HomePoliticsRussia-Ukraine war updates for April 21, 2023.

Russia-Ukraine war updates for April 21, 2023.

NATO chief reassures Ukraine will eventually join the military alliance

NATO members have agreed that Ukraine will join the military alliance, but the current focus is on Kyiv prevailing in the war against Russia and preventing new attacks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday, in comments reported by Reuters.

Stoltenberg paid an unexpected visit to Kyiv — his first since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — on April 20.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly pushed for fast-tracked NATO membership, in addition to weapons support from the military allies. Ukraine’s Western allies will on Friday convene at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany to coordinate further assistance to Kyiv.

Ruxandra Iordache

Russia accidentally strikes own city of Belgorod

A Russian warplane accidentally released a weapon on the Russian city of Belgorod, north of the border of Ukraine, damaging buildings and leading to explosions, the Russian ministry of defense told state news agency Tass.

Russia’s defense ministry did not specify what kind of weapon had been unleashed, but identified the plane as a Sukhoi Su-34 fighter — a medium-range supersonic bomber.

Belgorod regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov late on Thursday said on Telegram that three people were injured following local explosions, with no dead reported. He announced a state of emergency at Belgorod, where he said a crater with a radius of 20 meters has formed across a main street.

Ruxandra Iordache

Russian party proposes additional tax on Russia’s wealthiest to support war effort

Members of a Russian political party have put forward a proposal to increase the income tax rate of Russia’s wealthier citizens with a personal income of more than 12 million rubles ( $147,000 ) by 2% and route this additional funding to support Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine, Russia state news agency Tass reported.

The money emerging from additional taxes will be directed to support both mobilized soldiers and their families, the measure proposes.

Russian hydrocarbon-reliant revenues have been increasingly stifled by Western sanctions on its seaborne exports and crude oil and oil products, which have been in place since December and February, respectively.

Drawing from data from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the European Council says that Russia’s GDP shed 2.1% in 2022.

Ruxandra Iordache

Biden speaks with EU’s von der Leyen on imposing additional costs on Russia

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the phone with French President Emmanuel Macron from the Oval Office of the White House in this official White House handout photo released after the call in Washington, U.S., September 22, 2021.

Adam Schultz | White House | Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission on additional ways allies can support Ukraine.

Biden and von der Leyen reiterated their commitment to ensuring Ukraine has the economic and security assistance it needs while also continuing to impose costs on the Kremlin.

“The leaders also discussed ongoing joint efforts to accelerate the transition to clean energy economies” in an effort to mitigate any dependence on Russian fuel, according to a readout provided by the White House.

The two also discussed regional security issues related to China and Taiwan.

— Amanda Macias

Secretary Austin heads to Germany for Ukraine Defense Contact Group

US Defence Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III (2nd R), NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) and Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov (R) attend the Ukraine defence contact group meeting at NATO headquarters during the first of two days of defence ministers’ meetings on February 14, 2023 in Brussels, Belgium.

Dursun Aydemir | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is en route to Germany to host the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

Earlier in the week, Austin met with counterparts in Sweden to discuss Ukrainian security assistance and Stockholm’s bid to join the NATO military alliance.

The Ukraine Defense Contact Group is a coalition of nearly 50 countries supporting Ukraine’s military needs. The upcoming meeting at Ramstein Air Base will be the eleventh time the group has met since it was formed last April.

— Amanda Macias

It’s time for NATO to invite Ukraine into the alliance, Zelenskyy says

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg (L) shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the end of a joint press conference in Kyiv, on April 20, 2023.

Dimitar Dilkoff | Afp | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that it was time for NATO to invite Ukraine to join the Western military alliance, repeating a much-heard plea from Kyiv for fast-track membership.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Kyiv with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who made an unannounced visit to Kyiv Thursday, Zelenskyy said he had been invited to the next NATO summit in July, but that Kyiv wanted more.

“I am grateful for the invitation to visit the summit, but it is also important for Ukraine to receive the corresponding invitation,” he told reporters in comments reported by Reuters.

“There is not a single objective barrier to the political decision to invite Ukraine into the alliance and now, when most people in NATO countries and the majority of Ukrainians support NATO accession, is the time for the corresponding decisions.”

Stoltenberg said that Ukraine’s NATO membership bid — which it launched last September — and security guarantees would be high on the agenda at the alliance’s July summit, adding that Ukraine’s rightful place was in NATO.

Despite Stoltenberg’s words of support and encouragement, analysts believe Ukraine’s NATO membership bid faces significant hurdles and could take years to be approved, if it is at all.

Aside from the active war that’s ongoing in Ukraine, NATO members such as Hungary and Turkey would likely be very reluctant to further antagonize Russia by admitting Ukraine into the alliance. One of Moscow’s key bugbears ahead of the war was a potential further expansion of NATO eastwards to include Ukraine, despite that prospect being, even at that time, a distant possibility.

— Holly Ellyatt

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