The essentials in brief:
- Federal government agrees to arms package worth billions to Ukraine
- Selensky arrives in Rome
- Blinken and Kuleba exchange views on offense
- Hungary threatens to block new Russia sanctions
The federal government has put together a new arms package worth billions for Ukraine. The country will receive military aid worth around 2.7 billion euros, the Federal Ministry of Defense announced. “With this valuable contribution of urgently needed military material, we are showing once again that Germany is serious about its support,” said Defense Minister Boris Pistorius.
Among other things, 30 Leopard 1 tanks, 20 Marder infantry fighting vehicles, more than 200 reconnaissance drones, four Iris-T air defense systems as well as ammunition and more than 100 armored vehicles would be delivered. It is therefore the largest package of weapons that Germany has provided to strengthen the Ukrainian armed forces since the beginning of the war in February 2022.
Zelenskyj visiting Rome
Rome has prepared for the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with extraordinary security measures. According to media reports, around 1,500 police officers and security guards are on duty this Saturday to ensure that the state visit runs smoothly. Airports, train stations and the subway are therefore particularly controlled.
A no-fly zone has also been set up for drones over the Italian capital. Snipers are positioned wherever Zelenskyj is expected, it said.
Initially, only a visit to President Sergio Mattarella was officially confirmed. It can be assumed that the guest from Kiev will also meet Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in her official residence, the Palazzo Chigi in the historical center of Rome. An audience with Pope Francis is planned for the afternoon. However, this has not yet been officially confirmed by the Vatican.
Russian occupiers speak of an explosion in Luhansk
According to the Russian occupiers, two major explosions occurred in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk, injuring six children and one adult. Representatives of the regional government installed by the Kremlin accused Ukraine of having launched two rocket attacks on an industrial complex about 100 kilometers from the front line on Friday evening. Videos distributed on the Internet show clouds of black smoke over parts of Luhansk.
Kiev has not officially commented on the allegations. After Ukraine was initially supplied only with short-range missiles from the West, observers are now speculating that the Ukrainian army may have used British-supplied cruise missiles for the first time. These have a range of 300 kilometers.
Two dead in Crimea helicopter crash
Both pilots were killed when a Russian military helicopter crashed on the Crimean Peninsula annexed by Moscow. The Mi-28 helicopter crashed during a training flight, the Russian Defense Ministry said. According to initial investigations, technical failure was the reason for the accident. According to the information, the helicopter was traveling without ammunition.
The Mi-28 is a multi-purpose attack helicopter capable of performing devastating strikes. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and used the peninsula as one of the launch pads for the military operation in Ukraine in February 2022. According to its own statements, Russia recently fended off several drone attacks in Crimea.
Zelenskyj: Russia has already accepted its defeat
According to statements by Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, Russia’s leadership has already secretly prepared for a defeat in the war against Ukraine. “In their minds, they have already lost the war,” Zelenskyy speculated in his evening video address on Friday. “We have to put pressure on them every day so that their sense of defeat turns into flight, mistakes and losses.”
Fourteen months after the start of the war, Russia has recently given some grim assessments of its own situation at the front. For example, the head of the Russian Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, spoke of a “flight” by the Russian army northwest of the embattled city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. The Ministry of Defense in Moscow, on the other hand, emphasized that there had only been strategic regroupings.
Blinken and Kuleba exchange views on Ukrainian offensive
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba about ongoing preparations for a Ukrainian counter-offensive in Russia’s war of aggression. In a phone call, the two discussed how international partners could best contribute to the success of the offensive, the US State Department said.
The United States is considered the most important ally in the Ukrainian defensive struggle. Washington has provided the country with military aid worth the equivalent of more than 33 billion euros since the war of aggression began. President Zelenskyj has already promised a complete reconquest of all territories this year. However, Russian troops currently occupy around 20 percent of Ukrainian territory.
Hungary is resisting new EU sanctions on Russia
The Hungarian government is threatening to block further European sanctions against Russia. As long as Hungary’s largest bank OTP is on a Ukrainian list of supporters of the Russian war of aggression, the Hungarian government will hardly be able to negotiate new sanctions, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto announced on Friday at the sidelines of an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Sweden. The fact that Ukraine put the bank on the list is scandalous. This did not violate any laws.
Ukraine’s National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NACP) put the Budapest-based bank OTP on its list of war sponsors in early May. She justified this by saying that the bank was one of the leading banks on the Russian financial services market even after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Since its privatization in the 1990s, the OTP Group has also been represented in many other Eastern European countries.
djo/cwi/haz/bru/sti (dpa, rtr)
This article will be continuously updated on the day of its publication. Reports from the combat zones cannot be independently verified.