Russia-Ukraine war latest: Putin using gas and trade as weapon with ‘energy blackmail’ of Europe, Zelenskiy warns – live

[view original post]

More than 8,500 alleged war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine are under investigation, Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office has said.

A total of 8,653 cases have been reported and 217 children have been confirmed to have been killed, the office added.

Russia is almost ‘weaponising energy supplies’, White House says

Echoing Zelenskiy’s remarks, the White House also denounced Russia’s move to cut off energy supplies to Poland and Bulgaria.

Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a daily briefing on Wednesday:

Unfortunately this is the type of step, the type of almost weaponising energy supplies that we had predicted that Russia could take in this conflict.

And we have been working for some time now, for months, with partners around the world to diversify natural gas supply to Europe to — in anticipation of and to also address near-term needs and replace volumes that would otherwise come from Russia.”

Russia considers gas and trade as a weapon, Zelenskiy says

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pointedly accused Russia of “energy blackmail” against Europe in his most recent national address.

Zelenskiy said Russia’s decision to cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria shows “no one in Europe can hope to maintain any normal economic cooperation with Russia”.

This week, Russia’s leadership launched a new series of energy blackmail of Europeans. The decision to cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria is another argument in favour of the fact that no one in Europe can hope to maintain any normal economic cooperation with Russia.

Russia considers not only gas, but any trade as a weapon. It is just waiting for the moment when one or another trade area can be used. To blackmail Europeans politically. Or to strengthen Russia’s military machine, which sees a united Europe as a target.

Hence, the sooner everyone in Europe admits that it is inadmissible to depend on Russia in trade, the sooner it will be possible to guarantee stability in European markets.”

Russia’s Black Sea fleet retains ability to strike Ukrainian and coastal targets, UK MoD says

Russia’s Black Sea fleet retains the ability to strike Ukrainian and coastal targets, despite its “embarrassing losses”, Britain’s defence ministry said in its latest intelligence report this morning.

Approximately 20 Russian Navy vessels are currently in the Black Sea operational zone, including submarines.

The Bosporus Strait remains closed to all non-Turkish warships, rendering Russia unable to replace its lost cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea.

Despite the embarrassing losses of the landing ship Saratov and cruiser Moskva, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet retains the ability to strike Ukrainian and coastal targets.”

Kherson to transfer to rouble from 1 May, Russian official claims

The southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, which Russia claims to have captured, will transition to using the rouble from 1 May, according to Russian state media.

Kirill Stremousov, the deputy chairman of the military-civilian administration of the region, told Ria Novosti that the transition would take place over a period of four months, during which the Russian rouble and the Ukrainian hryvnia will be in circulation.

After this period, the region will fully transition to using Russian currency, he added.

From May 1, we are moving into the ruble zone,” Stremousov told the outlet.

The Guardian has been unable to immediately independently verify Stremousov’s claims.

Russian forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally that broke out on Wednesday, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General said.

“During a peaceful pro-Ukrainian rally on Freedom Square in the city of Kherson, servicemen of the Russian armed forces used tear gas and stun grenades against the civilian population,” the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general said in a statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy praised the protests, saying in a late night address that “I am grateful to everyone who has not given up, who is protesting, who is ignoring the occupiers and showing the marginal people who have become collaborators that there is no future for them”.

The day before, local authorities said Russia appointed its own mayor to the city after its troops took over the administration headquarters in the regional capital.

Updated at 02.40 EDT

War has cost Ukraine $600bn, Zelenskiy says

The total losses inflicted upon Ukraine from the war have reached $600 billion, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said.

The president met with local and regional authorities on Wednesday to discuss Ukraine’s post war reconstruction. Zelenskiy said:

Preliminary estimates of Ukraine’s losses from this war reach $600 billion today. More than 32 million square meters of living space, more than 1,500 educational facilities and more than 350 medical facilities have been destroyed or damaged.

Economic entities suffered huge losses – hundreds of enterprises have been destroyed. About 2,500km of roads and almost 300 bridges have been ruined or damaged. And it’s not just statistics. This is Mariupol, this is Volnovakha, this is Okhtyrka, this is Chernihiv, this is Borodianka and dozens or dozens of our cities, towns and villages.”

According to the president, more than 11.5 million Ukrainians have fled their homes due to the fighting, and about 5 million of them have gone abroad with 95% of migrants already wanting to return home.

Damage caused to Ukraine’s infrastructure as a result of the war has reached almost $90 billion, the country’s minister of infrastructure added.

Most of the damage has been inflicted on railway, road and bridge infrastructure, Oleksandr Kubrakov said.

Truss urges ‘doubling down’ on support for Ukraine

The crisis in Ukraine must be the “catalyst for change” to overhaul the west’s approach to international security and the west should be “doubling down” on its support for Ukraine, the UK’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has said.

Speaking at Mansion House in London on Wednesday evening, Truss described Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, as a “desperate rogue operator with no interest in international norms”.

Faced with appalling barbarism and war crimes, which we’d hoped had been consigned to history, the free world has united behind Ukraine in its brave fight for freedom and self-determination.

Those who think they can win through oppression, coercion or invasion are being proved wrong by this new stand on global security – one that not only seeks to deter, but also ensures that aggressors fail.

We cannot be complacent – the fate of Ukraine hangs in the balance.

But let’s be clear – if Putin succeeds there will be untold further misery across Europe and terrible consequences across the globe. We would never feel safe again.

So we must be prepared for the long haul. We’ve got to double down on our support for Ukraine. And we must also follow through on the unity shown in the crisis. We must reboot, recast and remodel our approach.”

We must learn the lessons from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. This has to be a catalyst for change to protect the free world.

We need a new approach based on military strength, economic security and deeper alliances.

My speech tonight 👇https://t.co/BSZh2jLBQa

— Liz Truss (@trussliz) April 27, 2022

The foreign secretary suggested the west should be “digging deep into our inventories [and] ramping up production” of heavy weapons, tanks and planes while sanctions against Russia needed to go further to include cutting off oil and gas imports “once and for all”.

We are doubling down.

We will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine.

And this has to be a catalyst for wider change …

The war in Ukraine is our war – it is everyone’s war because Ukraine’s victory is a strategic imperative for all of us.”

The west must ‘double down’ on support for Ukraine, says Liz Truss – video

Putin warns of ‘lightning fast’ retaliation if west interferes in Ukraine

In an address to lawmakers in St Petersburg earlier on Wednesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin warned any countries attempting to interfere in Ukraine would be met with a “lightning-fast” response from Moscow.

The Russian president said the west wanted to cut Russia up into different pieces and accused it of pushing Ukraine into conflict with Russia, adding:

If someone intends to intervene into the ongoing events (in Ukraine) from the outside and creates unacceptable strategic threats for us, then they should know that our response to those strikes will be swift, lightning fast.

Russian troops would not hesitate to use the most modern weaponry, Putin said:

We have all the tools for this — ones that no one can brag about. And we won’t brag. We will use them if needed. And I want everyone to know this.

We have already taken all the decisions on this.

Vladimir Putin warned any countries attempting to interfere in Ukraine would be met with a “lightning-fast” response from Moscow. Photograph: Alexey Danichev/SPUTNIK/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 01.12 EDT

UN chief to meet Zelenskiy after talks with Putin

United Nations secretary general António Guterres is set to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy today after he arrived in Kyiv on Wednesday.

Guterres is fresh from his visit to Russia where he met with Vladimir Putin, later describing the face-to-face tasks as “very useful.”

The secretary-general defended the role of the UN in terms of bringing an end to the two-month-old conflict but stressed the war “will not end with meetings” in an interview with CNN:

The war will not end with meetings. The war will end when the Russian Federation decides to end it and when there is – after a ceasefire – a possibility of a serious political agreement.

We can have all the meetings but that is not what will end the war.

During Wednesday’s meeting with Putin, Guterres said he discussed the evacuation of civilians from the steel factory encircled in the southern port city of Mariupol.

He said Putin agreed “in principle” on the evacuation of civilians and that discussions were taking place between UN officials and Russia’s ministry of defence to fine tune the details.

“We are also in contact with the government of Ukraine to see if we can have a situation in which nobody can blame the other side for things not happening,” he said.

I have arrived in Ukraine after visiting Moscow.

We will continue our work to expand humanitarian support & secure the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones.

The sooner this war ends, the better – for the sake of Ukraine, Russia, and the world.

— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) April 27, 2022

Summary and welcome

Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments until my colleague, Martin Belam, takes the reins a little later in the day.

It is just past 7am in Ukraine. Here’s what we know so far:

  • Vladimir Putin has warned any countries attempting to interfere in Ukraine would be met with a “lightning-fast” response from Moscow. In an address to lawmakers in St Petersburg, the Russian president said troops would use “all the tools for this — ones that no one can brag about”.
  • The UK is “digging deep” into its inventories, including heavy weapons, tanks and aeroplanes, to defend Ukraine and other countries threatened by Russia, Truss added. “Some argue we shouldn’t provide heavy weapons for fear of provoking something worse. But my view, is that inaction would be the greatest provocation,” she said.
  • The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, has arrived in Ukraine after meeting Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow. Guterres will meet the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, on Thursday.
  • Russia has warned other EU customers may be cut off from Russian natural gas supplies if they refuse to pay in roubles. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s comments came after Russia halted gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, a move that European leaders denounced as “blackmail”, which the Kremlin later denied. Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, described Russia’s move as “a direct attack” on Poland.
  • The White House denounced Russia’s move to cut off energy supplies to Poland and Bulgaria. Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a daily briefing on Wednesday: “Unfortunately this is the type of step, the type of almost weaponising energy supplies that we had predicted that Russia could take in this conflict.”
  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy described Russia’s actions as amounting to “energy blackmail” against Europe in his nightly national address. Zelenskiy said Russia’s decision to cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria shows “no one in Europe can hope to maintain any normal economic cooperation with Russia”.
  • A Ukrainian commander in the besieged city of Mariupol said there are more than 600 injured civilians and fighters in the Azovstal steel works. Serhiy Volyna, acting commander of the 36th marine brigade, said hundreds of civilians including children were living in unsanitary conditions and running out of food and water. Officials earlier said Russian forces were again attacking the huge steel plant.
  • The interior ministry of Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria issued a statement claiming it came under attack from Ukraine. It said drones were spotted and shots were fired near Kolbasna, which it claims contains one of the largest ammunition dumps in Europe.
  • A former head of the Polish army has accused Boris Johnson of “tempting evil” by revealing that Ukrainian soldiers were being trained in Poland in how to use British anti-aircraft missiles before returning with them to Ukraine. Gen Waldemar Skrzypczak complained that a loose-lipped PM had revealed too much to the Russians and that his remarks risked the safety of the soldiers involved.
  • The European Commission has proposed suspending import duties on all Ukrainian products to help the country’s economy during the war with Russia. The proposed one-year suspension, which would need to be approved by the European Parliament and its 27 member states, comes a day after Britain announced it was dropping all tariffs on Ukrainian goods.
  • Russia’s foreign ministry announced sanctions on 287 members of Britain’s House of Commons, accusing them of “whipping up Russophobic hysteria”. The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, said those members who had been hit with sanctions by Russia should regard it as “a badge of honour”.
  • A top executive at one of Russia’s largest private banks said he has quit his post and fled to Kyiv to fight for Ukraine. In an interview with the independent Russian news outlet The Insider, Ukrainian-born Igor Volobuev, vice president of Gazprombank, said he “could no longer be in Russia” and that he wants to “wash off” his Russian past.
  • Two American volunteers fighting in Ukraine were reportedly wounded by artillery fire near the city of Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region. US army veterans Manus McCaffrey and Paul Gray were working together as a team targeting Russian tanks with Javelin anti-tank systems when they were injured, according to reports.
  • The total losses inflicted upon Ukraine from the war have reached $600bn, Zelenskiy said. “More than 32m square metres of living space, more than 1,500 educational facilities and more than 350 medical facilities have been destroyed or damaged,” he added. “About 2,500km of roads and almost 300 bridges have been ruined or damaged.”
  • The rouble soared to a more than two-year high against the euro in Moscow trade on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

As usual, please feel free to reach out to me by email or Twitter for any tips or feedback.

Iryna Terekhova (55) stands in the entrance to her destroyed house in Lukashivka village in the Chernihiv region. Photograph: Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA

Updated at 11.39 EDT