Ukraine says it has regained control of territory on the Russian border near the city of Kharkiv, as Moscow's military faces the prospect of a bigger NATO and a bogged-down conflict – now in its 82nd day.

Ukraine says the evacuation of the fighters from Azovstal to separatist-controlled territory was to save their lives.
Ukraine says the evacuation of the fighters from Azovstal to separatist-controlled territory was to save their lives. (Reuters)

Monday, May 16, 2022

Ukraine: More than 260 fighters evacuated from Mariupol mill

More than 260 Ukrainian fighters, including some who are badly wounded, have been evacuated from a steel plant in the ruined city of Mariupol and taken to areas under Russia's control, the Ukrainian military said.

Deputy Defence Minister Anna Malyar said 53 seriously wounded fighters were taken to a hospital in Novoazovsk, east of Mariupol. An additional 211 fighters were evacuated to Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor. An exchange would be worked out for their return home, she said.

Malyar said missions are under way to rescue the remaining fighters inside the plant, the last stronghold of resistance in the ruined southern port city of Mariupol.

Several explosions heard in Ukrainian city Lviv

A series of explosions struck the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, a Reuters witness has said.

There was no word on casualties following the explosions, which occurred just before 1 am [local time].

Some reports said about eight to 10 blasts occurred in quick succession.

Officials: Russian attacks kill civilians in Ukraine's east 

At least 10 people have been killed in the latest shelling in Severodonetsk in the east of Ukraine, as the city is almost surrounded by Russian troops, the Luhansk region governor, Sergiy Gaiday, has said.

Russian troops "are shelling Severodonetsk without stopping," Gaiday said in a statement in Telegram. "It is currently extremely difficult to check the area due to new shelling," he added, urging the locals not to leave the shelters.

Separately, Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram Russian attacks had killed nine residents and injured six. There was no immediate reaction from Russia, which denies targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

US official: Russia targets Ukrainian military training centre

A senior US defence official has said Russian long-range strikes near Lviv appeared to target the Ukrainian military training centre in Yavoriv, which is less than 25 kilometres from the border with Poland.

The US military assessment at this point is that there were as many as a half-dozen missiles fired and that a few small buildings were damaged, the official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said there are no reports of casualties and that the missiles were fired from the Black Sea and likely came from a Russian submarine.

Ukraine's Zelenskyy discusses need for financial support with IMF's Georgieva

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he has discussed the need for financial support for Ukraine's economy with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

"The IMF is our important partner. We look forward to further fruitful joint work in maintaining financial stability of Ukraine," Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian court seizes assets of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman

A Ukrainian court has seized assets of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman worth $420 million, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova has said.

She wrote on Facebook that the assets were securities in Cypriot companies that were held in Ukraine. Fridman has been sanctioned by the European Union as part of the bloc's response to Russia's offensive against Ukraine.

Russian court fines Radio Liberty $280,247 over 'fakes'

A Moscow court has fined US-backed broadcaster Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe $280,247 for not deleting what Russia calls "fake" content about its operation in Ukraine, Interfax news agency has reported.

Russia's communications watchdog blocked websites of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and some other foreign media in early March.

Kosovo expands its sanctions against Russia

The Kosovo government has decided to expand its sanctions against Russia. Additional sanctions have aligned Kosovo with the new sanctions of the EU and the US.

At a session chaired by Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Besnik Bislimi, the government decided to include freezing the assets of sanctioned persons, banning their travel and the movement of their assets outside of Kosovo.

"Sanctions consist of freezing the funds of sanctioned persons or entities in the Republic of Kosovo, prohibiting sanctioned persons from traveling to the Republic of Kosovo, prohibiting persons and entities in the Republic of Kosovo from directly or indirectly providing funds to individuals or sanctioned entities," said Bislimi.

Borrell: EU not found agreement on oil embargo against Russia

The European Union has not yet found agreement on a sixth package of sanctions against Russia, its top diplomat Josep Borrell has said after a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers in Brussels.

"Unhappily, it has not been possible to reach an agreement today," Borrell told reporters.

He said foreign ministers had decided, however, to provide an additional around $520 million for arms purchases in support of Kiev, taking the total sum of money the EU has earmarked for that purpose to $2.08 billion.

Ukraine 'unhappy' as Hungary stalls EU Russian oil ban

Ukraine's foreign minister has urged the EU to overcome Hungary's resistance to an embargo on Russian oil. 

"We are unhappy with the fact that the oil embargo is not there," Dmytro Kuleba said after meeting EU foreign ministers in Brussels. "It's clear who's holding up the issue. But time is running out because every day Russia keeps making money and investing this money into the war."

Kuleba said he was convinced the oil embargo would come and "the only question is when and what will be the price that the European Union will have to pay to make it happen."

Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra feted on return home after Eurovision win

Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra has returned to their homeland after an emotional Eurovision Song Contest victory, greeted at the border with Poland by servicemen and women whose cause the band had championed in Turin.

Frontman Oleh Psiuk was presented with a bouquet of yellow and blue flowers — the colours of Ukraine's flag — and reunited with his girlfriend before he and his band launched into an impromptu version of "Stefania," their winning song.

On Saturday, they had ridden a wave of popular support to win the annual songfest in the northern Italian city, giving their compatriots a much-needed morale boost after almost 12 weeks of Russian offensive.

US official: Russian troops pushed to within 3-4 km of Russian border 

Ukrainian forces have pushed back Russian troops near the country's second-largest city of Kharkiv to within 3 to 4 kilometres of the Russian border, a senior US defence official has said.

Earlier, Ukraine said its troops had regained control of territory on the Russian border near Kharkiv. The defence ministry said in a statement on social media that Ukrainian troops of the 127th brigade in the region "drove out the Russians and claimed the state border".

In a video released with the statement, a clutch of Ukrainian soldiers in camouflage and holding weapons are gathered around a yellow-and-blue-painted border demarcation post.

Russia-led alliance warns NATO expansion to increase tensions in Europe

Expansion of NATO will lead to increase in tensions in Europe, Stanislav Zas, secretary-general of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), has told reporters.

Speaking after a summit of the leaders of the CSTO in Moscow, Zas said that the alliance is facing challenges of further militarisation of Eastern Europe.

Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers remain holed up in the underground tunnels of the Azovstal steel factory that has been besieged by Russian forces for weeks. (AFP)
Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers remain holed up in the underground tunnels of the Azovstal steel factory that has been besieged by Russian forces for weeks. (AFP) (AFP)

Russia: Agreement reached to evacuate wounded from Azovstal steel plant

Russia's defence ministry has said that an agreement has been reached to evacuate injured soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol. There was no immediate confirmation from Ukrainian officials.

"An agreement was reached with representatives of the Ukrainian military blocked at Azovstal in Mariupol...," the Russian ministry said. It added that a "regime of silence" was introduced for the duration of the evacuation and that the soldiers would be taken to a hospital in the nearby town of Novoazovsk.

Ukraine's Azov battalion, which has led the defence of Mariupol, has posted desperate videos from the plant, saying soldiers are dying from their wounds there.

Ukraine: Russian incursion in Sumy region repelled

Ukrainian border guards have repelled an incursion by a Russian sabotage and reconnaissance group in the northeastern region of Sumy, the governor of the Sumy has said.

Dmytro Zhyvytsky wrote on the Telegram messaging app that the Russian group entered Ukrainian territory under the cover of mortar shells, grenades and machine gun fire but retreated after the border guards fought back.

Russian forces crossed into the Sumy region shortly after Moscow attacked Ukraine on February 24. Ukrainian forces retook control of the region on April 8 and have been bracing for further attacks.

Sweden PM says country will apply for NATO membership

Sweden will apply for membership in NATO as a deterrent against Russian aggression, reversing two centuries of military non-alignment.

"The government has decided to inform NATO that Sweden wants to become a member of the alliance," Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters a day after neighbouring Finland made a similar announcement. 

"We expect it shouldn't take more than a year" for the alliance's 30 members to unanimously ratify Sweden's membership application, Andersson said.

Renault hands Russian assets to Moscow in nationalisation first

French automaker Renault has handed over its Russian assets to the Russian government, marking the first major nationalisation since the onset of sanctions over Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine.

The same day American fast-food giant McDonald's said it would exit the Russian market and sell its business after more than 30 years of operations in the country.

Renault controlled 68 percent of AvtoVAZ, the largest carmaker in Russia with the country's top brand Lada. Renault has funnelled billions of dollars into the Soviet-era factory since the two automakers signed a strategic partnership agreement in 2008.

Agreements were signed on the transfer of Russian assets of the Renault Group to the Russian Federation and the government of Moscow

Russia's industry ministry

Hungary puts over $16B dollar price on cutting off Russian oil

Hungary has said it would cost $16 to $19 billion to prepare its economy to drop Russian oil under a proposed new EU sanctions package against Moscow.

"It is legitimate for Hungarians to expect a proposal" from the European Commission to cushion that blow, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in comments broadcast on his Facebook page.

"A complete modernisation of the Hungarian energy infrastructure is needed to the scale of 15 to 18 billion euros" if Hungary were to halt Russian oil imports, said Szijjarto, who was attending an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels.

US, EU to ramp up chip making and raise pressure on Russia

The United States and the European Union have announced a joint effort to boost microchip manufacturing and tackle Russian disinformation around the conflict in Ukraine.

The two sides met outside Paris as part of the Trade and Technology Council, a forum created last year aimed partially at countering China's powerful position in the technology sector.

But EU and US officials focused much of their efforts instead on the difficulties created by Russia's attacks on Ukraine, particularly with disinformation.

In its final statement, the council accused Russia of an "all-out assault on the truth" in Ukraine and promised an "early response framework" to tackle disinformation in future crises.

EU cuts eurozone growth forecast as Ukraine conflict bites

The European Commission has sharply cut its eurozone growth forecast for 2022 to 2.7 percent, blaming skyrocketing energy prices caused by Russia's offensive against Ukraine.

The conflict also spurred the EU's executive to revisit its eurozone inflation prediction for 2022, with consumer prices forecast to jump by 6.1 percent year-on-year, much higher than the earlier forecast of 3.5 percent.

"There is no doubt that the EU economy is going through a challenging period due to Russia's war against Ukraine, and we have downgraded our forecast accordingly," EU executive vice president Valdis Dombrovskis said.

The overwhelming negative factor is the surge in energy prices, driving inflation to record highs and putting a strain on European businesses and households

EU executive vice president Valdis Dombrovskis

Putin: New military infrastructure in Finland, Sweden would demand reaction

President Vladimir Putin says Russia has no issue with Finland and Sweden, but that the expansion of military infrastructure on their territory would demand a reaction from Moscow, as the Nordic countries move closer to joining NATO.

Putin, speaking in Moscow at a summit of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), said NATO's expansion was a problem for Russia and that it must look closely at what he said were the US-led military alliance's plans to increase its global influence.

Lukashenko urges Russia-led CSTO military alliance to unite against West

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has urged other members of a Russian-dominated military alliance to stand united, and accused the West of hoping to prolong the conflict in Ukraine to try to weaken Russia as much as possible.

Lukashenko, speaking at a summit of the leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in Moscow, said "hellish sanctions" against his country and Russia could have been avoided if the group had spoken with one voice.

"Without a united front, the collective West will build up pressure on the post-Soviet space," Lukashenko said in televised opening remarks, addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Ukraine replaces head of Territorial Defence Forces

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has replaced the head of its Territorial Defence Forces without giving a reason.

The Defence Ministry said on Monday Zelenskyy had appointed Major General Ihor Tantsyura to take over from Yuriy Halushkin as commander of the forces that are helping the Ukrainian army defend the country.

The ministry described Tantsyura as an experienced officer who was previously chief of staff of Ukraine's ground forces. It said the Territorial Defence Forces had grown rapidly since being established shortly before Russia's incursion. 

The explosive growth of the structure, especially in conditions of intense combat, is a huge experience, (with)mistakes and achievements. There are successes and, unfortunately, losses

Ukrainian defence ministry

Kremlin hits out at US over 'attempts to recruit' Russian embassy staff

The Kremlin has said that reported attempts by the US FBI and CIA to recruit embassy staff in Washington were unacceptable.

Russia's ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, told state media that embassy employees had been threatened with physical violence, and were frequently badgered in the vicinity of the Embassy to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Central Intelligence Agency.

"We do share the concerns of the head of our diplomatic mission in the United States about the really rather brazen behaviour of the American intelligence agencies in relation to our citizens and to the employees of our mission," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. 

Ukraine says strikes on hospital killed two

A Ukrainian military commander in the eastern Luhansk region says strikes overnight hit a hospital in Severodonetsk, killing two and injuring nine, including a child. Overnight strikes also hit other towns.

Regional military governor Serhiy Haidai said on Monday that Ukrainian special forces blew up Russian-held railway bridges between Rubizhne and Severodonetsk as part of efforts to slow the Russian offensive. Russia denies targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Russian forces have been trying for weeks to seize Severodonetsk, a key site in the Donbass region that’s outside the territory that Moscow-backed separatists held for the past several years.

Russian members allowed to take part in Olympics committee session

Russian members of the International Olympic Committee can take part in this week's IOC session despite Russia's attacks on Ukraine, with the Olympic body saying on Monday they are not representatives of their country.

Russia currently has two members on the IOC with former pole vault Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva and Shamil Tarpishchev. Longtime former member Vitaly Smirnov is an honorary IOC member.

"Under the Olympic Charter, the IOC members are not representatives of their country within the IOC," an IOC spokesperson said in response to questions by Reuters on the eligibility of Russian IOC members at the session. 

They are on the contrary elected as individuals by the IOC and then delegated as ambassadors of the IOC to the sports organisations in their country.

IOC spokesperson

Finland NATO bids are 'grave mistake' - Russia

Russia has warned that decisions by Finland and Sweden to join the NATO military alliance were serious mistakes and Moscow would take measures. 

"This is another grave mistake with far-reaching consequences," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters.

"The general level of military tensions will increase," he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. "It is a pity that common sense is being sacrificed for some phantom ideas about what should be done in the current situation."

Ukraine: Russia strikes at Donetsk sites

Russian forces have focused their latest attacks in Ukraine on the Donetsk region in the east, targeting civilian and military sites in multiple towns, the Ukrainian military said.

The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Russia’s military also continued air and artillery strikes around the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, the last holdout of Ukrainian forces in the strategic city.

In the Donetsk region, it said Russian forces used a range of weaponry on Ukrainian military fortifications and units and fired artillery at civilian infrastructure in the towns of Dovhenke, Ruski Tyshki, Ternova and Petrivka.

Ukrainian troops defending Kharkiv reach Russian border

Ukraine said troops defending the country's second-largest city, Kharkiv, had repelled Russian forces and advanced as far as the border with Russia.

Reuters news agency could not immediately verify Ukraine's battlefield account and it was not clear how many troops had reached the Russian border and where. 

If confirmed, it would suggest a Ukrainian counter-offensive is having increasing success in pushing back Russian forces in the northeast after Western military agencies said Moscow's offensive in the Donbas region had stalled. 

Ukraine claims 27,700 Russian troops killed since start of conflict

Some 27,700 Russian soldiers have so far been killed during the conflict in Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said.

The Ukrainian forces have destroyed 200 Russian aircraft, 165 helicopters, 427 unmanned aerial vehicles, 1,228 tanks, 2,974 armoured vehicles, and 577 cannons since Feb. 24, according to the Ukrainian General Staff’s latest update.

A total of 195 Russian multiple rocket launcher systems, 2,101 vehicles, 97 cruise missiles, 89 anti-aircraft systems, and 13 boats have also been destroyed, it added. 

Ukraine prepares for Russian Donbass push, gains made in north

Ukraine was preparing for a new Russian push in the eastern Donbass region, as Kiev said its army's counterattack around Kharkiv had gained momentum.

"We are preparing for new attempts by Russia to attack in Donbass, to somehow intensify its movement in the south of Ukraine," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

"The occupiers still do not want to admit that they are in a dead-end and their so-called 'special operation' has already gone bankrupt," he added. 

Polish Nobel author says Russia threat to 'free world'

A Polish Nobel Prize-winning author called Russia a threat to the “free world,” saying its attack on neighbouring Ukraine had echoes of the Second World War.

Olga Tokarczuk, known for her humanist themes and playful, subversive streak, spoke at a writers festival in Jerusalem.

“The Poles share the Ukrainian feeling of danger that Russia presents to the free world,” Tokarczuk said, adding that the Polish government had warned about the risk presented by Russian aggression for years.

Ukraine restarts gas distribution stations, supplies in Kharkiv

Ukraine's gas transit system operator has said that it had resumed operations at two distribution stations in the Kharkiv region and restarted gas supply to more than 3,000 consumers.

Ukraine has scored a series of successes since Russia attacked on February 24, forcing Moscow's commanders to abandon an advance on the capital Kiev before making rapid gains to drive them from Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-biggest city.

"Both stations were shut down due to damage to the main gas pipeline in the Kharkiv region as a result of hostilit ies," the operator said in a statement, adding that the damages have now been repaired. Some 54 gas distribution stations in seven regions of Ukraine remain shut down, the operator added. 

For live updates from Sunday (May 15), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies