Russia's 'full-scale aggression entering most active phase', warns Kyiv

·40 min read
Russia-Ukraine latest news: Putin 25km from encircling elite Ukrainian unit in major Donbas victory - ARIS MESSINIS /AFP
Russia-Ukraine latest news: Putin 25km from encircling elite Ukrainian unit in major Donbas victory - ARIS MESSINIS /AFP

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has entered its most active phase, Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk has said.

Russian troops are just 16 miles away from encircling Ukraine's elite special forces in a potential major victory for Vladimir Putin in the Donbas.

Mr Motuzyanyk said Russian forces had not given up attempts to cross the river.

"Now we are observing the most active phase of the full-scale aggression which Russia unfolded against our country," he told a televised briefing.

"The situation on the [eastern] front is extremely difficult, because the fate of this country is perhaps being decided [there] right now."

05:57 PM

What happened today

Here are the key developments from today.

Today marked three months since the war began on February 24.

  • Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has entered its most active phase.

  • Hungary declared a legal "state of danger" in response to Russia's war in neighbouring Ukraine, the prime minister announced, allowing the right-wing nationalist government to take special measures without the participation of the legislature.

  • Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned that famine caused by grain and food shortages due to the invasion of Ukraine could cause more deaths than the war itself.

  • A European agreement on a Russian oil embargo is possible "within a few days", the German economy minister said, as the bloc struggles to reach a consensus on a boycott.

  • Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev has said that Russia will achieve its objectives in Ukraine and is not "chasing deadlines".

  • Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Tuesday lost his legal appeal against a nine-year prison sentence that he and his allies condemn as politically motivated.

05:53 PM

Russia takes control of Donetsk region town of Svitlodarsk - governor

Russian forces have taken control of three Donetsk region towns including Svitlodarsk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told a local affiliate of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic said in a post on the Telegram messaging service that its forces had taken control of the town and replaced the Ukrainian flag with a Russian flag.

Svitlodarsk is 80 kilometers southwest of Sievierodonetsk, the focus of Russian attacks in recent days.

05:41 PM

Polish-German standoff on tanks but talks ongoing

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday expressed "deep disappointment" that Germany had not provided tanks to his country to make up for the ones Warsaw had sent to Kyiv to fight the Russian assault.

Poland in April said it had sent Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukraine without giving a number but media reports said over 200 had been sent.

"We have sent tanks to Ukraine and it is a large number," Mr Duda told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

He said Germany had pledged to make up for the number of tanks donated but added that "we hear Germany does not want to keep that promise. It is a deep disappointment for us".

The Polish army has around 250 German-made Leopard 2 tanks and according to media reports was hoping that Germany would furnish some more.

Last week, the Czech Republic said it had received 15 Leopard 2 A4 tanks to make up for the T-72s it had sent to Ukraine.

05:18 PM

Ukraine gathers Russian dead in chilled train for prisoner exchange

Ukraine is gathering the bodies of dead Russian soldiers strewn among the rubble of formerly occupied towns and using everything from DNA to tattoos to verify their identities in the hope of exchanging them for prisoners of war.

Volunteers have helped the military gather 60 bodies in the northeastern region of Kharkiv where Russian forces have retreated in recent weeks, stacking them up in a refrigerated rail carriage.

Bodies are sometimes used as part of prisoner exchanges and other times in exchanges for Ukrainian bodies, said Anton Ivannikov, captain of military-civil cooperation branch, Ukrainian Armed Forces, which is coordinating the effort. The bodies of those related to high ranking officials can be especially valuable to an exchange.

"We are gathering all the documents, all the credit cards. Anything which would help us identify the body" including tattoos and DNA, Mr Ivannikov said.

"In the future this will tell us which soldier, which brigade was in this region, for further exchange," he said.

05:04 PM

Hungary announces 'state of danger' over war in Ukraine

Hungary has declared a legal "state of danger" in response to Russia's war in neighboring Ukraine, the prime minister announced Tuesday, allowing the right-wing nationalist government to take special measures without the participation of the legislature.

In a video on social media, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the war in Ukraine represents "a constant threat to Hungary" which was "putting our physical security at risk and threatening the energy and financial security of our economy and families."

In response, he said, a "war state of danger" would take effect beginning Wednesday, allowing the government "to respond immediately and protect Hungary and Hungarian families by any means possible."

The move came after Mr Orban's ruling party passed a constitutional amendment Tuesday allowing for legal states of danger to be declared when armed conflicts, wars or humanitarian disasters were taking place in neighboring countries.

The special legal order permits the government to enact laws by decree without parliamentary oversight, and permits the temporary suspension of and deviation from existing laws.

04:55 PM

German chancellor discusses Ukraine war in South Africa

South Africa's neutral stance on Russia's war in Ukraine was a major topic of conversation as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meets Tuesday with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, to end his three-nation tour of Africa.

Speaking to the press in South Africa's capital, Pretoria, ahead of their private meeting, the two leaders said they will also consider developments on the African continent.

Mr Scholz's visit comes as the war in Ukraine has been raging for three months and is causing oil and food prices to rise around the world, including in Africa.

South Africa has taken a neutral stance on the conflict, refusing to condemn Russia's actions and calling for dialogue between the two countries.

"Obviously one of the questions that is of big concern for all of us, is the war that Russia imposed on Ukraine, the brutal war, we have to say it like this," Mr Scholz said.

"And it is necessary for peace in the world that this war stops, as soon as possible and that there is a chance to defend the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine," he said.

x - Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg
x - Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

04:21 PM

Listen to the latest episode of our daily Ukraine podcast

04:09 PM

Hungary's government gets emergency powers due to Ukraine war, PM Orban says

Hungary's government declared a state of emergency due to the war in Ukraine from Wednesday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a Facebook video, adding his cabinet needed room of manoeuvre to respond to challenges quickly.

Mr Orban, who won a fourth consecutive term in elections on April 3, has used the special legal order in the past, once due to migration and later during the Covid-19 pandemic. The new state of emergency, announced on Tuesday, empowers Orban's government to approve measures fast, by decree.

03:41 PM

EU suspends import duties on war ravaged Ukraine

EU ministers on Tuesday agreed to suspend import duties on all products from Ukraine in a bid to help the country's battered economy survive Russia's military assault.

EU executive vice president Valdis Dombrovskis said the suspension was a temporary measure that "will make it easier for Ukraine to continue trading in the face of Russia's aggression and will provide overall support to the Ukrainian economy."

Bilateral trade between the EU and Ukraine, an agricultural export powerhouse, accounted for 52 billion euros ($56 billion) of trade last year, according to the EU executive.

The figure has doubled since 2016, but since the outbreak of the war in late February Ukraine's agricultural and industrial production has been hit hard, with the country's access to the sea blocked by the Russian navy.

The International Monetary Fund has warned that Moscow's onslaught will cause Ukraine's economy to collapse by 35 percent this year.

Already approved by the European Parliament, the regulation will enter into force the day after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU, a statement said.

03:30 PM

Russia moves to bar foreigners from using its surrogate mothers

Russian lawmakers voted on Tuesday to bar foreigners from using the services of Russian surrogate mothers as Moscow's relations with Western countries continue to sour over its war in Ukraine.

Paid surrogacy is legal in Russia but the practice has been criticised by religious groups for commercialising the birth of children.

One of the co-authors of the bill, which was passed nearly unanimously in its first reading, said such legislation was needed to keep children born in Russia out of harm's way.

At the moment, said Vasily Piskaryov, a lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, "we cannot follow the fate of one single baby."

He told parliament: "We don't know who their parents are, their so-called 'mom' and 'dad', and why they are purchasing a baby."

Mr Piskaryov said that some 40,000 babies born to surrogate mothers in Russia had left the country to be raised by foreigners.

03:27 PM

Pictured: Commuters take the subway in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Commuters take the subway in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Kharkiv subway resumed service on Tuesday morning after it was closed for more than two months during Russian attempt to capture the city. - AP Photo/Bernat Armangue
Commuters take the subway in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Kharkiv subway resumed service on Tuesday morning after it was closed for more than two months during Russian attempt to capture the city. - AP Photo/Bernat Armangue

03:24 PM

Russian military campaign in most active phase, Ukraine says

Russia's military campaign in Ukraine has entered its most active phase, Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said on Tuesday.

Three months after invading Ukraine, Russian forces are trying to encircle Ukrainian troops in twin cities straddling the Siverskyi Donets River in eastern Ukraine.

Mr Motuzyanyk said Russian forces had not given up attempts to cross the river.

03:14 PM

French foreign minister Colonna says optimistic on new EU sanctions package

France's new foreign minister said on Tuesday a new European Union sanctions package that would lead to the end of Russian oil imports to the bloc needed to happen quickly and she was confident any hesitations would be lifted.

"We must adopt as quickly as possible the sixth package of sanctions that foresees the progressive end of the imports of Russian oil and to lift the remaining hesitations," Catherine Colonna told a news conference alongside her German counterpart Annalena Baerbock in Berlin.

"We hope [to] do it quickly and I'm optimistic."

03:02 PM

Russia says it has completed demining of Azov Sea port of Mariupol

Russian forces have completed removing mines in the Azov Sea port of Mariupol, the defence ministry said on Tuesday.

Mines have been removed from the territory of the port and nearby waters, the ministry added in a statement. Russia said it had established full control of Mariupol last week after Ukrainian fighters surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steelworks where they had held out for many weeks.

02:40 PM

Eighty-two percent of Ukrainians oppose territorial concessions

Eighty-two percent of Ukrainians believe that Ukraine should not sign away any of its territories as part of a peace deal with Russia under any circumstances, according to a new survey by one of the country's top pollsters.

In the poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology between May 13-18 and released on Tuesday, 82 per cent of respondents said they did not support territorial concessions, even if it prolonged the war and increased the threat to Ukraine's independence.

Ten percent of the 2,000 people surveyed found it acceptable for Ukraine to concede territory to achieve peace, while eight percent were undecided. According to the poll, 77 per cent of Ukrainians living in Russian-occupied territory opposed any land concessions.

Ukraine’s government has repeatedly stated that it does not intend to make any territorial concessions to Russia and has said it is not currently seeking a ceasefire despite calls from European leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

02:15 PM

Russian lawmakers move to ease foreign media shutdowns

Russian lawmakers on Tuesday backed legislation allowing prosecutors to shut down foreign media outlets without a court order, in the latest move against the press during Moscow's military offensive in Ukraine.

The lower house State Duma adopted in first reading amendments allowing authorities "to quickly respond and give a mirror response to unfriendly actions against our media abroad".

Russian state-run media including television network RT and news agency Sputnik have been banned in several Western countries since Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.

The new legislation would allow the prosecutor general to unilaterally shut down foreign media operating in Russia if foreign governments take "hostile" steps against Russian media abroad.

Currently a court order is required.

02:01 PM

Russia bars entry to 154 members of UK House of Lords, ministry says

Russia's foreign ministry on Tuesday announced that it was imposing an entry ban on 154 members of the UK parliament's House of Lords in retaliation for sanctions against Russian senators over Ukraine.

"In response to a decision taken in March by the British government to put almost all Russia's Federation Council members on a sanctions list, on a reciprocal basis, personal sanctions are being introduced against 154 members of the House of Lords," the ministry said in a statement.

01:58 PM

Senior Russian lawmaker questions need to service foreign debt

Russia's most senior lawmaker on Tuesday told the lower house of parliament to study the possibility of stopping the servicing of Russia's foreign debt, the day before a US-issued licence that allows Moscow to make payments expires.

Russia's ability to service its debt is in focus as it faces the prospect of sovereign default after Western capitals imposed sweeping sanctions in the wake of what Moscow calls a "special operation" in Ukraine, launched on February 24.

On Tuesday, a lawmaker from Russia's communist party said voters were unhappy with the fact that Russia was continuing to pay its debt obligations when its national reserves held abroad were frozen, and that this should be questioned.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, ordered the financial market committee and the committee on budget and taxes to look into the matter.

"We'll discuss it after the budget and financial market committees examine it. We need to engage two committees, two heads are better than one," Mr Volodin said.

01:52 PM

North America lumber supply strain to flare up on Russia timber ban

Russia's ban on the export of forestry products until the end of 2022 will rattle an already tight North American lumber market as exports from Europe are redirected to meet domestic demand, company executives and analysts have said.

Dogged by rising fuel costs, demand exceeding rail transport capacities and other shipment snags, U.S. home builders have been struggling to find lumber and other raw materials needed to deliver on a massive backlog of projects from last year.

Earlier in March, Russia banned exports of certain goods such as telecom, medical, auto, agricultural, electrical and tech equipment, as well as some forestry products to retaliate against Western sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia's forestry exports ban could make things worse by removing as much as three per cent of US lumber imports via Europe, leading to higher prices for lumber in the United States.

The raw material was trading at around $651.90 per thousand board feet (MBF) on Monday, more than 45 per cent higher when compared with five years earlier.

01:15 PM

India says Quad countries understand its position on Ukraine

India said on Tuesday that the leaders of the other members of the Quad group of countries understood its position on Russia's conflict in Ukraine when they met in Tokyo.

"There was a general and good appreciation of the position that India has taken with regard to Ukraine," India's foreign secretary, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, told reporters in the Japanese capital.

He said India wants an immediate end to hostilities and diplomacy and dialogue to resolve the crisis. India is the only member of the Quad - which also includes the United States, Japan and Australia - to not have condemned the actions of Russia.

12:56 PM

In pictures: The latest from Ukraine

Photo by SERGEY BOBOK / AFP - Photo by SERGEY BOBOK / AFP
Photo by SERGEY BOBOK / AFP - Photo by SERGEY BOBOK / AFP
Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images - Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images
Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images - Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images
A police officer walks next to a school building damaged by a Russian military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the settlement of Kostiantynivka, in Donetsk region, Ukraine May 22, 2022. - REUTERS/Anna Kudriavtseva
A police officer walks next to a school building damaged by a Russian military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the settlement of Kostiantynivka, in Donetsk region, Ukraine May 22, 2022. - REUTERS/Anna Kudriavtseva

12:54 PM

China and Russia hold first military exercise since Ukraine invasion

China and Russia's air forces conducted a joint aerial patrol on Tuesday over the Sea of Japan, East China Sea and the Western Pacific, China's defence ministry said.

The patrol, the first since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, was part of an annual military exercise, the ministry said on its official website.

The two countries had previously held such patrols in 2019, 2020 and 2021 but in the latter half of the year.

12:36 PM

US says China and Russia bomber drill shows depth of their alignment

A joint strategic bomber exercise by Russia and China in East Asia on Tuesday shows the depth of the two countries' alignment, a senior US administration official has said.

Russia's defense ministry earlier confirmed the joint patrol, which it said lasted 13 hours over the Japanese and East China seas and involved Russian Tu-95 and Chinese Xian H-6 strategic bombers.

Planes from the Japanese and South Korean air force shadowed the Russian and Chinese jets for part of the exercise, Russia said.

The move marks the first joint military exercise by China and Russia since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to the US official, and it comes at the tail end of US President Joe Biden's trip to the region.

"We think it shows that China continues to be willing to closely align themselves with Russia, including through military cooperation," the official said, adding that such actions must be planned well in advance.

"China is not walking away from Russia. Instead, the exercise shows that China is ready to help Russia defend its east while Russia fights in its west," they added.

12:24 PM

Full cost of rebuilding Ukraine impossible to quantify, says German finance minister

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner has said that it impossible to say how much it would cost to rebuild Ukraine, which is currently focused on fighting off Russian troops.

Providing reconstruction aid to Kyiv was not just the responsibility of Europe, but also international bodies, added Lindner after the May meeting of European finance ministers.

12:03 PM

Russian defender of 18th-century Crimea proposed for sainthood

Russia's defence minister has proposed that 18th-century tsarist general Alexander Suvorov, revered for repelling Turkish attacks against Crimea and crushing a revolutionary movement in Poland, be made a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church.

The proposal comes as Russia marks three months since it sent its armed forces into Ukraine, saying it needed to neutralise a security threat and rid it of "fascists" threatening the Russian-speaking population.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has evoked past heroes of Suvorov's stature to promote the notion that what he calls a "special military operation" is in line with Russia's glorious military tradition. Ukraine and Western countries dismiss Russia's arguments as baseless pretexts to seize territory.

"The persona of this great military commander of course draws the attention of many people," Bishop Pankraty, chairman of the Russian Orthodox synodal commission for the canonization of saints, told TASS news agency.

"Even the defence ministry, and the defence minister himself, have come to us with this issue (canonization)."

He said the head of the church, Patriarch Kirill, had promised Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu that the question would be examined.

11:39 AM

EU needs to talk with Russia over Ukrainian food exports, von der Leyen says

Europe needs to seek talks with Russia on possibilities of reviving the exports of wheat and other food supplies out of Ukraine in order to prevent a global food crisis, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday.

"It can't be in Russia's interests that because of Russia people are dying of hunger in the world," Ms von der Leyen said in an interview with Reuters at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "Therefore I think we should first of all look at the dialogue with Russia, whether there is not an agreement that this wheat gets out of Ukraine."

11:25 AM

Turkey to discuss Nato bids with Finland, Sweden on Wednesday

Turkish officials will meet with Swedish and Finnish delegations in Ankara on Wednesday to discuss Stockholm and Helsinki's applications to become members of Nato, the Turkish foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has objected to Sweden and Finland joining Nato, held phone calls with the leaders of the two Nordic countries on Saturday and discussed his concerns.

Turkey says Sweden and Finland harbour people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.

11:20 AM

France reassures Ukraine it will be part of European Union

Ukraine will eventually be part of the European Union, France's Europe minister said on Tuesday, reassuring Kyiv that an initiative to forge closer ties between the bloc and aspiring members would not replace their bids to join.

French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this month suggested creating a "European political community" that would create a new structure allowing closer cooperation with countries seeking EU membership.

"I am convinced that Ukraine will be part of the European Union," Clement Beaune told reporters. "We know with honesty that it takes time and in this time we can't allow ourselves to simply wait. We have to nurture the European hope."

Mr Beaune, who earlier this week said it could take 15-20 years for Ukraine to join added that the project "was not an alternative."

Speaking alongside Olga Stefanishyna, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, he said the next step would be to discuss the details of the initiative with European partners.

11:16 AM

US climate envoy Kerry says Ukraine war no excuse to let up on climate fight

The US climate envoy John Kerry told the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Tuesday that the global energy crisis wrought by the war in Ukraine should not deepen the world's dependence on fossil fuels causing climate change.

"There has to be a resupply to Europe of gas that has been lost in the cutoff from Russia," he said in Davos, Switzerland. But he warned: "No one should believe that the crisis of Ukraine is an excuse to suddenly build out the old kind of infrastructure that we had."

"If we make the right choices here we can win all of these battles: we can do what we need to do with respect to Ukraine, we can do what we need to do with respect to the climate crisis," Mr Kerry said.

11:05 AM

Russia orders blogger's arrest in absentia over Ukraine videos

A Moscow court on Tuesday ordered the detention in absentia of Russian blogger Michael Nacke, accusing him of discrediting the Russian army and its offensive in Ukraine.

Mr Nacke, a 28-year-old Kremlin critic, hosts a YouTube channel with more than 700,000 subscribers that discusses Russia's military actions in Ukraine.

A citizen of Russia, he is currently in Lithuania, he told AFP, after Moscow's Basmanny court ordered his detention.

Mr Nacke said he was accused of "calling a war a war" and prosecuted over his updates about the course of Russia's military campaign in Ukraine on his YouTube channel.

He risks up to 10 years in prison if he returns to Russia, he said.

He said his arrest was "part of the massive pressure on journalists and analysts who objectively describe the course of the current war."

11:00 AM

Ukraine's banking sector increases losses as war rages

Ukraine's banking system posted a net loss of 7.4 billion hryvnias ($253 million) in January-April, a rise from 0.16 billion hryvnias in January-March, as Russia pressed on with its military offensive, central bank data showed on Tuesday.

In April, banks had to transfer an additional 11.2 billion hryvnias of their earnings to reserves to cover possible future losses linked to the war. In March, banks transferred to reserves almost 15.8 billion hryvnias.

Russia's invasion has harmed business activities, prevented many companies and individuals from servicing their loans and led to the banking system's first losses since 2017.

The central bank said the return on assets ratio of the banking system - an indicator of profitability - had worsened to minus 1.11 per cent as of end-April from minus 0.03 per cent as of end-March.

The central bank has said the war could cause Ukraine's economy to contract by at least one-third in 2022 and drive up inflation to over 20 per cent.

10:59 AM

Pro-Russian ex-president of Moldova detained for 'treason'

Moldova on Tuesday detained pro-Russian ex-president Igor Dodon on suspicion of treason and corruption, prosecutors said, as the conflict in neighbouring Ukraine has heightened tensions in the country seeking EU membership.

"Igor Dodon was detained on Tuesday for 72 hours," Mariana Chiorpec, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor general's office, told journalists, adding that he is being held in the National Anti-Corruption Centre.

She said that searches were ongoing at 12 different locations including Mr Dodon's home in the capital Chisinau.

Mr Dodon is being investigated over four separate offences: state treason, receiving political funds from a criminal organisation, illegal enrichment and "passive corruption".

Investigators suspect Mr Dodon of having taken money in 2019 from a political ally and powerful oligarch, Vladimir Plahotniuc, who fled the country in 2020 under the shadow of graft allegations and has been refused entry by the United States.

Mr Dodon led Moldova between 2016 and 2020 and was openly backed by Moscow.

10:57 AM

Navalny loses appeal against nine-year sentence

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Tuesday lost his legal appeal against a nine-year prison sentence that he and his allies condemn as politically motivated.

His sentencing came as Moscow pushes on with its military offensive in neighbouring Ukraine and Russian authorities seek to silence remaining government critics.

A Moscow court ruled to "leave the sentence without changes" and for it to enter into force immediately, meaning that the leader of Russia's embattled opposition will be transferred to a strict-regime penal colony with harsh conditions, including few family visits.

President Vladimir Putin's top foe appeared at the hearing at Moscow City Court via video-link from behind bars at his prison colony outside Moscow, wearing a black prisoner uniform and a fur-collared winter jacket.

He dismissed his trial as "meaningless", saying: "I despise your court, your system."

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a screen set up at a court room of the Moscow City Court via a video link from his prison colony provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service during a hearing of an appeal against his nine-year prison sentence in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. - AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a screen set up at a court room of the Moscow City Court via a video link from his prison colony provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service during a hearing of an appeal against his nine-year prison sentence in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. - AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

10:52 AM

200 bodies found in Mariupol as war rages in Ukraine's east

Workers digging through rubble found 200 bodies in Mariupol, Ukrainian authorities said on Tuesday, another grim discovery in the ruined port city that has seen some of the worst suffering of the three-month-old war.

The bodies found in the basement of a collapsed apartment building were in a state of decomposition and a stench permeated the neighborhood, said Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the city's mayor.

Mariupol, which the Russians recently claimed full control over, has endured some of the worst suffering of the war and became a worldwide symbol of defiance for the diehard defense put up for months by fighters at a steelworks.

The announcement of the discovery of the bodies came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of waging "total war," seeking to inflict as much death and destruction as possible on his country.

"Indeed, there has not been such a war on the European continent for 77 years," Mr Zelensky told Ukrainians Thursday night, on the eve of the three-month anniversary of the start of the war.

10:28 AM

Russia claims it is deliberately slowing Ukraine offensive to evacuate civilians, RIA reports

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow was deliberately slowing its offensive in Ukraine in order to allow civilians to evacuate, RIA news agency reported on Tuesday.

"Ceasefires are being declared and humanitarian corridors are being created in order to get people out of the surrounded settlements. Of course, this slows down the pace of the offensive, but this is done deliberately to avoid casualties among the civilian population," RIA cited Shoigu as saying.

10:11 AM

Home retailer Jysk reopens 71 stores in Ukraine

Danish home retailer Jysk has reopened 71 of its stores in Ukraine after a complete shutdown in February following Russia's invasion, a company spokesperson told Reuters on Tuesday.

"People need duvets, pillows, mattresses, towels and so forth. Therefore, we have slowly started reopening the stores," Rune Pedersen told Reuters.

A smaller version of IKEA, privately-owned Jysk has around 3,100 stores in 50 countries. The company said in March it would exit Russia entirely as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.

Many of Jysk's products have been deemed essential by Ukrainian authorities, allowing the company to import the products into Ukraine, Pedersen added.

Prior to Russia's invasion, Jysk had 86 stores in Ukraine. Some stores have been completely destroyed, while those in Russian-occupied territories remain shuttered.

"We want to show both the Ukrainians, our employees but also all other Western companies that it is important to do business in the country despite these uncertain times," Jysk's country director in Ukraine, Ievgenii Ivanytsia, told Danish media Finans on Monday.

09:59 AM

Russia is using food supplies as a weapon: Ursula von der Leyen

Russia is using food supplies as a weapon with global repercussions, acting the same way as it does in the energy sector, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said.

Speaking at the annual World Economic Forum held in Davos, she said "global cooperation" was the "antidote to Russia's blackmail."

"In Russian-occupied Ukraine, the Kremlin's army is confiscating grain stocks and machinery (...) And Russian warships in the Black Sea are blockading Ukrainian ships full of wheat and sunflower seeds," Ms von der Leyen added.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine - and the West's attempt to isolate Moscow as punishment - have sent the price of grain, cooking oil, fertiliser and energy soaring.

The Kremlin said on Monday that is was the West that was responsible for the global food crisis by imposing the severest sanctions in modern history on Russia over the war in Ukraine.

09:46 AM

Bucha bullet holes turned into art

Canadian artist Ivanka Siolkowsky paints flowers and butterflies around the many bullet and shrapnel holes in the war torn suburb of Bucha - Christopher Furlong /Getty Images Europe 
Canadian artist Ivanka Siolkowsky paints flowers and butterflies around the many bullet and shrapnel holes in the war torn suburb of Bucha - Christopher Furlong /Getty Images Europe
Forget-me-not flowers painted around bullet and shrapnel holes - Christopher Furlong /Getty Images Europe 
Forget-me-not flowers painted around bullet and shrapnel holes - Christopher Furlong /Getty Images Europe

09:20 AM

Alexei Navalny lambasts Putin's 'stupid war' in Ukraine

Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has lambasted President Vladimir Putin in a live court hearing, casting him as a madman who had started a "stupid war" in Ukraine based on lies.

"This is a stupid war which your Putin started," Mr Navalny, 45, told an appeal court in Moscow via video link from a corrective penal colony. "This war was built on lies."

Mr Navalny, by far Russia's most prominent opposition leader, was appealing against a nine-year jail sentence he was handed in March for fraud and contempt of court, on top of 2-1/2 years he is already serving. He denies all the charges against him and says they were fabricated to thwart his political ambitions.

Repeatedly interrupted by the judge, Mr Navalny cast the prosecution's "facts" as "lies" - and compared them to the lies he said Putin, Russia's paramount leader since the last day of 1999, had used to begin the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

"What do you want to achieve - do you want short-term control, to fight with future generations, fight for the future of Russia?" Mr Navalny asked the court. "You will all suffer historic defeat."

Mr Navalny said Putin's Russia was run by thieves and criminals who had become enemies of the Russian people.

"One madman has got his claws into Ukraine and I do not know what he wants to do with it - this crazy thief," Mr Navalny said of Putin.

09:00 AM

Sweden, Finland to attend the June Nato summit in Madrid

Sweden and Finland will attend the Nato summit in Madrid next month, Spain's primer minister Pedro Sanchez has said during the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos.

Finland and Sweden said they have been spurred into joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization by Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, reversing generations of military non-alignment to bring about the biggest shakeup in European security in decades.

The Nato summit will be held in Madrid on June 28-30.

08:45 AM

Russia not 'chasing deadlines'

Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev has said that Russia will achieve its objectives in Ukraine and is not "chasing deadlines".

"All the goals set by the President will be fulfilled. It cannot be otherwise, because truth, including historical truth, is on our side," Patrushev said in an interview with the Russian Argumenty i Fakty newspaper.

"We are not chasing deadlines," he added.

08:16 AM

Germany sees Russian oil embargo agreement in a 'few days'

A European agreement on a Russian oil embargo is possible "within a few days", the German economy minister has said, as the bloc struggles to reach a consensus on a boycott.

"There are only a few states left who have issues, Hungary above all," Robert Habeck told public broadcaster ZDF on Monday night.

"I think we will achieve a breakthrough within the next few days," Mr Habeck said, adding that discussions were "continuing".

A Russian oil embargo in response to the invasion of Ukraine was "within reach," he said.

Brussels initially proposed that most member states halt Russian crude imports over the next six months and refined fuels by the end of the year.

But Hungary has so far refused to back the plan put forward by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

07:51 AM

Battle for east Ukraine will get more intense: Volodymyr Zelensky

Russia is waging a "total war" against Ukraine and the battle in the east of the country is likely to become more intense, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, has said in an address marking three months since the start of the invasion, reports Roland Oliphant.

"The coming weeks of the war will be difficult, and we must be aware of that," Mr Zelensky said on Monday in his nightly address to the nation.

"But we have no alternative but to fight and win, to liberate our land and our people." "The most difficult fighting situation today is in Donbas," Mr Zelensky said.

He singled out the cities of Bakhmut, Popasna and Severodonetsk, where he said "the occupiers have concentrated the greatest activity at this time. They have staged a massacre there and are trying to destroy all life, literally. No one has destroyed the Donbass the way the Russian military is doing now,"

He said that Russia has carried out nearly 1,500 missile strikes and over 3,000 airstrikes against Ukraine in the first three months of the war.

In a separate address to the World Economic Forum in Davos - from which Russians have been barred this year - he said slow-walking military aid was causing unnecessary deaths as Ukrainians are "paying dearly for freedom and independence".

Mr Zelensky said via videolink that tens of thousands of lives would have been saved if Kyiv had received "100 percent of our needs at once back in February", when Russia invaded.

He said that 87 people had been killed in a Russian attack earlier this month on a military base in the north, in what would be one of the largest single recorded strikes of the war.

07:35 AM

Royal Navy could escort grain ships through Black Sea in plan to break Russian blockade

British warships could join allies in a convoy to escort Ukrainian grain and alleviate a global food crisis, reports Verity Bowman.

In ongoing discussions, there are plans that countries may introduce a “coalition of the willing” that would break through Russia’s blockade by providing a “protective corridor” starting in Odesa and passing through the Bosphorus.

According to Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, he discussed the possibility with foreign secretary Liz Truss.

It could include some Nato countries, alongside others like Egypt, who are heavily reliant on the grain.

You can read Verity's report in full here.

07:17 AM

Ukraine today, in pictures

Undertakers lower the coffin of Ukrainian serviceman Oleksander Matyukhin, 32, in Kharkiv - Bernat Armangue /AP
Undertakers lower the coffin of Ukrainian serviceman Oleksander Matyukhin, 32, in Kharkiv - Bernat Armangue /AP
A man passes by Russian tanks destroyed in a recent battle against Ukrainians in the village of Dmytrivka, close to Kyiv - Efrem Lukatsky /AP
A man passes by Russian tanks destroyed in a recent battle against Ukrainians in the village of Dmytrivka, close to Kyiv - Efrem Lukatsky /AP
A boy looks through the window of a minibus as he and his family are being evacuated in the city of Slovyansk, Donetsk - CARLOS BARRIA /REUTERS
A boy looks through the window of a minibus as he and his family are being evacuated in the city of Slovyansk, Donetsk - CARLOS BARRIA /REUTERS

07:01 AM

Famine could cause more death than war: Grant Shapps

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has warned that famine caused by grain and food shortages due to the invasion of Ukraine could cause more deaths than the war itself.

He said he met with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksandr Kubrakov in Germany last week to discuss how help could be provided to help grain leave.

He told Sky News: "I think it's absolutely essential that we do, unless there could be a lot of hunger and indeed even famine that could dwarf the numbers involved in the war itself."

Asked if military ships will be sent, Mr Shapps said: "I can't go into specific detail, there are a lot of complexities to this including mined waters near Odesa port, clearly the situation with Russia and (Vladimir) Putin and their approach to this could make that very difficult.

"But it's hard to overestimate how much Ukraine was and is the breadbasket of the world."

06:31 AM

Philippine President criticises 'idol' Putin for 'killing civilians'

Outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte sharply criticised Russian leader Vladimir Putin for the killings of innocent civilians in Ukraine, saying while the two of them have been tagged as killers, "I kill criminals, I don't kill children and the elderly."

Mr Duterte, who openly calls Putin an idol and a friend, voiced his rebuke for the first time over Russia's invasion of Ukraine in remarks aired Tuesday where he blamed the three-month old war for the spike in global oil prices that has battered many countries, including the Philippines.

While stressing he was not condemning the Russian president, Mr Duterte disagreed with Putin's labeling of the invasion as a "special military operation," and said it was really a full-scale war waged against "a sovereign nation."

Addressing Putin "as a friend" and the Russian Embassy in Manila, Mr Duterte urged them to stop bombing and firing artillery rounds on residential areas and allow innocent civilians to safely evacuate before launching a bombardment.

"I'm on the way out and I don't know how to solve the problem," Mr Duterte said. "You have to solve the war between Ukraine and Russia before we can talk of even returning to normalcy."

Mr Duterte, who steps down on June 30 when his turbulent six-year term ends, has presided over a brutal anti-drugs crackdown that has left more than 6,000 mostly petty suspects dead.

05:52 AM

Biden calls Russia's war on Ukraine a 'global issue'

US President Joe Biden called the crisis in Ukraine a "global issue" on Tuesday, which heightened the importance of maintaining international order, territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Mr Biden's comments, delivered at the opening of the 'Quad' meeting of Indo-Pacific leaders in Tokyo, come a day after he broke with convention and volunteered US military support for Taiwan, the self-governed island claimed by China.

"This is more than just a European issue. It's a global issue," Mr Biden said of the Ukraine situation.

Mr Biden stressed Washington would stand with its allies and push for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

"International law, human rights must always be defended regardless of where they're violated in the world," he said.

US President Joe Biden with Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida - Getty
US President Joe Biden with Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida - Getty

05:36 AM

Russia intensifies Donbas operations

Russia's capture of the Severodonetsk region would see the whole of Luhansk Oblast placed under Russian occupation, the UK's Ministry of Defence has said.

The operation, which is currently Moscow's main focus, is only one part of their campaign to seize the Donbas.

If the Donbas frontline moved further west, the ministry said it would extend Russian lines of communication and likely lead to forces facing further logistic resupply difficulties.

"Russia has increased the intensity of its operations in the Donbas as it seeks to encircle Severodonetsk, Lyschansk, and Rubizhne," the ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

"At present the northern and southern axes of this operation are separated by approximately 25kms of Ukrainian-held territory.

"There has been strong Ukrainian resistance with forces occupying well dug-in defensive positions. Ukraine’s long-established Joint Force Operation likely retains effective command and control of this front."

However, Russia has achieved some localised successes due to concentrating artillery units, the ministry added.

03:25 AM

Ukraine ready for prisoner exchange

President Volodymyr Zelensky said late on Monday that Kyiv was ready for a prisoner exchange with  Russia "even tomorrow" and called on his allies to put pressure on Moscow.

"The exchange of people - this is a humanitarian matter today and a very political decision that depends on the support of many states," Mr Zelensky said in a question-and-answer video link at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"It is important ... to pressure politically on any level, through powerful business, through the closure of businesses, oil embargo ... and through these threats actively intensify the exchange of our people for Russian servicemen," he said.

"We do not need the Russian servicemen, we only need ours," Mr Zelensky said.

"We are ready for an exchange even tomorrow."

The president said Ukraine has involved the United Nations, Switzerland, Israel and "many, many countries", but the process was very complicated.

Thousands of people are in captivity after Russia captured the southern port city of Mariupol and as a result of the battle in the eastern Donbas region.

02:28 AM

Today marks three months of war

Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24, with Tuesday marking three months since the war began.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said since the start of the invasion, the Russian army had launched 1,474 missile strikes at Ukraine, using 2,275 different missiles.

"The vast majority was aimed at civilian objects," Mr Zelensky said.

More than 3,000 air strikes by Russian aircraft and helicopters have also targeted Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen on a giant screen during his address by video conference as part of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos - AFP
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen on a giant screen during his address by video conference as part of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos - AFP

02:06 AM

In pictures: Russia's invasion of Ukraine

A dismantled McDonald's golden arch after the logo signage was removed from a drive-through restaurant in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia - Reuters
A dismantled McDonald's golden arch after the logo signage was removed from a drive-through restaurant in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia - Reuters
Eggs seller Nataliya Morhun, 69 waves from her stall at the reopened market in Bucha, Kyiv region - AFP
Eggs seller Nataliya Morhun, 69 waves from her stall at the reopened market in Bucha, Kyiv region - AFP
A woman, fleeing from an area near the front line in Donetsk, prepares to board a bus in Kurakhove, eastern Ukraine - AP
A woman, fleeing from an area near the front line in Donetsk, prepares to board a bus in Kurakhove, eastern Ukraine - AP

01:25 AM

Zelensky confirms 87 deaths in Desna

Russia's attack on the Ukrainian town of Desna in the Chernihiv region last week resulted in 87 deaths, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

Mr Zelensky confirmed the death toll in his nightly video address on Monday, on the eve of the three-month anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"The clearance of debris in Desna in the Chernihiv region has been completed. 87 dead. And these were only four missiles," he said.

The town's death toll could be one of the largest of any single strike during the war.

A crater is seen in the courtyard at a compound, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Desna - Reuters
A crater is seen in the courtyard at a compound, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Desna - Reuters

01:18 AM

Today's top stories

  • A Ukrainian court sentenced a 21-year-old Russian tank commander Sgt Vadim Shishimarin to life in prison for killing a Ukrainian civilian, in the first war crimes trial since Russia's invasion

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin survived an assassination attempt at the start of the war in Ukraine, a Kyiv intelligence chief disclosed

  • Veteran US statesman Henry Kissinger urged the West to stop trying to inflict a crushing defeat on Russian forces in Ukraine, warning that it would have disastrous consequences for the long term stability of Europe

  • A Russian diplomat at the country's permanent mission at the United Nations in Geneva said on Monday he was leaving his post because of his disagreement with Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, a rare political resignation over the war

  • Ukraine's First Lady warned a WHO assembly that the impacts of Russia's war on healthcare and mental health could be felt for decades

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky also said Ukraine is in talks over establishing food corridors to export its grain

  • Some 20 countries have announced new security assistance packages for Ukraine during a virtual meeting with allies aimed at coordinating arms for Kyiv, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said

  • Some 87 people were killed in a Russian air strike in the town of Desna last Tuesday, Mr Zelensky said, in what would be Ukraine's biggest military death toll in a single strike of the war

  • Mr Zelensky used the Davos summit of global economic leaders to issue a fresh appeal for more weapons for his country and "maximum" sanctions against Moscow

  • Russian troop casualties in Ukraine “likely” match the death toll from Soviet Union's nine-year war in Afghanistan, the UK's Ministry of Defence said

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