Ukraine Latest: Russia Says It’s Ramping Up Ammunition Output

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(Bloomberg) -- Russia is boosting its production of conventional and high-precision ammunition, defense secretary Sergei Shoigu said on Saturday, days after he visited munitions factories in two regions in inspect the production of artillery and missiles. “Necessary measures” are being taking to ramp up output, Shoigu said.

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The defense chief’s comments follow the new foreign policy concept approved by Vladimir Putin on Friday that set out to confront the US and its allies as hostile, claiming an “era of revolutionary changes” was underway.

Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Ukraine was unlikely to expel all Russian troops from its occupied territory this year. “That is a significant military task,” Milley told Defense One.

Key Developments

  • IMF Board Approves $15.6 Billion Loan for Ukraine Amid War

  • Putin Signs New Russia Foreign Policy Against ‘Hostile’ West

  • Spanish Premier Urges Xi to Reach Out to Ukraine on Peace Plan

  • Global Food Supply Risks Rise as Key Traders Leave Russia

(All times CET)

Ukraine Accuses Orthodox Priest of Helping Russia’s Cause: AP (5 p.m.)

Ukraine’s security service accused a leading Orthodox priest at the Kyiv-Perchersk Lavra monastery, or the Monastery of the Caves, of justifying Russia’s aggression, the Associated Press reported.

Pavel Lebid, abbott at the monastery, which is regarded as Ukraine’s most revered Orthodox site, earlier resisted an order to vacate the complex and has spoken out against President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Agents raided his residence, and prosecutors asked the court to put the priest under house arrest pending an investigation, the AP said. A hearing in Kyiv — at which the priest rejected the accusations as politically driven — was adjourned until Monday.

Ukraine Says It Repelled Over 50 Attacks in East (5 p.m.)

Kremlin troops continue attempts to advance in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, with the fiercest fighting taking place around Bakhmut and near Avdiivka and Maryinka, according to Kyiv-based General Staff.

Ukraine’s troops fended off more than 50 Russia’s attacks overnight, the military headquarters said in an evening statement on Saturday.

In past 24 hours Russia’s troops launched 2 missile strikes, 25 air-strikes and six strikes from multiple-launch rocket systems. Ukraine retaliated with eight airstrikes and five artillery and missile strikes.

Zelenskiy, Macron Discuss ‘Defense Interaction’ (4 p.m.)

Ukraine’s president held an hour-long phone call with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, including talks on “defense interaction,” he said on social media.

“We dwelled on further steps to implement [Ukraine’s] peace formula, coordinated actions for the upcoming international events,” Zelenskiy said.

Zelenskiy Aide Calls Russia’s Presidency at UNSC ‘Symbolic Blow’ (1 p.m.)

Russia, one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, took over the rotating presidency of the body for the month of April. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who’s under US sanctions, intends to spend part of the month in New York.

On Twitter, Andriy Yermak, head of the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called the rotation “another symbolic blow to the rules-based system of international relations.” Russia last held the post in February 2022, the month its troops invaded Ukraine.

The US, which has said it has no legal pathway to blocking Russia from the role, this week called on Russia to conduct itself professionally for the month. Moscow takes on the presidency days after detaining a US citizen, Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich, on charges of spying.

Russia Ammunition Output in the Rise, Shoigu Says (10:28 a.m.)

Russia has boosted its production of conventional and high-precision ammunition “many times over,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting at the headquarters of troops involved in its war in Ukraine.

Manufacturing volumes have multiplied “due to the expansion of production capabilities and increased labor productivity,” Shoigu said. Earlier in the week, the minister visited munitions factories in the Chelyabinsk and Kirov regions, watching “artillery, tank, mortar shells of various calibers and unguided aircraft missiles” rolled off the assembly lines.

Shoigu said that makes it possible to fulfill tasks in what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine. Earlier in the week, the defense ministry said the the production of certain types of products will increase by seven to eight times by year-end.

Global Food Supply Risks Rise as Key Traders Leave Russia (9 a.m.)

Russia’s grip on global food supply is tightening after two of the biggest international traders said they would halt grain purchases for export from the country.

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Top US General Says Ukrainian Victory Unlikely This Year (8 a.m.)

Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview that Ukraine is unlikely to expel all Russian troops from its borders this year, calling that a “very, very difficult military task.”

Ukraine’s president “has publicly stated many times that the Ukrainian objective is to kick every Russian out of Russian occupied Ukraine. And that is a significant military task,” Milley told Defense One in an interview posted on Friday. “You’re looking at a couple hundred thousand Russians who are still in Russian-occupied Ukraine. I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m just saying it’s a very difficult task.”

Milley said US ATACMS long-range missiles were not currently in the picture for Ukraine. “We have relatively few ATACMS, we do have to make sure that we maintain our own munitions inventories, as well,” he said.

Ukraine Slams Wimbledon’s Decision to Allow Russian Players (5 a.m.)

Ukrainian government officials decried a decision by the organizers of tennis’ Wimbledon grand-slam tournament to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete this year, after banning them in 2022 and incurring heavy fines from the sport’s professional tours.

The players will be allowed to compete as neutral athletes, the All England Club said on Friday. “This was an incredibly difficult decision, not taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration,” club chairman Ian Hewitt said in a statement.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the move “immoral” in a Twitter post. Other tennis tournaments have also allowed Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutral athletes.

US Prepares to Give $2.6 Billion in Military Aid (10:45 p.m.)

The US is planning to release a package of military assistance to Ukraine valued at $2.6 billion, according to an official who asked not to be identified in advance of an announcement likely to come on Monday.

The latest weapons package includes $2.1 billion under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, including a resupply of Nassam air defense missiles and radar. A $500 million drawdown from existing American equipment includes additional ammunition, the official said.

The planned assistance was reported earlier by Reuters.

Zelenskiy Again Urges China to Talk With Him About Peace (7:16 p.m.)

Zelenskiy reaffirmed that Kyiv seeks contacts with Chinese authorities to discuss his proposed formula for peace.

“Everything must be done to involve the maximum number of countries in the victory in this war,” Zelenskiy said at a joint news conference with leaders of Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia and Moldova. “We send signals and say that we are ready to meet and talk. We are waiting for answers.”

While the US and other allies have said China’s own proposal involves a cease-fire that would freeze in place territory captured by Russia, Zelenskiy has stopped short of spurning China’s efforts to mediate as intended to help its ally Putin.

Putin Signs New Foreign Policy Against ‘Hostile’ West (3:17 p.m.)

Putin signed a 42-page policy document that argues the US is “the source of fundamental risks to the security of the Russian Federation” and most European states are pursuing an “aggressive policy” aimed at undermining Russia’s sovereignty.

The policy “serves as a solid doctrinal basis for our further work on international affairs,” Putin told a meeting of his Security Council. Russia will seek to boost ties with “constructive partners” and create “conditions for unfriendly states to abandon their hostile policy toward our country,” he said.

Russia intends to deepen relations with China and India, and to make military aid to Latin American nations facing “US pressure” a priority of its foreign policy, according to the document.

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