Russia and China Target Closer Military Ties

(Bloomberg) — Vladimir Putin praised ties between the Russian and Chinese armed forces, while China’s defense minister told the Kremlin leader that Beijing is willing to “further strengthen strategic communication between the two militaries.”

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China has become Russia’s strongest supporter since the invasion of Ukraine last year, and Li Shangfu’s trip to Moscow Sunday — the first by a Chinese defense minister since the war began — underscored the warmth in Moscow and Beijing’s political relations following President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Russian capital last month.

Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting in Japan said they remain committed to “intensifying, fully coordinating and enforcing sanctions against Russia, as well as to continuing strong support for Ukraine.”

Key Developments

  • China Tensions High on Agenda as G-7 Diplomats Meet in Japan

  • Putin Critic Jailed for 25 Years in Harshest Anti-War Ruling Yet

  • Slovakia Is Latest EU Nation to Ban Ukraine Grain Amid Glut

  • Russian Oil Gets Switched at Sea Between Tankers Near Cape Verde

  • Putin Meets China’s Defense Minister, Praises Military Ties

(All times CET)

Putin Critic Gets Harshest Sentence Yet (11 a.m.)

Russia sentenced a prominent Putin critic to 25 years in prison in the harshest sentence yet handed down to an opposition activist, prompting a call from Latvia’s foreign minister for new sanctions on the Kremlin.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, 41, a persistent campaigner against Putin’s rule who has condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine, was found guilty by a Moscow court of treason and other charges for criticizing the invasion, Russian news services reported.

His sentence is by far the longest handed down in the Kremlin’s crackdown on opponents, which has sharply accelerated since the invasion in February 2022. A lawyer for Kara-Murza, who holds both Russian and British citizenship, vowed to appeal, according to the state-run Tass news service.

Slovakia Halts Ukrainian Grain Imports (11 a.m.)

Slovakia is temporarily banning imports of Ukrainian grain, following moves by Poland and Hungary to block shipments over concerns they’re hurting their domestic markets.

The bans by the three eastern European Union nations underscore splinters in the bloc’s efforts to support Ukraine. Member states have voiced dissent over issues including arming Kyiv, banning Russian energy imports and helping the war-ravaged country to export food that helps feed millions in developing nations.

Ukraine Starts Filling Underground Gas Storage (10:30 a.m.)

Ukraine has begun pumping natural gas into the country’s underground storage facilities, state transit operator Ukrtransgaz said in a statement.

Despite Russia’s full-scale invasion, the nation’s storage facilities operated without interruption through the 2022-23 winter, Ukrtransgaz said. Since last October, about 5.6 billion cubic meters were withdrawn from storage, slightly less than during the same period a year earlier due to the relatively warmer weather.

G-7 Ministers Target Sanctions Evasion (10 a.m.)

G-7 foreign ministers “underscored that Russia must withdraw all forces and equipment from Ukraine immediately and unconditionally,” Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement following talks among chief diplomats in Karuizawa.

The ministers also agreed to reinforce “coordination to prevent and respond to evasion of sanctions as well as third-party weapon supply to Russia.”

More Slovakian Fighters Reach Ukraine (9:10 a.m.)

Slovakia has handed over the remaining nine Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets it pledged to Ukraine, taking the total to 13, according to Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad.

“This transfer was carried out by land with the utmost safety in mind,” Nad said in an emailed statement. Slovakia last month approved sending its entire fleet of Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine to bolster its defense against Russia’s invasion.

Heavy Fighting Continues in Bakhmut (9 a.m.)

Heavy fighting continued in the eastern cities of Bakhmut and Mariyinka, where Ukrainian defenders repelled more than 60 enemy attacks during the day, while Russian forces launched 25 missile strikes on the Zaporizhzhia and Mykolayiv regions, according to the country’s General Staff.

Mine-related civilian casualties continue to be reported on a daily basis, with the Kherson and Kharkiv regions the most affected areas, the UK defense ministry said in its latest intelligence update. “With the arrival of spring, and more people involved in agricultural activities, the risk of civilian mine incidents will increase,” the ministry said.

Ukrainian-Iraqi Talks Planned in Baghdad (10 p.m.)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will visit Baghdad on Monday for talks with Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani and other senior Iraqi officials, according to a statement from the government in Kyiv.

Baghdad is exploring a potential role as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine in the almost 14-month-old war, Iraq’s Shafaq news agency reported Sunday, citing a person close to the government it didn’t identify. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Al-Sudani had a phone call on April 10 to discuss cooperation.

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