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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Gains Ground, Reclaiming 50% of Lost Territory

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Ukraine has recaptured 50% of the territory that Russia initially seized in its invasion. However, he warns Kyiv faces “a tough fight” to win back more.

Blinken spoke at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on Sunday. He said that Ukraine had regained some villages in the south and territory around the ruined city of Bakhmut in the east. However, it had yet to make a significant breakthrough against heavily defended Russian lines. He also warned that the battle for the rest of Ukraine would not play out over the next week or two and may take several months to unfold.

He urged the international community to maintain sanctions against Russia and ensure that any peacekeepers it sends to help oversee Ukraine’s border security are not compromised. He also called for fully implementing an international ceasefire agreement brokered last year.

Ukraine’s culture minister has resigned following President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call to prioritize defense in the state budget. The ministry says Oleksandr Tkachenko had submitted his resignation before the president’s nightly video address on Saturday. “Paving stones, city decorations, and fountains can wait till after the victory,” he said, adding that the ministry will focus on restoring military facilities.

A senior Ukrainian official says Russia has shelled a cultural center in the Donetsk region with cluster munitions. The defense ministry said the center in Chasiv Yar was used as a humanitarian headquarters. Four children were among the wounded, Ukrainian officials said.

Ukraine accuses Russia of trying to undermine a deal it reached to allow grain export from the country’s ports. Russia says it will no longer accept cargo from Ukrainian ships undergoing security inspection. Analysts say this could jeopardize food supplies in many places around the world.

Russia’s FSB state security service has remanded prominent nationalist Igor Girkin in custody on charges of inciting extremism. The move suggests authorities are growing tired of his criticism of Putin and army top brass over the war in Ukraine. Girkin is the leader of a breakaway unit of the Wagner mercenary group.

The Russian presidential envoy for Africa, Mikhail Kuleba, is visiting Equatorial Guinea on Sunday. He will discuss expanding bilateral economic and trade relations in a meeting with government officials. According to the foreign ministry, he will also discuss issues such as climate change and food security in Africa.

The United States is set to announce a package of $1.3 billion in long-term air defense and munitions aid for Ukraine. The package will include a new batch of F-16 fighter jets, which Ukraine wants to upgrade from its existing Soviet-era models. The United States has given Ukraine more than $41 billion in military aid since Russia’s invasion.

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