The Davos summit of global political and business elites returns after a Covid-induced two-year break to face another momentous crisis: Russia's attacks on Ukraine – now in its 89th day.

Ukraine Defense Contact Group would meet next in person on June 15 during the NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels.
Ukraine Defense Contact Group would meet next in person on June 15 during the NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels. (AFP Archive)

Monday, May 23, 2022

US says 20 countries offer new arms packages for Ukraine

Some 20 countries offered new security assistance packages for Ukraine to battle Russian forces in a meeting of allies, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has announced.

In their second gathering, nearly four dozen countries and organisations forming the Ukraine Defense Contact Group met online to discuss helping Ukraine, and 20 nations pledged arms, ammunition and other supplies to support Kiev.

The group was briefed by Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on the current situation of the three-month-old war, in which the two sides are fighting along a front line over territory Russia has seized in Ukraine's east and south.

Ukraine's Zelenskyy would meet Putin on end to war

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has that Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin was the only Russian official he was willing to meet with a single issue on the agenda - to stop the war.

Zelenskyy, addressing by video link an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, also said that arranging any sort of talks with Russia was becoming more difficult in the light of what he said was evidence of Russian actions against civilians under occupation.

He also said that any notion of recovering by force the Crimea peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014 would cause hundreds of thousands of casualties.

EU leaders set to approve credit to support Ukraine

EU leaders are expected at an upcoming summit to approve EU credit to provide an additional €9 billion ($9.6 billion) in macro-financial assistance for Ukraine, the European Commission vice president has said.

The EU needs “to move forward quickly” in granting Ukraine assistance to cover the country's short-term needs, Maros Sefcovic told a press conference following a meeting of EU foreign ministers ahead of next week’s extraordinary EU leaders' summit.

He also said he expects EU leaders to give the mandate for the EU executive body to work out the details of an international donation platform for Ukraine’s long-term reconstruction.

Kremlin says sanctions against Russia cause threat of global food crisis

Russia cannot be blamed for a possible global food crisis and the fundamental reason is the sanctions against the country, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

Agreeing with the UN assessments about the possibility of a global food crisis, Peskov said the ban on deliveries of fertilisers and other restrictions imposed on Russia in connection with the Russia-Ukraine conflict is among the reasons that provoke it. 

Responding to accusations about blockades on the export of Ukraine's grain via sea routes, Peskov pointed out that the Ukrainian ports were mined by its military to prevent the entrance of the Russian warship. 

Russian diplomat quits over Ukraine conflict

A Russian diplomat in Geneva has left his job in protest at the Kremlin's offensive in Ukraine, telling diplomatic colleagues: "Never have I been so ashamed of my country."

Boris Bondarev, a counsellor at Moscow's mission to the United Nations in Geneva, wrote in a letter that he was leaving after 20 years in the diplomatic service, decrying Russia's attacks in its Western neighbour.

In the letter, he condemned "the aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine and in fact against the entire Western world". This, he said, was "not only a crime against the Ukrainian people but also, perhaps, the most serious crime against the people of Russia".

Russian, Belarusian presidents hail Moscow's resilience to sanctions

Russia's economy shows good resilience to sanctions, the country's President Vladimir Putin said.

Speaking at a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, Putin noted that the current situation and unprecedented restrictions, imposed on Russia due to the war in Ukraine, demand great efforts from the Russian government, but these efforts give a good result. 

"Despite all difficulties, I would like to note that the Russian economy is withstanding the sanctions blow, it is withstanding very well. This is indicated by all the main macroeconomic indicators," he said. 

Kremlin slams 'terror attack' on Ukraine's pro-Moscow official

The Kremlin accused Ukrainian nationalists of carrying out a "terror attack" against an official installed by Moscow in southern Ukraine. 

Andrey Shevchik was appointed as mayor of Energodar in the Zaporizhzhia region after Russian troops took control of the town, the site of Europe's largest nuclear power plant, during Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine.

On Sunday, Shevchik and his two guards were wounded in the explosion as they were entering a building.

Russian-controlled Ukraine region declares rouble official currency

Authorities in the Moscow-controlled Ukrainian region of Kherson announced the introduction of the rouble as an official currency alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia.

The region's capital Kherson was the first major city to fall to Russian forces after the start of Moscow's military operation.

"Today a decree will be issued that formalises the introduction in the Kherson region of dual currency," the pro-Moscow head of the regional administration, Vladimir Saldo, said in a video address. 

Starbucks says it will completely exit Russia

Starbucks said it will cease operations in Russia, shuttering its 130 cafes in the country. 

The coffee chain, which suspended its operations in early March following the Ukraine-Russia conflict, said it will "exit" Russia and "no longer have a brand presence in the market." 

"We will continue to support the nearly 2,000 green apron partners in Russia, including pay for six months and assistance for partners to transition to new opportunities outside of Starbucks," the company said. 

Zelenskyy calls for more sanctions on Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has used the Davos summit to appeal for more weapons for his country and "maximum" sanctions against Moscow.

Speaking by videolink, Zelenskyy told the World Economic Forum that tens of thousands of lives would have been saved if Kiev had received "100 percent of our needs at once back in February" when Russia attacked Ukraine.

Addressing the gathering of the world's political and business elites, Zelenskyy called for an oil embargo on Russia, punitive measures against all its banks and the shunning of its IT sector, adding that all foreign companies should leave the country.

There should not be any trade with Russia...I believe there are still no such sanctions against Russia — and there should be.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Russia says fired cruise missiles to destroy Ukrainian weapons

Russia's defence ministry says it has fired four Kalibr missiles from a submarine in the Black Sea to destroy the military equipment of a Ukrainian mountain assault brigade, the TASS news agency has reported.

It was not immediately possible to verify the report.

UN: More than 6.5 million people have fled Ukraine

More than 6.5 million people have fled Ukraine since late February, according to the UN refugee agency.

Since Russia's attacks began on February 24, 6,538,998 refugees have left Ukraine, with the majority of them entering Poland.

Azovstal fighters to face trial in breakaway region

The leader of Ukraine's breakaway so-called Donetsk People's Republic has said the fighters who surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol will a face trial in the separatist region.

"The prisoners from Azovstal are being held on the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic," Interfax news agency quoted Denis Pushilin as saying. 

"Organising an international tribunal on the republic's territory is also planned," Pushilin added, but it was not clear what charges the fighters would face.

Russian soldier sentenced to life in Ukraine

A Ukrainian court has sentenced a 21-year-old Russian soldier to life in prison for killing a Ukrainian civilian, in the first "war crimes" trial held since Russia’s attacks began.

Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin was accused of shooting a Ukrainian civilian in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region in the early days of Moscow's offensive.

He pleaded guilty and testified that he shot the man after being ordered to do so. He told the court that an officer insisted that the Ukrainian man, who was speaking on his cellphone, could pinpoint their location to the Ukrainian forces.

Poland to terminate agreement with Russia regarding Yamal gas pipeline

Poland has decided to terminate an intergovernmental agreement with Russia regarding the Yamal gas pipeline, Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa has said on Twitter.

"Russia's aggression against Ukraine has confirmed the accuracy of the Polish government's determination to become completely independent from Russian gas. We always knew that Gazprom was not a reliable partner," Moskwa said. 

Kremlin: West triggered a global food crisis with sanctions

The Kremlin has said that the West triggered a global food crisis by imposing the severest sanctions in modern history on Russia.

President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said, agreed with the United Nations assessment that the world faced a food crisis that could cause famine.

"Russia has always been a rather reliable grain exporter," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. "We are not the source of the problem."

Meanwhile, RIA cited Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko as saying Russia will be ready to return to negotiations with Ukraine "as soon as Kiev shows a constructive position".

Biden: Russia must pay long-term price for Ukraine attack

President Joe Biden has said that Russia "has to pay a long-term price" for its "barbarism in Ukraine" in terms of sanctions imposed on Moscow by the United States and its allies.

He said that if, after any future rapprochement between Russia and Ukraine, "the sanctions are not continued to be sustained in many ways, then what signal does that send to China about the cost of attempting to take Taiwan by force?"

Russian offensive intensifies in Donbass

Ukrainians have been digging in to defend the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, which came under heavy bombardment from Russian forces trying to take the industrial area known as the Donbass.

Luhansk's governor, Serhii Haidai, said on Sunday that the Russians were “simply intentionally trying to destroy the city ... engaging in a scorched-earth approach.”

He said the Russians had occupied several towns and cities in Luhansk after 24-hour shelling.

Russian soldiers start clearing mines from Ukraine's Azovstal

Russian soldiers have cleared mines and debris on the industrial grounds of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol after hundreds of Ukrainian forces holed up in the vast plant for weeks were ordered to stand down.

Soldiers walked through the compound and swung mine detectors over roads littered with debris on Sunday, while others checked under objects for the explosive devices, video footage showed.

"The task is huge, the enemy planted their own landmines, we had also planted anti-personnel mines while blocking the enemy. So we've got some two weeks of work ahead of us," said a Russian soldier who only gave his nom de guerre Babai.

Biden and Kishida discuss Ukraine

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Joe Biden have discussed the situation in Ukraine at a meeting in Tokyo.

"Russia's aggression against Ukraine undermines the foundation of global order and we can't, in no way, allow whatsoever such attempts to change the status quo by force wherever it may be around the world," Kishida said.

Biden also assured Kishida that the US remains fully committed to Japan's defence and announced the launch of a new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.

Ukraine top of agenda in Davos as business leaders gather

Ukraine is top of the agenda for the four-day meeting of global business leaders, which kicks off in earnest on Monday with a video address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

"This is the world's most influential economic platform, where Ukraine has something to say," Zelenskyy said in his daily video address.

Russian politicians, executives and academics will be entirely absent while the Ukrainian artists are hoping to get their message of fighting for a better future to world leaders in Davos.

Visitors are confronted by images such as a badly burned man in Kharkiv city after Russian shelling and a film made up of thousands of pictures of dead civilians and bombed houses.

For live updates from Sunday (May 22), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies