Xi, Putin to Discuss Blueprint for Ending War

(Bloomberg) — China announced that Xi Jinping will travel to Russia on a three-day state visit starting on Monday, his first trip there since Kremlin forces invaded Ukraine and a strong show of support for President Vladimir Putin.

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Xi and Putin are expected to discuss Beijing’s 12-point blueprint for ending the war, a document dismissed by most Western governments. The Kremlin confirmed the visit, saying it was at Putin’s invitation.

Turkey is poised later on Friday to approve Finland’s bid to join NATO, a step towards further transforming Europe’s security landscape. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto in Ankara to green-light the Nordic country’s application, leaving Hungary as the final hold out.

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Key Developments

  • Xi to Visit Russia for the First Time Since Putin Invaded Ukraine

  • US Says Video of Drone Encounter Shows Russia ‘Flat-Out Lying’

  • Russia Doesn’t Budget on Rates as Price Letup Sidelines War Risks

  • Turkey Set to Allow Finnish NATO Entry as Erdogan Meets Niinisto

  • Ukraine Crop Deal Renewal Still Unresolved a Day Before It Ends

(All times CET)

Scholz Says Ukraine Needs ‘Security Guarantees’ (11:30 am)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Ukraine will need “security guarantees” after the war is over, even as he warned the government in Kyiv and its allies that they should be prepared for a “prolonged” conflict.

“The discussion about the form of such guarantees has been going on for months,” Scholz was quoted as saying Friday by the Handelsblatt newspaper. “But for that, there must first be an end to hostilities and a withdrawal of Russian troops,” the German leader said, adding that “all other questions follow on from that.”

Germany Mulls Training of Ukrainian Pilots (11:20 am)

Germany is looking into training Ukrainian fighter-jet pilots and could quickly pave the way for Poland to re-export MIG-29 fighters to Ukraine if they are from stocks from the former East Germany, according to a lawmaker from the ruling coalition.

“Germany should participate in efforts to train Ukrainian pilots, for example with lessons in flight simulators,” said Marcus Faber, a lawmaker from the Free Democrats. Germany is unlikely to send any of its Tornado fighters to Ukraine as they are relatively difficult to maintain and spare parts are also lacking, Faber added.

Russia to Give Medals to Drone Incident Crew (10:30 am)

The pilots of the Su-27 fighters involved in the crash of a US drone over the Black Sea this week will receive medals, according to the Defense Ministry in Moscow.

Sergei Shoigu, the minister of defense, formally nominated them for what his ministry called “preventing the violation” of the expanded airspace that Russia has claimed during its invasion of Ukraine. The US accused the pilots of “dangerous, reckless, and unprofessional behavior in international airspace.”

Latvia Bans 35 Russians Over War Support (10:40 am)

Latvia’s Foreign Ministry placed 35 Russian citizens on a blacklist for supporting “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.”

The people on the list “will be prohibited from entering Latvia for an indefinite period of time,” the ministry said in a statement. “Support for atrocities perpetrated by the Kremlin regime means complicity with the crimes committed,” it added.

Slovakia Sending 13 Soviet-Era Jets (10:15 am)

Slovakia will send its entire fleet of Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine to boost its defense against Russian forces.

The eastern NATO member state will send all 13 of its MiG-29 jets – grounded since last August and in various states of readiness – at an unspecified date, Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad told reporters in Bratislava. The announcement comes a day after Poland said it will send four Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming days. Both nations are responding to pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has persistently demanded warplanes as essential to driving back the Russian invasion.

Battle for Bakhmut Continues (10 am)

Russian forces supported by Wagner Group operatives have established footholds in the center of Bakhmut while Ukrainian troops continue to hold out in the west of the city, according to the latest UK Defense Intelligence update.

“More broadly across the front line, Russia is conducting some of the lowest rates of local offensive action that has been seen since at least January 2023,” the UK Ministry of Defense said in a series of tweets. “This is most likely because Russian forces have temporarily depleted the deployed formations’ combat power to such an extent that even local offensive actions are not currently sustainable.”

Zelenskiy Vows War Crimes Will Be Prosecuted (9 am)

Zelenskiy vowed that Russians who have committed war crimes in Ukraine will be held to account and said legal work is already underway to “bring justice closer” and “punish this aggressor in the same way as the aggressors of the past were punished.”

“The day will come when all the perpetrators of war crimes against Ukrainians will be brought to justice in the halls of the International Criminal Court and national courts,” Zelenskiy said in his evening address.

He said he spoke with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and met with Latvian Premier Krisjanis Karins in Kyiv Thursday and thanked them for their support for Ukraine’s defense.

US Says Video Shows Russia Lied (1:20 am)

The Biden administration released dramatic footage of an encounter between Russian fighter jets and an American surveillance drone as the US sought to show that Russia was lying with claims that its warplane never hit the pilotless craft.

The 42-second video, filmed from the bottom of the MQ-9 Reaper, shows a jet approach in a clear blue sky, release a plume of fuel then swerve away. The video then cuts to what the US says is a second Russian plane approaching the drone. It releases its fuel, nears the drone, and then the video breaks up. When the video returns, it shows the drone flying with a bent propeller. The decision to declassify and release the footage was meant to refute Russia’s claim that its jets never made contact with the drone, which the US said was in international airspace at the time of the encounter.

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