Ukraine Update: Zelenskiy Says More Military Aid Can Shorten War

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Ukraine Update: Zelenskiy Says More Military Aid Can Shorten War
Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine's president, speaks during the United Nations General Assembly via live stream in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

A U.S. defense official said Ukrainian missiles destroyed the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, backing Ukraine’s version of events. With fears of Russian retaliation running high, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine’s allies can help shorten the war with “more and faster” arms deliveries.

Russia, which hasn’t acknowledged a Ukrainian strike on the Moskva, warned the U.S. over its weapons shipments to Ukraine, according to a diplomatic note cited by the New York Times and Washington Post. Joe Biden said he’s considering sending a senior official to visit Ukraine, though the White House says it won’t be the president. 

Ukraine said its spring planting outlook has improved slightly as Russia’s military narrows its focus to the country’s east.

Ukraine Update: Zelenskiy Says More Military Aid Can Shorten War

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Key Developments

All times CET: 

Ukraine Army Chief Talks to U.S. General by Phone (4:19 a.m.)

Ukraine army Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi reiterated calls for more weapons in a telephone conversation with General Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to a post on Facebook. 

The two discussed heavy fighting on the Kharkiv-Izyum border, the Russian offensive in Luhansk and Donetsk and the “critical situation” around Mariupol, as well as rocket attacks throughout Ukraine.

Ukrainian Officials to Visit Washington, Reuters Says (1:52 a.m.)

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko and central bank governor Kyrylo Shevchenko will visit Washington next week during the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the plans. 

They are set to hold bilateral meetings with finance officials from the Group of Seven countries and take part in a roundtable on Ukraine that will be hosted by the World Bank on Thursday, according to the report. 

Ukraine Has Lost Up to 3,000 Soldiers, Zelenskiy Says (1:25 a.m.)

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy estimated Ukraine’s military casualties at between 2,500 to 3,000 dead and about 10,000 injured, according to excerpts from an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” set to be broadcast Sunday. 

He said it’s “very difficult” to estimate civilian losses, given that cities such as Mariupol and Kherson as well as other areas are inaccessible due to fighting.

Zelenskiy: More Military Aid Will Shorten War (1:00 a.m.)

Ukraine’s allies have it in their hands to avoid a drawn-out war, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, renewing calls for them to deliver more weapons to his country and expand sanctions on Russia.

“When someone says it will take a year or years, I reply: it is in your hands to make the war significantly shorter,” Zelenskiy said in his latest video address. “The more and the faster we will get all the weapons we asked for, the stronger our positions will be and the sooner peace will come.”

He also called for an international embargo on Russian oil and a “full blockade of its financial sector.” Ukrainian forces have liberated 918 towns and villages since the start of the war, Zelenskiy said.

Ukraine Update: Zelenskiy Says More Military Aid Can Shorten War

U.S. Says Moskva Was Hit by Ukrainian Missiles (8:17 p.m.)

Russia’s Moskva cruiser, the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, was struck by two Ukrainian Neptune missiles, a senior U.S. defense official said Friday.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has said the Moskva sank during a storm while being towed back to port after reporting fires and ammunition explosions on board. Ukraine’s military says the ship was hit by Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles, resulting in significant damage and a fire.

Russia Reported to Warn U.S. on Arming Ukraine (6:58 p.m.) 

Russia sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. this week saying U.S. and NATO supplies of the “most sensitive” weapons systems to Ukraine were stoking the war and could lead to “unpredictable consequences,” the Washington Post reported. The note, the latest of several warnings from Russia to the Biden administration, wasn’t signed by President Vladimir Putin or other senior Russian officials, the New York Times reported.

A State Department official said the department won’t confirm private diplomatic correspondence.

Kyiv Official Warns People Not to Rush Back (6:04 p.m.)

Residents who fled Kyiv in late February and early March shouldn’t rush back, regional military governor Oleksandr Pavliuk said, according to Interfax. 

Many Kyivites are keen to return to their homes after the withdrawal of Russian troops ushered in a period of relative calm that’s seen foreign leaders flock to the capital and plans for some embassies to reopen. But a significant threat persists, Pavliuk said, with three Russian missile strikes in the region overnight and the prospect of hostilities increasing once again. 

Russia to Expel 18 EU Diplomats in Tit-for-Tat (5:22 p.m.)

Moscow will expel 18 diplomats from the local EU mission to retaliate against the expulsion of 19 of Russia’s diplomats from the EU, the Foreign Ministry said, terming the EU responsible for “the consistent destruction of the architecture of bilateral dialog and cooperation.” 

Earlier on Friday, North Macedonia expelled six Russian diplomats, citing violations of the Vienna convention. 

U.N. Says Mariupol Is Being ‘Starved to Death’ (3:38 p.m.)

People are being “starved to death” in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, David Beasley, head of the U.N. World Food Program, told the Associated Press. 

A small number of Ukrainian defenders have held out in a siege that’s trapped tens of thousands of civilians. The Russian troops that control access haven’t allowed aid or aid workers in. 

“We will not give up on the people of Mariupol and other people that we cannot reach,” Beasley said from Kyiv. “But it’s a devastating situation.” 

Russia Said to Strike Mariupol From Long-Range Bombers (2:54 p.m.)

Russia has deployed TU-22M3 long-range bombers for the first time to step up strikes on Mariupol, said Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk.

The eastern city has been under siege since March 1 but hasn’t been completely seized. It’s regarded as key in Moscow’s effort to establish a land bridge from Russia west to Crimea, the peninsula Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Motuzyanyk said that fighting is taking place near Mariupol’s steel plant and seaport.

Ukraine Cites 900 Civilian Deaths in Kyiv Region (2:40 p.m.)

Ukrainian police have found 900 civilians killed in areas near Kyiv previously occupied by Russian troops, said Andriy Niebytov, the head of police in the capital region. 

The most deaths were registered in town of Bucha, where more than 350 bodies have been collected, he said. Police are also documenting other Russian troops’ actions, including sexual assaults, Niebytov said.

Ukraine Braces for Russian Reprisals After Moskva (1:26 p.m.)

Kyiv expects Russia to retaliate after its flagship Moskva sank in the Black Sea, and reiterated that a Ukrainian missile crippled the vessel. Moscow hasn’t confirmed a missile strike, saying that the Moskva had been damaged by a fire and went down in stormy seas. 

“We realize that attacks against us will increase,” Natalya Humeniuk, spokeswoman for the southern wing of Ukrainian armed forces, said on a video briefing. Russia stepped up its shelling of the country’s south overnight and continued to hit Mykolaiv, including with cluster munitions, she said. 

Russia’s defense ministry earlier said it had hit a missile production facility outside Kyiv with “Kalibr high-precision long-range sea-launched missiles.” Moscow said it would increase strikes after what it called “sabotage actions” across the border into Russia. Ukraine hasn’t confirmed any attacks on Russian territory.  

Psaki Says No Plan for Biden to Visit Kyiv (12:38 p.m.)

Joe Biden said his administration is deciding whether to send a senior U.S. official to visit Ukraine soon, but his spokeswoman said it wouldn’t be the president himself. 

“No, we are not sending the president to Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during the recording of a “Pod Save America” episode on Thursday. Biden traveled close to Poland’s border with Ukraine in late March.

Politico reported that the administration is considering sending Secretary of State Antony Blinken or Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Ukraine.  

Ukraine’s Spring Planting Outlook Improves (12:20 p.m.) 

The outlook for spring planting in much of Ukraine has improved as Russian troops narrow their offensive to focus on eastern areas.

The government expects a 17% decline in planted area from last year, versus the 20% drop it forecast in early April. Planting of spring crops including wheat, barley, corn, soybeans and sunflowers is under way in all of Ukraine’s growing regions except Luhansk, according to the Agriculture Ministry. 

Ukraine is one of the world’s top producers and exporters of grains and oilseeds. More than 55% of the country is arable land, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.   

Russia’s 2022 Trade Surplus May Exceed $200 Billion (12:13 p.m.)

Russia’s 2022 current-account surplus may be higher than $200 billion, against a record $120 billion in 2021, said Maxim Oreshkin, an aide to President Vladimir Putin. 

Imports fell by “dozens of percent” in March, Oreshkin said in an interview on Rossiya 24. At the same time, revenues from oil and gas exports have surged. 

The Institute of International Finance recently said Moscow’s current account surplus could hit $240 billion.

Two U.S. Lawmakers Visit Kyiv, Bucha (9:39 a.m.) 

Two Republican lawmakers traveled to Kyiv on Thursday, the first U.S. officials known to have visited Ukraine since the Russian invasion, NBC News reported. 

Senator Steve Daines of Montana and Representative Victoria Spartz of Indiana, the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress, also visited mass graves in Bucha, the site of alleged atrocities by the Russian military. 

Russia May Review Naval Posture After Moskva Sinking (8:07 a.m.)

The sinking of the Moskva, Russia’s flagship Black Sea vessel, on top of that of an Alligator-class landing ship on March 24 “will likely lead Russia to review its maritime posture in the Black Sea,” the U.K. defense ministry said in an intelligence update. 

The Moskva “served a key role as both a command vessel and air defense node,” and only returned to operational status in 2021 after a lengthy refit, the U.K. said. 

U.S. Has ‘Long Playbook’ on Sanctions, Official Tells FT (7:00 a.m.)

Besides a long list of potential additional sanctions against Moscow, the U.S. sees little scope for lifting existing measures, a senior State Department official told the Financial Times. 

“Everything is on the table,” Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Jose Fernandez was quoted as saying. “And in that playbook, several pages have not been read out.” Fernandez said it would be up to Ukraine to decide whether an easing of Western sanctions should be part of any peace deal negotiated with Moscow. 

Russia Mulls Limiting Coking Coal Exports (6:15 a.m.)

Russia’s Energy Ministry and Industry Ministry are working on introducing restrictions on the exports of coking coal, RBC reported, citing an unidentified government official and the Energy Ministry’s press service. The measure may help decrease coal prices on the domestic market.

Ukraine Update: Zelenskiy Says More Military Aid Can Shorten War

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