Here is the situation as it stands on Friday, May 26, 2023.
- Wagner forces began withdrawing from Ukraine’s eastern city of Bakhmut and will hand over positions to the Russian army, the mercenary group’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said.
- Prigozhin said he would return the bodies of a United States citizen killed in fighting in Bakhmut and a Turkish citizen found dead in a blown-up building.
- Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential aide, told the Reuters news agency that Ukraine had nothing to do with a “strange and pointless” drone attack on the Kremlin, playing down the findings of two US media reports that said otherwise.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff said Kyiv had secured the release of 106 prisoners of war in an exchange with Russia. The soldiers, including eight officers, were captured fighting in Bakhmut.
- The European Commission has called for China to play a constructive role in establishing peace in Ukraine after a top European Union diplomat met China’s envoy Li Hui, who is on a tour of Europe that began in Kyiv. Li is due in Moscow on Friday.
- The US imposed sanctions on the head of the Wagner Group in Mali, accusing the Russian private army of trying to obscure its efforts to acquire military equipment for use in Ukraine and of working through Mali and other countries.
- Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said the relocation of some tactical nuclear weapons from Russia to Belarus had begun, according to Russia’s state TASS news agency.
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said Russia’s transfer of nuclear weapons to her country represents a threat to Europe and Ukraine.
- Russia summoned the ambassadors of Germany, Sweden and Denmark to protest over what it called a “complete lack of results” in investigating the Nord Stream pipeline blasts.
- Russia said it would expel five Swedish diplomats in a retaliatory measure for Sweden’s “confrontational course” in relations with Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the move was in response to the expulsion of five diplomatic staff from Sweden last month, which it said was an “openly hostile step”.
- The US defence secretary said European allies are developing a coordinated programme to train Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 fighter jets.
- Finland’s government said it will send additional military equipment to Ukraine, including anti-aircraft weaponry and ammunition, at an overall cost of 109 million euros ($120m).
- Sweden might allow Ukrainian pilots to test its Gripen fighter jets, its defence minister told broadcaster TV4.
- Zelenskyy urged Iranians to reconsider the supply of deadly drones to Russia to stop their slide into “the dark side of history”. Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones supplied to Moscow have played a major role in Russia’s attacks on cities and infrastructure, although Zelenskyy said Kyiv’s air defences were now skilled at shooting them down.