In the U.S. Senate, the Biden administration was chastised for the slow pace at which Abrams tanks were supplied to Ukraine, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia’s F.S.B. and Iranian intelligence services, and Xi Jinping’s call with Volodimir Zelenskyy was said to be damage control after controversial comments by China’s ambassador to France.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis arrived in Hungary, where he called on Europe for "creative efforts for peace" in Ukraine, and Western-made technologies were found in Iranian Shahed-136 drones that attack Ukraine.
offers a digest of Western mass media at the end of the April 24–28, 2023, business week.
Biden was chastised for being too slow at delivering Abrams tanks to Ukraine
On Thursday, President Joe Biden and his senior military advisers were rebuked in the U.S. Senate for the allegedly glacial pace at which Abrams tanks are supplied to Ukraine, according to The Washington Post.
Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Angus King (I-Maine) directed their frustration at General Christopher Cavoli, who, as the head of the U.S. European Command, oversees much of the Pentagon’s effort to train and equip Ukraine’s army.
King told the general that he was worried that Ukraine would not have enough firepower to counter Russian troops this summer and that the American tanks should be staged in Poland now so Ukrainian forces can use them as soon as they complete a training course expected to begin in May in Germany.
"This counteroffensive that everybody is talking about, it’s the longest windup for a punch in the history of the world," King said. "It’s going to be trench warfare, and it’s going to involve tanks."
He believes that if the Abrams don’t arrive on the battlefield until August or September, as the Pentagon has said, it may well be too late.
Cavoli told the committee that he has not yet transmitted a schedule to have the tanks delivered from the United States to Europe, as neither the "exact sourcing" for them nor a precise timeline has been determined.
However, Cotton supposed that the administration could supply the tanks more quickly if Biden had the political will to do so.
"I think it’s reflective of the political decision to drag our feet in what we’re supplying to Ukraine. It’s just a repeated story that we’re seeing over and over again throughout the course of this war."
The Pentagon denied that the tank deliveries are slow. Allies have combined to provide Ukraine with significant combat capability already, said Brigade General Patrick Ryder, a spokesman, citing the delivery of more than 230 tanks, more than 1,150 armored vehicles, and munitions to support the creation of nine new armored brigades of soldiers.
The United States sanctioned the F.S.B.: What was it for?
According to The New York Times, the Biden administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on the F.S.B., Russia’s intelligence agency, for its role in detaining Americans like Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter who has been accused of espionage.
The administration also announced sanctions on Iran’s intelligence services and four senior Iranian officials, who the administration says have participated in a pattern of holding Americans and other nationals hostage.
The actions are the first attempt by the U.S. government to formally punish foreign governments for taking Americans by seeking to cut off access to the international financial system. In a statement on Thursday afternoon, President Biden urged both countries to let their hostages go.
But administration officials acknowledged that the sanctions were designed primarily as a way to send a message of disapproval to Russia and Iran. They hinted that the sanctions could become a bargaining chip in future negotiations over the release of Mr. Gershkovich or other detained Americans.
"The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish but to bring about a positive change in behavior," the U.S. Treasury announcement says.
In addition to Gershkovich, Russia is still holding other Americans, including Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who has been held in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges, and Marc Fogel, an American who was sentenced to 14 years in a penal colony for possessing a small amount of medical marijuana.
Xi’s call with Zelenskyy: Was it to mitigate the conflict caused by the ambassador?
A long-awaited phone call between Xi Jinping and Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been cautiously welcomed, but China analysts say the timing suggests it could be partly an act of damage control after controversial comments by China’s ambassador to France, The Guardian reports.
Ambassador Lu Shaye caused outrage across Europe this week when he denied the sovereignty of former Soviet states, saying they "did not have effective status". The comments were roundly condemned, with several European nations summoning Chinese envoys for rebuke, and politicians suggesting it demonstrated China’s untrustworthiness as a neutral party in the Ukraine war.
Chinese officials quickly said that Lu was expressing a personal opinion only that wasn’t Beijing’s official stance.
Yurii Poita, an expert on Ukraine-China relations at the Kyiv-based Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies, said he could not rule out that the call was an urgent attempt to "cheaply create an appearance of constructiveness".
However, it was also possible that Xi had decided to call because Ukraine is preparing a counteroffensive, and after it, negotiations with Russia may begin, he said.
"Therefore, China is now trying to create an opportunity for negotiations to take place with its participation, which, in its opinion, will allow it to influence their results."
"Senseless war hysteria": How Pope Francis in Hungary called for peace in Ukraine
On Friday, Pope Francis started his visit to Hungary, Reuters reports.
In a speech to government leaders including Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Francis warned of the dangers of rising nationalism in Europe and urged a rejection of "self-referential forms of populism" and strictly nationalist interests.
Francis called for a return to the "European soul" envisioned by those who laid the groundwork for modern Europe after World War Two, saying nations had to "look beyond national boundaries".
Speaking on the day that Russia hit Ukraine with the first large-scale air strikes in nearly two months, Francis made another appeal for an end to the war there, calling for "creative efforts for peace" to drown out the "soloists of war".
Orban has said Hungary and the Vatican are the only two European states that can be described as "pro-peace".
According to the BBC, Magyar Nemzet, the flagship daily of the governing Fidesz party, wrote on Thursday:
"From Rome, Pope Francis sees precisely this unfair struggle and senseless war hysteria."
German-made motors in Shahed-136 drones andCzech-made parts in Iranian missiles
New research has revealed how Iran uses Western technology to help Russia attack Ukrainian cities, CNN reports.
Conflict Armament Research (CAR), a U.K.-based organization which investigates weapons’ components, has established that the Shahed-136 drones sold to Russia by Iran are powered by an engine based on German technology illicitly acquired by Iran almost 20 years ago.
Between November last year and March 2023, CAR was able to examine components in 20 Iranian-made drones and munitions in Ukraine. It was able to confirm that the motor in the Shahed-136 was reverse-engineered by an Iranian company called Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar known as Mado based on engines made by the German company Limbach Flugmotoren and illicitly acquired by Iran in 2006.
Among other Western components acquired and copied by Iran are Czech-made missile parts. A UN experts’ report in 2020 said that the engine in Iran’s Quds-1 missiles was an unlicensed copy of the TJ-100 jet engine manufactured by PBS Velká Bíteš in the Czech Republic.
Taimur Khan, a CAR analyst, believes that "given the fact that Russia is capturing sophisticated Western weapons on the battlefield – such as the Javelin anti-tank missile – and that there is increasing military cooperation between the two countries, and Iran has proven capabilities in this regard, I think it’s likely that they will collaborate on copying these types of systems."