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Russia-Ukraine war: UK to expel Russian defence attache, who it claims is ‘undeclared military intelligence officer’ – as it happened

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Kremlin plays down Ukraine claim of foiled plot to kill Zelenskiy

The Kremlin said it had no comment on Ukrainian assertions that Kyiv caught Russian agents plotting the assassination of president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, but said that it was hardly likely to be accurate information.

Ukraine’s state security service said on Tuesday it caught two agents for Russia who planned to kill Zelenskiy and other top officials as “a gift” for Russian president Vladimir Putin as he was sworn in for a new term.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had no comment on the assertion but added that was unlikely to be accurate information.

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Key events

Closing summary

  • The European Union has reached a deal to seize profits from Russia’s frozen assets to fund weapons and aid for Ukraine, overcoming a hitch about a tax windfall for Belgium. EU senior diplomats meeting on Wednesday agreed a compromise on using the €4.4bn windfall profits to aid Ukraine, smoothing over a dispute about taxation and management costs in Belgium, the country where most of the frozen assets are held.

  • Ukraine said it was producing the same number of deep strike drones as Russia, claiming to have reached parity on a key type of weapon that Moscow has used for long-range attacks for much of its invasion. Unable to rapidly match Russia’s vast arsenal of cruise and ballistic missiles, Kyiv has focused on developing and producing long-range drones so it can hit back at Russia, which has bombed Ukraine throughout the 26-month-old invasion, Reuters reported.

  • Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz has stressed Berlin’s support for a Ukraine peace summit to be held in Switzerland in mid-June during a phone call with president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a government spokesperson in Berlin said on Wednesday. “The chancellor confirmed his participation and reiterated that Germany actively supported the meeting. They agreed to work towards the broadest possible global participation,” Reuters reports a statement from the spokesperson said.

  • An “undeclared” Russian military intelligence officer will be expelled from the UK, the home secretary has said, as he also announced the closure of several Russian diplomatic premises. James Cleverly, whose role is the equivalent on an interior minister, told lawmakers in London: “Today in conjunction with the foreign secretary, I am announcing a package of measures to make clear to Russia that we will not tolerate such apparent escalations.”

  • Poland was targeted by a hacking attack from a Russia-linked group this week, the state-run National Research Institute (NASK) said on Wednesday. “Malware targeting Polish government institutions was distributed this week by the APT28 group, associated with Russia’s intelligence services,” Reuters reports NASK said in a statement.

  • Tass reports that a Moscow court has kept deputy minister of defence Timur Ivanov in pre-trial detention after he was charged with receiving an exceptionally large bribe. It reports that a judge said “The court decided to leave Ivanov’s appeal without satisfaction, and the decision of the first instance – without change” Ivanov had appealed against his detention. He was arrested on 24 April. The case also involves businessmen Sergei Borodin and Alexander Fomin who are accused by authorities of making a large bribe.

  • Ukraine says it has foiled a Russian plot to assassinate its president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and other senior officials, using a network of agents who were recruited by Vladimir Putin’s domestic spy agency. The SBU state security service in Kyiv said the alleged agents had been instructed to find someone close to the presidential guard. The person would take Zelenskiy prisoner – in his office or when he left the building – and then kill him, the SBU said.

  • The Kremlin said it had no comment on Ukrainian assertions that Kyiv caught Russian agents plotting the assassination of president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, but said that it was hardly likely to be accurate information. Ukraine’s state security service said on Tuesday it caught two agents for Russia who planned to kill Zelenskiy and other top officials as “a gift” for Russian president Vladimir Putin as he was sworn in for a new term.

  • Russian forces have taken over the village of Kyslivka in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region and the village of Novokalynove in the Donetsk region, Russia’s defence ministry said. It said in a statement that Russian forces hit military and energy facilities in Ukraine with drones and missiles in retaliation for Ukrainian strikes on Russian energy facilities.

  • Ukraine’s parliament has passed a bill allowing mobilisation of some categories of convicts, lawmakers said. “Those convicted of premeditated murder, rape, sexual violence, and crimes against the national security will not be mobilised,” Oleksiy Honcharenko, one of the parliamentarians, said on Telegram.

  • Russia said that sending Nato troops into Ukraine would potentially be extremely dangerous, and Moscow was closely watching a Ukrainian petition that called for such an intervention. The petition, posted on the Ukrainian president’s website, says Ukraine should ask the United States, Britain and other countries to send troops to help it repel Russia’s invasion, Reuters reported.

  • Russia said on Wednesday that the conflict in Ukraine would be over in just two weeks if the West halted military supplies to Kyiv, echoing remarks by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell. Borrell said earlier this month that Ukraine’s existence depended on the West and that the war would be finished in a couple of weeks if the supply of Western weaponry ended, Reuters reported. Borrell said that he did not want the war to end like that.

  • Russian missiles and drones struck nearly a dozen Ukrainian critical infrastructure facilities in a major airstrike early on Wednesday, causing serious damage at three Soviet-era thermal power plants, Kyiv officials said. The air force said it shot down 39 of 55 missiles and 20 out of 21 attack drones used in the attack, which piles more pressure on Ukraine’s beleaguered energy system more than two years since Russia launched its full-scale invasion, Reuters reported.

  • Overnight Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure caused a deficit in grid system which could prompt power cuts in the evening for consumers around the country, Ukraine’s grid operator Ukrenergo said on Wednesday. Hydropower and thermal power plants were damaged in the attack, Ukrenergo said in a statement via the Telegram messaging app.

  • British allegations of Russian involvement in an arson attack in Britain are absurd and part of an information war against Moscow, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday. Zakharova said Russia considered such allegations provocative and never carried out sabotage attacks against civilian targets, Reuters reported. She was referring to a case in which Britain last month charged a man over alleged hostile state activity intended to benefit Russia, including by allegedly recruiting others for an arson attack on a Ukrainian-linked commercial property in London.

  • The Kremlin also said that it valued its relations with North Korea, when asked about a report that Russia has been shipping refined petroleum to North Korea at levels that appear to breach a cap set by the United Nations Security Council. “We value our bilateral relations with North Korea and intend to further develop them in all possible areas,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. North Korea, he said, was “our good and very promising partner.”

  • China’s foreign ministry congratulated Vladimir Putin on his inauguration as president of Russia, according to a spokesperson. “China congratulates president Putin on his inauguration,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian, noting president Xi Jinping had already sent a congratulatory message to Putin on his re-election.

  • Russia warned France on Wednesday that if president Emmanuel Macron sent troops to Ukraine then they would be seen as legitimate targets by the Russian military. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia was already seeing growing numbers of French nationals among those killed in the Ukraine war.

  • India’s federal police said four people linked to a network of human traffickers have been arrested, accused of luring young men to Russia with the promise of lucrative jobs or university admissions only to force them to fight in the war in Ukraine. About 35 Indian men were duped in this manner, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said in March, Reuters reported.

That’s all from me, Tom Ambrose, and indeed the Ukraine live blog for today. Thanks for following along – see you tomorrow.

Jennifer Rankin

The European Union has reached a deal to seize profits from Russia’s frozen assets to fund weapons and aid for Ukraine, overcoming a hitch about a tax windfall for Belgium.

EU senior diplomats meeting on Wednesday agreed a compromise on using the €4.4bn windfall profits to aid Ukraine, smoothing over a dispute about taxation and management costs in Belgium, the country where most of the frozen assets are held.

Euroclear, a clearing house in Brussels, holds €191bn of the €260bn of Russian Central Bank assets that were immobilised by western governments in response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. In February the clearing house reported €4.4bn interest on the Russian funds and forecast that the Belgium government would reap in €1,085bn in taxes.

The EU – wary of the legal ramifications of seizing the Russian assets – decided it could confiscate the profits, after concluding Moscow had no legal right to these funds. But finding a deal has been complicated by divisions about how to spend the money, Euroclear’s management fees and Belgium’s 25% tax on corporate profits.

Belgium has now said it is “prepared to consider” a voluntary plan to transfer the collected taxes to Ukraine from 2025, according to diplomatic sources. The Belgian climbdown was first reported by Politico.

The Belgian state was already contributing aid to buy weapons for Ukraine, but EU diplomats argued the Russian windfall should be additional not in place of Belgium’s regular Ukraine aid. Ahead of the compromise, one EU diplomat described the profits as “a windfall tax for Belgium” and said counting it towards Belgium’s Ukraine aid should not be allowed: “it is a little unfair because nobody else has Russian money to pay for their aid for Ukraine.”

Meeting on Wednesday, the diplomats whittled down Euroclear’s management fee to 0.3%, down from the original 3% proposed.

EU member states have also reached a compromise to spend 90% of the windfall profits on weapons for Ukraine and the remaining 10% on reconstruction, a split designed to assuage countries including Ireland, Austria and Hungary that cannot or do not wish to fund arms.

Ukraine said it was producing the same number of deep strike drones as Russia, claiming to have reached parity on a key type of weapon that Moscow has used for long-range attacks for much of its invasion.

Unable to rapidly match Russia’s vast arsenal of cruise and ballistic missiles, Kyiv has focused on developing and producing long-range drones so it can hit back at Russia, which has bombed Ukraine throughout the 26-month-old invasion, Reuters reported.

“In 2024, Ukraine caught up with Russia in terms of the production number of kamikaze drones similar to the Shahed-131 and Shahed-136,” Herman Smetanin, head of Ukraine’s state arms manufacturer, told the defence ministry’s media outlet, ArmyInform.

Shahed drones, which Kyiv says were initially procured from Iran before some production was localised in Russia’s Tatarstan region, have become a staple of Russian air strikes since they were first used against Ukraine in the autumn of 2022.

The drones, which are packed with explosives and detonate on impact, are nicknamed “mopeds” by Ukrainians due to the whirring sound of their engines that can be heard flying in the sky.

Smetanin said his comment about production numbers applied to other types of attack drone as well. He gave no figures.

People survey a damaged private building after an overnight rocket attack in Krasylivka village, near Kyiv, Ukraine, 8 May 2024 amid the Russian invasion. Photograph: Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA

Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz has stressed Berlin’s support for a Ukraine peace summit to be held in Switzerland in mid-June during a phone call with president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a government spokesperson in Berlin said on Wednesday.

“The chancellor confirmed his participation and reiterated that Germany actively supported the meeting. They agreed to work towards the broadest possible global participation,” Reuters reports a statement from the spokesperson said.

The talks are due to be held from 15-16 June near the Swiss city of Lucerne.

Poland was targeted by a hacking attack from a Russia-linked group this week, the state-run National Research Institute (NASK) said on Wednesday.

“Malware targeting Polish government institutions was distributed this week by the APT28 group, associated with Russia’s intelligence services,” Reuters reports NASK said in a statement.

“Technical indicators and similarities to past attacks allowed the identification of the APT28 group.”

Russian deputy defence minister kept in pre-trial detention over bribery charges

Tass reports that a Moscow court has kept deputy minister of defence Timur Ivanov in pre0-trial detention after he was charged with receiving an exceptionally large bribe.

It reports that a judge said “The court decided to leave Ivanov’s appeal without satisfaction, and the decision of the first instance – without change”

Ivanov had appealed against his detention. He was arrested on 24 April. The case also involves businessmen Sergei Borodin and Alexander Fomin who are accused by authorities of making a large bribe.

Tass writes:

The deputy minister denied involvement in receiving a bribe and declared his readiness to give detailed testimony to prove his innocence. The accounts and assets of all defendants in the case were frozen as part of interim measures.

A file photo of Timur Ivanov appearing in court on 24 April. Photograph: AP

UK to expel Russian defence attache, who it claims is ‘undeclared military intelligence officer’

An “undeclared” Russian military intelligence officer will be expelled from the UK, the home secretary has said, as he also announced the closure of several Russian diplomatic premises.

James Cleverly, whose role is the equivalent on an interior minister, told lawmakers in London: “Today in conjunction with the foreign secretary, I am announcing a package of measures to make clear to Russia that we will not tolerate such apparent escalations.”

PA Media reports he continued:

I can tell the House that we will expel the Russian defence attache, who is an undeclared military intelligence officer.

We will remove diplomatic premises status from several Russian-owned properties in the UK, including Seacox Heath house, a Russian-owned property in Sussex, and the trade and defence section in Highgate, which we believe have been used for intelligence purposes.

We are imposing new restrictions on Russian diplomatic visas, including capping the length of time Russian diplomats can spend in the UK.

Cleverly said the action followed a pattern of malign activity from Russia across Britain and Europe.

Reuters reports that Russia’s foreign ministry has said it will respond appropriately.

Afternoon summary

  • Ukraine says it has foiled a Russian plot to assassinate its president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and other senior officials, using a network of agents who were recruited by Vladimir Putin’s domestic spy agency. The SBU state security service in Kyiv said the alleged agents had been instructed to find someone close to the presidential guard. The person would take Zelenskiy prisoner – in his office or when he left the building – and then kill him, the SBU said.

  • The Kremlin said it had no comment on Ukrainian assertions that Kyiv caught Russian agents plotting the assassination of president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, but said that it was hardly likely to be accurate information. Ukraine’s state security service said on Tuesday it caught two agents for Russia who planned to kill Zelenskiy and other top officials as “a gift” for Russian president Vladimir Putin as he was sworn in for a new term.

  • Russian forces have taken over the village of Kyslivka in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region and the village of Novokalynove in the Donetsk region, Russia’s defence ministry said. It said in a statement that Russian forces hit military and energy facilities in Ukraine with drones and missiles in retaliation for Ukrainian strikes on Russian energy facilities.

  • Ukraine’s parliament has passed a bill allowing mobilisation of some categories of convicts, lawmakers said. “Those convicted of premeditated murder, rape, sexual violence, and crimes against the national security will not be mobilised,” Oleksiy Honcharenko, one of the parliamentarians, said on Telegram.

  • Russia said that sending Nato troops into Ukraine would potentially be extremely dangerous, and Moscow was closely watching a Ukrainian petition that called for such an intervention. The petition, posted on the Ukrainian president’s website, says Ukraine should ask the United States, Britain and other countries to send troops to help it repel Russia’s invasion, Reuters reported.

  • Russia said on Wednesday that the conflict in Ukraine would be over in just two weeks if the West halted military supplies to Kyiv, echoing remarks by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell. Borrell said earlier this month that Ukraine’s existence depended on the West and that the war would be finished in a couple of weeks if the supply of Western weaponry ended, Reuters reported. Borrell said that he did not want the war to end like that.

  • Russian missiles and drones struck nearly a dozen Ukrainian critical infrastructure facilities in a major airstrike early on Wednesday, causing serious damage at three Soviet-era thermal power plants, Kyiv officials said. The air force said it shot down 39 of 55 missiles and 20 out of 21 attack drones used in the attack, which piles more pressure on Ukraine’s beleaguered energy system more than two years since Russia launched its full-scale invasion, Reuters reported.

  • Overnight Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure caused a deficit in grid system which could prompt power cuts in the evening for consumers around the country, Ukraine’s grid operator Ukrenergo said on Wednesday. Hydropower and thermal power plants were damaged in the attack, Ukrenergo said in a statement via the Telegram messaging app.

  • British allegations of Russian involvement in an arson attack in Britain are absurd and part of an information war against Moscow, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday. Zakharova said Russia considered such allegations provocative and never carried out sabotage attacks against civilian targets, Reuters reported. She was referring to a case in which Britain last month charged a man over alleged hostile state activity intended to benefit Russia, including by allegedly recruiting others for an arson attack on a Ukrainian-linked commercial property in London.

  • The Kremlin also said that it valued its relations with North Korea, when asked about a report that Russia has been shipping refined petroleum to North Korea at levels that appear to breach a cap set by the United Nations Security Council. “We value our bilateral relations with North Korea and intend to further develop them in all possible areas,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. North Korea, he said, was “our good and very promising partner.”

  • China’s foreign ministry congratulated Vladimir Putin on his inauguration as president of Russia, according to a spokesperson. “China congratulates president Putin on his inauguration,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian, noting president Xi Jinping had already sent a congratulatory message to Putin on his re-election.

  • Russia warned France on Wednesday that if president Emmanuel Macron sent troops to Ukraine then they would be seen as legitimate targets by the Russian military. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia was already seeing growing numbers of French nationals among those killed in the Ukraine war.

  • India’s federal police said four people linked to a network of human traffickers have been arrested, accused of luring young men to Russia with the promise of lucrative jobs or university admissions only to force them to fight in the war in Ukraine. About 35 Indian men were duped in this manner, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said in March, Reuters reported.

Ukraine’s parliament has passed a bill allowing mobilisation of some categories of convicts, lawmakers said.

“Those convicted of premeditated murder, rape, sexual violence, and crimes against the national security will not be mobilised,” Oleksiy Honcharenko, one of the parliamentarians, said on Telegram.

Russia said on Wednesday that the conflict in Ukraine would be over in just two weeks if the West halted military supplies to Kyiv, echoing remarks by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.

Borrell said earlier this month that Ukraine’s existence depended on the West and that the war would be finished in a couple of weeks if the supply of Western weaponry ended, Reuters reported. Borrell said that he did not want the war to end like that.

Asked about how to de-escalate the confrontation between Russia and the West, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the West had raised the rhetoric about Russia.

“And what is needed for de-escalation, Borrell said: if you stop supplying Kyiv with weapons, everything will be over in 2 weeks. And here is the de-escalation formula,” she said.

Russia claims to have captured two villages in Ukraine

Russian forces have taken over the village of Kyslivka in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region and the village of Novokalynove in the Donetsk region, Russia’s defence ministry said.

It said in a statement that Russian forces hit military and energy facilities in Ukraine with drones and missiles in retaliation for Ukrainian strikes on Russian energy facilities.

Russia said that sending Nato troops into Ukraine would potentially be extremely dangerous, and Moscow was closely watching a Ukrainian petition that called for such an intervention.

The petition, posted on the Ukrainian president’s website, says Ukraine should ask the United States, Britain and other countries to send troops to help it repel Russia’s invasion, Reuters reported.

“The Kyiv regime is quite unpredictable,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked about it at his daily briefing.

“We have repeatedly said that direct intervention on the ground in this conflict by the military of Nato countries potentially carries enormous danger, so we consider this an extremely challenging provocation, nothing less, and, of course, we are watching this very carefully.”

It was unclear if the petition would gather the required number of votes – 25,000 – to require president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to respond by either approving or rejecting it. As of Wednesday morning it had attracted 1,594 votes.

A man surveys the damage of a house that was hit during a Russian missile strike in the Kyiv region. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

British allegations of Russian involvement in an arson attack in Britain are absurd and part of an information war against Moscow, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.

Zakharova said Russia considered such allegations provocative and never carried out sabotage attacks against civilian targets, Reuters reported.

She was referring to a case in which Britain last month charged a man over alleged hostile state activity intended to benefit Russia, including by allegedly recruiting others for an arson attack on a Ukrainian-linked commercial property in London.

Foreign secretary David Cameron has voiced deep concern about the allegations, and his ministry last month summoned Russia’s ambassador to London to express its concern about “Russian orchestrated malign activity on UK soil”.

Zakharova told reporters at her weekly briefing: “We consider the appearance of such provocative materials as the latest salvo in an information war that Downing Street has unleashed against our country.”

“These attempts are pathetic… The accusations made are not only absurd, but also not supported by any facts,” she said, urging Britain to halt its “anti-Russian hysteria”.

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