Sat, 01 Apr 2023

Dozens of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war have returned home following a prisoner swap, officials on both sides said on Saturday. Kyiv said 116 Ukrainians were freed, whereas Moscow announced 63 Russian troops had returned from Ukraine. On Friday, European Union member states, the Group of Seven industrialised countries and Australia said that they adopted a price cap on Russian oil, the latest part of an international push to limit Russian President Vladimir Putin's war chest by targeting his key exports. Follow our live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

12:05pm: Portugal to send German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine, PM says

Portugal will send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Saturday, without specifying how many will be shipped. Costa added that Portugal is in talks with Germany to obtain parts needed for the repair of a number of inoperable Leopard tanks in Portugal's inventory of the weapon.

"We are currently working to be able to dispense some of our tanks," Costa told Lusa news agency during a trip to the Central African Republic. "I know how many tanks will be (sent to Ukraine) but that will be announced at the appropriate time."

Admiral Antonio Silva Ribeiro, the head of the Portuguese armed forces, said last month Portugal had 37 Leopard 2 tanks but it has been widely reported by local media that most are inoperable.

11:23am: Russia, Ukraine confirm dozens of soldiers freed in prisoner swap

Dozens of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war have returned home following a prisoner swap, officials on both sides said Saturday.

Top Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak said in a Telegram post that 116 Ukrainians were freed. He said the released POWs include troops who held out in Mariupol during Moscow's month-long siege that reduced the southern port city to ruins, as well as guerrilla fighters from the Kherson region and snipers captured during the ongoing fierce battles for the eastern city of Bakhmut.

Russian defence officials, meanwhile, announced that 63 Russian troops had returned from Ukraine following the swap, including some "special category" prisoners whose release was secured following mediation by the United Arab Emirates.

A statement issued Saturday by the Russian Defence Ministry did not provide details about these "special category" captives.

9:36am: EU pledges more support for Ukraine, as Zelensky pushes for fast-track membership

The European Union offered strong support for Ukraine at a summit in Kyiv as air raid sirens wailed on Friday, but set "no rigid time lines" for its accession to the wealthy bloc.

President Volodymyr Zelensky had hoped the EU would put Ukraine on a rapid road to membership. He used the summit to step up calls for allies to deliver long-range weapons to help repel Russian forces besieging the city of Bakhmut and occupying much of the eastern Donbas industrial region.

Speaking in a video address after the summit, Zelenskiy said, "we have an understanding that it will be possible for Ukraine to start EU accession negotiations this year". But at the summit itself there was no promise of fast-track membership and the EU's next package of sanctions on Russia, its 10th, is expected to fall short of Kyiv's expectations.

Kyiv applied to become an EU member shortly after the invasion began and wants to start formal accession talks as soon as possible, as FRANCE 24's Gulliver Cragg reports from Kyiv:

4:24am: US allows seized Russian money to go to Ukraine aid

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that he had authorised the United States to begin using seized Russian money to aid Ukraine, according to US media.

The announcement came during a meeting between Garland and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin in Washington, nearly one year after Moscow's invasion of its former Soviet neighbour. "Today, I am announcing that I have authorised the first-ever transfer of forfeited Russian assets for use in Ukraine," Garland said, according to CNN.

The money will come from assets confiscated from Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev after his indictment on sanctions evasions in April, he added. The money will go to the State Department "to support the people of Ukraine," CNN reported Garland as saying.

Kostin welcomed the move, which he said would see $5.4 million of confiscated assets go toward "rebuilding Ukraine."

10:49pm: EU, G7, Australia reach deal on price caps for Russian fuel

European Union member states, the Group of Seven industrialised countries and Australia said Friday that they have reached an agreement on price caps for Russian petroleum products, an attempt to target Russian President Vladimir Putin's key exports and limit his assault on Ukraine.

The caps involve two price levels, $100 per barrel for more expensive fuel like diesel and $45 on lower-quality products such as fuel oil, according to officials. The price caps on those transported products work by establishing a ceiling for the cost of fuel that can be transported on ships.

The EU in December imposed an embargo on Russian crude oil coming in by sea and -- together with its G7 partners -- set a $60-dollar-per-barrel cap for exports around the world. The second embargo, on Russian fuel, is set to come into force on Sunday or soon after. It targets Russian refined oil products such as petrol, diesel and heating fuel, arriving on ships.

At the same time, the EU and the G7 group of wealthy democracies have also agreed to impose a price cap on Russian shipments of those products to global markets.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

Originally published on France24

More Austria News

Access More

Sign up for Austria News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!