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US Vows To Move ‘Heaven And Earth’ On Bolstering Ukraine Defence

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The United States vowed Tuesday to move “heaven and earth” to help Ukraine win its battle against Russia’s unprovoked invasion, as allies from 40 nations met to bolster Kyiv’s defence against Moscow.

The meeting called by the US at its Ramstein airbase in southwestern Germany aims “to help Ukraine win the fight against Russia’s unjust invasion and to build up Ukraine’s defences for tomorrow’s challenges”, said Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin as he opened the talks.

“Ukraine clearly believes that it can win and so does everyone here,” he added.

The US is already the biggest supplier of international military aid to Ukraine and Austin said Washington is “going to keep moving heaven and earth so that we can meet” Kyiv’s needs.

At the talks, German Defence Minister, Christine Lambrecht, said Berlin has agreed to give the go-ahead to the delivery of used Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine.

The move towards heavy weapons deliveries marked a turning point from Germany’s timid backing for Kyiv which has put Chancellor Olaf Scholz under fire at home and abroad.

Lambrecht admitted that the Bundeswehr’s weapons stocks are limited, but said it will turn to the inventory of Germany’s armaments manufacturers.

“Ukraine orders and Germany pays,” she said.

Kyiv has been asking for heavy artillery and tanks to repel Russian forces trying to seize complete control of its vast southern plains and the eastern region of Donbas.

But the Russian-made equipment, which Ukrainians have been trained to use, is now rare.

Some countries in eastern Europe which still had stocks have sent them to Kyiv, sometimes in exchange for newer generation US equipment.

– Diapers and howitzers –

Austin had held a press conference on Monday at a Polish warehouse stacked high with tonnes of humanitarian and military aid ready to be packed onto trucks bound for Ukraine.

Next to the pallets of medical material and diapers were hundreds of Russian-made shells and rockets provided by countries that prefer to remain discreet on their participation in arming Ukraine.

Outside the warehouse, seven vehicles towing howitzers with a range of 30 kilometres (18 miles) were awaiting transfer. They were parked in front of hundreds of pallets of carefully packed shells and various ammunitions.

But all that is insufficient, and Washington, which had in the beginning limited its deliveries to so-called “defensive” weapons, has started to send heavy US-made arms, like howitzer cannons and various armoured vehicles.

The US is “engaging our colleagues in other countries for the same type of capability, and we see indications early on that… many countries are going to come forward and provide additional munitions and howitzers,” said Austin.

France is delivering Caesar cannons with a range of 40 kilometres and Britain has provided Starstreak anti-air missiles and tanks.

The meeting is also aimed at ensuring Ukraine’s security in the longer term once the war is over.

“Ukraine needs our help to win today and they will still need our help when the war is over,” noted Austin.

The meeting on Tuesday is not being held under the auspices of NATO, but the alliance’s members including Washington’s European allies are in attendance.

Also present are countries further afield like Japan or Australia, which fear that a Russian victory in Ukraine could set a precedent and spur on the territorial ambitions of China.

Finland and Sweden, traditionally neutral countries now looking at joining NATO following Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, are likewise participating.

AFP

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Putin’s Russia In Fresh Trouble As Ukraine’s Guns Are Now In Range Of Izium

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Ukrainian gunners shelled a Russian air-defense system in eastern Ukraine probably sometime in the past couple of days.

That itself isn’t all that noteworthy. Ukraine’s forces have destroyed dozens of Russian air-defenses since Russia widened its war on Ukraine in late February.

What’s important is where the shelling took place: just three miles northwest of Russian-occupied Izium, 60 miles southeast of Kkarkiv in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Ukraine’s best medium artillery, its new American-made M777s, can lob 100-pound shells around 19 miles. That means Ukrainian forces have staged artillery no farther than 22 miles from Izium—and are blasting away.

Izium until recently was the locus of Russia’s faltering offensive in Donbas. The dozen or so Russian battalions in the area—15 percent of Russia’s entire army in Ukraine—in recent weeks pushed through Izium then west a few miles along the P79 highway.

The Ukrainian army’s 81st Air Mobile Brigade fought a tactical retreat along the P79, extracting a heavy toll on the Russians for every mile they advanced.

The result, however, was a Russian penetration several miles into Ukrainian-held territory south of Kharkiv, where Kyiv’s troops now are mopping up.

The Izium salient represents a risk—to both sides. If the Russians can deepen and strengthen the salient, they might encircle the Ukrainian brigades south of Izium in Severodonetsk and nearby communities.

Some of the best and most experienced Ukrainian units are in the Severodonetsk pocket. Surrounding and destroying them could tilt the war in Russia’s favor, at least in short term.

But there’s risk to the Russians, too. The Izium salient is vulnerable at its flanks, especially its northern flank. As Ukraine’s 92nd and 93rd Mechanized Brigades wrap up their operations around Kharkiv, they’ve shifted south to join the fight around Izium.

If Ukrainian troops west and south of Izium can draw out the Russian battalions, the 93rd in particular is in a position to cut across the Russians’ supply lines and isolate the front-line troops.

That the Ukrainians now are within artillery range of Izium is a strong indicator that the salient indeed represents a greater danger to the Russians than it does to the Ukrainians.

Russia already has lost as much as a third of its army in Ukraine; a defeat in Izium could add to that loss—a lot.

The Kremlin seems to appreciate the danger. There are hints the Izium salient no longer is the focus on Russia’s efforts in Donbas—and that Russian troops are repositioning south to join the fight around Lyman, a settlement that sits astride some important roads and railways and currently is under Ukrainian control.

Russian units including the T-72-equipped 90th Guards Tank Division in the past week have been advancing north and south of Lyman, clearly aiming to surround the town’s Ukrainian defenders, potentially including elements of the 57th Motorized Brigade.

The Russians are trying to do around Lyman what the Ukrainians are threatening to do farther north around Izium—get behind an enemy force and cut it off.

But don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. In late February, Moscow’s war aims were maximalist. It intended to capture Kyiv, decapitate the Ukrainian government and seize both Donbas and the entire Ukrainian Black Sea coast, cutting off the country from the sea.

Three months later, Moscow’s aims are minimalist. Kyiv is safe, Ukraine’s main port Odesa is safe and the only place Russia stands any chance of “winning” anything is in Donbas. And only parts of Donbas.

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Jean-Pierre: First Black Woman & LGBTQ Person Appointed White House Press Secretary

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The White House announced Thursday that Karine Jean-Pierre will replace Jen Psaki as White House press secretary in the coming week.

Jean-Pierre, the current Principal Deputy Press Secretary, will become the first openly gay person and first Black woman to hold the role of White House press secretary. The White House said that Jean-Pierre would assume the position on May 13.

“Karine not only brings the experience, talent and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris Administration on behalf of the American people,” President Biden said in a statement. “Jill and I have known and respected Karine a long time and she will be a strong voice speaking for me and this Administration.”

“Jen Psaki has set the standard for returning decency, respect and decorum to the White House Briefing Room,” he said. “I want to say thank you to Jen for raising the bar, communicating directly and truthfully to the American people, and keeping her sense of humor while doing so.”

Psaki, who has held the role of press secretary since the start of the Biden administration, is expected to leave for a job at MSNBC.

Psaki described Jean-Pierre as a “remarkable woman” and noted her experience in New York City politics and government as well as her work as an adviser to Biden when he served as vice president during the Obama administration. Psaki also noted the historic nature of Jean-Pierre’s ascension to the role.

“Representation matters and she will give a voice to many, but also make many dream big about what is truly possible,” Psaki tweeted.

Thursday’s announcement ends months of speculation about who would replace Psaki when she decides to depart the administration. Jean-Pierre has always been viewed as the leading contender for the role, but other names have been floated as possibilities, including White House communications director Kate Bedingfield.

Psaki had initially planned to leave her role after about a year. Reports emerged last month that she was in discussions for a role at MSNBC. Psaki has not confirmed those discussions, and Thursday’s announcement said nothing about her future plans.

Jean-Pierre has a lengthy résumé of political and government jobs, including serving on Biden’s campaign and before that as chief public affairs officer for MoveOn.org. She has worked in the White House under former President Obama and on Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

Having served as Psaki’s deputy for more than a year, Jean-Pierre has gaggled and briefed reporters from the podium several times.

Jean-Pierre made history about a year ago when she delivered her first briefing, becoming the first openly LGBTQ person to brief from the podium.

 

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Ukraine War: Watch As Putin’s Chief Of Staff, Gerasimov Got Wounded,30 Others Killed(Video)

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Vladimir Putin’s top military commander has been flown out of the war zone with shrapnel wounds after being to sent to Ukraine by the Russian president to secure victory, a former Russian internal affairs minister has claimed.

Valery Gerasimov, the chief of staff of the Russian army, was today wounded in Izium in Ukraine’s Kharviv region, which has been at the centre of intense fighting since Russia’s invasion.

Putin had sent Gerasimov to the region to take personal control of his push to grab territory in eastern Ukraine, after the Russian army abandoned its plans to take Kyiv at the end of March in favour of a concentrated assault on the Donbas region of Donetsk and Luhansk.

An unofficial Russian source reported that Gerasimov sustained ‘a shrapnel wound in the upper third of the right leg without a bone fracture.

‘The shard was removed – there is no danger to life,’ he said.

But Gerasimov’s injury was severe enough to have him flown away from the frontlines and back to Russia to undergo further treatment, marking another embarrassing defeat for Putin’s forces.

The chief of staff’s injury came just one day after Russian Major General Andrei Simonov, 55, was killed in Kharkiv, according to an adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

He is Russia’s ninth general to have been killed since the start of the invasion.

Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said the precision strike on Izium was ‘the very place where…Gerasimov, who personally came to lead the attack on Slavyansk, was located’.

 

A ‘large number’ of senior officers were killed in the attack which wounded Gerasimov, Gerashchenko said.

Pro-Ukrainian Telegram channel Vertikal also alleged Gerasimov had been ‘wounded near Izium’, citing unspecified sources.

‘Our source reports that his legs and hips are damaged,’ Vertikal said.

It suggested that three of Gerasimov’s entourage had been killed before he was evacuated.

Russia is believed to have sustained heavy casualties in the eastern Donbas region and around cities Kharkiv and Izium, as Ukraine’s armed forces continue their bitter defence of the Donetsk and Luhansk territories which have been partially occupied by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.

Russia’s military leaders are pouring troops and equipment into the east of Ukraine in an attempt to force a bloody victory after they abandoned plans to blitz through Ukraine’s north and seize Kyiv earlier in the war.

Britain’s ministry of defence yesterday said Putin’s troops in the east are still struggling to make ground despite the renewed support, citing poor tactics and the deployment of low-skilled troops as reasons for the slow progress.

‘Shortcomings in Russian tactical coordination remain. A lack of unit-level skills and inconsistent air support have left Russia unable to fully leverage its combat mass, despite localised improvements,’ the MoD tweeted.

‘Russia hopes to rectify issues that have previously constrained its invasion by geographically concentrating combat power, shortening supply lines and simplifying command and control,’ it said.

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