German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi made a joint visit to Ukraine on Thursday to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss the country’s EU membership aspirations and further arms supplies to repel Russia’s invasion.
The trio of European leaders arrived in Kyiv on an overnight train, joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. Upon arriving, Macron highlighted the symbolic importance of the trip, stating: “It's an important moment. It's a message of unity we're sending to the Ukrainians, of support, to talk both about the present and the future, since the coming weeks, as we know, will be very difficult.”
The three leaders were greeted with air raid sirens from the outskirts of the city and across Ukraine, warning of possible missile strikes — and later toured Irpin, a suburb in Kyiv devastated by some of the heaviest fighting in the first weeks of the Russian invasion.
While visiting Irpin, Macron said “It’s a heroic city, marked by the stigmata of barbarism,” he said, according to Reuters, adding that France supports the work being done to prosecute those responsible.
After the leaders spoke to Irpin's mayor and other officials, Draghi said: "Much of what they talked about was reconstruction. Words of pain, of hope, but also of what they want to do in the future."
Scholz, Macron and Draghi have each been criticized in the past for not visiting the war-town country earlier and for military support viewed as too cautious. The decision for the leaders of the European Union’s three largest economies to travel together was therefore crucial, and came at a pivotal moment.
On Friday, the EU's executive commission is expected to recommend pushing forward with Ukraine's bid to join the bloc, which EU leaders are expected to endorse at a summit next week.
There hasn’t been a lot of response from Russia yet, but Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president and now deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, tweeted about the visit, saying it’s of “zero use,” adding in national stereotypes.
‘Ukraine Support Tracker’ Shows Huge Disparities In Foreign Donations
\u201cIn relation to economic size, Baltic states and Poland continue to contribute significantly more than large European economies such as Germany, Italy, and France. Almost all EU countries mobilized more funds for domestic spending priorities, rather than for Ukraine itself.\u201d— Kiel Institute (IfW Kiel) (@Kiel Institute (IfW Kiel)) 1655364405
War is ultimately won with weapons and money – which are often pledged by other nations. The latest calculations by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), dubbed the ‘Ukraine Support Tracker,’ have shown that aid pledges to the country now total 78 billion euros. The U.S. leads these efforts, having pledged almost 43 billion euros (55% of all pledges).
The ‘Ukraine Support Tracker’ was set up soon after the invasion on February 24. It has now become the global standard for calculating aid to Ukraine. “I don't know of any source with better figures,” Christoph Trebesch who heads the research area "International Financial Markets and Global Governance" at the IfW told German Die Welt.
The latest results were surprising, and even embarrassing, for some governments. The EU comes in second, their pledges now totalling 27 billion euros (35% of all pledges). But among individual nations, the United Kingdom comes in second to the US, having pledged 4.8 billion euros. Germany follows, albeit at some distance, in third place with a volume of 3.3 billion euros. Not far behind are Poland, which is much weaker financially (2.8 billion), and Canada (2.2 billion).
The billions in aid pledged by the US and Germany are put into perspective in relation to the economic strength of the donor countries. In this case, as proportion of GDP, it is primarily the Eastern European countries that stand out: Lithuania, for example, contributes around 0.4% of its gross domestic product (GDP), Poland 0.6%, Latvia 0.8% and Estonia almost one percent. The U.S. and Germany are in 9th and 13th place with 0.22% and 0.18%of their GDP, respectively.
The tracker also shows the difference between pledged and delivered arms, which can be very high. Among the more major suppliers, the U.S. and Germany have pledged more than they’ve delivered. In absolute terms, however, the U.S. has delivered ten times more than Germany.
Will The Next Sanctions Package Be Harder To Pass?
Protestors in Berlin, Germany call for a gas embargo on Russia
The European Union has begun work on its seventh package of sanctions against Russia. Even though the EU is delaying the implementation of more effective oil and gas sanctions, Russia is expected to face a tangible economic downturn in the summer, and a possible full scale financial crisis in autumn. Still, as pointed out in this Ukrainian article translated by Worldcrunch, the risks that sanctions pose to the West requires a careful balancing act to avoid a backlash, and even blockage of new restrictions.
Russia Captures Two U.S. Citizens Fighting For Ukraine
Alexander Dryuke and Andy Hyun
Two U.S. citizens who served as volunteers for the Ukrainian military, were captured by the Russian military during the fighting near Kharkiv earlier this month, The Telegraph reports.
Russia has held the two men, 39-year-old Alexander Dryuke and 27-year-old Andy Hyun, since their capture some time between June 6 to 12. As with the capture of two UK nationals last week, the situation is diplomatically sensitive, as the Kremlin may seek to use it as proof that the U.S. is becoming directly involved in the war.
A State Department spokesperson said that they were “closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with Ukrainian authorities. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment.”
Additional $1 Billion Military Package From U.S.
U.S. president Joe Biden
The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that it was providing an additional $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine, a package that includes shipments of howitzers, more ammunition and coastal defense systems.
This latest aid from the U.S. comes after Ukrainian officials have pleaded the West for additional heavy weaponry as the war continues to rage on in the eastern region of Donbas.
New Estimate: 20-30% Loss Of Russian Armored Equipment
\u201cArmy Chief of Staff General Mark Milley says Russia has lost between 20% and 30% of its armored force.\n\n"That's significant, that's huge!"\u201d— Moshe Schwartz (@Moshe Schwartz) 1655314782
In a speech offering some insight into U.S. intelligence about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said Russia had lost 20 to 30%of its armored forces since the beginning of the war.
Xi To Putin: China Supports Russian “Sovereignty And Security”
Russian President Vladimir Putin stands with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Chinese leader Xi Jinping expressed his continued support for Moscow regarding “sovereignty and security” matters in a call with Vladimir Putin. The Chinese leader, who received the call Wednesday on his 69th birthday, also pledged to deepen strategic coordination between the two countries, China’s Foreign Ministry reported today.
During the call, the second time the two leaders have spoken since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Xi said China had “independently assessed the situation” in Ukraine. China has always avoided referring to Russia’s actions as an invasion and has continuously portrayed itself as promoting global order without ever denouncing the war in Ukraine.
Turkey Ready For Four-Way Talks To Unblock Grain Exports
A Ukrainian soldier surrounded by wheat plants in Ukraine
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey is ready to host four-way talks with the UN, Russia and Ukraine in order to unblock the passage of grain through the Black Sea.
Millions of tons of wheat have been held up in Ukrainian ports due to Russia's maritime blockade and mines placed by Ukraine to prevent assault. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 25 million tons of grain are stored in silos at Ukrainian ports which has serious implications for global food supplies.
EU Gas Deal With Israel And Egypt
Pipe Industry Industrial Israel Station Oil Gaswww.maxpixel.net
The European Union has signed a tripartite natural gas export deal with Israel and Egypt in a bid to reduce dependence on Russia for energy. Israeli gas will be exported to Europe through Egypt.
Testimony From Mariupol Of Russian ‘Filtration’ Process
Satellite image of one of the filtration camps near Mariupol
Ukrainians who want to leave cities currently under Russian occupation must go through a process called “filtration.” The BBC published a testimony from a 28-year-old Ukrainian man trying to leave Mariupol. The Russian soldiers took his phone and went through his social media and text messages.
He goes into details of the procedure, the questions he was asked regarding the war and what he thought about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He describes the beatings he suffered after the Russia’s security service (FSB) found evidence on his phone of his opposition to the invasion.
Since February 24, more than one million people have passed through these facilities, facing brutal conditions, passports stripped and sometimes tortured, according to Ukrainian authorities. Read more about these filtration camps here a reminder of Russia’s past and its foreseeable future.
Art For Drones: Ukrainian Auction Raises Money To Purchase UAV
Valkyrie UAV drone/ Painting by ROITBURD OLEKSANDR
An auction of Ukrainian artwork was held to raise money for the purchase of a combat drone for the Ukrainian military. Organized by the Serhiy Prytula Foundation, together with the Dukat auction house, the “silent auction” raised UAH 3 million, or more than $100,000, Kyiv-based Livy Bereg reports.
The proceeds of the 10 paintings by contemporary Ukrainian artists (including works by Oleksandr Roitburd, Pavlo Makov, Matviy Weisberg) will go to purchase a Valkyrie UAV, an unmanned aerial vehical. The full pricetag of the drone is circa $2 million.