Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had claimed Adolf Hitler may have had 'Jewish blood'

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin discussed the war in Ukraine with Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett after his foreign minister infuriated Israel with comments about Hitler. Follow DW for the latest.

  • Japan expands sanctions, says Russia also a threat in East Asia
  • German President Steinmeier and Ukraine’s Zelenskyy speak by phone
  • Ukraine says there have been attacks on the Azovstal steel plant
  • Russia says it is implementing a cease-fire at the besieged Mariupol site

This article was last updated at 17:41 UTC/GMT

Scholz, Biden discuss action over Ukraine

US President Joe Biden discussed with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz further action on the war in Ukraine, according to Berlin and Washington.

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said Scholz and Biden spoke about the military situation and further support for Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Biden had announced that he would discuss further sanctions against Moscow with the G7 partners.

Scholz says German foreign minister to visit Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is due to travel to Kyiv “soon.”

The announcement came after weeks of friction after German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said his visit was not welcome by Kyiv.

Earlier on Thursday, the president’s office said he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy by phone, adding that both Steinmeier and Scholz have both been invited to Kyiv. You can read the full story here

Civilians leaving Azovstal steel plant ‘extremely traumatized’: OCHA official

Saviano Abreu with the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says civilians who have been evacuated from Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant are “extremely traumatized.”

Speaking to DW from Ukrainian-controlled Zaporizhzhia — the town where most evacuees from Mariupol are arriving – he said people who had been rescued from the plant spoke of “living underground without access to proper water, without having a shower in two months, and without seeing the sunlight for two months.”

“And when you get out and you find out that your place, your city was completely destroyed, you don’t know where to go or how [your future] is going to be. So it’s not something that, as human beings, we want to experience.”

Abreu said the UN and Red Cross have so far brought more than 400 people from Mariupol to safety in Zaporizhzhia.

“But we know that there are more civilians and we are working to make sure that we can evacuate more civilians from Azovstal, but also from Mariupol.”

Israel says PM accepted Putin’s ‘apology’ after Holocaust row

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett discussed the war in Ukraine in a phone call, according to the Kremlin and Bennett’s office.

The call came after a diplomatic row sparked by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s comments on the Holocaust. Lavrov had claimed Adolf Hitler may have had “Jewish blood” while speaking about Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“The prime minister accepted President Putin’s apology for Lavrov’s remarks and thanked him for clarifying his attitude toward the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust,” a statement from the Israeli prime minister’s office said.

The Kremlin made no direct reference to the row, but said Putin told Bennett that Russia was “still ready” to allow civilian evacuations out of the besieged steel plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

Putin’s war has ‘backfired,’ Former CIA chief Petraeus tells DW

Former CIA director David Petraeus says Russia’s army has “underachieved in virtually every conceivable area” since its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The retired US army general made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with DW.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “effort to make Russia great again” had clearly “backfired,” Petraeus said, adding that the war was “serving to make NATO great again.”

European countries have imposed sanctions on Moscow and boosted defense spending in the wake of the invasion. Germany announced €100 billion ($105 billion) in funding for the Bundeswehr and committed to raising military spending to above 2% of GDP.

“Let me just note how extraordinary the decisions taken by still a relatively new chancellor and new government have been,” Petraeus said, calling Germany’s one-off Bundeswehr payment a “very wise commitment.”

He also said Berlin’s decision “to provide lethal military supplies and weapon systems to another country for the first time in Germany’s post-World War two history” was “very, very significant.”

Japan warns of Russia’s threat in Far East

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has widened sanctions on Russia and said Moscow poses a threat not only in Europe but also in eastern Asia.

Kishida said 140 individuals are to be added to a Russian asset freeze list, while Tokyo will also expand an export ban to Russian military firms.

Speaking in London after a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Kishida said it was time for the Group of Seven leading economic powers to solidify and show unity.

The Japanese premier added that the G7 must show that there are consequences for Russia’s violence against Ukraine.

He said that Russian aggression was “not just a European problem,” and that Ukraine “might be East Asia tomorrow.”

Japan had already joined Western partners in imposing some sanctions on Russia for its war in Ukraine, prompting Russia to impose an entry ban on 63 Japanese individuals, including Kishida himself.

However, tensions have also recently flared over the two countries’ competing claims to the Kuril Islands, the four southernmost of which Tokyo calls its Northern Territories.

Attempts to sign a post-World War II peace treaty between Tokyo and Moscow have been hampered by a long-running dispute over the islands.

Moscow ended talks on a partial return of the archipelago — which the Soviet Union seized in 1945 — in March. In April, Tokyo described the southern Kurils as “illegally occupied” for the first time in years.

Russia also conducted military drills on the island in March, and in April said it was committed to fully developing and investing in the Kuril Islands.

German president and Zelenskyy speak to resolve row

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has spoken by phone with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a spokesperson for the German presidency said.

In their discussion, the pair were said to have resolved a recent diplomatic spat that led Chancellor Olaf Scholz to say he was not planning to visit the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in the near future.

“The German president expressed his solidarity, respect, and support for the Ukrainian people’s courageous fight against the Russian aggressors,” the spokesperson said. “Both presidents described the discussion as very important and very good.”

“Irritations of the past were cleared up,” the source said, apparently referring to a perceived diplomatic snub to Steinmeier, the German head of state.

In a tweet, Zelensky said it had been a  “good, constructive, important conversation.”

Steinmeier had planned to go to the Ukrainian capital with leaders from Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania in mid-April. However, he was told not to come at short notice. The refusal was thought to have been linked to Steinmeier’s policy of detente towards Russia when he served as German foreign minister.

Scholz has said that the Ukrainian decision was a problem and that he perhaps could not visit Kyiv while the issue remained unresolved.

Sources at the president’s office also said off the record that Zelenskyy had invited Scholz and Steinmeier to both visit Kyiv.

Poland and Sweden host international fundraiser

Poland and Sweden have been co-hosting a donors’ conference in Warsaw to raise funds for humanitarian efforts to help war-torn Ukraine.

The High-Level International Donors’ Conference for Ukraine is jointly organized by prime ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland and Magdalena Andersson of Sweden.

The aims are to allow the international community to make pledges to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of Ukrainians and create a forum on how to support Ukrainian society in the longer term.

Spain briefly detains Ukrainian pro-Russia blogger

Spanish police have detained a pro-Russian Ukrainian blogger and aspiring politician for suspected treason.

A court later ordered his provisional release, with the judge demanding he surrender his passport, report regularly to authorities and remain in Spain.

Anatoliy Shariy, a vocal critic of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, was detained on an international arrest warrant in the coastal city of Tarragona in Catalonia.

Ukraine’s SBU security service earlier said in a statement that Shariy was detained on Wednesday in an operation coordinated between Ukrainian and Spanish authorities.

It accused him of committing treason and the crime of “breaching the equal rights of citizens” based on race, nationality or other attributes.”

“SBU investigators consider that Shariy carried out unlawful activity detrimental to Ukraine’s national security in the information sphere. There are reasons to believe that Anatoliy Shariy acted on orders of foreign bodies,” the SBU said.

Shariy was declared a suspect by Ukraine a year before Russia’s invasion. He has lived in self-imposed exile in the European Union since 2012: in Lithuania, the Netherland and Spain.

In 2019, the 43-year-old registered a Ukrainian political party, called The Party of Shariy, which seats in several regional assemblies.

Ukraine’s National Security Council suspended the party, along with several others linked to Russia, after the invasion.

Zelenskyy launches crowdfunding platform to win war

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has launched a global crowdfunding platform to help Kyiv win its war with Russia.

The fund would also be used to help Ukraine rebuild infrastructure, he said.

“In one click, you can donate funds to protect our defenders, to save our civilians and to rebuild Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in a tweeted video in English to launch the United24 platform. “Every donation matters for victory.”

Ukrainian cities have suffered devastation in the nine weeks since Russia launched its invasion.

“All funds will be transferred to the national bank of Ukraine and allocated to the relevant ministries,” Zelenskyy said.

He indicated that his government would give an update “every 24 hours” about how the money was being used.

Zelenskyy urged ordinary people around the world to help defeat Moscow and said Ukraine would “always remember” their contributions.

“Only together we have the potential to stop the war and to rebuild what Russia has destroyed.”

Russia says Azovstal humanitarian corridors are working

The Kremlin says that humanitarian corridors to get civilians out of Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant are functioning.

The claim comes after the Russian army announced a three-day cease-fire at the site.

“The corridors are functioning today,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. He added that the steelworks remained besieged by Russian forces but denied that Russian troops were storming the metalworks.

Peskov also accused the West of preventing a quick end to the fighting by supplying weapons to Kyiv.

Germany’s Bundestag president to visit Kviv

The president of Germany’s lower house of parliament is set to visit Kyiv to jointly commemorate the victims of World War II.

Bundestag President Bärbel Bas is the latest in a string of German politicians to announce a visit to Kyiv in a show of solidarity.

The trip follows an invite from her Ukrainian counterpart, Ruslan Stefanchuk, to mark the occasion and to hold talks.

The World War II commemoration in Ukraine takes place on May 8.

Conservative opposition leader Friedrich Merz this week became the first high-profile German politician to travel to the Ukrainian capital.

Others, including Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, have also said they will visit.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly declined invitations from the Ukrainian leadership.

He says an earlier refusal of a visit by Germany’s head of state, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is a “problem” that prevents him from doing so.

In Germany’s order of precedence, Bas holds the second-highest office in Germany after Steinmeier — higher than that of Scholz himself.

Russia to expel Danish diplomats

The Russian Foreign Ministry says it has declared seven Danish diplomats “persona non grata” in response to the expulsion of 15 Russian diplomats to Denmark.

The ministry said Copenhagen’s “anti-Russian” policy was seriously damaging to bilateral relations. Moscow also said it objected to Denmark supplying military help to Ukraine.

It added that Russia reserved the right to take additional steps in response.

Russian forces continue assault on Azovstal mill: Ukraine says

Ukraine has reported fresh Russian attacks on the Azovstal steel plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

“With the support of the air force, the enemy renewed its attack with the aim of taking control of the factory site,” the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a situation report early on Thursday.

Russia had earlier announced a daytime cease-fire limited for Thursday and the following two days, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., to allow the civilians seeking refuge in the plant to get to safety.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Kyiv is “negotiating” to rescue civilians, but that equipment is needed to dig people out.

“It takes time to simply lift people out of these underground shelters,” he said. “In current conditions, we cannot use special equipment to clear the debris. Everything is done manually.”

Ukrainian officials say some 200 civilians are still at the plant, as well as the fighters who are still holed up there.

Ruble hits biggest high in over 2 years

The Russian ruble briefly reached ist highest level against the US dollar since March 2020 earlier on Thursday.

The volatile currency hit a high of 65.31 per dollar in early trading on the Moscow Exchange although it dipped again soon after.

Such a spike has not been seen since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic.

 The ruble has rallied in the past few weeks because of the mandatory conversion of foreign currency by export-focused companies. Russia’s central bank has introduced restrictions designed to prop up financial stability.

Meanwhile, there has been weak demand for dollars and euros amid waning imports.

France expects agreement on EU oil ban soon

French Energy Minister Barbara Pompili has said she thinks European Union member states will be able to reach a consensus by the end of the week on how to end Russian oil imports.

While the EU has proposed a phased embargo of Russian oil, distribution challenges could make that difficult.

The ban, if introduced, would only take effect in six months for crude oil, and in eight months for diesel and other oil products.

However, Hungary and Slovakia have both said they will not implement the plan in its current form.

“Some countries are more dependent on Russian oil than others, and so we must try to find solutions so that they can come on board these sanctions,” Pompili told France Info radio. “But I think we should be able to do it.”

Meanwhile, the Elysee Palace has said French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Germany next Monday for a first official visit after re-election. The talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will focus on defense and energy policy, the Elysee added.

Five civilians killed by shelling in Luhansk region, says governor

Five civilians have been killed by Russian shelling in Ukraine’s Luhansk region in the last 24 hours, Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Thursday.

Gaidai said the shelling was centered around Sievierodonetsk and Popasna, Hirske and Lysychansk.

Meannwhile, Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said an overnight shelling of the town of Kramatorsk in his region wounded at least 25 people. He said nine houses, a school and other civilian infrastructure were also damaged.

Japan: Difficult to immediately follow Russia oil embargo

Japan has said that it would face “difficulty” immediately following a move by the European Union to sever Russian oil imports over the war in Ukraine.

“Given Japan has its limit on resources, we would face some difficulty to keep in step immediately,” Japan’s minister of economy, trade, and industry, Koichi Hagiuda, told the media on Thursday.

Hagiuda made the comments while on a trip to Washington and following a proposal by the European Union’s executive outlining the toughest set of sanctions yet against Russia, which includes a crucial embargo on crude oil.

US intelligence providing info on Russian generals to Ukraine – report

The New York Times reports Ukraine is receiving intelligence from the United States on the whereabouts of Russian generals, which the Ukrainians are using to launch lethal attacks.

US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson, however, said in a statement that battlefield intelligence was not provided to the Ukrainians “with the intent to kill Russian generals.”

Multiple sources reportedly told the newspaper that the US was not involved in the strike at a location in eastern Ukraine where Russian General Valery Gerasimov was present.

On Tuesday, US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate panel, “There’s a significant amount of intelligence flowing to Ukraine from the United States.”

Over 600,000 Ukrainian refugees currently in Germany

Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees said more than 600,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war in their country have arrived in Germany since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Of the total number, roughly 40% of those Ukrainian refugees are minors.

It is unknown how many from that number registered and returned or went on to another country without deregistering.

According to German federal police, the number of new arrivals has dropped considerably, and many have returned to Ukraine with the war shifting to the east of the country.

UN: 300 civilians from Mariupol and nearby towns evacuated

The UN said more than 300 civilians from the besieged southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol had made it out and been evacuated to the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia.

The evacuation Tuesday was the second such successful operation in as many days to bring civilians out of Mariupol and nearby areas as Russian shelling and attacks continued.

Kremlin official visits Mariupol

Sergey Kiriyenko, the deputy chief of staff in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office, visited the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which is nearly entirely occupied by Russian forces.

Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin announced the visit in a Telegram post.

Kiriyenko is a former Russian prime minister. His current portfolio includes domestic politics.

Russia carries out simulated nuclear drills

In the patch of Baltic territory belonging to Russia known as Kaliningrad, Russian forces practiced carrying out nuclear-capable missile strikes.

Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement that its forces conducted single and multiple strikes at targets imitating launchers of missile systems, airfields, protected infrastructure, military equipment, and command posts of a mock enemy.

Additional combat units also practiced “actions in conditions of radiation and chemical contamination.”

More than 100 service members were involved in the drill.

Ukraine and Israel leaders speak about Lavrov’s antisemitic comments

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that he had spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

He added the two leaders spoke about Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s antisemitic remarks during a 42-minute presentation on Italian television last Sunday. In his commentary, he suggested Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler was Jewish, of which there is no evidence, and that Jewish people were responsible for the Holocaust.

Russia has since doubled down on its comments.

Zelenskyy addresses Denmark on anniversary of Nazi surrender

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed crowds in the Danish cities of Copenhagen and Aarhus by video link and said the war in his country was just as cruel as the one commemorated each year on May 4.

Danes remember the date in 1945, recalling when they heard that German troops had surrendered in Denmark in a radio announcement.

CDU MP: ‘Zelenskyy showed trust in Germany’

Roderich Kiesewetter, a member of the German parliament for the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) told DW that when he visited Kyiv with CDU leader Friedrich Merz, “Zelenskyy showed trust in Germany.”

Kiesewetter added that “we all believe that now our Chancellor has enough leeway to really further support wholeheartedly Ukraine.”

“There are three issues that Ukraine needs. First of all, long distance weapons to keep the Russians apart. Second, strong security guarantees for a future free and liberal society and a free and sovereign Ukraine. And third, what also is needed is a possibility to become a member of the European Union.”

“The army is really fighting a brave war and they need any support because we would lose our civilization if we won’t support them. And we need to contain Russia,” Kiesewetter concluded.

Air raid sirens sound in cities across Ukraine

Across Ukraine in areas near Kyiv, Cherkasy and Dnipro in the central part of the country and the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia air raid sirens rang Wednesday night.

In Dnipro, local authorities said a railroad facility was attacked and social media videos indicated a bridge was also hit.

Air raid sirens have become a daily event for many in Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in late February.

JPMorgan Chase CEO: ‘The Cold War is back’

Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, said the Federal Reserve should have moved sooner to raise interest rates to tamp down inflation and stymie a possible recession in an interview with Bloomberg TV Wednesday.

Dimon said, “The Cold War is back,” adding, “We need to pump more oil and gas.”

His comments come as the European Union considers an oil embargo on Russia by year’s end.

Summary of Wednesday’s events in Russia’s war on Ukraine

Russia’s military said it would open humanitarian corridors from the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged port city of Mariupol Thursday and over the next two days. The announcement comes after Ukraine’s ruling parliamentary faction head David Arakhamia said Russian forces have entered Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant.

Arakhamia added that the government had contact with the last group of Ukrainian fighters at the plant after Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said earlier in the day on national television that contact was lost.

The plant is the final holdout for Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol and authorities said hundreds of civilians are also hiding in the underground network of tunnels. City authorities said around 200 civilians and more than 30 children were also still trapped there.

Ukraine’s military intelligence said in a statement on social media that Russia is planning to hold a World War II Victory Day parade in Mariupol on May 9.

“The central streets of the city are urgently being cleaned of debris, bodies, and unexploded ordnance,” it said, adding, “A large-scale propaganda campaign is underway. Russians will be shown stories about the ‘joy’ of locals from meeting the occupiers.”

The May 9 Victory Day is one of Russia’s most important holidays, and there was speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin could make a major announcement in Moscow such as a formal declaration of war on Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry says Russia is seeking to increase the tempo of its offensive in the eastern part of the country. Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said Moscow had conducted nearly 50 airstrikes on Tuesday alone.

The UK’s Ministry of Defense said that Russia is continuing to strike non-military targets to weaken Ukrainian resolve. Its latest military intelligence update said the targets include residential properties, schools, hospitals, and transport hubs.

The UK also banned Russia from using British accountancy, management consultancy and PR services and slapped further sanctions on pro-Kremlin news outlets and journalists. The UK will also apply individual travel bans on some journalists working for Russia’s Channel One.

The EU has set out plans for a sixth round of sanctions against Russia, including a ban on imports of Russian oil by the end of the year. Hungary and Slovakia have already said they wouldn’t take part in the oil sanctions and would be given an extra year to find alternative suppliers.

Kyiv said European Union countries blocking a gradual embargo on imports of Russian oil would be complicit in crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine.

Sberbank and two other major Russian banks are set to be excluded from the international financial communication system. The sanctions also include an EU ban on three Russian state broadcasters, with the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, calling the TV channels “mouthpieces that amplify Putin’s lies and propaganda aggressively.”

ar/aw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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