- Ukraine says more than 13,000 alleged Russian war crimes are being probed.
- US says 20 countries offer new arms packages for Ukraine.
- In Davos address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls for “maximum” sanctions against Russia, including an oil embargo.
- A Kyiv court sentences a Russian soldier to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian in Ukraine’s first war crimes trial since Moscow’s invasion began.
The live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for May 23:
UK set to approve Abramovich’s sale of Chelsea: Source
The UK is set to approve the sale of Premier League soccer Chelsea to a consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly, a source familiar with the situation has told Reuters, after owner Roman Abramovich gave assurances over the deal.
Russian Abramovich put the club up for sale in early March following his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The British government demanded assurances that Abramovich, who was sanctioned following the invasion – which Moscow calls a special operation – will not benefit from the sale.
German economy minister expects EU embargo on Russian oil ‘within days’
The EU will likely agree an embargo on Russian oil imports “within days”, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has told broadcaster ZDF.
Habeck warned, however, that an embargo would not automatically weaken the Kremlin as rising prices were enabling it to rake in more income while selling lower volumes of oil.
Therefore, one consideration was to no longer pay “any price” for oil, but to agree on upper limits, he said. For that to work, however, many countries would have to get on board.
Colombia to train Ukrainian military on landmine removal
A team of Colombian soldiers will travel to Europe to train their Ukrainian counterparts on de-mining techniques, the South American country’s defense minister has said.
Russian soldiers and Ukrainian authorities both have said they will clear landmines from various locations in Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian invasion.
The experts from Colombia, which is a NATO partner, were invited to give the training by the US, Colombian defense minister Diego Molano said in a statement.
“This training will be given by 11 military engineers who will go to a NATO member country which is a neighbour of Ukraine,” Molano said.
Zelenskyy would meet Putin on end to war
Zelenskyy has said that Putin was the only Russian official he was willing to meet with a single issue on the agenda – to stop the war.
Zelenskyy, addressing by video link an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, also said that arranging any sort of talks with Russia was becoming more difficult in the light of what he said was evidence Russian actions against civilians under occupation.
He also said that any notion of recovering by force the Crimea peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014 would cause hundreds of thousands of casualties.
Ukrainian court orders ex-president’s arrest in absentia on treason charge
A Ukrainian court has ordered the arrest in absentia of former President Viktor Yanukovych, accusing him of treason over an agreement he signed in 2010 extending Russia’s lease on naval facilities in Crimea.
The agreement, widely known in Ukraine as the Kharkiv Pact, allowed Russia to keep its Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.
Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in 2014 after mass protests, has already received a 13-year jail sentence in absentia for treason. That case was related to a letter he sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 1, 2014, asking him to use Russian army and police forces to restore order in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said a Kyiv court had ordered Yanukovych’s arrest because the Kharkiv Pact had enabled Russia to increase the number of troops it had in Ukraine and to seize and annex Crimea in 2014.
Klitschko brothers tell Davos: ‘We are defending you’
The mayor of Kyiv has told business executives and government leaders gathered for meetings in Davos that his country is defending democratic values and human life.
Vitali Klitschko pointed to the audience during a World Economic Forum panel with his brother, Wladimir, and said, “We are defending you personally.”
He said, “We are fighting, first of all, for values” and to be part of the democratic world. He called on those listening “to be proactive because Ukraine was paying the biggest prize – “human lives, every day”.
He said Ukraine needs weapons, and political and economic support.
Lithuania calls on EU to provide cash for Ukrainian refugees
Lithuanian Finance Minister Gintare Skaiste has urged the EU to set up a fund that would help countries welcoming thousands of Ukrainian refugees manage the financial burden, just like the EU did for Turkey in 2016.
The United Nations estimates that some 6.5 million Ukrainians have left their country since the Russian invasion started on February 24th. Most of them, some 3.5 million, have entered Poland, and almost a million went to Romania.
“In Lithuania, Ukrainians are now about 2 percent of the population,” Skaiste told Reuters in an interview. “In Estonia it is about 2.5 percent and in Poland about 6-7 percent, so the numbers for supporting them are quite big. We are asking for some additional funds, which would be helpful in this situation,” she said.
US Defense Secretary lauds the UK for its ‘leading role’
At a virtual meeting with allies aimed at coordinating arms for Kyiv, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin lauded the UK for “its leading role in helping to coordinate security assistance and for the significant quantities of British equipment that continue to flow into Ukraine”.
The virtual meeting, dubbed the Ukraine Contact Group, was attended by officials from 40 countries and is set to reconvene in June on the sidelines of a NATO defence summit in Brussels, Austin said.
Some 20 countries commit new security aid for Ukraine, Pentagon chief says
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said that some 20 countries had announced new security assistance packages for Ukraine during a virtual meeting with allies aimed at coordinating arms for Kyiv.
Those who announced new packages included Italy, Denmark, Greece, Norway and Poland, Austin told reporters. Denmark would provide a harpoon launcher and missiles to defend Ukraine’s coast, he said.
“Today was a very successful meeting,” Austin said. “Many countries are donating critically needed artillery ammunition, coastal defence systems and tanks and other armoured vehicles.”
Russia cuts mandatory FX conversion level for exporters to 50 percent
Russia is cutting the proportion of foreign currency revenues that exporters must convert into roubles to 50 percent from 80 percent, the finance ministry has said, after the policy contributed to steep gains in the local currency.
Despite an economic crisis prompted by the conflict in Ukraine, the rouble has surged about 30 percent against the dollar this year, and on Monday hit a near seven-year high against the euro.
That has raised concerns the strong currency could hurt Russia’s budget revenues from exports.
Lithuania to withdraw its ambassador to Russia
Lithuania will withdraw its ambassador to Russia from June 1, according to a new presidential decree.
No replacement to fill the post has been named.
The Baltic country’s move comes after it expelled Russia’s envoy on April 4. The Lithuanian government said at that time it intended to lower the level of diplomatic representation between the two countries.
US Republicans join Democrats in backing NATO expansion
Democratic and Republican US Senate leaders have introduced a resolution backing Sweden and Finland’s bids to join NATO, underscoring support for expanding the alliance despite growing nationalism in the Republican party.
It will take a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate to approve the expansion of the alliance, requiring “yes” votes from at least 17 Republicans along with every Democrat.
Many US Republicans have been following the lead of former President Donald Trump – the party’s leader – toward a more nationalist foreign policy. Trump accused NATO allies of not spending enough on their own defence and excessively burdening the United States.
In the Senate, 11 Republicans voted “no” last week against legislation providing $40bn to help Ukraine, with some saying they wanted the funds directed to Americans.
Ukraine says 13,000 alleged Russian war crimes being probed
Ukraine’s prosecutor general says the country’s authorities are investigating about 13,000 cases of alleged war crimes carried out by Russian forces.
“As of this day, we have more than 13,000 cases [being probed] only about war crimes,” Iryna Venediktova told US newspaper The Washington Post.
Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians and accusations its forces have carried out war crimes during what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Russian rouble leaps to near seven-year high vs euro
The Russian rouble has firmed more than six percent against the euro to a near seven-year high, boosted by capital controls, strong oil prices and an upcoming month-end tax period.
By 13:38 GMT, the rouble had gained 6.3 percent to trade at 58.75 versus the euro, its strongest point since early June 2015.
It was also 4.6 percent stronger against the US dollar at 57.47, not far from 57.0750, its strongest mark since late March 2018, hit on Friday.
Overall, the rouble has firmed about 30 percent against the dollar this year despite a full-scale economic crisis in Russia. That makes it the world’s best-performing currency – albeit one that is artificially supported by controls imposed in late February to shield Russia’s financial sector from sweeping sanctions imposed by Western powers.
UK, Lithuania agree to boost security collaboration
The United Kingdom and Lithuania have signed a joint declaration to boost defence and security collaboration.
The UK said the declaration would build on the defence cooperation the countries share as NATO allies and would increase resistance to threats, including from Russia and China. It gave no further details.
Since Russia launched its invasion in late February, Baltic countries such as Lithuania, a former Soviet state, have become increasingly concerned they could be next to face aggression from Moscow.
Ukraine’s First Lady pleads for mental health support
Ukraine’s First Lady has urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to help tackle the country’s vast mental health crisis, warning that the effects of Russia’s war could last for decades.
“Following what Ukrainians have experienced during the occupation, at the front, in bomb shelters, under shelling… they need rehabilitation in the same way as those who are physically wounded,” Olena Zelenska told the UN health body’s annual assembly in a video address.
“The consequences of this war unfortunately will remain for years and decades,” she said. “Russia’s war has shown horrors we could not have imagined.”
Starbucks to exit Russia as foreign firms exodus continues
Starbucks has said it will exit Russia after nearly 15 years as the coffee chain joins an exodus of Western firms from the country.
Seattle-based Starbucks has 130 stores in Russia, wholly owned and operated by its licensee Alshaya Group, with nearly 2,000 employees in the country.
The company, which in early March shuttered its stores and suspended all business activity in Russia, did not provide details on the financial effect of the exit. However, it said it would continue to support its employees in the country, including paying them for six months.
Russian diplomat to UN resigns over war in Ukraine
A veteran Russian diplomat to the United Nations office at Geneva says he handed in his resignation before sending out a scathing letter to foreign colleagues denouncing the “aggressive war unleashed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.
Boris Bondarev, 41, confirmed his resignation in a letter delivered on Monday morning at the Russian diplomatic mission after a diplomatic official passed on his English-language statement to The Associated Press news agency.
“For twenty years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24 of this year,” he wrote, alluding to the date of Russia’s invasion.
The resignation amounts to a rare public admission of disgruntlement about Russia’s war among Russian diplomatic corps, at a time when Putin’s government has sought to crack down on dissent over the invasion.
‘Criminal adventure’: Ukraine war fuels Russia’s brain drain
Nearly four million people left Russia in the first three months of 2022, including IT specialists, journalists, researchers and analysts, as the country faced increasing diplomatic and economic pressure from Western powers over its offensive.
Read more here.
The negotiations behind the Ukraine war
In this episode, Al Jazeera’s The Take podcast focuses on the diplomatic backdrop to the conflict, including the now-stalled talks between Kyiv and Moscow over ending the war.
Zelenskyy used Davos address to appeal for reconstruction assistance: AJE correspondent
Al Jazeera’s Diplomatic Editor James Bays, reporting from Davos, Switzerland, says Zelenskyy used his video address to the World Economic Forum gathering to “call on the international community, political leaders and business leaders to try and reconstruct his country”.
“He said the world was at a turning point and compared it to the outbreak of World War I and World War II, and he said that his country desperately needs more funds,” Bays said.
He added that Zelenskky had made it clear the “international system needs to change” in the wake of Russia’s invasion and needs to “not just respond to events like this but act to make sure they don’t happen”.
“And what will also be heard here strongly, and beyond Davos too, will be Zelenskyy’s call for more sanctions and no trade with Russia whatsoever,” Bays said.
‘Golden arches’ come down near Moscow as McDonald’s Russia rebrand begins
Workers have removed the trademark “golden arches” sign from a McDonald’s restaurant just north of Moscow as the first stage of the rebranding of the fast-food company’s outlets starts in Russia, the Reuters news agency reports.
The yellow arches stood on the ground outside the restaurant in Khimki, a town near Moscow, Reuters reported. It was not clear if work to remove the logo from other branches across the country was already under way.
The world’s largest burger chain is selling its restaurants in Russia to one of its local licensees, who will rebrand them under a new name that has yet to be announced, ending more than 30 years in the country. McDonald’s has said it will retain its trademarks.
‘Conflicting reports’ over fate of surrendered Azovstal fighters: AJE correspondent
Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Moscow, says there are “conflicting reports” over the fate of Ukrainian fighters who surrendered at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol.
“The leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, said earlier on Monday that there are efforts within the [self-proclaimed] republic to set up an international tribunal where fighters will be put on trial,” Jabbari said.
“But we have also been hearing from one of Russia’s deputy foreign ministers who said … there are discussions ongoing between Ukrainian and Russian officials about a possible prisoner exchange,” she added.
Jabbari said it was also unclear how many of the 2,478 fighters reportedly evacuated from the steel plant were members of the Azov Battalion – a fighting force whose far-right origins have been seized on by the Kremlin as part of its effort to cast the invasion as a battle against Nazi influence in Ukraine.
“What we do know is that there have been calls from various lawmakers here in the Russian capital that those members of the Azov Battalion should not be part of any prisoner exchange and that there is a desire to set up a tribunal to put them on trial for alleged war crimes,” she added.
Lukashenko accuses West of attempting to ‘dismember’ Ukraine
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says the West is attempting to “dismember” Ukraine and has accused Poland of seeking to seize the western part of the country.
At a televised meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his longtime ally, Lukashenko said Kyiv would eventually have to ask for help in preventing the seizure of western Ukraine.
“What worries us is that they are ready, the Poles and NATO, to come out, to help take western Ukraine like it was before 1939,” he said, without offering any evidence for his assertions.
Moscow has in the past suggested that Poland seeks to establish control over historical Polish lands in Ukraine, a claim that Warsaw denies as disinformation. Poland is one of Ukraine’s firmest supporters, having sent weapons to its neighbour and taken in more than three million Ukrainian refugees.
Germany announces currency conversion scheme for Ukrainian refugees
Refugees who have fled the war in Ukraine can change their Ukrainian hryvnia into euros in Germany starting from Tuesday, the finance ministry in Berlin and German banks have announced.
The ministry agreed to the exchange programme together with the central banks of Germany and Ukraine as well as the German Banking Industry Committee, the organisations said in a joint statement.
The agreed exchange volume has been initially set at 1.5 billion hryvnia ($50.78m) and the scheme is to stay in place for at least three months.
Under the agreement, refugees can exchange up to 10,000 hryvnia ($338) into euros at participating German banks at current exchange rates. The conversion, which can be made in several instalments, is to be free of charge.
Zelesnkyy says 87 people killed in Chernihiv attack
Eighty-seven people were killed in a Russian air raid on the village of Desna last Tuesday, Zelenskyy has said.
The Ukrainian leader’s claim, which he made while addressing the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, came after local authorities said last week that eight people were killed in the strike in the northern Ukrainian region of Chernihiv.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify the tolls provided.
Hungary must work with EU on Russian oil embargo: German minister
German economy minister Robert Habeck has warned Hungary against blocking efforts to impose a European Union-wide embargo on Russian oil imports.
“There are different solutions for different countries,” Habeck said at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. “I expect everyone, including Hungary to work on a solution,” he added.
Budapest, Moscow’s closest ally in the EU, has said it wants compensation from the bloc to mitigate the cost of ditching Russian crude or some exemptions from the suggested embargo. The EU needs all 27 states to agree to the measure for it to take effect.
Russia using ‘scorched earth’ tactics in Donbas, Ukraine says
Heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces has continued in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region as Moscow’s troops pressed on with their advance on Severodonetsk, where local officials accused Moscow of using “scorched-earth” tactics.
Read more here.
Ukrainian court sentences Russian soldier to life in prison for killing civilian
A Ukrainian court has sentenced Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian in the first war crimes trial arising from Russia’s invasion.
Shishimarin, a 21-year-old tank commander, pleaded guilty last week to killing the 62-year-old man in the northeastern Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka on February 28 after being ordered to shoot at him from a car.
Shishimarin, wearing a blue and grey hooded sweatshirt, watched proceedings from a reinforced glass box in the courtroom as Monday’s verdict was read out.
The Kremlin did not immediately comment on the verdict but spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier on Monday that Moscow was “concerned” about Shishimarin’s fate although it did “not have the capacity to protect his interests in person”.
Read more here.
In Davos speech, Zelenskyy demands ‘maximum’ sanctions on Russia
Ukraine’s president has called for “maximum” sanctions against Russia, including an oil embargo, during a virtual speech to the WEF gathering.
Kyiv’s Western allies have imposed several waves of sanctions on Russia over its offensive, but Zelenskyy said the international community needed to go further yet to stop the Kremlin’s aggression by cutting off all trade with Moscow.
He called for all Russian banks to be blocked as well as the complete withdrawal of foreign companies from Russia and said Kyiv needs at least $5bn of financial support per month as it attempts to defy Moscow’s offensive and rebuild Ukraine.
Azovstal fighters to face trial in breakaway region: Report
The leader of eastern Ukraine’s self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has been quoted as saying that the Ukrainian fighters who surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol will face trial in the breakaway region.
“The prisoners from Azovstal are being held on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Denis Pushilin as saying. “Organising an international tribunal on the republic’s territory is also planned.”
The report did not specify what charges the fighters would face.
Russia pounds eastern Ukraine as battle for Donbas deepens
Russia’s defence ministry says its forces have pounded dozens of targets in eastern Ukraine with air raids and artillery strikes as troops on the ground attempt to encircle the city of Severodonetsk.
Russia’s air force hit four command centres, a communications point, an anti-aircraft missile system and 87 areas where troops and Ukrainian military equipment amassed as well as seven ammunition stores, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, Russian artillery struck 73 command points and more than 570 locations where troops and Ukrainian military equipment were stationed, as well as 37 artillery and mortar units in firing positions, it added.
The ministry said Russian forces had also shot down three Ukrainian Su-25 jets and struck military supplies headed for eastern Ukraine at the Malin railway station in the country’s west with sea-launched long-range missiles.
There was no immediate response to the claims from Kyiv and Al Jazeera could not independently verify the Russian defence ministry’s report.
EU extends overspending suspension because of Ukraine war
The EU has extended its suspension of rules against overspending by the bloc’s governments until the end of 2023, prolonging a pandemic-era reprieve because of Russia’s offensive.
“Heightened uncertainty and strong downside risks to the economic outlook in the context of war in Ukraine, unprecedented energy price hikes and continued supply chain disturbances warrant the extension,” the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said.
The EU suspended its public spending rules for national governments in March 2020 as the 27-nation bloc sank into its deepest recession since World War II because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Known as the Stability and Growth Pact, the EU rules limit deficit spending to three percent of a country’s overall economy and debt to 60 percent.
More than 100 million people displaced globally as conflicts rage: UN
Russia’s war in Ukraine and conflicts taking place in other parts of the world have pushed the number of forcibly displaced people above 100 million for the first time ever, according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).
“One hundred million is a stark figure – sobering and alarming in equal measure. It’s a record that should never have been set,” Filippo Grandi, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement.
“This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes,” he added.
— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) May 23, 2022
Poland to terminate Yamal gas pipeline agreement with Russia
Poland’s climate minister says Warsaw has decided to terminate an intergovernmental agreement with Russia regarding the Yamal gas pipeline.
“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has confirmed the accuracy of the Polish government’s determination to become completely independent from Russian gas. We always knew that Gazprom was not a reliable partner,” Anna Moskwa tweeted.
Russia says it destroyed US-made M-777 howitzers: Report
Russia’s defence ministry has claimed its forces destroyed a Ukrainian unit of US-produced M777 howitzers, a type of artillery weapon, according to a report by the RIA Novosti news agency.
Ukraine has deployed many of the M-777 howitzers supplied by Washington at the front lines, with the US claiming to have delivered all but one of the 90 artillery pieces they were due to send to Kyiv.
The M-777 howitzer consignment is part of a huge outlay of weapons from the White House to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion and is seen as particularly significant because of its long range and accuracy.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify the Russian defence ministry’s report.
Biden: Russia must pay ‘long-term price’ for Ukraine invasion
President Joe Biden said that Russia “has to pay a long-term price” for its “barbarism in Ukraine” in terms of sanctions imposed on Moscow by the United States and its allies.
He said that if, after any future rapprochement between Russia and Ukraine, “the sanctions are not continued to be sustained in many ways, then what signal does that send to China about the cost of attempting to take Taiwan by force?”
Shelling kills one person in Luhansk, child dies from injuries: Governor
Russian shells hit more than 70 residential buildings in the Luhansk region on Sunday and killed one person in Lysychansk, the region’s governor has said.
Serhiy Haidai said the person died when their apartment was hit by a shell in the evening.
He added that a child injured in the town of Pryvillya, when it came under fire on May 7, died in intensive care.
Russia says it controls 95 percent of Luhansk
Russian forces now control 95 percent Luhansk, Russian media has said.
Ukraine’s forces are still holding Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, the Zvezda TV channel, run by the Russian defence ministry, said on Sunday.
Russia’s losses in Ukraine as high as the USSR’s in Afghanistan: UK
In three months of the war in Ukraine, Russia has suffered a similar death toll as the Soviet Union did in nine years of war in Afghanistan, the UK’s defence ministry has said.
“A combination of poor low-level tactics, limited air cover, a lack of flexibility, and a command approach which is prepared to reinforce failure and repeat mistakes has led to this high casualty rate, which continues to rise in the Donbas offensive,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing.
The ministry suggested that because the Russian public has been sensitive to casualties suffered in “wars of choice” in the past, the rising death toll in Ukraine may “fuel public dissatisfaction with the war” and a willingness to speak out against it.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 23 May 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/mpZMMMUOI9
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) May 23, 2022
Russia trying to destroy Severodonetsk: Governor
The governor of Luhansk says Russia is trying to destroy Severodonetsk, as the city came under heavy bombardment from Moscow’s forces trying to take the industrial area of Donbas.
Serhiy Haidai said on Sunday that the Russians were “engaging in a scorched-earth approach” in Severodonetsk and the sole working hospital has only three doctors and supplies for 10 days.
He said the Russians had occupied several towns and cities in Luhansk after indiscriminate, 24-hour, shelling and that Moscow was concentrating forces and weaponry there, bringing in forces from Kharkiv to the northwest, Mariupol to the south and from inside Russia.
Shelling kills one person, injures four in Malyn, Zhytomyr region: Mayor
Russian forces have shelled the northern town of Malyn, about an hour northwest of Kyiv, killing a railroad employee and damaging some 150 residential buildings, the mayor said.
Oleksandr Sytaylo also said another four people had been injured and were in hospital.
Russia’s new Black Sea Fleet flagship heads to Odesa: Ukraine army
Ukraine’s army says Russia is strengthening its position in the Black Sea with a new addition to its fleet, the Admiral Makarov frigate. Ukraine says the ship has left the Crimean port of Sevastopol and is heading towards Odesa.
Russia’s news agency TASS had previously reported a source from occupied Crimea’s intelligence agency saying the Admiral Makarov would be the new flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, replacing the Moskva, which sank in mid-April after Ukraine said it hit it with two missiles.
Ukraine’s army said with the Makarov entering the fold, the risk of missile attacks from the Black Sea had increased.
⚡️ Ukraine’s Military: Russian frigate Admiral Makarov leaves Sevastopol.
Ukraine’s Operational Command “South” said on May 22 that the warship made its way to Russian positions in the Black Sea, increasing the probability of missile strikes on Ukraine.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) May 23, 2022
Biden says US fully committed to Japan’s defence
Biden has assured his “good friend” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan that the US is fully committed to Japan’s defence, amid simmering tension with China and the ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The US-Japan alliance has long been the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, and the United States remains fully committed to Japan’s defence,” Biden said at the beginning of talks with Kishida at the Akasaka Palace in central Tokyo.
Russian soldiers clear mines at Azovstal plant
Russian soldiers cleared mines and debris on the industrial grounds of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol on Sunday after hundreds of Ukrainian forces holed up there for weeks surrendered.
Soldiers walked through the compound and swung mine detectors over roads littered with debris, while others checked under objects for the explosive devices, video footage showed.
“The task is huge, the enemy planted their own landmines, we had also planted anti-personnel mines while blocking the enemy. So we’ve got some two weeks of work ahead of us,” said a Russian soldier who only gave his nom de guerre, Babai, Reuters reported.
“Over the last two days, over 100 explosives have been destroyed,” Babai said.
Zelenskyy to speak at Davos Forum Monday
Zelenskyy will address the World Economic Forum in Davos via livestream, while Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko, is expected to attend in person.
The war in Ukraine is expected to be a prominent topic in this year’s Davos discussions to which Russian companies and representatives have not received invitations.
“There will be other public speeches during the week, including an address to the Stanford University community. As well as a special format of communication with the political and expert communities of Indonesia,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime address.
— Sasha Vakulina (@sashavakulina) May 21, 2022
Russia’s imports down to 2020 levels: Official
Imports into Russia have fallen to 2020 levels due to “measures from unfriendly states”, which have led to logistical difficulties, a deputy head of Russia’s customs service has said, state agency RIA news reports.
Ruslan Davydov said deliveries from the northwest had seen the highest decrease due to port closures and bans on Russian ships, while imports had increased from countries to Russia’s east and south, in particular China and Kazakhstan.
“In addition, we see that in the Baltic countries and Poland, cargoes are artificially slowed down and subjected to 100% inspection,” Davydov said, adding that this represented an “economic war” against Russia.
NZ sending 30 army personnel to train Ukraine soldiers in UK
New Zealand will send 30 defence force personnel to the UK to help train Ukrainian soldiers on operating L119 light field guns.
“Our training team has been requested to help train members of Ukraine’s Armed Forces in the use of the weapon system until the end of July,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, making it clear the NZ soldiers would be based in the UK and would not enter Ukraine.
New Zealand’s Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short said 230 Ukrainians would be trained and it would take about a week for each training session.
Ukraine, Poland agree on joint customs control
Ukraine and Poland have agreed to establish joint border customs control and work on a shared railway company to ease the movement of people and increase Ukraine’s export potential.
Zelenskyy and Duda touted the increased cooperation during a meeting in Kyiv on Sunday, with Duda telling Ukrainian lawmakers: “The Polish-Ukrainian border should unite not divide.”
Zelenskyy called the joint border customs control a “revolutionary” move and said it would “significantly speed up border procedures”.
Ukraine ends taxation agreement with Russia
Ukraine’s parliament has voted to end a double taxation agreement with Russia, which had been in place since 1995 and in which Russian residents operating in Ukraine were exempt from paying Kyiv’s taxes and could be taxed by their home country only, Interfax has reported.
Ukraine’s finance ministry said that now “all income of residents of the Russian Federation received from sources in Ukraine will be subject to a general tax rate of 15% established by the Tax Code of Ukraine,” instead of preferential rates established by the double taxation agreement.
The ministry also said Ukrainian residents operating in Russia will equally no longer be able to pay Moscow’s taxes.
Kharkiv region’s rescuers recovered 150 bodies in since the invasion began
Kharkiv’s emergency services say that since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, they have cleared 98 locations of rubble and recovered 150 bodies across the region, Interfax reports.
Some 250 people were rescued, but five emergency services workers died during the operations, Anatoly Toryanik, deputy head of the regional emergency services, said during a national telethon.
Toryanik said the areas subject to the most severe shelling were the Kharkiv suburbs of Severnaya Saltovka, Pyatikhatki and Gorizont, as well as the villages of Zhukovsky and Rohan.
US and 6 others say they support APEC after Russian invasion protest
Representatives of seven nations, including those who walked out of the APEC meeting in Bangkok to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, say they support the organisation and host nation Thailand.
Representatives of Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the United States said in a joint statement they had “grave concerns” over the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, urging Russia to “immediately cease its use of force and completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces”.
Representatives from Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand joined the Americans, led by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, in walking out of the meeting on Saturday, while Russian economy minister Maxim Reshetnikov was speaking.
Hundreds of protesters in Tokyo rally against Biden’s visit, support for Ukraine
Hundreds of Japanese people rallied at Shiba Park in Tokyo on Sunday to protest against Biden’s three-day visit to Japan, as international tensions run high over the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“West European countries and NATO members led by the US have intensified the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, provided military supplies [for Ukraine], imposing sanctions on Russia. All this will not stop the conflict but intensify and prolong it, instead,” one protestor, Ota, said.
“From a historical perspective, it is the eastward expansion advanced by the US and NATO that provoked Russia’s resistance. The root cause is the US,” said Shunkichi Takayama, a lawyer.
Biden is set to attend a summit on Tuesday where he will meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to promote the “Quad” mechanism.
Russia seeks new advance at Severodonetsk: Think-tank
Russian forces continued ground assaults around the major Luhansk city of Severodonetsk on Sunday but made only minimal gains in the east of the country as it seeks to capture the last Luhansk stronghold, the Institute for the Study of War has said.
In its latest campaign assessment, the institute noted that Russia had been unsuccessful at encircling Severodonetsk from the east to support its previous advances towards the city from the north (via Rubizhne), west (via Bilohorivka), and south (via Popasna). But it added that there had been confirmed reports Russia seemed to have broken through Ukrainian defences around Popasna.
“Russian forces likely seek to open a new line of advance north from Popasna to complete the encirclement of Severodonetsk while simultaneously driving west toward Bakhmut, though Russian forces are unlikely to be able to fully resource both lines of advance simultaneously,” the institute said.
May 22, 2022. Russian forces have secured advances to the north and west of Popasna since at least May 20. Russian forces likely seek to push further west toward Bakhmut and north to support the encirclement of Severodonetsk.
— George Barros (@georgewbarros) May 22, 2022
Zelenskyy dubs Poland’s Rzeszów ‘Rescuer City’
Zelenskyy has given the Polish city of Rzeszów the honorary title of “Rescuer City” for its help in welcoming millions of Ukraine’s refugees; Rzeszów, about an hour from the border with Ukraine, has been a reception point for people fleeing the war.
“I have introduced a special honorary title of ‘rescuer city’ for the partner cities of our state, which today do the impossible to help us, to help our people, to help our army,” Zelenskyy said in parliament during a visit from Poland’s President Andrzej Duda.
“On behalf of the entire Ukrainian people, I would like to express great gratitude to the city of Rzeszów, the first rescuer city,” he added.
Ukraine to reach verdict on Russian soldier Monday
A Ukrainian court is expected to reach a verdict for a Russian soldier who was the first to go on trial for an alleged war crime.
The 21-year-old sergeant, who has admitted to shooting a Ukrainian man in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region on February 28, could get life in prison if convicted.
Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Iryna Venediktova said her office was prosecuting war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offences that included bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting.
She said it was looking into more than 10,700 potential war crimes involving more than 600 suspects, including Russian soldiers and government officials.
Russia’s lead negotiator says Moscow willing to resume negotiations
Russia’s lead negotiator in peace talks with Ukraine said on Sunday that Moscow was willing to resume negotiations, but that the decision remained with Kyiv.
“Freezing talks was entirely Ukraine’s initiative,” Vladimir Medinsky told Belarusian TV, adding that the “ball is completely in their court”.
He spoke a day after Zelenskyy said the war “will only definitively end through diplomacy”.
Polish leader first to address wartime Kyiv parliament
Poland’s president has travelled to Kyiv to become the first foreign leader to address the Ukrainian parliament since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Ukrainian legislators stood on Sunday to applaud Polish President Andrzej Duda, who thanked them for the honour of speaking in a place where, he said, “the heart of a free, independent and democratic Ukraine beats”, according to remarks carried by the Polish state-run news agency PAP.
“The free world has the face of Ukraine,” Duda told the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s legislature.
Read more here.
UK’s Johnson discussed Russia’s blockade of Odesa with Zelenskyy
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday discussed with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s shipping port Odesa, a Downing Street spokesperson said.
Johnson resolved to redouble efforts to provide vital food and humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine and ensure the country was able to export to the rest of the world, the spokesperson added.
Ukraine parliament bans Russian war symbols
Ukraine’s parliament has banned the symbols “Z” and “V”, used by Russia’s military to promote its war in the country but agreed to Zelenskyy’s call to allow their use for educational or historic purposes.
Yaroslav Zheleznyak, an opposition member, announced the decision on the Telegram messaging app, saying 313 deputies of the 423-member Verkhovna Rada had voted in favour.
Zelenskyy had vetoed an earlier version of the bill and called for the two symbols to be allowed in displays in museums, libraries, scientific works, re-enactments, textbooks and similar instances.
Neither of the two letters exists in the Russian alphabet. They have been widely used, particularly on Russian military vehicles and equipment, to promote the aims of the conflict.
Ukraine rejects concessions as Russians attack in east and south
Ukraine rules out a ceasefire or any territorial concessions to Moscow as Russia stepped up its attack in the east and south of the country, pounding the Donbas and Mykolaiv regions with air strikes and artillery fire.
Kyiv’s stance has become increasingly uncompromising in recent weeks as Russia experienced military setbacks while Ukrainian officials worried they might be pressured to sacrifice land for a peace deal.
“The war must end with the complete restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Andriy Yermak, Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff said in a Twitter post.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.
Read all the updates from Saturday, May 22 here.