Pro-Kremlin authorities in Ukraine's Kherson urge Putin to annex the region, as Moscow accuses Kiev of shelling a Russian city in the latest flashpoint of their bloody fighting that has stretched to its 78th day.

Ukraine claims Egypt and Lebanon had previously refused to buy the
Ukraine claims Egypt and Lebanon had previously refused to buy the "looted" grain shipment. (Reuters)

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Ukraine threatens those who sell stolen grain

Ukraine's foreign minister has said that everyone involved in the transportation and sales of grain seized by Russia in occupied areas of the country will face legal consequences.

"Russia is a criminal three times over: it bombed Syria to ruins, occupied part of Ukraine, and is now selling stolen Ukrainian grain to Syria," the ministry's press service cited Dmytro Kuleba as saying.

"I want to remind the participants in this deal: what is stolen has never brought happiness to anyone. Everyone involved in the sale, transportation or purchase of stolen grain is an accomplice to the crime," Kuleba said, commenting on media reports that on Wednesday, a Russian ship carrying Ukrainian grain moored off the Syrian coast.

Kuleba also claimed that thanks to the efforts of Ukrainian diplomats, Egypt and Lebanon had previously refused to buy the "looted" grain shipment.

Kiev in talks to evacuate 38 wounded Azovstal fighters

Kiev is holding "difficult" talks with Moscow to secure safe passage for 38 badly wounded fighters from the Azovstal steel plant in the strategic city of Mariupol surrounded by Russian troops.

"We are conducting very difficult negotiations on the evacuation of seriously wounded fighters from Azovstal in exchange for captured Russians," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. She added that the talks were going "step by step".

Vereshchuk told AFP earlier this week that there were more than 1,000 Ukraine soldiers in tunnels beneath the sprawling steel works in Mariupol, which Russia has claimed control over. Azovstal is the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the devastated southern port city.

School bombings must stop in Ukraine: UN

The United Nations has demanded an end to the bombing of Ukrainian schools, and denounced their use for military ends during a meeting of the Security Council.

"Hundreds of schools across the country are reported to have been hit by heavy artillery, air strikes and other explosive weapons in populated areas," Omar Abdi, deputy executive director of the UN children's fund, told the Council. 

As of last week, of the 89 UNICEF-supported schools in eastern Ukraine, one in six had been "damaged or destroyed" since the Russian offensive began. Abdi added that the conflict in Ukraine is a “child rights crisis”, with nearly 100 youngsters killed in just the last month.

Ultimately, children need an end to this war — their futures hang in the balance

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi

Kiev accuses Russian forces of 'war crime' in eastern village

Ukrainian authorities and witnesses have accused Russian forces of shelling a residential home in an east Ukrainian village from a tank, killing several civilians. There was no immediate reaction from Moscow. which denies targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

The incident took place on March 27 in the village of Stepanki outside the regional capital Kharkiv, when Russian forces opened fire on a house from a tank, killing two men and a women, Ukraine's prosecutor general's office said on Telegram.

Kharkiv police and witnesses said four people were killed and two wounded. The discrepancy could not be immediately explained. An investigation into a "war crime" and premeditated murder has been opened, according to prosecutors.

EU readies 195B euro plan to quit Russian fossil fuels

The European Commission plans to unveil a 195-billion-euro plan to stop importing Russian fossil fuels by 2027, combining a faster rollout of renewable energy and energy savings with a switch to alternative gas supplies, draft documents show.

The draft measures, which could change before they are due to be published next week, include a mix of EU laws, non-binding schemes, and recommendations national governments could take up, including by revising their plans to spend the EU's huge Covid-19 recovery fund to free up more funding for the energy transition.

The Commission expects the measures to require 195 billion euros in investments, on top of those already needed to meet the bloc's 2030 climate target, which would help slash Europe's bill for fossil fuel imports.

Spain finds yacht, other assets of 15 sanctioned oligarchs

Spanish authorities have identified assets, including houses, companies and at least one luxury yacht, belonging to 15 Russian oligarchs on the EU sanctions list, an official overseeing property registries has told Reuters.

Mariano García Fresno, the head of the General Council of Notaries' money laundering prevention unit, said the unit had detected activity, as the oligarchs sought to transfer their stakes in some companies to relatives or associates to avoid detection.

"They were already starting to move these holdings, especially in Spanish companies, or holdings or shares in foreign companies," García Fresno said. "We have located some 15 people from that (EU sanctions) list and another 105 people linked to them or family members..."

UN launches inquiry into alleged Russian atrocities in Ukraine

The United Nations Human Rights Council has voted overwhelmingly to launch an inquiry into alleged serious violations committed by Russian troops in Ukraine, heaping further diplomatic pressure on Moscow.

The council voted 33-2 in favour of a draft resolution brought by Ukraine to create an investigation into alleged violations in the Kiev, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions in late February and in March, "with a view to holding those responsible to account".

While Ukraine and the West accuse Russian troops of committing what they call "war crimes", Moscow rejects the charge and denies targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Ukraine tells UN rights council Russia inflicting 'pure evil'

Kiev has condemned the "sheer horror" and "pure evil" of Russia's assault on Ukraine at an extraordinary meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council about Moscow's alleged violations.

Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova said Russia was committing "the most gruesome human rights violations on the European continent in decades", as countries slammed the conduct of President Vladimir Putin's troops.

More than 50 countries backed Kiev's request for a special session of the UN's top rights body to examine "the deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression". Russia snubbed the session.

Europe 'must switch off' Russia's energy 'oxygen': Ukrainian FM

Europe must end its reliance on Russian gas and cut off Moscow's "energy oxygen", Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said during a visit to Berlin, adding that Moscow had shown itself to be an unreliable supplier.

"This energy oxygen for Russia must be turned off and that is especially important for Europe," Kuleba said. "Europe must get rid of this complete dependence on Russian gas, since Russia has shown... that it is not a reliable partner and Europe cannot afford that."

Number of refugees fleeing Ukraine conflict exceeds 6M: UN

The number of people who have fled Ukraine to escape Russia's attacks has passed 6 million, in Europe's worst refugee crisis since the end of World War Two, a UN refugee agency has said.

Russia's military campaign, which started on February 24, has triggered a massive displacement of people, including more than 8 million Ukrainians within the country, according to the latest International Organization for Migration (IOM) report. UN data showed that 6.03 million had fled Ukraine as of Wednesday.

Russia targets Ukrainian oil refinery by air

Four Russian air strikes have targeted the Kremenchuk oil refinery in Ukraine’s central Poltava region. “Four ‘arrivals’ again at the Kremenchuk refinery. Explosions were also heard in the Poltava region,” acting regional governor Dmytro Lunin wrote in a Telegram post.

In early April, Lunin had said that the Kremenchuk refinery — Ukraine’s only remaining fully functional facility of its kind at the time — was no longer operational following a Russian attack.

Moscow claimed to have targeted the refinery again at the end of the month, and to have destroyed further fuel production and storage facilities.

Ukraine: 3,000 Mariupol civilians detained

About 3,000 Mariupol civilians are being detained in prisons controlled by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s industrial east, the country’s human rights chief says. There was no immediate reaction from Moscow or the separatists.

Lyudmyla Denysova claimed on social media that Kiev is aware of at least two prisons set up in the eastern Donetsk region, one in the regional capital of Donetsk and another in Olenivka, a suburb 20 kilometres southwest of the city centre.

She claimed that Kiev received reports of people being “tortured, interrogated, threatened with execution and forced to cooperate,” and others disappearing after interrogations. She also alleged that detainees were being kept in “inhuman conditions,” with inadequate access to bathrooms and no space to lie down.

Gazprom says to stop sending gas via key Poland pipeline

Gazprom has said it will stop sending natural gas via the Polish section of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline, which can carry up to 33 billion cubic metres of gas from fields in Russia's Yamal peninsula and western Siberia through Belarus and Poland to Germany.

On Wednesday, Russia announced sanctions on more than 30 energy companies, including Poland's EuRoPol GAZ S.A., the owner of the Polish part of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline, in reaction to measures adopted by Western nations over Ukraine.

"For Gazprom this means a ban on the use of a gas pipeline owned by EuRoPol GAZ to transport Russian gas through Poland," Gazprom spokesperson Sergei Kupriyanov said in a statement.

OPEC cuts 2022 world oil demand forecast again on crisis

OPEC has cut its forecast for growth in world oil demand in 2022 for a second straight month, citing the impact of Russia's offensive in Ukraine, rising inflation and the resurgence of the Omicron coronavirus variant in China.

In a monthly report, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said world demand would rise by 3.36 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2022, down 310,000 bpd from its previous forecast. The Ukraine conflict sent oil prices briefly above $139 a barrel in March, the highest since 2008.

OPEC has cited suggestions that China, with strict Covid lockdowns, is facing its biggest demand shock since 2020 when oil use plunged. "Demand in 2022 is expected to be impacted by ongoing geopolitical developments in Eastern Europe, as well as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions," OPEC said in the report.

EU moves to help Ukraine export grain amid Russian blockades

The European Commission has said it will work with EU governments to help Ukraine export millions of tonnes of grain stuck in the country because the Russian navy is blocking Ukrainian ports.

Ukraine was the world's fourth-largest grain exporter in the 2020/21 season, International Grains Council data shows, selling 44.7 million tonnes abroad. Problems with getting the grain out of Ukraine threaten to cause a food crisis, especially in poorer regions like Africa.

"Twenty million tonnes of grains have to leave Ukraine in less than three months using the EU infrastructure," EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean said. "This is a gigantesque challenge, so it is essential to coordinate and optimise the logistic chains, put in place new routes, and avoid, as much as possible, bottlenecks."

European development bank raises 1 billion euros for Ukraine

The European development bank raised one billion euros ($1.04 billion) in aid for Ukraine at its annual meeting this week. The money comes on top of two billion euros in a "resilience package" that was launched by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) previously.

"Donors have expressed the intention" to provide one billion euros to the bank "in response to the war on Ukraine", EBRD president Odile Renaud-Basso said at a news conference in the Moroccan city Marrakech.

The EBRD forecast this week that the Ukrainian economy will shrink by 30 percent this year, more than previously estimated. "Ukraine needs our help to support vital infrastructures, to maintain access to electricity and transport, railways," Renaud-Basso said.

Kiev moves to seize local assets of Russia's Sberbank

Kiev has moved to seize assets in Ukraine of Russia's largest lender Sberbank in response to Moscow's assault. Ukraine's parliament in a decree backed the security council's seizure of 100 percent of Sberbank's international reserve bank.

Lawmakers also approved the seizure of 99.8 percent of shares in Prominvestbank, a Kiev-based lender owned by the development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), a Russian state body. Ukrainian authorities also approved the seizure of financial assets of the two banks, without specifying the amount.

Kremlin says Finland joining NATO is definite threat to Russia

The Kremlin has said that Finland's move to join NATO is "definitely" a threat to Russia and that the expansion of the military bloc will not make Europe or the world more stable.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the steps taken by Finland to join NATO were a cause for regret and a reason to impose asymmetrical response.

Finland's president and prime minister said earlier their country must apply to join the NATO military alliance "without delay."

Finland's accession process to NATO would be smooth and swift, Stoltenberg says

A NATO membership of Finland will strengthen both the Western military alliance and Finland, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said.

"Should Finland decide to apply, they would be warmly welcomed into NATO, and the accession process would be smooth and swift," Stoltenberg said after Finland announced it would apply to join NATO "without delay."

"Finland is one of NATO's closest partners, a mature democracy, a member of the European Union, and an important contributor to Euro-Atlantic security."

Sweden plans to send NATO application next week: report

Sweden's government plans to submit an application to join NATO next week, following neighbour Finland in re-writing its post-World War Two security policy in the wake of Russia's offensive in Ukraine, Expressen newspaper has reported.

Sweden's parliament will debate the security situation on Monday and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson will then call a special cabinet meeting where the formal decision to apply will be taken, Expressen said, citing unnamed sources.

An application will be sent directly after that, assuming nothing unexpected occurs, sources told the daily.

UN rights chief: Many Ukraine abuses may amount to war crimes

The UN Human Rights chief has said that a thousand bodies have been recovered in the area of the Ukrainian capital Kiev in recent weeks, adding that many of the violations it is verifying since the Russian military operation may amount to war crimes.

"The scale of unlawful killings, including indicia of summary executions in areas to the north of Kiev, is shocking," Michelle Bachelet told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council via a video address.

The Human Rights Council will decide whether to task investigators with an official probe into the events that occurred in Kiev and other regions in February and March.

Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine down by almost a third: Gazprom

Russian gas transiting via Ukraine to Europe has dropped by a third after Kiev suspended supplies through a key route, Russian energy giant Gazprom has said.

Ukraine's pipeline operator GTSOU said that it was halting gas transport at the Sokhranivka transit point from Wednesday as Russian forces now in control were interfering with operations.

The move comes as Russia's military campaign in pro-Western Ukraine enters its third month.

Russia says it hit two ammunition depots in Ukraine's Chernihiv region

Russia has said its forces have hit two ammunition depots in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine. 

Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russia had destroyed a Ukrainian S-300 air defence missile system in the Kharkiv region and a radar station near the city of Odessa.

Russia strike kills 3, injures 12 in northern Ukraine

Three people have been killed and 12 others wounded in a Russian strike on a town in Ukraine's northern Chernigiv region, the emergency services have said.

"We have three people killed and 12 wounded as a result of a strike" in Novgorod-Siversky, a spokesman said. 

The town is in the north-eastern corner of the country, around 45 kilometres (28 miles) south of the Russian border. 

Ukraine counterattacks in Kharkiv as Russia pulling forces

Russia has reportedly withdrawn units from Ukraine's Kharkiv region to reorganise and replenish its forces following heavy losses, the British defence ministry has said.

"Despite Russia’s success in encircling Kharkiv in the initial stages of the conflict, it has reportedly withdrawn units from the region to reorganise and replenish its forces following heavy losses", the ministry said in a regular Twitter bulletin. 

"Ukrainian forces are keeping up a counterattack to the north of the second largest city of Kharkiv and recapturing several towns and villages toward the Russian border", Britain said. "The withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kharkiv Oblast is a tacit recognition of Russia’s inability to capture key Ukrainian cities where they expected limited resistance from the population", it added.

Finnish president, PM in favour of joining NATO 'without delay'

Finland's president and prime minister have said they are in favour of joining NATO and a formal decision would be taken this weekend, after Russia's offensive in Ukraine sparked a swift u-turn in opinion.

"Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay," President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement.

"NATO membership would strengthen Finland's security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance," the statement said. The country will announce its decision on NATO bid on Sunday, it said.

Russia continues steel mill air strikes: Ukraine

Russian forces are continuing their airstrikes on the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol and pressing their advance on towns in eastern Ukraine, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces has said.

In its daily statement, the Ukrainian military said Russian forces also fired artillery and grenade launchers at Ukrainian troops in the direction of Zaporizhzhia, which has been a refuge for civilians fleeing Mariupol.

The military said Russian forces had fired artillery at Ukrainian units north of the city of Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine, and reported Russian strikes in the Chernihiv and Sumy regions to the north.

Ukraine says wants spot 'reserved' in EU

Ukraine wants a spot reserved in the European Union, even if obtaining full membership could take time, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said in Berlin.

"It is not about the fastest possible membership for Ukraine in the EU. But what is very important for us is for this spot to be reserved for Ukraine," he told German broadcaster ARD.

"We hear often that Ukraine belongs in Europe, belongs in the European family, and now it's about reserving this place," he added.

Siemens to leave Russia, take hefty charge

Siemens will quit the Russian market due to the conflict in Ukraine, it said, taking a $630.18 million (600 million euros) hit to its business during the second quarter.

Siemens has become the latest company to announce losses connected with its decision to leave Russia following the attacks that started on February 24.

Japan freezes assets of Russia’s Sberbank, Alfa Bank

The Japanese government froze the assets of Russia's largest financial institution, Sberbank, and Alfa Bank, its largest private bank, due to the Russian military operation in Ukraine.

Japanese citizens and companies are also now prohibited from making investments in Russia that would provide them with a stake of 10 percent or more. 

Putin sends message to Moscow-backed rebels

President Vladimir Putin has reaffirmed Russia’s determination to wrest separatist-held territory from Ukraine in a congratulatory message to the head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine.

In a statement released by the Kremlin, Putin said: “I am sure that through our joint efforts we will defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the Luhansk republic.

Meanwhile, the head of the Luhansk self-proclaimed republic, Leonid Pasechnik, said that it would never return to Ukrainian control and that most of its residents want it to become part of Russia.

EU: Russia 'most direct threat to world order'

Russia is the "most direct threat" to the international order because of its attacks on Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said in Tokyo.

"That brings me to Russia. It is today the most direct threat to the world order with the barbaric war against Ukraine, and its worrying pact with China," she said after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida along with European Council President Charles Michel.

Official: Russian forces block all evacuation routes out of Mariupol city

An adviser to the Mariupol mayor has said that Russian forces have blocked all evacuation routes out of the city.

The adviser, Petro Andriushchenko, said there were few apartment buildings fit to live in after the weeks of bombardment and very little food or drinking water.

Andriushchenko said some residents who have remained in the city are cooperating with the Russian occupying forces in exchange for food.

For live updates from Wednesday (May 11), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies