- It’s fashionable to visit Ukraine, and celebrities and world leaders are lining up to show their support in person. U.S. first lady Jill Biden met her Ukrainian counterpart at a school in the western city of Uzhhorod yesterday, and PM Trudeau of Canada and Bono and The Edge of U2 ventured farther into the country with visits to Kyiv: Trudeau reopened the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv, and Bono and The Edge performed a surprise acoustic set in a subway station-turned-bomb shelter.
- Speaking of fashionable support for Ukraine, the Ukrainian Embassy in London auctioned off Pres. Zelensky’s famous dark khaki fleece jacket—autographed, of course—at a charity fundraiser. The winning bidder’s price of £90k ($111k) will go to reequip a children’s hospital in Lviv.
- Meanwhile in Mariupol, the last civilians evacuated the Azovstal steel plant yesterday, and the Azov regiment fighters holed up there say Russian assaults on the plant have escalated since their evacuation.
- During a video news conference, Azov fighters at the plant pledged they would never surrender but called again for a military rescue (although they acknowledged it would take months to plan one).
- Russia marked Victory Day with some flashy military displays and a brazen speech by Pres. Putin in Moscow. Putin told his audience the West is “preparing to invade our land” and “the only correct decision” is to keep fighting. UK Defense Secretary Wallace called Putin’s statements “fairytale claims.”
- Meanwhile, the G7—the U.S., UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan—pledged to phase out or fully ban Russian oil, and the U.S. announced new sanctions on Gazprombank executives as well as a ban on American accounting and consulting companies working with Russian clients.
- The Gazprombank sanctions notably targeted executives at the bank but not the bank’s assets or operations: freezing its assets or banning transactions with the bank could have caused painful disruptions to European gas supplies, while targeting executives is mostly symbolic.
- The EU is still finalizing its phased embargo on Russian oil (not gas), but Hungary remains resistant: Hungary gets 65% of its oil and 85% of its gas from Russia, so PM Orban says even a phased ban would be like “dropping an atomic bomb on Hungary’s economy.”
Syria / Iran
- Syria’s Pres. Assad paid a surprise visit to Iran, where he met with Pres. Raisi and supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Khamenei celebrated Assad’s “victory in an international war” and committed to strengthening bilateral ties, which are already Syria’s strongest with any country: this is Assad’s second meeting with Khamenei since the civil war began in 2011.
- CODECO militants attacked an artisanal gold mine in Ituri, killing at least 35 people—and likely far more. CODECO’s ethnic massacres have killed hundreds of people—and displaced over 1.5 million more—since this latest round of violence started in 2017.
- At least 11 Egyptian soldiers were killed in an armed attack on a water-lifting station in Qantara on the Sinai Peninsula. Islamic State claimed responsibility, while the Egyptian government sought to keep the incident quiet: official statements didn’t even divulge where it happened.