Ukraine makes headway towards NATO membership

On April 20, NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, paid an unannounced visit to Ukraine. According to the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, this visit testifies to a new chapter in the Alliance's relations with Ukraine. At the bilateral meeting, they discussed the next meeting in the Ramstein format, incentives for partners to supply certain types of weapons, preparations for the NATO Vilnius Summit, and guarantees for Ukraine's security on the way to the Alliance.

Volodymyr Zelensky said that no one would understand if there is the political invitation to NATO for Ukraine does not come in Vilnius.

"We are also preparing for the NATO summit in Vilnius, which is scheduled for this summer, but its content is already being worked out. During such meetings, in contacts on various levels, that we have with partners," Zelensky said.

During a press conference in Kyiv, Jens Stoltenberg said that Ukraine's rightful place is in NATO.

"Ukraine chooses its future in the Euro-Atlantic family. The future of Ukraine is in NATO, and the members of the Alliance agree with that," he said.

At the same time, the issue of guarantees of Ukraine's security remains relevant, therefore, according to Stoltenberg, the main focus of NATO member states is "on ensuring that Ukraine wins" in the war against the Russian Federation.

The Secretary General noted that NATO is now working on a long-term initiative to support Ukraine, which will help it move from the Soviet doctrine to NATO standards and policies.

"The most important thing is that we need to make sure that Russia never again goes to war with Ukraine," Stoltenberg said.

In fact, the war can become the main obstacle to Ukraine's rapid accession to NATO. Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov believes that Ukraine has reached an unprecedented level of interoperability with NATO, and is, in fact, already part of the Alliance's security space. However, German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius, said that now, while the war continues, it is premature to discuss Ukraine's membership in NATO.

Stoltenberg’s arrival to Ukraine has predictably made Russians nervous. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova said that statements about Ukraine's accession to NATO after the victory over Russia are short-sighted and could "cause the final collapse of the European security system." Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that preventing Ukraine from joining NATO is one of the tasks of the so-called "special operation".

"We are dealing with an aggressive bloc that views our country as an adversary and encroaches on the security of our country," Peskov said.

But US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin explained that Russia's aggressive actions led Ukraine, Finland, and Sweden to decide to protect themselves through joining the Alliance.

"This makes certain things clear: Putin's war is not a consequence of NATO enlargement, it is a cause to NATO enlargement," he said.

Russian Disinformation in Latin America

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tried to promote Russian narratives in Latin America. During the international tour, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry visited Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

While in Latin America, Lavrov imposed a misleading position of the Russian side, disguising their selfish interests, which allegedly consisted in the polarization of interstate relations. He openly opposed the "collective West," accusing the US of seeking to establish a "rules-based world order" that "reflects a desire to continue colonial methods of living with the help of others and removing competitors."

"The past two years clearly showed that dictatorship, blackmail, threats, and sanctions are the only methods that the United States is using in international relations," Lavrov said.

At the same time, the head of the Russian foreign policy agency insisted on unconditional compliance with the UN Charter, especially on the issue of the sovereign equality of states and the right of nations to self-determination.

"We will continue to work together in the international arena to mobilize countries that also reject such a dictatorship to build a multipolar world order in full compliance with the UN Charter," he said.

Tampering the provisions of the UN Charter, Lavrov also tried to justify the Russian invasion. In Venezuela, he said that each country should respect the principle of territorial integrity of states whose governments represent the interests of all the people living in this territory.

"How can one hope that the Kyiv regime represents the interests of Crimeans or residents of southeastern Ukraine? The Western masters demand from Kyiv to forcefully return those territories," Lavrov said.

According to him, as soon as this happens, representatives of the Zelensky regime will destroy the Russian language and culture in Crimea in favor of the dominance of Ukrainian and global culture.

In his Latin American road trip, Sergei Lavrov tried to bring up the provisions of the UN Charter on the sovereign equality of states and use them in favor of the Russian side, accusing the West of allegedly illegitimate sanctions. Besides, he mentioned the principle of self-determination of peoples in the context of the so-called "referendums" in the Ukrainian territories temporarily occupied by Russia, where people allegedly seek to reunite with the Russian Federation.

Lavrov also distorted the message about the Kremlin's intentions for a peaceful settlement of the war, claiming that Russia is "interested to see the war in Ukraine end as soon as possible."

"It is clear that we are interested to see the Ukrainian conflict end as soon as possible. We have repeatedly explained in detail the reasons for what is happening and the goals we pursue in this regard," he said in Brazil.

Lavrov's trip could have been planned to discredit Ukraine and spread manipulative information. British intelligence emphasizes that the Russian state systematically uses information operations as the key element of its strategy in the war.

"Russian state actors present manipulative narratives; both pre-planned and ad hoc. Their current priorities almost certainly involve discrediting the Ukrainian government and reducing international support for Ukraine," the report said.

Russians attacked Sumy Oblast 7 times in a day

Russians deployed mortars to attack Bilopillia hromada (18 strikes) and automatic grenade launchers (29 shots). Apart from that, two VOG-grenades were dropped by a quadcopter. Three mortar explosions were observed in Esman hromada. There were four mortar strikes in Znob-Novhorod hromada. Occupiers used artillery to attack Seredyna-Buda hromada, there were two explosions. There were no casualties.