Kyiv’s forces ‘moving forward’ near Bakhmut

Ukrainian grain yields could fall by 20 percent
While most of Ukraine’s winter grain crops are in good condition, grain yields could fall by 20 percent if dry and hot weather persists, the APK-inform consultancy firm quotes agricultural scientists as saying.

Grain output decreased to about 53 million tonnes in 2022 from a record 86 million tonnes in 2021 after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

The government has said that in 2023 the harvest could decline to 44.5 million tonnes.

“In general, weather conditions for most of the spring period were sufficiently favourable for growth and development of winter cereal crops,” Ukraine’s National Academy of Agrarian Sciences said in a report.

“However, in case of continuation of dry weather in the period of grain filling, especially on the background of high air temperatures. … the share of lost yields can be from 15 percent to 20 percent.”Wagner boss says settlement near Bakhmut retaken by Ukraine
Leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, says Ukrainian forces have retaken part of the settlement of Berkhivka, north of Bakhmut.

“Now part of the settlement of Berkhivka has already been lost; the troops are quietly running away. Disgrace!” Prigozhin said in an audio message published by his press service.

He urged Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, to come to the front to rally the troops.

“Come on, you can do it!” he said. “And if you can’t, you’ll die heroes.”

Prigozhin’s private army captured Bakhmut last month after the longest battle of the war and handed its positions there to regular Russian troops.

Earlier in the day, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said Ukrainian troops continued “moving forward” near Bakhmut.Russia’s thwarting claims are ‘impossible to verify’: AJ Correspondent
Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Kyiv, says Russia’s claim that its military thwarted a Ukrainian offensive is “impossible to verify”.

“The Ukrainian authorities and Ukrainian military, in the last few days, have started working on a campaign of silence. They released a video showing heavily armed Ukrainian soldiers putting their fingers to their lips, literally warning the public and warning the military to stay silent on any kind of information from the front line,” Stratford said.

Stratford explained that while there is no information from the Ukrainians, the timing of Zelenskyy’s announcement about an imminent counteroffensive is “very interesting”.US statement on bilateral arms control is ‘positive’: Kremlin
A statement by United States National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan calling for bilateral arms control discussions was “positive”, says the Kremlin.

On Friday, Sullivan said the US would abide by the nuclear weapons limits set in the New START Treaty until it expires in 2026 if Russia did the same.

“This is an important and positive statement by Mr Sullivan. Of course, we expect it to be de facto confirmed by steps through diplomatic channels, and then the proposed formats for dialogue can be considered,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

President Vladimir Putin suspended Moscow’s participation in the treaty in February.Poland receives draft EU regulation on Ukrainian grain ban
Poland’s agriculture minister, Robert Telus, says he has received a draft regulation from the European Commission extending a ban on Ukrainian grain imports until September 15.

On May 2, the European Union set restrictions until June 5 on imports of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed to ease the excess supply of grains in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Those same countries previously complained that cheaper Ukrainian grain was making domestic production unprofitable.

“We have received from the EC a draft of a new regulation banning the import of 4 products to the 5 countries,” Telus wrote on Twitter.

“The effective date provided for in the draft is September 15 this year.”

“It’s a draft but I hope it will come into force from tomorrow,” he added.Belgium investigating if its rifles were used in Belgorod
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo will ask Ukraine for clarification on reports that rifles made in Belgium had been used by pro-Ukrainian forces in Russia’s Belgorod region.

On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that anti-Kremlin fighters in Belgorod used tactical vehicles originally given to Kyiv by the United States and Poland and carried rifles made in Belgium and the Czech Republic.

“Our defence ministry and its intelligence agencies have started an investigation and are asking for information to determine what has happened exactly,” De Croo said on Belgium’s Radio 1.

“European weapons are delivered to Ukraine under the condition that they are used on Ukrainian territory with the purpose of defending that territory. And we have strict controls in place to see that this is the case,” he said.

De Croo declined to comment on possible consequences if the reports were confirmed.

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