70% of energy equipment damaged in Russian attacks restored in Kyiv

In Kyiv, 1,000 pieces of energy equipment damaged by Russian attacks have been repaired. This accounts for 70% of the infrastructure targeted by missiles and Shahed UAVs.

Petro Panteleiev, Deputy Head of Kyiv City State Administration (KCSA), provided these details, noting that restoration work is ongoing and remains a priority for city officials. In preparation for the upcoming heating season, a series of measures have been developed to recover even more damaged energy infrastructure.

Panteleiev explained that hydraulic testing of the networks is beginning as part of the preparation process, which unfortunately requires temporary interruptions in hot water supply. However, these tests are crucial for identifying and replacing damaged pipeline sections, ultimately contributing to a more stable energy infrastructure.

Russia's Sberbank reports $4.32 billion profit, dividends to boost Kremlin war chest

Russia's state-owned Sberbank reported a net profit of $4.32 billion for the first quarter of this year, an increase of 11.3% over the same period last year, according to a Reuters report on April 26.

Despite being subject to Western sanctions, Russia's banking industry has experienced a resurgence. Sberbank's record annual profit in 2023 stood at $16.3 billion, more than five times higher than in 2022.

"We are observing strong growth at the beginning of the year in retail clients' funds, which provides a solid foundation for future business development," said CEO German Gref in a statement reported by Reuters.

Sberbank, majority-owned by the Russian state, announced on April 23 that it would pay out a dividend of $8.04 billion. This payout, given the government's control of the bank, can contribute to funding Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In the aftermath of Russia's 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the country's banking sector, heavily impacted by Western sanctions, experienced a 90% drop in profits compared to 2021. However, the downturn was short-lived. Russia's Central Bank announced that banks made record profits in 2023, earning about $36.8 billion.

To mitigate Western sanctions, the Kremlin introduced various economic measures, including subsidized mortgages, which gained considerable traction among Russians. Mortgage lending rose by nearly 35% in 2023, with 83.4% of those loans being subsidized, according to data from Russia's Central Bank.

These subsidized mortgages have helped revive Russia's banking sector, though the government has faced growing costs to cover the difference between "preferential" mortgage rates and actual rates, raising concerns about long-term sustainability.

Even Russian officials admit that such expenses are unsustainable in the long term and are contributing to rising inflation. At the end of 2023, Russia's inflation rate stood at 7.4%, in contrast to 3.7% in Germany and 3.4% in the United States.

Zelensky reminds world of Russian nuclear threat on Chornobyl anniversary

President Volodymyr Zelensky used the anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster on April 26 to underscore the ongoing threat Russia poses while the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant remains "held hostage" by Moscow's forces.

The Zaporizhzhia plant—the largest nuclear plant in Europe—has been under Russian occupation since March 2022. The Chornobyl plant was also occupied by Moscow's forces for 35 days at the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion.

During its occupation, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been repeatedly disconnected from Ukraine's power grid due to Russian attacks on the country's energy infrastructure, raising concerns about safety and the potential for a nuclear accident.

In a post on social media, Zelensky stated that the Chornobyl disaster "showed the world how quickly deadly threats can appear," emphasizing that "radiation does not recognize borders and does not distinguish national flags."

"For 785 days, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, has been held hostage by Russian terrorists," he said. Zelensky urged that it is the duty of the entire world to apply pressure on Russia to release the nuclear power plant and return it to Ukraine's full control.

Zelensky's remarks called for international support to ensure that all nuclear facilities in Ukraine are protected from Russian attacks, emphasizing the significant risks posed by Russia's occupation and the potential consequences for the region and beyond.

Russian forces seems to make 'tactical gains' west of Avdiivka, Chasiv Yar remains the primary pressure point

Russian forces are seeking "tactical gains" northwest of Avdiivka, but the primary offensive operation, and the one most likely to succeed, is focused on Chasiv Yar, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) on April 25.

Chasiv Yar is located in Donetsk Oblast, approximately 10 kilometers (six miles) west of Bakhmut and 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Avdiivka. These cities were captured by Russia in May 2023 and February 2024, respectively.

Russian forces have concentrated their efforts on Chasiv Yar, seeing it as critical for further advances toward the nearby cities of Kostiantynivka, Kramatorsk, and Sloviansk, according to the Ukrainian military.

While the ISW suggests that Russian forces may achieve some gains northwest of Avdiivka, an offensive in that area is "unlikely to develop into an operationally significant penetration, let alone cause the collapse of the Ukrainian defense west of Avdiivka." Instead, the ISW indicates that the operation to seize Chasiv Yar has the most potential for a Russian victory in the short term.

Capturing Chasiv Yar would give Russia an opportunity to "launch subsequent offensive operations against cities that form a significant Ukrainian defensive belt in Donetsk Oblast," according to the ISW.

Nazar Voloshyn, spokesperson for the Khortytsia Group of Forces, said on April 22 that as many as 20,000 to 25,000 Russian troops are attempting to storm Chasiv Yar and surrounding settlements. President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned earlier in April that Russia aims to capture Chasiv Yar by Victory Day on May 9, a significant Russian holiday commemorating the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Russia's focus on Chasiv Yar may be part of its effort to gain as much territory as possible before the impact of the recently passed U.S. Ukraine aid bill can be felt on the battlefield, which is expected within the next few weeks.

However, despite the much-needed infusion of aid, unnamed U.S. officials told Politico on April 24 that the package may not be sufficient for Ukraine to regain all its territory. Additionally, the aid does not address Ukraine's manpower shortage or the need to improve its military-industrial capacity, suggesting that significant challenges remain ahead for Ukraine's defensive efforts.