Russia-Ukraine war: Blinken announces $2bn in aid as Russia claims to have taken more settlements – as it happened

Blinken announces additional $2bn in foreign military financing for Ukraine

At a press conference in Kyiv, Blinken announced an additional $2bn in foreign military financing from the US for Ukraine. He said new support from the US was coming at a “critical time”.

He was speaking at a joint press conference in Kyiv alongside Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, adding that the support would be aimed at investing in Ukraine’s industrial base.

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Key events

Closing summary

It has gone 6.15pm in Kyiv and in Moscow. We will be closing this blog soon, but you can stay up to date on the Guardian’s Russia and Ukraine coverage here.

Here is a recap of today’s latest developments:

  • At a press conference in Kyiv on Wednesday, the US secretary of state Antony Blinken announced an additional $2bn in foreign military financing for Ukraine. He said new support from the US was coming at a “critical time”. He was speaking alongside Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, and added that the support would be aimed at investing in Ukraine’s industrial base.

  • Blinken said that the US does not encourage Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia with US-supplied weapons but believes it is a decision Kyiv should make for itself. He said the US was focused on sending Patriot missile systems and other forms of critical air defence to Ukraine. Blinken added: “We’re rushing ammunition, armoured vehicles, missiles, [and] air defences to get them to the frontlines.”

  • The US could sign a bilateral security agreement with Ukraine within weeks, Blinken said on Wednesday. During a press conference in Kyiv, he said that the “heavy lifting” on the deal had already been done.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba (R) and US secretary of state Antony Blinken (L) attend their joint press conference in Kyiv on Wednesday. Photograph: EPA
  • The US will continue to levy sanctions against enterprises involved in China’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, Blinken said on Wednesday. He told the press briefing in Kyiv that the US was “deeply concerned” about China’s support for Russia’s defence industry.

  • Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has postponed all foreign visits. “Volodymyr Zelenskiy has instructed that all international events scheduled for the coming days be postponed and new dates coordinated,” Sergii Nykyforov said on Facebook. On Wednesday morning it was announced that Zelenskiy had cancelled trips to Spain and Portugal.

  • EU member states on Wednesday agreed to impose a broadcast ban on online outlet Voice of Europe, accused of spreading Kremlin propaganda, diplomats said. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said bans would also be applied to three Russian media outlets: Izvestiya, Rossiiskaya Gazeta and Ria Novosti.

  • Russia on Wednesday warned the EU that if the bloc imposed restrictions on Russian media then western reporters in Russia would feel a swift, harsh and painful response from the Russian state. “If these measures are taken against the Russian media, Russian journalists, then, despite the fact that western correspondents will not want to, they will also have to feel our retaliatory measures,” Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.

  • Russian airstrikes on Ukraine’s southern cities of Mykolaiv and Kherson injured at least 17 people, local officials said on Wednesday. Eleven people, including at least one teenager, received injuries when Russia struck Kherson using aviation, the regional governor said on Telegram. Separately, a Russian missile attack caused a heavy fire in a car repair service in Mykolaiv, emergency services said on Telegram. At least six people were injured.

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin said his regime is prepared to negotiate over the conflict in Ukraine, in an interview with Chinese media on the eve of his planned visit to Beijing. “We are open to a dialogue on Ukraine but such negotiations must take into account the interests of all countries involved in the conflict, including ours,” Putin was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency on Wednesday.

  • Putin said on Wednesday that the Russian leadership must do everything in its power to ensure that troops have all the necessary resources to successfully carry out their tasks in Ukraine. Putin was speaking at a meeting dedicated to the development of the Russian defence industry.

  • Putin also said on Wednesday that Russian forces were improving their positions every day along the front in Ukraine in all directions and that the advance was going to plan. The Russian president was at a meeting in the Kremlin with defence minister Andrei Belousov, secretary of the security council Sergei Shoigu and top generals.

  • Ukraine’s forces “partially pushed back” Russian forces from the town of Vovchansk in Kharkiv region on Wednesday, the Ukrainian military said. In an update on the battlefield situation it said that active combat clashes raged on in north and northwestern parts of the town and a total of 18 Russian assaults were repelled.

  • Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that its forces had taken control of two more settlements in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region and one in the Zaporizhzhia region. The ministry said that Russian troops had captured Hlyboke and Lukiantsi in Kharkiv and Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia. Reuters could not independently verify battlefield reports. The Ukrainian military dismissed the Russian claim about Robotyne.

  • Ukraine pulled back troops near several villages in the north-eastern Kharkiv region, where Russian forces have been advancing and pounding settlements along the border since last week, Kyiv announced. “In some areas, around Lukyantsi and Vovchansk, in response to enemy fire and assaults from ground troops, and to save the lives of our servicemen and avoid losses, our units manoeuvred and moved to more advantageous positions,” the Ukrainian military announced overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday.

  • Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak dismissed Putin’s comments on possible negotiations over his war in Ukraine as “hypocritical” on Wednesday. “Once again, Putin’s hypocritical ‘negotiation’ activity … At the same time, Russia continues to burn cities in Donbas and is trying to break through in Kharkiv region, while simultaneously scaling up crimes against civilians,” he said on X.

  • US President Joe Biden could meet his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the coming weeks, Blinken said. The US secretary of state said during the press conference in Kyiv that Washington strongly supported a planned Ukrainian peace summit in Switzerland set for next month and would be “robustly represented” there.

  • The Ukrainian interior ministry said that three civilians were killed in the Kharkiv region over the last 24 hours and that a Russian drone had injured two policemen.

  • Putin said on Wednesday that Russia’s total defence and security spending may reach a little more than 8.7% of gross domestic product in 2024, and that the money should be used carefully and effectively.

  • Portugal’s new government is keen on ramping up sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, environment and energy minister Maria da Graca Carvalho said on Wednesday.

  • Britain’s shadow foreign and defence ministers completed a visit to Kyiv to deliver a message that little would change when it came to British support for Ukraine if Labour won the general election expected later this year. “We wanted to come now, in the run-up to the UK election, to ensure we take politics out of the UK’s support for Ukraine,” said John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, in an interview with the Guardian in Kyiv before leaving Ukraine.

  • During the same visit, David Lammy, the UK’s shadow foreign secretary said he believed Putin, represented a “new fascism in Europe” and that other nations had to stand firm in defending Ukraine. Lammy and Healey met Ukraine’s defence and foreign ministers as well as Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff of the president.

  • Estonia’s parliament approved a proposal allowing the use of frozen Russian assets to pay compensation for war damage in Ukraine, the Baltic nation’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. “We took a big step towards creating a precedent Europe could follow,” foreign minister Margus Tsahkna said.

  • Ukraine’s war-torn economy faces a renewed threat as Russia’s intensifying war takes its toll on power plants and forces Kyiv to send key workers to the frontline, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has warned. In its latest economic update, the EBRD cut its growth forecasts and said more than two years of fighting in Ukraine was affecting not only the warring countries but also their neighbours.

  • Russia said on Wednesday that a major airport near the city of Kazan, 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from Ukraine, had been temporarily closed after the region was targeted by a Ukrainian attack drone. The defence ministry said it had downed a Ukrainian drone over the central region of Tatarstan but did not specify what was the target of the attack.

  • Maxim Timchenko, the CEO of DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private energy producer, described a dire situation on the ground as Russia steps up attacks. He said he hopes for a massive increase in western aid at a recovery conference in Berlin next month. I couldn’t imagine that after three attacks we can lose more than 90% of our generation capacity,” he told an online briefing from Kyiv. “That’s what’s happened after the winter season.”

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EU agrees to sanction pro-Russian outlet ‘Voice of Europe’

EU member states on Wednesday agreed to impose a broadcast ban on online outlet Voice of Europe, accused of spreading Kremlin propaganda, diplomats said.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said bans would also be applied to three Russian media outlets: Izvestiya, Rossiiskaya Gazeta and Ria Novosti.

The intelligence service in the Czech Republic in March busted an alleged Moscow-financed network using Prague-based outlet Voice of Europe to spread Russian propaganda.

According to AFP, Belgian authorities have also opened a probe into accusations that the outlet was used to pay European lawmakers to spread Moscow’s talking points.

The EU has already imposed broadcast bans on over a dozen Russian media outlets over the war in Ukraine.

According to AFP, diplomats said the four latest outlets should be formally added to the blacklist soon. The EU is at the same time working on a new package of sanctions against Russia over the invasion, that for the first time include targeting its liquefied natural gas sector.

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Russian strikes injure at least 17 in Ukraine’s south

Russian airstrikes on Ukraine’s southern cities of Mykolaiv and Kherson injured at least 17 people, local officials said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Eleven people, including at least one teenager, received injuries when Russia struck Kherson using aviation, the regional governor said on Telegram. Residential buildings and an educational facility were damaged, he said.

Separately, a Russian missile attack caused a heavy fire in a car repair service in Mykolaiv, emergency services said on Telegram. At least six people were injured.

Shaun Walker is the Guardian’s central and eastern Europe correspondent.

It was an unexpected moment at the end of a long day in Kyiv for Antony Blinken, after numerous high-level meetings and serious pronouncements promising the speedy delivery of US military aid. The secretary of state picked up a guitar and performed a rendition of Neil Young’s Rockin’ in the Free World with a Ukrainian rock band.

The images, quickly shared on social media, split opinion in Ukraine, with the performance one of the main topics of discussion in Kyiv on Wednesday. Some hailed Blinken’s turn as a welcome gesture of support, while others questioned the optics of performing in a bar while the situation at the front is so tense.

Blinken took to the stage at Barman Dictat, a well-known speakeasy-style bar in central Kyiv hidden in a basement inside a courtyard, and joined the Ukrainian band 19.99.

“Your soldiers, your citizens – particularly in the north-east, in Kharkiv – are suffering tremendously,” Blinken said before playing. “But they need to know, you need to know, the United States is with you, so much of the world is with you and they’re fighting not just for a free Ukraine, but for the free world. And the free world is with you, too.”

The band were told before the event that they would be performing with Neil Young, said one member, but were asked to keep it a secret. It was only at the last minute that they realised their guest member would be the secretary of state.

You can read Shaun Walker’s full piece here:

Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the Russian leadership must do everything in its power to ensure that troops have all the necessary resources to successfully carry out their tasks in Ukraine.

“We must make maximum use of all our administrative resources to ensure the main task – the successful work of our combat units on the line of contact within the framework of a special military operation,” Putin said, reports Reuters.

Putin was speaking at a meeting dedicated to the development of the Russian defence industry.

Shaun Walker

Shaun Walker is the Guardian’s central and eastern Europe correspondent.

Britain’s shadow foreign and defence ministers have completed a visit to Kyiv to deliver a message that little would change when it came to British support for Ukraine if Labour won the general election expected later this year.

“We wanted to come now, in the run-up to the UK election, to ensure we take politics out of the UK’s support for Ukraine,” said John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, in an interview with the Guardian in Kyiv before leaving Ukraine. “There’s total support for Ukraine across the full breadth of the Labour party in and outside parliament,” he added.

The head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak (right), in a meeting with John Healey and David Lammy. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

Healey said Labour backed all the commitments made to Ukraine by the current government, including a recent pledge to provide Kyiv with £3bn of military aid a year, which a future Labour government would continue.

He made the two-day trip to Ukraine with David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary. The pair met Ukraine’s defence and foreign ministers as well as Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff of the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Lammy said he believed the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, represented a “new fascism in Europe” and that other nations had to stand firm in defending Ukraine.

You can read Shaun Walker’s full piece here:

Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russian forces were improving their positions every day along the front in Ukraine in all directions and that the advance was going to plan, according to Reuters.

Putin, at a meeting in the Kremlin with defence minister Andrei Belousov, secretary of the security council Sergei Shoigu and top generals, said the work of the military was “proceeding according to the plan” approved by the general staff.

“The more effectively you work on the frontline, the more chances we have to resolve this issue peacefully,” Putin told the generals. “This is what we have always been striving for, and I have always spoken about it.”

Putin thanked Shoigu for his previous work in the role of defence minister. He said “many things were not clear before the outbreak of hostilities” and said Shoigu would help him manage the military and security sections of the state.

Speaking of Belousov, his newly appointed defence minister, Putin said he had appointed Belousov due to rising defence and security spending which he said would amount to 8.7% of gross domestic product or a little more. That is still below the Soviet level of 13% in the mid-1980s.

“This is certainly not 13%, as was the case in the Soviet Union, but it is still a solid amount, it is a large resource, and we must use it very carefully and efficiently,” Putin said.

“This relationship between the ‘cannon’ and ‘butter’ should be organically integrated into the overall development strategy of the Russian state.”

According to Reuters, Putin then praised Belousov for his economic experience and for working on the development of drones and other unmanned vehicles.

The Russian leader said there would be no changes to the army’s general staff. Chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov attended the meeting.
“I want it to be clear to everyone. This unit of combat work has developed, it functions rhythmically, operates successfully, and no changes are expected here,” Putin said of the general staff.

Estonia’s parliament has approved a proposal allowing the use of frozen Russian assets to pay compensation for war damage in Ukraine, the Baltic nation’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We took a big step towards creating a precedent Europe could follow,” foreign minister Margus Tsahkna said, Reuters reports.

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Putin: Russian forces ‘improving positions every day in all directions’

Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia’s total defence and security spending may reach a little more than 8.7% of gross domestic product in 2024, and that the money should be used carefully and effectively, Reuters reports.

The Russian president told a meeting of the defence minister and top generals that Russian forces were every day improving their positions in all directions in Ukraine.

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The US will continue to levy sanctions against enterprises involved in China’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.

He told the press briefing in Kyiv that the US was “deeply concerned” about China’s support for Russia’s defence industry.

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Ukraine’s forces “partially pushed back” Russian forces from the town of Vovchansk in Kharkiv region on Wednesday, the Ukrainian military said.
In an update on the battlefield situation it said that active combat clashes raged on in north and northwestern parts of the town and a total of 18 Russian assaults were repelled, Reuters reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his regime is prepared to negotiate over the conflict in Ukraine in an interview with Chinese media on the eve of his planned visit to Beijing , the Associated Press (AP) reports.

“We are open to a dialogue on Ukraine but such negotiations must take into account the interests of all countries involved in the conflict, including ours,” Putin was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency on Wednesday.

The Russian leader’s two-day trip is due to start on Thursday.

The Kremlin has said in a statement that during their talks, Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will “have a detailed discussion on the entire range of issues related to the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation and determine the new directions for further development of cooperation between Russia and China and also have a detailed exchange of opinions on the most acute international and regional issues.”

US President Joe Biden could meet his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the coming weeks, Blinken said.

Blinken added during the press conference in Kyiv that Washington strongly supported a planned Ukrainian peace summit in Switzerland set for next month and would be “robustly represented” there.

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US does not encourage Ukraine to hit targets in Russia with US weapons but it is decision for Kyiv to make, Blinken says

The US does not encourage Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia with US-supplied weapons but believes it is a decision Kyiv should make for itself, secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.

He was speaking at a press conference in Kyiv after weeks of regular missile and drone strikes across Russia that Ukraine has not officially confirmed.

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The US is focused on sending Patriot missile systems and other forms of critical air defence to Ukraine, Blinken said.

US-Ukraine security agreement could be signed in weeks, says Blinken

The US could sign a bilateral security agreement with Ukraine within weeks, secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.

He said during a press conference in Kyiv that the “heavy lifting” on the deal had already been done.

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