Live: UK urges West to send more more tanks, planes and heavy weapons to Ukraine

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A Soviet era monument to friendship between Ukraine and Russia in Kyiv during its demolition on Tuesday April 26, 2022.

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Efrem Lukatsky/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin met one-on-one Tuesday for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine, with the United Nations later saying that the pair had agreed in principle on the UN and Red Cross being involved in the evacuation of civilians from the besieged steel plant in Mariupol.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom announced that it was suspending gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria, after the two countries refused to pay for gas in rubles. European gas prices have spiked by as much as 24% as a result.

Read the blog below to see how events unfolded on Wednesday 27 April:

06:58

    The British government has urged Western countries to send more tanks, planes, and heavy weapons to Ukraine. Russia accused Britain of “Russophobic hysteria” on Wednesday as it banned 287 UK politicians. 

    Gazprom suspends gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria, with the EU describing it as ‘blackmail’.

    Russia warned more countries could be cutoff from state-owned Gazprom gas if they don’t give in to a Russian demand to pay for the gas in rubles instead of euros, after a freeze on Russian hard currency assets.  

    Austria’s chancellor says any suggestion that his country will pay for Russian gas in rubles, not euros, amounts to ‘fake news propaganda.” 

    The biggest automobile association in Germany has told its 21 million members to ease their foot of the pedal to lower speeds and help reduce reliance on Russian fuel.   

    Ukraine retains control over the majority of its airspace, according to the latest intelligence report from the British Ministry of Defence.

    Germany close to gas independence from Russia, says vice chancellor.

    UN chief and Russia’s Putin agree in principle that the UN and Red Cross should be involved in the evacuation of civilians from the besieged steel plant in Mariupol.

    Refugees continue to stream out of eastern Ukraine.

17:19

Russia withdraws from UN’s World Tourism Organisation

Russia announced it was withdrawing from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation on Wednesday — just hours before the body’s assembly voted to temporarily suspend the country’s membership over the invasion of Ukraine, officials said.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili made the announcement on his official Twitter account. He said it was the first UN body to address Russia’s membership.

The organisation went ahead and approved the suspension at a special meeting in Madrid on Wednesday, where the organization has its headquarters.

“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s military offensive is an attack on the founding principles of the United Nations and on the values that tourism represents, such as peace, prosperity and universal respect and the observance of human rights,” Spanish Industry, Trade and Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said in a statement following the decision.

16:21

Two men arrested in Poland for allegedly spying for Russia

Security authorities in Poland say that a Russian and a Belarusian man have been arrested on allegations that they spied for Russian intelligence.

A spokesman for Poland’s state security bodies, Stanislaw Zaryn, said Wednesday that material gathered by Polish military intelligence led to their arrest.

He said that they were gathering sensitive military data, including information about Polish troops in the area near Poland’s border with Belarus.

The men were arrested separately last week.

16:04

Top Bulgarian officials visiting Ukraine

The Bulgarian government says the country’s PM and top defence official will go to Ukraine to meet with that country’s leaders.

The government press office said Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and Defense Minister Dragomir Zakov were being accompanied on Wednesday by members of Parliament.

In Kyiv, they will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, and with members of the 200,000-strong Bulgarian community in Ukraine.

They also will visit Borodyanka, Bucha and Irpin, in the Kyiv region, to see the damage caused by the Russian invasion.

14:56

No deal reached yet on Putin-Zelenskyy meeting, says Ukraine’s lead negotiator

Ukraine’s lead negotiator said on Wednesday no agreement had been reached for the Ukrainian and Russian presidents to discuss the war in Ukraine, despite efforts by Turkey to arrange such talks.

Mykhailo Podolyak said “the time of a meeting of the two countries’ presidents and the context of the meeting have not yet been determined.” He drew attention also to increased hostilities in east Ukraine and Russian attempts to “completely destroy” the southern city of Mariupol.

(Reuters)

14:51

Brussels proposes suspension of all EU import tariffs on Ukrainian goods

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday to suspend for one year all customs duties on Ukrainian products imported into the EU, in order to support the economy of the country attacked by Russia.

This proposal, which still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and the 27 member countries, is “an unprecedented gesture of support for a country at war”, the European executive said in a statement. The United Kingdom announced on Monday the elimination of its customs duties on products imported from Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she initiated the measures after discussions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “We both agree on the crucial importance of a tariff suspension to support Ukraine’s economy,” she said.

Bilateral trade between the EU and Ukraine accounted for €52 billion last year, according to the EU executive, a figure that has doubled since 2016.

However, since late February and the outbreak of war by Russia, Ukraine’s agricultural and industrial production has been severely affected, as well as its trade relations with the rest of the world, including the country’s access to the sea.

Ukraine’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to drop by 35% this year, according to a forecast by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published on 19 April.

(AFP)

14:28

Level of safety at Russian-occupied nuclear plant like a “red light blinking”, says IAE chief

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director-general says the level of safety at Europe’s largest nuclear plant, currently under Russian occupation in Ukraine, is like a “red light blinking” as his organisation tries in vain to get access for work including repairs.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Rafael Grossi said that the IAEA needs access to the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine so its inspectors can, among other things, reestablish connections with the Vienna-based headquarters of the UN agency. And for that, both Russia and Ukraine need to help.

The plant requires repairs, “and all of this is not happening. So the situation as I have described it, and I would repeat it today, is not sustainable as it is,” Grossi said. “So this is a pending issue. This is a red light blinking.”

He spoke in an interview Wednesday, a day after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about the issue.

(AP)

14:15

Strikes on strategic bridge could affect Ukrainian grain exports

Russia launched two missile strikes and damaged a strategic bridge in Ukraine’s Odessa region, state railways and local officials said on Wednesday, an event that could affect Ukrainian plans to expand exports through Danube ports.

The bridge across the Dniester Estuary is a part of the only fully Ukrainian-controlled railway route to Ukraine’s ports on the Danube, which Kyiv regard as a promising route for exports in a situation where Black Sea ports are blocked.

Ukraine, a major agricultural producer, used to export most of its goods through seaports but since Russia’s invasion in February has been forced to export by train via its western border or via its small Danube river ports.

The first attack was on Tuesday evening, and as a result of a rocket hit the bridge over the estuary was damaged. However, according to local officials, it could be quickly restored.

The second strike was on Wednesday morning and the condition of the bridge has not yet been reported.

(Reuters)

13:55

Kremlin warns that other countries could have gas supplies cut

The Kremlin says that Russia may halt gas supplies to other European customers following a cutoff to Poland and Bulgaria if they also refuse to switch to payment in rubles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, argued that the Russian demand to switch to rubles in payments for gas resulted from the Western action to freeze Russian hard currency assets. He said those were effectively “stolen” by the West in an “unprecedented unfriendly action.”

Speaking in a conference call Wednesday with reporters, Peskov warned that other European customers may see the taps turned off if they refuse to pay for gas in rubles by the time payment is due. Peskov argued that refusing to switch to rubles reflects a Western desire to “punish Russia at any cost to the detriment of their own consumers, taxpayers and producers.”

He rejected the EU’s description of the Russian move to halt supplies to Bulgaria and Poland starting Wednesday as blackmail, insisting that “Russia has remained a reliable supplier of energy resources” and stuck to its contractual obligations.

Peskov argued that the demand for payment in rubles is purely technical and doesn’t change price or other contract conditions for consumers.

(AP)

13:44

Serbia says it’s not affected by Russian gas cutoff

Serbia says that the Russian suspension of gas supplies to Bulgaria is not affecting the Balkan country.

Serbia receives some 6 million cubic meters of Russian gas daily via neighboring Bulgaria, and Energy Minister Zorana Mihailovic in a statement on Wednesday that supplies have not been halted.

Mihailovic said authorities nonetheless were looking into backup options in case the situation becomes more complicated.

Serbia depends heavily on Russian gas and the country’s main oil monopoly is owned by the Russian giant Gazprom. The country has refused to join sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine.

Mihailovic added that the Serbian government is already preparing plans for next winter. She said that “we have to secure energy stability in any possible way because at this moment it is every state for itself.”

Serbia sold 51% of the Serbia Oil Industry company to Gazprom in 2008.

(AP)

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