Zelenskiy Denies Russian Claim of Kremlin Attack

(Bloomberg) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy denied the Kremlin’s claim that drones from Kyiv attempted to strike Moscow or assassinate Vladimir Putin. Russia said earlier it has the right to respond after it downed two drones Tuesday night that it said were part of a “planned terrorist act.”

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Meanwhile, massive Russian strikes killed at least 21 people in the southern Kherson region, Zelenskiy said.

Zelenskiy made a surprise visit to Helsinki to discuss his country’s defense against Russia’s invasion with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinisto, as well as with the prime ministers of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

Key Developments

  • Zelenskiy Denies Ukraine Sent Drones to Hit Putin, Kremlin

  • NATO Warns That Russia Is Mapping EU, US Critical Assets

  • Ukraine Grain Deal Talks Set as Russia Threatens to Exit Pact

  • Russia Halts Some Oil Wells But Keeps Production Data Secret

  • Russian Litigants Dominate London Courts in Spite of Sanctions

  • EU Pledges €500 Million to Boost Ammunition Output in Europe

(All times CET)

US Army Awards $7.2 Billion Contract for Javelins (12:15 a.m.)

The US Army has awarded a contract of as much as $7.2 billion to a joint venture by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies to build Javelin missile systems — one of the most coveted in the Ukraine war.

The anti-armor Javelin has proven to be lethal against Russian tanks. The Pentagon’s shipments of weapons, ammunition and military gear to Ukraine since before the Russian invasion began has led to concerns that American stockpiles are being diminished.

“This contract award further illustrates the urgency the US government is applying to the acquisition of systems and replenishing munitions stockpiles,” said Doug Bush, the Army’s assistant secretary for acquisition.

Russian Attacks in Kherson Region Kill at Least 21 (8:45 p.m.)

Ukraine’s southern Kherson region came under massive Russian attack Wednesday, killing at least 21 civilians and injuring at least 48, according to Zelenskiy.

The president said on Telegram that a railway station, a house, a hardware store, a supermarket and a gas station were among the places hit.

US Provides $300 Million More in Military Aid to Ukraine (8:25 p.m.)

The Pentagon confirmed it’s providing an additional $300 million in weapons drawn from its stockpiles for Ukraine, including ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), howitzers and anti-armor capabilities.

It also includes small arms and ammunition for those arms and demolition munitions to clear obstacles. No new types of weapons are being provided.

US Isn’t Encouraging Ukraine to Strike Beyond Borders, White House Says (7:48 p.m.)

“It is really too early to tell” whether there’s any truth to Russia’s claim that drones from Ukraine sought to strike Moscow, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. She said Russia has a history of “false flags.”

“Since the beginning of this conflict, the United States is certainly not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders,” she said. “We’ve been very clear from here about that.”

EU Warns Against Using Alleged Drone Attack as Pretext (7:29 p.m.)

Responding to the Russian claim that drones from Ukraine sought to strike Moscow, a spokesman for the European Union’s foreign policy arm said the EU is “seeking more information about what actually happened.”

Peter Stano, the spokesman, said “the alleged drone attacks must not be used as a pretext for further escalation of Russia’s continued aggression outside of its borders.”

More than Half of Russians Expect Another Mobilization, Poll Shows (5:55 p.m.)

More than half of Russians surveyed expect the Kremlin to launch another wave of military mobilization in the next three months, a new poll shows, despite official denials there are any such plans.

The Independent Levada Center said 56% of those surveyed see another mobilization as a possibility, with the percentage higher among people ages 25-39. New rules automating the call-up process and blocking evaders from leaving the country triggered “alarm” and “shock” among respondents.

The first wave of mobilization last fall triggered an exodus of Russians from the country and led to widespread public discontent. Since then, officials have said no new call-ups are planned.

NATO Warns That Russia Is Mapping EU, US Critical Assets (5:50 p.m.)

NATO’s intelligence chief said that Russia is mapping critical undersea systems and warned of a significant risk that Moscow could target infrastructure in Europe and North America.

“There are heightened concerns that Russia may target undersea cables and other critical infrastructure in an effort to disrupt western life and gain leverage against those nations that are providing support to Ukraine,” David Cattler, the military alliance’s assistant secretary general for intelligence and security, told reporters.

Zelenskiy Says Ukraine Didn’t Attack Moscow (5:40 p.m.)

The Ukrainian leader said his country didn’t attack Moscow or Putin, telling reporters in Helsinki: “We’ll leave it to tribunal.”

He said the Kremlin was likely trying to distract Russians from its failures on the battlefield. “We fight on our own territory, where we are defending our own villages and cities. We don’t have enough weapons for this.”

Read more: Zelenskiy Denies Ukraine Sent Drones to Attack Putin in Kremlin

Blinken Says Ukraine Must Decide War’s Course (5:20 p.m.)

The US isn’t dictating to Ukraine how to defend itself from Russia’s invasion, including in the anticipated spring counteroffensive, or what it would accept as the war’s outcome, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

“Where exactly this settles remains to be seen,” the top US diplomat said in Washington. “And Ukraine has to make important decisions about exactly where it’s going to go” and “how it wants to pursue this,” Blinken said. He said that the US and international community will continue supporting Kyiv.

Any proposed settlement must begin with a “clear understanding that in this instance, there’s a victim and there’s an aggressor,” Blinken said. “There’s no moral equivalence between the two positions.”

Ukraine’s Offensive May Be Underway, Russian Mercenary Chief Says (5:15 p.m.)

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner mercenary group, said increasing Ukrainian military activity may be evidence that its counteroffensive has started.

“We see the highest level of activity of enemy aviation,” Prigozhin said in an audio message on his Telegram channel. “We see the highest level of activity along the perimeter and behind our front.”

Prigozhin reiterated that his forces are facing a shortage of shells in the fight over the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. Last week, he threatened to pull Wagner’s troops out of Bakhmut, after accusing the Russian Defense Ministry of failing to supply enough ammunition.

EU Envoys Approve €1 Billion Ammunition Plan (4:55 p.m.)

European Union ambassadors signed off on plans to spend another €1 billion ($1.1 billion) from the European Peace Facility to jointly buy ammunition, according to the bloc’s rotating presidency, currently held by Sweden. While foreign ministers had backed the plan in March, the effort stalled in technical talks as they sought to hammer out the legal terms of the deal.

This comes on top of a decision to tap €1 billion from the same fund to reimburse about half of the modern and Soviet-era ammunition that member states send to Ukraine from their own stockpiles.

US Still Assessing Alleged Drones Near Kremlin (4 p.m.)

The US government is still working to ascertain exactly what transpired near the Kremlin, but one American official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the U.S. received no advance warning of anything that may have taken place.

Ukraine Denies Link to Drones Near Kremlin (3 p.m.)

Ukraine uses all its resources and equipment to liberate its occupied territory, not to attack other countries, said Serhiy Nykyforov, a spokesman for Zelenskiy.

“What happened in Moscow, is clearly an escalation of the situation before May 9” — when Russia celebrates Victory Day — “and it is an expected method from our enemies,” he said in a text message to Bloomberg.

Separately, Mykhailo Podolyak, a presidential aide, denied Ukraine has any links to the drone attack. “We are not attacking the Kremlin because it doesn’t solve any military task and doesn’t change anything on the battlefield. and it also very unbeneficial from the point of view of preparations for our offensive.”

Kremlin Says It Downed Drones Headed for Putin’s Residence (1:55 p.m.)

Russia has the right to respond “where and when it deems necessary” after two drones targeted Putin’s Kremlin residence, according to an emailed statement.

The Kremlin said it regarded the attack as an effort to assassinate Putin, but he was unharmed. The Kremlin didn’t provide any evidence for the attack and Ukraine has not commented so far.

Zelenskiy Says Ukraine Needs More Support From NATO Before Membership (1:50 p.m.)

The best security guarantees for Ukraine is NATO membership, Zelenskiy said in Helsinki at a joint news conference with Niinisto.

“Until the war goes on, we are not going to be in NATO, we clearly understand that. We would like our partners to move from the open door policy to more decisive steps to motivate the Ukrainian public,” Zelenskiy said. “We would like to have political support today.”

Grain Talks to Resume as Russia Threatens Exit (1:25 p.m.)

The deputy defense ministers of Turkey, Russia and Ukraine are due for talks Friday to discuss the extension of the Black Sea crop-export corridor, according to Turkish media reports. Russia will hold talks with United Nations representatives in Moscow on the same date, the Foreign Ministry said, according to Tass.

Wheat held near a two-year low as officials from the Black Sea region agreed to negotiate the continuation of the Ukraine grain deal, before a looming Russian deadline for leaving the pact.

Ukraine Rises In Press Freedom Index (12:45 p.m.)

Ukraine rose 27 places to 79th in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index, while Russia dropped nine spots to 164th after the Kremlin used the war to begin a final “purge” of the country’s media, according to Reporters Without Borders.

In Ukraine, “journalists enjoy greater freedom in the free zones, despite the turmoil in the news media, the difficulties associated with covering a country at war, and reporting restrictions that, for the most part, are proportionate to the situation,” said the organization, which seeks to defend press freedom. “The war and the spirit of national unity have reduced the oligarchs’ hold on the media,” it added.

Zelenskiy to Meet With Scholz in Berlin (12:30 p.m.)

Zelenskiy will travel to Berlin to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on May 14, followed by a trip to Aachen later that day to receive the 2023 International Charlemagne Prize, German media reported.

EU Pledges €500 Million for Ammunition (12 p.m.)

The European Union is setting aside €500 million ($552 million) to boost manufacturing of artillery shells, missiles and gunpowder in an effort to speed up production of ammunition for Ukraine and galvanize the bloc’s defense industry.

Among a raft of measures, the European Commission proposed the funds to co-finance projects alongside EU governments. It offered around half of the funding for companies to ramp up output capacity or refit old stocks of ammunition to make them operational again.

UK Tory Treasurer to Suspend Russian Business (11:45 a.m.)

A company co-owned by UK Conservative Party Senior Treasurer Mohamed Mansour is suspending its business activities in Russia after British media reported that the firm was supplying machinery to the country’s oil and gas industry.

Mansour, an Egyptian billionaire, is the chair and co-owner of Mantrac, a global Caterpillar equipment dealer that has been operating in Russia through a subsidiary. A Mantrac spokesperson told Bloomberg that the unit has scaled back its operations significantly and is now in the process of suspending all business activities in Russia, in compliance with applicable laws.

Sanctioned Russian Yacht Raided in German Port (11:30 a.m.)

A yacht belonging to a sanctioned 67-old Russian entrepreneur was raided by Frankfurt prosecutors at a port in northern Germany.

The man is suspected to have failed to notify the authorities about his “substantial” assets in the country, as required under sanctions rules, the prosecutors said in an emailed statement. No names were disclosed.

Ukraine Imposes Curfew in Kherson (11:30 a.m.)

A 58-hour curfew will come into effect in Ukraine’s southern city of Kherson starting at 8 p.m. local time on Friday, according to the regional military authorities. The restrictions are needed to enable local law enforcement to do their jobs effectively, they said on Facebook, without elaborating.

People will be forbidden to go outside and drivers will be banned from entering and leaving the city. Since Russian troops left under pressure from Ukrainian forces in November, Kherson has frequently been shelled, with dozens of people killed and many wounded.

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