Victorious news on 456th day of war: 106 defenders return from Russian captivity, Pentagon chief pledges further support for Ukraine's Air Force
Ukraine has returned more than a hundred heroes from Russian captivity, the ‘economic visa-free regime’ with the EU will be valid for another year, and Finland has approved another military aid package
106 more defenders return home
Ukraine has managed to bring home 106 servicemen. These are the soldiers who fought in the Bakhmut sector. Eight officers and 98 privates and sergeants have returned home.
"They fought for Bakhmut and made a feat that prevented the enemy from advancing further into our east. Each of them is a hero of our country. Among those we are returning from captivity, many were considered missing. The relatives of these people have gone through a difficult stage," wrote the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak.
The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine added that the oldest of the released servicemen is 59 years old, and the youngest is 21 years old. In total, 2,430 people have been returned home as a result of the exchanges. Among them are 139 civilians.
EU extends 'economic visa-free regime' with Ukraine for a year
The EU Council has extended the ‘economic visa-free regime’ with Ukraine. Therefore, Ukrainian companies exporting goods to the EU will not pay any customs duties, quotas or tariffs until at least June 2024.
"These measures are designed to help Ukraine maintain stable trade relations with the EU and support the country's economy in a very difficult environment," the EU Council said in a statement. It emphasises that this decision, together with significant military, financial and humanitarian assistance, is crucial to support Ukraine's long-term recovery.
This regulation applies to exports of fruit and vegetables subject to the input price system, as well as agricultural products and processed products subject to the tariff quota system.
New military aid package for Ukraine from the Finland
Finland will provide another package of military assistance to Ukraine worth EUR 109 million. It will include, among other things, anti-aircraft weapons and ammunition.
On 25 May, the President of Finland supported the government's proposal. According to Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen, Finland will continue to support Ukraine together with its international partners.
"For operational reasons and to ensure the safe delivery of aid, no further information will be provided on the specific content, delivery method or schedule of the aid," the press service said.
Lloyd Austin pledges further support for the Air Force
At the opening of the 12th Ramstein, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin praised the work of air defence in Ukraine and promised further support for the Air Force.
According to Austin, training of the Ukrainian military on F-16 fighters will begin in the coming weeks.
"This will further strengthen and improve the capabilities of the Ukrainian Air Force in the long term. And it will complement our short- and medium-term security agreements," the Pentagon chief said.
He also praised the work of air defence systems that shoot down enemy targets over Ukraine.
"Ukrainians now have the Patriot air defence system on their side, provided by the United States, Germany and the Netherlands. And Ukraine is accurately and skilfully shooting down Russian missiles. Patriot saves lives. As well as air defence systems such as IRIS-T and NASAMS, which were also supplied by this group. We have helped Ukraine defend its skies. And we will not back down," Austin said.
Ukrainian Armed Forces counter-offensive has been going on for several days
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said that the Ukrainian Armed Forces' offensive has been going on for several days. The fighting has stretched over 1,500 kilometres along the border with Russia.
"The counter-offensive has been going on for several days now, an intense war is going on along 1,500 kilometres of the border, but the fighting has already begun. We will use the weapons we have been given to destroy the Russian positions in the territories occupied by Moscow, including Donbas and Crimea," Podolyak said.
He noted that Ukraine will not strike at Russian territory and stressed that F-16 fighter jets will allow Ukraine to close its airspace and achieve significant success.
"If we had them a year ago, the war would have been over by now," Podolyak said.