The essentials in brief:
- US President wants security guarantees for Kyiv
- Poland transfers soldiers to the border with Belarus
- Zelenskyi appoints new commander of National Guard
- Russia angered by return of Azov commanders
According to President Joe Biden, the US is ready to offer Ukraine similar protection to Israel after the end of the Russian war of aggression. Biden related the proposal to the period between the end of the war and a possible NATO accession.
In a CNN interview ahead of the NATO summit next week in Lithuania, Biden also emphasized that such a comprehensive protection guarantee would only be conceivable in the event of a ceasefire and a peace agreement.
Not for fun to Vilnius
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose country has been defending itself against a Russian invasion for 16 months, again made his participation in the NATO summit conditional. All decisions would have to be made during the meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, he told US broadcaster ABC. “I don’t want to go to Vilnius for fun if the decision has already been made.”
Specifically, he said: “Ukraine should get clear security guarantees as long as it is not in NATO.” This is a very important point. “Only under these conditions would our meeting make sense.”
Shortly before the NATO summit in Vilnius, the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Oleksii Makeiev, told the German Press Agency that “a clear and unambiguous invitation and direction to join NATO” was expected. Even if this will not happen overnight, one expects that NATO will no longer allow any ambiguity.
In 2008, Ukraine was on the verge of being accepted into the defense alliance – but at the Bucharest summit, Germany in particular, under the then Chancellor Angela Merkel, resisted. “If Ukraine had already been a member of NATO in 2014, the annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbass and now the Russian large-scale war of aggression would certainly not have happened,” Makeiev said.
The heads of state and government of the 31 NATO countries will meet in the Lithuanian capital on Tuesday and Wednesday. The main topics are support for Ukraine and further strategy towards Russia.
Moscow also called on NATO to discuss the situation at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant Zaporizhia. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the main focus of the summit should be on the threat of “systematic damage”. Russia has been throwing such a plan at Ukraine for days – Kiev has denied it and warned that the Russian occupiers had planted explosive devices at the power plant. According to the Ukrainian nuclear supervisory authority, willful damage could result in a radiation catastrophe of the magnitude of that at Fukushima or Chernobyl.
Poland transfers 1000 soldiers
NATO member Poland has begun moving more than 1,000 additional soldiers and nearly 200 military vehicles to its eastern border with Belarus. This was announced by Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak, according to the PAP news agency. With “Operation Podlachia” they want to demonstrate their willingness to react to “attempts at destabilization” at the borders. In the east, the historic landscape of Podlaskie borders on the ex-Soviet republic, which is allied with Russia.
Only recently the Presidents of Lithuania, Poland and Latvia expressed their concerns about developments in neighboring Belarus in a joint letter to NATO. The background is the stationing of Russian tactical nuclear weapons and the possible accommodation of fighters from the Wagner mercenary group in the country autocratically ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko.
According to Polish authorities, the number of illegal border crossings by migrants is currently increasing. On Friday alone, 200 people, including Moroccans, Indians and Ethiopians, tried to get to Poland from Belarus, the border guard said. The government in Warsaw accuses Belarus of wanting to destabilize Poland with illegal immigration.
Cambodia warns Ukraine about cluster munitions
Cambodia, from its own painful experience, has warned Ukraine against using cluster munitions. “It would be the greatest danger for Ukrainians for up to a hundred years if cluster bombs were used in the Russian-occupied areas on the territory of Ukraine,” Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote on Twitter.
During the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s, the US Army dropped millions of cluster bombs in Cambodia and neighboring Laos. The USA wanted to hit communist positions, but it also caused suffering to many civilians: tens of thousands of people were killed or maimed by the explosive devices, Hun Sen recalled. Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. By 2025, the government wants to have cleared and defused all mines and duds.
Cluster bombs are considered particularly insidious because each of them spreads numerous small explosive devices over a larger area, not all of which detonate. It is disputed to what extent the dud rate of the ammunition now planned for Ukraine is comparable to that used in Cambodia. More than 100 countries outlaw the use of cluster munitions, including Germany. The USA and Ukraine, but also Russia, have not signed the relevant Oslo Agreement.
Zelenskyj appoints new chief of the National Guard
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appointed Olexandr Pivnenko as the new head of the National Guard. Piwnenko is a highly decorated officer with combat experience, who has distinguished himself in particular in the battles against Russian troops around the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, Zelenskyj explained at the appointment. He was also awarded the “Hero of Ukraine” medal, the nation’s highest award.
The appointment came at an event in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv immediately after Zelenskyy’s return from Turkey. From there he also brought home several officers of the nationalist Azov regiment who were involved in the defense of Mariupol. The regiment is part of the National Guard. As a paramilitary association, it reports to the Ministry of the Interior. She is actually responsible for border security and protection of internal security. After the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the National Guard also fought at the front.
Russian anti-aircraft defense shoots down Ukrainian missiles
Russian air defense reports that Ukrainian missiles have been launched in the Rostov border region and on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea annexed by Moscow. In the Rostov region, the debris of a launched rocket damaged several buildings, Governor Vasily Golubev wrote on Telegram. There are no injuries. The head of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, spoke of a downed cruise missile in the Kerch region. There is no damage or injuries.
In Russian border regions, the authorities have repeatedly complained about drone and artillery fire from the Ukrainian side. In view of the arms deliveries from the West, they had also warned of possible rocket attacks. The damage is considered minor compared to the devastation of entire cities and towns by the Russian war of aggression, which has been going on for more than 500 days.
Russia angered by return of Azov commanders
Russia has condemned the premature return of several Ukrainian commanders from Turkey to their homeland. This is “nothing more than a direct violation of the existing agreements,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Both Ukraine and Turkey have violated the agreement that the men should remain in Turkey until the end of the conflict. The return is linked to the “failure of Ukraine’s counter-offensive” and Ankara’s desire to show its “solidarity” in the run-up to the NATO summit in Vilnius. Turkey was “put under a lot of pressure,” said Peskow.
The Ukrainian presidency had confirmed that after “negotiations with the Turkish side” they had achieved the return of five members of the Azov regiment. They were greeted at Istanbul Airport by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was visiting Turkey on Friday.
Part of the Azov regiment of the Ukrainian army, formed on the basis of the ultra-nationalist battalion of the same name, was captured by Russian forces after the fall of Mariupol in May 2022. While the Azov militants are hailed as heroes in Ukraine for their resistance at the Azov Steelworks during the siege of Mariupol, they are frowned upon in Russia for their links to Ukrainian ultranationalists.
Nine civilians killed in Lyman shelling
The death toll after Russian artillery fire on the town of Lyman has risen to at least nine civilians, according to Ukrainian sources. Twelve people were injured, the head of the Donetsk military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said on Telegram. Russian troops made unsuccessful advances in the Lyman sector in Donetsk. At least ten towns and villages were shelled by Russian artillery.
rb/haz/qu/ehl/kle/wa (rtr, dpa, afp)
This article will be continuously updated on the day of its publication. Reports from war zones cannot be independently verified.