Russian troops set to withdraw from around Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv as grinding battle continues in the country's eastern industrial heartland on 81st day of Russia's attacks.

"It does look very much like white phosphorus rockets or artillery shells which are exploding just above the ground or upon the ground," an expert says. (Reuters)

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Video shows burning munitions cascade down on Ukrainian steel plant

White, brightly burning munitions were shown cascading down on the Azovstal steel works in the Ukrainian port of Mariupol in what a British military expert said looked like either an attack with phosphorus or incendiary weapons.

Reuters news agency was not able to immediately identify the type of munitions being used on the Azovstal complex or when the video was taken. It was posted on Sunday on the Telegram messaging application by Alexander Khodakovsky, a commander of the pro-Russian self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk.

"If you didn't know what it is and for what purpose - you could say that it's even beautiful," Khodakovsky said in a message beside the video. Khodakovsky could not be immediately reached for comment. It was not immediately clear which forces had fired the munitions, or from where.

Hamish Stephen de Bretton-Gordon, a former commanding officer of Britain's Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment, said: "It does look very much like white phosphorus rockets or artillery shells which are exploding just above the ground or upon the ground."

Ukraine 'deployed' new US howitzers at front lines

Ukraine has deployed many of its new US M-777 howitzers at the front lines and Washington has delivered all but one of the 90 artillery pieces they were due to send, the US embassy in Kiev has said.

The M-777 howitzer consignment is part of a huge outlay of weapons from Washington to help Ukraine fend off Russia's attacks. The M-777 is seen as particularly significant because of its long range and accuracy.

The US embassy reposted a Ukrainian military video of Kiev's soldiers training to use the weapons. "M-777 Howitzers in action. Part of the United States' most recent $800 million care package for the Ukrainian Armed Forces," it tweeted.

Ukraine 'resists' renewed Dontesk offensive

The Ukrainian military has said it had held off a renewed Russian offensive in the Dontesk area of the Donbass. Russian troops also tried to advance near the eastern city of Izyum, but Ukrainian forces stopped them, the governor of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region reported.

Over the weekend, Russian forces hit a chemical plant and 11 high-rise buildings in Siverodonetsk, in the Luhansk area of the Donbass, the regional governor said. He said nine people were injured.

Russia also continued striking railways, factories and other infrastructure across Ukraine. Russian missiles destroyed “military infrastructure facilities” in the Yavoriv district of western Ukraine, near the border with Poland, the governor of the Lviv region said.

Sweden's ruling party backs joining NATO

Sweden's ruling Social Democrats have said they backed the country joining NATO, abandoning decades of opposition in the wake of Russia's attacks on Ukraine and creating a large parliament majority in favour of membership.

With neighbouring Finland already set to hand in its application, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is now all but certain to launch a formal application within days.

Finland decided to seek NATO membership as top diplomats from the Western alliance met in Berlin. The leaders of the militarily neutral country said Russia's Ukraine operation had changed Europe's security landscape.

Blinken confident on Finland, Sweden NATO bids

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has voiced confidence that Sweden and Finland would join NATO once they formally apply.

"The United states would strongly support the NATO application by either Sweden or Finland should they choose to formally apply to the alliance," Blinken told reporters after NATO foreign ministers met in Berlin.

He said he heard "almost across-the-board very strong support" for the NATO bids. "I'm very confident that we will reach consensus," he said.

Eurovision win in hand, band releases new Ukraine video

Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra, fresh off its Eurovision victory, has released a new music video of its winning hit “Stefania” that features scenes of conflict-ravaged Ukraine and women in combat gear, as the annual song contest took on ever more political tones.

The video was released hours after Kalush Orchestra brought Ukraine its third Eurovision win, pulling ahead of Britain in the grand finale thanks to a surge of popular votes from some of the estimated 200 million viewers from 40 participating countries.

Band members posed for photos and signed autographs outside their three-star Turin hotel on Sunday. They must return to Ukraine on Monday after being given special nod to leave to attend the competition; most Ukrainian men between age 18 and 60 are barred from leaving in case they are needed to fight.

Official: Iran considering gas exports to Europe

Iran is considering the possibility of exporting gas to Europe, an oil ministry official has said against the backdrop of soaring energy prices due to Russia's offensive on Ukraine.

"Iran is studying this subject but we have not reached a conclusion yet," Deputy Oil Minister Majid Chegeni was quoted as saying by the ministry's official news agency, Shana. "Iran is always after the development of energy diplomacy and expansion of the market," he added.

Russia's incursion into Ukraine in February sent global oil and gas prices soaring, with many European countries dependent on energy imports from Russia.

Ukraine claims 27,400 Russian troops killed in conflict

Some 27,400 Russian soldiers have so far been killed during the conflict in Ukraine, the Ukrainian military has said.

It said Ukrainian forces have destroyed 200 Russian aircraft, 164 helicopters, 416 unmanned aerial vehicles, 1,220 tanks and 2,958 armoured vehicles since the crisis erupted on February 24.

Russia has also lost 195 multiple rocket launcher systems, 2,087 vehicles, 95 cruise missiles, 89 anti-aircraft systems, and 13 boats, it added.

Türkiye expects Finland, Sweden to have clear stance against terrorism

Türkiye has always supported the idea of NATO's expansion, but it has concerns over Finland and Sweden’s desire to join the alliance given their relations with terror groups, the Turkish foreign minister has said.

“Countries supporting terrorism should not be allies in NATO,” said 
Mevlut Cavusoglu after an informal NATO gathering in Germany’s capital Berlin.

He added that he briefed participating officials on the support the two countries provided to the PKK terror group, especially the arms aid supplied by Sweden.

More weapons, aid on way to Ukraine – Kuleba 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he had met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Berlin and that "more weapons and other aid is on the way to Ukraine". 

"We agreed to work closely together to ensure that Ukrainian food exports reach consumers in Africa and Asia. Grateful to Secretary Blinken and the US for their leadership and unwavering support," Kuleba tweeted. 

Kuleba was due to brief NATO foreign ministers meeting in Berlin on Sunday on the situation on the ground in Ukraine and on how the alliance can further help the country as it battles Russian forces for the 12th week.  

Missiles destroy military infrastructure in western Ukraine near Polish border 

Four missile strikes hit military infrastructure in the Yavoriv area of western Ukraine, near the Polish border, Lviv region's Governor Maxim Kozitsky said. 

"The object is completely destroyed," Kozitsky said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

Earlier, a regional air command of Ukraine said several missiles had been fired at the Lviv region from the Black Sea in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Ukraine can win war: NATO deputy chief

Ukraine can win the "war" against Russia, NATO’s deputy secretary general said. 

“The brutal invasion of Russia is losing momentum,” Mircea Geoana told reporters on the way to the second day of the informal meeting of NATO foreign affairs ministers in Berlin.

“With the bravery of the Ukrainian people, army, and our help, Ukraine can win this war,” Geoana said.

Russia's Donbass offensive 'has lost momentum' - Britain 

Russia's offensive in Ukraine's Donbass region "has lost momentum and fallen significantly behind schedule", British military intelligence said. 

"Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days," the British military said in a regular Twitter bulletin.

On Friday, Ukrainian forces prevented an attempted Russian river crossing in the Donbass, an eastern area comprising the Luhansk and Donetsk regions that has been a focus of the offensive. 

Russian village bordering Ukraine shelled, one wounded

One person was wounded when forces in Ukraine fired at a Russian village close to the border, Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of the Belgorod region, said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify the report. 

Envoy says Russian diplomats in US are threatened, enticed by FBI

Russian diplomats in Washington are being threatened with violence and US intelligence services try to make contact with them, Tass news agency cited the ambassador as saying.

Anatoly Antonov told Russian television that since Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24, face-to-face meetings with US officials had ended.

"It's like a besieged fortress. Basically, our embassy is operating in a hostile environment ... Embassy employees are receiving threats, including threats of physical violence," Tass quoted him as saying.

Missile hits military infrastructure in Ukraine's Lviv region - governor

A missile strike hit some military infrastructure in the western Ukrainian region of Lviv, the region's Governor Maxim Kozitsky said in a post on his Telegram messaging app. 

"There is no information about dead or injured at this hour," Kozitsky said. "The extent of the destruction is being clarified."

Ukraine's Zelenskyy defiant as Russia retreats from Kharkiv

Fresh off his country's Eurovision win, a defiant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to one day host the song contest in the embattled city of Mariupol, which is almost entirely in Russian hands aside from a stalwart group of a few hundred Ukrainian fighters who continue to hold out in a steel factory.

Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra won the popular contest with its song “Stefania,” which has become a popular anthem among Ukrainians during the war, and its victory was a morale booster. 

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe,” Zelenskyy said on Facebook. 

Russian, Ukrainian officials negotiate Mariupol evacuations

Ukrainian fighters holed up in a steel plant in the ruined southern port of Mariupol faced continued attacks on the city's last stronghold of resistance. 

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said authorities were negotiating the evacuation of 60 severely wounded troops, but Russia had not agreed to the evacuation of all wounded fighters at the steelworks, who number in the hundreds.

Earlier an adviser to Mariupol Mayor Petro Andryushenko said via Telegram that a convoy of between 500 and 1,000 cars carrying civilians from the city was allowed to enter Ukraine-controlled territory and was headed for Zaporizhzhia, the first major city beyond the front lines.

For live updates from Saturday (May 14), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies