Day 426 of the Invasion of Ukraine: The Russian advance in Bakhmut has StoppedUkraine |Author: Nikola Danailov | April 25, 2023, Tuesday // 10:36| views
Day 426 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- The Russian advance in Bakhmut stopped. Putin ordered changes in command
- Zelensky: One killed and 10 injured in a Russian attack on a museum in eastern Ukraine
- Russia has begun using its latest T-14 Armata tank in Ukraine
- The EU and Japan do not accept the total ban on exports to Russia
- Norway sues ex-commander of 'Wagner'
- Guterres warned of "historic" tensions between the great powers
- In a letter to Putin, Guterres offers a way to extend the grain deal with Ukraine
- EU agriculture ministers discuss the problems surrounding Ukrainian grain
- Ukrainian Minister: The price of grain is becoming more competitive
- EC: The arrest warrant for Christo Grozev is an attempt to silence free journalism
- The controversial comment about Ukraine by the Chinese ambassador in Paris was a "personal opinion”
The Russian advance in Bakhmut stopped. Putin ordered changes in command
The advance in Bakhmut has stopped - according to analysts, the occupiers have not made any territorial gains in the last two days, the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN reports today, citing the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
Russian forces continued ground attacks in and around Bakhmut and along the Avdiivka-Donetsk front line. Ukrainian forces have reportedly made minor gains south of Kremina since April 24 and continue to attack Russian logistics nodes in the rear areas of Luhansk Oblast.
Casualties among the Russians are decreasing
In April 2023, the average daily death toll in Russia is likely to drop by around 30%, the British Ministry of Defense said today in its public daily war bulletin. This comes after extremely high Russian casualties in the period January-March 2023. Data released by the Ukrainian General Staff shows a decrease in the number of Russian casualties from an average of 776 daily in March to an average of 568 in April. Britain's military intelligence noted that they could not verify Ukraine's exact methodology, but the general trend was probably accurate.
Russian losses are likely to have decreased as their attempted winter offensive failed to achieve its objectives and Russian forces are now focused on preparing for the expected Ukrainian offensive operations, the British MoD said.
Russian bloggers are reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered further changes to the military command on April 20, ISW reports. A prominent Russian military blogger claims that on April 20, Putin signed a decree on a series of changes in the military command and officially dismissed the commander of the Eastern Military District, Colonel General Rustam Muradov. The blogger notes that Muradov's dismissal was probably the result of his disastrous offensive at Vuhledar, which resulted in many casualties among Russian personnel and the loss of much military equipment. The author adds that the decree forces Army General Alexander Dvornikov - who was reported to have commanded Russian forces in Ukraine in April 2022 - to retire. The blogger claims that Putin forced the former commander of the Western Military District, Colonel General Alexander Zhuravlev, to also retire along with other unnamed commanders. The Kremlin is now said to be counting on the newly appointed commander of the Russian Airborne Forces, Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky, to deliver decisive results.
These announcements of command changes and layoffs follow the Kremlin's April 19 announcement of the dismissal of the commander of Russia's Pacific Fleet, Admiral Sergey Avakyants. A Russian military blogger claims that Avakyants was not fired as a result of poor performance during military exercises in the Pacific, but that he will form a new "organization" under the control of the rumored "gas sector." It is not clear whether this is a deliberately vague reference to reports of the formation of a private security company by Russian state gas company Gazprom. The blogger noted that he was not sure whether the organization would cooperate with the Russian Voluntary Society for the Assistance of the Army, Aviation and Navy of Russia (DOSAAF) or the National Movement of Young Cadets (Unarmy). ISW previously reported that Russian state-owned gas companies - namely Gazprom - were forming new military formations and that DOSAAF had been active in efforts to recruit Russian servicemen.
Zelensky: One killed and 10 injured in a Russian attack on a museum in eastern Ukraine
Russian forces struck a museum in the center of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kupiansk in an attack on Tuesday, killing one person, injuring 10 others and burying others under the rubble, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, according to Reuters.
"So far we know about a dead employee of the museum and 10 wounded. There are more people under the rubble. The recovery from the shelling continues. All the necessary agencies are involved," Zelensky wrote in "Telegram".
The president's chief of staff and the regional governor reported that the damage was caused by a Russian S-300 missile.
Russia denies deliberately attacking civilians.
Zelensky posted a video of a heavily damaged building and debris on the street. The windows were broken and part of the wall and roof were destroyed.
Kupiansk, whose population before the war was 26 thousand people, is located in Kharkiv region. It is an important railway hub that was occupied by Russian forces for months after they invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Ukrainian forces pushed them out of Kupiansk in a lightning counteroffensive in September that also retook the towns of Izium and Balakliia.
Russia has begun using its latest T-14 Armata tank in Ukraine
Russia has started using its new T-14 Armata tank in Ukraine, but only for shelling Ukrainian positions. The tanks have not yet engaged in direct assault operations, Reuters reported, citing the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
The tanks are equipped with additional protection, and their crews have undergone training to coordinate combat operations in Ukraine. They can reach a maximum speed of 80 kilometers per hour.
In January, British military intelligence reported that Russian forces in Ukraine did not want to receive the first batch of these tanks there because of the poor conditions in which they were kept. Intelligence said at the time that deploying such tanks in Ukraine was a high-risk decision for Russia that would be made primarily for propaganda purposes. The intelligence added that the tank development program lasted 11 years, was marked by delays, reductions in planned quantities and reports of production problems.
The Kremlin ordered the production of 2,300 tanks, first unveiled in 2015. The order was supposed to be ready in 2020, but was later extended to 2025, according to Russian media reports cited by BTA.
The EU and Japan do not accept the total ban on exports to Russia
The EU and Japan are opposing a US proposal for G7 countries to ban all exports to Russia as part of talks ahead of a summit of the world's most advanced economies, national radio reported.
A statement by G7 leaders being drafted for their meeting in Hiroshima next month includes a pledge to replace the current sectoral sanctions regime against Russia with a total export ban with few exceptions, according to documents obtained by the Financial Times. A total export ban would include exemptions for agricultural, medical and other products.
The offer was made by the US, according to two official sources in the financial publication. It comes amid growing frustration in Washington with the existing system, full of loopholes that allow Russia to continue importing Western technology.
However, representatives of Japan and EU countries suggested at a preparatory meeting last week that such a move would not be feasible, three people familiar with the ongoing discussions told the Financial Times.
"From our point of view, this is simply not possible," said one of the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The White House National Security Council (NSC) declined to comment on the talks with the G7 partners, but said the US "will continue to look for ways to hold Russia accountable for the war in Ukraine."
"In coordination with our G7 partners, we have implemented the largest set of sanctions and export control actions ever imposed on a major economy. These actions have had a significant impact, undermining Russia's ability to finance and wage its unjust war", an NSC spokesman pointed out.
Disagreement over the US-proposed measure (to completely ban exports to Russia) underscores the lack of further options available to G7 leaders as they seek to increase economic punishment for Vladimir Putin's regime after 14 months of war and a series of sanctions that were designed to cut off huge swaths of the Russian economy from Western imports of technology, machinery and finance.
Eliminating evasion and circumvention of sanctions by third countries is the main focus of the US, UK, EU and other allies, with increased pressure on countries such as Turkey, the UAE and countries in Central Asia, which have increased their trade with Russia since the imposition of Western sanctions.
G7 leaders will meet in Hiroshima on May 19 for a three-day summit that will focus on the effects of Russia's war on Ukraine, economic security, green investment and the Indo-Pacific region.
The EU, which is a member of the G7 along with the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada, requires all 27 of its member states to agree on sanctions policy.
The European Union has agreed a 10-pack of sanctions against Russia since February 2022, but after weeks of wrangling among member states, some of which secured exemptions for their industries, threatening to veto the restrictions.
Replacing that sanctions regime with a total ban on exports to Russia, but with exceptions in place, would risk reopening those debates and potentially weakening existing measures, the Financial Times sources said.
Other less controversial proposals listed in the draft statement from the upcoming G7 meeting, which may change before the summit, include more measures to limit "evasion and circumvention" of existing sanctions and against those who "knowingly support the financing of Russia's war," including brokering financial transactions.
The G7 countries will also continue to reduce their Russian energy imports and prevent "the reopening of avenues previously closed due to Russia's use of energy as a weapon," the draft statement added. The leaders will also announce plans to introduce a "tracking mechanism" for Russian diamonds to reduce the Kremlin's profits from their exports.
Norway sues ex-commander of 'Wagner'
A former commander of Russia's Wagner military group who fled Norway appeared in court in Oslo today to answer charges of being involved in a bar fight, resisting arrest and carrying an air pistol, Reuters reported, quoted by BTA.
26-year-old Andrey Medvedev crossed the Russian-Norwegian border in January. He then spoke about the period he spent as part of "Wagner" alongside Russian forces in Ukraine. He also applied for asylum in Norway.
Medvedev has now been charged in connection with several incidents. On February 22, he got into a fight with another man outside a bar in Oslo, and when the police arrived, he resisted arrest and punched an officer. In another incident on May 14, Medvedev brought an air pistol into a bar.
He will plead guilty to the weapons charges, his lawyer Brijulf Risnes said. Medvedev would have pleaded not guilty to other charges, the lawyer added, without going into details. The defense attorney expressed hope that his client would not be sentenced to prison. The maximum penalty for Medvedev's offenses is up to 3 years in prison.
If convicted, Medvedev does not risk imminent expulsion from the country. Immigration officials recalled that when an asylum seeker is convicted of a violent crime, they may be granted a temporary permit to stay in the country instead of a permanent one.
Norwegian police are also investigating the period Medvedev spent in Ukraine as part of Wagner and the Russian is being questioned on the matter.
Medvedev told Reuters in February that he had been fighting in Ukraine, including in the area around Bakhmut, where fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces has been fierce for months.
Guterres warned of "historic" tensions between the great powers
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called cooperation between the 193 UN member states the "beating heart" and "guiding vision" of the organization, but issued a stark warning to the Security Council.
Guterres stressed that tensions between major powers are at a "historic peak" as well as the risks of conflict that could happen "by accident or misjudgment", pointing in particular to the war in Ukraine.
Since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945 after the devastation of the Second World War until now, tensions between countries on a global scale have never reached such a high peak as it is now, noted the Secretary-General. He, as well as the representatives of the Western countries, did not fail to rebuke the first diplomat of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, during the Russian presidency of the UN, that Moscow violates the UN Charter with its attacks in Ukraine and the occupation of part of its territory.
In response, Sergey Lavrov defended what Moscow called a "special military operation" and accused Ukraine of promoting "Nazi practices, banning Russian language and culture, and NATO plans to expand into Ukraine." He said the West was talking about a "rules-based order" of which no one had seen the rules and accused the US and its allies of failing to comply with the UN and world diplomacy, which were created to prevent World War III.
In a letter to Putin, Guterres offers a way to extend the grain deal with Ukraine
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has offered Russian President Vladimir Putin a path to "improve, extend and expand" a deal allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea, a UN spokesman said, quoted by Reuters.
Guterres outlined his proposal in a letter he asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to deliver to Putin, UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said in a statement after Guterres and Lavrov met in New York.
Lavrov did not answer questions from journalists before and after the 90-minute meeting.
Guterres took into account Russia's concerns about its own grain and fertilizer exports, Haq said.
"He provided a detailed report on the progress already made in this regard and reiterated the UN's commitment to continue working to address the remaining issues," the spokesman added.
Lavrov, quoted by the TASS news agency, said Moscow would read the letter carefully.
"The Secretary General spoke about the efforts he is making to move the Russian part of this deal as far as possible," Lavrov said, as quoted by TASS. "So far, the progress is frankly not very noticeable."
Russia has signaled it will not allow the deal - brokered by the UN and Turkey and agreed by Russia and Ukraine last July - to continue beyond May 18 because a list of demands for its export has not been met.
Haq noted that the letter to Putin "takes into account positions recently expressed by the countries and the risks posed by global food insecurity." He said similar letters were also sent to Ukraine and Turkey.
The grain deal was intended to ease a global food crisis that UN officials say has worsened since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. To convince Russia to allow Ukraine to resume grain exports via the Black Sea, a separate three-year pact was also made in which the UN agreed to help Russia export food and fertilizers.
Lavrov is in New York to chair two meetings of the UN Security Council on Monday and Tuesday, as Russia serves as the monthly rotating chair of the 15-member body.
EU agriculture ministers discuss the problems surrounding Ukrainian grain
Agriculture ministers are meeting in Luxembourg in an attempt to find a solution to the problems in some member countries caused by the export of Ukrainian grain. Bulgaria will be represented by Minister Yavor Gechev.
The meeting of the agrarian ministers is likely to last until late in the evening, and the point on the reflection of Ukrainian grain exports is set for the late afternoon.
Poland and Hungary have already banned exports to their territory, as of yesterday a ban on the import of certain cereals and foods from Ukraine is in force in Bulgaria until the end of June.
The European Commission said it was working on a €100 million package to compensate the three countries plus Romania and Slovakia for their losses, but stressed that to get them, countries must lift the ban.
Yesterday, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Ukraine, Markian Dmitrasevich, told the Committee on Agriculture in the European Parliament that Ukrainian grain would not be retained in certain EU countries if it was not bought there. He added that the situation has a positive impact on the EU market and emphasized that the price of grain has become more competitive.
Deputy Minister Dmitrasevich expressed confidence that through negotiations a compromise solution could be found that would suit both parties.
Ukrainian Minister: The price of grain is becoming more competitive
"Ukrainian grain would not be retained in certain EU countries if it was not bought there. Such deals are profitable for processors in the food industry, and Ukrainian producers cannot stop selling their grain because this is how they survive."
This was stated by Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Agriculture Markian Dmitrasevich before the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in the European Parliament in Brussels.
"It is very important for us that farmers from neighboring countries continue to work in as good conditions as possible. But it should be clear that the situation also has a positive impact on the EU market. The price of grain has become more competitive", said Dmitrasevich.
Bulgaria has stopped importing food from Ukraine since yesterday. This happened after protests by grain producers. Poland and Hungary did the same.
The European Commission is currently working on a second aid package for the three countries, as well as Romania and Slovakia. The aid will total EUR 100 million.
"We are constantly involved in bilateral talks. I am confident that this difficult situation will not affect our friendly relations. In any case, we believe that negotiations with our neighbors and friends, who provide us with incredible support, are the main way to find compromise solutions. Discussions between friends are a normal process. We are confident that we will be able to reach a solution that is acceptable to both parties. The enemy tries to use these discussions for his own purposes. However, we will not allow him to do it", said the Ukrainian Deputy Minister.
EC: The arrest warrant for Christo Grozev is an attempt to silence free journalism
“The fact that Christo Grozev is now on the Kremlin's wanted list is another attempt to silence free and independent journalism”.
This was stated specifically for Bulgarian media “Club Z” by sources from the European Commission. They were asked to comment on Russia's request last week that the Bulgarian investigative journalist be arrested in absentia. Then Moscow also declared him a foreign agent.
The EC recalls that Christo Grozev made a valuable contribution to the investigation of a number of important cases such as the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014, the poisoning of the fugitive Sergei Skripal in 2018 and the opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020, as well as recently the atrocities committed during the Russian aggression in Ukraine.
The EU condemns the continued persecution of independent media and the blocking of access to foreign news sites in Russia. Moscow is trying to deprive Russian citizens of independent sources of information about the war through censorship and a law that criminalizes so-called false information, including about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This prompted a number of independent Russian and international media outlets to leave Russia, the Commission adds.
The controversial comment about Ukraine by the Chinese ambassador in Paris was a "personal opinion”
The comments on Ukraine by the Chinese ambassador in Paris are an expression of personal opinion, should not be interpreted excessively and do not constitute a political statement of Beijing's position, said a statement from the Chinese embassy in France, quoted by Reuters and BTA..
Asked about his position on whether Crimea is part of Ukraine or not, Ambassador Lu Shaye said in an interview with French television broadcast on Friday that Crimea was historically part of Russia and that it was transferred to Ukraine's borders by the former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
According to him, the countries of the former USSR "do not have an effective status in international law, because there is no international agreement that specifies their status as a sovereign state".
On Sunday, nearly 80 European MPs and politicians called on Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna to expel the ambassador, because such attacks cannot go unanswered.
China's foreign ministry on Monday stressed that Beijing respects the status of independent sovereign nations that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the language used by China's ambassador to France, AFP reported.
"I think it is not the job of a diplomat to hold that kind of language," Macron said on the sidelines of a summit in Ostend, Belgium, on offshore wind farms. "Therefore, I express full solidarity with the countries that have been attacked in the context of their history and their borders," Macron said.
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