Here is the situation as it stands on Saturday, April 1, 2023:
- A new $2.6bn United States military aid package could be announced early next week, US officials said, and is expected to include air surveillance radars, anti-tank rockets and fuel trucks for the Ukrainian army.
- US President Joe Biden called on Russia to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, as the paper’s editorial board said Washington should expel Russia’s ambassador to the US in retaliation.
- Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, in an hours-long contradictory address to his nation, called for a truce in Ukraine and also said “a third world war” loomed while defending hosting Russian nuclear weapons in his country.
- Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country faced “existential threats” to its security and development from “unfriendly states” in a foreign policy update for President Vladimir Putin.
- The executive board of the International Monetary Fund reportedly approved a four-year $15.6bn financing package for Ukraine to help the country meet urgent funding.
- Slovakia plans to increase the production of critical ammunition and artillery shells for Ukraine, Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad told journalists while travelling to Kyiv. The country recently delivered a Kub air defence system, and the first of 13 promised Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets.
- Wimbledon said it will accept Russian and Belarusian tennis players as “neutral” athletes, having banned players last year after the invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the decision “immoral”. “Has Russia ceased its aggression or atrocities? No, it’s just that Wimbledon decided to accommodate two accomplices in crime,” he added in a post on Twitter.
- The Ukrainian military leadership accused Russian forces of once again focusing on civilian targets because it could make few battlefield gains, attacking the city of Zaporizhzhia and other places with ballistic missiles. At least six Russian missiles hit the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv late on Thursday night.
- The advance of Russian soldiers on the outskirts of the eastern front line town of Bakhmut “has been halted – or nearly halted”, the director of the Ukrainian defence publication Defense Express said.
- The head of the Wagner mercenary force, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said Ukrainian forces were suffering “serious losses” in Bakhmut. On the Telegram messaging app, Prigozhin said: “No, the Ukrainian army is not running anywhere. The Ukrainian army is fighting bloody battles and defending Artemivsk [Bakhmut] at the cost of very serious losses.”
- Ukrainians gathered with President Volodymr Zelenskyy in Bucha to mark a year since the town was liberated from Russian occupiers who left behind evidence of atrocities. Zelenskyy said fierce Ukrainian resistance to the invasion has prevented Russia from committing even more such atrocities in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world.