Good morning. Looking at the weather here in Kyiv, it’s doubtful that the sun actually exists.
What happened over the weekend?
The Easter weekend saw Ukraine’s churches full, beautiful baskets of traditional food and ‘pysanky’ (embroidered eggs) being blessed, and families getting together.
For the first time in 300 years, Easter Liturgy was performed in the Ukrainian language at the main cathedral of the 11th century Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery, which is transitioning away from the Russian-backed Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
In other weekend news, 130 Ukrainian Prisoners of War returned from Russian captivity.
Turning to more brutal events, the death toll from the Russian missile attack on April 14 on an apartment complex in Slovyansk rose to 15. There were additional civilian deaths and injuries from some 50 missile and airborne attacks in regions such as Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv (where two teenagers were killed) and elsewhere. On Easter Sunday, a church was levelled by Russian missile fire in Zaporizhzhia.
Fighting around Bakhmut appears to be reaching a new level of intensity – if that’s possible. The Ukrainian military spokesman for the east late yesterday said: "Directly in the urban area of Bakhmut, bloody battles unprecedented in recent decades are taking place.”
The possible reasons for Russia’s intensification of fighting in Bakhmut is covered in this today’s Explained, here.
On the economic front over the weekend, as a result of pressure from local farmers concerned about “cheap imports,” Poland and Hungary banned Ukrainian grain and other food stuffs from entering their countries. The bans are slated to last to the end of June.
Late yesterday, the European Commission slammed the bans. The Commission said it was not up to individual member states to make trade policy. While the Commission has said that unilateral moves will not be tolerated, it did not specify measures it would take against Poland and Hungary. Ukraine’s and Poland’s Agricultural Ministers will meet today.
Meanwhile in Japan, G7 leaders are meeting – with Taiwan and Ukraine high on their agenda. For his part, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said: “Ukraine today could be East Asia tomorrow.”
What was in President Zelensky’s latest message?
President Volodymyr Zelensky greeted Ukrainians – most of whom are Eastern Orthodox Christians and celebrate according to the Julian calendar – on the occasion of Easter. He said:
“We have already come a long way. Perhaps the most difficult of peaks is ahead. We will overcome it. And together we will meet our dawn when the sun will rise over our entire country.”
He added: “This is a blue and yellow flag. It will certainly be raised in all our God-given land, in all territories temporarily occupied by devils. The sun will shine in the south, the sun will shine in the east, and the sun will shine in Crimea. The yellow-hot sun in a peaceful blue sky, and it is the light of justice.”
What is the latest military situation?
The latest British Ministry of Defense (MoD) daily intelligence update on Ukraine notes the following:
· Mine-related civilian casualties continue to be reported daily in Ukraine. The most affected areas are the Kherson and Kharkiv [regions]: areas Russia has previously occupied.
· With the arrival of spring, and more people involved in agricultural activities, the risk of civilian mine incidents will increase.
· Over 750 mine related casualties among civilians have been reported since the start of the invasion - one in eight has involved a child. It will likely take at least a decade to clear Ukraine of mines.
The Institute for the Study of War’s April 16 daily assessment makes the following key points:
· The Russian military command appears to be increasingly shifting responsibility for offensive operations in Ukraine to Russian airborne troops.
· News that Russian Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky has returned to a prominent role in Ukraine suggests that the Russian MoD is seeking to work more closely with Wagner Group to complete the capture of Bakhmut, despite tensions between Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin and the MoD establishment.
· The Wagner Group’s return of 130 Ukrainian POWs on April 16 suggests that Wagner may have engaged in the exchange independent of the Russian MoD.
· The Wagner Group may be attempting to force mobilized Russian personnel to sign contracts with Wagner, possibly in an effort to offset Wagner’s losses in Ukraine.
· Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks south of Kreminna and continued ground attacks in and around Bakhmut and along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
· Russian forces reportedly intensified the rate of artillery strikes in southern Ukraine.
· Russian mobilized personnel continue to publish public complaints against Russian commanders, alleging mistreatment.
· A Russian source stated that the Wagner Group is involved in the removal of Ukrainian children from Bakhmut.
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