Ukraine hasn’t ceased fighting for Bakhmut despite warnings from the U.S. and hasn’t allowed the enemy to encircle the city. Meanwhile, as Joe Biden prepares to announce his entry into the presidential race, a new Democratic rival for him emerges: Robert Kennedy Jr.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that member states agreed in principle that Ukraine should join the bloc after the war is over, while Abrams battle tanks for training Ukrainian soldiers are expected to come to Germany from the United States soon, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier compared the war in Ukraine to atrocities committed by the Nazis.
offers a digest of Western mass media at the end of the April 17–21, 2023, business week.
Battle for Bakhmut: why Ukrainians haven’t let the city go despite warnings from the U.S.
Despite warnings from Washington that Ukraine would not be able to hold Bakhmut, Ukrainian forces still cling to the city’s western edge, The Washington Post reports.
According to classified U.S. intelligence documents leaked by Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, Washington warned of the potential encirclement of Ukraine’s forces in Bakhmut as early as January and suggested Kyiv should let the city go.
Ukraine insisted that holding Bakhmut was needed to maintain national morale and deny Russia boasting rights over any territorial gain. Later, Kyiv said prolonging the fight in Bakhmut has sapped Russia’s strength by killing many soldiers, especially from the Wagner mercenary group.
The leaked document also suggested worsening Russian morale and encouraging desertions with a "physiological operation campaign" highlighting the "expendability" of Moscow’s troops.
The Ukrainian commander overseeing the fight for Bakhmut, Col. Pavlo Palisa, said he was never formally briefed on this U.S. intelligence or the recommendations.
Palisa credited his ability to hold parts of the city to a combination of classic urban warfare and advanced drone reconnaissance, including layers of signal jamming.
When Palisa arrived at his post in mid-January, the assessments he heard from the officers around him echoed Washington’s pessimism:
"Those guys said ‘I don’t know, maybe two or three weeks.’ But months later and we’re still here, trying to do our best to hold the city."
Yan Melnikav, the commander of the Belarusian volunteer battalion Volat that has been defending Bakhmut’s edge since November, said Ukraine was able to extend the fight because its commanders on the ground were more autonomous than the Russians.
When listening to intercepted communications, he often heard Russian commanders request permission from higher-ups to make small operational adjustments, which slowed their movements.
"We can cooperate directly with different units and when we are in a bad situation we can call on different units to help us out," he said.
Joe Biden will run for U.S. president
U.S. President Joe Biden is likely to announce his entry in the 2024 presidential race as early as Tuesday, according to four people with knowledge of the plans, The New York Times reports.
At 80, Mr. Biden is already the oldest president in American history and, by the end of a potential second term, he would be 86.
The political durability of the Republican front-runner, former President Donald Trump, has added to Mr. Biden’s ability to keep a coalition of Democrats together, including progressives who have at times taken issue with some White House policies.
Biden has already summoned donors to Washington next week, inviting those who have given at least $1 million to a two-day gathering starting on Friday.
Cash considerations have been at the center of the Biden team’s thinking for when to enter the race. Announcing will allow him to begin banking contributions from big and small donors, but opening a campaign will incur significant expenses that might otherwise be deferred.
Anti-vaxxer Kennedy: Who is Biden’s rival?
On Wednesday, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., 69, a nephew of the 35th president of the United States John F. Kennedy, announced his presidential campaign, The New York Times reports.
Kennedy Jr., a California resident, traveled to Boston to declare that he would challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination.
In a speech lasting nearly two hours, Mr. Kennedy evoked the 1968 campaign and the death of his father, Senator from New York Robert F. Kennedy, and spoke in detail about his career as an environmental lawyer decades ago. He also aimed criticisms at the pharmaceutical industry, big social media companies that he accused of censorship, Joe Biden’s commitment to the war in Ukraine, and former President Donald Trump’s "lockdown" of the country early in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite being a Democrat, Kennedy Jr. harbors anti-vaccine beliefs and has earlier claimed that childhood vaccines were linked to autism.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, he sought to undermine public trust in vaccines, comparing government efforts to impose mandates in some places to "Hitler’s Germany." Both Facebook and Instagram took down accounts of a group he runs for spreading medical misinformation.
An exclusive USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll has showed that 14% of voters who backed President Joe Biden in 2020 support Kennedy Jr.
In the survey taken Saturday through Tuesday, only 67% of Biden's 2020 supporters said they would support him for the Democratic nomination. Kennedy stands second with 14%, and self-help author Marianne Williamson is at 5%. Another 13% are undecided.
Stoltenberg: Ukraine will join NATO
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Ramstein, Germany, on Friday that member states agreed in principle that Ukraine should join the bloc, DW reports.
Stoltenberg had just returned from a trip to Kyiv where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for his country's accession to be fast-tracked.
The NATO head said the priority for the moment was that Ukraine prevails against Russia and ensure that Kyiv also had the "deterrence to prevent new attacks" thereafter.
Germany's Defense Minister Boris Pistorius had already said that Ukraine was unlikely to join NATO while the conflict with Russia is ongoing. According to Pistorius, Ukraine's NATO accession wasn’t on the agenda for Friday's talks.
Stoltenberg also said that Zelenskyy had accepted his invitation to NATO's summit in Vilnius this July during his visit to Kyiv.
Abrams tanks are heading for Germany: When will they arrive in Ukraine?
According to two U.S. Defense Department officials, American-made M1 Abrams tanks that Ukrainians will use for training will arrive in Germany in the next few weeks, Politico reports.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to announce the move at a Friday press conference after the 11th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.
The 31 M1A1 Abrams tanks will arrive at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany by mid-to-late May 2023, according to the officials. The training will begin a week or two later, after the tanks go through a maintenance period.
However, Ukraine will receive different tanks, which are still being refurbished, for use on the battlefield.
Some 250 Ukrainians are expected to go through the training program, which is expected to take up to 10 weeks.
The U.S. is accelerating the delivery of the Abrams by opting to send older M1A1 versions, rather than the newer M1A2 type, which was originally discussed. The Pentagon anticipates the tanks will arrive on the battlefield by the end of the year.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has drawn parallels between the brutal Nazi crackdown of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 and Russian President Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, the BBC reports.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising — one of World War Two's most remarkable acts of defiance — began exactly 80 years ago as a response to Nazi efforts to send the remaining Jewish population in the Polish capital to death camps.
Hundreds of young, poorly equipped Jewish fighters withheld the onslaught of German troops for three weeks. Almost all of the around 60,000 jews who had been in the ghetto at the beginning of the uprising were killed or sent to death camps.
On Wednesday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier together with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Israeli President Isaac Herzog laid wreaths at the monument to the ghetto heroes in Warsaw.
Speaking at the commemorative ceremony, the German president said that President Putin's war "brings immeasurable suffering, violence, destruction and death to the people of Ukraine".
"You in Poland, you in Israel, you know from your history that freedom and independence must be fought for and defended. You know how important it is for a democracy to defend itself. But we Germans, too, have learned the lessons of our history. Never again, which means that there must be no criminal war of aggression like Russia's against Ukraine in Europe."
Steinmeier stressed this meant Germany and other Western nations would "stand firmly on the side of Ukraine".