Ukraine Update: Attempts To Build Common European Home Failed, Says German President

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German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier admitted that attempts to build the Common European Home failed. He made this statement at a press conference after the talks with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in Bucharest. The press conference was livestreamed on Iohannis’ website.

Media reports said:

The German President said: “We all supported the great concept, proposed by Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s about building the Common European Home. However, we have to state today that these efforts have failed.”

He said: “The political support that I provided to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was a mistake, an erroneous assessment.”

The German President also commented on his failed visit to Ukraine.

He said:

“The visit to Kiev was not only planned, but also prepared. I wanted to go to Kiev, together with Polish President [Andrzej Duda] and presidents of Baltic States to express our common European solidarity.”

“I learned that this would be undesirable, but, despite that, we Germans support Ukraine with all our hearts, and Germany is a country that provides the largest financial, economic and military support to Ukraine.”

PMs of India, North Europe Call For Cessation Of Hostilities In Ukraine

Prime Ministers of India and North European countries believe that an immediate cessation of hostilities in Ukraine is necessary. This was told in the joint statement adopted after a summit in Copenhagen.

The statement, published on Indian Foreign Ministry website, said:

“The Prime Ministers expressed their serious concern about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. They unequivocally condemned civilian deaths in Ukraine. They reiterated the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities,”

The statement points out that the modern global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law and respect for sovereignty and the territorial integrity of states.

The statement said: The PMs “discussed the destabilizing effect of the conflict in Ukraine and its broader regional and global implications.”

The meeting was attended by Prime Ministers of India Narendra Modi, of Norway Jonas Gahr Store, of Sweden Magdalena Andersson, of Iceland Katrin Jakobsdottir, of Finland Sanna Marin, and of Denmark Mette Frederiksen.

Zelensky, Biden Share Blame With Putin For Ukraine Conflict, Says Lula

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is “as responsible as [Russian President Vladimir] Putin for the war,” Brazilian presidential frontrunner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told Time magazine on Wednesday, insisting that there is never just one guilty party in war.

Zelensky “could have said: ‘Come on, let’s stop talking about this NATO business, about joining the EU for a while. Let’s discuss a bit more first,’” Lula pointed out, while arguing that U.S. President Joe Biden, too, could have derailed the crisis had he wished to. “The United States has a lot of political clout. And Biden could have avoided [the conflict], not incited it.”

Lula insisted the privileged position handed Zelensky by all western politicians is unjustifiable, noting that while he sees “the president of Ukraine, speaking on television, being applauded, getting a standing ovation by all the [European] parliamentarians,” Zelensky is “as responsible as Putin for the war,” and it is irresponsible for the West to embrace him without qualification.

Lula said: You are encouraging this guy, and then he thinks he is the cherry on your cake. We should be having a serious conversation. OK, you were a nice comedian. But let us not make war for you to show up on TV.

Instead of implicitly promising the Ukrainian leader his heart’s desires, the U.S. and EU should have reassured Russia that Ukraine would not join NATO, Lula argued, drawing parallels with the compromises made during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, in which both the U.S. and USSR agreed to deescalate conflict by removing missiles from each other’s effective backyards. Such security guarantees have repeatedly cropped up during negotiations between Russia and NATO, only to be repeatedly scrapped by the West. Lula said: “War is no solution,” Lula repeated. “And now we are going to have to foot the bill because of the war on Ukraine. Argentina, Bolivia will also have to pay. You are not punishing Putin. You are punishing many different countries, you are punishing mankind.”

The conflict in Ukraine has pulled up the curtain on the abject failure of the UN as a global body, Lula pointed out, claiming “today’s United Nations does not represent anything anymore. Governments do not take the UN seriously today, because they make decisions without respecting it. We need to create a new global governance.”

“Brazil will again become a protagonist on the international stage and we will prove that it is possible to have a better world,” said Lula.

Russian Submarine-launched Cruise Missile Hit NATO Supply Lines

Russia said it had fired two Kalibr cruise missiles at Ukrainian targets from a submarine in the Black Sea and reiterated a warning that it would seek to hit shipments of NATO weapons to Ukraine.

The Russian defence ministry published video footage of the cruise missiles being launched from the Black Sea, and said they had hit unspecified ground targets in Ukraine.

Russia Disables Ukrainian Railway Stations Used To Transport Western Weapons

Russia’s defence ministry has said that it had disabled six railway stations in Ukraine used to supply Ukrainian forces with Western-made weapons in the country’s east.

The ministry said it disabled the railways stations by bombing their power supplies using high-precision air and sea-based weapons.

The ministry also said it had hit 40 Ukrainian military targets, including four depots storing ammunition and artillery weapons.

Russia Threatens To Destroy NATO Vehicles

NATO vehicles with weapons and ammunition for Ukrainian troops that arrived in Ukraine will be destroyed, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

“The United States and its NATO allies continue to pump weapons to Ukraine. I note that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or materiel for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction,” Shoigu said at a conference call, according to reports in the Russian media outlet RIA.

Russia Averts Default

A Bloomberg report said on Tuesday:

Russia’s dollar payments on two foreign bonds have reached foreign creditors. Ukraine-related sanctions had been holding up transactions for weeks, fueling fears of a default.

Russia settled the $564.8 million payment on a 2022 Eurobond, and $84.4 million payment on a 2042 bond on Friday, with Russia’s Finance Ministry saying that Moscow sent dollars to the paying agent, the London branch of Citibank N.A.

According to the Bloomberg report, major international clearinghouses have received and processed the payments. Three investors confirmed on Tuesday that their custodian banks had received the funds.

Earlier in April, Moscow attempted to pay foreign holders of Eurobonds in rubles after Western nations froze nearly half of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves, worth over $300 billion, as part of sanctions over Ukraine.

The step was taken after the U.S. Treasury stopped Russia from paying holders of its sovereign debt more than $600 million from reserves held in U.S. bank accounts, saying that Moscow had to choose between draining its dollar reserves and default.

Russia would be considered in default if it failed to make the bond payment within a 30-day grace period that ends on Wednesday. Moscow has repeatedly insisted that the blocking of payments should be considered a default by the West on its financial obligations to Russia.

EU Targets Russian Patriarch In New Round Of Proposed Sanctions

The European Commission has proposed freezing the assets of head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill.

The Patriarch has been added to a draft blacklist that already includes hundreds of military officers and businessmen close to the Kremlin whom the EU accuses of supporting the war in Ukraine, according to an EU diplomat.

The sanction, which would entail an asset freeze and a travel ban, needs the backing of EU states to be adopted.

EU diplomats are set to meet this week to discuss the sanction, part of a wider package proposed by the EC earlier on Wednesday including an oil embargo and restrictions on Russian banks.

Russian Orthodox Church Scolds Pope Francis After ‘Putin’s Altar Boy’ Remark

The Russian Orthodox Church scolded Pope Francis for using the wrong tone after he urged Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill not to become the Kremlin’s “altar boy”, cautioning the Vatican that such remarks would hurt dialogue between the churches.

Francis told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper that Kirill, who has given the Ukraine war his backing, “cannot become Putin’s altar boy”.

The Russian Orthodox Church said it was regrettable that a month and a half after Francis and Kirill, the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, had spoken directly, the pope had adopted such a tone.

“Pope Francis chose an incorrect tone to convey the content of this conversation,” the Russian Patriarchy said, though it did not explicitly mention the “altar boy” comment.

“Such statements are unlikely to contribute to the establishment of a constructive dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, which is especially necessary at the present time.”

No Agreement On Possible Meeting Between Putin And Pope Francis, Says Russia

The Kremlin said that no agreement had been reached on a possible meeting between Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis for talks on Ukraine.

Pope Francis said in an interview published on Tuesday that he had asked for a meeting in Moscow with Putin to try to stop the war in Ukraine but had not received a reply.

Czech Republic In Talks On EU Oil Embargo Exemption

The Czech Republic will seek an exemption period to the EU’s proposed embargo of Russian oil, gaining time for pipeline capacities to be increased, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said.

Fiala said: “We are trying to get that postponement for two, maybe three years.”

Slovakia Wants Three Year Transition To EU Russian Oil Embargo

Slovakia wants a three year transition period for it to phase in the EU’s proposed embargo on Russian oil, Economy Minister Richard Sulik said today.

Slovakia gets nearly all of its imported crude from Russia mainly via the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline, and it has joined Hungary, also highly reliant on Russian supplies, in seeking an exemption from oil embargo plans the bloc is working up.

The EU’s chief executive also proposed, as part of new measures, sanctions on Russia’s top bank and a ban on Russian broadcasters from European airwaves.

The EC’s measures see phasing out Russian crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of 2022.

“We agree with this sanction, but are saying that we need a transitory period until we adapt to the situation,” Sulik told a news briefing in Bratislava. “What is being discussed today is the duration of the transitory period, he added.

Bulgaria To Seek Exemption From Any EU Embargo On Russian Oil

Bulgaria will seek an exemption if the EU agrees to allow exemptions on any embargo on Russian oil, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev said today.

“Bulgaria, technologically, can do without Russian oil crude, but that would push up fuel prices significantly. So, if the European Commission considers exemptions, we would like to take advantage of such exemptions,” he told the financial newspaper Capital.

Hungary, Slovakia Can Continue To Buy Russian Crude Oil Until End Of 2023

Hungary and Slovakia will be able to continue buying Russian crude oil until the end of 2023 under existing contracts, an EU source told Reuters, benefitting from exemptions from an oil embargo proposed by the European Commission.

In a bid to convince reluctant countries not to veto the proposal, Brussels has proposed a longer period to implement the embargo for Hungary and Slovakia, the source said.

Disruptions To Oil Supply Possible With EU Russia Ban, says Germany

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that a gradual EU ban on Russian oil imports could lead to supply “disruptions” and price increases but backed the measure as necessary step to sanction Moscow.

“I have said a few times that we can of course not guarantee in this situation that there won’t be disruptions, primarily regional disruptions,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

Habeck cited specifically the PCK refinery in the eastern town of Schwedt as one that could feel the impact.

It supplies around 90 per cent of the oil consumed in Berlin and the surrounding region, including Berlin-Brandenburg international airport.

Russian oil giant Rosneft, controlled by the Kremlin, is a majority shareholder in the site – a complicated situation Habeck said would have to be “resolved politically”.

UK Bans Services Exports To Russia And Sanctions Russian Media Outlets

The UK has banned all service sector exports to Russia and announced sanctions against 63 individuals and organizations, including media companies and celebrities it accuses of spreading disinformation.

EU To Ban 3 Russian Broadcasters

The EU will ban three Russian state-owned broadcasters as part of a sixth sanctions package over Moscow’s war in Ukraine, the bloc’s chief executive has said.

“They will not be allowed to distribute their content anymore in the European Union, in whatever shape or form, be it on cable, via satellite, on the internet or via smartphone apps,” EC President Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg.

She called the TV channels “mouthpieces that amplify (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s lies and propaganda aggressively”.

“We should not give them a stage anymore to spread these lies,” she added.

Ukraine Must Help Mend Ties With Germany, Says Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said there was a “problem” in Germany’s relations with Ukraine after the German president was stopped from visiting Kyiv last month, adding that it was up to Ukraine to help resolve the row.

“It is a problem for the German government and for the German people that the president was asked not to come,” Scholz told reporters following talks with his cabinet.

“Ukraine must also play its part,” Scholz said when asked how the tensions could be defused, but he did not give concrete examples on what Kyiv could do to improve the situation.

Russia Denies Assault On Azovstal Steelworks

Russia said that Russia was not storming the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

“The order was publicly given by the supreme commander-in-chief to cancel the assault,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, referring to an order given by Vladimir Putin last month not to pursue an attack on the area.

“There is no storming,” Peskov added.

Steelmaker To Evacuate Staff From Avdiivka Plant

Ukraine’s largest steelmaker, Metinvest, said it had offered to evacuate staff from its coking plant in the eastern frontline city of Avdiivka after 10 workers were killed in Russian shelling.

The workers were killed at a bus stop on Tuesday as they waited for a bus to take them home after they finished their shift at the factory.

“Despite difficult logistics and hostile shelling, the Metinvest Group is ready to evacuate all employees and members of their families who wish to leave the dangerous place,” Metinvest said in a statement.

It added that 20 people had also been wounded in an attack.

Metinvest said it was carrying out a process of “conservation” at the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant, the largest coke producer in Ukraine, and that it had minimized the number of staff working on the plant’s industrial sites.

Specialists continue to work to ensure the storage of industrial facilities, it said.

$11.6 Billion German Scheme For Companies Hit By Sanctions

EU competition regulators have approved a $11.58 billion German scheme to help companies hit by sanctions against Russia, similar to those proposed recently by other EU governments.

Under the German scheme, companies can secure loans covered by a state guarantee not exceeding 90 per cent of the loan amount or receive loans at reduced interest rates to cover their investment and working capital needs.

The EC, which acts as the competition enforcer for the EU, recently loosened its state aid rules to allow EU governments to aid companies disrupted by the sanctions.

Russia Bans Japan’s PM

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it has banned entry to several dozen Japanese officials, including PM Fumio Kishida, after Tokyo joined international sanctions against Moscow over its military campaign in Ukraine.

“The administration of F. Kishida launched an unprecedented anti-Russian campaign (and) allows unacceptable rhetoric against the Russian Federation, including slander and direct threats,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“It is echoed by public figures, experts, representatives of Japanese media, who are completely engaged by the attitudes of the West towards our country,” the ministry added.

It accused Tokyo of taking “practical steps aimed at dismantling good neighborly ties, damaging the Russian economy and the international prestige of the country”.

The ministry said it was “indefinitely” banning from Russia 63 Japanese citizens, including the prime minister, cabinet members, lawmakers, journalists and professors.

Israeli Mercenaries Are Fighting In Ukraine, Says Moscow

A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry has claimed Israeli mercenaries were fighting alongside the far-right Azov Regiment in Ukraine, further fuelling tensions with Israel after Russia suggested Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood”.

“Israeli mercenaries are practically shoulder to shoulder with Azov militants in Ukraine,” Maria Zakharova told Sputnik radio in an interview.

Azov rose to prominence in 2014, when its far-right activists took up arms to fight pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region but have since fallen under the command of Ukraine’s military.

They have been fighting alongside the Ukrainian army against Russian troops.

U.S. Intelligence Is helping Ukraine Target Russian Generals

The US has passed along intelligence to Ukraine about Russian military units, allowing the Ukrainians to target and kill several Russian generals, senior U.S. officials told The New York Times.

The U.S. has shared with Ukraine real-time battlefield intelligence, such as the location of the Russian military’s mobile headquarters, and expected Russian troop movements in the Donbas region, U.S. officials told the Times. The stepped-up intelligence coincides with the U.S. delivering more aid and heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Ukraine has used this information to its advantage, combining it with intercepted communications indicating top Russian officers are in certain areas. By using unsecure phones and radios, “it shows poor discipline, lack of experience, arrogance, and failure to appreciate Ukrainian capabilities,” Frederick B. Hodges, the former top U.S. Army commander in Europe, told the Times. “It is not hard to geo-locate someone on a phone talking in the clear.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told the Times he would not comment on the report, but did say the U.S. provides “Ukraine with information and intelligence that they can use to defend themselves.” U.S. Sending More Troops To Romania

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis told parliament on Tuesday that he has invited an American Stryker battalion to beef up his country’s security amid the conflict in Ukraine.

The deployment demonstrated Romania’s commitment to NATO, Iohannis, a firm ally of Kiev, told lawmakers in a letter, according to the Romanian media.

The deployment of a U.S. Stryker battalion would therefore “strengthen Romania’s resilience,” he continued.

A Stryker battalion consists of a headquarters company and three companies of infantry and Stryker light armored vehicles. It is unclear whether this battalion is already on its way to Romania, but the deployment would come after the U.S. sent a 1,000-troop Stryker squadron – a force slightly larger than a battalion – to Romania from Germany in early February.

The Romanian leader described the deployment as demonstrating Romania’s “active and consistent positioning” within NATO.

Romania joined NATO in 2004, and has participated in the US-led military bloc’s missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Balkans. Bucharest has also taken a firmly pro-Ukraine and anti-Russia stance since 2014, when then-president Traian Basecu called on the alliance to arm the Ukrainian military, and has backed the accession of Ukraine and Georgia into NATO.

Romania has sent fuel and ammunition to Kiev, and has lobbed accusations of war crimes at Russia, which Moscow denies.


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