NATO preparing for massive military exercises
Tens of thousands of troops from NATO and its European allies are gearing up for a series of military exercises that Britain is calling one of the “largest shared deployments since the Cold War”. The exercises, backed by aircraft, tanks, artillery and armoured assault vehicles, will take place in Finland, Poland, North Macedonia and along the Estonian-Latvian border. They will include troops from NATO and the Joint Expeditionary Force, which includes non-NATO members Finland and Sweden. “The security of Europe has never been more important,” UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Friday. “These exercises will see our troops join forces with allies and partners across NATO and the Joint Expeditionary Force in a show of solidarity and strength in one of the largest shared deployments since the Cold War.” Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Al Arabiya TV, “Moscow does not feel at war with NATO”. He said if this was the case, “this would be a step that would increase the risks of a nuclear war – which cannot be allowed”.
Moscow increases pressure on Kharkiv
Russian forces, at dawn this morning, maintained their pressure on the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, in particular around Kharkiv in the north-east, where they are looking at all costs to increase their control, despite, according to Kiev, some setbacks on the field. Violent explosions were heard overnight in Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, which had been hammered by Russian artillery for weeks. Yesterday, according to the Kharkiv regional military administration, these bombings resulted in at least one death and several injuries. President Zelensky acknowledged that the situation in the northeast, where Russian forces are concentrating their offensive again, was “difficult”. He acknowledged Ukraine was taking heavy losses in Russia’s assault in the east, but said Russia’s losses were even worse. “But our military is having tactical success,” he said.
Congress approves funds for Ukraine
The US Congress has overwhelmingly backed legislation that will make it easier to export military equipment to Ukraine, reviving the ‘Lend-Lease Act’ that helped defeat Hitler during World War Two. US President Joe Biden had asked lawmakers to approve the $33 billion aid package for Ukraine, saying it was “crucial” that his request for funds was “approved as quickly as possible”. Writing on Twitter, Biden said, “If we do not help the Ukrainians to defend their country, we will stand by and watch while the Russians continue to carry out atrocities and aggressions.” President Zelenskiy praised Biden’s offer of help, which amounts to nearly 10 times the aid Washington has sent so far since the war began on February 24.
Aid to Ukraine ‘an angry decision’ says Moscow
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has described the approval by the American Congress of the Bill that allows Russia’s assets to be used to help Ukraine as “an angry decision”. Interfax quotes him as saying this was “a dangerous precedent for the expropriation of private property”.
Zelensky ‘ready to see Putin despite the atrocities’
President Zelensky, speaking to Polish media, said he was still ready to meet President Putin despite Russian atrocities in Bucha, Mariupol and elsewhere. He told the BBC he wanted to meet Putin because in Russia “a single man decides everything”. Zelensky also said that “the risks of completely closing any dialogue with the Russians are very high”. According to Zelensky, the negotiation process with Moscow was “very slow”.
New details about Russian strike teams targeting Zelensky
Time has revealed new details about how close President Zelensky came to being captured or killed by the Russians who parachuted teams of hitmen into Kyiv in the early hours of the invasion. Ukrainian military officials had warned their 44-year-old leader that enemy strike teams were known to have arrived in the capital within hours of the invasion to hunt down him and his family, authorities told Time. Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, told the news magazine the president refused to flee, despite the warnings that he was the Kremlin’s No. 1 target to be captured or killed. Russian troops made at least two attempts to storm the presidential compound while the president’s wife and their kids, a nine-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter, remained there. Yet still, the president refused to budge despite requests to do so by his bodyguards, as well as offers from both US and British forces to evacuate him so he could set up a government in exile. It was then that he gave his now-famous putdown to the US, saying, “I need ammunition, not a ride.”
Russian GDP contracts by 8-10%
Russian GDP should contract between eight and 10% in 2022, and then gradually recover as of 2023 through “structural adjustments”, says the Russian Central Bank. It is forecasting another 3% contraction for 2023 and then growth between 2.5% and 3.5% in 2024. The Central Bank has also cut the discount rate from 17 to 14% and expects inflation between 18 and 23% by the end of 2023.
6 Russian businessmen commit – CNN
At least six Russian businessmen have died of apparent suicide in the past three months, some of them with their families. CNN reports that four of the six deaths are associated with Gazprom or one of its subsidiaries.
New EU sanctions against Russia
EU member-states are likely to approve a phased embargo on Russian oil as early as next week, according to EU officials. European ambassadors are reportedly expected to give their approval of a finalised proposal by the end of next week after meeting on Wednesday, according to several EU officials and diplomats involved in the process.
US tells Indonesia: “We don’t want Putin at the G20”
The United States has privately communicated to Indonesia that Russia should not be allowed to participate in this year’s G20 summit. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a media briefing, Russia shouldn’t participate both publicly and privately.
Beijing assesses challenges from COVID, Ukraine was
The Chinese Communist Party has raised the alarm on the economy due to the risks and challenges associated with the resumption of the COVID-19 infections. Manufacturing activity in China slipped in April, as an effect of the draconian lockdowns to stop the wave of Covid-19 and slipping to the lowest level since February 2020. The Politburo meeting, chaired by President Xi Jinping, has renewed its commitment to overcome difficulties and achieve economic objectives, signaling a strengthening of the plans of stimulus for growth.
Frontex director resigns
Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has resigned with immediate effect. Ansa reports that “to ensure the full continuity of the agency, the Commission will rapidly recruit and appoint a new Executive Director”, adding that it’s priority is to have a strong, effective and well-functioning agency.
Boris Becker sentenced to 30 months in prison
Tennis legend Boris Becker has been sentenced to 2½ years behind bars in England for flouting the terms of his bankruptcy. The 54-year-old former champion was found guilty of refusing to disclose his assets and illegally transferring large sums of money after declaring bankruptcy in 2017, Judge Deborah Taylor said in Southwark Crown Court. The former world No. 1 broke the parameters of his bankruptcy last month by moving hundreds of thousands of British pounds from his business account, along with hiding property in his hometown of Leimen, Germany. Becker, who has won three Wimbledon Championships, two Australian Opens and one US Open, was also convicted of refusing to disclose a bank loan of more than $870,000 along with 75,000 shares in the tech firm Breaking Data Corp.