Ukraine update: Xi and Putin discuss plan to end war

(Bloomberg) – China announced that Xi Jinping will travel to Russia starting Monday for a three-day state visit, his first trip there since Kremlin troops invaded Ukraine and a strong show of support for President Vladimir Putin.

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Xi and Putin are expected to discuss Beijing’s 12-point plan to end the war, a document opposed by most Western governments. The Kremlin confirmed the visit, saying it was at Putin’s invitation.

Turkey is poised to approve Finland’s bid to join NATO later on Friday, a move to further transform Europe’s security landscape. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to meet his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto in Ankara to give the go-ahead for the Nordic country’s bid, leaving Hungary as the last fallback country.

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Important Developments

  • Xi is visiting Russia for the first time since Putin invaded Ukraine

  • US says video of drone encounter shows Russia ‘lying flat’

  • Russia remains on hold on interest rates as price decline puts war risks aside

  • Turkey to allow Finland to join NATO while Erdogan meets Niinisto

  • The extension of the Ukrainian harvest agreement is still pending a day before it ends

(All times CET)

Scholz demands Ukraine needs “security guarantees” (11.30 a.m.)

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Ukraine will need “security guarantees” after the war ends, even as he warned the government in Kiev and its allies to prepare for a “prolonged” conflict.

“The discussion about the design of such guarantees has been going on for months,” Scholz was quoted as saying by the Handelsblatt on Friday. “But for that, hostilities must first be ended and Russian troops withdrawn,” said the German leader, adding that “all other issues follow.”

Germany is considering training Ukrainian pilots (11:20 a.m.)

Germany is considering training Ukrainian fighter jet pilots and could quickly pave the way for Poland to re-export MIG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine if they come from stocks of the former East Germany, according to a ruling coalition lawmaker.

“Germany should participate in the training of Ukrainian pilots, for example by teaching them flight simulators,” said FDP member of the Bundestag Marcus Faber. Germany is unlikely to send any of its Tornado fighters to Ukraine as they are relatively difficult to maintain and also lack spare parts, Faber added.

Russia awards medals to drone strike team (10:30 a.m.)

The pilots of the Su-27 fighters involved in the crash of a US drone over the Black Sea this week will receive medals, according to the Defense Ministry in Moscow.

Sergei Shoigu, Defense Minister, officially nominated them for what his ministry described as “preventing violations” of the expanded airspace claimed by Russia during its invasion of Ukraine. The US accused the pilots of “dangerous, reckless and unprofessional behavior in international airspace”.

Latvia Bans 35 Russians Over War Support (10:40 am)

The Latvian Foreign Ministry has blacklisted 35 Russian citizens for supporting “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine”.

Those on the list “will be banned from entering Latvia indefinitely,” the ministry said in a statement. “Support for atrocities committed by the Kremlin regime means complicity with the crimes committed,” she added.

Slovakia sends 13 Soviet-era jets (10:15 a.m.)

Slovakia will send its entire fleet of Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine to bolster its defenses against Russian forces.

The eastern NATO member will send all 13 of its MiG-29 jets – which have been grounded and in various states of readiness since last August – at an unspecified date, Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad told reporters in Bratislava. The announcement comes a day after Poland said it would send four Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming days. Both nations are responding to pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has insisted that warplanes be essential to rolling back the Russian invasion.

Battle for Bakhmut Continues (10am)

Russian forces, backed by Wagner Group agents, have gained a foothold in central Bakhmut while Ukrainian troops remain in the west of the city, according to the latest update from British Defense Intelligence.

“More broadly, Russia on the front lines is conducting some of the lowest rates of local offensive action seen since at least January 2023,” Britain’s MoD said in a series of tweets. “This is most likely due to the fact that the Russian armed forces have temporarily decimated the combat effectiveness of the deployed formations to such an extent that even local offensive actions are currently unsustainable.”

Zelenskyy promises war crimes will be prosecuted (9am)

Zelenskyi vowed that Russians who committed war crimes in Ukraine will be held accountable, saying legal work is already underway to “get closer to justice” and “punish this attacker in the same way as we did.” the aggressors of the past were punished”.

“The day will come when all perpetrators of war crimes against Ukrainians will be tried in the halls of the International Criminal Court and national courts,” Zelenskyy said in his evening speech.

He said he spoke with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and met with Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins in Kiev on Thursday and thanked them for their support in defending Ukraine.

US Says Video Shows Russia Song (1:20 p.m.)

The Biden administration released dramatic footage of an encounter between Russian fighter jets and an American surveillance drone, as the US tried to show that Russia was lying with claims that its fighter jet never hit the UAV.

The 42-second video, filmed from the bottom of the MQ-9 Reaper, shows a jet aircraft approaching in a clear blue sky, releasing a plume of fuel and then turning away. The video then cuts to what the US says is a second Russian plane approaching the drone. It dumps its fuel, approaches the drone, and then the video cuts out. When the video returns, it shows the drone flying with a bent propeller. The decision to declassify and release the footage was intended to refute Russia’s claim that its jets never made contact with the drone, which the US says was in international airspace at the time of the encounter.

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