Ukrainian economy expected to shrink by almost half with Russian invasion

Ukraine’s defense minister said the country had “extremely difficult weeks” ahead of it, warning of major “destruction” in a large-scale Russian offensive underway in the east of the country.

Russia “will try to inflict as much suffering as possible,” Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on April 27, warning of “painful destruction and loss.”

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His statement came as representatives of around 40 officials met for a second day at the US air base in Ramstein, Germany. Reznikov met on April 27 with ministers from several Western countries, including Germany, Poland and Canada.

“This is a real coalition whose goal is not just to hold the Kremlin to account, but to defeat Russian tyranny, to ensure that the civilized world can win this war,” he said. he adds. he said on Facebook.

Earlier on April 27, Western countries accused Russia of “blackmail” for cutting off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria.

The White House said Russia’s move against the two NATO allies was essentially “weaponizing energy supplies” and said Washington expected it.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called Russia’s move a “direct attack” on his country and said Poland would not buy Russian gas from the fall.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Kremlin’s attempt to “sow division” among EU states had again failed.

“We are prepared for this scenario,” she said, adding that contingency plans have been put in place and the EU response will be “immediate, united and coordinated.”

Gazprom said in a statement on April 27 that it had “completely suspended” gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria for not paying in roubles, a condition Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced last month. for “unfriendly” countries after the imposition of a series of sanctions. Russia and after the United States and other Western allies have vowed to rush heavier weapons to Ukraine.

Poland has been a major gateway for many weapons already delivered, and Bulgaria has welcomed Western fighter jets to a new NATO outpost on its Black Sea coast. But more than 90% of its gas still comes from Russia.

Von der Leyen warned EU members against Moscow’s demands for payments in rubles unless their contract was denominated in rubles. She said around 97% of all EU contracts explicitly stipulate payments in euros or dollars.

Continuing his diplomatic efforts, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrived in kyiv on April 27 after talks with Putin in Moscow.

“We will continue our work to expand humanitarian aid and ensure the evacuation of civilians from conflict areas,” he promised. “The sooner this war ends, the better – for the good of Ukraine, Russia and the world,” he said on Twitter ahead of talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

During his talks with Putin, Guterres repeated calls for Russia and Ukraine to work together to set up humanitarian corridors. Putin told him he hoped negotiations could end the conflict although the talks remained stalled.

On the battlefield, Russian forces pounded a steelworks in Mariupol where the last defenders of the city and some civilians are entrenched.

Petro Andryushchenko, assistant to the city’s mayor, said there was no letting up of airstrikes on the Azovstal factory. Several recent attempts to establish a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to escape have failed.

Russia said its missiles had carried off a “big batch” of weapons and ammunition supplied by the West and stored at an aluminum factory in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhya.

A British intelligence report said earlier that Russian forces had targeted hangars at the factory using long-range marine missiles, but did not specify which weapons, if any, were hit by the struck.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on April 27 that the villages of Velyka Komyshuvakha and Zavody in the northeastern Kharkiv region and Zarichne and Novotoshkivske in the eastern Donetsk region had fallen to Russian forces, whose aim appears to be to connect territory held by pro-Russian separatists. east to Crimea annexed to Russia.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on April 26 that it had taken full control of the Kherson region, which is in the area that would provide Russia with this land link.

Kherson Regional Governor Hennadiy Laguta said in a video address April 26 that the occupation meant his administration was forced out.

A series of recent explosions in the breakaway Russian-backed region of Transnistria, which borders Ukraine, have raised fears that war could spill over into Moldova.

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak accused Moscow on April 27 of wanting to use Transnistria to “destabilize” Moldova.

“If Ukraine falls, tomorrow Russian troops will be at the gates of Chisinau,” Podolyak said, referring to the Moldovan capital, after separatist authorities in Transnistria called the blasts “terrorist attacks”.

On April 27, Russia also reported several explosions and a fire on its own territory – at an ammunition dump in the Kursk and Belgorod regions respectively, both bordering Ukraine – the latest in a series of incidents that a senior Ukrainian official described as revenge. and “karma” for the invasion of Moscow.

Podolyak, without directly admitting that Ukraine was responsible, said it was natural for Russian border areas where fuel and weapons are stored to learn “demilitarization” – a direct reference to the Kremlin’s alleged goal for the unprovoked invasion, which he calls a special event military operation to disarm and “denazify” his neighbour.

“If you (the Russians) decide to massively attack another country, massively kill everyone there, massively run over peaceful people with tanks and use warehouses in your areas to enable the killings, then sooner or later the debts will have to be repaid”, Podolyak mentioned.

The April 27 explosions came after a major fire this week at a Russian oil storage facility in the Bryansk region near the border.

Earlier this month, Moscow accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters, which a senior Kyiv security official denied.

The incidents highlighted Russia’s weakness in areas near Ukraine that are vital to its military supply chains.

In Voronezh, the administrative center of another southern region, TASS news agency quoted an Emergency Situations Ministry official as saying two explosions were heard in the area.

Regional Governor Aleksandr Gusev said an air defense system detected and destroyed a small reconnaissance drone.

Kyiv did not claim responsibility for the incidents but described them as revenge. “Karma is a cruel thing,” Podolyak wrote on social media.

With reporting from the AP, AFP, BBC and Reuters

Christi C. Elwood