EU says ‘era of Russian fossil fuels in Europe is coming to an end’ | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack

The EU on Wednesday accused Russia of attempting to blackmail the 27-member bloc by cutting off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria. But European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the EU was “prepared” for Moscow’s actions and is planning a “coordinated response”. The gas suspension came as Russia took control of some towns and villages in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, the Ukrainian military said. Follow FRANCE 24’s liveblog for all the latest. All times are in Paris time [GMT+2]. 

5:57pm: Ploughing Ukraine’s fields in bulletproof vests and helmets

Agriculture is a vital sector in a country sometimes referred to as the “breadbasket of Europe”. But farming in areas near the frontline has become a high-risk profession.

FRANCE 24’s Sam Ball has this video report on farmers ploughing fields in the Zaporizhzhia region, in bulletproof vests and helmets.

Yuri, a farmer in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest. © Reuters

5:25pm: Putin warns of ‘lightening response’ to Ukraine interference

The Russian president has threatened a quick-fire military response if any other country intervenes in Ukraine.

Speaking to lawmakers, Putin said that “if anyone sets out to intervene in the current events from the outside and creates unacceptable threats for us that are strategic in nature, they should know that our response… will be lightning-fast”.

The Russian leader said that the military would not hesitate to use the most modern weaponry.

“We have all the tools for this, that no one else can boast of having. We won’t boast about it: we’ll use them, if needed. And I want everyone to know that,” Putin said.

Putin has frequently touted Russia’s development of modern weaponry, including hypersonic missiles and the new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile that was successfully tested earlier this month.

5:06pm: Russian troops disperse pro-Ukraine rally in Kherson

Russian forces have used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally in the occupied city of Kherson, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general.

Local authorities say Russia appointed its own mayor of Kherson on Tuesday after its troops took over the administration headquarters in the regional capital, which was the first big urban centre to be seized after the Feb. 24 invasion.

Some residents have staged occasional anti-occupation rallies in Kherson and crowds gathered in the city centre again today. Kyiv says Russia plans to stage a referendum in the city to create a breakaway region like those in eastern Ukraine.

4:02pm: Heavy arms deliveries stoke fears of expanding war

The US and its EU allies have started to heed Volodymyr Zelensky’s calls for heavier firepower to push back the Russian advance now focused on Donbas.

Western allies remain wary of being drawn into an outright war with Russia, but have stepped up military support as Ukraine has maintained its fierce resistance. 

Germany announced Tuesday it would send anti-aircraft tanks, in a sharp U-turn on its much-criticised cautious stance, while Britain is expected to urge Kyiv’s allies to “ramp up” military production including tanks and planes.

FRANCE 24’s James Creedon takes a look at the implications of the West’s changing approach.

3:49pm: Canada sanctions more Russians over fighting in Donbas 

Canada is sanctioning 203 individuals it says are complicit in Russia’s attempted annexation of certain areas of Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

Canada has now imposed sanctions on nearly 1,000 individuals and entities from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus since the invasion of Ukraine in late February, the government said in a statement.

3:40pm: Russia expels Japanese diplomats in tit-for-tat move

Russia’s foreign ministry says it is expelling eight Japanese diplomats in a retaliatory move as it criticizes Japan for taking an “openly hostile anti-Russian course”.

The ministry said it summoned the Japanese ambassador and told him the eight diplomats must leave Russia by May 10.

Tokyo expelled eight Russian diplomats earlier this month in a rare move it said was in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. 

2:45pm: Russia ready to use Transdniestria to move on Ukraine or Moldova, Ukrainian defence official says

Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar accused Russia  on Wednesday of being ready to use the territory of the Moldovan region of Transdniestria as a bridgehead to move on Ukraine or the rest of Moldova.

Transdniestria, a Russia-backed breakaway region of Moldova that borders Ukraine, has been subject to several attacks in the past day, local authorities say.

Russia says it is closely following events in Transdniestria. The Russian foreign ministry was quoted by RIA news agency as saying this week that it wants to avoid a scenario in which Moscow would have to intervene there.

2:25pm: Poland, Bulgaria get gas from EU neighbours after Russia halt: Von der Leyen

Poland and Bulgaria are now receiving gas from their EU neighbours after Russia’s state energy giant Gazprom turned off the taps, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday. 

“Today, the Kremlin failed once again in its attempt to sow division among member states. The era of Russian fossil fuels in Europe is coming to an end,” von der Leyen said.  

1:47pm: Russia says it swapped former US Marine for Russian prisoner in US

Russia’s foreign ministry has said it conducted a prisoner swap with US authorities in which a US Marine held in Russia since 2019 was released in exchange for the liberation of a Russian citizen.

Trevor Reed, a former US Marine, was released from a Russian jail while US authorities freed Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was serving a 20-year sentence in the US.

The prisoner swap took place on Wednesday following a lengthy negotiation process, foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on her Telegram channel.

1:08pm: Polish president warns of legal action over gas stoppage

Polish President Andrzej Duda has said he’s sure legal action would be taken against Russia’s Gazprom for breach of contract for stopping gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria.

“Basic legal principles have been broken, violated,” said Duda during a visit to the Czech capital Prague.

“Appropriate legal steps will be taken and there will be appropriate compensation from Gazprom for violations of the provisions of the contract.”

1:03pm: Chinese drone maker suspends Russia, Ukraine business

The world’s largest drone maker DJI has said it will suspend all business operations in Russia and Ukraine, in a rare public move by a Chinese firm since Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour.

“DJI is internally reassessing compliance requirements in various jurisdictions,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday. “Pending the current review, DJI will temporarily suspend all business activities in Russia and Ukraine.”

While Russia has been hit by an avalanche of sanctions and Western multinationals have pulled out of the country, Beijing has refused to condemn the Russian invasion.

12:55pm: Russia bans entry to 287 British MPs

The Russian foreign ministry has banned entry to 287 British MPs in response to the UK’s sanctions against Russian parliamentarians over the war in Ukraine. 

“In response to the decision taken by the British government on March 11 to add 386 State Duma deputies to a sanctions list, in a reciprocal move, personal restrictions are being placed on 287 members of the House of Commons,” the ministry said in a statement. 

Russia has already blacklisted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as UK Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and several others.

The House of Commons has a total of 650 members.

Moscow said the list is made up of MPs who have taken “the most active part” in drawing up anti-Russian sanctions and contributed to “Russophobic hysteria”.

Among those blacklisted are Speaker Lindsay Hoyle as well as Cabinet members including Minister for Brexit Jacob Rees-Mogg.

11:38am: Moldova’s Transnistria rebels say shots fired near Russia arms depot

The interior ministry of Transnistria, a Moscow-backed separatist region of Moldova bordering Ukraine, has said that shots were fired at a village housing a Russian arms depot after drones flew over from Ukraine.

“Last night, several drones were noticed in the sky over the village of Kolbasna,” the Transnistrian interior ministry said on its website.

“The drones were launched onto the territory of Transnistria from Ukraine,” it said.

Kolbasna, known as Cobasna in Romanian, is located around 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) from the Ukrainian border.

It houses a stockpile of some 20,000 tonnes of munitions that date back to the Soviet era, guarded by Russian troops.

This came after the unrecognised region has reported a series of explosions that it called “terrorist attacks”, raising fears of a spillover from the war in Ukraine.

11:23am: Ukraine acknowledges Russian gains in eastern Ukraine

Ukraine’s general staff has acknowledged that Russia had made gains in some areas in the east, capturing outskirts of the towns of Velyka Komyshuvakha and Zavody on one front, and the Zarichne and Novoshtokivske settlements in Donetsk region.

Russia’s defence ministry said its missiles had struck an arms depot in the Zaporizhzhia region housing weapons from the US and European countries.

Meanwhile an aide to the mayor of the besieged port city of Mariupol said Russian forces had renewed their attacks on the Azovstal steel plant, where fighters and some civilians are holed up. No agreements had been reached on trying to evacuate civilians from Mariupol on Wednesday, according to the mayor’s aide, Petro Andryushchenko.

10:37am: EU vows ‘coordinated response’ to Russia gas stoppage

The EU maintains that it was “prepared” for Moscow to suspend gas supplies to the 27-nation bloc and is planning a “coordinated” response after Russia’s Gazprom turned off the taps to Poland and Bulgaria.

“Gazprom’s announcement is another attempt by Russia to blackmail us with gas. We are prepared for this scenario. We are mapping out our coordinated EU response,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.

“Europeans can trust that we stand united and in solidarity with the member states impacted.” 

EU rules require all countries to have a contingency plan to cope with a gas supply shock.

09:55am: Russia says destroyed Western-supplied arms in Zaporizhzhia

Russia’s defence ministry has said its forces destroyed a large quantity of Western-supplied weapons in Ukraine with long-range missiles.

“On the territory of the Zaporizhzhia aluminium plant, high-precision long-range sea-based Kalibr missiles destroyed hangars with a large batch of foreign weapons and ammunition supplied by the United States and European countries for Ukrainian troops,” the ministry said in a briefing. 

09:17am: Poland’s PGNiG confirms halt of Gazprom gas deliveries

Russian giant Gazprom has  “completely stopped” the supply of gas to Poland via the Yamal pipeline, according to Poland’s state-controlled gas utility company PGNiG.

PGNiG imported more than half of its gas through Gazprom since the start of the year, but Warsaw has said it “will manage” without Russian gas and can source it elsewhere.

07:59am: Hungary receiving Russian gas shipments via Bulgaria: minister

 Hungary is receiving Russian gas according to its contract with Gazprom via Bulgaria and Serbia, and Gazprom informed Hungary that transit shipments via Bulgaria are separately handled, according to Hungary’s foreign minister.

“I want to assure everyone that the non-delivery of gas shipments to Bulgaria does not mean a halt in transit shipments via Bulgaria,” Peter Szijjarto said on his Facebook page.

Szijjarto said Hungary’s next payment obligation for Russian gas is due on May 22, and the country will transfer its payment in euros to Gazprombank, where the amount will be converted into roubles.

07:54am: Western arms deliveries to Ukraine ‘making the difference’ on frontline

Reporting from Kyiv, FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg says that it’s “only thanks to the weapons that have been given by their Western allies that they [Ukrainian forces] have been able to put up such a strong fight”. Cragg notes that Russians are still making very slow gains even in Ukraine’s eastern regions, where Russia is now concentrated.

Weapons systems such as the Javelin and NLAW anti-tank missiles, which Ukraine has been provided, can be used by a single person against an entire Russian tank, for instance. These have proved very effective on the battlefield.

06:15am: Ukraine says Russia ‘beginning gas blackmail of Europe’ as Poland, Bulgaria cut off

Russia halted gas supplies to Poland under the Yamal contract on Wednesday, data from the European Union network of gas transmission operators showed, in a deepening of the rift between the West and Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Bulgaria, like Poland a NATO and EU member, said earlier that Russia would also halt supplies of gas to it. There was no word early on Wednesday if Bulgaria’s supplies were also cut.

Ukraine accused Russia of blackmailing Europe over energy in an attempt to break its allies, as fighting heads into a third month without Russia capturing a major city. Staunch Kremlin opponent Poland is among the European countries seeking the toughest sanctions against Russia for invading its neighbour.

Poland’s gas supply contract with energy giant Gazprom covers about 50% of national consumption. State-owned PGNiG had said supplies from Gazprom via Ukraine and Belarus would be cut at 8am (0600 GMT) on Wednesday, but Poland said it did not need to draw on reserves and its gas storage was 76% full.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on “unfriendly” countries to pay for gas imports in roubles, a demand only a few buyers have implemented.

“The ultimate goal of Russia’s leadership is not just to seize the territory of Ukraine, but to dismember the entire centre and east of Europe and deal a global blow to democracy,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said late on Tuesday.

His chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said Russia was “beginning the gas blackmail of Europe”.

Bulgaria, which is almost completely reliant on Russian gas imports, said it had fulfilled all its contractual obligations with Gazprom and that the proposed new payment scheme was in breach of the arrangement. It has held initial talks to import liquefied natural gas through neighbouring Turkey and Greece.

Gazprom said it had not yet suspended supplies to Poland but that Warsaw had to pay for gas in line with its new “order of payments.” It declined to comment regarding Bulgaria.

3:45am: Blasts heard in Russia’s Belgorod, regional governor says

A series of blasts was heard in the early hours of Wednesday in the Russian city Belgorod near the Ukrainian border, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said, and an ammunition depot in the province was on fire.

Gladkov said no civilians had been hurt by the fire which broke out at a facility near Staraya Nelidovka village. Russia this month accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters and opening fire on several villages in the province.

The Belgorod province borders Ukraine’s Luhansk, Sumy and Kharkiv regions, all of which have seen heavy fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago.

April 27, 12:25am: US offers $10 million reward for information on Russian intelligence officers

The United States on Tuesday offered a reward of up to $10 million for information on six people it described as Russian military intelligence officers who had conducted cyber attacks affecting critical US infrastructure.

The six officers work in a cyber-focused unit of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and were involved in a 2017 global malware attack that infected the computers of several private U.S. entities, including a hospital system, the US State Department said.

The 2017 “NotPetya” cyber attack crippled parts of Ukraine’s infrastructure and damaged computers in countries across the globe including France, Germany, Italy and the United States, causing billions of dollars in estimated damage.

Russia denies any involvement in the incident.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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