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Ukraine updates: Diplomat condemns German peace appeal

April 2, 2023

Ukraine's ambassador to Germany has criticized an appeal by former prominent members of Germany's Social Democrats that urged a cease-fire with Russia. He reiterated Kyiv's call for total Russian withdrawal from Ukraine.

Ukrainian tank at Bakhmut frontline
A Ukrainian diplomat has criticized calls for a cease-fire made by a number of German former politicians and labor leadersImage: Diego Herrera Carcedo/AA/picture alliance

Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Oleksii Makeiev, has criticized calls for a cease-fire with Russia in an interview with Germany's dpa news agency.

The diplomat was responding to a peace appeal made by formerly prominent members of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD), which currently heads Germany's coalition government, and former labor leaders.

The appeal, titled "Make Peace!", called on Berlin to join Paris in appealing to countries, including Brazil, China, India and Indonesia, to mediate a cease-fire.

It was initiated by historian Peter Brandt, a son of former SPD Chancellor Willy Brandt, the former president of the German Federation of Trade Unions (GDB) Reiner Hoffmann and Michael Müller, a former Berlin mayor and member of the Bundestag parliament. 

"[A cease-fire in Ukraine] would be a necessary step to end the killing and to sound out opportunities for peace. Only then can the path be paved towards a joint security order for Europe," the "Make Peace" appeal said.

"This appeal for peace is not an April Fool's joke," Makeiev told dpa. "It's pure cynicism with respect to the many victims of Russian aggression."

Makeiev argued that the appeal functioned to conceal Russian war crimes and Moscow's responsibility for the invasion. He asserted that peace could only be achieved if Russia withdrew troops from Ukrainian territory.

Earlier this year, Beijing published a list of 12-point set of proposals on resolving the conflict in Ukraine. China has avoided condemning Russia's invasion in an effort to position itself as a neutral mediator, but it has intensified ties with Moscow.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Sunday, April 2:

Russian military blogger killed in St Petersburg blast

Well-known Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky was killed by an explosion in a St Petersburg cafe.

Russia's state Investigative Committee said 19 other people were wounded in the blast.

Tatarsky, whose real name is Maxim Fomin, was an outspoken supporter of Russia's war in Ukraine.

He also, however, criticized what he saw as the failures of the military's top brass. 

Read the full story on the deadly blast here.  

Investigators work at the site of an explosion in a cafe in Saint Petersburg
An explosion tore through the Street Food Bar No. 1 cafe in Russia's second-largest city St. PetersburgImage: Alexander Demianchuk/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Blinken and Lavrov hold rare phone call

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a rare phone call on Sunday to discuss the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been accused of spying in Russia.

"The American side initiated the phone call," the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Telegram.

Blinken and Lavrov are said to have discussed "the importance of creating an environment that permits diplomatic missions to carry out their work," according to a State Department summary of the call.

Blinken expressed "grave concern" over Gershkovich's detention and urged for his immediate release.

But Lavrov accused Washington and Western media of politicizing the case. "His further fate will be determined by the court," the Kremlin said.

Kyiv releases plan for post-occupation Crimea

Ukraine has prepared a 12-point plan for the administration of Crimea in the event the peninsula is recaptured by Ukrainian forces, says Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council.

One of the points in the plan involves demolishing the Crimean Bridge, which links the peninsula to Russia across the Kerch Strait. The bridge was hit by an explosion in October 2022, which Ukrainian authorities claim not to have ordered.

Danilov said that Kyiv would purge officials serving Russian-installed authorities in the region following the model of the denazification of Germany after World War II.

The Ukrainian official said that collaborators of Russia and traitors to the Ukrainian state would face trial under the plan, Russians who settled the peninsula after 2014 would be expelled, and all property deals conducted under Russian occupation would be annulled.

"A comprehensive detoxification program will be implemented to neutralize the consequences of Russian propaganda on the public consciousness," Danilov said.

"Political prisoners, including many Crimean Tatars, are to be released immediately," he said.

The Crimean Tatars are a Turkic ethnic group that have lived in the peninsula for centuries. They were expelled to Central Asia by the Soviet Union in the 1940s and allowed to return in the late 1980s.

Alcohol causing Russian casualties — UK intelligence

An intelligence update by the British Defense Ministry claims that non-combat issues, including alcohol consumption, have been the cause of many deaths among Russian troops in Ukraine.

"While Russia has suffered up to 200,000 casualties since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a significant minority of these have been due to non-combat causes," it said.

It cited a Russian Telegram news channel report of "extremely high" incidence of crimes and deaths linked to alcohol consumption among Russian soldiers.

"However, with heavy drinking pervasive across much of Russian society, it has long been seen as a tacitly accepted part of military life, even on combat operations," the UK ministry said.

Other non-combat issues claiming the lives of Russian troops included poor handling of weapons, road accidents and hypothermia, according to the report.

262 athletes died since start of war — Ukrainian Sports Minister

Ukrainian Sports Minister Vadym Huttsait says that Moscow's invasion has killed 262 Ukrainian athletes.

The minister said that 363 sports facilities in Ukraine have been destroyed over the course of the war.

The Reuters news agency said that it could not independently verify the claim.

Huttsait also reiterated Kyiv's calls for Russian athletes to be excluded from the Olympics and other international competitions.

"They all support this war and attend events held in support of this war," Huttsait said.

The International Olympic Committee has recommended the return of Belarusian and Russian athletes as neutral players without a flag or anthem, a proposal bitterly opposed by Ukrainian authorities.

6 killed in Russian shelling near Bakhmut — Ukrainian official

Six civilians have been killed and eight injured in Russian shelling in the eastern Ukrainian settlement of Kostiantynivka, said Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's chief of staff.

The town, which lies 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from the embattled city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, had a population of around 70,000 before the start of Russia's invasion in February 2022.

Yermak said that "massive shelling" by Russian forces had damaged 16 apartment buildings, eight private houses, a kindergarten and an administrative building in the town.

The Reuters news agency said it could not verify the reports of casualties.

Poland considers larger role in NATO 'nuclear sharing'

Polish security official Jacek Siewiera said that Poland could consider increasing its involvement in nuclear deterrence as part of the NATO military alliance in an interview for the German Press Agency (dpa).

Siewiera is a security advisor to Polish President Andrzej Duda. Last October, Duda also expressed interest in expanding Warsaw's participation in NATO's nuclear planning group.

The comments come after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Belarus borders both Poland and Ukraine.

"Poland would potentially be ready to increase its involvement and cooperation in the framework of NATO nuclear deterrence and assume responsibilities — but deployment of nuclear weapons is something different," Siewiera said.

The US has stationed nuclear weapons in several European countries in a NATO framework known as "nuclear sharing." Poland's involvement has so far been limited.

EU to 'stand against' Russian abuse of UN Security Council — Borrell

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the bloc will work to prevent any abuse of the UN Security Council's presidency by Moscow.

Russia assumed the rotating presidency of the UN body on Saturday.

"Despite being a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia continuously violates the very essence of the UN legal framework," Borrell argued.

"The EU will stand against any abuse by (the) Russian presidency," he declared.

Russia 'biggest force against humanity of our time' — Zelenskyy

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Ukrainian forces for pushing back Russian troops from areas around the capital Kyiv a year ago.

He said that Ukraine had "stopped the biggest force against humanity of our time."

Ukraine has accused Russia of committing war crimes in settlements near Kyiv such as Bucha and Irpin.

"You have stopped a force that despises everything and wants to destroy everything that gives people meaning," the Ukrainian head of state said.

sdi/sms (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)