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Ukraine updates: PM tells pope call with Xi was productive

Published April 27, 2023last updated April 28, 2023

Ukraine's Prime Minister Shmyhal discussed Kyiv's formula for peace during talks at the Vatican. Meanwhile, Russia said it found the implementation of the grain deal "unsatisfactory." DW has rounded up the latest.

Pope Francis receives in private audience Mr. Denys Shmyhal, Prime Minister of Ukraine at the Vatican on April 27, 2023.
Pope Francis welcomed Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal at the VaticanImage: Vatican Media/cpp/ipa-agency/picture alliance

Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told reporters in Italy on Thursday that he discussed with Pope Francis Kyiv's formula for peace after Russia's invasion.

The pope hosted Shmyhal at the Vatican on Thursday morning, when the latter invited him to visit Ukraine.

"We discussed the (Ukrainian) peace formula, and a potential path and assistance from his holiness and the Vatican to achieve all the steps of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's peace formula," Shmyhal said.

The Ukrainian prime minister also said in the press conference that the call between the leaders of China and Ukraine the day before was productive. He added that it could be a very positive beginning for future relations.

Will China rescue Russia's economy?

The Kremlin also commented on the phone call, saying it welcomed any attempt to end the conflict in Ukraine, but on Moscow's terms.

"We are ready to welcome anything that can bring forward the end of the conflict in Ukraine and the achievement of Russia's goals," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The pope and Shmyhal last met in a private audience in early 2021 before Russia's full-scale invasion. 

Since the escalation, Pope Francis has repeatedly called for fighting to end and for prayers for people in Ukraine. However, he has been less critical of Russian leadership than the Ukrainian government believe would be appropriate, despite some speeches that were fairly pointed.

Here are some of the other headlines concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Thursday, April 27:

Deporting Ukrainian children to Russia is 'genocide,' says Council of Europe

The parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, which works to uphold human rights and the rule of the law in the European Union, said in a resolution that forcibly deporting Ukrainian children to Russia constituted a 'genocide.'

Calling for their return home, the parliament said: "The documented evidence of this practice matches with the international definition of genocide."

President Zelenskyy called the resolution "important," adding that it would help "hold Russia and its leaders to account."

Deportations of Ukrainian children have been a concern since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.The International Criminal Court increased pressure on Moscow when it issued arrest warrants in March for President Vladimir Putin and Russian children’s rights commissioner on charges of abducting children from Ukraine.  

Some 16,000 Ukrainian children abducted: MEP Lagodinsky

Wagner defector jailed for carrying gun in Norway

A defector of Russia's private Wagner mercenary group was sentenced on Thursday to 14 days in jail for disorderly conduct and for carrying an air gun in public, his lawyer told a Norwegian newspaper.

 A Wagner Group soldier guards an area outside apartment blocks in the city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut) damaged in a shelling attack.
The Wagner group has been sending troops to fight alongside Russian forces in UkraineImage: Valentin Sprinchak/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Andrey Medvedev was meanwhile acquitted of committing violence against police officers during his arrest. 

Medvedev was arrested in February in Oslo following a bar brawl.

He had illegally crossed into Norway through its 198-kilometer (123-mile) border with Russia and has since sought asylum in the Nordic country. He says he would fear for his life if sent back to Russia.

The defendant had earlier claimed he fled the Wagner group after they extended his contract without his consent. He had initially signed up to join the group from July to November last year, when he fought in Ukraine.

Medvedev had also agreed to testify about any potential war crimes he had witnessed. He nevertheless denied taking part in any such crimes.

Poland says object found in woods not dangerous

Polish prosecutors and security services are investigating the remains of an aerial military object that was found in the woods in the center of the country, amid reports that it came from the testing of Poland's air defense systems.

The Polish Defense Ministry said that the object found near Zamosc, a town near the city of Bydgoszcz which is located some 265 kilometers (164 miles) northwest of Warsaw, did not pose a danger to residents.

The Justice Ministry reported on Thursday that the military department of the district prosecutor's office in Gdansk was taking the lead on the investigation. The probe also involves military experts, police and military counterintelligence agents.

The Gdansk prosecutor's office said no traces of explosives were found at the site of discovery.

Meanwhile, private broadcaster RMF FM said the object came from Poland's air defense systems' tests, without citing its sources. It added that Polish authorities had yet to reveal what the object was.

Warsaw has been on high alert since Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia rejects US journalist visit

Moscow shot down a US consular visit to US journalist Evan Gershkovich, who is currently jailed in Russia, saying on Thursday the decision was in retaliation for Washington refusing visas for several Russian journalists.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands behind a glass wall of an enclosure for defendants before a court hearing to consider an appeal against his detention, in Moscow, Russia April 18, 2023.
Russia has denied a consular visit to the jailed US journalistImage: Evgenia Novozhenina/REUTERS

Gershkovich was detained late last month on espionage charges. If convicted, Gershkovich, a US national, could face up to 20 years in prison. Gershkovich's employer, the Wall Street Journal newspaper, and the US government, have strongly denied the accusations

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that it informed the US Embassy that its request for a May 11 visit has been rejected.

"Other potential retaliatory measures are being worked out," the Russian ministry added.

Moscow has slammed recently what it said was a US decision to deny visas to Russian journalists accompanying Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on a visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York, with Lavrov saying: "We won't forget, we will not forgive this." 

German minister calls for Russia to honor grain deal

Germany's Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir demanded that Russia "must live up to the commitment" it made to allow grain to leave Ukrainian ports, stressing how Ukraine and other countries depend on it.

"Ukrainian grain must arrive where it is needed — namely in the countries of the Global South," Özdemir told the German news website t-online. He said the income from selling the grain was also vital for Ukraine's survival as the war against Russia's invasion goes on since February of 2022.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was again using the grain deal to try to destabilize the region and end West-imposed sanctions, Özdemir said in the interview published on Thursday.

"The fact that Russia wants to let the agreement expire already in mid-May — 60 days before the actual agreed deadline — in violation of the agreement is simply irresponsible. Putin is accepting the loss of human life for his criminal war of aggression." 

Russia had blocked Ukraine's Black Sea ports for months when the war began, preventing the export of grain and prompting fears of soaring prices or famine in some areas as Ukraine is one of the largest suppliers of grain worldwide.

The UN and Turkey then brokered an end to the blockade by establishing the grain agreement, freeing millions of tons of grain and other foods.

Moscow 'dissatisfied' with grain deal implementation

Russia meanwhile said that the deal could only be saved if it was implemented fully, as Moscow threatens not to extend the deal beyond May.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova appeared to imply that only Ukrainian grain and fertilizer was being allowed safe passage. 

"[The deal] is not a buffet you can pick and choose from," Zakharova said. 

Global food crisis: A world going hungry?

One killed, several injured in Mykolaiv

One person was killed while 23 people — including a child — were wounded in a Russian missile strike on an apartment block in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, Ukrianian officials said.

"At night, Russia bombarded Mykolaiv with four Kalibr missiles launched from the Black Sea," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on the Telegram app. "The high-precision weapons were aimed at private houses, a historic building, and a high-rise building."

Zelenskyy posted a video which showed badly damaged buildings with smashed windows and smoke rising above the roofs.

Russia has denied deliberately targeting civilians and housing areas since it invaded Ukraine.

Mykolaiv is a shipbuilding center and port, which had a population of about 470,000 people before the war started.

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rm, mk/msh (dpa, Reuters)