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Ukraine updates: Kyiv reports Russian drone attacks

Published April 21, 2023last updated April 21, 2023

Russia has targeted the Ukrainian capital with Iranian Shahed drones for the first time in almost a month, officials in Kyiv said. Germany says it's too early to discuss Ukraine's entry into NATO. DW has the latest.

Smoke rises over the street as Ukrainian firefighters prepares, after a drone attack in Kyiv
The last time Kyiv suffered a Russian air attack was almost a month agoImage: Sergei Supinsky/AFP

Russia attacked the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, with drones overnight, city officials said Friday.

"After a 25-day lull, the capital of Ukraine suffered another air attack from the enemy," Kyiv's military administration said on Telegram messenger.

The Ukrainian air force said Russia launched up to 12 Iranian-made Shahed attack drones from the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine.

It added that eight of the drones were destroyed.

Ukrainian authorities said there were also drone attacks on two other places — in central western Vinnytsia and the central Poltava region — targeting critical and civilian infrastructure.

But, they added, there were no casualties.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Friday, April 21:

Russia declares Bulgarian journalist a 'foreign agent' and orders his arrest

Russia added Bulgarian journalist and longtime Kremlin critic Christo Grozev to its list of "foreign agents" and ordered his arrest in a rare use of the label against a non-Russian citizen.

The court said Grozev had illegally crossed the Russian border. Russian state news agency RIA cited a law enforcement source as saying that the journalist was accused of facilitating the escape of Roman Dobrokhotov, the editor of a Russian news outlet, who left Russia in 2021.

Grozev, the lead Russia investigator for Bellingcat, has probed the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and the downing of the MH17 passenger plane over eastern Ukraine. Russia denies responsibility for any of those attacks.

Grozev keeps his whereabouts hidden for security reasons. In December 2022, Russia's Interior Ministry put him on a wanted list, prompting a protest from Bulgaria.

'We have been supporting Ukraine since day one,' says EU aid official

European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic, who visited Kyiv this week, told DW about the EU's non-military aid to Ukraine.

"We have been supporting Ukraine since day one of this unjustified aggression," he said. "We have provided by now more than 90,000 tons of assistance in civil protection, which includes all kinds of items, in particular items that were required to to overcome the destruction wrought by Russian forces on energy infrastructure."

According to Lenarcic, Russia had been targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure over the cold winter months in a bid to demoralize the population, but EU provided Ukraine with a lot of power transformers, as well as thousands of generators. 

"And we are already preparing for the next winter because next winter is going to come and we need to prepare for that one, too," Lenarcic said. He also added that the EU did not have any "credible indication" of EU civil protection funds being misused. 

During Lenarcic's visit, Ukraine was ushered into the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism. "With this agreement, Ukraine will get its seat at the European table on matters related to civil protection as if it were already an EU member state," he explained.

US to begin training Ukrainian troops on Abrams tank

The United States will begin training about 250 Ukrainian troops on how to use and maintain Abrams tanks in the coming weeks.

It's part of US efforts to get the tanks onto the battlefield as quickly as possible.

US officials, who asked not to be named, told AP news agency that 31 tanks will arrive at Grafenwöhr Training Area in Germany at the end of May.

And the troops will begin training a couple weeks later. The training will likely last about 10 weeks.

Ukraine will not receive the tanks that will be used for training purposes, but instead the Ukrainian military will get 31 M1A1 battle tanks that are currently being refurbished in the US.

Those tanks will be deployed on the battlefield when they are ready.  

Romania won't ban Ukrainian grain, Poland allows transit

Romania said it will not unilaterally ban the import of Ukrainian grain and will wait for the European Commission to enforce measures to help farmers amid growing tensions over Ukrainian agri-food imports causing a glut in Central and Eastern Europe.

Agriculture Minister Petre Daea added, however, that Bucharest and Kyiv will consult weekly on expected grain volumes, in a bid to limit imports.

Countries like Poland, Slovakia and Hungary have already halted imports of grain and other food products from Ukraine to protect their farmers.

Russia's invasion has forced Ukraine to look for alternative shipping routes for its farm products, by blocking access to its own Black Sea ports.

As a result, millions of tons of Ukrainian grain and oilseed ended up in neighboring EU states, distorting demand and prices of local products, resulting in growing farmer backlash.

Poland, meanwhile, on Friday allowed the transit of Ukrainian grain and other food through its borders.

Polish authorities said the transit is now permitted, but Ukrainian exporters still cannot sell the listed products on the country's market.

It comes after Warsaw and Kyiv struck a deal Tuesday to allow the transit through Poland, under strict checks and controls, involving placing electronic seals on the transports.

Czech Republic to hike military spending to NATO level

The lower house of the Czech parliament has approved legislation requiring the country to spend the equivalent of at least 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense starting next year.

That's the level of military spending NATO wants its member states to commit to. The bill must now be approved by the senate.

The country, which has been a NATO member since 1999, currently spends about 1.5% of GDP on defense.

The Czech Republic was forced to rethink its military preparedness following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

It is now seeking to build up and modernize its armed forces. Prague has also provided substantial military aid, including heavy weaponry like tanks, to Ukraine since the start of the war.

Germany says not the right time to talk Ukraine's entry into NATO

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said it's not the right time for the NATO military alliance to decide on Ukraine's membership.

"The door is open a crack, but this is not the time to decide that now," Pistorius said on a talk show Thursday night, adding that the option couldn't be seriously discussed as the war rages.

The minister said NATO must "carefully" weigh any step towards including Ukraine in the alliance.

"You have to decide with a cool head and a hot heart and not vice versa," he said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that NATO members agreed that Ukraine should eventually join the alliance.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of the Ukraine defense contact group at the US military Ramstein air base in Germany, he said the main focus, however, was ensuring the country could defend itself against Russia.

Germany to discuss Patriot deployments in Poland, Slovakia

Germany wants to discuss with its allies on Friday the deployment of Patriot air defense units in Slovakia and Poland, according to a spokesperson for the German Defense Ministry.  

A report by Funke media group had earlier said that Germany intended to move its Patriot air defense units out of the two countries later this year, as the Bundeswehr seeks to optimize its limited military resources.

The report said the deployment of Patriot missile defense systems in Poland would end by June, while the one in Slovakia will be phased out by the end of the year.

In January, Germany deployed the Patriot missile defense systems to Poland after a missile attack on Polish soil in November, in an effort to help secure its airspace.

Germany deployed the Patriot system to Slovakia in March 2022, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. Germany now plans to provide Slovakia with two Mantis air defense systems by October to bolster NATO's eastern flank defense.

Russian warplane accidentally fires on border city Belgorod

A Russian warplane accidentally fired on the city of Belgorod, according to Moscow and regional authorities.

The city is located in western Russia, near the country's border with Ukraine.

Belgorod regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said the incident caused an explosion that left a large crater in the center of the city and damaged buildings.

Two women were injured in the incident.

Belgorod Mayor Valentin Demidov said residents of damaged buildings would be temporarily moved to hotels.

Russia's Defense Ministry said a Su-34 fighter jet was flying over the city when an "unplanned launch of ammunition occurred."

Investigations are underway into the incident.

Zelenskyy decries 'populism' of neutral countries

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused world leaders who have adopted postures of neutrality toward Russia of "populism."

The Ukrainian leader made the comments in a video link before a committee of Mexican lawmakers.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to Mexican Congress via video link
Zelenskyy criticized world leaders that have adopted a position of neutrality towards Moscow in a speech to Mexican lawmakersImage: Marco Ugarte/AP/picture alliance

"There are some leaders who have not visited Ukraine once and who have not seen what the brutal Russian aggression brought and why it is important to defend lives," Zelenskyy said.

"Simply seeking to achieve some sort of populism, they say things like Ukraine is supposedly not ready to go for peace," he said.

Zelenskyy criticized "different companies and big multinational firms that want to make millions by trading with Russia."

"Unfortunately, the world is full of hypocrisy," he declared.

Mexico voted in the UN General Assembly in favor of condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but it has not imposed sanctions on Moscow.

In 2022, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador criticized NATO support for Ukraine, saying that it meant, "I'll supply the weapons, you supply the dead." He went on to call the policy of arming Ukraine "immoral."

"How easy it is to say, 'Here, I'll send you this much money for weapons,'" Lopez Obrador said. "Couldn't the war in Ukraine have been avoided? Of course it could have."

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