April 22, 2024

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Olga Voitovych

A Ukrainian soldier signs a 'V' for victory as he receives training on Leopard 2 battle tanks at the Spanish army's training center of San Gregorio in Zaragoza on March 13.
A Ukrainian soldier signs a ‘V’ for victory as he receives training on Leopard 2 battle tanks at the Spanish army’s training center of San Gregorio in Zaragoza on March 13. (Oscar del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images)

The first group of Ukrainian soldiers training to operate and maintain Spain’s Leopard 2A4 tanks will finish their instruction this week, the Spanish Ministry of Defense said in a statement Monday.

The first group includes 10 complete crews and support staff, consisting of 55 soldiers in total.

“These courses were launched after the Spanish commitment to contribute to the Ukrainian defensive effort with the contribution of tanks was formalized,” the statement read. “At that time, Ukraine requested the training of crews and maintenance personnel for the operational deployment of the contributed Leopard 2A main battle tanks.”

Some more context: Spain agreed to send six of its Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks to Ukraine, part of a coordinated effort with Germany, Norway, Poland, Portugal and the Netherlands, to supply Kyiv with around 80 Leopard 2 vehicles. Germany will supply Ukraine with 18 of the more advanced Leopard 2A6 variant.

47 min ago

Belarus’ leader’s Iran visit an extension of “deepening relationship” between Moscow and Tehran, US says

From CNN’s Jennifer Hansler and Christian Sierra

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left,  walks with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko during a welcoming ceremony in Tehran, Iran, on March 13.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, walks with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko during a welcoming ceremony in Tehran, Iran, on March 13. (BelTA/Handout/Reuters)

The visit by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to Iran is “in some ways, an extension of the deepening relationship between Iran and Russia,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Monday.

“It’s something we’re watching very closely. These are two birds of a feather and oftentimes they do flock together,” Price said at a State Department briefing.

Belarus’ leader, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, met in Tehran on Monday with President Ebrahim Raisi, according to Belarusian state media, and the two “signed a roadmap for comprehensive cooperation between the countries for 2023-2026.”

1 hr 23 min ago

US is encouraging Chinese president to speak with Ukraine’s Zelensky, White House says

From CNN’s Nikki Carvajal

The US has been encouraging Chinese President Xi Jinping to speak directly with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the White House said Monday, amid reports the Chinese leader would hold a call with Zelensky.

“We have been encouraging President Xi to reach out to President Zelensky because we believe that PRC and President Xi himself should hear directly the Ukrainian perspective and not just the Russian perspective on this,” National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One. “We have, in fact, advocated to Beijing that that connection take place.”

He said the US had encouraged that conversation “publicly” as well as “privately to the PRC.”

Sullivan added that American officials have “spoken with our Ukrainian counterparts today,” and that Ukrainians had not officially gotten confirmation there would be a phone call or a video conference with Xi.

“We hope there will be. That would be a good thing because it would potentially bring more balance and perspective to the way that the PRC is approaching this, and we hope it would continue to dissuade them from choosing to provide legal assistance to Russia,” Sullivan added.

49 min ago

International Criminal Court will open war crimes cases against Russia over Ukraine invasion, media reports

From CNN’s Zahid Mahmood and Sugam Pokharel in London

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin speak to journalists on February 28, as they visit the site of a residential building damaged by a Russian missile strike late November, in the town of Vyshhorod, outside Kyiv, Ukraine.
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin speak to journalists on February 28, as they visit the site of a residential building damaged by a Russian missile strike late November, in the town of Vyshhorod, outside Kyiv, Ukraine. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters/FILE)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is planning to open two war crimes cases related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and issue arrest warrants against “several people,” according to the New York Times (NYT) and Reuters, citing current and former officials with knowledge of the decision who were not authorized to speak publicly.

According to the NYT, the cases would represent the first international charges to be brought since the start of Russia’s war and come after months of work by special ICC investigation teams.

The first case the ICC is set to open is about Russia’s alleged abduction of Ukrainian children. The second is on Russia’s “unrelentingly” targeting civilian infrastructure, including water supplies and gas tanks, according to the NYT.

ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan’s first step is to present his charges to a panel of pretrial judges, who will decide whether legal standards have been met for issuing arrest warrants or whether investigators need more evidence, the NYT reported.

In a response to a request from CNN on the NYT’s reporting, the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor said that they “provide no comment on this report.”

The ICC chief visited Ukraine last month to probe Russia’s attacks on power and other infrastructure.

Khan told reporters during the visit that “we see clearly a pattern, I think, in terms of the number, scale and breadth of attacks against the power grids of Ukraine. And we need to look at why that’s taking place; are they legitimate targets or not; and whether or not they are targeted for other reasons.”

“There seems to be a lot of damage in Ukraine, and it may well be it is part of a policy and part of a plan and we need to get to the bottom of it and see whether or not there is criminal responsibility and if there is we have an International Criminal Court that has jurisdiction to look into it,” he added.

When asked whether the court’s process may be too slow to meet the expectations of the Ukrainians, the top prosecutor said: “What people want are not Pyrrhic victories.”

“As a prosecutor we are officers of the court. We are not here to get a round of applause by a conjuring trick. Whenever we do move, (people) should have confidence that this is not a political process,” he continued.

More background: Earlier this month, CNN reported on 15-year-old Arina Yatsiuk, one of 345 Ukrainian children who disappeared since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, according to official Ukrainian statistics.

The Ukrainian government says many of the missing children have been forcibly taken to Russia. The Russian government doesn’t deny taking Ukrainian children and has made their adoption by Russian families a centerpiece of propaganda.

One senior Ukrainian official told CNN on Monday that they have been pushing the ICC for some time to seek arrest warrants against Russian individuals in relation to the war in Ukraine.

“Ukraine has been pushing for Russian officials involved in war crimes to be prosecuted by the ICC, up to and including (Russian President Vladimir) Putin who is ultimately responsible,” the official said.

1 hr 15 min ago

Fighting is relentless around Bakhmut. Here’s what else you need to know

From CNN Staff

The fighting around Bakhmut is relentless with Ukrainian troops clearing Russian trenches in close-quarters combat, according to the Ukrainian military.

Wagner assault units are sustaining “significant losses” as the Russian mercenary group advances from several directions around the besieged eastern city, a top Ukrainian military commander said.

Wagner’s chief said his troops are nearing the city center but the Ukrainians are “fighting for every meter.”

Here are more of the latest headlines:

  • Russia and UN agree to an extension of grain deal: Russia and the United Nations have agreed to a 60-day extension of the Ukraine grain deal after negotiations in Geneva, Russian state news agency RIA reported on Monday.
  • Why are grain exports so important? Ukraine and Russia are both significant suppliers of food to the world. Before the war, Ukraine – known as one of the globe’s breadbaskets – would export around three-quarters of the grain it produced. According to data from the European Commission, about 90% of these exports were shipped from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. The war and its impact on grain exports, therefore, has major implications, particularly in the global South which relies heavily on them.
  • International Criminal Court to open war crimes cases over invasion, reports say: The International Criminal Court is planning to open two war crimes cases tied to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and issue arrest warrants against “several people,” according to the New York Times and Reuters, citing current and former officials with knowledge of the decision who were not authorized to speak publicly. The cases would represent the first international charges to be brought since the start of Russia’s war and come after months of work by special ICC investigation teams, the Times said.
  • War “far too fluid” to include additional funding in 2024 budget, Pentagon says: The Pentagon’s $842 billion 2024 budget request does not include additional funding for Ukraine in its war against Russia due to the unpredictability of the conflict’s longevity, officials said.  A senior defense official told reporters on Friday that the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2024 budget request has $300 million for Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative “that has always been in the budget,” but otherwise doesn’t include any other funding.
  • Pentagon budget request does include additional munitions funding: While the Pentagon’s budget request may not include additional funding specifically for Ukraine, it does include an almost $6 billion increase in munitions funding which is “sort of informed and pressurized on the ground side by the Ukraine fight and the things that we’ve been giving to Ukraine,” the official said.
  • White House: US encouraging Chinese president to speak with Zelensky: The US has been encouraging President Xi Jinping to speak directly with President Volodymyr Zelensky, the White House said Monday, amid reports the Chinese leader would hold a call with the Ukrainian leader. “We believe that PRC and President Xi himself should hear directly the Ukrainian perspective and not just the Russian perspective on this,” National Security adviser Jake Sullivan said.
  • EU extends sanctions against Russia: The European Union Council on Monday announced it had extended sanctions placed on Russia for a further six months. The current sanctions apply to 1,473 individuals and 205 entities, and include travel restrictions, the freezing of assets, and a ban on making funds or other economic resources available to the listed individuals and entities, it added.
  • Ukrainian official says Wagner is stepping up recruitment effort in Russian-occupied city: The mayor of the Moscow-occupied city of Melitopol in southern Ukraine said that Russia’s Wagner private military company has unsuccessfully tried to recruit from among the city’s population despite stepping up efforts.

2 hr 38 min ago

Russia remains the “most acute threat” to UK’s security, British government says in review

From CNN’s Alex Hardie in London

Russia continues to be the “most acute threat” to the UK’s security, Britain’s government said in a review of its security approach published on Monday.

The report, called the “Integrated Review Refresh 2023,” announced an expansion in defense investment by 5 billion pounds (around $6 billion) over the next two years.

“What has changed is that our collective security now is intrinsically linked to the outcome of the conflict in Ukraine,” the review – which is an update on one published in 2021 – said.

In the long term, the UK would aim to increase its “baseline commitment of spending” on defense from 2% of GDP to 2.5%, the review said.

It said that China “poses an epoch-defining challenge to the type of international order we want to see,” and identified China’s “deepening partnership with Russia and Russia’s growing cooperation with Iran” as two developments of “particular concern.”

Regarding Russia, the review said that the UK’s objective would be “to contain and challenge Russia’s ability and intent to disrupt the security of the UK, the Euro-Atlantic and the wider international order.”

On China, the report announced a doubling of funding “to build China capabilities across government to better understand China and allow us to engage confidently where it is in our interests to do so.”

In response to the increase in defense spending, Tobias Ellwood, chair of the UK’s Defense Select Committee, told Sky News on Monday that Russia and China “would be breathing a sigh of relief that we have not invested further in our armed forces at this time.”

Speaking to UK parliament about the report, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said that “on every continent of the world, the United Kingdom walks taller today than it has done for many years.”

1 hr 16 min ago

Russia and UN agree to 60-day extension of grain deal, Russian state news agency says

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio, Josh Pennington and Kateryna Krebs

The hold of a  UN-chartered vessel is loaded with  Ukrainian wheat to be delivered to Kenya and  to Ethiopia, at the port of Chornomorsk on February 18.
The hold of a UN-chartered vessel is loaded with Ukrainian wheat to be delivered to Kenya and to Ethiopia, at the port of Chornomorsk on February 18. (Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images/FILE)

Russia and the United Nations have agreed to a 60-day extension of the Ukraine grain deal after negotiations in Geneva, Russian state news agency RIA reported on Monday.

“Our Russian interdepartmental delegation has just completed another round of talks with UN representatives led by UNCTAD Secretary General R. Greenspan and OCHA head M. Griffiths,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said at a briefing on Monday, according to RIA.

The diplomat added Moscow had agreed to extend the current grain deal, which lasts until March 18, for an additional 60 days.

“But just for 60 days,” Vershinin said. “Any further grain policy will depend on actual —based on not what’s said but what’s done — progress on the normalization of our agricultural exports, including bank payments, transport logistics, insurance, unfreezing of financial activities and the continuation of ammonia supply through the Tolyatti-Odessa pipeline.”

Why are grain exports so important? Ukraine and Russia are both significant suppliers of food to the world. Before the war, Ukraine – known as one of the globe’s breadbaskets – would export around three-quarters of the grain it produces. According to data from the European Commission, about 90% of these exports were shipped by sea, from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. The war and its impact on grain exports therefore has major implications, particularly in the global South which relies heavily on them.

 

 

Credit: cnn.com

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