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Ukraine to ‘step up long-range missile strikes’ on Putin’s forces – latest news today

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Representatives celebrate and wave flags after Congress passes Ukraine aid package

Ukraine is set to step up long-range missile attacks on Russia with the help of Western military aid, the UK’s defence chief has admitted.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said long-range weapons would help Kyiv shape the war in “much stronger ways”, after US officials said long-range missiles used by Ukraine were “already hitting” Vladimir Putin’s forces in Crimea under a secret deal secured by Joe Biden earlier this year.

The Army Tactical Missile System, or Atacms, arrived in Ukraine last week under a secret deal agreed in March before the £76bn US security package was passed by congress on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed “several dozen” Russian tactical nuclear weapons had been deployed in Belarus, Russia’s Tass news agency said, under an agreement jointly announced last year with Vladimir Putin.

It came as the Belarusian security service claimed to have thwarted an attack on the capital Minsk by drones launched from Nato-member Lithuania, which denied taking any hostile action.

Mr Lukashenko further claimed that the exiled Belarusian opposition planed to seize a western district request support from Nato troops.

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Macron outlines his vision for Europe as war in Ukraine rages on

French president Emmanuel Macron yesterday warned that Europe could “die” if it fails to build its own robust defence as Russia’s war in Ukraine rages on, or if it fails to undertake major trade and economic reforms to compete with China and the US.

Mr Macron urged Europeans to become more ambitious in a fast-changing world to face the challenges of war, fierce trade competition, energy scarcity, climate change and increasing authoritarianism.

Namita Singh26 April 2024 06:00

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Conductor of Ukrainian orchestra to deliver lecture at Gordonstoun

The principal conductor of an orchestra from Ukraine has said it will be a “real privilege” to give a lecture to children at his former school in Scotland.

Hobart Earle, who has conducted the Odesa Philharmonic Orchestra for the last 30 years, will give the annual Prince Philip Memorial Lecture to pupils at Gordonstoun School near Elgin, today.

His interactive talk and presentation, titled Ukraine. Music In Wartime, will provide an insight into how musicians in Ukraine have adapted to living and performing in wartime, and features videos of the orchestra performing from 2014, when Russia first invaded the country, to the present day.

Namita Singh26 April 2024 05:40

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US expected to provide $6bn to fund long-term weapons contracts for Ukraine, officials say

The US is expected to announce that it will provide about $6bn in long-term military aid to Ukraine, US officials said, adding that it will include much sought after munitions for Patriot air defence systems.

The officials said the aid package will be funded through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which pays for longer-term contracts with the defence industry and means that it could take many months or years for the weapons to arrive. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet made public.

The new funding — the largest tranche of USAI aid sent to date – will include a wide array of munitions for air defence, such as the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, as well as the Patriot munitions, Switchblade and Puma drones, counter-drone systems and artillery.

File: US secretary of defence Lloyd Austin is interrupted by protesters from the group Code Pink as he speaks at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on 17 April 2024 in Washington (Getty Images)

The announcement is expected to come as defence secretary Lloyd Austin convenes a virtual meeting today of defence officials from Europe and around the world to discuss international aid for Ukraine. The gathering — created by Mr Austin and known as the Ukraine Defence Contact Group — has been meeting about monthly for the past two years, and is the primary forum for weapons contributions to Kyiv for the war.

Namita Singh26 April 2024 05:20

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Europe is ‘too slow and lacks ambition’ in the face of global threats, says Macron

Emmanuel Macron has urged Europe to improve its defences and cut red tape as it faces existential threats from Russian aggression and American isolationism.

In a nearly two-hour speech at the Sorbonne University in Paris, Mr Macron claimed the 27-member European Union (EU) was “too slow and lacks ambition” before demanding that the bloc does not become a “vassal of the United States”.

“Our Europe is mortal. It could die,” the French president said. “We are not equipped to face the risks. We must produce more, we must produce faster and we must produce as Europeans.”

Thursday’s speech was billed by Mr Macron’s advisers as France’s contribution to the EU’s strategic agenda for the next five years. The agenda is due to be decided after the European elections, which will take place in early June.

My colleague Tom Watling reports:

Andy Gregory26 April 2024 04:55

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Ukraine pulls US- provided Abrams tanks from front lines over Russian drone threats

Ukraine has sidelined US-provided Abrams M1A1 battle tanks for now in its fight against Russia, in part because Russian drone warfare has made it too difficult for them to operate without detection or coming under attack, two US military officials told the Associated Press.

The US agreed to send 31 Abrams to Ukraine in January 2023 after an aggressive monthslong campaign by Kyiv arguing that the tanks, which cost about $10m apiece, were vital to its ability to breach Russian lines.

But the battlefield has changed substantially since then, notably by the ubiquitous use of Russian surveillance drones and hunter-killer drones. Those weapons have made it more difficult for Ukraine to protect the tanks when they are quickly detected and hunted by Russian drones or rounds.

Five of the 31 tanks have already been lost to Russian attacks.

File: US soldiers on Abrams tank (AFP via Getty Images)

The proliferation of drones on the Ukrainian battlefield means “there isn’t open ground that you can just drive across without fear of detection,” a senior defence official told reporters yesterday.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide an update on US weapons support for Ukraine before today’s Ukraine Defence Contact Group meeting.

For now, the tanks have been moved from the front lines, and the US will work with the Ukrainians to reset tactics, said Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Admiral Christopher Grady and a third defence official who confirmed the move on the condition of anonymity.“When you think about the way the fight has evolved, massed armor in an environment where unmanned aerial systems are ubiquitous can be at risk,” Mr Grady said, adding that tanks are still important.

“Now, there is a way to do it,” he said. “We’ll work with our Ukrainian partners, and other partners on the ground, to help them think through how they might use that, in that kind of changed environment now, where everything is seen immediately.”

Namita Singh26 April 2024 04:40

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Blinken meets Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing

US secretary of state Antony Blinken met Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi in Beijing for talks across a range of complex issues, including deepening strains over China’s backing of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Blinken is due to spend several hours with Mr Wang across closed-door meetings at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse and a working lunch as the two sides try to maintain progress in ties despite a broad and thorny agenda.

US State Department officials signalled ahead of the sessions that China’s support for Russia would feature strongly, saying that Washington is prepared to act against Chinese companies that have been helping retool and resupply Russia’s defence industry.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken shakes hands with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi during a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on 26 April 2024 (AFP via Getty Images)

They have said that such assistance risks hurting the broader China-US relationship, even as ties stabilise after being hit by then-House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in 2022 and the US downing of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon in February 2023.

Chinese officials and state media have cast doubt over the extent of possible progress on several fronts, with a China Daily editorial saying that both sides “have been largely talking past each other”.

“On the conflict in Ukraine, the world can see it clearly that the Ukraine issue is not an issue between China and the US; and the US side should not turn it into one,” it said.

Namita Singh26 April 2024 04:20

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Nato chief warns West against becoming as reliant on China as it did with Russia

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has warned Western allies against becoming as dependent on China as they had been on Russia.

“In the past, we made the mistake of becoming dependent on Russian oil and gas,” he said during a visit to Berlin.

“We must not repeat that mistake with China. Depending on its money, its raw materials, its technologies – dependencies make us vulnerable.”

Andy Gregory26 April 2024 03:01

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China must stop supporting Russia’s war if it wants good relations with West, warns Nato chief

China must stop supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine if it wants to enjoy good relations with the West, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has warned.

During a visit to Berlin, Mr Stoltenberg said Beijing’s help was vital to Moscow’s war effort – as it was propping up Russia’s war economy by sharing high-end technology like semiconductors.

“Last year, Russia imported 90 per cent of its microelectronics from China, used to produce missiles, tanks and aircraft. China is also working to provide Russia with improved satellite capabilities and imaging,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

“China says it wants good relations with the West. At the same time, Beijing continues to fuel the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War Two. They cannot have it both ways,” he warned.

Andy Gregory26 April 2024 01:46

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Watch: No way back for Putin after Ukrainian invasion, David Cameron says

No way back for Putin after Ukrainian invasion, David Cameron says

Andy Gregory26 April 2024 00:05

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Kyiv says fighting-age men will no longer be able to renew passports outside of Ukraine

In a push to reverse the drain of its potential soldiers, Kyiv has dramatically announced that men of conscription age will no longer be able to renew passports from outside Ukraine.

The Cabinet of Ministers said late on Wednesday that men between 18 and 60 years old who are deemed fit for military service will only be able to replace their passports inside Ukraine.

Millions of Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, mostly to neighboring European countries. The European Union’s statistics agency, Eurostat, says 4.3 million Ukrainians are living in EU countries, 860,000 of them men 18 years of age or older.

Poland’s defence minister said his country – which is home to one of the largest Ukrainian diasporas – was ready to help “in ensuring that those who are subject to compulsory military service go to Ukraine” as they “have obligations towards the state” – but he did not specify how.

However the move has met with some criticism inside Ukraine, with senior opposition politician Ivanna Klympush-Tsyntsadze warning that denying military-age men access to consular services could lead to “well-founded” legal challenges at the European Court of Human Rights.

“I think that these actions will only push an enormous number of Ukrainians to look for different ways to obtain citizenship from other countries,” she warned.

Andy Gregory25 April 2024 23:01

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