The UN is conducting a fact-finding mission in response to requests from both Russia and Ukraine after 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed in an explosion at a barracks in separatist-controlled Olenivka. The warring nations have accused each other of carrying out the attack. Ukraine claims it was a special operation plotted in advance by the Kremlin, and carried out by Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group. Russia’s defence ministry, however, claims the Ukrainian military used US-supplied rockets to strike the prison.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, wants to talk directly to China’s leader, Xi Jinping, in the hope China can use its influence with Russia to bring the war to an end. According to a report in the South China Morning Post Zelenskiy said: “It’s a very powerful state. It’s a powerful economy. So (it) can politically, economically influence Russia. And China is [also a] permanent member of the UN security council.” So far, China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion and its president, Xi Jinping, told Putin it would support Russia’s “sovereignty and security”.
The US Senate has ratified Finland and Sweden’s accession to Nato, voting 95-1 in support. The US is the 23rd member state to ratify what would be the most significant expansion of the 30-member alliance since the 1990s as it responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “This historic vote sends an important signal of the sustained, bipartisan US commitment to Nato, and to ensuring our alliance is prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” the president, Joe Biden, said in a statement. All 30 Nato members must ratify the accession before Finland and Sweden can become members.
Ukraine is pulling out its 40 peacekeepers from the Nato-led mission in Kosovo, which totals 3,800 members, according to Ukraine news. In March, Zelenskiy issued a decree for all missions to return to Ukraine to support the war.
A Russian official in Ukraine has claimed Ukrainian forces are using western arms to attack the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Europe’s largest nuclear plant is now controlled by Russian forces and being used as a military base, according to Reuters. However, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said Ukrainian forces are not firing against Russian forces “lest there be a terrible accident involving the nuclear plant”. Reuters was unable to verify battlefield accounts from either side of the war.
The first shipment of grain to leave Ukraine under a deal to ease Russia’s naval blockade has reached Turkey. The Sierra Leone-registered ship Razoni set sail from Odesa port for Lebanon on Monday under an accord brokered by Turkey and the UN. The ship has been inspected by members of the joint coordination centre, and is now expected to move through the Bosphorus Strait “shortly”.
The Ukrainian president has dismissed the importance of the first grain export shipment from his country since Russia invaded, saying it was carrying a fraction of the crop Kyiv must sell to help salvage its shattered economy. In downbeat comments, Zelenskiy, via video to students in Australia on Wednesday, said more time was needed to see whether other grain shipments would follow.
The UN has said that there have been over 10m border crossings into and out of Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion of the country on 24 February. Data gathered by the UNHCR states that 6,180,345 individual refugees from Ukraine are now recorded across Europe. Ukraine’s neighbours have taken the largest individual numbers. Poland has 1.25 million refugees.
The former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder has come under fire for a private meeting held with the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, after he travelled on holiday to Moscow to meet him. Schröder told German media in a lengthy interview he had nothing to apologise for over his friendship with Putin, whom he met last week during a visit to the Russian capital.
German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has insisted that Russia had no reason to hold up the return of a gas turbine for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. The turbine is stranded in Germany, following servicing in Canada, in an escalating standoff that has seen has flows to Europe fall to a trickle, just 20% of capacity.