Biden to visit a Javelin missile manufacturing plant; U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledges a new $375 million package of military aid – CNBC

WNBA to display Griner’s initials, jersey number during 2022 season

Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury is seen during the game against the Indiana Fever at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on September 6, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Michael Hickey | Getty Images

The WNBA said it would display Brittney Griner’s initials and jersey during its 2022 season, bringing more awareness to her detainment in Russia.

The basketball star has been held in Russia since March after officials in the country said they discovered vape cartridges in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport. On Tuesday, ESPN reported U.S. officials now consider Griner “wrongfully detained by the Russian government.”

The WNBA said it would feature Griner’s likeness and No. 42 jersey to all 12 WNBA courts to keep the matter at the “forefront” publicly. The WNBA season starts on May 6.

“We continue to work on bringing Brittney home and are appreciative of the support the community has shown BG and her family during this extraordinarily challenging time,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert in a statement.

— Jabari Young

Biden to visit heavily guarded Lockheed Martin facility where Javelin missiles are produced

Infantry Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, fire an FGM-148 Javelin during a combined arms live fire exercise in Jordan on August 27, 2019, in support of Eager Lion.

U.S. Army Sgt. Liane Hatch | U.S. Army

President Joe Biden will visit Troy, Alabama today to tour a Lockheed Martin facility that manufactures weapon such as the Javelin anti-tank missile system.

Lockheed Martin’s Pike County Operations, a heavily guarded 4,000-acre wooded compound in southern Alabama, is where the crown jewels of U.S. missile defense systems are built.

In Troy, the Javelin missile comes to life in a windowless facility with slick floors, high ceilings and neatly organized bins of electronic cables. More than 50,000 classified missiles have been assembled and tested here over the last 20 years, before entering the U.S. military’s colossal arsenal.

The Javelin is a “fire-and-forget” anti-tank weapon system, designed to hit targets nearly three miles away and be launched by one individual firing from the shoulder. Throughout the conflict, Ukrainian forces have used the Javelin system to strike Russian tanks and artillery with deadly efficiency.

Since the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, the Javelin has consistently sat on the top of Ukrainian weapons wishlists. To date, the U.S. and its allies have transferred 5,500 Javelins to the Ukrainian government.

— Amanda Macias

UN says 3,193 killed in Ukraine since start of war, warns death toll is likely higher

Relatives and friends attend the funeral of Ukrainian serviceman Oleh Skybyk, killed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at Lychakiv cemetery in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on April 28, 2022.

Yuriy Dyachyshyn | AFP | Getty Images

The United Nations has confirmed 3,193 civilian deaths and 3,353 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.

Of those killed, the U.N. has identified at least 71 girls and 84 boys, as well as 72 children whose gender is unknown.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, citing delayed reports due to the armed conflict.

The international body said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.

— Amanda Macias

Russia claims Israel is supporting ‘neo-Nazi’ regime in Ukraine

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has claimed that Israel supports what it called the “neo-Nazi regime” in Kyiv, in comments expected to escalate already-heightened tensions between the two countries.

Tensions rose at the weekend after Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed Adolf Hitler was part-Jewish, prompting outrage in Israel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint news conference with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan in Moscow, Russia April 8, 2022.

Alexander Zemlianichenko | Reuters

Lavrov made the comments on Sunday when he was asked on an Italian TV show how Russia can claim that it is fighting to “de-Nazify” Ukraine when President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is himself Jewish.

Lavrov was reported to have responded: “I could be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood. [That Zelensky is Jewish] means absolutely nothing.”

The comments prompted a furious response from Israel, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid calling Lavrov’s comments an “unforgivable and scandalous and a horrible historical error.”

“The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust,” Lapid said. “The lowest level of racism against Jews is to blame Jews themselves for antisemitism.” Israel also summoned the Russian ambassador following the comments.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry responded to Lapid’s comments, claiming that what it called the “anti-historic statements” by Lapid “largely explains the course of the current Israeli Government in supporting the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev.”

Russia has repeatedly claimed that it wants to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, making false claims against the government, despite Zelenskyy’s Jewish origins.

Six million Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany in the Holocaust during World War II.

Holly Ellyatt

Russia claims it has hit center used to deliver Western weapons

Russia’s defense ministry claims its forces have hit a logistics center used to deliver weapons given to Ukraine by the West near to the port city of Odesa.

CNBC was unable to verify the claims.

“High-precision Onyx missiles … have hit a logistics centre at a military airfield through which foreign weapons were being delivered,” the ministry said in a statement on Telegram on Tuesday.

“Hangars containing Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles [drones], as well as missile weapons and ammunition from the U.S. and European countries, were destroyed.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Hopes that evacuees from Mariupol steel plant will reach safety

A Ukrainian official has said there are hopes that civilians evacuated from the blockaded Azovstal steel plant complex in the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol will reach the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia later on Tuesday.

Evacuation centre that recieves people fleeing inside Zaporizhzhia region and Mariupol. Cars and vans arrive with IDPs from several cities and villages most from russian occupied territories. Family with several children.

Andre Luis Alves| Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko reportedly said more than 200 civilians are still in the Azovstal steel plant, the last stronghold of Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol, and that there are around 100,000 civilians in the city.

“The column (of evacuees) is moving towards Zaporizhzhia. The evacuation continues,” Boichenko said on national television, Reuters reported. “We are limiting information and hope that the evacuees from Azovstal will reach Ukraine.”

Holly Ellyatt

Russia’s military now ‘significantly weaker’ because of its invasion of Ukraine

A member of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces stands on a damaged Russian tank on the outskirts of Nova Basan village in Ukraine on April 01, 2022. Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24 coincided with what’s known locally as the “muddy road season,” or “Rasputitsa” in Russian.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russia’s military is now “significantly weaker,” both materially and conceptually, as a result of its invasion of Ukraine, according to the latest intelligence update from the U.K.’s Defence Ministry.

“Russia’s defence budget approximately doubled between 2005 and 2018, with investment in several high-end air, land and sea capabilities,” the ministry said on Twitter on Tuesday.

However, “the modernisation of its physical equipment has not enabled Russia to dominate Ukraine,” the ministry continued, noting that failures both in strategic planning and operational execution “have left it unable to translate numerical strength into decisive advantage.”

Russia’s weakened military will struggle to recover due to international sanctions, and this will have a lasting impact on Russia’s ability to deploy conventional military force, the U.K. said.

Holly Ellyatt

This is Ukraine’s ‘finest hour,’ UK’s Boris Johnson to tell lawmakers

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks, after delivering a video address to the Ukrainian parliament, in Downing Street, London, Britain, May 3, 2022. 

Toby Melville | Reuters

The U.K.’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to announce a new £300 million ($375 million) package of defensive military aid for Ukraine on Tuesday, includes electronic warfare equipment, a counter battery radar system, GPS jamming equipment and thousands of night vision devices. 

Britain is also sending more than a dozen new specialized Toyota Landcruisers to help protect civilian officials in eastern Ukraine and evacuate civilians from frontline areas, following a request from the Ukrainian government.

Johnson will address the Ukrainian parliament via videolink and is expected to evoke the words of Winston Churchill, Britain’s leader during World War II, by telling Ukrainian lawmakers that this is their country’s “finest hour” and that the U.K. is proud “to be among their friends.” 

A 1945 photo of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stepping into his car on Downing Street.

Keystone | Hulton Archive | Getty Images

“When my country faced the threat of invasion during the Second World War, our parliament – like yours – continued to meet throughout the conflict, and the British people showed such unity and resolve that we remember our time of greatest peril as our finest hour,” he will say, according to pre-released comments by the government.

“This is Ukraine’s finest hour, an epic chapter in your national story that will be remembered and recounted for generations to come.”

“Your children and grandchildren will say that Ukrainians taught the world that the brute force of an aggressor counts for nothing against the moral force of a people determined to be free,” Johnson is expected to add.

The address also marks the reopening of the U.K.’s embassy in Kyiv.

Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine troops are pushing Russian forces away from Kharkiv, Pentagon says

A Ukrainian military vehicle drives to the front line during a fight, amid Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, near Izyum, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, April 23, 2022. 

Jorge Silva | Reuters

Ukrainian troops defending Kharkiv have pushed Russians back from the city over the last 24 to 48 hours, the U.S. Department of Defense said late Monday.

A senior U.S. Defense official said at a briefing that Ukraine’s forces have “managed to push the Russians out about 40 kilometers [25 miles] to the east of Kharkiv.” The city is still under aerial bombardment.

Kharkiv has been under sustained attack since late February, and most its civilian residents have fled the city.

The strategically important city is in Ukraine’s northeast, only about 32 kilometers (20 miles) from the Russian border.

Russian troops in eastern Ukraine are making “anemic” progress and continue to be beset by low morale, poor command and control and weak logistics, the official told reporters.

Turning to arms shipments, the Pentagon official said more than 70 of 90 M-777 howitzers that the United States is sending to Ukraine have arrived there. So have about 140,000 rounds for those cannons, which is about half the amount planned for delivery.

— Ted Kemp and Christina Wilkie

Russians troops are moving into parts of eastern Ukraine, declaring victory, and then leaving again, U.S. Defense official says

Tanks of pro-Russian troops drive along a road during Ukraine-Russia conflict in Ukraine April 17, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Russian troops in eastern Ukraine are making “anemic” progress and continue to be beset by low morale, poor command and control and weak logistics, a senior U.S. Defense Department official told reporters.

The Kremlin has made minor gains in the far eastern region of Luhansk and outside the city of Izyum, but overall gains in the region are fleeting, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Instead of holding territory, Russia troops have recently been moving into an area, declaring victory and then leaving the area to Ukrainian troops to resume control, U.S. intelligence indicates.

This creates a fiction for the Russian domestic audience that the military has made significant gains in Ukraine, but does not actually require that Russian troops suppress civilian populations.

Kremlin efforts to control civilian populations elsewhere in Ukraine have resulted in thousands of deaths and scores of likely war crimes committed against the Ukrainian population.

— Christina Wilkie

Russia plans to hold sham referenda in mid-May to annex Donetsk and Luhansk, U.S. intelligence indicates

A militant of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic is seen on a platform, as evacuees board a train before leaving the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine February 22, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

U.S. intelligence indicates that Russia is planning to hold sham referenda in mid-May in a bid annex Donetsk and Luhansk, the two regions of eastern Ukraine currently under Russian occupation, said Michael Carpenter, Washington’s ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“Russia has plans to engineer referenda on joining Russia sometime in mid-May,” he said at a State Department briefing. He added that Moscow “is considering a similar plan for Kherson,” a region in southern Ukraine anchored by a city of the same name.

This would mean dismantling local governments, schools and institutions and then declaring the occupied Kherson region an “independent people’s republic,” before later annexing it.

Russia recently announced plans to force people in Kherson to switch to the ruble as currency. It has also cut off internet and cell phone access across the region, which is home to more than 1 million people.

“Sham referenda and fabricated votes will not be considered legitimate, nor will any attempts to annex additional Ukrainian territory,” said Carpenter. But he acknowledged that the OSCE does not have the power to disrupt Russia’s plans.

— Christina Wilkie

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Biden to visit a Javelin missile manufacturing plant; U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledges a new $375 million package of military aid – CNBC

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