The essentials in brief:
- Lukashenko says Russia is moving tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus
- EU suspends tariffs on imports from Ukraine for another year
- Angered by Nord Stream investigation, Russia calls in ambassadors
- Zelenskyj: F-16 fighter jets would be a sign of Moscow’s failure
- Bundestag gives green light for purchase of new Leopard main battle tanks
According to Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko, Russia has started transferring tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus. “The transfer of nuclear warfare agents (…) has already begun,” Lukashenko replied in a web video when asked by a journalist about Russian nuclear weapons. At the end of March, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that tactical nuclear weapons would be stationed in the former Soviet republic. These are weapons with a shorter range and less effective than strategic nuclear weapons. Belarus borders on the NATO countries Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. The EU and NATO had sharply criticized the announcement from Moscow.
EU extends tariff exemption for Ukraine
Ukraine can continue to export goods to the European Union duty-free. The EU ministers responsible for trade extended the exception rule in Brussels by one year. In doing so, the EU is demonstrating its “unwavering political and economic support for Ukraine” in the Russian war of aggression, it said in a statement.
Among other things, minimum import prices for Ukrainian fruit and vegetables and tariff quotas for other agricultural products remain suspended. The decision is to come into force on June 6th. In response to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the EU lifted tariffs and other restrictions in June 2022 for an initial period of twelve months. However, this had recently led to complaints from the Ukrainian EU neighbors. Hungary, Poland and three other Eastern European countries restricted grain imports from Ukraine after farmers in those countries complained of price dumping.
Moscow orders ambassadors from countries bordering the Baltic Sea because of Nord Stream
The Russian Foreign Ministry has summoned the ambassadors of Germany, Sweden and Denmark because of the allegation that there has been a lack of progress in investigating the attacks on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea. The ministry in Moscow says it is protesting against a “complete lack of results” in the investigation into the act of sabotage last September.
Russia also expels five Swedish diplomats. In addition, the Swedish Consulate General in St. Petersburg must cease operations from September 1, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced. The measures are the answer to the expulsion of five Russian diplomats in Sweden at the end of April, it said. Moscow assessed the expulsion of its diplomats as an “openly hostile step on the part of Stockholm” that further strained the already bad bilateral relations.
With the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, relations between Russia and Western countries have deteriorated drastically. Both sides have since expelled diplomats on a large scale. Russia, among others, was suspected of being behind the alleged acts of sabotage on Nord Stream. Moscow denied the allegations and, for its part, pinned its suspicions on Washington. According to media reports, however, the investigations into the explosions also led to Ukraine.
Wagner boss: transfer of positions in Bakhmut to the Russian army
According to its boss, the Wagner mercenary group has begun handing over its positions in the eastern Ukrainian frontline town of Bakhmut to the Russian army. “Today we are withdrawing units from Bakhmut,” said Yevgeny Prigozhin in a video published by his press service in online media. By June 1, most of the units will have moved to other bases. “We hand over positions to the military, the ammunition and everything,” said the Wagner boss. Ukraine has so far denied that Russian forces have completely captured Bakhmut.
Zelenskyj: F-16 fighter jets would be a sign of Russia’s failure
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has high hopes for the prospect of US F-16 fighter jets. They would not only strengthen the country’s defence, but would also send a strong signal that Russia’s aggression would fail, Zelenskyy said in his evening speech. The faster a decision about the aircraft is implemented, the better. “The most important thing is speed in training and in delivery.”
On the fringes of the G7 summit of leading democratic economic powers last week, US President Joe Biden basically cleared the way for a coalition of allies to deliver F-16 jets to Ukraine. Ukrainian fighter pilots are to be trained to fly the machines.
Zelenskyy also appealed to the people of Iran not to support the delivery of Iranian kamikaze drones to Russia. Although Ukraine has learned to stop most attacks with the Shahed attack drones, there are still hits. The drone attacks on civilians are carried out by Russia – “but with their weapons”.
Bundeswehr gets 18 new Leopard 2 tanks
According to participants, the budget committee of the Bundestag has approved around 525 million euros for the procurement of 18 Leopard 2A8 battle tanks. They are to replace the 18 modern Leopard 2A6 tanks that Germany surrendered to Ukraine at the end of March. The FDP budget politician Karsten Klein spoke of an “important building block for the defense capabilities of the armed forces”. Not only is the material given to Ukraine replaced, but the main battle tank is being equipped with new defense systems.
The Greens budget politician Sebastian Schäfer said: “The rapid procurement of Leopard 2 and other self-propelled howitzers after deliveries to the Ukraine shows that we are now taking a new approach to procurement. Products that are available on the market are ordered.” The framework agreements also made it possible to quickly place further orders. “At the same time, we invite our international partners to get involved in this procurement project. In this way, costs can be reduced. The industry benefits from better planning of production.” The Leopard 2 is considered the main weapon of the German armored forces. It has been in series production since 1978 and is constantly being modernized.
In view of the Ukraine war, the Czech Republic is upgrading its armored forces
The NATO partner Czech Republic acquires 246 CV90 armored personnel carriers from the British armaments group BAE Systems. Defense Minister Jana Cernochova said in Prague that the contracts had already been signed. The costs amount to the equivalent of around 2.5 billion euros. Czech industry will be involved in the production of the CV90 armored personnel carriers. The CV90 (combat vehicle 90) was originally developed for the needs of the Swedish army.
At the same time, the cabinet in Prague instructed the minister to start negotiations with Germany and any other countries about a joint purchase of Leopard tanks in the latest 2A8 version. This makes it possible to negotiate more favorable terms, Cernochova said. The negotiations are still “at the very beginning”.
Russian militia announce further attacks on Russia
After the recent attacks on targets in the Russian border region, the leader of a Russian volunteer militia has announced new attacks. “I think you’ll see us on the other side again,” Denis Kapustin, commander of the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC), told reporters on the Ukrainian side of the border. “I can’t reveal what’s to come, I can’t even reveal the direction.” The Russian-Ukrainian border is quite long. “There will again be a place where things get hot.”
The RVC has claimed responsibility for the recent attacks on targets in the Bolgorod border region. According to their own statements, this and the Legion of Freedom of Russia consist of Russian fighters who are against the government in Moscow. They are therefore operating from Ukraine. Russia, on the other hand, has blamed Ukrainian nationalists and said on Tuesday the attackers had been pushed back. More than 70 of them were killed. The militias denied the Russian claims about the casualties. Ukraine has denied any involvement in the actions.
Moscow: Ukrainians arrested for planned sabotage of nuclear power plants
The Russian domestic intelligence service FSB has reported the arrest of two Ukrainian “saboteurs”. A “sabotage group” from Ukraine’s foreign intelligence service tried to blow up about 30 power lines at the Leningrad and Kalinin nuclear power plants in early May, according to an FSB statement quoted by Russian news agencies. The aim was to bring about the shutdown of the reactors.
WHO members condemn Russian attacks on health facilities
World Health Organization (WHO) member states have condemned Russia’s attacks on health facilities in Ukraine. A draft resolution submitted by Kiev and allied states was passed with a clear majority of 80 votes to nine, with 52 abstentions. It “strongly condemns” the Russian attack on Ukraine and calls on Moscow to “immediately stop all attacks on hospitals and other health facilities” in Ukraine.
26 of the 27 member states of the European Union approved the resolution – only Hungary did not vote. In addition to Russia, China, North Korea, Syria, Belarus, Cuba and Algeria voted against the bill. According to the latest WHO data, 974 attacks on health facilities have been identified in Ukraine so far, and 101 people have died.
qu/se/sti/bri/kle/mak (rtr, dpa, afp)
This article will be continuously updated on the day of its publication. Reports from the combat zones cannot be independently verified.