By SUSIE BLANN – Associated Press
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — In a day of give-and-take, Western countries further pledged to send arms to Ukraine as the European Union’s outright ban on Russian coal imports was lifted. launched on Thursday, adding to sanctions against Moscow that intelligence allegations are hurting its defense exports.
Germany, seen at the start of Russia’s invasion as a nonchalant ally of Ukraine, is making what Chancellor Olaf Scholz described as a “massive” break with its past by sending weapons to the plague-stricken country. the war.
Scholz said Germany is “shipping weapons – a very, very large number, radical and very effective. And we will continue to do so in times to come.” Her government has approved military exports of at least $710 million and plans to provide additional financial aid to Ukraine, the Chancellor said.
At a conference in Copenhagen, Britain and Denmark also made additional pledges to help defend Ukraine against the Russian invasion, which devastated the nation and reverberated around the world. entire.
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“We won’t let you down,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said as she opened a one-day international donors’ conference. Denmark said a new contribution of $113 million would bring the small northern nation’s total funding amount from $5.8 million to more than $500 million. She called it “a huge gift”.
By comparison, Ukraine’s top donor, the United States, has committed $9.1 billion in security aid since Russian troops invaded on February 24.
To put more pressure on Russia, Britain announced it would send additional multiple launch rocket systems and guided missiles to Ukraine. The missiles can hit targets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) away with pinpoint accuracy, the UK government has said.
The new weapons, the number of which has not been specified, add to several rocket launchers supplied by Britain earlier this year after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to be sent to Ukraine .
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the increased military support shows the West “will stand shoulder to shoulder, providing defensive military aid to Ukraine to help defend against invasion. of Putin”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking by videoconference to the meeting of mainly northern European countries, pleaded for more help. “The sooner we stop Russia, the sooner we can feel safe,” he said.
Britain said Moscow was already strained by the need to produce armored fighting vehicles for its troops in Ukraine and therefore “is highly unlikely that it will be able to fulfill some orders at export”, in a sector of which it has long been proud.
The UK defense intelligence update, highlighting “the growing effect of Western sanctions”, is consistent with the Western belief that the series of measures imposed on the Kremlin since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine have increasingly impact on the Russian economy.
The update states that as a result of war and sanctions, “its military industrial capacity is now strained, and the credibility of many of its weapons systems has been undermined by their association with the poor performance of Russian forces”.
As the war approaches halfway through the year, Russia faces other challenges. Amid reports that hundreds of Russian soldiers were refusing to fight and trying to leave the army, covert recruitment efforts are underway, including the use of prisoners to make up for the shortage of trained troops.
Russia’s military credibility came under pressure on Wednesday when Ukraine said nine Russian warplanes were destroyed following explosions at a Russian-controlled air base in Crimea that appeared to be the result of a Ukrainian attack.
Russia has denied that any planes were damaged in the explosions – or that an attack took place. But satellite photos clearly showed that at least seven fighter jets at the base had exploded and others were likely damaged.
UK’s Wallace dismissed Russian explanations for the blasts, including a wayward cigarette butt, as an “apology”.
“When you just look at the footage of two simultaneous explosions not quite next to each other, and some of the damage reported even by Russian authorities, I think it’s clear that it’s not something something that happens when someone drops a cigarette,” said the Briton. said the minister.
Ukrainian forces mounting a massive counter-offensive in the south have recaptured 54 settlements in the Kherson region, which was invaded by Russia at the start of the war, the governor said Thursday.
Speaking on Ukrainian television, Yaroslav Yanushevych also accused Moscow of bombing the Lost Areas in retaliation, creating a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in towns and villages along the region’s northern border. The governor said 92% of the Kherson region remained under Russian occupation.
In the east of the country, the Ukrainian army said it had repelled Russian attempts to advance on the town of Bakhmut, a key target of Moscow’s offensive in the Donetsk region. He also said Russian troops unsuccessfully tried to break through Ukrainian defensive lines near the towns of Kramatorsk and Avdiivka, also in the Donetsk region.
The military also reported Russian shelling of dozens of towns and villages in northern, southern and eastern Ukraine.
In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians not to divulge details of the country’s military operations.
“If you want victory for Ukraine, then that’s another matter, and you have to feel responsible for every word you say about what our state is preparing in terms of defense or counter-offensives,” he said. he declared.
Russia, meanwhile, was apparently taking steps to tighten its control over the eastern Luhansk region after driving out the last Ukrainian troops last month. Luhansk and Donetsk form the Donbass, the industrial heartland.
Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president, said he was joined on a visit to the region by senior Russian law enforcement and security officials as well as the minister responsible for construction .
Medvedev, in a message on a messaging app, said he met with Kremlin-backed local officials to discuss “restoring infrastructure, repairing hospitals and preparing schools for the start of the school year, solving social problems and support to civilians”.
In other developments Thursday:
– Funeral services were held for 11 other unidentified bodies found in Bucha, the town outside the Ukrainian capital which saw hundreds massacred under Russian occupation at the start of the war.
— The governments of Ukraine and Russia exchanged more accusations about the party responsible for the bombing of the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called on Moscow and Kyiv to halt military action around Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant to avert disaster.
— The European Union embargo on coal imports from Russia entered into force after a long introductory phase that began in April. The 27-nation EU said it would affect about 25% of Russian coal exports and create a loss of about $8 billion a year. The EU is also trying to wean itself off Russian gas imports, but is too dependent on imposing a full ban.
– And in perhaps the most symbolic example of give-and-take on Thursday, McDonald’s announced plans to begin reopening some of its restaurants in Ukraine in the coming months. The fast food giant closed and sold hundreds of its Russian restaurants in March.
Beyond a hoped-for return to peace, Scholz said Germany was working with the EU to draw up plans for rebuilding Ukraine.
“It’s going to be a big, big task that can hardly be described as a Marshall Plan,” he said, referring to the massive US aid plan for Europe in the aftermath of World War II. . “It’s bigger.”
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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