US Secretary of Defense calls on Russia for “immediate ceasefire” – First phone call with Russian Defense Secretary since February
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has spoken to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for the first time since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, calling for an “immediate ceasefire”. According to the Pentagon on Friday, Austin also emphasized the need to keep communication channels open during the call. Austin and Shoigu last spoke on February 18 – just under a week before the start of the Russian invasion of the neighboring country.
The US is supporting Ukraine with large arms deliveries. At the same time, under no circumstances does the government in Washington want to intervene directly in the conflict and become a party to the war. (AFP)
According to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, negotiations with Russia about the liberation of the Ukrainian soldiers in the surrounded Azovstal steelworks in the port city of Mariupol are proving to be very difficult. Vereshchuk does not give any details. “The result may not please everyone, but our task is to evacuate our soldiers. All of them. Alive,” she writes in an online post. (Reuters)
Amid Western sanctions over the military offensive in Ukraine, Russia’s inflation has soared to its highest level in two decades. The annual inflation rate reached 17.8 percent in April, the Russian statistics agency Rosstat announced on Friday. In the case of food prices, the rate of inflation was even 20.5 percent. The development is a cause for concern, especially for low-income households. (AFP)
Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited the German-Ukrainian association “Blau-Gelbes Kreuz” in Cologne and paid tribute to its help for people in Ukraine and for refugees in Germany. “This is a very moving activity here,” he told journalists after his visit. It is a “great voluntary commitment” that is carried out with “incredible professionalism”.
The organization – only founded in 2017 – supplies, among other things, refugees in Cologne and takes care of the transport of relief supplies. One project of the association is to send so-called baby boxes for expectant mothers to the Ukraine. But he also initiated a solidarity rally, for example, where teddy bears with the names of children who died in the Ukraine war were laid down. (dpa)
The breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia has announced a referendum on joining the Russian Federation for July 17.
The region’s president, Anatoly Bibilov, signed a corresponding decree on Friday, his office said. Russia officially recognized the independence of the pro-Russian separatist region and neighboring Abkhazia in August 2008 after a brief military conflict with Georgia. (AFP)
According to Western experts, the Russian troops are making little progress in their offensive in the Ukrainian Donbass region and must expect even stronger resistance in the future.
Russian territorial gains were mostly limited to just one or two kilometers, an expert told journalists on Friday. The Ukrainians are also very good at immediately launching counterattacks, so the front line often shifts back and forth.
So far mostly only villages and smaller settlements have been conquered. In larger cities like Kramatorsk, the Russians would have to reckon with even more heavily fortified defense structures, the experts continue. For larger-scale counter-offensives, however, the Ukrainians are dependent on further arms deliveries from the West. (dpa)
In view of the worsening of global supply crises due to factors such as the Ukraine war and climate change, the G7 foreign ministers have announced a fundamental reorientation of humanitarian aid. The need for humanitarian aid is at a “record high,” declared the foreign ministers of the seven leading industrialized countries on Friday at their meeting in Wangels, Schleswig-Holstein. Therefore, a “paradigm shift towards more efficient, more effective and more forward-looking humanitarian aid” is necessary. (AFP)
It is clear that what has not yet been understood is that only one thing makes peace possible. Only if there is an understanding, an agreement, a peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia that is not a dictated peace.
In Latvia, the Soviet victory monument in the capital Riga is to be dismantled. In an extraordinary meeting on Friday, the city council decided by a majority to dismantle the controversial monument and instructed the city’s monument authority to take all necessary measures. During unauthorized protests by members of the strong Russian minority, several people were arrested near City Hall Square, which was surrounded by police officers during the session. In Russia, too, there were rallies in front of the Latvian embassy in Moscow against the decision. (dpa)
The federal government wants to use an additional 430 million euros to fight the worsening food crisis in the Global South. Of this, 238 million euros are earmarked for aid in establishing sustainable agriculture or investments in education, the “Spiegel” reported, citing a paper by the Federal Development Ministry.
Another 150 million euros are earmarked for the special initiative “One World Without Hunger” and at least 42 million as an additional German contribution to the World Food Program. “More money is needed for the aid, but above all better coordination between donors and recipients so that no country is forgotten,” said Federal Development Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) to “Spiegel”. She will therefore take care of it in a “trio with Foreign Minister Baerbock and Minister of Agriculture Özdemir”. (AFP)
Four Russian football clubs are appealing to the International Court of Arbitration for Sports against their exclusion from European competitions. CSKA Moscow announced on Friday that it had lodged an appeal against the sanctions imposed by the European Football Union (UEFA) along with Zenit St. Petersburg, Dynamo Moscow and PFK Sochi. The continental federation had banned Russian clubs from all competitions because of the war in Ukraine and also moved the Champions League final from St. Petersburg to Paris – but the Russian federation will remain part of UEFA for the time being.
The four clubs asked the Cas for an accelerated examination of their appeal. They currently occupy the top four places in Russia’s football league and want to play in European competitions next season. (dpa)
The United Nations (UN) are warning of a worsening of the global food shortage in view of the ever-rising wheat prices. The crisis is already obvious, especially in the Middle East and in some parts of Africa, said the director of the UN World Food Program WFP, Martin Frick, on Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) in the “Interview of the Week” on BR24. He made it clear that, in addition to the climate crisis, he currently sees the trigger primarily in the Ukraine war.
Even in times of peace, Ukraine feeds 400 million people worldwide, Frick recalled: “It is tragic that six and a half million tons of wheat are stranded in the Ukrainian Black Sea ports alone.” These are urgently needed, but cannot be exported due to the war.
Ukraine has been an important grain supplier for countries in the Middle East and Africa. In Lebanon, but also in the regions south of the Sahara affected by persistent drought, people can hardly afford grain anymore. (KNA)
The US government has spoken out in favor of Finland and Sweden joining NATO. “The United States would support Finland or Sweden joining NATO should they choose to do so,” the State Department’s top diplomat for Europe Karen Donfried said on Friday. A formal application for membership by the two countries would be “further proof of the strategic miscalculation” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. (dpa)
Amid tensions over Finland’s possible NATO membership, Russia will halt its electricity supplies to the neighboring country from Saturday due to outstanding payments. This was announced by the energy company RAO Nordic Oy on Friday. The Helsinki-based subsidiary of the Russian group InterRAO said there was no way to pay the electricity import bills. (AFP)
In a statement, the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) complained about “religious lawlessness” in Ukraine. The bishops’ assembly addressed the letter to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj, whom they called on to intervene.
Synod members express concern about cases of incitement to hatred and discord on religious grounds in Ukraine. There are complaints about anti-church bills in the Ukrainian parliament, obstruction of the activities of parishes of the UOC-MP at the local level and the confiscation of churches. (KNA)
Latvia has blacklisted another 102 Russians for supporting Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. You are no longer allowed to enter the Baltic EU and NATO country for an indefinite period, as the Foreign Ministry in Riga announced on Friday.
Those affected are therefore mainly cultural workers. Latvia had previously blacklisted more than 30 cultural figures after Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The Baltic state borders on Russia and its ally Belarus. (dpa)
The war in Ukraine will be one of the dominant topics at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Among other things, the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, has confirmed his presence in the Swiss Alpine town, as the WEF announced on Friday. President Volodymyr Zelenskyj will join in virtually and give the opening speech on May 23. (dpa)
India wants to reopen its embassy in Ukraine. Operations in Kyiv are scheduled to resume next Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry in New Delhi said on Friday. Two months ago, the embassy was temporarily relocated to Warsaw.
India has attracted attention with its neutral stance on the war in Ukraine. The country does not condemn the war and does not support western sanctions. Instead, it has expanded trade with Russia — buying more cheap oil from Russia, for example. India is also heavily dependent on Moscow for its military equipment and spare parts. However, the country also has good relations with the West. (dpa)
Turkey is the first NATO country to object to Sweden and Finland joining the military alliance. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday in Istanbul that he had no “positive opinion” about the admission of the two countries. The foreign ministers from Stockholm and Helsinki then announced that they wanted to consult with their Turkish counterparts in Berlin on Saturday.
“Scandinavian countries are like a guest house for terrorist organizations,” Erdogan justified his position. Turkey has long accused the Nordic countries, particularly Sweden, where many Turkish immigrants live, of harboring extremist Kurdish groups as well as supporters of US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen.
The admission of new members must be approved unanimously by the NATO member states. Turkey would thus have the opportunity to block the admission of Sweden and Finland. (AFP)