Good morning from Kyiv, where the weather is hopeful. There are early morning signs that something bright and yellow may appear in today’s sky.

 Kyivans are making it happen. One way is their spring ritual of purchasing small bouquets of yellow daffodils from street vendors.

A small bouquet usually sells for under $2.

 It’s also an important break from bleak news from Ukraine’s battlegrounds and shelled communities.

 What’s happening today?

 The EU will vote on whether to extend duty-free trade of Ukrainian goods until June 24, 2024. That will be against the background of the ‘Great Grain Strain’.

 After Poland, Hungary and Slovakia temporarily banned Ukrainian grain and other food stuffs on the weekend, the Polish ban will be lifted tomorrow following discussions between Ukrainian and Polish Ministers.

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 “We have managed to set up mechanisms that will mean that not even a tonne of grain remains in Poland,” Poland’s Agriculture Minister said. “The goods will transit through Poland.”

 None of which protects Polish farmers – or any other farmers in Eastern Europe – from the realities and changing prices of the global commodities market.

 It’s also another day of Ukrainian preparations. It’s very clear that this is the current and constant focus of the Zelensky Government. That’s true in practical military aid terms, diplomatic terms or social terms, such as preparing Ukrainians for the bloody and difficult campaign undoubtedly ahead.

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US Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Ukraine must be victorious over Russia. Pompeo sought to assuage fears that a Trump presidency would hurt Ukraine.

 Late yesterday, the President called US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Some members of the Speaker’s Republican Party are increasingly vocal about US aid to Ukraine, which Zelensky sought to address.

 

What was in President Zelensky’s latest message?

 Zelenksy was on the road yesterday. He visited frontline troops in Avdiivka and those hospitalised in Poltava. (Russian milbloggers criticized Russian officials about Putin’s trip - he went to the relative safety of southern Kherson yesterday, failing to visit the frontlines like Zelensky.)

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 “We finish this day in Poltava. Quite a long day and emotional. In the morning I was in Donetsk Oblast, in our Avdiivka. It is difficult to see what Russian terrorists have done to this city…” Zelensky said. “And respect to each of our soldiers, all Ukrainian who have been holding back and gradually destroying this Russian evil for 419 days and nine years.”

 What is the latest military situation?

 For the 24 hour period to 0600 today, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported the following:

·      Russian forces conducted four rocket attacks, 60 airborne attacks, and 58 attacks using anti-aircraft weapons on Ukrainian military and civilian targets.

·      There were 60 infantry-based assaults. These were primarily in the Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka areas. The fighting in Bakhmut remains “difficult.”

 According to the Institute for the Study of War’s daily assessment, “Russian forces continued to make gains in Bakhmut and conducted ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.”

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 Sumy oblast sustained 165 artillery, mortar and grenade hits across six population settlements with one civilian death, according to local military authorities.

 Ukrainian forces shot down seven Russian drones, including six Iranian Shahed kamikaze drones, in Zaporizhzhia oblast, according to Andriy Yermak, head of President Zelensky’s office.

 ISW has also drawn attention to more ‘musical chairs’ in the Russian high command.

 “Putin’s demonstrative meetings with Teplinsky, Makarevich, and Lapin likely confirm another change in military command and possibly within the Kremlin’s inner circle… Chief of the Russian General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu did not attend Putin’s meetings… Teplinsky and Lapin – both of whom had reportedly been placed on a leave – returned to the Russian military command likely against the wishes of Gerasimov and Shoigu…The meeting confirms previous Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s hints at Teplinsky’s reappointment… Teplinsky’s confirmed reappointment suggests that the Kremlin is likely seeking to work with Wagner to achieve a decisive victory in Bakhmut.”

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 Here is the latest intel update from the British Ministry of Defence:

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