Ukraine's Donbass region, focus of recent Russian offensives, has been destroyed, President Zelenskyy says, while some of the world's richest countries pledge to bolster Kiev with billions of dollars as fighting enters its 86th day.

Service members of the Ukrainian armed forces, who surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict, sit in a bus upon their arrival under escort of the pro-Russian military in the settlement of Olenivka in the Donetsk region, Ukraine May 20, 2022.
Service members of the Ukrainian armed forces, who surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict, sit in a bus upon their arrival under escort of the pro-Russian military in the settlement of Olenivka in the Donetsk region, Ukraine May 20, 2022. (Reuters)

Friday, May 20, 2022

Rest of Azovstal defenders surrender, siege over - Russia

Russia's defence ministry has said the last group of Ukrainian forces holed up in Mariupol's smashed Azovstal steel works had surrendered, marking an end to a weeks-long siege.

"The territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant ... has been completely liberated," the ministry said in a statement. It said the group that had given up comprised 531 people.

The full abandonment of the bunkers and tunnels of the bombed-out plant means an end to the most destructive siege of a war that began when Russia attacked Ukraine nearly three months ago.

Russia attacks Ukraine’s eastern cities

Russian forces have continued attacking the cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk in Ukraine’s eastern region of Luhansk to try to cut the area off from the rest of Ukraine, the region’s governor has said.

Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said that Russian forces were focused on the Lysychansk-Bakhmut highway, which he said is the only road for evacuating people and delivering humanitarian supplies.

One of Friday’s attacks was on a school in Severodonetsk sheltering more than 200 people, many of them children. Three adults were killed, Haidai said.

“The liberation of the Luhansk People’s Republic is nearing completion."

Sergei Shoigu, Russian Defence Minister

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

First of all because Ukraine has an impact on many other fragile situations, making them more fragile, food security, energy crisis, price increases, instability and then this in turn can cause more displacement.

Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

Russian shelling in Ukraine’s Luhansk kills 13

Russian shelling in Ukraine's eastern region of Luhansk has killed 13 civilians over the past 24 hours, regional governor Serhiy Gaidai says.

Twelve were killed in the town of Severodonetsk, where a Russian assault has been unsuccessful and more than 60 houses were destroyed across the region. he said. 

The town and the city of Lysychansk are in an area where Russian troops have launched an offensive.

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.

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.

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.

For live updates from Thursday (May 19), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies