Leaders of the G7 nations and the European Union lay wreaths at the Hiroshima Memorial in Japan, May 19, 2023
Thursday’s Coverage: Another Wave of Failed Russian Strikes
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1733 GMT:
Meeting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on the sidelines of the Arab League summit in Jeddah, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked him “for supporting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine,” said Zelensky’s office.
Zelenskiy “noted the successful participation of Saudi Arabia in the return of ten prisoners of war” and said he hoped to continue joint efforts for releases.
Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said the Kingdom has chosen “active neutrality”.
Zelenskiy also met with Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and the heads of the delegations from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and Kuwait.
UPDATE 1726 GMT:
Edging towards supply of US-made F-16 fighters jets via third countries to Ukraine, the Biden Administration says it will back the international training of Ukrainian pilots.
A “Western official” said President Joe Biden had informed fellow G7 leaders of the decision at their summit in Japan.
US pilots will join the Ukrainians in the training at a site in Europe. The program will last for a few months.
A White House statement said:
Together with the short-term and medium-term security assistance packages we are providing Ukraine, President Biden is sending a powerful signal of how the United States and our allies and partners are fully united in ensuring Ukraine remains sovereign, independent, and secure with the ability to defend against and deter future attacks.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy responded:
I welcome the historic decision of the United States and @POTUS to support an international fighter jet coalition. This will greatly enhance our army in the sky. I count on discussing the practical implementation of this decision at the #G7 summit in Hiroshima.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 19, 2023
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK will work with the US, Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark to provide the training.
The Danish Defense Ministry confirmed, “Denmark is ready to support this. We will work with close allies work on the details with priority.”
UPDATE 1719 GMT:
Russia has expanded restrictions on environmental groups with the designation of Greenpeace as an “undesirable organization”, claiming the activists want to “change power in the country”.
The office of Russia’s Prosecutor General prosecutor said Greenpeace “a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order and security” with its “anti-Russian propaganda” and calls for the economic isolation of Moscow.
Greenpeace Russia responded, “This decision makes it illegal for any Greenpeace activity to continue in Russia. Therefore, the Russian branch of Greenpeace is forced to close.”
In March, the Russian Justice Ministry labelled the World Wildlife Fund a “foreign agent”.
UPDATE 1621 GMT:
Kyiv will consider an expansion of the Black Sea grain deal, with more Ukrainian ports and commodities included in return for transit of Russian ammonia across Ukraine.
A Ukrainian official said Wednesday’s two-month extension of the July 2022 deal, obtained after Russia backed away from a threat to let the agreement lapse, did not mention the ammonia pipeline from Togliati in Russia to Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa.
We say the following: if it includes an ammonia pipeline, then Ukraine should get some additional things which will serve our national interests. That is the expansion of the agreement’s geography and the list of goods.
UPDATE 1524 GMT:
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has appealed to the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia to help Ukrainians, including Muslims, to overcome Russia’s invasion.
In a last-minute arrangement, Zelenskiy visited the summit, en route to the G7 summit in Japan on Sunday.
With many Arab states taking cautious positions over the invasion — and with Vladimir Putin seeking their support — Zelenskiy seized the opportunity of a face-to-face address:
Ukrainians has never chosen the war. Our troops didn’t go to other lands. We do not engage in annexation and plunder of other nation’s resources. But we will never submit to any foreigners or colonisers. That’s why we fight.
I am sure you will understand our main emotion, the main call I want to leave in Jeddah, a noble call to all of you to help protect our people including Ukrainian Muslim community.
Earlier this week Ukraine marked the 79th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s mass killing and deportation of the Tatar community from Crimea, which has been occupied by Russia since 2014.
Zelenskiy used the case to politely push the Arab leaders to take a side over Vladimir Putin’s invasion:
The Crimea and Tatar should remain an integral part of the Muslim community of the world, but Crimea were the first to suffer from the Russian occupation. Most of all, those who have had to suffer the occupation are Muslims.
Unfortunately there are some among the world, and here among you who turn a blind eye to those cases and illegal annexations. I am here so everyone can take an honest look, no matter how hard the Russians try to influence, there must be independence.
The President raised Russia’s deportatations of Ukrainian children, saying he was certain none of the summit’s attendees would let another country seize their youth without a “fight”. And he linked his proposals to end the invasion with the threat of Russia to global food supplies through its attacks and Black Sea blockade.
I greet everyone who is ready to join us on the path of justice. Ukraine posted the peace formula to end the war. You can see how it works on the example of food security. Even when the war is thrown into our home, we do everything so the homes of other people survive. We managed to launch the Black Sea grain intitative and lift the partial Russian blockade of our ports. This stabilised food markets and helped many, many including the nations of the Arab League.
In a separate encounter, Zelenskiy invited Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the Kingdom’s effective leader, to come to Ukraine.
UPDATE 0856 GMT:
As G7 leaders discuss additional sanctions on Russia, Australia has imposed new financial restrictions and an export ban.
The measures target 21 entities, including subsidiaries of State atomic energy company Rosatom, Russia’s largest petroleum and gold companies, defense entities, and five banks.
A ban is introducted on exports of all machinery and related parts to Russia and Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine.
UPDATE 0757 GMT:
The former head of Ukraine’s Supreme Court, Vsevolod Kniaziev, is being held on UAH 107.36 million ($2.89 million) bail as he is investigated on bribery charges.
The High Anti-Corruption Court ruled on Thursday that Kniaziev will be held for 60 days.
Knaziev was detained on Monday as $2.7 million was seized. The next day, the Supreme Court voted 140-0 in an expression of no confidence in their former head.
UPDATE 0753 GMT:
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will attend the Arab League meeting in Saudi Arabia, en route to the G7 summit in Japan.
A “source familiar with the meeting” said Zelenskiy will travel from Jeddah to Hiroshima on a French government plane.
UPDATE 0739 GMT:
The Ukraine military says it downed 16 of 22 drones and three of six Kalibr cruise missiles fired by Russia early this morning.
Anton Gereschenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, added:
Another massive Russian attack on Ukraine last night. Tenth Russian air attack on Kyiv in the 19 days of May. Another sleepless night for many of us.
Air defense shot down 16 drones and 3 Kalibr cruise missiles. There have been damages in several Ukrainian regions, a 64-year old… pic.twitter.com/BrGfxujcVw
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) May 19, 2023
Officials in Kryvyi Rih in the Dnipropetrovsk said the 64-year-old woman was wounded when a private enterprise was struck, with damage to workshops and industrial equipment. A 45-year-old man was injured in an attack on an administrative building.
UPDATE 0701 GMT:
UK military intelligence assesses that the destruction of a railway line in Russian-occupied Crimea on Thursday will hamper Moscow’s movement of missiles and other weapons.
The train service from Simferopol — the only one to the port city of Sevastopol, the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet — is suspended after Thursday’s explosion.
The Russian proxy governor Sergei Aksyonov initially said “wagons with grain derailed” in the Simeferopol region, but officials later acknowledged “interference by outsiders”.
The UK analysts summarize, “Any sabotage in this sensitive will further increase the Kremlin’s concerns about its ability to protect other key infrastructure in Crimea.”
UPDATE 0638 GMT:
Russia launched another set of drone strikes across Ukraine early Friday.
There were no reports of successful strikes on infrastructure or civilian targets, and no indications of casualties from the attacks between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.
“This Kremlin tactic is an attempt to overwhelm our anti-aircraft forces and put psychological pressure on civilians. It won’t happen!” posted Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv military administration. “All air targets sent toward Kyiv were destroyed by our anti-aircraft defenses.”
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is travelling to Japan to join the G7 summit.
Zelenskiy had been expected to appear via video link. But Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, said the President will arrive in Hiroshima on Sunday.
“Very important things will be decided there and therefore the presence of our President…is absolutely essential in order to defend our interests,” Danilov told State TV.
The summit appearance comes less than a week after Zelenskiy’s four-day, four-nation tour of Italy, Germany, France, and the UK to organize further military, economic, and political support ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive.
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The tour highlighted further supplies of tanks, armored vehicles, air defense systems, and — for the first time — long-range missiles. However, the US is still balking at a commitment to the provision of F-16 fighter jets.
In Japan, the G7 is expected to announce new sanctions on Russian companies, banks, and individuals A US official said objectives include disruption of Moscow’s gathering of battlefield materiel; closing loopholes for sanctions evasion; a reduction of international reliance on Russian energy; and limits on Russia’s access to the international financial system.
US officials said more American sanctions would cut off about 70 entities from Russia and other countries, with another 300 sanctions on individuals, entities, vessels, and aircraft.
The G7 is also likely to reaffirm its statement, issued by Foreign Ministers in April, calling on all countries to stop the supply of weapons to Russia or risk “severe costs”.
However, the summit will not target China, which has put Russia and Ukraine on the same footing in the past month amid President Xi Jinping’s call to Zelenskiy and the assertion of a “strategic relationship” with Kyiv.
On the eve of the summit, the UK announced a ban on imports of Russian copper, nickel, aluminium, and diamonds. Sanctions were issued on another 86 individuals and firms, taking the total to more than 1,500.
An American official said the G7’s statement will have “a section specific to China”. But European Council President Charles Michel said it is in the European Union’s interest to maintain “stable and constructive” cooperation with Beijing.
Michel said the EU will ask China to increase pressure on Russia to end its invasion.
Stable and constructive relations with China is in our mutual interest. Given its role in the international community and the size of its economy, China has a special responsibility in the world and it has to play by international rules.