Ukraine Crisis

Latest Ukraine updates

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Disclaimer:

A number of claims and counterclaims are being made on the Ukraine-Russia conflict on the ground and online. While Independent Press takes utmost care to accurately report this developing news story, we cannot independently verify the authenticity of all statements, photos and videos. 

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Sat 21 May, 2022

Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, announced on Saturday that it had halted gas deliveries to Finland because it had not received payment in rubles. Following the deployment of Russian soldiers in Ukraine on February 24, Moscow requested that clients from “unfriendly countries,” including EU member states, pay for gas in rubles as a way to avoid Western financial sanctions.

The vast steel plant in Mariupol, which was the final stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the city, has been brought completely under Russian control, according to Russia’s defense chief.

.Follow our live blog for all the latest developments

 

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Zelensky says only ‘diplomacy’ can end Ukraine war

The Ukraine war can only be resolved through “diplomacy”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday amid a deadlock in negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow.

“The end will be through diplomacy,” he told a Ukrainian television channel. The war “will be bloody, there will be fighting but will only definitively end through diplomacy”.

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Russia claims full control of Mariupol

Russia’s defence chief says the country’s forces have taken full control of the massive steel plant in Mariupol that was the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the city.

That would mark the end of a nearly three-month siege that reduced much of Ukraine’s vital Black Sea port of Mariupol to ruins and left over 20,000 people there feared dead.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol has been “completely liberated” from Ukrainian fighters.

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Russia likely facing Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles shortage: UK

Russia is likely experiencing a shortage of appropriate reconnaissance Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which it has attempted to use to identify targets to be struck by combat jets or artillery, British Defence ministry says.

Russia is likely experiencing a shortage of appropriate reconnaissance UAVs, which is exacerbated by limitations in its domestic manufacturing capacity resulting from sanctions, Britain said in a regular bulletin.

If Russia continues to lose UAVs at current rate, Russian Forces intelligence, surveillance reconnaissance capability will be further degraded negatively impacting operational effectiveness, the ministry said. 

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Türkiye-UK work on opening routes for grain stocks

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed to work to unlock supply routes for Ukrainian grain stocks and alleviate rising global food prices, the Downing Street spokesperson said.

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Moody’s downgrades Ukraine’s outlook on debt uncertainty

Moody’s cut Ukraine’s debt rating for the second time in three months and lowered the outlook to negative due to the growing risk that the Russian offensive will affect the nation’s debt sustainability.

The ratings agency cut the grade a notch to Caa3, after lowering it two notches from B3 in early March, saying the country could face “a more protracted military conflict than Moody’s initially expected” following the invasion in late February.

That “increases the likelihood of a debt restructuring and losses being imposed on private-sector creditors,” the statement said.

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Britain wants to arm Moldova: Local media

According to local media outlet The Telegraph, the UK wants to send modern weaponry to Moldova to protect it from any threat of invasion from Russia, citing Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

She told the newspaper that Russian President Putin was determined to create a “greater Russia” even though his invasion of Ukraine had failed to achieve quick success.

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US, others walk out of APEC talks over Ukraine war: Reuters

Representatives of the United States and several other nations have walked out of an Asia-Pacific trade ministers meeting in Bangkok to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, officials said.

Representatives from Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia joined the Americans in walking out of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, two Thai officials and two international diplomats told Reuters news agency.

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Russia may open military to older recruits

Russia’s parliament is considering new legislation that would allow Russians over the age of 40 and foreigners who are older than 30 to join the military as contract soldiers.

The proposals were introduced by two members of the United Russia party on Friday.

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Russia “digging in” for protracted war: Institute for the Study of War

In its latest update on the fighting in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says Russian forces appear to be “digging in” around Kharkiv and along the southern axis in preparation for Ukrainian counteroffensives and a protracted war.

The key developments on May 20, according to the ISW:

  • Fighting was focused on the area between Izyum and the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
  • Significant Russian offensives continue around Severodonetsk with “marginal gains” in the north, west and south of the city, especially near Popasna
  • Russia could be overstating the number of soldiers evacuated from Azovstal in order to “maximise” any POW exchange with Ukraine. It said 2,439 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered in the past few days, including 531 in the final group.

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Russia removes bodies from bombed Mariupol theatre

An adviser to the mayor of Mariupol says Russia on Friday removed the last bodies from the drama theatre where hundreds of civilians had been sheltering when Russian forces bombed it in March.

“Today, the occupiers completed the removal of the bodies of the dead,” Petro Andriushchenko wrote on Telegram.

He said he felt “rage” and “anger” over what he said was a war crime.

“Now we will never know how many civilians were actually killed,” he said, adding that the bodies had been buried in a mass grave.

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Wimbledon relegated over ban on players from Russia, Belarus

Tennis’s governing agencies have said players who take part in Wimbledon will not get ranking points because the UK tournament’s organisers banned athletes from Russia and Belarus.

The world’s most prestigious tennis tournament excluded Russian and Belarusian players after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, citing UK government guidance.

It is the first time Wimbledon has excluded players on the grounds of nationality since the immediate post-World War II era when German and Japanese players were banned.

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Russia should pay for destruction, Zelenskyy says

Zelenskyy devoted his nightly video address to Ukraine’s demand that Russia be held financially responsible for the damage its forces are inflicting on Ukraine.

In the eastern Donbas, where the Russian attack has been fiercest, he said Russian troops turned the towns of Rubizhne and Volnovakha into ruins, just as they did with Mariupol, and were trying to do the same with Severodonetsk.

Zelenskyy said Russia should be made to pay for every home, school, hospital and business it destroys. He said a legal mechanism should be created through which everyone who suffered from Russia’s actions would be able to receive compensation.

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Top EU official decries ‘unspeakable crimes’ by Russian forces

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has decried what he called “unspeakable crimes”, including sexual violence, by Russian forces being reported in areas recently recaptured by Ukraine.

“Perpetrators must be held accountable,” Borrell wrote on Twitter.

 

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More than 2,400 Ukrainian fighters surrendered in Mariupol: Russia

Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti has quoted the country’s defence ministry as saying a total of 2,439 Ukrainian fighters who had been holed up at Mariupol’s steel plant had surrendered since Monday, including more than 500 on Friday.

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Russian missile hits cultural centre in Kharkiv region, Ukraine says

A Russian missile has struck a Ukrainian cultural centre in the Kharkiv region, injuring seven people, including an 11-year-old child, Kyiv has said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s social media channel released a video showing a large explosion hitting the newly renovated Palace of Culture in Lozova. The building was partly destroyed and the roof caught fire, Ukraine’s emergency services reported.

“The occupiers identified culture, education and humanity as their enemies,” Zelenskyy wrote. “What is in the minds of people who choose such targets? Absolute evil, absolute stupidity.”

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Wives of Azovstal defenders ask Turkey to ensure safety of husbands help captive by Russia

The wives of Ukrainian defenders of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have appealed to Turkey to help secure the safety of their husbands.

The women expressed hope on Friday that Turkey will become a guarantor of the security of the Ukrainian soldiers and return them home from captivity in Russia.

“We hope in God and Turkey that our defenders will come out alive,” Olga Kerod, the wife of a Ukrainian border guard, told media in Istanbul.

More than 1,900 Ukrainian soldiers in the now-flattened port city of Mariupol have surrendered in recent days, according to the latest figure from Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

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Italy submits peace plan for Ukraine to UN

Italy’s foreign minister has said his country has submitted a peace plan for Ukraine to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said during a Council of Europe meeting in Turin, Italy, that the plan submitted on Thursday calls for local ceasefires to evacuate civilians along humanitarian corridors, and creating the conditions for a general ceasefire leading “to a long-lasting peace.”

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he was aware of the plan, adding the European Union is “putting all our efforts into trying to bring this conflict to an end.” Borrell said it’s up to Ukraine to decide the terms of any negotiations. He said that he hopes that “when the time comes for negotiations to take place, Ukraine will be able to negotiate from a position of strength.”

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Russia to cut Finland’s natural gas in latest energy clash

Russia will cut off natural gas to Finland after the Nordic country that applied for NATO membership this week refused Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demand to pay in roubles, the Finnish state-owned energy company has said.

Finland is the latest country to lose the energy supply, which is used to generate electricity and power industry, after rejecting Russia’s decree. Poland and Bulgaria were cut off late last month by Russia but, along with Finland, they were relatively minor customers who had prepared to move away from Russian natural gas.

Putin has declared that “unfriendly foreign buyers” open two accounts in state-owned Gazprombank, one to pay in euros and dollar s as specified in contracts and another in roubles.

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Russia to halt gas flows to Finland on Saturday

Russia’s Gazprom has informed Finland that it will halt flows of natural gas from Saturday morning, according to Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum.

Gasum has refused to pay Gazprom Export in roubles as Russia has requested European countries to do.

“It is highly regrettable that natural gas supplies under our supply contract will now be halted,” Gasum CEO Mika Wiljanen said in a statement.

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Qatar key to Germany’s future energy strategy, Chancellor Scholz says

Qatar will play a central role in Germany’s strategy to diversify away from Russian gas, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.

“The energy security issue plays an important role for us. Germany will develop its infrastructure to be in a position to import liquefied gas by ship,” Scholz told journalists at a joint news conference with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Berlin. “It’s a big step and Qatar plays an important role in our strategy,” Scholz added.

Sheikh Tamim confirmed that Qatar plans to start supplying liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Germany in 2024.

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Russia has faced a barrage of cyberattacks: Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that his country has faced a barrage of cyberattacks from the West but has successfully fended them off.

Speaking to members of Russia’s Security Council, Putin noted that “the challenges in this area have become even more pressing, serious and extensive.”

He charged that “an outright aggression has been unleashed against Russia, a war has been waged in the information space.” Putin added that “the cyber-aggression against us, t he same as the attack on Russia by sanctions in general, has failed.”

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Hundreds more Ukrainian soldiers surrender – Russia

Russia’s defence minister has said 1,908 Ukrainian fighters who had been holed up at the Azovstal steelworks, the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the port city of Mariupol, have surrendered so far.

“Nationalists blocked off at the plant started to surrender. As of now, 1,908 people have laid down arms,” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted by the Russian media as saying Friday.

On Thursday, the Russian military put the total of surrendered soldiers at 1,730. It remains unclear how many fighters are still holed up in the giant steel plant’s maze of underground tunnels and bunkers.

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Red Cross visits POWs from Ukraine, Russia 

The international Red Cross has said it has been visiting prisoners from “all sides” since the start of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine almost three months ago.

The International Committee of the Red Cross didn’t specify what “all sides” meant, but it is believed to mean Russian and Ukrainian government forces, as well as pro-Russian separatists who have been waging an armed struggle in eastern Ukraine against the Kiev government since 2014. It could also include foreign fighters who might have been captured.

A Red Cross statement said the POW visits had enabled it to pass on information to hundreds of families about their loved ones.

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Russia fulfils obligations on Eurobond coupons

Russia has fulfilled obligations on paying coupons on two Eurobond issues in full, the finance ministry has said, days before the May 26 deadline for coupon payouts.

The prospect of a Russia sovereign default is in the spotlight again with a deadline for a US licence allowing Moscow to make payments expiring on May 25 and $100 million in interest payments due shortly after.

The finance ministry said it channelled $71.25 million on coupon payout for dollar-denominated Eurobonds maturing in 2026 and 26.5 mi llion euros ($28 million) on papers due in 2036.

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Don’t forget other crises amid Ukraine focus, UNHCR chief warns

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has warned that countries focused on helping Ukraine should not ignore crises elsewhere, which were likely to worsen due to the conflict.

Filippo Grandi said the “colossal crisis” in Ukraine would raise the number of displaced people globally well above the 84 million it reached in late 2021, with some six million refugees from Ukraine and 8 million people displaced inside the country.

“Unfortunately the global displacement crisis i s increasing. I think an important message… is that there is not just Ukraine and we should not forget the rest,” Grandi said before joining a meeting of EU development ministers in Brussels.

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New military bases in western Russia in response to NATO expansion

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu says that Moscow will create new military bases in western Russia in response to  moves by Finland and Sweden to join NATO.

“By the end of the year, 12 military units and divisions will be established in the Western Military District,” Shoigu said at a meeting in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

The army expects to receive more than two thousand units of military equipment and weapons, Shoigu added.

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G7 countries set to approve $18B for Ukraine

The Group of Seven leading economies are set to agree on more than $18 billion in aid for Ukrainian defence efforts as meetings of finance ministers close.

“I think it’s a very good signal that the G-7 nations are standing shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine because they are not only defending themselves, they are defending our values,” German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said in an interview with Bloomberg.

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28,700 Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine war

At least 28,700 Russian soldiers have so far been killed during the conflict in Ukraine, the Ukrainian military says.

Some 200 more Russian troops were killed over the past day, according to the Ukrainian General Staff.

It said Ukrainian forces have destroyed 204 Russian aircraft, 168 helicopters, 460 unmanned aerial vehicles, 1,263 tanks and 3,090 armored vehicles since the war began on February 24.

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Lawyer asks Kiev war crimes trial to acquit Russian soldier

The lawyer for the first Russian soldier on trial in Ukraine says in closing arguments that his client is “not guilty” of premeditated murder and war crimes.

The Russian serviceman, 21-year-old Vadim Shishimarin has admitted in court in the capital Kiev to killing a 62-year-old civilian in the early stages of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine.

“Taking into account the evidence and testimonies I believe that Shishimarin is not guilty of the crime that he is accused of,” his lawyer, Viktor Ovsyannikov, told the court. “I ask you to acquit my client.”

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Ukraine’s Azov Regiment says civilians, heavily wounded evacuated from Mariupol plant

The commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment says in a video statement that civilians and heavily wounded Ukrainian fighters have been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks in the devastated city of Mariupol.

Denys Prokopenko, the commander, said in the video that the process of taking out the bodies of those who had died defending Azovstal was still under way.

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Russia claims ‘nearing’ full control of Ukraine breakaway region

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has said that Moscow was nearing full control of the separatist region of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

“The liberation of the Luhansk People’s Republic is nearing completion,” Shoigu said at a meeting in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

He also said that 1,908 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol, which is under Moscow’s control.

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Russia likely to reinforce operations in Donbass: UK

Russia is likely to reinforce its operations in the industrial Donbass region once they secure the city of Mariupol, British military intelligence says.

As many as 1,700 soldiers are likely to have surrendered at the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol, the report added.

Moscow also said that 1,730 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered from the steel factory so far, including 771 in the past 24 hours.

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Japan pledges $2.1M to secure Ukraine’s nuclear power plants

Japan has pledged nearly $2.1 million to support activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure the safety of nuclear power plants in Ukraine.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said at a joint press conference in Tokyo after a meeting that they agreed to continue co-operation in ensuring the security of nuclear power plants in Ukraine.

Japan is funding the dispatch of IAEA experts and necessary equipment for the Ukrainian nuclear facilities, said Hayashi.

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EU exploring ways to use Russian oligarchs’ frozen assets to rebuild Ukraine

The European Union is looking into ways of using the frozen assets of Russian oligarchs to fund the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said.

The commission proposed on Wednesday a multi-billion dollar loan to Ukraine to keep the country going as it struggles to fend off the Russian assault and wants to set up a reconstruction facility after the assault.

“Our lawyers are working intensively on finding possible ways of using frozen assets of the oligarchs for the rebuilding of Ukraine. “I think Russia should also make its contribution,” she told ZDF television.

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Russian rock singer faces charges for anti-war remarks

A veteran Russian rock musician is facing charges over anti-war remarks made at a concert.

Yuri Shevchuk, singer for the band DDT, could face a fine of up to 50,000 rubles ($800).

After the war began, Russia passed a more severe law making the spread of “fake news” about the conflict punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“Old people, women and children are dying,” Shevchuk said during a concert.

“The motherland, my friends, is not the ass of a president that you have to lick and kiss all the time. The motherland is a poor grandmother selling potatoes at the train station.”

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Dozens of countries ‘knocking on famine’s door’: UN food chief

The UN food chief has warned that the war in Ukraine has created “an unprecedented crisis” of escalating food prices that has sparked protests.

World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley said growing hunger will add at least 47 million people to the 276 million “marching to starvation” before Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor.

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Donbas region has been completely destroyed: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Russian forces had “completely destroyed” the eastern Donbas region and accused Moscow of carrying out senseless bombardments as it intensified its offensive.

“In the Donbas, the occupiers are trying to exert even more pressure. It is hell there – and that is not an exaggeration,” he said in a late night video address.

“This is a deliberate and criminal attempt to kill as many Ukrainians as possible, to destroy as many houses, social facilities and enterprises as possible.”

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Alexey Navalny’s team urges more US sanctions

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s team has urged a fresh round of US sanctions over the war in Ukraine that moves beyond wealthy oligarchs to spread the financial pain to Russian government officials, mid-level politicians and public figures.

The group, which visited Capitol Hill, is discussing with senators a list of 6,000 people for possible sanctions, including Russian defence and security officials, administrative employees, governors, members of parliament, even editors and managers at state-aligned media operations.

Vladimir Ashurkov, the executive director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said the “avalanche of sanctions” so far from the West is having an effect in Russia.

“Let’s bring on, or at least announce, the next wave,” Ashurkov said.

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Biden says US aid package will help Ukraine ‘defend their democracy’

US President Joe Biden has applauded Congress for passing a nearly $40bn military and humanitarian assistance package for Kyiv, saying it sends “a clear bipartisan message to the world that the US stands with Ukraine”.

The bill, previously passed by the House of Representatives, passed in the Senate by an overwhelming 86-to-11 vote.

“This package will allow us to send even more weapons and ammunition to Ukraine as they defend their democracy and freedom.”

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Washington announces additional $100m in military assistance to Kyiv

The Biden administration has announced an additional $100m in weapons and other military equipment for Ukraine.

Biden said in a statement that the aid includes additional artillery, radars, and other equipment.

“This brings total US military assistance to Ukraine to approximately $3.9 billion in arms and equipment since Russia launched its brutal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said.

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NATO membership for Sweden, Finland will ‘strengthen collective security’: Biden

NATO’s collective security will be strengthened by the membership of Sweden and Finland, Biden has said, after meeting with the leaders of the two Nordic nations at the White House.

In a statement after the discussions, the White House said the US president “warmly welcomed [Sweden and Finland’s] applications for NATO membership, which will strengthen our collective security”.

“At this historic moment for both Finland and Sweden, the President underscored his commitment to support both countries as they seek formal NATO accession, including by working with NATO Allies and Congress to welcome them into the Alliance as quickly as possible,” the statement read.

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Ukrainian attack on Russian border town kills civilian, Russian govenor says

One person died and others were injured in southwestern Russia after an attack in a village on the border with Ukraine, the governor of Kursk region said on Thursday. 

“Another enemy attack on Tyotkino, which took place at dawn unfortunately ended in tragedy. At the moment, we know of at least one civilian death,” governor Roman Starovoyt said on Telegram, implying that the attack came from Ukraine. 

He said that according to preliminary information, the victim was a truck driver who was making a delivery to a local distillery, which was struck “several times”. 

Starovoyt added that others were wounded and work was underway to put out fires in the village of around 4,000 people on border with Ukraine, where Russia sent troops on February 24.

“Several houses were damaged. There are also reports of unexploded shells,” Starovoyt said. 

On Telegram, he posted photos showing charred buildings, blown out windows and dents in the ground from where the shells allegedly landed. 

Authorities in Russian regions bordering Ukraine have repeatedly accused Ukrainian forces of launching attacks.

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Mariupol deserted after weeks of Russian attacks

Ukrainian fighters are reportedly receiving medical care after leaving Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant. In recent days, nearly 1,000 soldiers who spent weeks holed up in the steel plant have surrendered to Russian forces, with some taken into territories controlled by Russian backed separatists.

Mariupol was home to around 500,000 inhabitants at the start of the war, but weeks of Russian attacks have left the city deserted and largely destroyed.

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Ukraine says Russian army lost 28.5 thousand men

Ukraine’s army says that the Russian military has lost 28.5 thousand men since the start of the invasion.

In a Facebook post, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces also said that Russia had lost 1,254 tanks and 3,063 armoured vehicles.

Ukraine’s figures of Russia’s losses are significantly higher than Moscow’s. On March 25, Russia said 1,351 of its soldiers had been killed in combat and has given no more information since. At the time Ukraine had the number at 19,000.

Experts say figures by both parties cannot be trusted as Kyiv is likely to inflate them to boost the morale of its troops, while Russia is probably downplaying them.

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Ukraine says 231 children killed amid war

Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman has said that 231 children have died since, and as a result of, the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, while 427 children have been injured.

Lyudmyla Denisova said the figures were gathered to a register of pre-trial investigations and “other sources that need confirmation”.

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Money for Ukraine to top G7 agenda

G7 financial leaders are likely to focus on Thursday and Friday on how to help Ukraine pay its bills. Reconstruction after the war, surging global inflation, climate change, supply chains and the impending food crisis will also be high on the agenda.

Ukraine estimates its financial needs at $5 billion a month to keep public employees’ salaries paid and the administration working despite the daily destruction wrought by Russia.

A short-term financing package to be agreed by the G7 would cover three months of Ukraine’s needs.

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Culture of scapegoating in Russia’s military likely hampers operations: UK

A culture of cover-ups and scapegoating is likely prevalent in Russia’s military and security system, the UK’s defence ministry has said.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry listed some of Russia’s senior commanders who had recently been fired after being considered to have poorly performed in Ukraine. This includes Vice Admiral Igor Osipov who commanded the Black Sea Fleet and was suspended after the sinking of Moskva.

“Many officials involved in the invasion of Ukraine will likely be increasingly distracted by efforts to avoid personal culpability for Russia’s operational set-backs, the ministry said, adding this would likely place further strain on Russia’s centralised command model.

“It will be difficult for Russia to regain the initiative under these conditions,” the ministry added.

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Ukraine will not give up any territory to Russia: Advisor

Ukraine will not compromise with Russia and will not give up any territory, an advisor to Zelenskyy has said.

“The only option for reconciliation is Russia’s capitulation, the withdrawal of troops and talks on compensation. This is the principle position of the government,” Oleksiy Arestovych told 24 Channel.

Arestovych said he believed some countries wanted a repeat of the Minsk agreements, which had sought unsuccessfully to end the war in Ukraine’s Donbas region since 2014.

But he said, although some countries would try to negotiate, “there will be no option where we allow Russians to stay here”.

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Red Cross must have immediate access to Ukraine fighters taken to Russian territory: Amnesty

Amnesty International has said that the Red Cross should be given immediate access to the Ukrainian fighters from Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant who surrendered to the Russians and were taken to Russian-occupied territory.

Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty’s deputy director for the region, cited lawless executions allegedly carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine and said the Azovstal defenders “must not meet the same fate.”

Russia said on Wednesday that nearly 1,000 last-ditch Ukrainian fighters who held out inside a pulverised steel plant had surrendered.

It was unclear how many fighters remained inside the plant’s labyrinth of tunnels and bunkers, where 2,000 were believed to be holed up at one point.

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Ukraine war may involve other countries if it keeps going: Kyiv official

The head of Ukraine’s president’s office has said that the longer the war lasts, the more risk there is that it will involve other countries.

“At first, it will affect states that have borders with Russia, and then it may be a war involving even more countries,” Andriy Yermak said in an interview with MSNBC.

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US announces $215 million in emergency food assistance for Ukraine

Blinken has said that Ukraine will be getting $215 million in emergency food assistance, with more aid expected in the future.

“Today, given the urgency of the crisis, we’re announcing another $215 million in new emergency food assistance. And we’ll do much more,” he said during the UN meeting on food security on Wednesday.

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Japan doubles Ukraine fiscal aid to $600 m

Japan will double fiscal aid for Ukraine to $600 million in a coordinated move with the World Bank to back the country’s near-term fiscal necessities damaged by Russia’s invasion, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said.

Japan, a member of the G7, had previously announced $300 million in loans to Ukraine in April.

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Bridget Brink confirmed as US ambassador to Ukraine

The US Senate confirmed Bridget Brink as the US ambassador to Ukraine as officials plan to return US diplomats to Kyiv.

The veteran foreign service officer, who has spent most of her career in the shadow of the former Soviet Union, was nominated to the position last month by President Joe Biden.

Brink was confirmed by the Senate unanimously without a formal roll call vote.

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Australia to send armoured personnel carriers, more Bushmasters to Ukraine

Australia is sending Ukraine an extra 20 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles, 14 M113 armoured personnel carriers and radiation monitoring and personal protective equipment, pushing the nation’s contribution to Kyiv’s war effort above 285 million Australian dollars ($199m), the Australian newspaper has reported.

The support package includes 60 pallets of medical supplies donated by Australian citizens.

“The Australian government will continue to identify opportunities for further military assistance where it is able to provide a required capability to the Ukraine Armed Forces expeditiously,” Defence Minister Peter Dutton said.

Australia has previously sent Ukraine 20 Bushmasters following a request from Zelenskyy.

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Ukraine officials give conflicting accounts of attack on Russian train: Reuters

Ukraine’s territorial defence force said on Wednesday that its fighters had blown up an armoured train carrying Russian troops, but an adviser to President Zelenskyy later said the attack had been confined to rails near the train, the Reuters news agency reports.

The defence force said that explosives had detonated under a rail car carrying military personnel in the occupied southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, in the Zaporizhzhia region. It did not elaborate on the extent of the damage.

But several hours later, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych gave a conflicting account, saying Ukrainian forces had blown up the tracks ahead of the train.

“The partisans got it, although they did not blow up the armoured train itself,” he said in a video posted on social media, saying the Russians “got off lightly”.

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Zelenskyy’s life story told in new comic book

Zelenskyy’s life story – from comedian to war-time leader – has been given the graphic novel treatment in TidalWave Comics’ latest biography: “Political Power: Volodymyr Zelenskyy”.

The 22-page glossy released on Wednesday tells the story of how Zelenskyy, who once played a fictional president in a TV show, swept to power in 2019 promising to end a war with Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. He had no political experience when he took office as the country’s sixth president.

“Who is he? What makes him tick? Why is he the right leader for Ukraine at this moment? Those are the things I was curious about when I started the research,” said writer Michael Frizell.

A portion of sale proceeds will be donated to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

 

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US intel shows Russians fear Mariupol abuse will backfire

The US has gathered intelligence that shows some Russian officials have become concerned that Russian forces in the ravaged port city of Mariupol are carrying out grievous abuses, a US official familiar with the findings has said, Associated Press reports.

The Russian officials are concerned that the abuses will backfire and further inspire Mariupol residents to resist the Russian occupation.

The US official, who was not authorised to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the Russians, who were not identified, also feared that the abuses will undercut Russia’s claim that they have liberated the Russian-speaking city.

The abuses include beating and electrocuting city officials and robbing homes, according to the intelligence finding.

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Pentagon discusses Russia threats with Sweden, Finland: Officials

A senior defence official has said US Pentagon officials are having discussions with Sweden and Finland on their security needs to deter Russia as both move towards NATO membership, the Associated Press reports.

The official said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist on Wednesday and spoke about the interim period between when the NATO application is formally made and when it is approved.

There have been concerns about threats from Russia during that period, in which Sweden and Finland would not formally be covered by NATO’s Article 5 which says that an attack against one member is an attack against all and calls for collective defence.

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Zelenskyy thanks EC for 9 billion euro loan

Zelenskyy has thanked European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for the EU’s 9 billion euro ($9.5bn) macro-financial aid and recovery program for Ukraine.

“This step by the European Commission is a testament to the true leadership that the European Union is capable of. And it will definitely help us in the struggle for our common freedom,” he said in his late-night address.

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday a 9 billion euro ($9.5 billion) loan to Ukraine to keep the country going as it struggles to fend off the Russian invasion and wants to set up a facility for post-war reconstruction.

The money for the loan would be borrowed by the Commission on the markets under the macro-financial assistance mechanism, backed by guarantees of EU governments.

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US embassy reopens in Kyiv

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

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

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

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Russian senator urges death penalty for Azov fighters

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

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

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

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

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

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

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Moscow expels 34 French, 24 Italian, 27 Spanish diplomats

Russia has moved to expel a total of 85 European embassy staff, responding to similar moves by those countries. The Foreign Ministry said it was ordering out 34 diplomatic staff from France, 27 from Spain and 24 from Italy.

The three countries are among European nations that have collectively thrown out more than 300 Russians since Moscow’s February 24 incursion of Ukraine. In many cases, they accused Russian diplomats of spying, which Moscow has denied.

Russia’s response has included sending home 45 Polish staff and 40 Germans last month. It has also announced tit-for-tat moves against Finland, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Japan, among others.

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Russian soldier pleads guilty at Kiev ‘war crimes’ trial

The first Russian soldier on trial in Ukraine for “war crimes” has pleaded guilty, facing possible life imprisonment in Kiev. He is accused of killing a 62-year-old civilian in northeast Ukraine in the first days of the Kremlin’s offensive.

Asked in court if he was guilty of the allegations, including “war crimes” and premeditated murder, 21-year-old sergeant Vadim Shishimarin responded “yes”. As a prosecutor read out charges against him in Ukrainian, an interpreter translated for him into Russian.

Prosecutors say Shishimarin — from the Siberian region of Irkutsk — was commanding a unit in a tank division when his convoy came under attack. He and four others stole a car and encountered a 62-year-old man. According to prosecutors, Shishimarin was ordered to kill the civilian and used a Kalashnikov assault rifle to do so.

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EU proposes up to 9B euros in more aid to Ukraine

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has proposed extra aid to Ukraine of up to nine billion euros ($9.5 billion) this year to help Kiev cope with the ravages of Russia’s offensive.

The money would be raised by the EU on the markets and offered to Ukraine in the form of loans, an official in von der Leyen’s European Commission told AFP news agency.

In a broadcast statement, von der Leyen also said it was time to think about rebuilding Ukraine whenever the conflict ends, adding the EU has “a strategic interest in leading this reconstruction effort”. Other countries and international institutions should also be part of the reconstruction project, she said.

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EU rushes out $300B roadmap to ditch Russian energy

The European Union’s executive arm has moved to jump-start plans for the bloc to abandon Russian energy amid the Kremlin’s Ukraine offensive, proposing a nearly 300 billion-euro ($315 billion) package that includes more efficient use of fuels and faster rollout of renewable power.

The European Commission’s investment initiative is meant to help the 27 EU countries start weaning themselves off Russian fossil fuels this year. The goal is to deprive Russia, the EU’s main supplier of oil, natural gas and coal, of tens of billions in revenue and strengthen EU climate policies.

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US, banks, unveil plan to ease food crisis from Russia’s offensive

The US, several global development banks and other groups have unveiled a multi-billion dollar plan meant to address a worldwide food security crisis exacerbated by Russia’s offensive against Ukraine.

The Treasury Department announced that several global development banks are “working swiftly to bring to bear their financing, policy engagement, technical assistance” to prevent starvation prompted by the conflict, rising food costs and climate damage to crops.

The Asian Development Bank will contribute funds to feeding Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and the African Development bank will use $1.5 billion to assist 20 million African farmers. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Bank will also contribute tens of billions in the coming months and years.

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Ukraine colours daubed on Swiss monument to Russian soldiers

Vandals have daubed blue and yellow paint — Ukraine’s national colours — on a Russian monument to soldiers who perished fighting Napoleon’s forces in Switzerland in the 18th century.

“Hundreds of Russian men died fighting the French in the Swiss Alps. They have nothing to do with 21 century events, and their memory must not be desecrated,” the Russian mission in Geneva tweeted.

Erected by Russia in 1899, it is dedicated to Russian General Alexander Suvorov and his fallen soldiers who fought the French in the Schoellenen Gorge in September 1799. Uri police said they were investigating the case and a separate incident in which the town hall in Altdorf was defaced.

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Germany got over 200 asylum applications from Russians in April

Germany has registered a slight increase in the number of Russian nationals applying for asylum since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, an interior ministry spokesperson has said.

In April, the second full month of the offensive, 222 people from Russia applied for asylum in Germany, the spokesperson said in Berlin.

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Russia expels 34 French diplomats: foreign ministry

Moscow says it is expelling 34 “employees of French diplomatic missions” in a retaliatory move following the expulsion of Russian diplomats from France as part of joint European action over Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.

“Thirty-four employees of French diplomatic missions in Russia have been declared persona non grata,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that they have two weeks to leave the country. France “strongly” condemned the move soon after.

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

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Ukraine claims 28,300 Russian troops killed since start of conflict

At least 28,300 Russian soldiers have so far been killed during the conflict in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Defence Ministry announces.

Some 400 Russian troops have been killed over the past 24 hours, the ministry said in a statement.

The Ukrainian forces have also destroyed 202 Russian aircraft, 167 helicopters, 441 unmanned aerial vehicles, 1,251 tanks, 3,043 armoured vehicles, and 586 cannons since February 24, according to the latest update.

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Japan urges China to play ‘responsible’ role on Ukraine crisis

Japan’s foreign minister has urged Beijing to “play a responsible role” over Russia’s offensive in Ukraine in his first talks with his Chinese counterpart in six months.

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that Russia’s offensive “is a clear violation of the UN Charter and other international laws,” Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

He “urged China to play a responsible role in maintaining international peace and security,” it added.

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