Blasts in Odesa During Zelenskyy and Greek Prime Minister Visit

  • During a visit to Odesa by President Zelenskyy and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a large explosion hit the city in what Mitsotakis described as a “vivid reminder” of the war.  The attack was condemned by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as a “new attempt at terror” by Russia. (NBC News; see also Reuters, Euractiv).
  • The blast struck a few hundred meters away from the two leaders’ motorcade during their top-secret visit.  After the explosion, Mitsotakis said, “This is one more reason why all European leaders should come to Ukraine, because it is one thing to hear the description from the media or from President Zelenskyy and it is quite another to experience the war first-hand.” (Politico). 
  • One Ukrainian official said that the missile may have deliberately targeted Zelenskyy and Mitsotakis in Odesa. (Reuters).
  • Later, during an overnight attack in the Odesa region, Ukrainian air defense shot down 33 of 37 Russian drones. (Reuters).
  • In a drone strike on Odesa, seven people were killed and eight were injured. (AP News).
President Zelenskyy and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Sweden Joins NATO

  • Sweden joined NATO two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson giving final documentation to the United States in Washington.  Sweden’s accession marks both a “blow for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has sought to prevent any further strengthening of the alliance” and, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, the realisation “that if Putin was willing to try to erase one neighbour from the map, then he might well not stop there.” (NBC News; see also Politico, AP News).

Leaking of High-Level German Military Call

  • Germany’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, said that a leaked high-level military call was the result of one participant joining a non-secure line.  Russian media published audio from the call, which was discussing weapons delivery to Ukraine and Ukrainian military actions.  One of the subjects of the call was the delivery of Taurus cruise missiles to Kyiv, a move that Chancellor Olaf Scholz has publicly rejected. (NBC News; see also Politico, Politico, Politico, Politico, Politico, Politico, Politico, Reuters, Euractiv)

Tensions Between Germany and France

  • After French President Emmanuel Macron said Europeans should not be “cowards” in defending Ukraine and should not rule out sending forces in support of Kyiv, German Defense Minister Pistorius said that the language was counterproductive.  Tensions between the two countries have been rising, with France feeling “frustrated that Germany regards relations with Washington as the keystone of European security” and Germany “[bristling] at Macron’s late conversion to self-styled war leader, especially when Berlin has given far more weapons to Ukraine than Paris has.” (Politico; see also Reuters). 
  • After being accused of not providing sufficient aid by Germany, France published a list of military kit delivered to Kyiv totalling €2.6 billion by French calculations.  This contrasts with the estimate from the German Kiel Institute of €635 million.  Germany is still calculated as Europe’s largest military aid donor, with a promise of €17.7 billion. (Politico).
  • Baltic ministers praised France for “thinking out of the box” in response to Macron’s comments about Western soldiers in Ukraine.  He also faced criticism from countries like Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland after making these comments. (Politico).

Criticism of UN Inaction

  • Ukraine’s chief prosecutor Andriy Kostin criticised the UN for not speaking up enough against Russia’s kidnapping of Ukrainian children. (Politico).

Europe’s Defence Industrial Strategy and Increased Defence Support

  • The European Commission presented its European Defence Industrial Strategy and the European Defence Investment Programme in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a broader desire to increase Europe’s defense capabilities. (Politico; see also EU Observer, EU Observer).
  • Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that Ukraine will receive €6.6 billion from the EU within the next two months, aiming for a total of €16 billion this year. (Reuters).
  • Negotiations around reforms of the European Peace Facility are being complicated by France’s demand for a “buy-European” clause. (Euractiv).

Explosion on Russian Railway Bridge

  • An explosion in Russia’s Samara region damaged a key railway bridge.  The explosion, confirmed by Ukrainian intelligence, will cause the suspension of the use of the bridge, which has been used to carry military equipment. (Politico).

Putin’s Threat of Nuclear War

  • After Macron said that Europe could not rule out sending troops to Kyiv, Russian President Putin said that “this really threatens a conflict with nuclear weapons.”  NATO’s Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana said that Putin’s threats are currently just “psychological intimidation rather than real intentions.” (Politico; see also Politico, Euractiv, EU Observer).

Germany’s Taurus Missiles

  • European countries are encouraging Germany to send Taurus missiles to Ukraine.  David Cameron, the British Foreign Secretary, said that sending Taurus missiles to Ukraine will not escalate the war but that supplying the missiles is a “matter for the German government to decide.” (Politico).

Decree on Discharging Conscripts

  • Zelenskyy issued a decree allowing conscripts serving in the war who were called up for military service before the invasion began to be discharged into the reserves within the next two months.  Those who are discharged will not be called up again for at least 12 months. (Reuters).

Safety at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

  • The Ukrainian energy minister warned that safety at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is worsening. (Reuters). 
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

UK Drone Funding for Ukraine

  • The UK will increase its funding for drones for Ukraine by £125 million. (Reuters). 

Access for Ukrainian Food

  • The European Union approved granting Ukrainian food producers tariff-free access to EU markets for the next year.  In response to protests, the proposal also allows an “emergency brake” for imports of some goods if they exceed average levels of 2022 and 2023.  Poland may still widen a national ban on imports of Ukrainian grains to include other products. (Reuters).

Offer of Peace Summit in Turkey

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered to host a peace summit between Ukraine and Russia during a visit by Zelenskyy to Turkey.  Zelenskyy has said that any peace negotiations must align with his 10-point plan and must be up to the country that has been invaded. (AP News; see also Euractiv).

Battle to Keep Civic Services Running

  • Localities in Ukraine are trying to ensure that civic services continue operating in Ukraine despite shelling.  This includes limiting power outages, adding new administrative services, increasing security, and more.  However, challenges include security, budget, and the trauma on the energy sector. (Euractiv).

Ukrainian Damage to Russian Black Sea Fleet Patrol Ship

  • Ukrainian drones damaged a Russian Black Sea Fleet patrol ship, saying that the Russian ship was “upgraded to a submarine.” (Euractiv).

Zelenskyy in the Western Balkans

  • Zelenskyy asked Western Balkan countries to help supply military equipment for Ukraine given struggles by the EU and the United States to provide military and financial aid.  Zelenskyy was at the Ukraine-Southeastern Europe Summit in Tirana hosted by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. (Euractiv).

Shortages on Deliveries of Aid

  • Ukraine said that fewer than one third of the million artillery shells promised to Ukraine by the EU have been delivered.  The EU promised to deliver the shells by March, and Ukraine urged the EU to take “urgent steps” to deliver the artillery shells. (Euractiv).

New Offensive by May

  • Zelenskyy said that Russia is preparing for a new offensive against Ukraine starting in May.  Calling the third year of the war “a turning point,” he said that “a year of elections, defocusing, everything at once, challenges from outside, from within…I believe the format of how the war ends will depend on this year.” (Euractiv).

Author: Sophie Adams-Smith, Media Analyst, Promote Ukraine

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