Ukraine latest: Black Sea grain deal extended for 2 months

The war that began with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has passed a grim one-year milestone, with mounting military and civilian deaths.

As fighting rages in and around Bakhmut, Western nations have raised their military support for Ukraine to the highest level yet, with commitments to send main battle tanks.

Read our in-depth coverage. For all our coverage, visit our Ukraine war page.

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Note: Nikkei Asia decided in March 2022 to suspend its reporting from Russia until further information becomes available regarding the scope of the revised criminal code. Entries include material from wire services and other sources.

Here are the latest developments:

Thursday, May 18 (Tokyo time)

12:40 a.m. Ukraine will not accept any peace proposal that would involve the loss of its territories or the freezing of the conflict, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tells visiting Chinese envoy Li Hui.

Kuleba emphasizes to Li “the principles of restoring a stable and just peace based on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” according to the Ukrainian foreign ministry’s readout of the meeting.

Li, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs and former ambassador to Russia, is the envoy Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to send to Ukraine during talks last month with counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

12:09 a.m. Ukraine welcomes the two-month extension of the Black Sea grain export deal, Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov says, but he warns that Russia must not be allowed to sabotage the agreement and must stop using food “as a weapon and blackmail.”

Russia on Wednesday had confirmed the extension of the deal, which lets Ukraine export its grain safely across the Black Sea despite Moscow’s military campaign. The extension was initially announced by Turkey.

The United Nations and Turkey brokered the Black Sea deal for an initial 120 days in July 2022 amid a global food crisis aggravated by Moscow’s invasion. Ukraine is one of the world’s leading grain exporters.

Wednesday, May 17

3:00 p.m. China has notified several foreign missions in Beijing not to display “politicized propaganda” on their buildings, diplomats told Reuters, adding the request appeared aimed at Ukrainian flags they have displayed since Russia’s invasion. Several foreign missions in China raised the Ukrainian flag, or displayed its image in posters and lights, following the February 2022 invasion that sparked international condemnation of Russia, a close ally of China. “We and others got a letter calling on embassies and representative offices to refrain from using the outer walls of their buildings for ‘politicized propaganda,'” one diplomat, whose embassy is displaying a Ukraine flag image, told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Robert Shonov worked for a company contracted to provide services to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, according to the U.S. State Department.   © Reuters

1:45 a.m. The U.S. “strongly condemns” the reported arrest in Russia of Robert Shonov, a former local employee at the American diplomatic mission there, calling the allegations of secretly collaborating with a foreign entity “wholly without merit.”

Shonov compiled “media summaries of press items from publicly available Russian media sources,” the U.S. State Department says. “His being targeted under the ‘confidential cooperation’ statute highlights the Russian Federation’s blatant use of increasingly repressive laws against its own citizens.”

He could face up to eight years in prison if convicted, Russia’s official Tass news agency reports, quoting Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov as saying the arrest proves that “certain unacceptable activities of hostile countries” are increasing.

Shonov worked for the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok for more than 25 years, then for a company contracted to provide services to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, according to the State Department.

Tuesday, May 16

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol meets with Ukraine’s Olena Zelenska in Seoul on May 16. (South Korean Presidential Office via Reuters)

10:51 p.m. Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska meets with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol as a special presidential envoy, the presidential office in Seoul says.

The wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expresses willingness to invite Yoon to her country, telling Yonhap news agency in an interview that such a visit would be “very supportive” to Ukrainians.

South Korea, a major producer of artillery shells, has said it was not providing lethal weapons to Ukraine, citing its relations with Russia.

9:33 p.m. Representatives from the Group of Seven industrialized nations have begun coordinating positions so leaders this weekend can clearly say in a joint statement they will counter every “attempt to evade sanctions” on Russia, Nikkei has learned.

The declaration is to be issued this weekend after the leaders’ summit in Hiroshima, Japan. Read more.

8:30 p.m. Russia’s oil exports in April were the highest since the invasion of Ukraine began, according to a new International Energy Agency report. About 80% of Russian crude oil exports are going to China and India, the IEA says.

3:00 p.m. Ukraine forces shot down all 18 missiles of various types that Russia launched in a concentrated overnight attack on Ukraine, Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces Valeriy Zaluzhnyi says. Russia launched six Kinzhal ballistic missiles from aircraft, nine Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea and three Iskander land-based missiles, according to a Reuters’ report, citing Zaluzhnyi’s comment released via his Telegram account.

A missile explodes in the sky over Kyiv, Ukraine during a Russian missile strike on May 16.   © Reuters

5:40 a.m. U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby says at a White House news briefing that Iran is considering sending advanced drones to Russia. “This is about a burgeoning defense relationship,” he says. Kirby also says Iran has provided Russia with more than 400 offensive drones including Iranian-made Shahed drones since August 2022, and that Russia has shown interest in advanced types of drones.

Monday, May 15

11:22 p.m. United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths says efforts will continue in the coming days to extend a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukraine grain, a pact Moscow has threatened to quit on May 18 over obstacles to its grain and fertilizer exports.

“Continuation of the Black Sea Initiative is critically important, as is recommitment by the parties to its smooth and efficient operation,” Griffiths tells a U.N. Security Council meeting on Ukraine. “We will continue to call on all to meet their responsibilities as the world watches us very closely.”

8:49 p.m. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has just left the U.K. after a two-hour meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during which they discussed a “coalition of jets,” according to local media. U.K.’s Ministry of Defence confirms on Monday it will send hundreds of new long-range attack drones with a range of over 200 km to Ukraine. Sunak says after the meeting with Zelenskyy that the U.K. will begin to train Ukrainian pilots “relatively soon.” Before the meeting at the prime minister’s country estate of Chequers, Zelenskyy referred to the British leader as “my friend” on Twitter.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in the U.K. on Monday.   © Reuters

4:30 p.m. South Korean food makers are expanding their presence — and profits — in Russia, even as international sanctions on the country over the invasion of Ukraine have sent its economy tumbling and driven foreign companies away.

Their success comes as U.S. coffee and fast food chains and South Korean companies in other sectors have withdrawn from the Russian market, joining international efforts to punish Moscow. McDonald’s and Starbucks exited last year.

And while South Korea has imposed export controls on certain items such as semiconductors, foodstuffs are not subject to its restrictions and much of what the companies sell in Russia is manufactured there anyway. Read more.

1:30 p.m. Amid reports that Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko is in ill health, human rights advocate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya says friends of democracy “should be well prepared for every scenario.”

9:45 a.m. Head of the Wagner mercenary force Yevgeny Prigozhin offered to reveal the positions of Russian troops to the Ukrainian government, The Washington Post reports, citing leaked U.S. intelligence documents. According to the report, Prigozhin said that if Ukraine’s commanders withdrew their soldiers from the area around Bakhmut, he would give Kyiv information on Russian troop positions, which Ukraine could use to attack them. “Prigozhin conveyed the proposal to his contacts in Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate, with whom he has maintained secret communications during the course of the war,” the report said, citing previously unreported U.S. intelligence documents leaked on the group-chat platform Discord.

8:20 a.m. France will send to Ukraine in the coming weeks dozens of armored vehicles and light tanks, including AMX-10RCs fighting vehicles, according to a joint statement issued after President Emmanuel Macron’s talks with Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The French president indicated that Paris was also concentrating efforts on supporting Kyiv’s air defense capabilities against Russian strikes.

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, welcomes Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the Elysee Palace in Paris on May 14.   © Reuters

7:30 a.m. U.S. fighter jets intercepted six Russian aircraft operating in international airspace near Alaska, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a written statement, adding that the planes included TU-95 bombers, IL-78 tankers and SU-35 fighter jets. According to Reuters, NORAD described the interception as “routine” and said they happen roughly six or seven times per year in the so-called Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone.

Sunday, May 14

10:41 p.m. Russia’s Defense Ministry says two of its military commanders were killed in eastern Ukraine as Kyiv’s forces battle to break through Moscow’s defenses in Bakhmut. Commander Vyacheslav Makarov of the 4th Motorized Rifle Brigade and Deputy Commander Yevgeny Brovko from a separate unit died trying to repel Ukrainian attacks.

“All attacks by units of Ukraine’s armed forces have been repelled,” the ministry says. Reuters was unable to independently verify Russia’s account.

10:15 p.m. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has landed in Berlin, according to a post on his Twitter. “Already in Berlin,” he tweeted, arriving from Italy, where he met with Italian officials and Pope Francis on Saturday.

The Ukrainian president seeks to shore up support from key allies against Russia’s invasion. Germany faced criticism at the start of war for its hesitant response, but Europe’s largest economy became one of Ukraine’s largest providers of financial and military aid.

Pope Francis meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiyi at the Vatican.   © Reuters

3:55 p.m. Russia emphatically rejects accusations by a Turkish opposition leader that Moscow interfered in Turkey’s presidential election, domestic news agencies cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the main challenger of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had said on Friday that his party had evidence of Russia’s responsibility for the release of “deepfake” online content ahead of Sunday’s vote.

12:45 a.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets Pope Francis at the Vatican, where he asks the Roman Catholic leader to back Kyiv’s peace plan, and the pope indicates the Vatican would help in the repatriation of Ukrainian children taken by Russians.

“It is a great honor,” Zelenskyy tells Francis, putting his hand to his heart and bowing his head as he greeted the 86-year-old pope, who stood with a cane, a brief video of the encounter seen by Reuters shows. The Ukrainian leader also presents the Catholic leader with a bulletproof vest that had been worn by a Ukrainian soldier and later painted with an image of the Madonna.

A Vatican statement says that in their private talks, Zelenskyy and the pope discussed “humanitarian gestures,” which a Vatican source told Reuters was a reference to the Vatican’s willingness to help with the repatriation of Ukrainian children.

Before meeting the pope, Zelenskyy met the Italian president and prime minister in Rome. “We are fully at your side,” President Sergio Mattarella told Zelenskyy.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni promised full military and financial backing for Ukraine and reiterated support for its EU membership bid. Italy has given Kyiv about 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in military and financial aid, as well as humanitarian assistance, since the war began.

Saturday, May 13

Ukrainian soldiers with a man they say is a captured Russian army serviceman, near the frontline city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, on May 11. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Serhii Nuzhnenko via Reuters)

3:50 a.m. Moscow acknowledges that its forces have fallen back north of Ukraine’s battlefield city of Bakhmut after a new Ukrainian offensive, in a retreat that the head of Russia’s Wagner private army calls a rout, Reuters reports.

Friday, May 12

2:15 a.m. The Group of Seven wealthy democracies are discussing ways to counter the expanded trade to Russia from China, India and Turkey, which collectively has grown by more than $100 billion and has undermined the effectiveness of economic sanctions against Moscow.

The issue is among the topics at a meeting of G-7 finance ministers and central bank chiefs in Japan for a three-day meeting.

“I expect to discuss the necessary response in terms of maintaining pressure on Russia’s ability to wage war,” Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki says before the May 11-13 gathering in Niigata. Read more.

Thursday, May 11

An Italian fighter jet equipped with a Storm Shadow cruise missile.   © AP

10:00 p.m. The U.K. will supply Ukraine with Storm Shadow cruise missiles, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace says, giving Kyiv a new, longer-range weapon to defend itself.

The aircraft-launched missiles have a range of more than 250 kilometers — longer than U.S.-supplied missiles. Britain says it has received assurances from Kyiv that the missiles will be used only within Ukrainian territory and not for attacks inside Russia. Wallace calls the move a calibrated and proportionate response to Russia’s escalations.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow views this development “very negatively,” Tass reports.

The announcement comes as Ukraine prepares a counteroffensive that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says will need more time to launch.

5:00 a.m. Russia’s federal budget recorded a 3.4 trillion ruble ($43.8 billion) deficit in the first four months of the year, the finance ministry says. In the same period of 2022 Russia posted a surplus of 1.2 trillion rubles, but since then significant outlays to support its military campaign in Ukraine and a wall of Western sanctions on its oil and gas exports have hit government coffers. Rising military production and huge state spending are keeping Russia’s industry buzzing, helping soften the economic impact of Western sanctions and allowing Moscow to plow on with its campaign in Ukraine.

Ukrainian service members from a ride on a self-propelled howitzer.   © Reuters

Wednesday, May 10

10:50 p.m. Ukraine’s military says its forces mauled Russia’s 72nd Separate Motor-rifle Brigade near Bakhmut, echoing claims by Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the private Wagner militia, that the unit had abandoned its positions.

Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukrainian troops in the east, says the situation remains “difficult” in Bakhmut, but that Moscow is increasingly using regular army forces because of heavy losses among the Wagner group.

7:00 a.m. Britain is set to formally proscribe Russia’s mercenary force Wagner group as a terrorist organization to increase pressure on Russia, the Times newspaper reports.

1:38 a.m. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang says Beijing will maintain lines of communication with all parties to the war in Ukraine in seeking a cease-fire. “As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and responsible major country, China will neither watch the fire from the other bank nor add fuel to the fire,” he tells reporters in Berlin. Read more.

Tuesday, May 9

4:30 p.m. Russian soldiers march through Red Square in Moscow for a military parade as the country marks Victory Day, the anniversary of defeating the Nazis. No Western leaders attend the event, which is much reduced in scale from previous years.

The air component of the parade is canceled. Parades in various other cities are scaled back or called off amid security concerns — including what appeared to be drones exploding over the Kremlin citadel itself last week — and shortages of troops and arms on the front.

Before the parade, President Vladimir Putin says in a speech that Russians are united in a “sacred” fight and assails Ukraine’s “criminal regime of its Western masters.” He accuses the U.S. and its allies of forgetting the Soviet triumph over the Nazis in World War II.

“The battles that were decisive for our motherland always became patriotic, national and sacred,” he tells veterans and soldiers assembled in Red Square.

Russian soldiers take part in the Victory Day parade in Moscow on May 9, marking the anniversary of victory over the Nazis in World War II. Parade events were much scaled back amid security concerns in the capital and shortages of troops and ammunition at the front in Ukraine.

3:30 p.m. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says Russia will again prevail against “imperialists” in remarks seen as aimed at Ukraine and its Western supporters, such as the U.S.

“I believe that the tenacious and just Russian people will, under your leadership, continue to achieve victory in the future, too, in their efforts to ensure sovereignty and dignity of the country and stability of the region, destroying all sorts of challenges and threat of the hostile forces,” North Korean state media quote Kim as telling Russian President Vladimir Putin in a letter to commemorate the Soviet defeat of the Nazis in World War II. “Availing myself of this opportunity, I send warm and militant greetings once again to you and army and people of Russia who courageously rose up in the sacred struggle to realize international justice and defend world peace, resisting the high-handedness and outrage of the imperialists.”

North Korea has forged closer ties with the Kremlin and backed Moscow since it invaded Ukraine, including Russia’s proclamation of having annexed parts of the country.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter Kim Ju Ae watch a missile drill at an undisclosed location in this photo released by North Korea’s Central News Agency on March 20. (KCNA via Reuters)

6:02 a.m. The New York Times and The Associated Press have been named winners in three categories of American journalism’s top prize for their coverage of the war.

The Times’ staff won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting “for their unflinching coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including an eight-month investigation into Ukrainian deaths in the town of Bucha and the Russian unit responsible for the killings.”

The AP’s photography staff won the Pulitzer for breaking-news photography “for unique and urgent images from the first weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including the devastation of Mariupol after other news organizations left, victims of the targeting of civilian infrastructure and the resilience of the Ukrainian people who were able to flee.”

The New York Times staff has won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for international reporting to honor its coverage of the invasion, including an eight-month investigation into deaths in the town of Bucha.   © Reuters

The AP also won the Pulitzer for public service to honor four journalists’ “courageous reporting from the besieged city of Mariupol that bore witness to the slaughter of civilians in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.” This prize is a gold-plated medal instead of the $15,000 awarded in each of the other categories.

The Pulitzer Prizes are awarded annually by Columbia University — the Ivy League’s sole New York City member — on the recommendation of an advisory board.

Monday, May 8

6:00 p.m. Russia carried out drone, missile and airstrikes on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities through the night, escalating attacks in the run-up to its cherished Victory Day holiday celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany. Ukraine said its air defenses destroyed all 35 Iranian-made Shahed drones that Russia launched. Kyiv’s mayor said at least five people were wounded in the capital amid damage to a fuel depot, cars, buildings and infrastructure. A food warehouse was set ablaze by a missile in the Black Sea city of Odesa, where officials reported three people wounded. It was one of the biggest volleys of missiles and drones yet in a renewed Russian air campaign unleashed 10 days ago.

Firefighters work at a site where storage facilities were heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in the Odesa region of Ukraine on May 8. (The State Emergency Service of Ukraine in the Odesa region, via Reuters)

7:00 a.m. Anxiety about the safety of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant grew Sunday after the Moscow-installed governor of the Ukrainian region where it is located ordered civilian evacuations, including from the city where most plant workers live. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi has tried to persuade Russian and Ukrainian officials to establish a security zone around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant to prevent the war from causing a radiation leak. The evacuations ordered by Yegeny Balitsky, the Russia-backed governor of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia province, are raising fears that fighting in the area would intensify. Balitsky on Friday ordered civilians to leave 18 Russian-occupied communities, including Enerhodar, home to most of the plant’s workers. More than 1,500 people had been evacuated from two unspecified cities in the region as of Sunday, Balitsky said.

The Russia-backed governor of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia province has ordered that communities around Europe’s largest nuclear plant be evacuated, including one where most of the plant’s workers live.   © AP

6:12 a.m. Ukrainian and Russian media report explosions across Russian-occupied Crimea, while a blast is reported overnight in the Black Sea city of Odesa. Russia’s Defense Ministry says its air defenses destroyed 22 Ukrainian drones over the Black Sea overnight.

Air raid alerts are reported overnight in the capital, Kyiv, and in other regions of Ukraine. In the southern city of Kherson, which Ukraine liberated in November but has been under constant Russian attack, six people are killed over the past 24 hours in a variety of strikes, Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin says.

Sunday, May 7

10:00 p.m. Russia’s Wagner mercenary group appears to ditch plans to withdraw from Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, saying it was promised more arms by Moscow and suggesting it will continue an assault on what Russia sees as a steppingstone to other cities in the Donbas region.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin had said Friday that his fighters, who have spearheaded a monthslong assault on Bakhmut, would pull out after being starved of ammunition and suffering “useless and unjustified” losses as a result. But in an audio message on his Telegram channel on Sunday, he said: “We have been promised as much ammunition and weapons as we need to continue further operations.”

Serhiy Cherevaty, spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern command, says in response to Reuters questions about Prigozhin’s comments that Russian forces have “more than enough” ammunition. “Four hundred eighty-nine artillery strikes over the past 24 hours in the area around Bakhmut — is that an ammunition hunger?” Cherevaty says.

3:50 a.m. Russian nationalist writer and blogger Zakhar Prilepin is injured in what Russian officials say was a car bombing planned by Ukraine. The attack, which killed Prilepin’s driver, occurred on a remote road in Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod region. A suspect is in custody and authorities say he confessed he was acting on behalf of Kyiv.

“Officially, we cannot confirm or deny the SBU’s involvement in this or other explosions which occur with the occupiers or their henchmen,” Ukraine’s SBU security service says.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blames the attack on the West, claiming it is the “direct responsibility of the U.S. and Britain,” without providing evidence.

Prilepin is a staunch supporter of the invasion and a bestselling novelist in Russia. The attack against him comes a month after pro-Kremlin blogger Vladlen Tatarsky died in a cafe bombing in St. Petersburg.

Saturday, May 6

8:00 p.m. Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska is attending the coronation of Britain’s King Charles III.

7:00 p.m. Ukraine claims to have shot down a hypersonic Russian missile using the Patriot defense system.

The shootdown of the Kinzhal (“Dagger”) missile took place on May 4, Ukrainian Air Force commander Mykola Oleshchuk says in a Telegram post. There was no immediate comment from the Russian side.

The U.S. decision late last year to provide the Patriot system, which combines surface-to-air interceptors with powerful radar, was seen as an important new Western commitment to supporting Ukraine. At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the system as “quite old.”

A Patriot missile defense system at Sliac Airport near Zvolen, Slovakia, on May 6.   © Reuters

5:30 a.m. A Russian court on Friday ordered pretrial detention for a theater director and a playwright facing charges of justifying terrorism, the latest move in a relentless crackdown on dissent in Russia. The Zamoskvoretsky District Court in Moscow jailed Zhenya Berkovich, a prominent independent theater director, and Svetlana Petriychuk, a playwright, for two months pending investigation and trial. The two were detained in Moscow on Thursday because of the play Petriychuk wrote and Berkovich staged, “Finist, the Brave Falcon.” The play, named after a Russian fairy tale, depicts Russian women who faced prosecution after being lured into marriage and life in Syria by representatives of radical Islam. The authorities have alleged that the play justifies terrorism, accusations that both Berkovich and Petriychuk have rejected, maintaining their innocence.

Friday, May 5

7:30 p.m. Russia’s Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin threatened to pull his forces out of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, accusing military command of starving them of ammunition and causing them heavy losses. Prigozhin claimed that Wagner had planned to capture Bakhmut by May 9. However, he claims that his force hasn’t received enough artillery ammunition supplies from the Russian military since Monday.

“My lads will not suffer useless and unjustified losses in Bakhmut without ammunition,” Prigozhin said in a video accompanying a written withdrawal announcement addressed to the head of general staff, the defense ministry, and President Vladimir Putin as supreme commander.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group, sends a furious message to the country’s military leaders demanding ammunition as he stands in front of the bodies of his fighters.   © Reuters

Thursday, May 4

9:30 p.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin must be brought to justice for the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says in The Hague, calling for the creation of a special tribunal dedicated to judging Russia’s invasion.

“We are going to set up a separate tribunal to show these people are not untouchable,” Zelenskyy tells a news conference. “We need justice.”

The International Criminal Court, a permanent war crimes court based in The Hague, in March issued an arrest warrant for Putin on the suspected deportation of children from Ukraine, which would be a war crime. But the ICC lacks jurisdiction over the crime of aggression in Ukraine, but major legal and practical questions exist over how a new court to judge aggression would be legitimized.

“We all want to see a different Vladimir here in The Hague, the one who deserves to be sanctioned for his criminal actions here, in the capital of international law,” Zelenskyy says in a speech earlier in the day, referring to Putin.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte attend a press conference on May in The Hague, Netherlands.   © Reuters

9:15 p.m. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, without providing evidence, alleges that Ukraine acted on U.S. orders in what Moscow says was a drone attack on the Kremlin early Wednesday that aimed to kill the Russian leader.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby says Peskov is “just lying” and that the U.S. neither encouraged nor enabled Ukraine to strike outside its borders. He says it remains unclear what happened at the Kremlin. Kyiv also has denied involvement in the incident, which followed a string of blasts over the past week targeting freight trains and oil depots in western Russia and Russian-controlled Crimea.

2:30 p.m. Ukrainian air defenses say they downed 18 of 24 kamikaze drones that Russia launched in a pre-dawn attack on Thursday. In a statement, the Kyiv city administration said all missiles and drones targeting the Ukrainian capital for the third time in four days were destroyed. “The Russians have attacked Kyiv using Shahed loitering munitions and missiles, likely the ballistic type,” the administration said. Out of 15 Shahed drones fired at the Black Sea coastal city of Odesa, air defenses destroyed 12, while three struck a university compound. There were no casualties, the Ukrainian southern military command said.

A still image taken from video shows a flying object approaching the dome of the Kremlin Senate building during an alleged Ukrainian drone attack in Moscow on May 3.  (Ostorozhno Novosti via Reuters)

6:30 a.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to make a visit to the Netherlands on Thursday, where he will deliver a speech and will have meetings with Prime Minister Mark Rutte and members of parliament, the Dutch government said. The Dutch foreign ministry said Zelenskyy was expected to deliver a speech titled “No Peace Without Justice for Ukraine.” Citing security concerns, government spokespersons declined to provide further details on Zelenskyy’s visit, which would be his first to the country.

2:53 a.m. The European Union will move ahead with a plan to buy artillery shells for Ukraine after EU envoys agree to a 1 billion euro ($1.1 billion) framework, according to Reuters. The decision comes after weeks of talks by negotiators.

“We stand by our promise to support Ukraine and its people, for as long as it takes. But Ukraine’s brave soldiers need sufficient military equipment to defend their country,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says.

1:45 a.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denies accusations from Moscow that Kyiv was behind an alleged drone attack on the Kremlin, and says his country is preparing to launch a counteroffensive against Russian forces within its borders.

“We don’t attack Putin, or Moscow, we fight on our territory,” Zelenskyy says during a visit to Finland, which became NATO’s newest member last month.

Wednesday, May 3

11:01 p.m. Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner Group mercenary force, says that Ukraine’s counteroffensive had already begun, pointing to his forces’ observations of increased activity near the front.

Prigozhin says on Telegram that he expects the “active phase” of the counteroffensive to begin in the coming days.

10:25 p.m. Russia’s claim that Ukrainian drones attacked the Kremlin is a “predictable” part of Moscow’s plans, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak says.

“Russia is clearly preparing a large-scale terrorist attack,” Podolyak says in a Twitter post. He tells Reuters that Ukraine has “nothing to do” with the alleged attacks on the Kremlin.

“This does not solve any military issue” for Ukraine, he says in his Twitter post. “But it gives [the Russian Federation] grounds to justify its attacks on civilians.”

9:15 p.m. Russia accuses Ukraine of attacking the Kremlin with two drones overnight in a failed bid to kill President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin says the drones were disabled by electronic defenses and that there were no casualties.

“We regard these actions as a planned terrorist act and an attempt on the president’s life, carried out on the eve of Victory Day, the May 9 Parade, at which the presence of foreign guests is also planned,” the Kremlin says.

The Kremlin says Russia reserves the right to retaliate.

8:35 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives in Finland for talks with Nordic leaders on boosting Kyiv’s military capabilities and looking for concrete steps to bring his country closer to joining NATO, his spokesperson says.

Hundreds of people gathered in central Helsinki to see Zelenskyy arrive, cheering him as he appeared in front of the presidential palace. He will hold bilateral talks with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and join a summit with Niinisto and the prime ministers of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

“The theme of the summit is Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the Nordic countries’ continued support for Ukraine, Ukraine’s relationship with the [European Union] and NATO, and Ukraine’s initiative for a just peace,” Niinisto’s office says. Finland recently joined NATO, becoming its 31st member.

6:00 a.m. An explosion derails a second freight train in as many days in a Russian region bordering Ukraine, sending both the locomotive and some cars off the tracks, authorities say. The incident occurred in the western Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine and Belarus. Russian officials say pro-Ukrainian sabotage groups have made multiple attacks there since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. “An unidentified explosive device went off near the Snezhetskaya railway station,” Bryansk regional Gov. Alexander Bogomaz wrote on Telegram. “There were no casualties.”

4:50 a.m. The U.S. plans to announce soon a new $300 million military aid package for Ukraine that for the first time will include a short-range air-launched rocket, reports Reuters, citing two American officials.

The Hydra 70, an unguided rocket, is typically fired from pods attached to aircraft. The rockets could help Ukraine weaken Russian ground positions and provide advancing Ukrainian ground forces with air support as Kyiv plans a spring offensive.

Tuesday, May 2

11:00 a.m. White House national security spokesperson John Kirby says Russia’s military has suffered 100,000 injuries and deaths in the past five months of fighting in the Bakhmut region and other areas of Ukraine. Kirby said the figure, based on U.S. intelligence estimates, includes more than 20,000 dead, half from the Wagner mercenary group, which includes convicts released from prison to join the fighting. “Russia’s attempt at a winter offensive in the Donbas largely through Bakhmut has failed,” Kirby said.

4:30 a.m. Japan’s Toho Titanium plans to ramp up production capacity for a titanium product by more than 10%, as the aerospace industry seeks alternative suppliers to replace imports from Russia, Nikkei has learned.

A joint venture in Saudi Arabia will start running at full capacity by year-end in its production of titanium sponge, an intermediate product used to make titanium alloys.

Major producers of titanium sponge include China, Japan and Russia, with the latter accounting for roughly 10% of global output, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. For aviation applications, the material is supplied by just a handful of producers worldwide, including a leading player in Russia, so the country’s share of this segment is thought to be even higher. Read more.

Ukrainian service members prepare to fire a howitzer near the city of Bakhmut, Ukraine.   © Reuters

12:23 a.m. Ukrainian counterattacks have ousted Russian forces from some positions in the besieged eastern city of Bakhmut, but the situation remains “quite difficult,” says Ukrainian Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of ground forces, in a statement published on Telegram.

Syrskyi said that “in certain parts of the city, the enemy was counterattacked by our units and left some positions.” His comment came while visiting front-line troops on Sunday.

Monday, May 1

9:50 p.m. The latest Russian missile attacks on Ukraine have destroyed dozens of homes and injured 34 people, authorities report. A huge fire sparked by the pre-dawn attacks was reported in Pavlohrad.

Damage is widespread in a residential area that authorities say was hit by a Russian missile strike in Ukraine’s Pavlohrad.   © Reuters

This continues a spate of Russian missile strikes on Ukraine in recent days. More than 20 people were reportedly killed in the city of Uman over the weekend.

6:00 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanks New Zealand for support in training troops, during a phone call with Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

4:00 p.m. In Uzbekistan’s constitutional referendum, voters overwhelmingly favor sweeping reforms that promise to strengthen individual rights but also allow the president to potentially stay in power until 2040.

The Central Election Commission says the constitutional amendments passed with 90.21% of the vote, based on preliminary results of Sunday’s voting. Turnout was reported at 84.54%.

The constitutional changes are the next stage in a reform drive for the Central Asian country of around 35 million people. The shift began after President Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power in 2016 following the death of his authoritarian predecessor, Islam Karimov. On Mirziyoyev’s watch, economic reforms have been enacted, political prisoners have been set free and once-widespread forced labor in the cotton sector has come to an end. Read more.

1:50 p.m. Ukrainian air defense crews destroyed 15 of 18 missiles launched by Russian forces in the early hours of Monday morning, Reuters reports, citing the military, as air raid sirens blared across the country for more than three hours.

1:40 p.m. A Ukrainian military spokeswoman says undermining Russia’s logistics is part of preparations for an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive, referring to a fire that destroyed a large Russian fuel depot in Crimea on Saturday. While not directly admitting to striking the fuel storage facility in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, Ukraine’s military command said that “a fire” destroyed 10 oil tanks with a capacity of about 40,000 tonnes.

1:40 p.m. The International Canoe Federation says Russian and Belarusian athletes who do not support “their State’s actions in Ukraine” can return to events as neutrals, Reuters reports. The International Olympic Committee sanctioned Russia and its ally Belarus after Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022 but last month recommended that their athletes be allowed to return to international competition as neutrals. Table tennis, pentathlon, fencing, judo and taekwondo are among the Olympic sports to have readmitted athletes from the two countries.

4:42 a.m. Ukraine says its troops are holding on to parts of the eastern city of Bakhmut, the focus of a prolonged Russian assault, but the head of a major pro-Moscow force says his men are making progress.

“The enemy is unable to take control of the city, despite throwing all its forces into the battle and having some success,” Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar says on Telegram, without specifying how much of the city is in Russian hands. Fierce fighting continues there, she writes.

Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin says in an audio message on Telegram that his men have advanced up to 230 meters in certain directions and that pro-Kyiv units control only 2.9 square kilometers.

3:59 a.m. The Vatican is involved in a peace mission to try to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Pope Francis says, declining to give further details.

“I am willing to do whatever needs to be done,” he says on a flight home from Hungary, the official Vatican News portal reports. “Also, there is a mission going on now, but it is not public yet. Let’s see how … when it is public I will talk about it.”

Pope Francis holds a news conference on April 30 as he flies back home from Hungary.   © Reuters

Sunday, April 30

4:00 a.m. The Russian defense minister is reported to have said that the Quad group — made up of the U.S., Japan, India and Australia — and the AUKUS security pact of the U.S., Australia and the U.K. are integrating with NATO as part of a plan to contain Russia and China.

Sergei Shoigu reportedly made the remarks on Friday at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperative Organization being held in India.

“The conflict in Ukraine is a clear demonstration of this criminal policy. Its real aim is to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia, threaten China, and maintain a monopoly on power,” Shoigu was quoted by The Times of India and other local media as saying about the U.S.

Saturday, April 29

3:30 p.m. A massive fire erupted at an oil reservoir in Crimea after it was hit by a drone, AP reports, citing Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-installed governor of the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol. The Russia-appointed official posted videos and photos of the blaze on his Telegram channel.

Smoke and flames rise from a burning fuel tank in Sevastopol in this handout photo taken from video released by the governor of the port city’s Telegram channel .   © AP

8:30 a.m. Russia’s private Wagner militia, which has been leading part of the front line in Moscow’s war in Ukraine and has been active in Africa, could soon cease to exist, founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said in video remarks to a blogger that were released on Friday. It was not immediately clear when he had made the comments, in which he also complained about Russia’s regular armed forces not giving ammunition to his men. “Now, with regard to the need in general for shells at the front, what we want. Today we are coming to the point where Wagner is ending,” he told Russian war blogger Semyon Pegov, according to Reuters. “Wagner, in a short period of time, will cease to exist. We will become history, nothing to worry about, things like this happen.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Wagner, says the Russian militia group could soon cease to exist.   © Reuters

8:00 a.m. Russian authorities have cracked down on more human rights groups, ordering one to shut and raiding the homes of advocates from another, the latest steps in a clampdown that has intensified to unprecedented levels since the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine. Police on Friday searched the homes of three lawyers with the Team Against Torture rights group, which advocates against torture and offers legal aid. AP cited an online statement from the group saying the raids in the western Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod were part of a criminal probe launched earlier.

Separately, President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed amendments introducing into law life imprisonment as the punishment for treason. The maximum sentence on this charge, which has been increasingly levied against Russians in recent years, was previously 20 years.

7:00 a.m. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday about “how to guarantee the improvement, expansion and extension” of a deal allowing the safe export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, a U.N. spokesman said in a statement. Russia has strongly signaled that it will not allow the Ukraine Black Sea export deal to continue beyond May 18. Guterres and Erdogan also discussed how to improve the export of Russian food products and fertilizers, as well as the instability in both Syria and Sudan.

5:35 a.m. Russia’s attempt to forcibly alter the status quo shows a “lack of respect” and must be thwarted as a deterrent, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol says.

“The invasion, which violated international law, has stamped on the freedom and human rights of Ukrainians,” for whom Seoul is expanding humanitarian and financial support this year, Yoon says at Harvard University’s Kennedy School.

The world must respond with “courage” and “solemn solidarity” to “the attempt to change the status quo by force, which disregards the freedom of other nations,” he says. “We should prove that such attempts will never reach success, to block further attempts being made in the future.”

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, on April 28.   © Reuters

Friday, April 28

8:30 p.m. Russia slams the West at an India-hosted meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization members’ defense chiefs.

Sergei Shoigu blasts Western efforts to isolate Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

“Attempts to influence Russia’s partners in order to isolate it continue,” Tass quotes Shogiu as saying. “A large-scale information campaign has been launched to compromise the Russian leadership and its policies,” he claims, adding that “all these attempts are failing.”

India invited Belarus and Iran to participate in Friday’s meeting. Except for Pakistan, which attended the meeting virtually, all SCO members and the invited observers took part in person. Read more.

Residents of the town of Uman in Ukraine’s Cherkasy region react next to dead bodies in plastic bags near a residential building that was heavily damaged by a Russian missile on April 28.   © Reuters

6:00 p.m. Russia hurled missiles at cities across Ukraine as people slept early on Friday, killing at least 12 people in the first large-scale airstrikes in nearly two months. The early morning attacks were carried out as Kyiv prepares to launch a counteroffensive to try to retake Russian-occupied territory. In the central city of Uman, firefighters battled a raging blaze at a residential apartment building that had been struck on an upper floor. At least 10 people were killed, including two children, and nine were taken to the hospital, regional Gov. Ihor Taburets said.

12:09 p.m. Russia attacked cities in a wide arc across Ukraine early on Friday, extending from Kyiv through central and southern regions, and at least two people were killed, according to media and officials. “A young woman and a 3-year-old child have been killed,” Borys Filatov, mayor of the central city of Dnipro, said on Telegram. Filatov gave no further details. Pictures on social media showed an apartment building ablaze in the central town of Uman. Kyiv was rocked by explosions, and more explosions were reported across the country, according to Interfax Ukraine and reports on social media channels.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends by video link as Turkey holds a ceremony to mark the arrival of nuclear fuel at the Akkuyu power plant on April 27. (Sputnik via Reuters)

12:40 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey a “flagship” project for relations between the two countries and says it would have been impossible without Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The project “brings both mutual economic benefits and, of course, helps strengthen the multifaceted partnership between our two states, which is based on the principles of good neighborliness, mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency quotes the Russian leader as saying in a virtual address marking the first nuclear fuel delivery to the Russian-built plant. Power production is set to begin later this year, Anadolu says.

Putin says Russia will continue to supply Turkey with natural gas and other energy resources.

Thursday, April 27

11:45 a.m. Pakistan is poised to import oil from Russia, with the first order expected to be unloaded in May, in a move that promises to save the cash-strapped country money but also raises questions and challenges.

Pakistan placed the order this month, according to Musadik Malik, minister of state for petroleum. The imported oil will initially be refined by government-owned Pakistan Refinery. If all goes well, the intention is to ramp up imports to 100,000 barrels per day, making up two-thirds of Pakistan’s total oil purchases.

The government has not disclosed financial details but is hailing the deal as economic relief. Read more.

10:30 a.m. Russian forces pounded the city of Bakhmut, the months-old focal point of their attempts to capture the eastern Ukrainian industrial region of Donbas, and the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force said Ukrainian troops were pouring in ahead of an “inevitable” counteroffensive. The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces, in a report on Facebook, said fighting had gripped Bakhmut and nearby areas. It said Russian forces had failed to advance on two villages to the northwest. At least a dozen localities came under Russian fire.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that China will send a special envoy to Ukraine. (Source photos by AP)

Wednesday, April 26

9:00 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says in a Twitter post that his phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping was “long and meaningful” but gave no details about what they discussed.

“I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations,” Zelenskyy says.

The world had been watching to see when the call would take place after Xi’s visit to Russia last month.

Xi told Zelenskyy that dialogue and negotiations are the only viable way out of the crisis, and that no one wins a nuclear war, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. Xi also said China will send a special envoy to Ukraine and make its own effort to end the conflict.

After the call, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova says Russia notes the readiness of the Chinese side to make efforts to establish a negotiation process.

5:00 a.m. President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree establishing temporary control of the Russian assets of two foreign energy companies, signaling Moscow could take similar action against other companies if need be. The decree — outlining possible retaliation if Russian assets abroad are seized — showed Moscow had already taken action against Uniper SE’s Russian division and the assets of Finland’s Fortum. The decree said Russia needed to take urgent measures to respond to unspecified actions from the United States and others it said were “unfriendly and contrary to international law.”

Tuesday, April 25

12:10 p.m. An air ambulance helicopter has crashed in Russia’s southwestern region of Volgograd, killing the pilot, Reuters reports, citing sources of Russian-government news agency Tass. “A medical aviation helicopter has crashed, one crew member died,” emergency services said.

4:50 a.m. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has sent Russian President Vladimir Putin a letter seeking an extension to a deal that keeps grain shipments moving through the Black Sea, Guterres’ office says.

The letter was entrusted to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who met with Guterres in New York, according to a U.N. readout of their meeting.

A similar letter was addressed to the other signatories of the Black Sea Grain Initiative agreement, the readout says.

Wheat is loaded into trucks during the harvest in Russia’s Omsk region.   © Reuters

Guterres’ outreach comes after former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev — now deputy chairman of his country’s Security Council — warned that Moscow would pull out of the agreement if the Group of Seven nations ban exports to Russia. The deal, which is set to expire in May, involves Ukraine and Turkey, which helped broker the arrangement that keeps a vital source of food flowing to developing countries.

The secretary-general’s letter outlines “a proposed way forward aimed at the improvement, extension and expansion of the BSGI, taking into account positions recently expressed by the parties and the risks posed by global food insecurity,” according to the U.N. readout.

Monday, April 24

10:00 p.m. Russian authorities say a Ukrainian drone strike on a naval base in Crimea was thwarted. Separately, a Ukrainian-made drone was found crashed in a forest in the Moscow region deep inside Russia, the Russian side says.

The attack on the naval base in Sevastopol using sea drones was stopped by the Russian military, according to the city’s Moscow-appointed chief, Mikhail Razvozhayev. No immediate comment was made by the Ukrainian side.

6:30 p.m. China is doing damage control after Beijing’s envoy to Paris questioned the sovereignty of nations that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was called on to set the government’s official stance during a regular news conference in Beijing when asked if China stood behind the envoy’s remarks. “The Chinese side respects the status of the member states as sovereign states after the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Mao said, adding that China was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with those countries.

5:30 p.m. Recent remarks by China’s ambassador to France questioning the sovereignty of former Soviet states such as Ukraine are totally unacceptable, several European Union foreign ministers said. “It is totally unacceptable,” Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said ahead of the Luxembourg meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers. “I hope the bosses of this ambassador will make these things straight.” Asked about his position on whether Crimea was part of Ukraine or not, Chinese Ambassador to Paris Lu Shaye said in an interview aired on French television on Friday that historically it was part of Russia and had been offered to Ukraine by former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. “These ex-USSR countries don’t have actual status in international law because there is no international agreement to materialize their sovereign status,” Lu added.

4:40 p.m. Global military spending reached an all-time high of $2.24 trillion in 2022, rising 3.7% from the previous year, due largely to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an international security think tank said Monday. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said total spending grew for the eighth straight year but at a faster pace compared to the increase of 0.7% in 2021. It marked the largest rise since 1988 when comparable data became available. The top five spending countries were the United States, China, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia, accounting for 63% of the global total. Ukraine’s military spending shot up 7.4-fold from the year before and reached $44 billion, comprising 34% of its gross domestic product in 2022, becoming the 11th-largest military expenditure from 36th place the previous year, the report said.

7:00 a.m. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says that if the Group of Seven moves to ban exports to Russia, Moscow will respond by terminating the Black Sea Grain deal which enables grain exports from Ukraine and is due to expire on May 18. “This idea from the idiots at the G-7 about a total ban of exports to our country by default is beautiful in that it implies a reciprocal ban on imports from our country, including categories of goods that are the most sensitive for the G-7,” Reuters reports Medvedev as saying in a post on his Telegram channel. “In such a case, the grain deal — and many other things that they need — will end for them,” he added.

Sunday, April 23

8:30 p.m. Russia’s Defense Ministry on Sunday said its forces had captured more territory in Bakhmut as they pursue their bid to seize full control of the city. The battle for Bakhmut has turned into one of the bloodiest of the 14-month war, with the Eastern Ukrainian city almost completely destroyed by artillery shelling and urban combat. Russia says capturing Bakhmut will allow it to mount further offensives into eastern Ukraine. If they succeed, Moscow’s forces are likely to face even larger urban battles for the nearby towns of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

Saturday, April 22

11:10 p.m. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva does not want to “please anyone” with his views about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he says, after he provoked criticism in the West for suggesting Kyiv was in part to blame for the war.

His aim is to “build a way to bring” Russia and Ukraine “to the table,” he says in Lisbon, Portugal, at the start of a trip to Europe. “I want to find a third alternative [to solve the conflict], which is the construction of peace.”

Lula has been criticized in the West for suggesting Ukraine and Russia are both to blame for the conflict that began when Moscow invaded in February 2022.

Friday, April 21

8:38 p.m. A Russian Sukhoi Su-34 warplane accidentally dropped a bomb on the southern Russian city of Belgorod, the Russian Defense Ministry says in a brief statement. The blast on Thursday injured three people in the major city along the border with Ukraine.

The ministry cited “an accidental discharge of aviation ammunition.” Video footage from the site showed piles of concrete on the street, damaged cars and a building with broken windows. Belgorod region Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said there was a crater measuring 20 meters across on one of the main streets.

8:00 p.m. The U.S. will begin training Ukrainian forces on how to use and maintain Abrams tanks in the coming weeks, as it continues to speed up its efforts to get them onto the battlefield as quickly as possible, U.S. officials say. According to the officials, 31 tanks will arrive at Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany at the end of May, and the troops will begin training a couple of weeks later. Officials said the training will last about 10 weeks. About 250 Ukrainian troops will be trained — with some learning to operate the tanks and others learning to repair and maintain them.

U.S. Army M1A1 Abrams tanks participate in an exercise in Latvia in 2021. The U.S. will ship 31 of the tanks to Germany and train Ukrainian troops on their operation and maintenance.   © Reuters

6:00 a.m. In Hong Kong, setting up a shell company can be done in a matter of days and for less than the cost of an iPhone. This business-friendly system began under British rule — and continued under communist China — helping the city transform itself into one of the world’s most successful commercial hubs. But it has also put Hong Kong at the center of a web of trading companies that is funneling millions of dollars’ worth of American-made semiconductors into Russia despite U.S. sanctions imposed following the invasion of Ukraine. Read more.

Chinese President Xi Jinping gave French counterpart Emmanuel Macron a warm welcome to China.   © Reuters

4:25 a.m. The leaders of France and the U.S. have agreed on the importance of continuing to engage with China in hopes of ending the conflict in Ukraine, according to the French presidency. Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden discussed the French president’s recent trip to China, both sides say.

During the trip, Macron urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to use his influence to “bring Russia back to reason.” Xi reportedly expressed willingness to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, but the Chinese leader’s earlier visit to Vladimir Putin in Moscow reinforced the image of China backing Russia.

Macron and Biden discussed “their ongoing efforts to advance prosperity, security, shared values, and the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region” and “reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” according to the White House.

Their call comes after remarks this month in which Macron argued that Europe should maintain strategic autonomy from the U.S. and avoid becoming caught in a Sino-American crisis.

12:33 a.m. South Korea says it will send ammunition to Poland and that direct military assistance to Ukraine may occur in the future if Russia engages in large-scale attacks on civilians, massacres or serious violations of laws of war.

Thursday, April 20

9:08 p.m. Ukraine’s future lies in NATO, the Western military alliance’s chief Jens Stoltenberg declares during his first visit to the country since Russia’s invasion 14 months ago.

“Let me be clear: Ukraine’s rightful place is in the euro-Atlantic family. Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO. And over time, our support will help you to make this possible,” Stoltenberg says at a news conference with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. In 2008, a NATO summit in Romania agreed that Ukraine eventually would join the alliance.

4:30 a.m. The European Union is preparing 100 million euros ($109 million) in compensation for farmers in five countries bordering Ukraine and plans to introduce restrictions on imports of Ukrainian grains. Pressure has mounted on Brussels to work out a European Union-wide solution after Poland and Hungary banned some imports from Ukraine last weekend. The countries became transit routes for Ukrainian grain that could not be exported through Ukraine’s Black Sea ports because of Russia’s invasion in February 2022. Bottlenecks then trapped millions of tons of grains in countries bordering Ukraine, forcing local farmers to compete with an influx of cheap Ukrainian imports they say distort prices and demand.

3:30 a.m. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken authorizes $325 million in additional military aid for Ukraine. The latest package includes more ammunition for U.S.-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers and anti-armor systems, Blinken says in a statement.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for bipartisan congressional support for Ukraine. Zelenskyy says he and McCarthy discussed Ukraine’s needs in armored vehicles, artillery, air defense and aircraft.

3:00 a.m. Contending with China’s preparations for war has a greater urgency for the U.S. and its Asian allies than helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia, former Pentagon official Elbridge Colby says.

Asked whether calling for cuts to U.S. support for Ukraine is extreme, Colby tells Nikkei: “What’s drastic and extreme is how much China has grown and how serious it is about preparing for a war.”

“Time is the problem,” he adds. “And if you look historically at why aggression happens, it’s usually because an aggressor sees an opportunity that may be fleeting.” Read more.

2:00 a.m. Heineken says it has sought approval from regulators in Russia to sell its business there. The brewing company had said it would exit Russia and expected to book a loss of 300 million euros ($328 million) on the sale. “We have submitted an application for approval regarding the transfer of ownership of our Russian business … it’s now with the authorities of the Russian Federation,” the Financial Times quotes Chief Financial Officer Harold van den Broek as saying.

For earlier updates, click here.