Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy with Pope Francis in the Vatican, May 2023 (AP)

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Sunday’s Coverage: Kyiv’s Air Defenses Down 35 of 39 Russian Drones

Map: Institute for the Study of War


Mariana Katzarova, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Russia, says that “the Russian government is responsible, one way or another, for [the] death” last month of opposition leader Alexei Navalny

On the sidelines of a UN event in Geneva about Russian political prisoners, Katzarova said Navalny was either killed in prison or died from conditions that amounted to torture.

She warned that other detainees in Russia could suffer the same fate, and that she is “very worried” about opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, condemned in April 2023 to 25 years in prison.

“Ever since the death of Alexei Navalny, there is no day passing without asking myself, who is the next Navalny?” the Special Rapporteur said. “And there will be a next Navalny, for sure, with this level of repression.”


German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says she would consider an arrangement where the UK supplies Ukraine with more Storm Shadow missiles in exchange for Germany providing Taurus missiles to London.

The initiative would bypass Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s objection to direct supply of the Taurus missiles to Ukraine. He has argued that the weapons could be fired on targets inside Russia and would not be controlled by the German military.

Last Friday, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron proposed the “ring exchange” in an interview with German outlet Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Baerbock said in a televised interview on Sunday, “The ring exchange is a German invention, so to say. It would be an option. And we’ve already done it with other equipment some time ago.


Russia is producing about 250,000 artillery munitions per month, according to NATO intelligence estimates and Western officials.

That is 2 1/2 times the US and European capacity of about 1.2 million munitions per year which could be sent to Ukraine.

The US military had set a goal of 100,000 rounds of artillery per month by the end of 2025, but this is being jeopardized by the Trumpist and hard-right Republican blockade of $60 billion in authorized aid for Ukraine.

“What we are in now is a production war,” a senior NATO official. “The outcome in Ukraine depends on how each side is equipped to conduct this war.”

Officials say Russia is currently firing around 10,000 shells a day, compared to 2,000 a day from the Ukrainian side.

EU foreign policy head Josep Borrell said:

We need to boost our defense industrial and technological base. It was not clear to anybody before Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, but now it has become common sense. It is a prerequisite if we want to be able to strengthen our defense capacity in a tense geopolitical context.

He said munitions production is constrained “not so much a lack of production capacity, but rather a lack of orders and financing”. Industry leaders were saying “place orders and we will produce more.”


Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has joined the criticism of Pope Francis’s “white flag” injunction to Ukraine.

Baerbock said during a political talkshow on ARD, “I don’t understand it. I think some things you can only understand if you see them for yourself.”

Referring to her conversations with Ukrainian children who have suffered because of the invasion, she said, “I ask myself: Where is the Pope? The Pope must know about these things.”

She emphasized that if Ukraine and the international community “don’t show strength now, there will be no peace”.


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has hailed the accession of Sweden as the bloc’s 32nd member, noting that Vladimir Putin had “failed” to weaken it through the invasion of Ukraine.

Stoltenberg added, “Ukraine will become a Nato ally. The question is not if but when. Ukraine is now closer to Nato membership than ever before.”

The NATO head spoke alongside Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, jsut before the Swedish flag was hoisted outside the organizatoin’s Brussels headquarter.

When President Putin launched his full-scale invasion two years ago, he wanted less Nato

Stoltenberg also alluded to Pope Francis’s “white flag” remark urging Ukraine to negotiate over Russia’s invasion, occupation, and mass killing.

“Surrender is not peace,” he explained.


Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a long-time ally of Vladimir Putin, has assured that Donald Trump will cut off all assistance to Ukraine if he returns to the White House.

Last Friday, Orbán visited Trump at the latter’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, with an hour-long meeting and an appearance at an event with a tribute band. Trump praised the Hungarian, “He is the boss.”

See also Wannabe Autocrats: Trump Hosts Hungary’s Orbán

Orbán boasted on State TV on Sunday evening:

He will not give a penny into the Ukraine-Russia war and therefore the war will end, as it is obvious that Ukraine on its own cannot stand on its feet.”

If the Americans do not give money and weapons, and also the Europeans, then this war will be over. And if the Americans do not give money the Europeans are unable to finance this war on their own, and then the war will end.


The commander of Russia’s Navy, Adm. Nikolai Yevmenov, has reportedly been dismissed.

The Russian daily Izvestia said Alexander Moiseyev, the commander of Russia’s Northern Fleet, has been appointed as acting navy chief.

The reports follow a series of devastating Ukrainian attacks on the Russian Navy, with the sinking and damage of warships both off the coast of Russian-occupied Crimea and in ports inside Russia.

Three of Russia’s 10 large landing ships have been put out of action. Last week the 1,300-ton patrol vessel Sergey Kotov was sunk by naval drones off Crimea.

See also Ukraine War, Day 742: Kyiv Sinks Another Russian Warship

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov declined to comment, saying he did not do so on classified decrees.


Three people have been killed and 12 injured in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine by an overnight Russian drone attack.

Russia launched 25 Iran-type Shahed drones, 15 of which were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses. Ten Ukrainian regions were targeted.

Two Donetsk victims were in Dobropillia in a residential area, and the other was in the town of Chasiv Yar.

Ten of the drones were intercepted over the Odesa region in southern Ukraine during a 90-minute attack. An infrastructure facility was hit, and administrative buildings were damaged.

Nataliya Humeniuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Southern Military Command, said:

Recently, the enemy has chosen a tactic where drones maneuver in the area of residential buildings, to terrorize the civilian population. This tactic is also aimed at complicating the work of Ukraine’s Air Defense Forces because it is really difficult to shoot them down when there are high-rise buildings around, full of people.


20 Days in Mariupol — filmed inside the port city in southeast Ukraine attacked, besieged, and overrun by Russia’s invasion in spring 2022 — has won the Oscar for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards.

The film is directed by Ukrainian journalist Mstyslav Chernov, who has described the film as “some kind of collective resistance to tragedy”.

Accepting the award in Los Angeles, Chernov said:


I am honored but I will probably be the first director on this stage to say that I wish I had never made this film.

I wish to be able to exchange this for Russia never attacking Ukraine, never invading our cities. I wish to be able to exchange this for Russian not killing 10,000 of my fellow Ukrainians.

Saying he would swap the award for Russia “releasing the hostages” and “the civilians who are now in their jails, he concluded:

I cannot change history. I cannot change the past.

But we all together, you — some of the most talented people in the world — can make sure the history record is set straight and the truth will prevail and the people of Mariupol and those who have lost their lives will never be forgotten.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has dismissed the “virtual mediation” of Pope Francis, who called on Ukrainians to have the “courage of the white flag” and negotiate over Russia’s invasion, occupation, and mass killings.

Zelenskiy said in his nightly address to the nation:

When Russian evil launched this war on February 24th, 2022, all Ukrainians rose up to defend their country. Christians, Muslims, Jews — everyone. And I am grateful to each chaplain who is with the army, in our defense forces, on the frontlines, protecting life and humanity. Those who support others through prayer, conversation, and actions.

This is what the Church is: one with the people. Not 2,500 kilometers away—somewhere, looking for a virtual meditation between those who want to live and those who want to destroy you.

In his interview with a Swiss broadcaster — conducted in February but only published over the weekend — Pope Francis was asked about those who call for surrender and raising the white flag. Rather than knock back the question, the Pope reinforced it by indicating that Russia is defeating Ukraine’s resistance.

“I believe that the stronger one is the one who sees the situation, the one who thinks about people, the one who has the courage to raise the white flag and negotiate,” he replied. “When you see that you are losing, that things are not going well, you need to have the courage to negotiate.”

Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni “clarified” on Sunday that Pope Francis did not mean that Ukraine should surrender to Russia.

But the revision was not enough to ease Ukrainian concerns. Zelenskiy emphasized in his response:

Russian murderers and torture chambers are unable to march further into Europe because they are being held back by Ukrainians holding arms under the blue and yellow flag.

There used to be many white walls of houses and churches in Ukraine, but they have now been burned and damaged by Russian shells. This speaks volumes about who needs to stop for the war to end.

Everyone who defends life and people is carrying out the most honorable mission possible in the face of such an inhumane invasion. And we must fully protect life in our home.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba summarized, “Our flag is a yellow and blue one. This is the flag by which we live, die, and prevail. We shall never raise any other flags.”

He reminded readers of the Vatican’s collaboration with Nazi Germany during World War II, “At the same time, when it comes to the white flag, we know this Vatican strategy from the first half of the 20th century. I urge to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and to support Ukraine and its people in their just struggle for their lives.”

“One Must Fight Evil and Defeat It”

International allies supported Kyiv. Latvian President Edgars Rinkēvičs posted: “One must not capitulate in [the] face of evil. One must fight it and defeat it, so that the evil raises the white flag and capitulates.”

Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski posted, “How about, for balance, encouraging Putin to have the courage to withdraw his army from Ukraine? Peace would immediately ensue without the need for negotiations.”

And Alexandra Valkenburg, the head of the European delegation to the Holy See, said: