Russia has claimed full control of the strategic southeastern city Mariupol after all of the Ukrainian defenders surrendered in the Azovstal steel mill as the conflict enters its 87th day.

An injured Ukrainian service member sits at a field hospital inside a bunker of the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this handout picture taken May 10, 2022.
An injured Ukrainian service member sits at a field hospital inside a bunker of the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this handout picture taken May 10, 2022. (Reuters)

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Russia considers Azov prisoner swap for Putin ally Medvedchuk

Moscow will consider exchanging prisoners from Ukraine's Azov battalion for Viktor Medvedchuk, a wealthy Ukrainian businessman close to President Vladimir Putin, a Russian negotiator has said.

"We are going to study the possibility," said Leonid Slutsky, a senior member of Russia's negotiating team on Ukraine, speaking from the separatist city of Donetsk in southeastern Ukraine, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Medvedchuk, 67, is a politician and one of Ukraine's richest people and is known for his close ties to Putin. He is also a politician. He escaped from house arrest after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February but was re-arrested in mid-April.

Zelenskyy seeks more anti-Russia sanctions from Italy's Draghi

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he talked to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and stressed the importance of more sanctions on Russia and unblocking Ukrainian ports.

Zelenskyy tweeted that he had also thanked Draghi for his "unconditional support" of Ukraine's bid to become a member of the European Union.

Draghi had initiated the call, he said. 

Ukraine needs full EU candidacy not 'compromise': Zelenskyy

Ukraine needs to become a full candidate to join the EU, rather than signing up to the kind of broader "European political community" antechamber proposed by France, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

"We don't need any alternatives to the application of Ukraine to join the European Union, we don't need such compromises," Zelenskyy told reporters in Kiev during a joint press conference with visiting Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

French President Emmanuel Macron raised hackles in Ukraine on May 9 by suggesting that the country could take "decades" to become a full EU member and should aspire instead to join a "European political community," a sort of antechamber for the European Union.

Poles need EU funds as they help Ukrainians: envoy

Ukraine's ambassador to neighbouring Poland has that his nation is grateful for the welcome that Poles have given to millions of Ukrainian refugees, but he hopes the European Union will soon release billions of euros to Poland so that the assistance does not come “at the cost of the Polish people."

Ambassador Andrii Deshchytsia said that while there have been no real social tensions in the three months since Ukrainians began crossing into Poland seeking safety, he worries they could appear in the future given the large extent of Polish help.

The government has extended free medical care, education and other social services to the Ukrainians, while more than 80 percent of them are being housed in private Polish homes.

Russia declares travel ban on 963 Americans including Biden and Blinken 

Russia has said it was banning entry to 963 Americans including US President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CIA chief William Burns.

The travel bans have only symbolic impact but form part of a constant downward spiral in Russia's relations with the United States and its allies since its Feb. 24 assault on Ukraine. 

Biden signs $40B aid bill for Ukraine: White House

US President Joe Biden has signed a $40 billion bill set to ensure a steady supply of weaponry and economic support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia, the White House said.

Biden signed the bill passed earlier by Congress while visiting Seoul on his first trip to Asia as president. The bill, which will funnel support to Ukraine for about the next five months, includes around $6 billion budgeted for armoured vehicles and air defences.

Zelenskyy says only 'diplomacy' can end Ukraine conflict

The Ukraine conflict can only be resolved through "diplomacy", Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said amid a deadlock in negotiations between Kiev 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".

"There are things that can only be reached at the negotiating table," he said." We want everything to return (to as it was before)" but "Russia does not want that", he said, without elaborating.

Russian military says it destroys western arms shipment in Ukraine

The Russian military has said it had destroyed a major consignment of Western arms in Ukraine's Zhytomyr region, west of Kiev, using sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles.

The defence ministry said in a statement the strike took out "a large batch of weapons and military equipment delivered from the USA and European countries" and intended for Ukrainian troops in the eastern Donbass region where the fighting is concentrated.

It also said Russian missiles had struck fuel storage facilities near Odessa on the Black Sea coast and shot down two Ukrainian Su-25 aircraft and 14 drones.

Russia stops Finland gas flows over payments dispute

Russia's Gazprom has halted gas exports to neighbouring Finland, the Finnish gas system operator says, the latest escalation of an energy payments dispute with Western nations.

"Starting from today, during the upcoming summer season, Gasum will supply natural gas to its customers from other sources through the Balticconnector pipeline", Gasgrid Finland said in a statement. Balticconnector links Finland to neighbouring Estonia's gas grid. 

Gazprom Export has demanded that European countries pay for Russian gas supplies in roubles because of sanctions imposed over Moscow's offensive in Ukraine, but Finland refuses to do so.

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. 

US, others walk out of APEC talks over Russia's invasion

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 offensive in Ukraine, officials say.

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 said.

The walkout took place while the Russian representative was delivering remarks at the opening of the two-day meeting of the group of 21 economies. 

UK 'wants to arm' Moldova to protect it from Russian threat

Britain wants to send modern weaponry to Moldova to protect it from the threat of invasion by Russia, The Telegraph has reported, citing Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

She told the newspaper that Russian President Vladimir Putin was determined to create a "greater Russia" even though his offensive in Ukraine had failed to achieve quick success.

Russia has called the offensive it launched on February 24 a "special military operation" aimed at disarming Ukraine and ridding it off radical anti-Russian nationalists. Ukraine and its allies have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for attack.

Fall of Mariupol, Ukraine orders end of defence

Ukraine has ordered its last troops holed up in Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks to lay down their arms, while Russia said its months-long operation to capture the strategic port city is now complete.

While Ukrainian forces fended off the Russian offensive around Kiev, helped by a steady infusion of Western arms, both eastern Ukraine and Mariupol in the south have borne the brunt of a remorseless ground and artillery attack.

"Russian occupation forces are conducting intense fire along the entire line of contact and trying to hit artillery deep into the defences of Ukrainian troops," Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told reporters.

Russia should pay for destruction - Zelenskyy

President Volodymyr 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.

Just on Friday, he noted, the Russian army fired a missile at the northeastern Kharkiv region, destroying a cultural center in Lozova, and also hit the cities of Odesa in the south, Poltava in the east and Zhytomyr in the west.

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.

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.

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.

For live updates from Friday (May 20), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies