Russia’s Vladimir Putin told the visiting UN chief Antonio Guterres on Tuesday that he still had hope for negotiations to end the conflict in Ukraine. Earlier, after talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Guterres had called for independent probes into “possible war crimes” in Ukraine. Late Tuesday, Russia’s Gazprom told Poland and Bulgaria it would halt gas supplies from Wednesday. Follow FRANCE 24’s liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are in Paris time [GMT + 2].
3:45am: Blasts heard in Russia’s Belgorod, regional governor says
A series of blasts was heard in the early hours of Wednesday in the Russian city Belgorod near the Ukrainian border, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said, and an ammunition depot in the province was on fire.
Gladkov said no civilians had been hurt by the fire which broke out at a facility near Staraya Nelidovka village. Russia this month accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters and opening fire on several villages in the province.
The Belgorod province borders Ukraine’s Luhansk, Sumy and Kharkiv regions, all of which have seen heavy fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago.
April 27, 12:25am: US offers $10 million reward for information on Russian intelligence officers
The United States on Tuesday offered a reward of up to $10 million for information on six people it described as Russian military intelligence officers who had conducted cyber attacks affecting critical US infrastructure.
The six officers work in a cyber-focused unit of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and were involved in a 2017 global malware attack that infected the computers of several private U.S. entities, including a hospital system, the US State Department said.
The 2017 “NotPetya” cyber attack crippled parts of Ukraine’s infrastructure and damaged computers in countries across the globe including France, Germany, Italy and the United States, causing billions of dollars in estimated damage.
Russia denies any involvement in the incident.
11:44pm: Putin ‘has political space’ to withdraw from Ukraine, UK’s Johnson says
Russian President Vladimir Putin has the “political space” to end his invasion of Ukraine, partly thanks to censorship within Russia, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday.
“Given the massive Russian backing for what he is doing, given the apparent obliviousness of the Russian media about what is really happening in Ukraine – the paradox is that Putin has far more political space to back down (and) to withdraw,” Johnson told TalkTV.
Russia says that its invasion of Ukraine is a “military operation” and has threatened to jail anyone giving a different version of events.
As a result, Putin could tell the Russian people that the operation launched in Ukraine has been “accomplished”, and that it has been “technically a success”, Johnson said.
Russia has repeatedly warned of the possibility of the fighting in Ukraine escalating into nuclear conflict, as the West sends increasingly powerful weaponry to the Ukrainian side. But Johnson insisted that the West did not need to make concessions despite the nuclear threat.
“People say we have to make a concession, we have to worry about what Putin might do because of the risk of his defeat,” Johnson said. “I think he has got a lot of space, he has got a lot of room for manoeuvre.”
10:02pm: Gazprom has informed Bulgaria, Poland of halt to gas supplies from Wednesday
Russia’s Gazprom has informed Bulgarian state gas company Bulgargaz it will halt gas supplies as of Wednesday, the energy ministry said on Tuesday.
The ministry said that along with state gas companies it has taken steps to find alternative arrangements for the supply of natural gas and to deal with the situation.
It said for the time being no restrictions in the gas consumption in the Balkan country which meets over 90 percent of its gas needs with Gazprom’s imports, were required.
Earlier on Tuesday, Polish officials had said Russia is suspending natural gas deliveries to Poland beginning Wednesday morning after that country refused a demand to pay for its supplies in Russian rubles
Poland’s state gas company, PGNiG, said it was notified by Russian gas giant Gazprom that deliveries through the Yamal-Europe pipeline would stop on Wednesday.
Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa stressed that Poland was prepared for such a situation after working for years to reduce its reliance on Russian energy sources. She said the country has been effectively independent when it comes to Russian gas for some time.
“There will be no shortage of gas in Polish homes,” Moskwa tweeted.
9:39pm IAEA says it has agreed with Ukraine to help repair damage to Chernobyl
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday said he had agreed with Ukraine to help repair the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant after it was occupied by Russian troops.
“It is visible that there is damage and we are assessing that,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told a news conference in Kyiv after visiting the station.
Thirty-six years ago, on April 26, 1986, an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction destroyed the reactor in an accident that was initially covered up by the Soviet authorities.
Russian troops took over the site on February 24 of this year, the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, taking Ukrainian soldiers prisoner and detaining civilian staff.
The occupation lasted until the end of March and raised global fears of nuclear leaks.
Russia’s temporary takeover of the Chernobyl site was “very, very dangerous” and raised radiation levels but they have now returned to “normal”, Grossi said during his visit there earlier on Tuesday.
9:17pm: US warns not to ‘escalate tensions’ after Moldova region blasts
The United States on Tuesday warned against attempts to “escalate tensions” after a series of blasts in a Russian-backed separatist region of Moldova, which borders Ukraine.
While stopping short of backing Kyiv’s contention that Russia was responsible for the incidents in Transnistria, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters: “We do remain concerned about any potential attempts to escalate tensions.”
“We reiterate the Moldovan government’s call for calm in response to these incidents and we fully support Moldova’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Price said.
The mysterious recent blasts which targeted the state security ministry, a radio tower and military unit came days after a senior Russian commander claimed Russian speakers in Moldova were being oppressed.
Russian forces have been positioned in Transnistria for three decades after the predominantly Russian-speaking region seceded from the former Soviet republic, a decision not recognized internationally.
9:04pm: US says talk of Lavrov’s comments on nuclear escalation is irresponsible
The US State Department on Tuesday criticized Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s comments about the potential of a nuclear war, saying loose talk about nuclear escalation was the “height of irresponsibility.”
Lavrov warned the West on Monday not to underestimate the elevated risks of nuclear conflict over Ukraine and said he viewed NATO as being “in essence” engaged in a proxy war with Russia by supplying Kyiv with weaponry.
8:10pm: Putin agrees to United Nations, Red Cross help to evacuate civilians from Azovstal plant, UN says
Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed “in principle” to UN and International Committee for the Red Cross involvement in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal plant in Ukraine’s Mariupol, the United Nations said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Follow-on discussions will be had with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Russian Defence Ministry,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement after Putin met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Moscow.
7:44pm: Putin tells UN chief he still has ‘hope’ for Ukraine talks
Russian President Vladimir Putin told the visiting UN chief Tuesday that he still had hope for negotiations to end the conflict in Ukraine.
“Despite the fact that the military operation is ongoing, we still hope that we will be able to reach agreements on the diplomatic track. We are negotiating, we do not reject (talks),” Putin told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who was visiting Moscow, in televised remarks.
Sitting across from Guterres at a long table at the Kremlin, Putin said efforts at talks with Ukraine had been derailed by claims of atrocities committed by Russian forces in the town of Bucha outside Kyiv.
“There was a provocation in the village of Bucha, which the Russian army had nothing to do with,” Putin said. “We know who prepared this provocation, by what means, and what kind of people worked on it.”
Putin told Guterres he was “aware of your concerns about Russia’s military operation” in Ukraine and ready to discuss it, but blamed the turmoil in the country on an “anti-state coup” that overturned a pro-Russian president in 2014.
Guterres reiterated his call from an earlier meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (see 2:02pm, below) for Moscow and Kyiv to work together with the UN to set up aid and evacuation corridors to help civilians in Ukraine.
6:45pm: Blinken says Putin not ‘serious’ about Ukraine diplomacy
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no seriousness about diplomacy to end the Ukraine war, despite a series of international efforts.
“We’ve seen no sign to date that President Putin is serious about meaningful negotiations,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
While the United States would support Ukrainian efforts to end the war diplomatically, Blinken said: “Our purpose is to make sure that they have within their hands the ability to repel the Russian aggression and, indeed, to strengthen their hand at an eventual negotiating table.”
Blinken was opening three days of testimony to Congress after a surprise visit alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Kyiv on Sunday where the top US officials met President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Blinken hailed what he saw on the trip and said that the US was speeding up arms deliveries, with the process now often taking only 72 hours after Ukraine sends requests.
6:10pm: Germany confirms plans to send Ukraine tanks, in policy shift
Germany said Tuesday it would send anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, in a clear switch in Berlin’s cautious policy on military backing for Kyiv that was welcomed by the United States.
The government has agreed to sign off the delivery of used Gepard anti-aircraft tanks, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht told an international meeting of defence ministers at the US Ramstein airbase.
The move comes after heavy criticism of Chancellor Olaf Scholz for refusing to directly send heavy weapons to Ukraine, despite announcing a “turning point” in German defence policy in response to Russia’s invasion.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the pledge to send “some 50 Cheetah anti-aircraft systems”, the English name for the weapons, was “especially welcome”.
5:19pm: US Defence Secretary says US, allies to meet monthly on arming Ukraine
The United States and its allies will meet once a month to discuss Ukraine’s defence needs to battle invading Russian troops, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday.
“Today’s gathering will become a monthly Contact Group on Ukraine’s self-defence,” he said following the first session of a weapons summit with officials from around 40 countries at the United States’ Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
4:53pm: FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg on the fallout over blasts in Transnistria, Moldova
4:08pm: Putin, Erdogan discuss humanitarian corridors in Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday discussed Moscow’s efforts to ensure the safety of civilians during its military operation in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.
According to a Kremlin statement, the leaders in a phone call talked about “efforts made by Russia on a constant basis to ensure the safety of peaceful civilians, including the organisation of humanitarian corridors”.
This came as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a visit to Russia Tuesday urged Moscow and Kyiv to work together to set up aid and evacuation corridors.
The Kremlin said Erdogan asked Putin about the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol.
The Russian leader told him that “the city is liberated and combat operations are not going on there”.
3:09pm: Nearly 5.3 million flee Ukraine war as refugees, up more than 32,000 since Monday
Nearly 5.3 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia launched its invasion two months ago, the United Nations said on Tuesday, warning that three million more were expected to follow this year.
In total, 5,264,767 people have fled Ukraine as refugees since February 24, according to the latest data from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
That marks an increase of 32,753 over Monday’s figure.
While the outflow has slowed significantly since March, UNHCR said Tuesday (see 11:31am, below) that it now projects that three million more Ukrainians could become refugees by the end of the year.
2:02 pm: Guterres says Russia, UN have ‘very different’ views of events in Ukraine
Speaking to reporters in Moscow after holding talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he had “very frank” discussions with Lavrov. He also admitted that Russia and the UN had “two very different versions” of what is happening in Ukraine.
“According to Russia, it is a ‘special military operation’ with limited objectives. According to the UN in line with resolutions passed by the General Assembly, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a violation of its territorial integrity and against the charter of the United Nations,” Guterres said.
He also called for the establishment of a humanitarian contact group that would bring together representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the UN to “look for opportunities for the creation of humanitarian corridors” in parts of Ukraine.
“The sooner we end this war the better for the people of Ukraine, for the people of the Russian Federation and for those far beyond,” he said.
Amid growing concern for the thousands of people trapped in Mariupol, Guterres said the UN was ready to act.
”Thousands of civilians are in dire need of life-saving humanitarian assistance, and many have evacuated,” Guterres told the news conference.
“The United Nations is ready to fully mobilise its human and logistical resources to help save lives in Mariupol,” he said, adding that coordination with the Red Cross could allow those holed up inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol to leave.
12:54 pm: Russian rockets flew over Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant: Ukraine
Ukraine’s state-run atomic energy company said Russian missiles flew at low altitude over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – Europe’s largest – on Tuesday.
Energoatom issued its latest warning about the risks caused by the war with Russia on the 36th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear accident at the now defunct Chernobyl plant, in what was then Soviet Ukraine.
The company said cruise missiles had flown over the Zaporizhzhia plant during an air strike that local authorities said hit a commercial building in the southern city, killing at least one person.
“Missiles lying at a low altitude directly over the site of the ZNPP (Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant), where there are seven nuclear facilities with a huge amount of nuclear material, poses huge risks,” Petro Kotin, Energoatom’s acting chief, said.
“After all, missiles could hit one or more nuclear facility, and this threatens a nuclear and radiation catastrophe around the world,” he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by Energoatom on the Telegram messaging app.
Energoatom said Russian troops, who have occupied the plant since March 4, were keeping heavy equipment and ammunition on the site.
12:36 pm: More blasts in Moldova’s breakaway Transdniestria region, near Ukraine
Police in the Moldovan separatist region of Transdniestria said two explosions Tuesday morning in a radio facility close to the Ukrainian border knocked two antennas out of service.
The incident occurred in the small town of Maiac, roughly 12 kilometres (7 miles) west of the border, according to the region’s interior ministry. It came a day after several explosions were reported to have hit a security building in the city of Tiraspol, the region’s capital.
No one was hurt in Tuesday’s explosions, officials said. The two antennas were used for broadcasting Russian radio shows.
Transdniestria, a strip of land with about 470,000 people between Moldova and Ukraine, has been under the control of Moscow-backed separatist authorities since 1992.
Russia bases about 1,500 troops there, nominally as peacekeepers, but concerns are high that the forces could be used to invade Ukraine.
A senior Russian military official, Rustam Minnekayev, said last week that Russian forces aim to take full control of southern Ukraine, saying such a move would open the way to Transdniestria.
The US has warned of false flag operations in Transdniestria.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday said the explosions in Transdniestria was a cause for serious concern and that Moscow was following the events closely.
12:06 pm: UN chief in Moscow calls for Ukraine ceasefire ‘as soon as possible’
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has arrived in Moscow for the highest-profile diplomatic mission to Russia since the start of the Ukraine invasion.
His schedule includes meetings with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before the UN chief heads to Kyiv.
Speaking at the start of talks with Lavrov, Guterres called for a ceasefire “as soon as possible” and stressed the need to do everything possible to end the war in Ukraine.
“We are extremely interested in finding ways in order to create the conditions for effective dialogue, create the conditions for a ceasefire as soon as possible, create the conditions for a peaceful solution,” Guterres said.
Minimising human suffering in Ukraine was the top priority, he added.
11:31 am: UN expects 8.3 million refugees from Ukraine this year
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is expecting around 8.3 million people to flee Ukraine this year, revising up its previous projection, according to a spokesperson.
More than 12.7 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine during the past two months, including 7.7 million people who are internally displaced and more than 5 million who have fled over borders, UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo told a UN news briefing.
UNHCR had previously planned for some 4 million refugees in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, but this was surpassed last month.
“The scale of the crisis, definitely the rapidity of people fleeing, we have not seen in recent times,” said Mantoo.
Syria remains the source of the biggest current refugee crisis in the world, with 6.8 million people having fled, she added.
10:57 am: France determined to ‘deepen support’ for Ukraine: foreign minister
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has stressed France’s “determination to continue and deepen” its “support to Ukraine in all areas”.
In a statement released after his meeting Monday with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Le Drian said the two ministers discussed the situation in the besieged port city of Mariupol. Le Drian “reiterated France’s request for the free movement of civilians and free access for humanitarian aid in Mariupol, as in the rest of Ukraine”, the statement noted.
France is delivering Caesar cannons with a range of 40 kilometres (25 miles) to Ukraine and is among 40 countries attending the Ukraine Defence Consultative Group meeting hosted by the US at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
J’ai souhaité confirmer à mon homologue ukrainien @DmytroKuleba que la France maintiendrait son appui déterminé à l’Ukraine face à la guerre à laquelle elle est confrontée : assistance financière, sanctions, équipements de défense, lutte contre l’impunité. pic.twitter.com/9OgtKltUar
— Jean-Yves Le Drian (@JY_LeDrian) April 26, 2022
10:32 am: ‘Putin never imagined that the world would rally behind Ukraine’: US defence chief Austin
Opening the gathering of representatives of more than 40 countries at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin called on members of the Ukraine Defence Consultative Group to arrive at “a common and transparent understanding of Ukraine’s near-term security requirements because we’re going to move heaven and earth so that we can meet them”.
Austin, who is chairing the meeting at the US air base, said Kyiv had done “an impressive job defending its sovereignty against Russia’s unprovoked invasion”, adding: ““Ukraine’s valor and skill will go down in military history.”
“Ukraine has now beaten back the Russian military for 62 days. Your resistance has brought inspiration to the free world and even greater resolve for NATO,” said Austin. “Ukraine clearly believes that it can win, and so does everyone here,” he said, calling on participants to step up efforts to help Ukraine defend itself.
Here’s a clip of Austin’s opening remarks at the meeting:
10:02 am: Russian shelling in Kharkiv, rocket attacks in Zaporizhzhia
Russian forces are shelling Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, as they fought to take full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, according to Ukraine’s General Staff.
Russia’s defence ministry on Tuesday said its forces struck two ammunition depots in Kharkiv.
In the area of Velyka Oleksandrivka, a village in the Kherson region largely controlled by Russians, Ukrainian forces destroyed an ammunition depot and “eliminated” more than 70 Russian troops, the General Staff said.
The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said on the messaging app Telegram that the Russians had shelled civilians 17 times over the previous 24 hours, with the cities of Popasna, Lysychansk and Girske suffering the most.
Four people died and nine more were wounded on Monday in the Russian shelling of the Donetsk region, its governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram. He said a 9-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy were among those killed.
In the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, two rockets hit commercial premises on Tuesday, killing one person, according to local authorities.
Russia is attempting to take full control of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which comprise the Donbas in Ukraine’s industrial heartland, and establish a land corridor to Crimea.
The US meanwhile has been rushing more weaponry to Ukraine and said the assistance from Western allies is making a difference in the 2-month-old war.
09:07 am: UN’s Guterres to meet Putin in Moscow
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow later today for talks expected to focus on the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has urged Guterres to press Russia for an evacuation from Mariupol, where an estimated 100,000 people are trapped in the port city while a contingent of Ukrainian fighters hold out against Russian forces at the Azovstal steel plant along with hundreds of civilians.
Kuleba on Monday told The Associated Press that he was concerned that by visiting Moscow, Guterres could be vulnerable to falling into a Kremlin “trap” in the war.
The Moscow trip comes a day after Guterres met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, where the UN chief joined the Turkish leader in stressing the urgent need for “effective access through humanitarian corridors” to evacuate Ukrainian civilians and deliver aid to communities impacted by the war.
Guterres and Erdogan “reaffirmed that their common objective is to end the war as soon as possible and to create conditions to end the suffering of civilians,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
During the meeting, Erdogan also said Turkey would continue to work closely with the UN to end the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
08:44 am: Donor community, not NATO, supplying arms to Ukraine: UK
The wider international community, not NATO, is providing military support to Ukraine, said British armed forces minister James Heappey, responding to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s assertions that the Western alliance was “in essence” engaged in a proxy war with Russia.
“The donor community is, not NATO,” Heappey told Sky News when asked about Lavrov’s comments.
“The donor effort is something that has been brought together by countries that are yes, many of them are from NATO, but others are from beyond … it is not NATO that is doing the military aid,” said Heappey, adding that he did not think there was an “imminent threat” of escalation in Ukraine.
Earlier Lavrov said the risks of nuclear conflict should not be underestimated, but Heappey dismissed the warning as “bravado”.
“Lavrov’s trademark over the course of 15 years or so that he has been the Russian foreign secretary has been that sort of bravado,” Heappey told the BBC. “What the West is doing to support its allies in Ukraine is very well calibrated … Everything we do is calibrated to avoid direct confrontation with Russia.”
08:31am: Germany to supply Gepard anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine: media
Germany will pledge to supply Gepard anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine, German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported, without citing its sources.
The paper said German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht was set to offer the weapons at the US-hosted meeting at Ramstein Air Base.
The Gepard anti-aircraft system is considered the cornerstone of the German military’s air defence capability.
08:19am: Russian offensive continues ‘without much progress on the ground’
Reporting from Kyiv, FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg says the Russian offensive continues in the Donbas region and in southern Ukraine, but without much progress on the ground. Russian forces are targeting railways, noted Cragg, “because they think this is how weapons are being supplied to Ukrainian forces”. The targeting comes as the US hosts a key meeting at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base aimed at getting European partners to offer more military assistance to Ukraine.
07:17am: Russia trying to encircle Ukrainian positions in east: UK military
Russia is probably attempting to encircle heavily fortified Ukrainian positions in the country’s east, according to the latest British military update.
In an intelligence update posted on Twitter, Britain’s Defence Ministry said the Ukrainian city of Kreminna has “probably fallen” and there was heavy fighting south of the city of Izium, as Russian forces try to advance towards the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from the north and east.
“Ukrainian forces have been preparing defences in Zaporizhzhia in preparation for a potential Russian attack from the south,” said the defence ministry in its regular military intelligence bulletin.
07:10am: US hosts talks at Ramstein Air Base
Following a weekend trip to Kyiv, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is holding talks focused on arming Ukraine.
US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a key goal of the talks was to synchronise and coordinate mounting security assistance to Kyiv that includes heavy weaponry, like howitzer artillery, as well armed drones and ammunition.
“The next several weeks will be very, very critical,” Milley told reporters en route to Germany. “They need continued support in order to be successful on the battlefield. And that’s really the purpose of this conference.”
06:12am: Russia’s Lavrov warns of ‘real threat’ of World War III
Russia has warned of the “real” threat of World War III breaking out, ahead of a Tuesday meeting between the United States and allies over sending further arms to war-torn Ukraine.
Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour has triggered an outburst of support from Western nations that has seen weapons pour into the country to help it wage war against Russian troops.
But Western powers have been reluctant to deepen their involvement, for fear of sparking a conflict against nuclear-armed Russia.
Speaking to Russian news agencies, Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the risk of a World War III “is serious” and criticised Kyiv’s approach to floundering peace talks.
“It is real, you can’t underestimate it,” Lavrov said.
FRANCE 24’s Vedika Bahl brings us a recap of Monday’s events:
04:36am: Pressure mounts on Germany’s Schroeder over Russia ties
Pressure was growing Monday inside Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) to expel their former leader and ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder over his apparent refusal to renounce his business ties with Russia.
Schroeder, who is a lobbyist for Russian gas and has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, sparked fresh outrage following remarks in an interview with the New York Times published this weekend.
Unrepentant over his business links with Russia, he told the newspaper: “I don’t do mea culpa. It’s not my thing.”
SPD co-president Saskia Esken was asked in an interview with state radio whether Schroeder should quit the party.
“I think he should,” she replied. The party was currently examining 14 motions to have its former leader expelled, she told journalists later, adding that the final decision would come down to the party’s arbitration body.
But she also told journalists: “He makes his money working for Russian state businesses … Gerhard Schroeder has for many years been a businessman, and we should stop seeing him as a former honourable leader, a former chancellor.”
Thomas Kutschaty, another senior party figure, was equally scathing.
“He has to choose,” he told Welt TV. “Either he keeps supporting Putin, or he is a member of the Social Democrats, but the two are not compatible.
FRANCE 24’s Joseph Keen reports:
03:10am: Britain to lift all tariffs on Ukrainian imports
All tariffs on goods coming to Britain from Ukraine under an existing free trade deal will be axed to help the Ukrainian economy, the British government announced on Monday.
London said tariffs would be reduced to zero and all quotas removed following a direct request from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, saying the move would provide a boost for Ukrainian businesses involved in key exports such as barley, honey, tinned tomatoes and poultry.
“We stand unwaveringly with Ukraine in this ongoing fight and will work to ensure Ukraine survives and thrives as a free and sovereign nation,” said British International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
Britain said currently the average tariff on Ukrainian imports was about 22 percent. It said the planned change had been offered on a non-reciprocal basis, but Kyiv was likely to match the British action.
Additionally, the British government said it would also impose further export bans on products to Russia, including cash, maritime goods and technology, and energy-related goods. Last week, it ramped up sanctions on luxury goods including caviar, silver and diamonds.
01:59am: US hosts Ukraine talks in Germany as war enters critical phase
The United States will host an expected gathering of more than 40 countries on Tuesday for Ukraine-related defence talks that will focus on arming Kyiv so it can defend against an unfolding and potentially decisive Russian onslaught in the east, US officials said.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is holding the event at Ramstein Air Base in Germany following a weekend trip to Kyiv where he pledged additional support to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s war effort.
US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a key goal of the talks was to synchronize and coordinate mounting security assistance to Kyiv that includes heavy weaponry, like howitzer artillery, as well armed drones and ammunition.
“The next several weeks will be very, very critical,” Milley told reporters travelling with him. “They need continued support in order to be successful on the battlefield. And that’s really the purpose of this conference.”
12:17am: Russia says NATO engaging in ‘proxy’ war in Ukraine, arms shipments legitimate targets
Deliveries of Western weaponry to Ukraine mean that the NATO alliance is “in essence engaged in war with Russia” and Moscow views these weapons as legitimate targets, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview aired on Monday.
“These weapons will be a legitimate target for Russia’s military acting within the context of the special operation,” Lavrov told state television in an interview posted on the foreign ministry’s website.
“Storage facilities in western Ukraine have been targeted more than once (by Russian forces). How can it be otherwise?” Lavrov said. “NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war.”
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)