Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu (L) with Vladimir Putin and Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu

EA on UK Outlets: Maintaining Support for Ukraine

Sunday’s Coverage: Poland Bans Imports of Ukrainian Grain

Map: Institute for the Study of War


The Czech Republic will not join Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia in a ban of imports of Ukrainian grain until June 30.

Prague called for a solution across the European Union instead of action by individual countries.


More than 40 countries have expressed concern over Russia’s detention of Wall Street correspondent and US citizen Evan Gershovich.

In the statement read at the UN by US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the 46 signatories protested Moscow’s “efforts to limit and intimidate the media”.

We urge Russian Federation authorities to release those they hold on political grounds, and to end the draconian crackdown on freedom of expression, including against members of the media.


The French and Norwegian Foreign Ministries have joined the condemnation of Russian authorities imposing a 25-year prison sentence on dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza (see 0849 GMT).

The French ministry said the Russian justice system has become a tool for oppression, with Kara-Murza’s sentence an illustration of the Moscow’s campaign of repression against all those criticizing the invasion of Ukraine.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said, “This is a deeply alarming and harsh sentence for exercising the right to freedom of expression.”

Oslo announced the expulsion of 15 Russian intelligence operatives, under diplomatic cover at the embassy, on Thursday.

However, Kara-Murza’s wife Evgenia said the UK Government’s response — summoning the Russian ambassador — was “weak”.

She called for immediate sanctions against those who imprisoned her husband.

Expressions of concern are no longer enough because Vladimir’s health is deteriorating … Introducing sanctions against his perpetrators would actually be a very practical step that I would very much like to see…..

Vladimir is not for example, a Canadian citizen. However, Canada was the first country to introduce sanctions against Vladimir’s perpetrators. This initiative was then followed by the United States that introduced sanctions in March. Today the Latvian Foreign Office announced that they would be introducing sanctions against 10 people involved in the illegal prosecution of my husband. So far, I have not seen any response from the [UK Foreign Office] on that matter. And I am slightly baffled, to tell the truth.

The chair of the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Alicia Kearns, supported sanctions against 31 people complicit in crimes against Kara-Murza: “There are 29 people [involved] that the British government was given evidence about this over six months ago – and it’s time for them to take action.”


The office of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General says 470 children have been killed and 948 wounded during the Russian invasion.

It adds that the actual toll is likely to be higher.

Of the confirmed casualties, there have been 451 in the Donetsk region; 275 in Kharkiv; 127 in Kyiv; 94 in Kherson; and 89 in Zaporizhzhia region.


Ukrainian officials say the deal ensuring three Black Sea ports can operate is in danger because of Russian obstruction.

The Restoration Ministry said Moscow is again blocking inspection of ships in Turkish waters, preventing them from docking and loading on the southern Ukraine coast.

“For the second time in 9 months of operation of the grain initiative, an inspection plan has not been drawn up, and not a single vessel has been inspected. This threatens the functioning of the grain initiative,” the Ministry said.

Russia escalated its obstruction last Tuesday, blocking all vessels by scrubbing out the names of three ships submitted by Ukraine.

At that time, 50 ships were waiting to dock and load.

Despite Russian threats to end the agreement, the July 2022 deal was extended in March — but the parties differed on whether the extension was for 60 or 120 days.


United Nations Human Rights Commission Volker Türk has called on Russia to free Vladimir Kara-Murza after the dissident was given a 25-year prison sentence earlier Monday (see 0849 GMT).

Türk said in a statement that the sentence is “another blow to the rule of law and civic space” in Russia.

No one should be deprived of their liberty for exercising their human rights, and I call on the Russian authorities to release him without delay.

Latvia has sanctioned 10 Russian officials involved in Kara-Murza’s sentencing./p>

Foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs said he would ask the European Union to do the same.


Slovakia is joining Poland and Hungary in a temporary ban on imports of Ukraine grains and other foodstuffs.

A Slovak official said low global prices and demand meant Ukrainian grain is staying within the country rather than transitting to other destinations.

The annnouncement came only hours after Bratislava announced the delivery of 13 Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Kyiv (see 0753 GMT).

In Brussels, EU envoys will discuss the Polish and Hungarian bans, announced on Saturday.

“We expect Poland and Hungary to offer some explanation and there will also be reaction by the European Commision,” said a senior EU offical. “There is an issue and we expect the Commission to come up with a proposal on that. We’ll see what we can do in the coming weeks and months.”

The state secretary in Hungary’s Agriculture Ministry, Sándor Farkas, said Budapest could extend the ban beyond June 30 if the EU does not take sufficient action to protect Hungarian farmers.


As expected, Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza has been sentenced to 25 years in prison by a Moscow court.

The trial, on charges of treason and spreading “fake news” about the Russian military, was held behind closed doors.

In his closing statement, released last week by his wife and lawyer, Kara-Murza compared his case to the Soviet show trials of the Stalin era. He continued:

There is nothing I ask from this court. I know what my verdict will be. I knew it a year ago when I saw people wearing black uniforms and black masks chasing my car. This is the price you pay in today’s Russia for not remaining silent….

I am in jail for my political views. For speaking out against the war in Ukraine. For a years-long fight against Putin’s dictatorship. For contributing to personal international sanctions against violators of human rights, via the Magnitsky Act.

Not only do I not repent any of these deeds, but I am also proud.

He concluded, “I know that there will be a day when this darkness clears away in our country.”

See also Ukraine War, Day 412: Russia’s “Stalinist Show Trial” of Vladimir Kara-Murza

The UK has summoned the Russian Ambassador over the “politically motivated” sentencing of Kara-Murza, who holds British as well as Russian citizenship.

London has already sanctioned the judge that presided over the trial for involvement in human rights violations. It is considering further measures against those involved in Kara-Murza’s “detention and mistreatment”.


More photos of the “Great Easter Exchange” (see Sunday’s Coverage) in which about 130 Ukrainian prisoners of war were released by Russia.

The number of Russian POWs who were returned is still unknown.


Slovakia has completed delivery of 13 Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Joining Poland in the pledge of MiG-29s, Slovakia delivered the first four jets last month.

Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad’ posted on Facebook, “This transfer was carried out by land, in order to maintain the highest levels of security. Huge thanks to all the forces involved in this important and demanding logistical operation.”

He added, “We are doing the right thing.”


Local channels on social media claim a drone attack on a thermal power plant in Russia’s Belgorod region near the Ukraine border.

The power plant was set ablaze early Monday morning. Explosives were also reportedly dropped at two electricity substations, with a fire extinguished within an hour.

A series of civil and military facilities in Belgorod have been damaged since last summer. The Ukrainian Government and military have not claimed responsibility for the attacks.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Amid China’s diplomatic and military maneuvers over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu has met Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin.

Both men offered rhetorical declarations of partnership. Li said in remarks on Russian State TV that links have “already entered a new era”:

We have very strong ties. They surpass the military-political alliances of the Cold War era….They are very stable.

This is my first overseas visit since taking over as China’s Defense Minister. I specifically chose Russia for this in order to emphasize the special nature and strategic importance of our bilateral ties.

Accompanied by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, Putin said, “We are also working actively through the military departments. We regularly exchange useful information, cooperate in the field of military-technical cooperation, and conduct joint exercises.”

Li will remain in Russia until Wednesday.

Beijing’s Balancing Act

Despite the fulsome words about cooperation — and Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s trip to Moscow four weeks ago — Beijing has apparently not crossed the red line of lethal military assistance to Russia.

A leaked US intelligence document, dated February 23, assessed that China’s Central Military Commission had “approved the incremental provision” of weapons and wanted the arrangement to be kept secret.

Four days earlier, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned China’s top diplomat Wang Yi against providing “lethal support” for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Since then, China has loudly declared that no military aid is being given and proclaimed its emphasis, with a 12-point “peace plan”, on a diplomatic resolution of the invasion.

In early April — just before French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen visited Beijing — Chinese diplomat Fu Cong told the Wall Street Journal that China did not support the invasion and would not provide any military help.

Xi said during his meetings with the Europeans:

China urges all parties to remain calm and reason, and work together to create conditions for peace talks….We oppose attempts that would add fuel to fire and complicate the situation.

China…supports Europe in putting forward ideas and proposals for a political solution to the Ukraine crisis based on its own fundamental and long-term interests, and promote the establishment of a balanced, effective and sustainable European security framework.

As well as emphasizing its sovereignty over Taiwan, China has indicated a priority on restoring economic relations with Europe, with a lifting of sanctions and advance on a stalled Comprehensive Agreement on Investment.

Ukraine War, Day 408: China and Europe Send Messages to Russia