Here are the key events so far on Thursday, May 26.
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- Russian forces are close to encircling two key towns in the eastern Donbas region with constant mortar bombardment destroying houses and killing civilians, Ukrainian officials said.
- Russian forces shelled more than 40 towns in the Donbas, Ukraine’s military said, threatening to shut off the last main escape route for civilians.
- About 150 people were buried in a mass grave in one of its key towns, Lysychansk, and police are collecting more bodies, said the regional governor.
- About 8,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war are held in the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, Luhansk official Rodion Miroshnik said, according to TASS news agency.
- The separatist leader of Donetsk called for the acceleration of Russia’s military operation in the Donbas, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
- Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy strongly opposed Henry Kissinger and others in the West who have suggested Ukraine should give up control of areas to Russia.
- The US Department of State said evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine continues to mount.
- Ukraine has forever lost access to the Sea of Azov, a Russian representative in the occupied Zaporizhia region said.
- Russia has a nine-month window to win the war before Ukraine will “absorb the weapons from the West and make them operational, form the right units, and train them”, former NATO General Konstantinos Loukopoulos said.
- At least 432 civilians have been killed and 1,168 wounded in the Donetsk region since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, the governor said.
- Ukraine said 240 children have died and 436 were injured since Russia’s invasion.
- Three people were killed in an artillery attack on Lysychansk and surrounding areas, including a shell that hit a humanitarian centre in Severodonetsk, the governor of Luhansk said.
- Police are burying people in mass graves temporarily and relatives will be able to retrieve the bodies after the war, the governor said.
- The International Committee of the Red Cross said it has been able to tell 300 families in Russia and Ukraine about the fate of their loved ones.
- A senior Turkish official insisted after talks with Swedish and Finnish delegations that Turkey will not agree to them joining NATO unless specific steps are taken to address Ankara’s objections.
- Austria agreed to treat some severely wounded Ukrainian soldiers after Zelenskyy held a meeting with the Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on the situation in the Donbas and “other areas of hostilities”.
- The Spanish and British defence ministers expressed “worrying” threat to the security of NATO countries is caused by Russia’s expanding influence and activity in Africa.
- The United States, European Union, and the United Kingdom announced they are launching a new mechanism – the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group – to ensure accountability for war crimes in Ukraine.
- Ukrainian President Zelenskyy ordered an end to visa-free travel to Ukraine for Russian citizens, citing the need to improve border security.
- The EU hopes to be able to agree on sanctions on Russian oil sales before the next meeting of its leaders, President Charles Michel said.
- Russia is advancing a new law allowing it to take control of businesses of Western companies that decide to leave in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, raising the stakes for multinationals trying to exit.
- The US pushed Russia closer to the brink of a historic debt default by not extending its license to pay bondholders.
- The Russian defence ministry is promising to open a safe corridor to allow foreign ships to leave Black Sea ports, with another safe area for vessels to leave Mariupol.
- The US said it will not consider lifting sanctions on Russia in exchange for Moscow helping Ukrainian exports leave Black Sea ports.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a 10 percent raise to the minimum wage rate to about $250 a month and pensions to $320 in the coming weeks, as the Russian economy faces an unprecedented wave of international sanctions.
- World Bank President David Malpass suggested the war in Ukraine and its effects on food and energy prices could trigger a global recession as “it’s hard right now to see how we avoid a recession”.
- Russia’s oil production is expected to decline by 8.4 percent in 2022, from 524 million tonnes in 2021 to 480-500 million tonnes this year, the deputy prime minister said.
- Putin signed a decree simplifying the process for residents of Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions to acquire Russian citizenship and passports.
- Russia’s decision to give Ukrainian residents in occupied regions citizenship may be laying the groundwork to carry out mobilisation in these regions, the Institute for the Study of War suggested.
- The occupied Zaporizhia and Kherson regions will no longer return to Ukraine after Moscow’s decision to fast track Russian citizenship for Ukrainian residents, a Moscow-installed officer said.
- The US said Moscow’s move to fast track citizenship for residents is one element of Russia’s attempt to subjugate the people of Ukraine and impose its will by force by gaining “legitimacy to Russian rule over parts of what is sovereign Ukrainian territory”.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies