Kyiv, Ukraine — In a day of give and take, Western countries have made more pledges to send weapons to Ukraine, while the European Union’s full ban on Russian coal imports came into effect on Thursday, extending sanctions against Moscow, which intelligence officials say. harm defense exports contributed to sanctions against Moscow.
Germany, seen as a listless Ukrainian ally early in the Russian invasion, is making what Chancellor Olaf Scholz described as a “huge” break from its past by sending weapons to the war-ravaged country.
Scholz said Germany is “shipping weapons — a large, many, far-reaching and very effective. And we will continue to do so for some time to come.” His government has approved military exports of at least $710 million and plans to provide further financial aid to Ukraine, the chancellor said.
At a conference in Copenhagen, Britain and Denmark also made additional pledges to help Ukraine defend against the Russian invasion, which has devastated the country and reverberated around the world.
“We will not disappoint you,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said as she opened a one-day international donor conference. Denmark said a new $113 million contribution would take the small northern country’s total funding amount from 5.8 million to more than $500 million. She called it “a huge donation.”
By comparison, Ukraine’s main donor, the United States, has pledged $9.1 billion in security assistance since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24.
To put more pressure on Russia, Britain has announced it will send more multi-launch missile systems and guided missiles to Ukraine. The missiles can hit targets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) away with pinpoint accuracy, the British government said.
The new weapons, the number of which has not been specified, come on top of several missile launch systems Britain supplied earlier this year after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the reinforced military support shows the West will “stand shoulder to shoulder and provide defensive military aid to Ukraine to help them defend against Putin’s invasion.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking by videoconference at the meeting of mainly Northern European countries, called for more aid. “The sooner we stop Russia, the sooner we can feel safe,” he said.
Britain said Moscow was already tense by the need to produce armored fighting vehicles for its troops in Ukraine and that it is therefore “very unlikely that it will be able to fulfill some export orders”, in a sector where it has long been is proud of.
Britain’s defense intelligence update, which highlights “the increasing effect of Western sanctions”, echoes Western belief that the series of measures imposed on the Kremlin since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24 are increasingly impacting on the Russian economy.
The update said that because of the war and sanctions, “its military industrial capability is now under significant strain and the credibility of many of its weapon systems has been undermined by their association with the poor performance of the Russian armed forces.”
As the war draws to a close, Russia faces other challenges. Amid reports that hundreds of Russian soldiers refused to fight and attempted to leave the military, covert recruiting efforts are underway, including using prisoners to make up for a shortage of trained troops.
Russia’s military credibility came under further strain on Wednesday when Ukraine said nine Russian warplanes were destroyed after explosions at an air base in Russia-controlled Crimea that appeared to be the result of a Ukrainian attack.
Russia denied that any planes were damaged by the blast – or that an attack took place. But satellite photos clearly showed that at least seven fighter jets at the base had blown up and others were likely damaged.
Britain’s Wallace dismissed Russian explanations for the blast, including a wayward cigarette butt, as “apologies.”
“If you look at the images of two simultaneous explosions not quite side by side, and some of the damage reported even by the Russian authorities, I think it’s clear that’s not something that happens when someone drops a cigarette,” he said. the British. said minister.
Ukrainian forces, mounting a broad counter-offensive in the south, have recaptured 54 settlements in the Kherson region overrun by Russia in the early days of the war, the governor said on Thursday.
On Ukrainian TV, Yaroslav Yanushch also accused Moscow of shelling the areas it lost in retaliation, creating a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in towns and villages along the region’s northern border. The governor said 92% of the Kherson region is still under Russian occupation.
In the east of the country, the Ukrainian army said it had repulsed Russian attempts to advance towards the city of Bakhmut, a key target of Moscow’s offensive in the Donetsk region. It also said Russian forces had attempted to breach Ukrainian defenses near the towns of Kramatorsk and Avdiivka, also in the Donetsk region.
The army also reported Russian shelling of dozens of towns and villages in northern, southern and eastern Ukraine.
In his overnight video address, Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians not to release details about the country’s military operations.
“If you want victory for Ukraine, that’s another matter, and you have to feel a sense of responsibility for every word you say about what our state is preparing in terms of defense or counter-offensive,” he said.
Russia, meanwhile, took clear steps to strengthen its control over the eastern region of Luhansk after it ousted the last of Ukrainian troops last month. Luhansk and Donetsk form the Donbas, the industrial heart.
Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president, said he was accompanied on a visit to the region by top Russian law enforcement and security officials, as well as the minister in charge of construction.
Medvedev said in a message on a messaging app that they met with local Kremlin-backed officials to talk about “repairing infrastructure, repairing hospitals and preparing schools for the start of the school year, the solving social problems and supporting citizens.”
In other developments Thursday:
— Funeral services were held for 11 more unidentified bodies found in Bucha, the city outside the Ukrainian capital where hundreds of people were massacred under Russian occupation early in the war.
— The governments of Ukraine and Russia have exchanged further allegations about which side was responsible for shelling the territory of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Moscow and Kiev to halt military action around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant to avoid catastrophe.
— The European Union’s ban on coal imports from Russia came into effect after a long phase-in that began in April. The 27-nation EU said it will affect about 25% of Russia’s coal exports and cause losses of about $8 billion a year. The EU is also trying to phase out Russian gas imports, but is too dependent to impose a complete ban.
– And in perhaps the most symbolic example of give-and-take on Thursday, McDonald’s announced plans to reopen some of its restaurants in Ukraine in the coming months. The fast food giant closed in March and sold hundreds of its Russian restaurants.
Looking beyond a hoped-for return to peace, Scholz said Germany was working with the EU to develop plans to rebuild Ukraine.
“That’s going to be a big, big task that can hardly be described as a Marshall Plan,” he said, referring to the massive US aid plan for Europe in the aftermath of World War II. “It’s bigger.”
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