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Ukraine updates: Kyiv can now hit Russia with German weapons

Published May 31, 2024last updated June 1, 2024

Ukraine has been given permission to use German weapons against military targets in Russia. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials said missiles struck civilian buildings in Ukraine's second-largest city. DW has more.

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 fires from a treed position
German-made Panzerhaubitze 2000 artillery systems are already deployed in Ukraine Image: Valentyn Ogirenko/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Germany has said Ukrainian forces can use German-sent weapons against military targets inside Russia, following a similar decision from the US.

Meanwhile, several Russian missiles hit civilian buildings in Ukraine's Kharkiv, killing at least three and injuring over a dozen, local authorities say.

NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg has dismissed Russian threats that the use of US weapons inside Russia would cause an escalation of the conflict.

Here's a look at the latest developments from Russia's war in Ukraine on Friday, May 31

Skip next section IMF initially approves $2.2 billion payout for Ukraine
June 1, 2024

IMF initially approves $2.2 billion payout for Ukraine

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has initially agreed to grant Ukraine a $2.2 billion (approximately €2 billion) payout, after Kyiv successfully met the terms of an existing loan program.

The funds are still pending the approval of the IMF's executive board. They are part of a $122 billion international support package to support Ukraine's economy amid its ongoing war against Russia.

"Performance under the program has remained strong despite the challenges of the war, with all quantitative performance criteria met, and one structural benchmark met and another implemented with a short delay," IMF Ukraine mission chief Gavin Gray said in a statement.

Skip next section Russia registers anti-war presidential hopeful as 'foreign agent'
June 1, 2024

Russia registers anti-war presidential hopeful as 'foreign agent'

Russian authorities on Friday placed a journalist who was barred from running against President Vladimir Putin in this year's election on a "foreign agents" list.

Anti-war journalist Yekaterina Duntsova was added to the list for spreading "false information intended to form a negative image of Russia" and speaking out against "the special military operation," the Kremlin's way of referring to its 27-month-old invasion of Ukraine.

The Justice Ministry also added human rights activist Marina Litvinovich and independent news site SOTA to the list that was introduced in 2012 after mass anti-government protests which authorities claimed were fueled by foreign influence.

The designation obliges those listed to identify themselves as foreign agents on social media and in other publications. It also subjects them to additional government scrutiny.

Skip next section US, EU announce sanctions over Iranian drones used in Ukraine
May 31, 2024

US, EU announce sanctions over Iranian drones used in Ukraine

The US has issued sanctions targeting entities it accuses of enabling Iran's drone program.

Washington is seeking to disrupt the production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used by Russia in its war in Ukraine.

"Today’s action reinforces our commitment to disrupt Iran’s production and proliferation of deadly UAVs that continue to be used by Russia against Ukraine and by regional terrorist proxies against our troops," US Treasury Department Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in a statement.

"Treasury will continue to impose costs on those who seek to procure the components Iran needs for its UAV programs and enable the shipment of these weapons to destabilizing actors around the world."

The US Treasury Department said it imposed the sanctions on four entities that procured critical parts for the drone program and an executive of Iran Aviation Industries Organization, which is a subsidiary of  the logistical department of Iran's Defense Ministry.

The European Union also imposed sanctions over the drone program.

Those targeted by EU sanctions were Iran's Defense Minister, Mohammad Reza Asthiani, and the country's Revolutionary Guards.

Iran has provided Russia with thousands of Shahed kamikaze drones.

Skip next section China declines attending Swiss summit on Ukraine peace
May 31, 2024

China declines attending Swiss summit on Ukraine peace

China will not attend a Ukraine peace conference to be held next month in Switzerland, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

"The arrangements for the meeting still fall far short of China's requests and the general expectations of the international community, making it difficult for China to participate," said spokesperson Mao Ning.

"China has always insisted that an international peace conference should be endorsed by both Russia and Ukraine, with the equal participation of all parties, and that all peace proposals should be discussed in a fair and equal manner," she said.

Beijing insisted on Friday that any summit would need the participation of Russia, which Ukraine has rejected.

Russia has dismissed the idea of a peace summit without Russian participation as "absurd."

While Beijing insists that it maintains a neutral position on the war in Ukraine, it has also strengthened its ties with Moscow since February 2022.

Skip next section Ukraine and Russia exchange 150 in prisoner swap
May 31, 2024

Ukraine and Russia exchange 150 in prisoner swap

Ukraine and Russia exchanged prisoners of war for the first time in three months, officials said. Each side returned 75 POWs during the swap.

Both sides also exchanged the bodies of dead soldiers. Russia received 212 bodies and Ukraine 45.

The Ukrainian POWs, including four civilians, were returned on  buses that drove into the northern Sumy region.

This was the fourth such exchange this year, and the 52nd since the start of Russia's war in Ukraine in February 2022.

Including Friday's exchange, a total of 3,210 members of the Ukrainian military and civilians have returned to Ukraine since the war began, according to Ukraine's Coordination Headquarters for Treatment of POWs.

Skip next section Bundestag Defense Committee Chair tells DW 'we cannot allow Putin to simply march on'
May 31, 2024

Bundestag Defense Committee Chair tells DW 'we cannot allow Putin to simply march on'

In an exclusive interview, FDP parliamentarian Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chair of the Bundestag Defense Committee, told DW that she was thankful to Chancellor Olaf Scholz for giving Kyiv permission to use German weapons to attack military targets within Russia.

Although she wished the move had "happened far earlier," Strack-Zimmermann called the decision, "good news for Ukraine."

Strack-Zimmermann said  Russian threats immediately leveled in response to the announcement were a calculated move by the Kremlin designed to paralyze Germany's decision making.

"We can't let that happen. Otherwise, Ukraine will lose the war," she said. 

"We cannot allow Putin to simply march on and assume that he will stop at some point. He won't," she said.  

"That's why it is good that there is now an opportunity to attack legitimate military assets," she added. 

Amid concern the West might be dragged into the war, DW asked about the consequences of Ukraine shooting down a Russian jet with German arms, for instance. "Then it's shot down," she said. "Then that's one less jet on its way to Ukraine to fire missiles, to kill Ukrainians."

Though she expressed empathy for those who fear deeper German or European involvement, Strack-Zimmermann said doing nothing simply wasn't an option.

"If we don't do anything, the Russian army will keep marching until it reaches the EU's western border, Poland's border. Then those troops will be standing at NATO's border; and we, too, have to protect it."

Strack-Zimmermann also voiced confidence that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would keep his word and only target Russian military assets, because, "he has always stuck to the rules." 

She elaborated by drawing a stark contrast between Ukraine and "Moscow, or Putin, who attacks civilian targets: shops, kindergartens, infrastructure, water, electricity."

Continuing, she said, "Russia's war is not limited to military targets, rather it is intended to completely destroy Ukraine. If you look at images from eastern Ukraine you can see it hasn't left one stone unscathed — and just to give an idea of the sheer scale, eastern Ukraine is the size of Portugal."    

Putin's troops gain ground: How will the West respond?

Skip next section G7 urges North Korea to halt arms transfers to Russia
May 31, 2024

G7 urges North Korea to halt arms transfers to Russia

The G7 on Friday issued a statement urging North Korea to stop supplying arms to Russia in its ongoing war of aggression in Ukraine.

"We call on the DPRK (North Korea) and Russia to cease unlawful arms transfers," read the statement from this year's G7 president, Italy. The statement was also issued on behalf of the foreign ministers of South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union. 

"We are gravely concerned by the deepening DPRK-Russia cooperation in flagrant violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions," the statement read.

"Our governments stand in resolute opposition to these continued arms transfers, which Russia has used to strike Ukraine's critical infrastructure, prolonging the suffering of the Ukrainian people."

UN resolutions bar North Korea from conducting ballistic missile tests. However,  Moscow recently used its UN Security Council veto to end monitoring, something Pyongyang thanked Moscow for.  

"By the use of its veto, Russia has sought to deprive all UN member states of the objective and independent information and guidance they need to implement binding Security Council resolutions concerning the DPRK which all remain in effect," the G7 minister statement said.

The European Union, in response to analyses showing evidence of North Korean arms use in Ukraine, also announced sanctions leveled at nine North Korean individuals and entities accused of facilitating the transfer of arms from Pyongyang to Moscow.

US: Russia firing North Korean missiles at Ukraine

Skip next section Germany clarifies change of stance on Ukraine's use of German arms
May 31, 2024

Germany clarifies change of stance on Ukraine's use of German arms

Following up on an earlier announcement that Germany would allow Ukraine to use German arms to attack targets inside Russia, following a similar decision by the US, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said the move was based on consensus among allies that Ukraine must be allowed to defend itself.

Western nations sending arms to Ukraine have until now insisted these not be used to strike targets inside Russia for fear of escalating the conflict.

Ukraine, however, has made the case that Russia is exploiting that cautious stance by moving troops and arms right up to the border as it dramatically steps up attacks .

"In recent weeks, Russia has prepared, coordinated and carried out attacks from positions in the Kharkiv area in particular from the immediately neighboring Russian border region," said Hebestreit.

Speaking of what the new policy means, Hebestreit said, "It [Ukraine] can also use the weapons supplied for this purpose [of self-defense] in accordance with its international legal obligations, including those supplied by us."

Hebestreit did not specify what type of German weapons systems could be used under the new permission.

"Panzerhaubitze 2000" artillery system are already deployed in Ukraine. They use a track-mounted vehicle with a cannon that can fire shells up to 40 kilometers (25 miles), according to the German military.

This week's policy shifts came after high-level talks on Ukraine's use of Western weapons between the US, UK, France and Germany. 

Kharkiv death toll from Russian attack rises to 16

Skip next section Zelenskyy in Sweden to ink security agreements
May 31, 2024

Zelenskyy in Sweden to ink security agreements

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Stockholm Friday to meet with the leaders of Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland and Norway.

"Today I am in Stockholm for the third Ukraine-Northern Europe summit," Zelenskyy wrote in a social media post, adding, "Our top priorities are to ensure more air defense systems for Ukraine, joint defense industry projects, and weapons for our warriors, as well as global efforts to force Russia to make peace."

"Ukraine will grow stronger as a result of the support of our principled and consistent allies, as well as new security agreements," wrote Zelenskyy on Friday.

In February and April, Denmark and Finland respectively signed 10-year security agreements with Kyiv. Norway has been negotiating bilateral security agreements as well.

On Wednesday, Sweden announced its 16th military aid package to Ukraine, vowing to provide 13.3 billion krona ($1.25 billion, €1.36 billion) in air defense and munitions as well as reconstruction funding.

"Ukraine's cause is our cause," said Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, who promised Stockholm would take "important steps towards further strengthening cooperation between our countries."

"It is worth saying again and again, you are literally fighting not only for your own freedom but also for our freedom and our security," he added.

Ukraine has been plagued by a lack of munitions in its defense against Russian invaders. A major aspect of Friday's meeting will address ways to increase Nordic munitions production as well as helping Kyiv do the same at home.

Skip next section Berlin green lights use of German weapons for attacks inside Russia
May 31, 2024

Berlin green lights use of German weapons for attacks inside Russia

A spokesperson for the German government on Friday said Berlin would follow the US in allowing Ukraine to use its weapons to target legitimate military targets inside Russia.

Germany has been loath to allow its weapons to be used to strike targets in Russia citing fears of escalating the war. Now, however, Berlin says Ukraine can strike legitimate military targets inside Russia in accordance with international obligations.

Washington on Thursday cited the fact that Moscow has greatly increased attacks on the Kharkiv region from launch sites within Russia as justification for Kyiv to use US weapons to hit installations "attacking or about to attack Ukraine."

Fears of Russian offensive in summer: DW's Roman Goncharenko

Skip next section Russia says Ukrainian forces driven back by 8 kilometers near Kharkiv
May 31, 2024

Russia says Ukrainian forces driven back by 8 kilometers near Kharkiv

Russian Defense Minister Andrei Belousov on Friday said that Ukrainian forces in the embattled Kharkiv region had been driven back some 8 to 9 kilometers (5 to 5.5 miles) after months of heavy fighting.

The defense minister added that Russian forces had taken control of more than 28 Ukrainian settlements and captured a total area of 880 square kilometers (547 square miles) since the start of the year.

Ukraine did not immediately respond to the Russian claim which could also not be independently verified. However, Russia has made advances in the northern region of Kharkiv in recent months.

Belousov, speaking with Russian news agencies, went on to make a series of accusations against the US, claiming Washington was prolonging the war by supplying arms to Ukraine as well as undermining global security by provoking conflicts.

Skip next section Russia says it downed 29 Ukrainian drones
May 31, 2024

Russia says it downed 29 Ukrainian drones

The Russian military on Friday reported that it had downed 29 Ukrainian drones over the southern Krasnodar region overnight.

"Krasnodar region aerial defense systems destroyed or intercepted 29 drones" and five Neptune anti-ship missiles, the Defense Ministry said.

Local authorities said Ukrainian attacks had targeted an oil depot in Temyruk, as well as the port city of Novorossiysk. No injuries were reported in Novorossiysk but several workers at the Temyruk oil facility were injured as a fire raged there for several hours.

Reuters news agency on Friday also reported that airports in the Tatarstan cities of Kazan and Nizhnekamsk had been temporarily closed due to safety concerns raised by Russia's aviation regulator after unverified social media videos showed drones flying over the region.

Russian state news agencies reported that businesses in Kazan had been evacuated as a safety precaution.   

Skip next section NATO boss Stoltenberg dismisses Russian escalation threats
May 31, 2024

NATO boss Stoltenberg dismisses Russian escalation threats

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday dismissed Russian threats that the use of Western weapons for attacks inside Russia would lead to an escalation of the war in Ukraine.

"This is part of the efforts by President [Vladimir] Putin and Moscow to prevent NATO allies from supporting Ukraine to defend itself, and again, Ukraine has the right to self-defense and we have the right to help Ukraine," said the Norwegian as he arrived at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Prague.

Stoltenberg said Washington's decision to allow Ukraine to use US weapons to attack targets inside Russia was entirely legitimate, especially in light of the fact that Russia had expanded attacks on the Kharkiv region from launch sites within Russia.

"Ukraine has the right to self-defense. That means the right to attack legitimate military targets within Russia," he said.

The US said on Thursday it had given Kyiv limited permission to use its weapons to "hit targets that are attacking, or are about to attack Ukraine," but none other.  

Responding to Kremlin threats that the use of NATO weapons to attack sites in Russia would trigger an escalation of the conflict, Stoltenberg said, "Russia itself has escalated by invading another country."

Calls grow to allow Ukrainian strikes inside Russia

Skip next section Amnesty: Russia targeting children, families to clamp dissent
May 31, 2024

Amnesty: Russia targeting children, families to clamp dissent

A report released by Amnesty International said Russian authorities are targeting children and their families, especially those who oppose Russia's invasion in Ukraine, as part of its crackdown on dissent

The report outlines how Russia has "instrumentalized" children to pressure adults opposed to the war by seperating families, threatening to remove parental rights, and even placing children in institutions. 

"Despite all the Kremlin’s talk about the value of the family, it is the very bond between children and their parents that is being shamelessly exploited to crush dissent," said Oleg Kozlovsky, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher.  

The report gave four accounts, as examples, of families that faced repercussions of publicly stating their stance on the war in Ukraine. Among them was a 10-year-old girl who was interrogated by Moscow police over her WhatsApp profile picture, which was an anime-style drawing supporting Ukraine.

The police threatened her mother and conducted a search at their home, forcing the family to flee Russia in fear of further persecution.

Skip next section Russian missiles hit civilian buildings in Kharkiv: Ukraine officials
May 31, 2024

Russian missiles hit civilian buildings in Kharkiv: Ukraine officials

Russian missiles hit three sites in Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkiv, killing at least three people and injuring 16, officials said on Friday. 

Bystander accounts of the strike said the missiles hit a five-storey apartment block, a shop, a three-storey building and a sewing factory, around midnight local time. 

Regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said that S-300 missiles were used. He further said the attacks were in the "double tap" format seen of late, in which a second strike is delivered soon after the initial one on the same site. 

"All strikes are exclusively at civilian infrastructure," he added.

Syniehubov warned that more people could be under the rubble. He said at least two children  and an emergency medic were among the injured in the attack.

Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilians.  

"The third, fourth and fifth floors are destroyed, stairwells were destroyed, facades were destroyed," Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov told public broadcaster Suspilne, describing damage to the apartment building.

Kharkiv Police Chief Volodymyr Tymoshko told Suspilne he expected the death toll to rise given the extensive shrapnel injuries. 

The northeastern city of Kharkiv, which is located just across the border from Russia's Belgorod, withstood Russian advances in the early weeks of the invasion. However, it has been repeatedly attacked by missiles and drones in recent weeks. 

Kyiv accuses Russia of targeting civilians in Kharkiv region

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