could not independently confirm the surrender. Ukrainian defense ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said he had no information about it, and there was no immediate comment from the Ukrainian president’s office or the Ukrainian general staff.
On Monday, a post on the Ukrainian marine brigade’s Facebook page had said the unit was preparing for a final battle in Mariupol that would end in death or capture as its troops had run out of ammunition.
“Today will probably be the ultimate battle, as there is no ammo left,” said the post. “Beyond that: hand to hand fighting. Beyond that, for some death, for others capture.”
Some Ukrainian officials said at the time that the post may have been fake, and that troops were still holding out.
The Russian defense ministry said 151 wounded Ukrainian soldiers were treated on the spot and taken to Mariupol’s city hospital.
Earlier on Wednesday, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who says his forces are playing a major role in Russia’s battle for Mariupol, said more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines had surrendered. He urged remaining forces holed up in the Azovstal steel mill to surrender.
Nordic Leaders Betraying Their National Interests: Russia
Russia has criticized accusations that it poses a threat to Sweden and Finland amid their sudden drive to join NATO. Leaders in the Nordic states have recently expressed a desire to enter the U.S.–led military bloc following Moscow’s military attack on Ukraine.
“These claims [over an alleged Russian threat] are unintelligent. They are not based on facts. They are in the realm of propaganda and provocations. They go against the national interests of those countries,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Radio Sputnik on Wednesday. “I believe it would be wrong to consider these statements as an independent opinion,” she added.
Russia Will Not Nationalize Foreign Firms’ Assets: Top Senator
The nationalization of assets belonging to foreign companies that quit Russia is not on the table, the country’s top senator said on Wednesday. Speaking before Parliament, Valentina Matvienko commented on reported plans in Germany to nationalize energy companies.
“We don’t want to turn into raiders, like our opponents do. Nationalizing someone else’s property is unacceptable,” she said, adding that Russia has adopted a subtle approach but tougher action on a case-by-case basis might be necessary. Industries need to keep going so that people and jobs are protected, she added.
Macron Refuses to Call Russia’s Actions in Ukraine Genocide
French President Emmanuel Macron has steered clear of calling Russia’s actions in Ukraine genocide.
Asked on France-2 television Wednesday about President Joe Biden’s use of the term, Macron said: “I would say that Russia has unleashed an excessively brutal war in a unilateral way. It has been established that war crimes have been committed by the Russian army.”
“We must find those responsible and bring them to justice, ” he said.
“I am prudent with terms today… Genocide has a meaning. The Ukrainian people and Russian people are brotherly people. It’s madness what’s happening today. It’s unbelievable brutality and a return to war in Europe,” the French president said.
“But at the same time I look at the facts, and I want to continue to try the utmost to be able to stop the war and restore peace. I’m not sure if the escalation of words serves our cause.”
UK Sanctions 178 Russian Separatists in Breakaway Regions
Britain has announced a new round of sanctions related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, targeting 178 individuals who have helped prop up Kremlin-backed breakaway regions in the eastern part of the country.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Wednesday that the sanctions were coordinated with the European Union. The move comes after rocket attacks that targeted civilians in eastern Ukraine.
Chinese Exports to Russia Decline After Invasion of Ukraine
China’s exports to Russia declined in March, official data showed on April 13, in a sign that Chinese companies may be displaying more caution when it comes to trading with Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine in February.
Data shows that Chinese firms sold $3.8 billion worth of goods to Russia in March 2022, representing a 7.7 percent decline from a year earlier and the lowest amount since May 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which drastically impacted global trade.
Meanwhile, imports from Russia increased 26.4 percent from a year ago.
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Threat Made to Ukrainian Opposition Leader
Opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk should be swiftly tried, sentenced, and physically assaulted before an attempt is made to swap him for Ukrainian soldiers captured by Russia, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister told Ukrainian television on Wednesday. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested an exchange after announcing the politician’s arrest on Tuesday.
“At the very minimum, he has to make some confessions because he knows a lot about who in Russia gave how much and to whom to create a fifth column” in Ukraine, Vadim Denisenko said of the arrested politician.
“At the maximum … he needs to be tried swiftly, given a prison term, beaten into providing certain testimony and then exchanged,” he added.
Denisenko’s remarks, particularly the implication that Medvedchuk could be coerced into cooperating by violence, were criticized by some Russian officials.
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chair of the Russian national security council, made a not-so-veiled threat by saying that people supporting such ideas “should pay attention to their surroundings and keep the door locked for the night not to get added to the list of individuals eligible for a prisoner swap themselves.”
JPMorgan Profits Drop 42 Percent, Bank Writes Off Russian Assets
JPMorgan Chase has written down $1.5 billion of assets when the bank reported its quarterly results, most of it tied to the bank’s exposure to Russian and Ukrainian assets.
The write-offs on Wednesday partially drove JPMorgan to report a noticeable decline in profits in the first quarter, and to miss Wall Street estimates.
JPMorgan is the first of Wall Street’s big giant banks to report its results. Analysts expect the big banks to have to write off billions of assets that are tied to Russia.
Latvia to Give Drone Training to Ukrainians
Latvia says it will train Ukrainian troops to handle drones.
“At the moment, we must do everything we can to promote Ukraine’s victory and to defend its principles of self-determination and sovereignty,” Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said.
He added that two Latvian companies had delivered unmanned aerial vehicles.
Latvia already has provided, among other supplies, Stinger anti-air systems to Ukraine but also weapons, personal equipment, dry food supplies, ammunition, and anti-tank weapons, worth more than € 200 million, the defense minister said.
Leaders of Poland and Baltic States Head to Kyiv, Will Discuss Military Assistance
The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are on their way to Kyiv to meet Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, an adviser to the Polish leader said on Wednesday.
The four join a growing number of European politicians to visit the Ukrainian capital since Russian forces were driven away from the country’s north earlier this month.
“Heading to Kyiv with a strong message of political support and military assistance,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, along with a picture of the presidents next to a train.
The meeting will focus on ways to assist civilians and the military in Ukraine, as well as with investigations of war crimes, said a spokesperson for Estonian President Alar Karis.
It comes the day after President Joe Biden said Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine amounted to genocide, while President Vladimir Putin promised Russia would “rhythmically and calmly” continue its operation and achieve its goals.
The four presidents’ offices declined to provide details of the visit for security reasons.
Ukraine Tells Russia to Return Prisoners If It Wants Top Ally Back
Ukraine told Russia to release prisoners of war if it wants the Kremlin’s most high-profile ally in the country freed as the United States is expected to send more weapons after Russia’s strongest signal yet the war will grind on.
Ukraine announced on Tuesday that Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the Opposition Platform—For Life party, had been apprehended. In February, the authorities said he had escaped house arrest after a treason case was opened.
The pro-Russian figure, who says President Vladimir Putin is godfather to his daughter, has denied wrongdoing. A spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
“I propose to the Russian Federation: exchange this guy of yours for our guys and girls now held in Russian captivity,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an early morning address on Wednesday.
Ukraine Secret Service Says It Has Arrested Top Putin Ally
Ukraine on Tuesday said it arrested Kremlin’s most prominent ally in the country.
“Pro-Russian traitors and agents of the Russian intelligence services, remember—your crimes have no statute of limitations,” Ukraine’s security service posted on Facebook alongside a photo of Medvedchuk in handcuffs.
Operatives “conducted this lightning-fast and dangerous multi-level special operation,” the head of the organization Ivan Bakanov said.
A Kremlin spokesman was cited by the Tass news agency as saying he had seen the photo and could not say whether it was genuine.
Ukrainian Troops to Train in UK
James Heappey, the U.K. armed forces minister, confirmed on Tuesday that the country’s military will train Ukrainian soldiers on British soil. An unspecified number of troops are expected to arrive within the “next few days” to learn how to operate armored vehicles that Britain has pledged to supply to Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict with Russia.
“There’s 120 armored vehicles that are in the process of being made ready,” Heappey told LBC Radio.
“And the Ukrainian troops that will operate them will arrive in the UK in the next few days to learn how to drive and command those vehicles.”
Katabella Roberts, Lorenz Duchamps, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.