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Ukraine updates: Germany says Patriots delivered to Kyiv

Published April 19, 2023last updated April 19, 2023

The Patriot system is used to combat enemy aircraft, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. Meanwhile, Ukraine says an overnight Russian drone attack hit the southern port city of Odesa. DW has the latest.

Patriot missile defense system in Schwesing, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
The Patriot system is considered to be extremely advancedImage: Axel Heimken/dpa/picture alliance

Ukraine has received its first Patriot defense system, delivered by Germany, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Wednesday.

The Patriot system is used to combat enemy aircraft, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles and its considered one of the most advanced defense systems developed by the US.

"Today, our beautiful Ukrainian sky becomes more secure because Patriot air defence systems have arrived in Ukraine," Reznikov wrote on Twitter, adding that Germany, the US and the Netherlands "kept their word."

The US and Germany each agreed to provide Kyiv with one of the systems. The Netherlands has also pledged to provide missiles and parts.

German press agency dpa cited a German military source as saying that Ukrainian soldiers received training by Germany and the US in a NATO country where joint drills were held.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to find an "antidote" to the air defense system.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Wednesday, April 19:

Ukraine: From breadbasket to mine-infested farmland

Germany, Portugal pledge further support to Ukraine

Germany and Portugal want to continue to pull together in military support for Ukraine. During a visit to Lisbon, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described the joint delivery of Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine as a "visible sign" of the good cooperation between the two countries.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said his country is ready to continue military support to Ukraine together with Germany "as far as possible, but without reducing our defense capabilities."

Portugal was the first country to pledge to Germany to equip a battalion with Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks. Germany has now delivered 18 of these tanks; Portugal has delivered three.

In view of a possible spring offensive by the Ukrainian armed forces, Scholz does not consider any further improvements in the quality of arms deliveries to be necessary. "What's needed now is essentially more of the same," he said, mentioning anti-aircraft systems, but also battle tanks and armored personnel carriers and the ammunition required for them.

US announces new $325 million military aid package

The US is sending additional military aid with a new $325 million (€296.6 million) package, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

The package will “include more ammunition for US-provided HIMARS rocket systems and anti-armor systems, as well as additional artillery rounds," said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The new aid package includes more than 9 million rounds of small arms ammunition, four logistics support vehicles, demolition munitions to clear routes, spare parts and equipment for harbor security and maintenance.

This is the 36th US package to go towards the Ukrainian military since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which brings the total of US military aid to nearly $36 billion (€32.9 billion).

Bulgaria to ban imports on Ukrainian produce

Bulgaria temporarily banned the import of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural produce following concerns from local farmers. The ban will last until the end of June, however it will not affect the transit of goods through Bulgarian territory.

Sofia is following the example of Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, who also temporarily banned Ukrainian grain imports, coming under pressure to protect local farmers.

Bulgaria's agriculture minister Yavor Gechev told journalists that Bulgaria's market was "really saturated enough with crops."

"Our own production is worth billions, and we believe it will be difficult to sell, so we will suffer serious losses unless we take measures," said Gechev.

Bulgaria’s neighbor Romania also announced on Wednesday that it would seal and monitor vehicles that carry Ukrainian grain transiting through the country.

Russian ships spying in northern European waters — reports

Public broadcasters in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland have reported on an alleged Russian military program that has seen ships spying on offshore windfarms, gas pipelines, and electricity and internet cables in the seas around the Scandinavian peninsula.

According to the joint journalistic investigation, some 50 vessels were identified that had made suspicious journeys in the region over the past ten years. These included cargo ships, fishing boats and yachts.

One example given by the Danish public broadcaster DR involved a Russian research vessel that was seen sailing between Sweden and Denmark in November last year.

Its official aim was to carry out research, but DR reported that it had been sending radio messages to a naval base in Russia. DR journalists said that they then saw a masked, armed man on the ship when they approached it.

Russian hawk threatens South Korea over weapons deliveries to Ukraine

Following comments from South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol that his country was considering sending weapons to Ukraine should Russia carry out another major attack against civilians, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has threatened to send modern weaponry to North Korea.

"I wonder what the inhabitants of this country [South Korea] will say when they see the latest designs of Russian weapons in the hands of their closest neighbors - our partners from the DPRK [North Korea]?" Medvedev said in a post on Telegram.

Medvedev is a close ally of current President Vladimir Putin and is one of the more hawkish members of Russia's political elite.

"Unfortunately, Seoul has taken a rather unfriendly position in this whole story," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier in the day.

EU earmarks €100 million for farmers hit by Ukraine imports

The European Commission is planning to provide €100 million ($109 million) in support for farmers in EU countries bordering Ukraine that have seen their own agricultural industries hit by Ukrainian grain and oil seeds flooding their markets.

The plan comes after Poland and Hungary announced that they were banning some imports from Ukraine.

The Commission said it was preparing "preventative measures" that would include restrictions on some imports such as wheat, maize, sunflower seeds and rape seed.

The EU enabled easier transit for Ukrainian agricultural products following the Russian blockade in the Black Sea, but logistical problems have caused a backlog of goods in the neighboring countries, driving down local prices and triggering protests from local farmers.

Three EU countries ban imports of Ukrainian grain

Ukraine reports overnight drone attack in Odesa

Ukrainian authorities reported an overnight aerial drone attack on the southern port of Odesa early on Wednesday, but said there were no immediate reports of casualties. 

"At night, the enemy carried out an attack by UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] of the Shahed-136 type on the Odesa region," Yuriy Kruk, head of the Odesa district military administration, said in a statement on Telegram. 

Kruk said that air defenses had shot down most of the incoming drones but that some civilian infrastructure was hit. 

"According to preliminary information, there were no casualties," he said. "Measures are being taken to contain the fire, units of the State Emergency Service and other structures are working on the scene." 

The Shahed-136 is a small Iranian-made self-detonating drone that can be programmed to fly into targets carrying a payload of explosives. Western intelligence agencies believe it is in fairly widespread use in Ukraine following reports last November of a shared manufacture deal.

International sanctions on high-tech equipment have limited Russia's capacity to replace its own drones once they're shot down. Many underlying technologies in Russia's more advanced weapons systems rely on imported materials.

The Black Sea port of Odesa was a popular holiday destination before last February's invasion and has been bombed several times during the war. In January, the UN's cultural agency UNESCO labeled the historic old city center as a World Heritage in Danger site

German development minister visits Odesa, renews aid promise

Brazil's Lula condemns Russian invasion

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has voiced his condemnation of Russia's "violation of territorial integrity."

He went on to say that Brazil defends "a negotiated political solution to the conflict."

The comments come after a recent trip to China, during which Lula accused Washington of "encouraging the war" in Ukraine and urged for outside mediation between Kyiv and Moscow. On Monday, Lula met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Brasilia.

"Brazil is parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda without looking at all the facts," US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said of Lula's comments on Monday.

On Tuesday, Lula's foreign policy adviser, Celso Amorim, called criticism of the Brazilian president's position on Ukraine "absurd."

"We have several points of convergence (with Russia), but at various times Brazil condemned... the invasion of Ukraine," he said.

Zelenskyy, Putin visit troops

Russian-installed Donetsk leader meets with Belarus' Lukashenko

The Russian-installed leader of Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region, Denis Pushilin, has met with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko to discuss trade.

Ukraine called the meeting a "blatantly unfriendly act" on the part of Belarus. It urged Minsk to cease "destructive steps" and said it was recalling its ambassador to Belarus.

Belarus is a close ally of Russia and served as a staging ground for the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Pushilin said he was interested in importing quarry equipment, tractors, buses, building products and furniture. His region was ready to export grain to Belarus, he said, and would continue sending sunflower seeds.

Switzerland reiterates refusal to allow arms exports to Ukraine

Swiss President Alain Berset has reaffirmed Switzerland's refusal to allow countries to deliver Swiss arms to Ukraine.

Berset made the comments following a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Berset said: "You can't ask us to break our own laws."

He said that Swiss neutrality laws prevented Bern from providing military support to either side of the conflict.

"It is important that we stick to the rules and adapt them if necessary," he said.

Germany, Denmark and Spain have requested an exception to allow them to export Swiss arms to Ukraine, which Switzerland says would contravene its War Material Act.

Swiss President Alain Berset shakes hands with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
Swiss President Alain Berset met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, with Ukraine on the agendaImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Scholz said he hoped that Switzerland would change its policy on the export of Swiss arms to Ukraine.

"We know that Ukraine needs support with weapons and munitions and therefore there have been several requests from Germany," he said.

"We have acknowledged the decisions taken so far and are following the very lively debate in Switzerland closely and hope that something happens there."

ab, sdi/wd (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)