Russia-Ukraine latest: 'Great risk' of frontlines collapsing as Russia prepares 'big attack' – Sky News

In Brussels, members of NATO are marking 75 years of the alliance and discussing how to support Ukraine. Listen to a podcast on how Russia is avoiding the effects of Western sanctions while you scroll.
Thursday 4 April 2024 07:30, UK
We’re bringing our live coverage of the Ukraine war to a close for today. We’ll be back soon with more updates.
Here’s a round-up of the main events:
The foreign secretary has reiterated the UK’s support for Ukraine at the NATO meeting in Brussels.
Posting on X, Lord Cameron posed with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and promised to stand with the country “as long as it takes”…
Russia’s defence ministry says talks between them and the French defence ministry shows a “readiness for dialogue on Ukraine”.
A ministry statement on the talks between Sergei Shoigu and Sebastien Lecornu also said any notion of holding a meeting on Ukraine in Switzerland without Russia was “pointless”.
The statement said Mr Shoigu noted any “practical implementation” of President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion of sending French troops to Ukraine would “create problems for France”. 

As NATO foreign ministers meet in Brussels, Sky News has learnt that the British government has no national plan for the defence of the UK or the mobilisation of its people and industry in a war despite renewed threats of conflict, Sky News has learnt.
Officials are now starting to develop a cross-government “national defence plan”, it can be revealed.
Dr Keith Dear, a former RAF intelligence officer and former adviser on national security, science and technology to the prime minister, argues that it is reasonable for the public to assume there are detailed plans for any anticipated conflicts.
Read his analysis in full here:
Moscow has denied claims it plans to mobilise 300,000 new troops by the end of June.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made the claim as he signed a 10-year security deal with Finland in Kyiv.
Without providing any evidence, Mr Zelenskyy told a news conference: “I can say that Russia is preparing to mobilise 300,000 military personnel by 1 June.” 

Later, in his nightly video address, he said: “We clearly understand what Russia is preparing for, what they want, and what they will be drafting soldiers into their army for.” 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, quoted by Russian news agencies, said the Ukrainian president’s assertion was “untrue”. 
The foreign secretary has said that NATO has “never been stronger”.
Lord Cameron posted a photo on X of the alliance’s foreign ministers posing for a group photograph following a meeting in Brussels.
NATO is celebrating 75 years since its foundation this week.
A cargo ship leaving Russia that made an unscheduled stop in Germany is under investigation for carrying cargo in a possible breach of sanctions, German authorities have said.
The Atlantic Navigator II, managed by Canada-based CISN and sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands, has been detained in Rostock by German customs. 
On board are 251 containers of birchwood, which is subject to EU sanctions against Russia, according to prosecutors.
“Investigations are under way against the captain of the freighter on initial suspicion of a violation of the Foreign Trade and Payments Act,” the Rostock public prosecutor’s office said.
The ship is also carrying enriched uranium bound for the US.
Enriched uranium is exempt from EU and American sanctions.
The vessel has been held in Rostock since 4 March after leaving St Petersburg on 7 February.
It had to make the unscheduled stop due to propeller damage, according to city authorities.
Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis says he has no intention of withdrawing his bid for NATO secretary general, despite strong support within the alliance for Mark Rutte, the outgoing Dutch prime minister. 
Mr Iohannis officially announced his intention to run for the NATO leadership last month. 
He also said he had no plans to seek a different job at a European level. 
Jens Stoltenberg’s term in office is due to come to an end on 1 October after a decade.
His mandate had been renewed four times, twice for the standard four-year term and twice for single years in 2022 and 2023 to keep NATO in safe hands during the war in Ukraine.
The appointment process is unofficial and informal, taking place behind closed doors, making it difficult for outsiders to know who will get the job.
Mr Rutte is supported by the four NATO members forming the “quartet” – France, Germany, the UK and the US, as well as several other countries.
The Dutchman has also been endorsed by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who had previously been mooted as a potential candidate.
The foreign secretary has told NATO members to spend more on defence.
Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute, the UK’s leading defence and security thinktank, as the NATO foreign affairs ministers meeting gets under way, Lord Cameron told the audience: “I never needed reminding or understanding of the vital importance of NATO in our national life.
“And it’s been extraordinary having supported it all through its quiet years, years in which some people wondered whether it had a functioning brain, I never lost faith in NATO.”
The ex-PM said NATO is “so much stronger today than it has been for years”, noting Sweden will be welcomed for the first time as a full participant.
He turned to what is next for the alliance, saying its expansion in recent years is part of its success.
“We have a tyrant in Europe who’s trying to redraw borders by force,” Lord Cameron said. 
“And there are two choices: you can appease that approach, or you can confront that approach.
“It is undoubtedly the right thing to confront it. And that is what we’re doing by giving Ukraine such strong support.”
He said that if Ukraine wins the war against Russia, it will mean that “NATO will be strong”, but if it loses, “the celebrations will be held mostly in Moscow and of course, in Beijing, and in Tehran, and in North Korea”.
That would be a “bleak future” given the risk to NATO countries, and would leave others questioning whether they can trust us as allies.
He appealed to NATO members to spend more money on defence, saying: “I think the success will depend on more and more countries reaching 2% [of GDP spending on defence], or more countries seeing 2% as a floor and not a ceiling.”
He also said members need to “win the argument for NATO” with younger generations, making the case that it “allows countries to choose their own future”.
You can read more news from Westminster in our Politics Hub
North Korea and Iran’s military support for Russia has “serious global security consequences NATO cannot ignore”, according to the alliance’s secretary general.
Kim Jong Un’s secretive nation has transferred ballistic missiles and other weapons to Moscow, while Tehran has supplied Shahed drones, which have regularly been used to destroy and disrupt infrastructure in Ukraine.
In return, Russia has provided technology and supplies that help their own missile and nuclear capabilities.
The West is increasingly concerned Tehran could also send ballistic missiles to Russia.
“Russia’s friends in Asia are vital for continuing this war of aggression,” Jens Stoltenberg said as ministers met in Brussels.
He also said China was also “propping up Russia’s war economy”.
“This has regional and global security consequences,” Mr Stoltenberg added.

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