RECAP. War in Ukraine: continuation of the offensive on Donbass, “Russian blackmail” with gas… Update on the situation

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As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres travels to Kyiv, Boutcha, Irpin and Borodianka on Thursday (April 28), the European Union accuses Russia of “blackmail” after it cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria. For its part, Moscow is continuing its offensive in the Donbass.

Antonio Guterres in Kyiv, Boutcha, Irpin and Borodianka

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday travels to the Kyiv suburbs of Boutcha, Irpin and Borodianka, scenes of abuses blamed on the Russian army by Ukrainians as Moscow continues its offensive in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Kyiv accuses Russian forces of committing massacres after dozens of bodies in civilian clothes were discovered in these locations occupied by the Russian army and then abandoned. On April 2, AFP journalists discovered the horror in Boutcha: a street strewn with bodies. And the UN documented the “murder, including some by summary execution,” of 50 civilians after an operation in the city.

Canadian lawmakers on Wednesday passed a motion condemning Russia’s “genocide of the Ukrainian people” and saying there was “clear and ample evidence of systematic and massive war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The UN chief arrived in Ukraine from Moscow, where he asked Vladimir Putin for a ceasefire “as soon as possible”. He also said he was “concerned by the repeated reports of possible war crimes” and ruled that they “required an independent investigation”.

“Russian blackmail” on gas

For its part, the European Union on Wednesday accused Russia of “blackmail” after it halted gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria while Westerners continue efforts to arm Ukrainians against Russia.

Britain on Wednesday urged Ukraine’s allies to show “courage” in increasing their military aid, arguing the war in Ukraine is “our war” and victory in Kyiv a “strategic imperative for all of us”. “Heavy weapons, tanks, planes – digging into our stocks, ramping up production, we have to do all of that,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a speech in London on Wednesday evening.

For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin again warned against foreign intervention in the conflict in Ukraine and promised a “swift and lightning-fast” response. Moscow, meanwhile, is trying to target that military aid, and Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that “sheds containing a large quantity of foreign weapons and ammunition supplied to the Ukrainian armed forces by the United States and European countries were destroyed by sea.” launched Kalibr rockets at the Zaporozhye aluminum plant in southern Ukraine. However, the governor of this region firmly denied: “No ammunition and weapons depot was hit in Zaporozhye,” he replied, and pounded that the affected factory “has not been in operation for six years”.

Russian troops are also bombing bridges and railroads in an attempt to slow Western arms shipments to Ukraine, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister said Tuesday after destroying a strategic bridge linking that country with Romania.

Continuation of the Russian offensive

Russian forces, which have been stepping up their offensive in Donbass for the past two weeks, announced on Wednesday that they have launched airstrikes on 59 Ukrainian targets. At the same time, the Ukrainian army has acknowledged Russian advances in the east, in the Kharkiv region and in Donbass, a mining basin partly controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, which is itself rare.

Kyiv admitted that the Russians had taken territories from north to south, suggesting that Moscow wants to take a truck in a big bag that is still in the hands of the Ukrainians. “We have extremely difficult weeks ahead of us,” Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said in a statement on Wednesday. According to him, the Russian army “already aware of its strategic defeat will try to inflict as much suffering as possible on the Ukrainian soldiers whom he told to “hold out”.

In Kherson (south) — the first major city captured by Russian forces after their invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24 — “occupiers threw tear gas canisters at Ukrainian protesters, who chanted, ‘Kherson is Ukraine!'” said the Ukrainian army, in a press release, protesters “were injured and arrested,” the same source added, without giving further details.

“Save the Mariupol Garrison”

At least three people died in shelling and 15 were injured in Kharkiv, whose northern and eastern districts are less than 5 km from the front line, Governor Oleg Synegoubov said. At the southern tip of the Donbass, in the strategically important port city of Mariupol, besieged and devastated, “the enemy is massively shelling and blockading our units near the Azovstal factory,” the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense confirmed in its daily report.

The commander of the 36th Mariupol Marine Brigade, Sergey Volyna, again asked for help, saying he had with him 600 wounded soldiers and hundreds of civilians. “My message today is: save the Mariupol garrison, conduct an exfiltration operation for us. Here people will simply die (…) civilians die with us (…) the city is almost wiped off the face of the earth,” he implored in a message relayed on Telegram.

According to Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Oleksiy Arestovich, “the efforts of the Russian invaders are concentrated around Slovyansk, Kramatorsk and Mariupol,” where they are trying to drive out Ukrainian soldiers barricaded in the Azovstal metallurgical complex, and where hundreds of civilians are also located. Efforts would be made to “force Vladimir Putin to release them”. “Civilians first, but we are also working to evacuate our soldiers,” he said.

Moscow swaps ex-US Navy for Russian pilot

Former US Marine Trevor Reed, sentenced to nine years in Russia for violence, was exchanged on Wednesday for a Russian pilot who has been imprisoned in the US since 2010, in a prisoner swap reminiscent of the Cold War.

“On April 27, after a long negotiation process, Trevor Reed (…) was replaced by Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a US court in 2011,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Telegram . US President Joe Biden said he would have to make “difficult decisions” to secure the former soldier’s release.

“His safe return is a testament to the priority my administration places on the repatriation of Americans who are being held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad,” he said. Russian television shows footage of Trevor Reed boarding a plane, dressed in black and armed with a large bag. His father, Joey Reed, told CNN that the former soldier was transferred to Moscow this week and then put on a plane bound for Turkey. There, “the American plane stopped next to the Russian plane and they let the two prisoners cross at the same time, like in the movie,” he said.

Trevor Reed, 30, was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020 for drunkenly assaulting two police officers who had been called to the scene of a party in Moscow. He denied the aggression and denounced a “political” affair amid Russian-American tensions.

EU ‘united and united’ on Russian gas weapon

On the economic front, Russia’s Gazprom group announced on Wednesday that it had suspended all its gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland to ensure those two countries didn’t pay in rubles, as Vladimir Putin has been demanding since March. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen denounced the “gas blackmail” and reiterated that these two heavily dependent on Russian gas EU and NATO member countries were now “supplied by their neighbors in the ‘European Union'”.

European energy ministers will meet for an “extraordinary meeting” on Monday, May 2, announced Wednesday evening French minister responsible for the green transition, Barbara Pompili.

These events come at a time when many chancellery offices are concerned about the risk of escalating the conflict following a series of blasts that Kyiv is blaming Moscow on in Moldova’s pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria. “We condemn such actions in the strongest possible terms. The Moldovan authorities will ensure that the republic is not drawn into a conflict,” Moldovan President Maïa Sandu urged the population to calm down on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the authorities of the separatist area said that a border village, where a large Russian army ammunition depot is located, had been shelled by Ukraine. To help Ukraine, the European Commission proposed on Wednesday to suspend for a year all tariffs on products imported into the EU from that country. The proposal still has to be approved by the European Parliament and the 27 member states.

President Volodymir Zelenskyi welcomed the proposal, adding that Russia is “trying to cause a global price crisis” and “chaos” in the world food market. The Ukrainian President said on Twitter on Wednesday that he had spoken to his Indonesian counterpart, who invited him to the G20 summit in Bali in November.

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