Russia-Ukraine live news: Biden endorses Sweden, Finland NATO bid

President Biden pledges his support and said the US ‘will work’ with the two countries in case of ‘aggression’.

Remains of a school destroyed amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine are pictured, in Avdiivka, Donetsk Region, Ukraine in this still image released on May 18, 2022.
Remains of a school destroyed amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine are pictured, in Avdiivka, Donetsk Region, Ukraine [Head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration Pavlo Kyrylenko/Handout via Reuters]
  • US President Joe Biden formally endorses Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO and says the US “will work” with the two countries in the event of “aggression” during the application process.
  • Russian soldier accused of war crimes in Ukraine pleads guilty to killing a civilian.
  • Mariupol’s fall appears near as Ukraine declares an end to the Azovstal steelworks operation, where its soldiers held out for months.
  • Moscow says nearly 1,000 fighters who had been holed up at the Azovstal plant have surrendered this week while a separatist leader says top commanders remain inside.
  • Russia expels dozens of diplomats from France, Italy and Spain in retaliatory moves.
  • Finland and Sweden apply to join NATO, the world’s biggest military alliance.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 84

This live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. Follow our continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine on our new live blog.

These were the updates on Wednesday, May 19:

US to convey Turkey’s concerns over Finland, Sweden’s NATO bids: Cavusoglu

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a meeting that necessary messages will be given regarding Turkey’s security concerns about Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids.

In a news conference with Turkish media, Cavusoglu also said he told his American counterpart that the US should strike a balance in its policies towards Greece and Turkey.

Trudeau slams CBC closure

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau slammed Russia’s closure of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Moscow offices, saying the move was “unacceptable”. 

“The truth, responsible journalism, sharing what’s actually going on with citizens is a deep threat to Vladimir Putin and his illegal war and his authoritarian tendencies,” he told reporters in Ottawa.

UN chief hopeful about talks on Ukraine, Russia grain and fertilizer exports

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he is in “intense contact” with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the US and the EU to try and restore Ukrainian grain shipments and revive Russian fertiliser exports.

“I am hopeful, but there is still a way to go,” he told a food security meeting at the UN hosted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “The complex security, economic and financial implications require goodwill on all sides.”

Ten killed in Donetsk region: governor

Ten civilians, including two children, were killed in the Donetsk eastern region due to Russian shelling, its governor has said.

Pavlo Kirilenko added that seven other people were injured.

Biden’s top aides support Finland, Sweden NATO bid ‘unanimously’

US’s national security officials “unanimously” supported Finland and Sweden’s bids to enter NATO, seeing them as strong military partners, a top aide said.

Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also said the team “supported the entry of Finland they have already proven themselves as highly capable security partners.”

Concerning Turkey’s objection over the two country’s NATO membership, Sullivan added that US officials were talking to their Turkish counterparts: “We feel very good about where this will track to.”

US embassy reopens in Kyiv

After three months of closure, the US flag is flying over the American embassy in Kyiv once again.

“We are officially reopening operations,” spokesperson Daniel Langenkamp told Reuters, adding that a small number of diplomats would return initially to staff the mission.

The news was also confirmed by US State Secretary Anthony Blinken: “The Ukrainian people, with our security assistance, have defended their homeland in the face of Russia’s unconscionable invasion, and, as a result, the Stars and Stripes are flying over the Embassy once again,” he said in a statement.

U.S flag is raised for the first time after American diplomats returned to the U.S embassy in Kyiv, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine
US flag is raised for the first time after American diplomats returned to the US embassy in Kyiv, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine [Edgar Su/Reuters]

1,288 bodies of killed civilians found around Kyiv: Police

A Ukrainian police chief has said that the bodies of 1,288 civilians killed by Russian servicemen have been found in the Kyiv region.

“I’m stressing it – they’re civilians! Most were shot from automatic weapons,” Andriy Nebitov said in televised remarks.

Survivors and Ukrainian officials said that Russians arbitrarily killed, tortured and raped civilians north of Kyiv until Moscow withdrew its troops in early April.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Russian senator urges death penalty for Azov fighters

Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters from the Azov battalion who surrendered to Russian and separatist forces should be sentenced to death, a Russian senator has said.

Russia has banned the death penalty, but the separatist “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk live according to Josef Stalin’s constitution that prescribes capital punishment for a number of crimes.

“All the neo-Nazis from Azov should be tried for the crimes they committed in Donetsk and Luhansk,” Senator Andrey Klichas said on Telegram.

They should be “tried in accordance with the laws of the people’s republics,” he added.

The Kremlin has long called the Azov battalion a hotbed of white supremacism and neo-Nazism.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

EU urges member nations to replenish arms

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has lamented what he called a “silent process of disarmament” as member countries were urged to quickly replenish their depleted stocks of ammunition and military equipment.

“We’ve been stripping ourselves of arms without saying it. We’ve reduced our military assets between 2008 and 2014 in a very shocking way and in a very uncoordinated way,” Borrell said at a briefing in Brussels.

Longer term, the bloc aims to develop more drones and air-to-air refuelling capabilities, upgrade Europe’s tank and fighting vehicle armoury, strengthen naval capacities, and bolster its’ cyberdefence abilities.

EU floats idea of massive aid to rebuild Ukraine

Top EU officials have urged member states to be ambitious in helping Ukraine rebuild after the war, including through possible joint borrowing to cover the massive costs.

To help pay for this, officials are floating a repeat of the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, the 800 billion euros ($840bn) in fiscal stimulus that is being financed by common debt among the EU’s 27 member states.

The fund, officially known as Next Generation EU, overcame deep reticence by so-called “frugal” member states such as the Netherlands and Denmark to come into being.

Moscow and Kyiv suspend peace negotiations

Ukraine and Russia have suspended negotiations to end the war for the time being.

Kyiv’s negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said on Ukrainian television that progress could not be made in talks if Russia did not recognise the situation on the ground.

“To this day, they live in a world where there is supposedly a Ukrainian Nazism,” Podolyak said, adding there was only “Russian Nazism”.

Erdogan aide discusses NATO bids with Sweden, Finland counterparts

Progress on Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids will only be possible if concrete steps are taken to address Turkey’s national security concerns, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman has told his Nordic counterparts in calls.

Ibrahim Kalin, who is Erdogan’s chief foreign policy adviser, held calls with counterparts from Sweden, Finland, Germany, the UK and the US to discuss the proposed NATO enlargement, according to a readout from Erdogan’s office.

“It was underlined that if Turkey’s expectations were not met, the progress of the process would not be possible,” it said.

Russia says Q1 economic growth seen at 3.5 percent

Russia’s state statistics agency says it expects economic growth to stand at 3.5 percent in the first quarter of this year.

The figures released by Rosstat were the first estimate of Russian economic growth since Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24 and the West slapped several rounds of unprecedented sanctions against the country.

The growth is expected to be driven by passenger transport and the extraction of mineral resources, according to Rosstat.

By comparison, Russia’s economy expanded by 5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Biden says US will support Finland, Sweden NATO bids

President Biden has expressed strong backing for the bid by Finland and Sweden to join NATO and has offered US support in the event of “aggression” during the application process.

“The United States will work with Finland and Sweden to remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security, and to deter and confront aggression or the threat of aggression” while their bid is considered, Biden said in a statement.

Russia will rebuild ‘freed’ territories in Ukraine: Deputy PM

Russia will finance the reconstruction of territories in Ukraine that it has taken control of and will repair roads that link those areas with Russia, the country’s RIA Novosti news agency has quoted Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin as saying.

Khusnullin also said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe by capacity, will supply energy to Russia and to Ukraine if the latter pays for it, RIA reported.

Russian troops seized control of the Zaporizhzhia plant, located in southeastern Ukraine, in early March.

Swiss court snubs Russian requests for legal assistance

Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court has upheld two appeals by defendants arguing that Russia did not deserve legal assistance in criminal cases given its invasion of Ukraine, the court says.

The judgements are not final and may be appealed to the Swiss Supreme Court. They concerned cases in which Russia accused the unnamed defendants of illegal exports to Israel via Switzerland of materials that could be used to make weapons.

“The legal requirements and those developed by case law in the area of international mutual legal assistance are no longer present in order to be able to trust – even with diplomatic guarantees – that Russia will comply with international law, in particular with regard to human rights,” the court said in a statement.

Armoured personnel carrier
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Western powers to try and isolate Moscow – both economically and diplomatically – on the world stage [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Germany to give Czechs 15 tanks to help arm Ukraine

Germany’s defence ministry says Berlin will give the Czech Republic 15 Leopard 2 tanks as part of a “ring exchange” programme under which it aims to help countries pass their stocks of Soviet weaponry to Ukraine.

The ministry said it would pay for the transaction and train the Czechs to use the Leopard 2 A4 tanks. The Czechs have existing stocks of old Soviet tanks with which Ukrainian soldiers are already familiar.

“The exchange is another good example of how we are helping Ukraine in its brave fight against Russian aggression,” Defence Minister Christine Lambert said. “The Czechs deliver heavy weapons, and we fill the resulting holes with Leopard tanks.”

Russia closes Moscow bureau of Canadian broadcaster CBC

Russia says it is closing the Moscow bureau of Canada’s CBC and withdrawing visas and accreditation from the public broadcaster’s journalists after Ottawa banned Russian state TV station Russia Today.

Canada in March formally banned RT from its airwaves, saying their programming was “not consistent with Canadian broadcasting standards”.

RT and state-controlled outlet Sputnik have been blocked in most Western countries since Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine, accused of spreading propaganda.

Poland launches new form of military service

Poland’s army says it is launching a new form of military service this month amid security concerns because of the war in neighbouring Ukraine.

The Polish military said volunteers will be able to provide a year’s paid service that can be turned into long-term or professional service.

Those who enter the programme will go through a 28-day training period with a military unit, and then perform 11 months of service. They will receive a pre-tax monthly salary of some 4,500 zlotys ($1,000).

The first volunteers will be able to enlist from May 21. A NATO member since 1999, Poland has some 111,500 professional soldiers and 32,000 volunteer territorial troops.

US treasury secretary says Russia sanctions have had ‘enormous impact’

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says that Western sanctions against Russia have already had an enormous impact.

“Russia is experiencing recession, high inflation, acute challenges in their financial system, and [an] inability to procure the material and products they need to support their war or their economy,” Yellen told reporters before a meeting of G7 finance ministers in Bonn, Germany.

What will NATO look like with Finland and Sweden included?

If the two Nordic countries join the alliance, it would mean that NATO forces could be right next to the Finnish-Russian 1,340km (833-mile) border, in turn extending the NATO-Russia borderlines along the northwest of Russia.

Read more here.

Russian soldier pleads guilty in war crimes trial

A Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since the start of the war has pleaded guilty to charges of killing a Ukrainian civilian.

Vadim Shishimarin, 21, appeared in a Kyiv court on Wednesday accused of shooting a Ukrainian man in the head in the country’s northeastern Sumy region on February 28, four days into Moscow’s invasion.

If convicted, he could be imprisoned for life.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova has previously said her office was readying war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offences including bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting.

It was not immediately clear how many of the suspects are in Ukrainian hands and how many could be tried in absentia.

How long will it take for Finland and Sweden to join NATO?

The two Nordic nations have formally submitted bids for NATO membership amid rising concerns for their long-term security in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

For more information on exactly how a country becomes a NATO member, and how long the process might take for Finland and Sweden, click here.

Italian PM slams Russia’s diplomatic expulsions as a ‘hostile act’

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has condemned Russia’s decision to expel a wave of European envoys, including Italians, as a “hostile act” but called for diplomatic channels with Moscow to remain open.

“This is clearly a hostile act, it’s also a reaction to our expulsions,” Draghi said at a joint news conference with his Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin in Rome.

He added that diplomatic channels must remain open “because it’s through those channels that, if possible, peace [in Ukraine] will be achieved”.

Moscow expels 24 Italian, 27 Spanish diplomats

Russia’s foreign ministry says Moscow has expelled 24 Italian and 27 Spanish diplomats in tit-for-tat responses to the expulsion of Russian envoys over the war in Ukraine.

The ministry said in a statement that 27 employees of the Spanish embassy in Moscow and the Spanish consulate general in Saint Petersburg “have been declared persona non grata”, while ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russian news agencies that 24 Italian diplomats had also been ordered to leave the country.

Spain said in April that it would expel some 25 Russian diplomats and embassy staff from Madrid, joining other European Union countries that have ordered Russian officials to leave.

EU plans 300-billion-euro investment to quit Russian fossil fuels

The EU intends to mobilise up to 300 billion euros ($315bn) of investments by 2030 to end its reliance on Russian oil and gas, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says.

The investments will include 10 billion euros ($10.5bn) for gas infrastructure, two billion euros ($2.1bn) for oil, with the rest for clean energy, von der Leyen told reporters, adding that Brussels was also proposing higher legally-binding EU targets for renewable energy and energy savings by 2030.

“RePowerEU will help us to save more energy to accelerate the phasing out of fossil fuel and, most importantly, to kickstart investments on a new scale,” she said. “So I would say this will be the speed-charging of our European Green Deal.”

Italian PM backs Finland, Sweden NATO bids

Italy strongly supports Finland’s and Sweden’s application to join NATO and is willing to speed up any internal procedures for the two countries to join the alliance as soon as possible, Draghi says.

Following a meeting with his Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin in Rome, the Italian prime minister said Europe needed to build a “true” defence system, complementary to NATO.

German cabinet approves Finnish, Swedish NATO request: Minister

Germany’s cabinet has approved Finland and Sweden’s request to join the NATO defence alliance, the country’s justice minister says.

“We are committed to a fast accession process,” Marco Buschmann tweeted.

Buschmann is a member of the Free Democrats party, which forms a part of Germany’s governing coalition government.


Russia would only use nuclear weapons in ‘retaliatory strike’: Deputy PM

Russia’s deputy prime minister says Moscow’s military doctrine determines it can only use nuclear weapons in a “retaliatory strike” for an attack on the country.

“According to the doctrine, we do not attack first,” Yuri Borisov said.

Some Western politicians and analysts are concerned Russia may yet use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Erdogan says NATO should understand Turkey’s security sensitivities

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he expects Turkey’s NATO allies to understand its sensitivities on security, having set out his opposition to Sweden and Finland’s applications to join the bloc.

In a speech to legislators from his governing AK Party, Erdogan reiterated that Swedish and Finnish delegations should not bother coming to Turkey to try and convince Ankara to support their membership bids.

He added that Sweden should not expect Turkey to approve its NATO application without returning “terrorists”.

Russia expels 34 French diplomats

Russia’s foreign ministry says it is expelling 34 French diplomats in a retaliatory move.

France kicked out 35 Russians with diplomatic status in April as part of a broader wave of expulsions that saw more than 300 Russians sent home from European capitals.

Later that month, France’s foreign ministry declared six Russian agents posing as diplomats as “persona non grata” after an investigation by the domestic intelligence services concluded they were working against French national interests.

Russia says negotiations with Ukraine ‘not progressing’

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said there is currently no movement in negotiations with Ukraine about ending the war, and accused Kyiv of showing a total unwillingness to continue the talks.

“Negotiations are not progressing and we note the complete unwillingness of Ukrainian negotiators to continue this process,” he said.

Peskov’s remarks came after officials from Ukraine and Russia said separately on Tuesday that negotiations between the two sides had stalled, with Kyiv and Moscow blaming each other for the breakdown.

Russian forces committed ‘apparent war crimes’ around Kyiv, in Chernihiv: HRW

Russian forces who occupied areas around Kyiv and parts of Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region in the weeks after Moscow launched its invasion subjected civilians there to summary executions, torture, and other grave abuses that are “apparent war crimes”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.

HRW said it had investigated 22 apparent summary executions, nine other unlawful killings, six possible enforced disappearances, and seven cases of torture in 17 villages and small towns during a visit to the formerly occupied areas by some of the NGO’s staff in April.

Its findings, published in a new report on Wednesday, were based on interviews with 65 people, including former detainees, torture survivors, families of victims, and other witnesses. HRW said it had also examined physical evidence at the locations where some of the alleged abuses took place as well as photos and videos shared by victims and witnesses.

“The numerous atrocities by Russian forces occupying parts of northeastern Ukraine early in the war are abhorrent, unlawful, and cruel,” Giorgi Gogia, HRW’s associate Europe and Central Asia director, said. “These abuses against civilians are evident war crimes that should be promptly and impartially investigated and appropriately prosecuted.”

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Top commanders at Azovstal haven’t surrendered, separatist leader says

Top-ranking Ukrainian commanders holed up at Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks are yet to surrender, local media has quoted pro-Russian separatist leader Denis Pushilin as saying.

Pushilin, who heads the self-declared breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, said that the hundreds of fighters who had given themselves up did not include any commanders of the highest level, the Donetsk News Agency (DAN) reported.

“They have not left [the plant],” he said.

Mini map showing Mariupol's location within Ukraine

Russian rocket strikes kill three civilians in Kherson: Local official

Russian forces used rocket launchers to fire at a column of civilians attempting to drive from the city of Kryvyi Rih to the town of Beryslav in Ukraine’s southern region of Kherson, killing at least three people, according to a local legislator.

Several other people were wounded by the strikes on Tuesday, Ihor Iosipenko, a member of Kherson’s regional council, said in a Facebook post.

He added those who were part of the convoy of about 100 cars had ignored warnings from Ukraine’s military about “crossing the line of fire”.

“The consequences are horrifying,” Iosipenko said.

There was no immediate response to the claims from Moscow and Al Jazeera could not independently verify Iosipenko’s report.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Last Big Mac: Russians line up before McDonald’s exit

Russians lined up in a Moscow railway station on Tuesday for what may be their last Big Mac from one of the few McDonald’s restaurants still open in the country.

The world’s largest burger chain is rolling down the shutters in Russia after more than 30 years, becoming one of the biggest global brands to leave following Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

Read more here.

People eat in a McDonald's restaurant near Kremlin in central Moscow, Russia
McDonald’s plans to sell 84 percent of its nearly 850 restaurants in Russia to a local buyer. The future of the remaining restaurants, operated by franchisees, is unclear [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

Israel delivers helmets, vests to Ukraine

Israel’s defence ministry says it has delivered 2,000 helmets and 500 protective vests for emergency and civilian organisations in Ukraine following a request from Kyiv for the supplies.

Defence minister Benny Gantz last month said he would authorise the delivery of helmets and vests, signalling a shift in Israel’s position on providing such equipment.

Russia says 694 Ukrainian fighters from Azovstal surrendered over last 24 hours

Russia’s defence ministry says that 694 Ukrainian fighters who had been holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks have surrendered over the past 24 hours, according to a report by the country’s RIA news agency.

The development means that since Monday, a total of 959 fighters who had been holding out at the plant have surrendered, 80 of whom were wounded, RIA reported, citing the ministry.

Swiss company to cut 400 jobs in Ukraine

Swiss packaging group Vetropack has said it will cut roughly 400 jobs in Ukraine following severe damage to its Hostomel plant in a sign of the widening economic toll of the war.

The manufacturer of glass packaging, which has employed roughly 600 at the facility, situated northwest of Kyiv, said it had continued to pay full salaries while releasing employees from their duties.

However, with the damage from military activity now rendering the plant inoperable for the near future and hostilities continuing in the region, the company said it would need to let go of roughly two-thirds of the workforce.

Russian gymnast banned for one year over ‘Z’ display

Ivan Kuliak has been handed a one-year ban for displaying the letter “Z” on his outfit during an event in Qatar in March, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) says.

Russian forces have used the letter “Z” as an identifying symbol on their vehicles in Ukraine following the invasion. Some supporters of the invasion have also used the sign.

The 20-year-old, who won bronze in the parallel bars at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, displayed the letter as he stood on the podium next to Ukrainian gold medallist Illia Kovtun.

“Mr Kuliak breached the FIG Statutes, the FIG Code of Discipline, the FIG Code of Ethics, the FIG Code of Conduct and the FIG Technical Regulations when he wore the letter ‘Z’ on his singlet,” the governing body said in a statement.

Russia may attack Ukraine from rebel Transnistria: Ex-legislator

Moscow may order its peacekeepers in the separatist Moldovan region of Transnistria that borders southwestern Ukraine to start an offensive, a Moldovan politician claims.

“Orders are usually followed. I think that [the 1,300 servicemen of] Russia’s 14th army [stationed in Transnistria] will follow the Kremlin’s demands without asking questions,” Kirill Motspan, a former legislator and security official, told Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency.

He said the situation has been “tense” in recent weeks as cars with Russian licence plates are spotted near border villages and trenches are being dug near the Dniester River that separates Transnistria from Ukraine.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Finland and Sweden apply to join NATO: Stoltenberg

NATO chief Stoltenberg says Finland and Sweden have applied to join the transatlantic military alliance.

“I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners,” Stoltenberg told reporters after receiving application letters from the two Nordic countries’ ambassadors.

The applications must now be weighed by NATO’s 30 member states. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he is opposed to Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.

Read more here.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO chief Stoltenberg attends a ceremony to mark Sweden’s and Finland’s application for membership in Brussels, Belgium, May 18, 2022 [Johanna Geron/Pool/Reuters]

Russian shelling kills four, wounds one child in Luhansk: Governor

Russian shelling has killed four people and wounded a child in Ukraine’s southeastern Luhansk region, its governor has said.

The attacks took place in towns around the Seversky Donets River that Russian forces failed to bridge and cross in recent days, Serhiy Haidai said on Facebook.

He said a dozen apartment buildings and a plant had been destroyed by the attacks.

“Without people, houses, factories – this is the life the ‘Russian world’ wants to impose on the Luhansk region,” Haidai said.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify his report.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Three wounded by Russian shelling in Dnipro: Governor

Russian shelling in Ukraine’s central-eastern city of Dnipro has wounded three people, its governor says.

Valentin Reznichenko said in a Telegram post that the individuals – two women and a man – all had “shrapnel wounds” and were being treated in hospital.

“Debris fell on a private courtyard … Two houses were damaged. Another missile hit a transport infrastructure facility. It was destroyed,” Reznichenko said.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Ukraine says 229 children killed amid conflict

Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova says 229 children have been killed and another 424 wounded since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Russia trying to block Donetsk city of Lyman: Army

Russian forces are attacking the village of Dovhenke in the Donetsk region near Sloviansk, and have deployed jets and artillery units to support the offensive, Ukraine’s army has said.

In its latest briefing, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Russia also launched an offensive to try to establish full control of the settlement of Drobysheve, to block the Donetsk city of Lyman from the north.

To support the offensive in the areas of Bakhmut and Severodonetsk, in Luhansk, Russians brought in up to 15 helicopters, the army said.

“In Mariupol, the Russian enemy is focusing its efforts on blocking our units near the Azovstal plant. Continues to inflict artillery and air strikes,” it added.

A resident carries a shovel to clear the rubble from his house damaged during a shelling in Kharkiv
Russia has refocused its offensive on eastern Ukraine after failing to capture Kyiv in the first phase of its invasion [File: Bernat Armangue/AP Photo]

Some 300,000 tonnes of Egypt-bought wheat stranded in Ukraine

About 300,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat booked by Egypt’s state grains buyer for delivery in February and March is yet to be shipped, with one cargo stuck in port and four others still to be loaded, four traders have said, according to a report by the Reuters news agency.

Egypt’s General Authority For Supply Commodities (GASC) has granted an extension to secure the cargoes but is not offering trading companies any force majeure release from contractual obligations, according to traders.

Egypt, typically the world’s largest wheat importer, depended heavily on shipments of Black Sea wheat that were disrupted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s Ukraine army has ‘resourcing problem’ and ‘disunited command’: UK

Russia has a “significant resourcing problem” in Ukraine and a “disunited command” which hampers its operations, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry says.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry said despite Russian troops having circled the port city of Mariupol for more than 10 weeks, Ukraine’s stiff resistance delayed them gaining full control of the city.

The ministry said Russia “made significant use of auxiliary personnel” to overcome the resistance, which included the deployment of Chechen forces. While Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov maintains oversight over deployment, his cousin acts as field commander of the forces in Mariupol, it added.

This disparate structure “is contributing to a disunited command which continues to hamper Russia’s operations”, the ministry said.

Belgorod governor says minor damage after Ukrainian shelling

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region says a power transmission line was damaged by Ukrainian shelling in the village of Bezymeno on Tuesday.

“The destruction of residential buildings is insignificant, mostly glass is broken,” Vyacheslav Gladkov was quoted as saying by Russia’s TASS news agency.

Australia sanctions Russian journalists and other ‘purveyors of propaganda’

Australia has sanctioned 11 individuals and 12 entities it says are “purveyors of propaganda and disinformation who have sought to legitimise Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine”, according to a statement from the foreign minister.

Individuals sanctioned include the first deputy director of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Sergei Korolyov, and All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company journalist Yevgeny Poddubny.

Among the entities are the Wagner Group, described as Putin’s de facto private army, and two Belarusian enterprises, the statement from Marise Payne said.

UN confirms 3,752 civilian deaths in Ukraine

The UN has confirmed 3,752 civilian deaths in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began.

In its latest civilian casualties update, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said 4,062 civilians had also been wounded amid the fighting.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” OHCHR said, adding the real toll is likely to be far higher.

US announces new program to gather Russian war crimes

The United States Department of State has announced a new program to “capture, analyse, and make widely available evidence of Russia-perpetrated war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine,” according to a statement.

Called Conflict Observatory, the program’s information will be publicly available online “to help refute Russia’s disinformation efforts and shine a light on abuses,” the statement said.

Video shows women in buses among Azovstal fighters

A Reuters news agency video shows women on board at least one of the buses carrying Ukrainian fighters from the Azovstal garrison that arrived at a newly reopened prison in the Russian-controlled town of Olenivka, near Donetsk.

Some of the women wore olive-green uniforms, as did most of the men. All of them appeared exhausted. One rested against duffel bags stacked on the floor.

Women also appear in photographs by the Associated Press news agency.

Ukraine said on May 7 that all women, children and the elderly had been evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant.

Ukraine ordered Mariupol fighters to surrender after negotiations with Russia: Think tank

Ukraine, in negotiating to evacuate its fighters from the Azovstal steel plant, likely agreed to Russia’s probable condition of surrender and ordered its troops to do so, the Institute for the Study of War has suggested.

“Mariupol defenders trapped in the Azovstal Steel Plant likely surrendered after Ukrainian officials negotiated evacuation measures with the Kremlin,” the institute said in its latest campaign assessment.

“The Kremlin might have agreed to the conditional surrender of the Azovstal defenders to accelerate Russia’s ability to declare Mariupol fully under its control,” it added.

The institute also said there were mixed responses on Russian social media channels to the event, with some blaming the Russian government for negotiating with Ukrainian “terrorists” and “Nazis”.

Russia’s former PM visits nuclear centre, says Moscow can ‘repulse any aggression’

Moscow must constantly remind others of its ability to “give an immediate and overwhelmingly powerful response to an attack on our country,” Russia’s former prime minister and deputy chairman of its security has said.

“We can repulse any aggression which threatens our state,” Dmitry Medvedev wrote on his Telegram channel after a visit to Russia’s town of Sarov, the country’s centre for nuclear research.

The Telegram post included a video in which Medvedev spoke to scientists at the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics where the first Soviet nuclear bomb was developed in the 1940s.

“The history of the nuclear centre in Sarov is forever linked to the names of those who created our country’s nuclear shield. The arsenal of modern, reliable, effective weapons cools down the ambitions of those who are ready to start World War III with their own and others’ hands. We will not allow such a situation to happen,” he said on Telegram.

Russia holding civilian Mariupol evacuees in prison colony: Ombudsman

Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman said the Russian military was holding more than 3,000 civilians from Mariupol at another former penal colony near Olenivka in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

Seven buses carrying an unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the Mariupol steel plant were seen arriving Tuesday at former penal colony No 120 near Olenivka.

Ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova said on Telegram earlier on Tuesday that the civilians were being held at former penal colony No 52, also near Olenivka. She said most civilians are held for a month, but those considered “particularly unreliable,” including former soldiers and police, are held for two months.

Denisova said those held include about 30 volunteers who delivered humanitarian supplies to Mariupol while it was under Russian siege.

UK eyes green trade to end world’s dependence on Russian energy

Green trade deals can help to end the world’s dependence on Russian oil and gas and “de-Putinise” the global economy, UK Trade Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan will say in a speech on Wednesday.

“This terrible conflict in Ukraine has underlined what can be achieved through a cohesive global approach. It has also reminded the globe that we must de-Putinise the world’s economy,” Trevelyan will say, according to speech extracts released by her office.

“These past months have highlighted the need to accelerate our journey as a global community away from hydrocarbons, to decisively turn our backs on the era of dependence on polluting fuels, and transition to a Net Zero future.”

In the speech, she will announce loan guarantees for green businesses worth nearly 190 million pounds ($237m) and a green trade and investment expo in the northeast of England in the northern autumn, her office said.

Blinken to highlight food security in UN meetings

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to New York this week to chair a United Nations meeting on food security and discuss its link with conflict with the Security Council, the State Department has said.

Blinken will meet on May 18 with senior officials from 10 countries in Africa and with the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Turkey. He will then chair a “Global Food Security Call to Action” at the UN, the department said.

It said that on May 19, Blinken will chair a meeting of the Security Council that will feature “an open debate focusing on the critical links between conflict and food security”.

After the debate, Blinken will meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “to discuss the global response to the acute human suffering in and around Ukraine,” the department added.

Ukrainian fighters killed high-ranking Russian officers: Officials

Ukrainian fighters have reportedly killed several high-ranking Russian officers in the southern city of Melitopol, the regional administration has said.

Russian forces have occupied the city since early in the war.

According to the regional administration, the occupiers are trying to conceal the situation but Russian troops were more actively checking private cars in the city on Tuesday, most likely looking for the fighters.

No details of the killings were given and the report could not immediately be confirmed, according to The Associated Press news agency.

A service member of pro-Russian troops rides an armoured personnel carrier.
A service member of pro-Russian troops rides an armoured personnel carrier escorting buses with service members of Ukrainian forces who have surrendered after weeks holed up at Azovstal steelworks in the course of the Ukraine-Russia conflict in Mariupol, Ukraine, May 17, 2022 [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Russia withdraws from Council of Baltic Sea States

Russia’s foreign ministry has announced Moscow is officially withdrawing from the Council of the Baltic Sea States “in response to hostile actions,” the state-owned TASS news agency has reported.

In a statement, the foreign ministry said that NATO and the council’s EU states have turned the organisation “into an instrument of anti-Russian politics”.

The 11 member council that includes the EU, Finland, Germany, Poland and Sweden, suspended Russia from participation in March in response to its invasion of Ukraine. Belarus, which held observer status, was also suspended.

The statement from Russia’s foreign ministry said the council had made “illegal and discriminatory decisions” and Russia would not “participate in turning the organisation into another platform for sabotage activities and ‘western vanity’”.

Russian shelling hits Lviv, Sumy and Chernihiv regions: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said Russian missiles struck the regions of Lviv, Sumy and Chernihiv on Tuesday.

Russian forces had also carried out air raids in the Luhansk region, in the east of the country, Zelenskyy said in a late-night video address.

He said the attacks were Russia’s attempt to “compensate” for failures in the east and south of the country.

“They cannot demonstrate success with general military action in the areas where they are trying to advance. So they are trying to show success through their missiles and other activities,” Zelenskyy added.

Fate of hundreds of Ukrainian fighters uncertain after surrender

The fate of Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant remained uncertain on Tuesday after hundreds surrendered and were transported to Russian-controlled territory.

While Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said “an exchange procedure will take place for their return home”, Zelenskyy cautioned that “the work of bringing the boys home … needs delicacy and time”.

The speaker of Russia’s parliament said it will consider banning the exchange of Russian prisoners of war for captured members of Ukraine’s Azov regiment.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the State Duma, said its members were “Nazi criminals” who should not be included in prisoner exchanges.

Read more here.

Ukrainian ex-boxing heavyweight champion urges Olympic ban on Russian athletes

Ukraine’s former world boxing heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban Russian athletes.

Klitschko, whose brother Vitali is the mayor of Kyiv, enlisted in the Ukrainian reserve army shortly after Russia launched its invasion.

“The IOC should ban the Russian team now. The war is going now, they cannot participate at the next Olympic games, they cannot participate at any athletic events because this war is represented by Russia,” he told the “Piers Morgan Uncensored” programme on Fox Nation.

“Actions speak louder than words. Isolation, and this isolation speaks louder than any word or any line because isolation is painful.”

Ukraine moves to abandon Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant

The fall of Mariupol appears at hand as Ukraine is moving to abandon the Azovstal steel plant where its soldiers had held out for months. The port city would become the largest in Ukraine to be fully captured by Russia.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine is working to get its remaining troops safely out of the steel plant.

In his nightly video address to the nation, he said the evacuation mission was being supervised by Ukraine’s military and intelligence officers and added that “the most influential international mediators are involved”.

European Commission to unveil plan to wean region off Russian energy: Report

The European Commission is expected to unveil a 210 billion euro ($221bn) plan for how Europe can end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027, the Reuters news agency has reported.

To wean countries off those fuels, Brussels will propose a three-pronged plan: a switch to import more non-Russian gas, a faster rollout of renewable energy, and more effort to save energy, according to draft documents seen by Reuters.

The draft measures, which could change before they are published, include a mix of EU laws, non-binding schemes, and recommendations national governments could take up.

Sanctions succeeding in cutting off Russia’s access to technology: US official

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has said concerted efforts by the EU and the US to cut off Russia’s access to technology over its war on Ukraine have greatly succeeded.

“We’ve essentially stopped sending high-tech to Russia, which is what they need for their military,” said Raimondo, after returning from a meeting near Paris of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council.

Representatives of the EU Commission, the bloc of 27 nations’ executive body, and the Biden administration agreed to further coordinate their actions “to mitigate the negative impacts” of Russia’s war in Ukraine on the global economy.

Republican US senator calls $40bn Ukraine aid bill ‘unfocused globalism’

Republican US Senator Josh Hawley has said he opposes the $40bn aid bill to Ukraine that the Senate is in the process of approving because it represents “misplaced” priorities in US policy.

“My biggest concern is that I don’t think this represents a nationalist foreign policy. I mean, it seems to me to be part of this unfocused globalism that unfortunately many in my party have embraced in the last couple of decades,” Hawley told Fox News.

Zelenskyy addresses Cannes Film Festival

The 75th Cannes Film Festival has kicked off with a video address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Zelenskyy, who addressed the audience virtually, spoke at length about the connection between cinema and reality, referencing films like Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” as not unlike Ukraine’s present circumstances.

“We need a new Chaplin who will demonstrate that the cinema of our time is not silent,” said Zelenskyy, who drew a standing ovation.

Russian attacks kill seven civilians in Donetsk: Governor

Seven civilians have been killed in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region as a result of Russian attacks, the Ukrainian regional governor has said.

Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote in a Telegram post that Russian attacks killed two in Bakhmutsky, two in Bakhmut, and one each in Avdiivka, Drobyshev and Soledar. Another six people were injured.

The post did not provide further details of the alleged attacks. The Donetsk region has been the focus of fierce fighting over the recent days.

US says it will not define Ukraine’s objectives in war

US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price has said it is up to Ukraine to define its own objectives in talks with Russia to end the war.

“It is not for us to define the objectives that our Ukrainian partners seek to achieve,” Price told reporters. “It is the task of the Ukrainian government, which is in turn expressing the will of the Ukrainian people.”

He added that Washington’s “task” is to support Kyiv.

Ukraine’s national football team beats Italian club

Wearing a message of “United for Ukraine” on their shirts, Ukraine’s national soccer team has won its second straight friendly match in a 3-1 victory over Italian Serie A club Empoli.

Having also beaten German club Borussia Monchengladbach last week in its first game since the Russian invasion began, Ukraine is regaining its form ahead of a World Cup qualifying playoff against Scotland next month.

War entering ‘protracted phase’: Ukraine’s defence minister

The war with Russia is entering “a protracted phase”, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has said, as Moscow’s troops are now trying to take full control of the east and south of the country.

“Russia is preparing for a long-term military operation,” Reznikov told EU defence ministers and NATO chief Stoltenberg.

“The war is entering a protracted phase,” he added in the speech, the text of which was published on his Facebook page.

According to Reznikov, Russian troops are currently building fortifications in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions in order to “move to defence if necessary”.

Azovstal fighters brought to Russian-controlled Olenivka: Reuters

Seven buses carrying Ukrainian fighters who held out for weeks against Russian forces at the Azovstal steelworks arrived at a former penal colony in the Russian-controlled town of Olenivka near Donetsk, according to a Reuters witness.

The TASS news agency said the Russian Investigative Committee planned to question the soldiers, many of them members of the Azov Battalion, as part of an investigation into what Moscow calls “Ukrainian regime crimes”.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Tuesday, May 17 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies