Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy urges NATO security guarantees

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for quick accession to the defense alliance

Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy urges NATO security guarantees
Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy urges NATO security guarantees


President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine needs effective security guarantees ahead of a NATO summit in Lithuania in July.

In his nightly address on Saturday, the Ukrainian leader also restated Kyiv's desire to join the military alliance as soon as possible.

"Effective security guarantees for Ukraine (...) are needed even before we join the Alliance," Zelenskyy added without further details.

Ukraine has sought to join the military alliance for years, but in February, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said, "Ukraine will become a member of our alliance, but at the same time that is a long term perspective."

Zelenskyy wants accelerated accession to the alliance.

However, a prerequisite for joining NATO is that the candidate country must not be involved in international conflicts and border disputes.

This presents a challenge for Ukraine as it continues to face Russian aggression.

Russian justified its invasion of Ukraine last year, in part, over concerns over Ukraine's eventual membership in NATO.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Sunday, April 16

Germany receives hundreds of war crime reports

Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has received 337 tipoffs about possible war crimes in Ukraine, Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported Sunday.

Citing government figures from February 2022 until mid-April, the newspaper said investigators had interviewed around 90 eyewitnesses about alleged atrocities committed by Russian soldiers during the Ukraine war.

Two-thirds of those questioned after refugees from Ukraine who have since fled to Germany. Other sources were from German nationals in Ukraine.

The information was provided by the German Interior Ministry in response to a parliamentary question by center-right lawmaker Günter Krings.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of targeting apartment buildings and other civilian structures and equipment in its air strikes.

Prosecutors in Kyiv say Russian forces killed some 1,400 civilians around Bucha, a town near the Ukrainian capital, where the bodies were discovered last year after the withdrawal of Russian troops.

This week, a video showing the beheading of a Ukrainian prisoner of war by Russian fighters caused horror around the world.

Ukrainian prosecutor general Andriy Kostin said investigators are probing some 77,000 cases of alleged Russian war crimes in the country.

Wagner chief hints at possible end to conflict

The head of Russia's mercenary Wagner group has said an end to the war in Ukraine would be an "ideal result."

Yevgeny Prigozhin made the remark in a blog post published Friday that has only now come to light.

"The ideal option would be to announce the end of the special military operation and declare that Russia has achieved all of its planned goals — and, in some respects, we really have achieved them," Prigozhin wrote in comments that were picked up by Ukrainian media.

The text by the 61-year-old also said, "For state power and for society today, it is necessary to put a thick full stop behind the special military operation," referring to Russia's labeling of its invasion of and ongoing war in Ukraine.

"For Russia, there is always a risk that the situation on the front can deteriorate after the start of the counteroffensive," Prigozhin said, adding that the only option at the moment is to "dig in."

This would fall short of the Kremlin's current aims, which include the complete conquest of the four Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson.

But he spoke out against any negotiations that would mean the ceding of Russian-occupied territories back to Ukraine.

Wagner troops are currently fighting mainly for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in a monthslong war of attrition that has killed more than 62,000 soldiers on both sides.

The mercenary group now claims control of most of the city, though Ukraine has repeatedly disputed claims its forces have almost been pushed out.

Prisoner exchange sees soldiers return home for Easter

In what a Ukrainian presidential official on Sunday called a "great Easter exchange," 130 Ukrainian soldiers and an unknown number of Russian troops were released and returned home.

"We are bringing back 130 of our people. It (the exchange) has been taking place in several stages over the past few days," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's chief of staff Andriy Yermak said on the Telegram messaging app.

Wagner group Yevgeny Prigozhin was shown in a video posted to Telegram, saying: "Prepare all of them, feed and water them, check the wounded."

A group of Ukrainian prisoners was then shown being told that they would be passed back to Ukrainian forces to mark Orthodox Easter.

Kyiv and Moscow have held regular prisoner exchanges since Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia's war, China headline G7 talks

Russia's war on Ukraine and China's growing pressure on Taiwan top the Group of Seven (G7) foreign minister's meeting agenda in Japan.

Their discussions in the Japanese resort town of Karuizawa come ahead of a leaders summit in Hiroshima in May.

"Japan's basic position... on Ukraine is that the security of Europe and that of the Indo-Pacific cannot be discussed separately," a Japanese government official said ahead of the talks.

The G7's top diplomats were likely to demand Russia's immediate withdrawal again and pledge continued support for Kyiv.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has said ministers will continue to resolutely oppose Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

"Now it is a matter of showing [Russian President Vladimir] Putin our determination that he will not achieve his goals even through attrition and fatigue," Baerbock said in Seoul on Sunday before leaving for Japan for the meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Karuizawa near Nagano.

"As the G7, we are strong together because we know exactly what we stand for: For an international order in which the rule of law and international law takes precedence over the law of the strongest," Baerbock added.

Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko already got that assurance from G7 finance ministers he spoke to at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Washington this week.

It's unlikely the meeting in Japan will produce substantive new measures, though promises to support war-crimes prosecution, as well as fresh expressions of concern on nuclear saber-rattling by Russia, are probable.

Putin attends midnight Orthodox Easter service

Russian President Vladimir Putin attended Easter services led by Russian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill, a supporter of Russia's military war in Ukraine.

In a video message broadcast on state television before the start of the service, Kirill lamented the "grave events taking place on our Russian historical land."

Putin has, in the past, made it clear that he believes Ukraine has no historical claim to independence.

Kirill called for prayers "so that peace and a common good life, fraternal relations again unite our peoples, who were once the one people of united Russia."

Zelenskyy and Macron discuss China and peace summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Saturday about his recent trip to China.

Macron's visit was dominated by discussions on the war in Ukraine, with Beijing being a close partner of Moscow.

"I am thankful for the clear support of those principles that unite our entire anti-war coalition," Zelenskyy said.

He said the discussion lasted for almost an hour and a half.

The two leaders also "discussed the next steps in the organization of a peace summit," Macron's office said in a statement.

Zelenskyy proposed a global summit to chart a path to peace in Ukraine, however, there was no detail about what was planned.

More from DW

Ireland has provided non-lethal assistance to Ukraine. DW correspondent Rosie Birchard wrote about how that has sparked a debate over Irish military neutrality.

Former British military intelligence officer Frank Ledwidge tells DW why Russia repeatedly targets civilian sites. Watch the interview here:

DW editor Vladimir Esipov examined the impact of sanctions on German and Russian cultural centers.

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