Stoltenberg arrives in Kyiv largely empty-handed — opinion

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What was Ukraine like on April 29, 2024

Did Stoltenberg unexpectedly bring “nothing new” to Kyiv? NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrived in Kyiv in the afternoon with an unannounced visit. “It’s important to visit Kyiv again and meet with President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy. The situation is difficult, but it is not too late for Ukraine to prevail – and more support is on the way. NATO is also stepping up for the long haul, putting Ukraine on an irreversible path to the Alliance,” he wrote in a Twitter post.

Stoltenberg also spoke in the Ukrainian parliament. Mariana Bezuhla, an MP known for making controversial statements, described the NATO secretary general’s visit as follows: “The speech is about the general picture, nothing new. He made it clear there would be no invitation at the next NATO summit [in Washington in Summer 2024]. Of course, he said Ukraine would be a NATO member one day.”

This visit marked Stoltenberg’s third trip to Kyiv since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with previous visits on April 20 and Sept. 28, 2023.

The NATO secretary general invited Zelenskyy to attend the summit in Washington. At the same time, Stoltenberg has doubts that Ukraine will receive an invitation to join the Alliance there, which he openly stated.

Meanwhile, Zelenskyy said in his evening address that Ukraine is already preparing for the upcoming NATO summit, where it wants to be invited to the Alliance.

Help is on the way. Some of the military aid promised by international partners has already arrived in Ukraine. “Some deliveries have already been done. I won’t tell more. I will only say that we haven’t gotten all we need to equip our brigades,” Zelenskyy said at a joint press conference with Stoltenberg.

Read also: Ukraine’s trust in NATO undermined by aid delay — Stoltenberg

At the same time, in Kharkiv:

Russian continues its missile terror. A series of explosions rocked Kharkiv during the day, as reported by city mayor Ihor Terekhov via Telegram. “A series of explosions in Kharkiv. The city is being attacked with KAB-500 guided aerial bombs,” he said.

Meanwhile, at the front:

More withdrawals near Avdiivka. The withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Berdychi and Semenivka, settlements northwest of Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, in the area of the Russians’ breakthrough near Ocheretyne, was confirmed by Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi. It presents the Russian command with a choice: continuing to push west towards its reported operational objective in Pokrovsk or trying to drive northwards to conduct possible supporting offensive around Chasiv Yar and Kostyantynivka, according to an April 28 analysis by the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Liberation island. The liberation of Nestryha Island on the Dnipro River in southern Kherson Oblast [on April 29] by Ukrainian Defense Forces will improve quality of counter-sabotage measures, said Dmytro Pletenchuk, spokesperson for Southern Defense Forces. “It’s not about strategy, it’s more about position warfare, it’s more about tactical importance. Locations that don’t allow the enemy to approach our positions are important [to hold],” he explained.

Read also: DeepState analyst blames 115th Brigade command for Ocheretyne frontline breach and losses

Scholz is scared by the Ghost of Christmas past. Berlin has emerged as one of the fiercest opponents of U.S.-led push to seize some of the nearly $300 billion of Russia’s sovereign assets that were frozen in early 2022. Germany fears that seizing, rather than freezing, the funds could create a precedent and inspire new claims against Berlin for WWII-era crimes, The Wall Street Journal wrote.

These misgivings could scupper the whole initiative. The United States and UK say its success is crucial for a Ukrainian victory, but there is little chance of progress without wider European support, the newspaper notes.

The G7 is divided on whether to confiscate Russia’s assets, with Japan, which faces reparation claims of its own from South Korea and other neighbors, opposing the move. The Japanese Foreign Ministry said it would continue to discuss the issue with its G7 partners.

European banks pay taxes to the Kremlin. The largest western banks that remain in Russia paid the Kremlin more than EUR 800 million ($856 million) in taxes last year, a fourfold increase over prewar levels, despite promises to minimize their Russian exposure after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Financial Times reported.

The seven top European banks by assets in Russia, including Raiffeisen Bank International, UniCredit, ING, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, and OTP, reported a combined profit of more than EUR 3 billion ($3.2 billion) in 2023. “Those profits were three times more than in 2021 and were partly generated by funds that the banks cannot withdraw from the country,” reads the report.

Turkey seeks to get off Russia’s gas supply. Turkey is in talks with ExxonMobil over a multibillion-dollar deal to buy liquefied natural gas as Ankara seeks to curb its dependence on Russian energy, Turkish energy minister Alparslan Bayraktar said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Read also: Frozen Russian assets may help Ukraine wage war four more years - Reuters

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