Russia-Ukraine live news: Kyiv appeals for rocket launchers

Describing an ‘extremely bad’ situation as Ukraine battles to keep control of a strategic eastern city, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba calls on partners for more weapons.

A Ukrainian fighter is seen sitting atop a tank in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine
Russia has refocused its offensive on Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, where Moscow-backed separatists have held swaths of territory since early 2014 [Carlos Barria/Reuters]
  • Ukraine appeals for its allies to urgently supply it with multiple-launch rocket systems as fighting rages in the country’s eastern Donbas region.
  • Russian foreign ministry official dismisses peace plan proposed by Italy as a “fantasy”.
  • Swedish, Finnish delegations hold talks with Turkish officials in Ankara over Turkey’s concerns regarding the two Nordic countries’ NATO membership bids.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accuses Western countries of lacking “unity” over the war, citing differing positions on weapons supplies to Kyiv and disagreements within the NATO military alliance.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 910

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These were the updates on Wednesday, May 25:

Russia allows gas flows to Gazprom Marketing & Trading for 90 days

Russia gave permission for natural gas supplies to Gazprom Marketing & Trading Singapore Ltd, part of Gazprom Germania, from the Yamal LNG project for 90 days, a government decree shows.

The move comes less than two weeks after the Kremlin said that Russian sanctions imposed on state gas company Gazprom’s former German unit and other entities meant they could not receive gas supplies from Russia.

Germany, Russia’s top client in Europe, in early April transferred Gazprom Germania, an energy trading, storage and transmission business ditched by Russia’s Gazprom, to its energy regulator to ensure energy security.

Zelenskyy orders end to visa-free travel for Russians

Russian citizens are not allowed any more to travel to Ukraine without a visa, Zelenskyy says citing the need to improve border security.

In an order posted on the presidential website, the Ukrainian leader said he backed a petition submitted by a citizen asking for this practice to end.

Four killed, 12 wounded in Donetsk: local authority

Four people were killed in the eastern region of Donetsk due to Russian shelling, regional military chief Pavlo Kyrylenko says.

“Another 12 people were injured,” he added on social media.

‘The situation is extremely bad’: Luhansk governor

Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province, has given a short update on the situation in the eastern region.

“The situation in Donbas is extremely bad … The shelling does not stop at all,” he said on his Telegram channel.

Gaidai also said that the Lysychansk-Bakhmut highway – whose seizure by Russian forces would cut Luhansk from the rest of the country – was under fire.

While Russian soldiers had managed on Tuesday to set up checkpoints on the road, he added, today it was not blocked.

Turkey calls on Sweden, Finland to take concrete steps against ‘terror groups’

Turkey’s presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin has called on Sweden and Finland to take concrete steps against “terror groups” in order to address Turkey’s security concerns.

Ankara has repeatedly voiced objections over the two Nordic countries’ application to the military alliance due to their perceived support of groups such as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long fight against Turkey.

Kalin also said he noted a “positive attitude” by Swedish and Finnish officials over lifting an arms exports embargo on Turkey – one of the country’s demands to soften its position over their bids to join NATO.

Sweden and Finland had banned arms exports to Turkey after its Syria incursion against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Ankara considers the group similar to the PKK.

Ukrainian FM slams NATO for ‘doing literally nothing’ to stop Russia

Ukraine’s top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba has blasted NATO of “doing literally nothing” in the face of Russia’s invasion.

“NATO as an alliance, as an institution, is completely sidelined and doing literally nothing. I’m sorry to say it,” Kuleba told global business leaders attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Russian diplomat says UN official to visit Moscow for talks on fertiliser exports

A senior United Nations official is due to visit Moscow in the coming days to “discuss the scheme by which we can export out fertilisers”, Russia’s UN ambassador has told the Reuters news agency.

Vassily Nebenzia said that “formally fertilisers and grain are not under sanctions, but there are logistical, transport, insurance, bank transfer problems” created by Western sanctions imposed on Russia that “prevent us from exporting freely”.

“We are prepared to export fertilisers and grain from our ports to the world market,” he added.

Nebenzia named the UN official due to visit as Rebecca Grynspan, the head of the UN Conference on Trade and Development and coordinator of the world body’s Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, which was set up to help countries facing economic shocks stemming from the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine accuses Moscow of ‘blackmail’ over sanctions demands

Ukraine’s foreign minister has accused Moscow of attempting to “blackmail” world leaders by “demanding to lift sanctions in exchange for them unblocking Ukraine’s food exports”.

“Any foreign politician or official who may think of accepting this game should first visit the graves of killed Ukrainian children and talk to their parents,” Kuleba tweeted.

EU official says $24bn of Russian central bank assets frozen in bloc

A top European Union official says the bloc’s 27 member states have reported the freezing of about 23 billion euros ($24.5bn) of assets of the Russian Central Bank, revealing for the first time a figure that was expected to be much higher.

Russia has publicly said that Western sanctions led to the freezing of about $300bn of its central bank’s assets globally.

Of these frozen assets, only less than one-tenth is in the EU, according to information that the European Commission has collected from the 27 EU governments, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told a news conference.

In addition to that, EU countries have also frozen about 10 billion euros of physical assets, such as yachts and villas, linked to oligarchs and officials with ties to the Kremlin, Reynders said.

Putin visits soldiers wounded in Ukraine

Russian state media has shown President Vladimir Putin meeting with soldiers wounded during Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, marking his first such public visit since launching the invasion.

The Rossiya-24 news channel showed Putin wearing a white coat while chatting to Russian troops at Moscow’s Mandryka military hospital.

After meeting the wounded men, Putin said at a televised meeting with government officials: “These are people who are risking their health and lives for the sake of the people and children of Donbas, for the sake of Russia. They are all heroes.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin is pictured visiting wounded Russian soldiers
Putin launched Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February and Moscow has reportedly suffered heavy losses of service personnel amid the conflict [Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via Reuters]

Russian-backed official says cargo ship to depart Mariupol port for Rostov-on-Don

Russia’s TASS news agency has quoted a Russian-backed official in Mariupol as saying that the first cargo ship to leave its port since Moscow’s forces completed their capture of the southeastern city will depart in the next few days.

The official said the vessel would carry about 3,000 tonnes of metals to Rostov-on-Don, in Russia, TASS reported.

Russia’s defence ministry said earlier on Wednesday that Mariupol’s port, a shallow-water harbour on the Azov Sea, was “operating normally”.

UK urges Russia to let Ukraine export its grain

The United Kingdom’s defence secretary has called on Russia to allow Ukraine to export its grain in order to help countries where a scarcity of the foodstuff could trigger hunger crises.

Moscow must “do the right thing” over the issue, Ben Wallace told reporters in Madrid, Spain, where he met his counterpart Margarita Robles.

He also rejected earlier suggestions from a Russian official that the exports could be permitted in exchange for a lifting of sanctions on Moscow.

AU chairperson says Africa a ‘collateral victim’ of Ukraine war

Africa has become a “collateral victim” of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, further denting the continent’s ability to fulfil its “enormous promise and potential”, top officials of the African Union and United Nations have said in messages for Africa Day.

“Africa has become the collateral victim of a distant conflict, that between Russia and Ukraine,” said Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the AU Commission, the body’s secretariat.

“By profoundly upsetting the fragile global geopolitical and geostrategic balance, it has also cast a harsh light on the structural fragility of our economies.”

Read more here.

Ukrainian troops battling to retain control of key supply route to Severodonetsk

Ukraine’s defence ministry says its forces are battling to remain in control of a key highway to the front-line city of Severodonetsk, in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine.

Defence ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said in a briefing that alternative routes existed to supply Ukrainian units defending the city, which is enveloped on three sides by Russian forces.

He added that Russia’s aim was to fully surround Ukrainian troops there, as well as in the nearby city of Lysychansk.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Donbas DAY 91

Russian official calls Italian peace plan a ‘fantasy’

A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry has described a peace plan for Ukraine put forward by Italy as a “fantasy”.

“You can’t supply Ukraine with weapons with one hand and come up with plans for a peaceful resolution of the situation with the other,” Maria Zakharova said at her weekly briefing, referring to the Italian initiative.

“If they hope that the Russian Federation will seize on any Western plan, then they haven’t understood much,” she added.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio gave the broad outlines of the plan last week and said that he had discussed it with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a visit to New York. The Kremlin said on Tuesday it had not seen the initiative but hoped to receive it through diplomatic channels.

Ukraine appeals for US, other allies to supply rocket launchers quickly

Ukraine’s foreign minister says the urgency of his country’s weapons needs can be summed up in two abbreviations – MLRS and ASAP, meaning multiple-launch rocket systems and as soon as possible.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Dmytro Kuleba warned the situation in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region was “extremely bad”.

He said he had conducted about 10 bilateral meetings with other officials whose countries possess MLRS. “The response I get is, ‘Have the Americans given it to you already?’” Kuleba said, alluding to US leadership. “So this is the burden of being a leader. Everyone is looking at you. So Washington has to keep the promise and provide us with multiple launch rocket systems as soon as possible. Others will follow.”

“If we do not get an MLRS ASAP, the situation in Donbas will get even worse than it is now,” Kuleba added. “Every day of someone sitting in Washington, Berlin, Paris and other capitals, and considering whether they should or should not do something, costs us lives and territories.”

Moscow preparing measures against English-language media

Moscow is working on measures against English-language media in response to “unfriendly actions” by foreign governments towards Russian news outlets, Zakharova says.

The foreign ministry spokeswoman referred in the comments at her weekly briefing to “Anglo-Saxon media”, using a term Russian officials often cite when talking about the English-speaking world.

Moldova says corruption probe into opposition leader will be in line with law

Moldova’s justice minister has promised to ensure a corruption investigation into detained pro-Russian opposition leader Igor Dodon will be in strict accordance with the law after he accused the country’s government of a politically motivated attack.

“Corrupt politicians must answer before the law,” Sergiu Litvinenco said on Facebook.

Dodon, who was president of the eastern European country until 2020, was detained on Tuesday for up to 72 hours following a search of his home. In a statement, he said he was innocent and that the case had been fabricated.

His arrest comes at a time when relations between Moscow and Chisinau are increasingly strained. Russia’s foreign ministry said it would carefully monitor the situation around the investigation.

Russia offers fast-track citizenship to residents of occupied Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree simplifying the process for residents of Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions to acquire Russian citizenship and passports.

The decree extends a scheme available since 2019 to residents of areas controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Swedish PM says talks in Turkey will ‘sort out’ Ankara’s NATO concerns

Swedish diplomats holding meetings with Turkish officials in Ankara today will discuss Turkey’s concerns about Sweden and Finland’s applications for NATO membership, the country’s prime minister says.

“We will naturally go through and discuss the list and sort out a number of things that have been unclear in reporting in the media and statements from other places,” Magdalena Andersson said.

“Clearly, it’s about where we send our financial aid, for example, and that we sell weapons. We don’t send money to terrorist organisations, obviously – or weapons either.”

NATO member Turkey has repeatedly criticised Sweden and other Western European countries for its handling of organisations deemed to be “terrorists” by Ankara, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the United States-based Muslim scholar accused of involvement in a failed 2016 coup.

INTERACTIVE- NATO history and expansions Fin

Latvian leader confident Sweden and Finland will ‘join NATO soon’

Latvian President Egils Levits says he believes Sweden and Finland will be able to resolve Turkey’s concerns about the Nordic countries’ NATO membership bids.

“We want to strengthen the alliance more through two new member states – Finland and Sweden – and this is in the interests of Turkey and all member states,” he told Al Jazeera from the sidelines of the WEF gathering in Davos.

“Therefore, I am sure that Turkey, Finland and Sweden will solve the problems which they have and that at the end, Finland and Sweden will join NATO, and soon.”

Russian lawmakers vote to scrap upper age limit for military

Russia’s State Duma has approved a bill to remove the upper age limit for contractual service in the country’s military.

Currently, only Russians aged between 18 and 40 and foreigners aged 18 to 30 can enlist as professional soldiers in the Russian army.

Will Turkey block Finland and Sweden from becoming NATO members?

Sweden and Finland began their NATO membership application processes earlier this month, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear that he opposed the move.

Ankara is out of step with the rest of the alliance’s member states, which have backed NATO expansion as Russia’s war on Ukraine rages.

Ultimately, all 30 members must vote unanimously in favour of the historically neutral Nordic nations if they are to join the Washington-led group, so Turkey could – in theory – block an application.

Read more here.

Estonian PM says ‘a bad peace’ must be avoided

Ukraine has to be able to negotiate with Russia from a position of strength so that Moscow is not encouraged to take further aggressive action, Estonia’s prime minister says.

“We must avoid a bad peace, a badly negotiated peace for Ukraine would mean a bad peace for us all,” Kaja Kallas said in a speech while on a visit to Stockholm, Sweden.

“It is much more dangerous giving in to Putin, than provoking him. All these seemingly small concessions to the aggressor lead to big wars. We have done this mistake already three times: Georgia, Crimea and Donbas,” she added.

West lacking ‘unity’ over Ukraine: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president has accused the West of being divided over the extent of its support for his country.

“Unity is about weapons. My question is, is there this unity in practice? I can’t see it. Our huge advantage over Russia would be when we are truly united,” Zelenskyy said during a panel discussion on Ukraine at the WEF gathering.

Kyiv’s Western allies have poured billions of dollars’ worth of arms into Ukraine amid Russia’s offensive but Germany – Europe’s largest economy – has struggled to send heavy weaponry Kyiv’s way during the conflict.

Zelenskyy, who was speaking via video link, also pointed to the lack of consensus over the possible accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO. Turkey, a NATO member, has expressed opposition to the Nordic countries becoming members of the military alliance.

“So, is there a strong joint West? No,” he said.

Moscow says Mariupol port operating normally

Russia’s defence ministry says that Mariupol’s port is operating normally after the city was seized by Moscow’s forces following a three-month siege.

The ministry’s statement came after a Russian foreign ministry official said earlier on Wednesday that Moscow was in touch with the United Nations and  “does not rule out the possibility of global talks to unblock Ukraine’s ports”.

Mini map showing Mariupol's location within Ukraine

Lithuania to transfer 20 armoured personal carriers to Ukraine

Lithuania will transfer 20 M113 armoured personnel carriers to Ukraine, as well as military trucks and de-mining vehicles, the country’s defence ministry says.

The vehicles are worth a total of 15.5 million euros ($16.5m), the ministry said in a statement. Lithuania has previously provided military support to Ukraine worth 100 million euros ($107m), it added.

Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said the “coordinated help” from Vilnius and Kyiv’s other allies would prove to be “the deciding factor for the Ukrainian victory”.

Nike not renewing franchise agreements in Russia: Report

US sportswear giant Nike has not renewed agreements with its largest franchisee in Russia, according to the country’s Vedomosti newspaper.

Nike announced on March 3 that it would temporarily suspend operations at all of its stores in Russia in response to Moscow’s invasion and has said that those still open are operated by independent partners.

The head of Inventive Retail Group, which operates Nike-branded stores in Russia through its subsidiary Up And Run, said Nike was no longer supplying goods to Russia, Vedomosti reported.

Moscow ready to set up corridor for ships carrying food to leave Ukraine: Official

Russia is ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine in return for the lifting of some sanctions, the country’s Interfax news agency has cited deputy foreign minister Andrey Rudenko as saying.

Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have been blocked since Moscow launched its offensive and more than 20 million tonnes of grain are stuck in silos in the country.

Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies and the lack of significant grain exports from Ukraine’s ports is contributing to a growing global food crisis. Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.

Western powers have been discussing the idea of setting up “safe corridors” for grain exports from Ukraine’s ports, adding that any such corridor would need Russian consent.

Zelenskyy says Ukraine will fight to recover all territory

Zelenskyy says he is only willing to talk directly to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about ending the war.

Addressing the panel discussion on Ukraine in Davos, the Ukrainian leader said there was the possibility of finding a diplomatic way out of the conflict if the Russian president “understands reality”.

He added that Ukrainian forces will continue to fight Moscow’s troops until they recover all of the country’s territory and called on the Kremlin to withdraw its forces back to the lines in place before Russia began its invasion in late February.

“That might be a first step towards talks,” Zelenskyy said, before also accusing Russia of playing for time in talks over ending the conflict.

NATO unlikely to help unblock ports: Ukraine’s FM

Ukraine’s foreign minister says that NATO is unlikely to enforce a no-fly zone to help ships leave blocked Ukrainian ports.

“If NATO did not close the skies over Ukraine at the most tragic moments of the war, then why would they now open the sea so that exports could leave without barriers?” Dmytro Kuleba said on Wednesday at the WEF gathering in Davos.

He added that even if Russia signed guarantees to ensure a peaceful passage for ships out of Ukraine’s ports, it could violate the agreement at any time.

“Russia is absolutely unpredictable in its behaviour,” Kuleba said.

At least 22,000 killed in Mariupol: Official

An adviser to the mayor of Mariupol says officials believe at least 22,000 people were killed during months of fighting in the now Russian-occupied southeastern port city.

Petro Andryushchenko, who has fled to Ukrainian-held territory, told CNN the toll was based on information provided by Ukrainian officials still residing in the city. He added he believed the true number of fatalities could be much higher.

Andryushchenko said the process of burying those killed had been complicated by Russia’s insistence that reclaimed bodies be brought to a morgue and that a person claiming a body must agree to record a video in which the applicant says the deceased was killed by the Ukrainian military.

He added that information provided to him by his network of sources indicated Mariupol has been thrown back to the “Middle Ages”.

There was no immediate response to Andryushchenko’s claim from Moscow, and Al Jazeera could not independently verify his report.

Local residents gather at a makeshift street market next two fresh graves in the foreground in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, Friday, April 22, 2022
Residents gather at a makeshift street market next to two fresh graves in the foreground in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Friday, April 22, 2022 [Alexei Alexandrov/AP]

Shelling kills six in Severodonetsk, injures eight: Governor

Russian shelling killed six people in the city of Severodonetsk on Tuesday and wounded another eight, the governor of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region says.

“One woman had to have her leg amputated,” Serhiy Haidai said in a Telegram post.

Romani refugees from Ukraine face segregation in Moldova: HRW

Moldovan authorities are deliberately housing most Romani refugees separately from others fleeing the war in Ukraine, in a manner that constitutes unequal and discriminatory treatment, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has found.

The information comes from interviews HRW conducted between March 30 and April 5 which included members of police, border patrol, staff and volunteers working at transit and reception sites, refugees, UN agencies and Roma rights activists.

HRW found a practice that appeared to be based on an agreed policy to segregate Romani refugees in designated state-run reception centres, which volunteers said were inferior, and to deny Romani refugees housing together with other refugees in alternate state-run centres.

Since February 24, 2022, more than 471,000 refugees have crossed into Moldova from Ukraine, the highest per capita influx to a neighbouring country.

Refugee children look out from a bus leaving to Romania after fleeing the war from neighbouring Ukraine, at the border crossing in Palanca, Moldova, Friday, March 11, 2022
Refugee children look out from a bus leaving for Romania after fleeing the war from neighbouring Ukraine, at the border crossing in Palanca, Moldova, on Friday, March 11, 2022 [Sergei Grits/AP]

Staple product prices due to rise as Russia continues blocking Ukraine ports: UK

The United Kingdom’s defence ministry has echoed global concerns about the risk of price rises among staple products due to the blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

“There has been no significant shipping activity in or out of Odesa since the start of the war,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing.

“Fighting has already placed indirect pressure on global grain prices. While the threat of Russia’s naval blockade continues to deter access by commercial shipping to Ukrainian ports, the resulting supply shortfalls will further increase the price of many staple products,” the ministry added.

Russia launched three missiles on Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk: Governor

Russian forces launched three missiles on Kryvyi Rih, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration has said, noting there was “serious damage”.

“Information about the victims is being specified,” Valentin Reznichenko said on Telegram.

Russia launched four missiles at Zaporizhzhia: Local administration

Four cruise missiles were launched at the region of Zaporizhzhia early on Wednesday morning, with one having been shot down by Ukraine’s air defences, the region’s military administration reports.

“Today, on May 25, at 05:13 the Russian troops launched four cruise missiles across Zaporizhzhia. One of them was shot down by our air defence. The affected area is currently being inspected and appropriate services are working at the scene,” the post on Telegram said.

An air raid siren was activated across the region in the morning and residents said they had heard explosions. One posted on Twitter that a missile had hit someone’s home.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the administration’s report.

India allows duty-free imports of crude soyoil, crude sunflower oil

India has allowed duty-free imports of two million tonnes each of crude soy oil and crude sunflower oil for the current and the next fiscal year to March 2024, a government order has said, as part of efforts to keep a lid on local prices.

India imports more than two-thirds of its edible oil needs and a sharp drop in the supplies of sunflower oil from the Black Sea region has stoked local prices.

The Black Sea accounts for around 60 percent of the world’s sunflower oil output and 76 percent of exports, while Argentina, Brazil and the United States are the key soyoil suppliers to India.

“India’s soyoil imports will rise in the coming months, but sunoil imports are unlikely to rise as Russia and Argentina have limited stocks,” said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.

Russia shells Kherson, blames Ukraine: Army

Ukraine’s army says that Russian forces are regularly shelling areas in the now-occupied Kherson region but are directing the blame for the strikes at Kyiv.

“The occupying authorities and the Russian army are trying to force local residents to cooperate or agree to the occupation,” Ukraine’s Operational Command South said in a Facebook post.

“According to reports, they intend to mobilise Ukrainians from the occupied territories of the Kherson region for a war against Ukraine. This is a gross violation of the Geneva Convention and qualifies as a war crime,” it added.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the army’s reports.

Blinken criticises Moscow’s rejection of Navalny’s appeal

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has criticised a Moscow court for rejecting opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s appeal against a nine-year sentence, saying it was another example of the “Kremlin’s quest to suppress dissent and civil society”.

“We respect the brave citizens of Russia who protest their government’s brutal war and endemic corruption, despite threats, criminal charges, detentions and poisonings,” Blinken said in a tweet.

Navalny is serving nine years for alleged fraud and contempt of court – charges he denies as fabricated to thwart his political ambitions.

Intercepted conversations show Russian soldiers think war futile: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said that intercepted conversations of Russian soldiers in Donbas indicate they are aware of the senselessness of the war.

“Now the situation in Donbas is extremely difficult. In fact, all the strength the Russian army still has was thrown there to attack. Lyman, Popasna, Severodonetsk, Sloviansk,” Zelenskyy said in a video address.

“But in the interceptions of their conversations, we hear that they are well aware that this war does not make sense for Russia and that strategically their army stands no chance,” he added.

He said it would take time and “a lot of extraordinary efforts” for Ukraine to “break through” the superior equipment and weapons systems of Russia’s forces.

Russian forces making incremental gains in the east: Think-tank

Russian forces have likely abandoned efforts for a single large encirclement of Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine and are instead attempting to secure smaller encirclements. This enables them to make incremental measured gains, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.

“Russian forces are likely attempting to achieve several simultaneous encirclements of small pockets of Ukrainian forces in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts: the broader Severodonetsk area (including Rubizhne and Lysychansk), Bakhmut-Lysychansk, around Zolote (just northeast of Popasna), and around Ukrainian fortifications in Avdiivka,” the ISW said in its latest campaign analysis.

Although they begin advancing efforts in these different encirclements daily, Russian forces “haven’t achieved any major ‘breakthroughs’ or made major progress towards their stated objectives of securing the Donetsk Oblast borders or seizing all of Donbas,” the institute added.

Russian forces may have secured more terrain in the past week than earlier in May, but they have done so by reducing the scope of their objectives, the ISW said.

‘Last chance’ for foreign firms to leave Russia: Kuleba

Ukraine’s foreign minister has said Russia’s new law to allow the government to appoint new management of foreign companies that pulled out of Russia made it even more imperative for foreign companies remaining in the country to leave.

“It’s the last chance to save not only your reputation but your property,” Kuleba said in a statement.

Russia works on law to allow new management for pulled-out foreign firms

The Russian parliament has given preliminary approval to a bill that would allow the government to appoint new management of foreign companies that pulled out of Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

According to state news agency Tass, the new law would transfer control over companies that left Russia because of “anti-Russian sentiment in Europe and the US”. Tass said foreign owners would still be able to resume operations in Russia or sell their shares.

The State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, approved the bill in the first of three readings on Tuesday. After final approval, it would go to the upper house and then to the president for his signature.

The dismantled McDonald's Golden Arches after the logo signage was removed from a drive-through restaurant.
A view shows the dismantled McDonald’s Golden Arches after the logo signage was removed from a drive-through McDonald’s restaurant in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia on May 23, 2022 [Lev Sergeev/Reuters]

Tennis player Saville says cannot go back to Russia after opposing Ukraine invasion

Australian tennis player Daria Saville says she can no longer return to Russia, the country of her birth, after protesting against the military intervention in Ukraine.

Saville wore yellow and blue at the Paris Open in March and urged Putin to stop the war and the Russian army to return home in a post on social media.

“Already I can’t really go back to Russia, no,” she told Australian media at the French Open.

Saville, whose parents live in Moscow, represented Russia in tennis until emigrating to Australia seven years ago.

Ukraine minister says only one way to prevent war from escalating: ‘Help Ukraine win’

The head of the office of Ukraine’s president has said that there is only one way to prevent the war in Ukraine from escalating: “Help Ukraine win.”

Andrii Yermak told a panel at Davos that Ukrainian leaders “keep hearing calls for capitulation for the sake of peace in Europe”.

But “history teaches us that pacifying an aggressor is futile. They always take peacefulness for weakness. They demand more with every next concession,” Yermak said.

“Therefore, there is only one way to prevent the war in Ukraine from escalating into a continental and even world war: Help Ukraine win. Now, you don’t have to wage this war. Just help us do it. Otherwise, you’ll have to. You’ll have to send your troops to the battles,” he added.

Ukraine’s first lady urges the world to keep speaking about her country

Ukraine’s first lady has urged the world not to become accustomed to what is happening in Ukraine and to continue to speak about it.

“We ask on behalf of the whole of Ukraine – do not to get used to the fact that somewhere in Europe children are bombed. Talk about it. Because as soon as we all get used to it, Putin will have a psychological victory,” Olena Zelenska said in a talk via video link to Ukraine House at Davos.

“Information warfare is also ongoing. And if you start to think that there may be some justification for attacking another country, that invasion may make some sense, it means that you are under the influence of the Russian media,” she added.

Swedish delegation arrives in Turkey to discuss NATO bid

A Swedish government delegation, including the state secretary with responsibility for foreign affairs, Oscar Stenstrom, arrived in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Tuesday evening.

Turkish officials will meet with Swedish and Finnish delegations in Ankara on Wednesday to discuss Stockholm and Helsinki’s applications to become members of NATO, the Turkish foreign ministry confirmed.

Woman dies from shelling in Kharkiv region, another person injured

Russian shelling continued around Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv on Tuesday, even after Russian troops withdrew from its surroundings last week.

Ukrainian regional officials said the city of Derhachi was hit and a 69-year-old woman died and another person was injured.

Derhachi is southwest of the city of Kharkiv and has previously come under Russian shelling.

Ukraine says Russia firing at border guards in Sumy

The Ukrainian military has said Russia fired at Ukrainian border guards in the northeastern Sumy region in the latest of a series of alleged cross-border attacks over the past few weeks.

Military officials say observers on Tuesday night recorded seven shots from Russian territory towards the village of Boyaro-Lezhachi, most likely mortar fire.

The Ukrainian Operational Command North said on its Facebook post that eight other shots were heard on Tuesday afternoon near a neighbouring village. There were no reports of any deaths.

US official heads to India to talk about US sanctions on Russia

A Biden administration official is travelling to India to talk with officials and private industry about US sanctions, the Treasury Department has said, as Washington seeks to keep India’s purchases of Russian oil from rising.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, the assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, will visit New Delhi and Mumbai through Thursday, a Treasury spokesperson said.

The visit is part of a wider Biden administration effort to fan out to partners and allies around the world to talk with officials and industry about the implementation of US sanctions and export controls, the spokesperson said.

Zelenskyy says Russian defence minister’s comments are ‘pathetic’

Zelenskyy blasted comments made earlier by Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu, who said that Russia was deliberately slowing its offensive in Ukraine to allow civilians to evacuate.

“And they are trying to cover this up with lies about how they are supposedly not fighting at full strength? How pathetic – and the time will come when they will recognise this themselves,” Zelenskyy said in a late-night address.

Zelenskyy said Shoigu’s comments were “absolutely unreal”, given that Kyiv estimates Moscow has lost nearly 30,000 soldiers and thousands of tanks and other armoured vehicles.

Ukrainian refugee camp in Mexico City to close: Organisers

Organisers of a camp for Ukrainian refugees who had travelled to Mexico in hopes of reaching the US have said they will soon close it while discouraging Ukrainians still in Europe from travelling to Mexico.

“We are asking people from Europe, Ukrainians, to go through the programme from Europe, do not come to Mexico because it is much more expensive for them, it is a lot of travelling,” said Anastasiya Polo, spokeswoman for United with Ukraine.

The camp will close by June 1, but Ukrainians remaining in Mexico will continue receiving support.

Some 1,000 Ukrainians passed through the camp during the month that it was open on the east side of Mexico City. Now, only about 120 remain and 98 percent of those already have sponsors lined up in the US and expect to soon travel there, the organisation said.

Situation in Luhansk getting ‘worse with every hour’, governor says

The governor of Luhansk says the situation is getting “worse with every hour” as Russian attacks on the eastern Ukrainian region continue.

“The situation is very difficult and unfortunately it is only getting worse. It is getting worse with every day and even with every hour,” Governor Serhiy Haidai said in a video posted on Telegram.

“Shelling is increasing more and more. The Russian army has decided to completely destroy [key city] Severodonetsk.”

A resident sits outside a house ruined by shelling in Irpin, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 24, 2022
A resident sits outside a house ruined by shelling in Irpin, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 24, 2022 [Natacha Pisarenko/AP]

US criticises Russia-China military exercise

The US has criticised a joint military exercise between Russia and China, saying that it demonstrated that Beijing is still committed to its partnership with Moscow despite the invasion of Ukraine.

“This exercise was likely planned well in advance by both countries,” said State Department Spokesperson Ned Price.

“And Beijing’s decision to cooperate with Moscow in this way amid Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine and the Kremlin’s dangerous nuclear rhetoric demonstrates the ‘no limits partnerships’ that they talked about in their joint communique is quite alive and well.”

Early in February, before the Ukraine war, Russia and China released a lengthy joint statement that reaffirmed their alliance and expressed opposition to NATO expansion.

Ukraine post-war reconstruction, recovery to be key topics at int’l forum: Minister

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says the country’s “post-war reconstruction and recovery” will be key topics at an upcoming international forum in Switzerland.

The Ukraine Recovery Conference will take place in the town of Lugano on July 4 and 5, the Swiss government said earlier in a separate statement. Forty states and 18 international organisations have been invited.

“Switzerland is our trusted partner,” Kuleba tweeted alongside photos with Swiss Confederation President Ignazio Cassis at the WEF meeting. “We focused on Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction and recovery, which will be the key topics of this year’s conference in Lugano.”

Ukraine says 14 civilians killed in Russian attacks in Luhansk, Donetsk

Ukraine’s military has said Russian troops killed at least 14 civilians and injured 15 more on Tuesday during attacks in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

In a Facebook post, the military said Russian troops had used aircraft, multiple rocket launchers, artillery, tanks, mortars and missiles in their assault on the two regions.

Former German leader rejects Gazprom board nomination

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder says he rejected his nomination to the supervisory board of Kremlin-controlled gas giant Gazprom.

“I gave up my nomination to Gazprom’s Supervisory Board a long time ago. I have reported this to the company as well,” Schroder wrote on his LinkedIn account.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to huge public pressure in Germany for Schroder to turn his back on Putin and sever his ties with Russia’s biggest energy companies.

US will not extend key Russian debt payment waiver

The US will not extend a key waiver that allows Russia to pay US bondholders, which could push Moscow closer to the brink of default as Washington ramps up pressure on the country following its invasion of Ukraine.

The US Treasury Department said on its website it would not extend a license, set to expire at 12:01am local time in Washington, DC, (04:01 GMT) on Wednesday, allowing Russia to make payments on its sovereign debt to US persons.

The waiver had allowed Moscow to keep paying interest and principal and avert default on its government debt.

Read more here.

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

Read all the updates from Tuesday, May 24 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies