Ukraine news – live: Russia’s Belgorod ‘shelled’, as Kyiv issues ceasefire warning

·51 min read

Officials in the Russian border region of Belgorod have claimed that the area has been shelled from the direction of Ukraine over the past week.

The region’s governor Viacheslav Gladkov said that the village Solokhi was shelled “from the Ukrainian side” several times over a period of days. On Telegram on Wednesday, he said one man was wounded.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, Mr Gladkov reported that Belgorod village Bezimeno was also shelled “from the Ukrainian side” and that there was one person who sustained “slight injury”.

On 13 May, he said an 18-year-old man – Ruslan Nefedov – was buried after he “died during the shelling of our border village of Solokhi by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

The first alleged Ukrainian attack on Belgorod amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was reported on 1 April, when two helicopters struck an oil depot.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian government adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Ukraine should only be offered a ceasefire if Russian troops completely withdraw.

He added: “Ukraine is not interested in a new ‘Minsk (Protocol)’ and the war starting up again in a few years.”

Key Points

  • Russian region of Belgorod ‘shelled from the Ukrainian side'

  • President Zelensky says Russia is ‘trying to find its wunderwaffe'

  • Russian soldier pleads guilty to war crimes

  • Ukrainian civilians executed and tortured, says Human Rights Watch

  • Finland and Sweden ‘optimistic’ Turkey will approve Nato bids

Five Ukrainian civilians killed in Donetsk region - local official

00:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Five civilians were killed and six were injured as a result of Russian military activity in the Donetsk region today, Ukraine reported.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the administration of the Donetsk region, wrote on Facebook: “On 19 May, the Russians killed 5 civilians in the Donetsk region: 2 people in Bakhmut, 1 person in Krasnohorivka, 1 person in Avdiivka and 1 person in Khrestyshche.”

“Six more people were injured.”

It’s not currently possible to determine the exact number of victims in Mariupol and Volnovakha, Mr Kyrylenko said.

Putin’s daughter ‘flew to Germany 50 times in two years’

23:00 , Lamiat Sabin

One of Vladimir Putin’s daughters has flown from Moscow to Munich more than 50 times between 2017 and 2019, according to an investigation by Russian and German media.

Katerina Tikhonova – a scientist and former acrobatic dancer – had travelled on chartered flights with full state support and in the company of employees of Putin’s own presidential security service, a joint investigation by independent Russian media outlet iStories and German magazine Der Spiegel suggests.

Katerina Tikhonova, daughter of Russian president Vladimir Putin (Jakub Dabrowski/Reuters)
Katerina Tikhonova, daughter of Russian president Vladimir Putin (Jakub Dabrowski/Reuters)

The leaked cache of documents also includes the passports of a then two-year-old girl, which suggests Putin has a previously-unknown granddaughter.

Also found was the passport of Igor Zelensky, the former director of the Munich state ballet, according to a report by the Guardian, who is suspected to be Ms Tikhonova’s partner and the father of her child.

In case you missed it: George Bush’s Freudian slip-up

22:30 , Lamiat Sabin

George W Bush described the invasion of Iraq – which he led as commander in chief – as “brutal” and “wholly unjustified” before correcting himself to say he meant to refer to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The former US president said during a speech at his presidential centre in Texas: “The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq – I mean of Ukraine.”

“Iraq, too,” he added.

The 75-year-old resorted to blaming his mistake on his age, while commentators described it as a Freudian slip.

His decision to launch a US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was on the basis of alleged weapons of mass destruction that have never been proven to exist.

Read the full report here by Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Bush accidentally condemns ‘brutal’ Iraq invasion in Ukraine speech gaffe

Watch: Biden welcomes Sweden and Finland’s Nato bids

22:00 , Lamiat Sabin

US president Joe Biden has supported applications by Sweden and Finland to join Nato.

He rejected Turkey’s opposition to their bids to join the military alliance, insisting the two countries “meet every Nato requirement and then some”.

Mr Biden appeared in the White House Rose Garden with Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson and Finnish president Sauli Niinisto.

Number of Ukraine’s fighters still in Azovstal unknown

21:30 , Lamiat Sabin

It’s unknown how many Ukrainian fighters remain inside the steelworks in Mariupol while an evacuation process is ongoing.

Russia’s defence ministry said 771 fighters from the Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian armed forces had surrendered in the past day.

This brings the total of those who had given themselves up since Monday to 1,730.

Ukrainian officials declined to comment, saying it could endanger rescue efforts.

The Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian armed forces has had neo-nazis within its ranks – leading Russia to claim that its invasion was an attempt to “de-nazify” Ukraine.

Here’s more on the evacuation story by Emily Atkinson

Hundreds more fighters surrender in Mariupol, Russia says

Egypt thanked for rejecting Russia shipment Ukraine’s grain

21:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has thanked Egypt for rejecting a Russian ship loaded with grain which he said had been stolen from Ukraine.

On Sunday, Egypt’s supply minister said that a ship had been turned away on the grounds that it did not have the proper paperwork. Ukraine’s embassy in Cairo alleged the ship was carrying grain from Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine.

Mr Kuleba tweeted: “Spoke with my Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry. Grateful to Egypt for turning away a Russian ship loaded with grain stolen in Ukraine.”

Ukraine and Egypt had agreed to coordinate efforts to make Russia unblock Ukraine’s food exports, he added.

Mr Kuleba also held talks with Cote d’Ivoire foreign minister Kandia Camara about the importance of unblocking Ukrainian food exports to “avert hunger and rising prices in Africa.”

It comes after UK PM Boris Johnson and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone today about ways to export Ukrainian grains.

A Downing Street spokesperson said after the call: “They looked at options to open up critical sea and land supply routes for Ukrainian grain stocks, and committed to direct their teams to work urgently on the next steps.”

Kyiv official welcomes US Senate’s approval of $40bn aid

20:30 , Lamiat Sabin

A top aide to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the US Senate after it approved nearly $40 billion (about £32bn) in aid, saying this would help ensure the defeat of Russia.

Mr Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said in an online post minutes after the vote: “We are moving towards victory confidently and strategically. We thank our allies.”

He also tweeted: “Thanks US Senate for the historic decision to provide $40 billion aid package to Ukraine. Together, we'll win.”

The Senate voted 86-11 in favour of the package of military, economic and humanitarian aid.

US Senate approves $40bn aid for Ukraine

20:00 , Lamiat Sabin

The US Senate has voted overwhelmingly to approve a $40bn (£30bn) supplemental spending bill to provide further defence and financial aid to Ukraine’s government.

The bill passed with support from 86 senators – 47 Democrats and 39 Republicans – and was objected to by 11 senators.

Read the full story here by Andrew Feinberg

Senate approves $40b aid for Ukraine despite MAGA senators’ resistance

G7 countries commit $18.4bn for Ukraine – draft document

19:30 , Lamiat Sabin

G7 nations have committed $18.4 billion (almost £15bn) in transfers and loans to help Ukraine meet its immediate costs, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

The finance ministers and central bankers – of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – are meeting in Bonn, Germany, today and tomorrow.

In the draft document, they said: “We have mobilised 18.4 billion US dollars of budget support, including 9.2 billion US dollars of recent commitments in the lead up to the Petersberg meeting, to help Ukraine close its financing gap and continue ensuring the delivery of basic services to the Ukrainian people.”

British businessman ‘buys two fighter jets for Ukraine’

19:00 , Lamiat Sabin

A British businessman in London has reportedly bought two warplanes to help Ukraine’s armed forces against Russia.

Multi-millionaire Mohammad Zahoor, who is married to popular Ukrainian singer Kamalia, has been involved in mobilising funds and aid and helping to resettle refugees from the country in the UK and other parts of Europe.

Mr Zahoor, 66, purchased the aircraft, believed to be jet fighters, after holding talks with Ukrainian officials.

Read the full story here by Kim Sengupta

British businessman ‘buys warplanes to help Ukraine fight Russia’

Finland offers to discuss Turkey’s objection to its Nato bid

18:30 , Lamiat Sabin

Finland is open to discussing Turkey’s concerns over its application to join Nato, Finnish president Sauli Niinisto said.

Speaking at the White House, he added that Finland was ready to commit to Ankara’s security.

Sauli Niinisto [L], Joe Biden and Magdalena Andersson in the Rose Garden of the White House (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Sauli Niinisto [L], Joe Biden and Magdalena Andersson in the Rose Garden of the White House (Andrew Harnik/AP)

US president Joe Biden has been hosting Mr Niinisto and Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson after the two Nordic countries’ applications to join the US-led military alliance.

Mr Biden said his administration was submitting to Congress on Thursday reports on the two countries’ Nato accession.

Twelve people die in shelling of Severodonetsk - report

18:00 , Lamiat Sabin

At least 12 people have died and 40 were injured as a result of Russian shelling of the eastern Ukraine city of Severodonetsk, according to a local official.

The Luhansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said on social media that there were “12 dead and more than 40 injured in Severodonetsk”. He accused Russian forces of “randomly” targeting the city with heavy weaponry.

The attacks had begun early on Thursday and were continuing into the evening, he said.

Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine (Google Maps)
Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine (Google Maps)

Mr Gaiday wrote: “Information about the number of dead and injured is still being determined because it is impossible to examine the territory under shelling.”

Earlier this week, at least 10 people in Severodonetsk were killed due to Russian shelling of the city – he said on Monday.

Hundreds of troops in Mariupol steel plant registered as POWs

17:40 , Lamiat Sabin

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it has registered hundreds of Ukrainian fighters this week as prisoners of war (POWs) after they were evacuated from the Mariupol steel plant.

On Tuesday, the NGO began registering the Ukrainian troops – that had been holed up in the Azovstal steel factory for months – as they started to leave the site. The process has been ongoing since.

Red Cross have been observing the evacuation of Ukrainians from Azovstal steel plant (AP)
Red Cross have been observing the evacuation of Ukrainians from Azovstal steel plant (AP)

The registration process involves filling out a form with personal details like name, date of birth, and next of kin. This information allows the ICRC to track POWs and help them keep in touch with their families.

In accordance with the mandate given to the ICRC by the states parties to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the ICRC must have immediate access to all POWs in all places where they are held.

Also, the ICRC must be allowed to interview POWs without witnesses, and the duration and frequency of these visits should not be unduly restricted.

Ukraine to seek damages from Russia for environmental ruin

17:20 , Lamiat Sabin

Ukraine will seek compensation in the international courts from Russia for the environmental damage it has caused, a minister said.

Ruslan Strilets, minister of environmental protection and natural resources, said Vladimir Putin’s war had destroyed ecosystems, deprived wildlife of its natural habitat and contaminated land in one of the world’s main grain producers.

Dozens of destroyed Russian armored vehicles on banks of Siverskyi Donets River (Ukraine Armed Forces)
Dozens of destroyed Russian armored vehicles on banks of Siverskyi Donets River (Ukraine Armed Forces)

He told a news conference: “Over the past 20 years, this is the first military conflict in the world that has caused such large-scale environmental damage.

“Russian missiles hit our oil depots, thermal power plants, chemical plants – this definitely affects the environment. Forests are burning, valuable protected things are being destroyed.”

Fighting near the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power station had caused fires over almost 12,000 hectares of land, Mr Strilets said.

Kyiv has recorded 1,500 cases of the destruction of ecosystems or contamination of land, he added.

Russian region of Belgorod ‘shelled from the Ukrainian side'

17:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Officials in the Russian border region of Belgorod have claimed that the area has been shelled from the direction of Ukraine over the past week.

The region’s governor Viacheslav Gladkov said that the village Solokhi was shelled “from the Ukrainian side” several times over a period of days. On Telegram on Wednesday, he said one man was wounded.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, Mr Gladkov reported that Belgorod village Bezimeno was also shelled “from the Ukrainian side” and that there was one person who sustained “slight injury”.

On 13 May, he said an 18-year-old man – Ruslan Nefedov – was buried after he “died during the shelling of our border village of Solokhi by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

The region of Belgorod, close to Russia’s border with eastern Ukraine (Google Maps)
The region of Belgorod, close to Russia’s border with eastern Ukraine (Google Maps)

The first alleged Ukrainian attack on Belgorod – amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – was reported on 1 April, when two helicopters struck an oil depot.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian government adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Ukraine should only be offered a ceasefire if Russian troops completely withdraw.

He added: “Ukraine is not interested in a new ‘Minsk (Protocol)’ and the war starting up again in a few years.”

Johnson and Zelensky discuss Ukraine’s security and exports

16:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone today about long-term security proposals for Ukraine and ways to export Ukrainian grains.

Boris Johnson with Volodymyr Zelensky, during his visit to Kyiv in April (Ukraine Government/PA)
Boris Johnson with Volodymyr Zelensky, during his visit to Kyiv in April (Ukraine Government/PA)

A Downing Street spokesperson said after the call: “The leaders discussed progress in negotiations and agreed to step up work with allies, including the U.S., France and Germany, to define the longer-term security architecture for Ukraine.

“They looked at options to open up critical sea and land supply routes for Ukrainian grain stocks, and committed to direct their teams to work urgently on the next steps.”

Ceasefire ‘impossible’ without Russia’s total withdrawal

16:20 , Lamiat Sabin

Ukraine should only be offered a ceasefire if Russian troops totally withdraw from the country, a government adviser said.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Head of the Office of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, tweeted: “Do not offer us a ceasefire – this is impossible without total Russian troop withdrawal.

“Ukraine is not interested in a new ‘Minsk (Protocol)’ and the war starting up again in a few years.

“Until Russia is ready to fully liberate occupied territories, our negotiating team is weapons, sanctions and money.”

McDonald’s sells Russia restaurants to Siberian oil tycoon

16:00 , Lamiat Sabin

McDonald’s has announced that it will sell its Russian restaurants to Siberian oil tycoon Alexander Govor – ending its 32 years of presence in Russia.

The co-owner of petroleum firm Neftekhim-Servis already operates 25 McDonald’s restaurants in Russia.

Once the deal is approved by regulators, the businessman will be in charge of all 850 branches in Russia – but under a new brand, according to the Russian business newspaper Vedomosti.

A closed-down McDonald’s branch in Podolsk, outside Moscow (EPA)
A closed-down McDonald’s branch in Podolsk, outside Moscow (EPA)

McDonald’s has not revealed the price of the sale, but the agreement ensures that the 62,000 Russian employees will keep their jobs for at least two years while Mr Govor takes responsibility for the existing supplies, rent and utilities.

Less than three weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, McDonald’s temporarily closed its Russian branches.

However, 132 McDonald’s restaurants working semi-independently under franchises have continued to operate.

‘Not unusual’ for Nato members to disagree – Stoltenberg

15:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said it’s not unusual for Nato members to hold different opinions.

He was referring to Turkey’s objection to Sweden and Finland joining the military alliance.

Stoltenberg during a ceremony to mark Sweden and Finland’s bids for membership (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Stoltenberg during a ceremony to mark Sweden and Finland’s bids for membership (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

During a visit to Copenhagen, Mr Stoltenberg told reporters: “It is not uncommon in Nato to have differing opinions on major decisions.

“ We have much experience in Nato, when there is a difference of opinion, of sitting down and finding solutions.

“We are in close contact with Finland, Sweden and Turkey. We are addressing the concerns that Turkey has expressed.”

Biden meets leaders of Finland, Sweden on NATO expansion

15:11 , Matt Mathers

US resident Joe Biden met the leaders of Sweden and Finland on Thursday after the nations set aside their long-standing neutrality and moved to join the NATO alliance in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Hours before his first trip to Asia as president, Biden sat down with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the White House to discuss their NATO applications.

"This is a historic event, a watershed moment in European security. Two nations with a long tradition of neutrality will be joining the world's most powerful defensive alliance," said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

UK says there is a way through Turkey's concerns over Sweden, Finland joining NATO

14:58 , Matt Mathers

British defence minister Ben Wallace said on Thursday he believed there was a way to address Turkey's concerns over Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

Finland and Sweden formally applied on Wednesday to join NATO, a decision spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but Turkey has objected, accusing the countries of supporting groups that it deems terrorists.

"I think there is a way through. I think we will get there in the end and it is very important that we listen to all members and their concerns in that process and we will certainly be listening to Turkey," Wallace told parliament, adding he would be speaking to his Turkish counterpart.

ICYMI: Bush accidentally condemns ‘unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq’ in Ukraine speech gaffe

14:34 , Matt Mathers

Former US president George W Bush made a gaffe on Wednesday and condemned the “brutal” “invasion of Iraq”, before correcting himself to say he was denouncing the invasion of Ukraine.

My colleague Alisha Rahaman Sarkar reports:

Bush accidentally condemns ‘brutal’ Iraq invasion in Ukraine speech gaffe

Russian soldier at war crimes trial asks victim’s widow to forgive him?

14:10 , Matt Mathers

A Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since the start of the war in Ukraine has said he shot a civilian on orders from two officers and pleaded for his victim's widow to forgive him.

Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin told the court the officer insisted that the Ukrainian man, who was speaking on his mobile phone, could pinpoint their location to the Ukrainian forces.

The 21-year-old sergeant could get life in prison if convicted of shooting the Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in a village in the north-eastern Sumy region on February 28, four days into the Russian invasion.

Looking subdued, Shishimarin said he at first disobeyed his immediate commanding officer's order to shoot the unarmed civilian but had no other choice but to follow the order when it was repeated forcefully by another officer.

Shishimarin pleaded guilty to the charges during Wednesday's hearing.

On Thursday, he asked the victim's widow, who also appeared at the trial, to forgive him for what he did.

"I realise that you can't forgive me, but I'm pleading you for forgiveness," Shishimarin said.

Espionage at cold war levels, German intelligence chief says

13:55 , Matt Mathers

The head of Germany's domestic intelligence service has said levels of espionage are as high as during the Cold War, or even higher.

Thomas Haldenwang, president of the BfV intelligence agency, also warned of the increased risk of sabotage against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

Germany has exposed a number of Russian spies operating in the country in recent years.

"Today we assess the level of espionage against Germany at least at the level of the Cold War - if not significantly higher," Mr Haldenwang said at an event in Berlin.

He predicted that "in a world of open hostilities and drastic sanctions, the inhibition threshold for espionage, sabotage and illegitimate influence will continue to fall".

Russian soldier asks Ukrainian widow for forgiveness over husband’s murder

13:18 , Jane Dalton

A 21-year-old Russian soldier asked a Ukrainian widow to forgive him for the murder of her husband, in the first war crimes trial arising from Russia’s invasion.

Vadim Shishimarin, a tank commander, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka.

“I acknowledge my blame ... I ask you to forgive me,” he told the widow, Kateryna Shalipova, at the Kyiv court on Thursday.

Boyish, dressed in a tracksuit and with his shaven head lowered, Shishimarin cut a forlorn spectacle in a glass booth for defendants. He spoke calmly, but looked frightened.

The Kremlin has said it has no information about the trial and that the absence of a diplomatic mission in Ukraine limits its ability to provide legal assistance.

The widow told the court she had heard distant shots fired from their yard and that she had called out to her husband.

“I ran over to my husband, he was already dead. Shot in the head. I screamed, I screamed so much,” she said.

Shalipova told the court she would not object if Shishimarin was released to Russia as part of a prisoner swap to get “our boys” out of the port city of Mariupol, a reference to hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers who have given themselves up to Russia.

Reporting by Max Hunder and Tom Balmforth of Reuters

Putin unleashes ‘Terminator’ tanks in Ukraine’s Donbas amid Russian military setbacks

12:11 , Jane Dalton

Russia has reportedly deployed armoured fighting vehicles known as the Terminator tanks in Ukraine as Moscow suffered military losses in the key Donbas region.

My colleague Shweta Sharma reports:

Putin unleashes ‘Terminator’ tanks in Ukraine’s Donbas amid Russian military setbacks

Ukraine war is fuelling global food crisis, says UN

11:47 , Matt Mathers

The world faces a global food crisis due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, with hunger levels already “at a new high”, the UN’s secretary general has warned.

Antonio Guterres, the former Portuguese prime minister who now heads the UN, said on Wednesday that he was engaged in “intense” discussions with Russia and Ukraine to improve the situation.

My colleague Rory Sullivan reports:

Ukraine war is fuelling global food crisis, says UN

Going beyond its guidance on Russian gas payments is not ‘advisable,’ EU says

11:38 , Matt Mathers

It is not "advisable" for companies to go beyond the European Commission's guidance on how to keep paying for Russian gas without breaching EU sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, a Commission spokesman said on Thursday.

"We have given guidance to the member states that says what it is that they can do," the spokesman said.

"What it is that they can do is open a bank account in the currency of the contract that they hold with Gazprom, to make a payment to that bank account in the currency of the contract and issue a statement saying that so then this means that they have fulfilled their contractual obligation, and we don't consider that doing anything else is advisable."

Erdogan repeats opposition to Sweden & Finland’s Nato bid

11:03 , Matt Mathers

Turkey's president has emphasised his opposition to Sweden and Finland joining Nato, stating Ankara would say "no" to their bid.

Speaking to a group of Turkish youth, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the two countries - and especially Sweden - of being "a focus of terror, home to terror".

The video of their conversation was released on Thursday.

More Mariupol fighters have surrendered - Russian military

10:45 , Matt Mathers

The Russian military said Thursday that more Ukrainian fighters who were making a last stand in Mariupol have surrendered, bringing the total who have left their stronghold to 1,730, while the Red Cross said it had registered hundreds of them as prisoners of war.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said that the registrations of Ukrainian prisoners of war, which included wounded fighters, began Tuesday under an agreement between Russia and Ukraine.

The Geneva-based humanitarian agency, which has experience in dealing with prisoners of war and prisoner exchanges, said however that its team did not transport the fighters to "the places where they are held" — which was not specified.

Biden to meet leaders of Finland, Sweden on NATO expansion

10:27 , Matt Mathers

US president Joe Biden meets the leaders of Sweden and Finland on Thursday after the nations set aside their long-standing neutrality and moved to join the NATO alliance in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Hours before his first trip to Asia as president, Biden will sit down with Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish president Sauli Niinistö at the White House to discuss their NATO applications.

"This is a historic event, a watershed moment in European security. Two nations with a long tradition of neutrality will be joining the world's most powerful defensive alliance," said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Italy’s Draghi calls for urgent ceasefire in Ukraine

10:13 , Matt Mathers

Italian prime minister Mario Draghi called for an urgent ceasefire in Ukraine so that serious negotiations can begin to end the war and said Italy would continue supporting Ukraine, without ruling out the supply of weapons.

Draghi, who has taken a hard line against Russia since its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, said it was important to maintain pressure through economic sanctions "because we have to bring Moscow to the negotiating table."

"A ceasefire must be achieved as soon as possible," Draghi told the upper house Senate in Rome, opening a debate on Italy's role in backing Ukraine which is creating growing tensions in his ruling majority.

Over half of Ukrainian fighters have left Azovstal, pro-Russian separatist says

09:50 , Matt Mathers

More than half the Ukrainian fighters in the bunkers below the Azovstal steel plant have surrendered, the leader of the Russian-backed rebel Donetsk region said on Thursday, and the International Committee of the Red Cross is registering them.

"More than a half have already left - more than half have laid down their arms," Denis Pushilin, head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, told the Solovyov Live internet television channel.

"Let them surrender, let them live, let them honestly face the charges for all their crimes," he added.

Ukrainian officials have declined to comment publicly on the fate of the fighters, saying it could endanger rescue efforts.

What you need to know today: economy

09:35 , Matt Mathers

  • US treasury secretary Janet Yellen said Western sanctions against Russia have had an enormous impact but the US does not have the authority to seize Russian central bank assets as some have suggested.

  • The European Commission unveiled a 210 billion euro plan for Europe to end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027, and quicken its transition to green energy.

  • UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres said he is in "intense contact" with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the United States and the European Union in a bid to restore Ukrainian grain exports as a global food crisis worsens.

  • The World Bank said it will make $30 billion available to help stem the food security crisis.

What you need to know today: dipomacy

09:20 , Matt Mathers

Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance, a decision spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but face objections from Turkey.

The United States said it was reopening its embassy in Kyiv.

Russia said it was expelling embassy staff from France, Spain and Italy in retaliation for similar moves by those countries.

German finance minister Christian Lindner is confident the Group of Seven (G7) can agree on aid for Ukraine, which he said needs funds in the double-digit-billion-euro amount in coming months.

What you need to know today: fighting

09:00 , Matt Mathers

  • Russia said a total of 959 Ukrainian fighters, including 80 wounded, had surrendered from the bunkers and tunnels below Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks since Monday.

  • Ukraine has said it ordered the Mariupol garrison to stand down but has declined to comment on the fate of the fighters.

  • Ukraine's territorial defence force said its fighters had blown up an armoured train carrying Russian troops, but an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelinskiy later said the attack had been confined to rails near the train.

  • Russia said it was using a new generation of powerful laser weapons to burn up drones, seeking to counter a flood of Western arms supplied to Ukraine.

Germany's Scholz proposes EU solidarity fund to rebuild Ukraine

08:46 , Matt Mathers

The European Union must make preparations for rebuilding Ukraine after the war by setting up a solidarity fund to help cover the billions of euros reconstruction will cost, German chancellor Olaf Scholz said.

Addressing parliament ahead of a meeting of EU leaders, Scholz said French president Emmanuel Macron was right that EU accession was not a matter of a few months or years, meaning it was all the more important to focus on pragmatic, immediate support.

"Rebuilding destroyed infrastructure and revitalising the Ukrainian economy will cost billions," he said. "We as the EU must start laying the ground for a solidarity fund financed by contributions from the EU and its partners."

Shevchenko appointed ambassador of Ukrainian fundraising initiative

08:25 , Rory Sullivan

Former Ukrainian footballer and national coach Andriy Shevchenko has been appointed as the ambassador of United24, president Volodymyr Zelensky’s fundraising initiative for the “restoration and development” of Ukraine.

After meeting Shevchenko in Kyiv on Wednesday, the Ukrainian president said: “Andriy, with his work and sporting achievements, gained great confidence on the international stage.

“And now he has a new mission to tell the world about the events in Ukraine and direct his authority to increase international assistance to our state.”

More than half of Azovstal defenders have left Mariupol steel plant, Russia claims

08:07 , Rory Sullivan

The majority of Ukrainian soldiers who were holed up inside Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks have now left, a pro-Russian separatist has claimed.

Denis Pushilin, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said more than half of them were no longer there, according to the Russian-state Tass news agency. However, he did not give specific details.

In recent days, hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers, some of whom are severely injured, were taken by bus to Russian-held territory.

While Kyiv hopes to secure their release in a prisoner exchange, some politicians in Russia have said they should remain in detention.

Ukrainian soldiers sit on a bus after leaving Azovstal (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Ukrainian soldiers sit on a bus after leaving Azovstal (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Zelensky mocks Russia’s search for ‘wonder weapon’

07:53 , Rory Sullivan

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has mocked Russia’s alleged use of “laser” weapons as a sign of the “complete failure of the invasion”.

This comes after a Russian official said on Wednesday that the new lasers could destroy Ukrainian drones from up to three miles away.

Mr Zelensky mocked the claim, saying Russia was looking for a “wonder weapon”, something Nazi Germany did when it was losing the Second World War.

Documentary: The true horror of Russia’s war in Ukraine

07:37 , Rory Sullivan

#icymi

Our international correspondent Bel Trew has crisscrossed Ukraine since the war began, finding a trail of destruction and grief.

Here’s the documentary she has made with Independent TV about the true horror of Vladimir Putin’s war:

Documentary: The true horror of Russia’s war in Ukraine | On The Ground

Russia fired senior commanders for failing to capture Kharkiv and over Moskva sinking, claims UK

07:00 , Arpan Rai

The British defence ministry said that Russia has fired its senior army commander over multiple failures and for performing poorly in the course of invading Ukraine.

“In recent weeks, Russia has fired senior commanders who are considered to have performed poorly during the opening stages of its invasion of Ukraine,” the MoD said in its latest intelligence update.

Citing the terminated officials, it added: “Lieutenant General Serhiy Kisel, who commanded the elite 1st Guards Tank Army, has been suspended for his failure to capture Kharkiv.”

“Vice Admiral Igor Osipov, who commanded Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, has also likely been suspended following the sinking of the cruiser Moskva in April,” the ministry said.

“Russian Chief of the General Staff Valeriy Gerasimov likely remains in post, but it is unclear whether he retains the confidence of President Putin,” officials said in the update.

A “culture of cover-ups and scape-goating is probably prevalent within the Russian military and security system”, the ministry said.

“Many officials involved in the invasion of Ukraine will likely be increasingly distracted by efforts to avoid personal culpability for Russia’s operational set-backs,” it added.

This could likely add further strain on “Russia’s centralised model of command and control, as officers increasingly seek to defer key decisions to their superiors”.

It will be difficult for Russia to regain the initiative under these conditions, the ministry said.

Russia could conscript students in Donetsk, warns Ukraine

06:43 , Arpan Rai

Ukraine has claimed that Russia could call on university students in occupied territories to join the fighting, as it faces a lack of troops.

The Ukrainian military said that the “Russian enemy does not stop conducting offensive operations” in the direction of Donetsk, as it remains Moscow’s main focus.

“In the absence of mobilisation resources in the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk oblast, the occupation military command plans to involve students of higher educational institutions in hostilities,” the officials said in a military update on Thursday.

They added that Ukrainian forces repulsed 16 enemy attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions last night and destroyed eight tanks, 17 units of armoured combat vehicles, four special armoured vehicles and six conventional enemy vehicles.

Russia says one killed after Ukraine shells village in Kursk

06:11 , Arpan Rai

At least one civilian was killed on early Thursday after Ukrainian forces shelled a village in Russia’s western frontier of Kursk, regional governor Roman Starovoit said.

The shelling targeted an alcohol factory in Tyotkino and several other buildings in the vicinity, Mr Starovoit said.

US resumes embassy functions in Kyiv

05:52 , Arpan Rai

The US will open its embassy and resume diplomatic functions from Kyiv today, almost three months after it was closed due to the Russian invasion.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken said: “We stand proudly with, and continue to support, the government and people of Ukraine as they defend their country.”

George Bush says invasion of Iraq ‘unjustified’, later corrects to Ukraine

05:26 , Arpan Rai

Former US president George W Bush condemned the invasion of Iraq by “one man” instead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in an awkward slip-up on Wednesday.

“The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq,” Mr Bush said, immediately correcting himself after realising the error. “I mean, of Ukraine.”

He followed it up with “Iraq too” in a subdued voice, adding “75” — a reference to his age.

The former US president, who led the invasion of Iraq in 2003 in response to the 9/11 terror attack, was addressing an event at the Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University.

Japan to boost financial aid to Ukraine to $600m, says PM Kishida

04:55 , Arpan Rai

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida announced that the country will double fiscal aid for Ukraine to $600m (£484m) as it remains under Russian invasion for 85 days now.

The financial aid from Tokyo is in sync with the World Bank, and designed to help Ukraine as its near-term fiscal capacity has been hollowed out in the conflict.

The G7 nation had first announced help to Ukraine through loans worth $300m (£242m) in April, in addition to some military hardware.

Russian soldiers executed and tortured civilians: Human Rights Watch

04:28 , Arpan Rai

Russian troops who held Ukrainian territories in Kyiv and Chernihiv subjected civilians to executions, torture and other grave abuses which classify as war crimes, said Human Rights Watch on Wednesday.

The crimes were recorded from late February when Russia invaded Ukraine and through March.

“In 17 villages and small towns in Kyiv and Chernihiv regions visited in April, Human Rights Watch investigated 22 apparent summary executions, 9 other unlawful killings, 6 possible enforced disappearances, and 7 cases of torture,” the human rights collective said.

At least 21 civilians described unlawful confinement in inhuman and degrading conditions, the group which investigates human rights abuse said.

Civilians have detailed killings of their family members by Russian troops and being held by them “for days or weeks in dirty and suffocating conditions at sites such as a schoolhouse basement, a room in a window manufacturing plant, and a pit in a boiler room, with little or no food, inadequate water, and without access to toilets”.

Ukraine says Zaporizhzhia plant not supplying electricity to Russia

04:13 , Arpan Rai

Officials in Ukraine have junked the reports of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant supplying electricity to Russia as alleged by Moscow on Wednesday.

Ukrenergo, country’s state-run power grid operator, denied the claims and said: “Ukraine’s power system currently has no physical connections with Russia’s power system. Therefore, the supply of electricity from Ukrainian power plants to Russia is currently physically impossible.”

UN and Russia in ‘intense contact’ over Ukraine grain export

03:00 , Lamiat Sabin

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres said he is in “intense contact” with Russia and other countries hoping for an agreement to allow the export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports to help relieve global hunger.

He told a ministerial meeting on the escalating food security crisis, which he said is “at a new high” after it has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, that “there is still a long way to go.”

Displaced children receive food aid at a camp in the Hodeidah province of Yemen (Khaled Ziad /AFP/Getty)
Displaced children receive food aid at a camp in the Hodeidah province of Yemen (Khaled Ziad /AFP/Getty)

“The complex security, economic and financial implications require goodwill on all sides for a package deal to be reached,” he said.

“I will not go into details because public statements could undermine the chances of success.”

The number of people facing severe food insecurity doubled in just two years from 135 million before the pandemic to 276m today, Mr Guterres said.

More than 500,000 people are living in famine conditions – an increase of more than 500 per cent since 2016 – he added.

Ukraine - Russia war: Key points from Wednesday

02:00 , Lamiat Sabin

FIGHTING

* Russia said a total of 959 Ukrainian fighters, including 80 wounded, had surrendered from the bunkers and tunnels below Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks since Monday.

* Ukraine has said it ordered the Mariupol garrison to stand down but has declined to comment on the fate of the fighters.

* Russia said it was using a new generation of powerful laser weapons to burn up drones, seeking to counter a flood of Western arms supplied to Ukraine.

DIPLOMACY

* Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the Nato alliance, a decision spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but face objections from Turkey.

* The United States said it was reopening its embassy in Kyiv.

* Russia said it was expelling embassy staff from France, Spain and Italy in retaliation for similar moves by those countries.

ECONOMY

* U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that Western sanctions against Russia have had an enormous impact but that the U.S. does not have the authority to seize Russian central bank assets as some have suggested.

* The European Commission unveiled a €210 billion plan for Europe to end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027, and quicken its transition to green energy.

* U.N. chief Antonio Guterres said he is in “intense contact” with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the U.S. and the EU with the aim of restoring Ukraine grain shipments and Russian fertilizer exports.

Watch: Russian soldier pleads guilty in war crimes trial

01:00 , Lamiat Sabin

A soldier has pleaded guilty to shooting a 62-year-old man dead in the first war crime trial to be held in Ukraine since its invasion by Russia.

Vadim Shishimarin, 20, gave the plea at the Solomyansky district court in Kyiv on Wednesday afternoon.

The murder took place on 28 February in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka – four days after Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine.

At least ‘15 civilians killed in Luhansk and Donetsk’ - Ukraine

Thursday 19 May 2022 00:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Russian troops have killed at least 15 Ukrainian civilians – including two families with small children – and injured seven on Wednesday, the Ukrainian military reportedly said.

A total of 46 settlements in Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine, were shelled by Russia – the statement by the Joint Forces Task Force says on Facebook.

The 68 destroyed buildings include 43 residential houses, two schools, nursery school, clothing factory, railway station, cultural hall, boiler facility, and power substation – it said.

“All over the defence line, the enemy is using combat aviation, multiple launch rocket systems, cannon artillery, tanks, mortar systems, launching missile and air strikes on civil infrastructure facilities, peaceful residential areas,” the report states.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Ukrainian defenders from the Joint Forces Task Force repelled 16 enemy attacks – it said.

Putin’s troops still trying to find ‘wonder weapon’ - Zelensky

Wednesday 18 May 2022 23:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Russia is stalling in its invasion of Ukraine because it’s still trying to find its “wonder weapon”, Volodymyr Zelensky said.

It comes after Russia said it was using a new generation of powerful lasers in Ukraine to destroy drones.

In his nightly address, Ukrainian president Mr Zelensky said Russia’s fighting was done by “inexperienced conscripts, which it throws into battle like cannon fodder.”

He criticised Vladimir Putin’s troops for killing Ukrainians with “forbidden phosphorous bombs, which they use to burn schools and ordinary houses.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin (via REUTERS)
Russian president Vladimir Putin (via REUTERS)

Mr Zelensky continued: “Well, in the propaganda of Nazi Germany there was such a term as ‘wunderwaffe’. Wonder weapon. The clearer it became they had no chance in the war, the more propaganda there was about the wonder weapon, which would be so powerful that it would provide a turning point in the war.

“And here we see that in the third month of a full-scale war, Russia is trying to find its ‘wunderwaffe’. Allegedly laser. All this clearly indicates the complete failure of the invasion.

“But again, this also shows that they are afraid to admit that catastrophic mistakes have been made at the highest state and military levels in Russia. Therefore, they will come up with more and more ‘wunderwaffe’ as the Armed Forces of Ukraine and all our defenders liberate our land step by step.

“How long will it take? The answer to this question can only be given by the real situation on the battlefield. We are trying to do it as soon as possible. That’s for sure. We are obliged to drive out the occupiers and guarantee Ukraine real security.”

Village in Kharkiv region ‘liberated’ by Ukrainian troops

Wednesday 18 May 2022 22:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Ukrainian troops liberated the village of Dementiyivka in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine said.

Dementiivka in the Kharkiv region (Google)
Dementiivka in the Kharkiv region (Google)

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine posted on Facebook: “The enemy continues its offensive in the Eastern Operational Zone.

“It fires on the entire line of contact and into the depths of the defence of our troops in Donetsk operational area and in Slovyansk direction, takes measures to strengthen the offensive group.”

Pro-Ukraine ‘terrorists' could face death penalty in Belarus

Wednesday 18 May 2022 22:20 , Lamiat Sabin

A new law in Belarus could see citizens be killed by firing squad if they are convicted of assisting Ukraine in defending itself against Russia.

Today, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko – an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin – signed a law making people who attempt an act of terrorism eligible for the death penalty.

The new law will take effect on 29 May, according to the Kyiv Post. Previously, only those convicted of having committed a terror act could face a firing squad.

Vladimir Putin’s ally Alexander Lukashenko (AP)
Vladimir Putin’s ally Alexander Lukashenko (AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “These are citizens of Belarus seeking to freely exercise their fundamental freedoms – peaceful protesters, civil society members, journalists, political opponents and those arrested for opposing Russia’s unjustified war against Ukraine and Belarus’ enabling role in it.

“These citizens now also face the threat of the death penalty.”

Russia ‘tries to give press tour around Mariupol’ - Ukraine

Wednesday 18 May 2022 21:45 , Lamiat Sabin

Russian invaders has tried to conduct a press tour around the occupied Ukrainian city Mariupol, a minister said.

Oleksandr Tkachenko, culture and information policy minister, said Russia had been wanting to hold the tour for journalists to discredit Ukraine’s role in defending itself amid the invasion.

A Ukrainian serviceman guards his position in Mariupol (AP)
A Ukrainian serviceman guards his position in Mariupol (AP)

Mr Tkachenko wrote on Facebook, according to an online translation: “Russia’s fakes and disinformation have transformed into some incredible forms.

“This time the occupiers are trying to hold a press tour for foreign journalists to the occupied city of Mariupol. The enemy's primary goal is to discredit Ukraine's role in this war.

“Currently, special 'decorations' for the foreign media have already been brought in: the fragments of Ukrainian ammunition collected from the occupied areas of Donetsk Region, the crowd and actors who will be introduced as local eyewitnesses.”

Russia ‘kills at least 10 Ukrainian civilians in Donetsk'

Wednesday 18 May 2022 21:00 , Lamiat Sabin

At least 10 civilians, including two children, were killed by Russian forces in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine today.

This is according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko, who posted about it on Telegram.

He wrote: “On May 18, the Russians killed 10 civilians in Donetsk: 7 in the Lyman and 3 in Bakhmut. Among the dead were 2 children: 1 in Lyman and 1 Bakhmut.”

Mr Kirilenko said a further seven people had been injured.

Volodymyr Zelensky proposes bill to extend martial law

Wednesday 18 May 2022 20:30 , Lamiat Sabin

Volodymyr Zelensky has submitted a bill to Ukraine’s parliament to extend martial law and military conscription by three months.

The text of the bill, which was submitted by the Ukrainian president, has yet to be published.

Martial law was first imposed on 24 February – the same day that Ukraine was invaded by Russia. It has since been extended for 30 days on two occasions, with the latest extension set to expire on 25 May.

The bill is reportedly expected to get the support of the parliament. When MPs approve the bill, martial law and conscription will be extended until 23 August, the day before Ukrainian independence day.

Last week, Ukraine’s defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov said he hoped to arm a million fighters as the country prepared for a “new, long phase of war.”

Nordic Nato bids will be ‘OK’, Biden says after Turkey dissent

Wednesday 18 May 2022 20:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Sweden and Finland’s bids to join Nato – in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – will be successful, according to Joe Biden.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REUTERS)
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REUTERS)

The US president’s comments came after Nato member Turkey raised objections to the two Nordic nations’ applications to join the military alliance.

In response to a reporter’s question on how he would convince Turkey to drop its opposition, Mr Biden said: “I think we’re going to be OK.”

US embassy reopens in Ukraine after three months

Wednesday 18 May 2022 19:30 , Lamiat Sabin

The US embassy in Kyiv reopened today after a three-month closure.

The embassy was closed soon after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

“We are officially reopening operations,” spokesperson Daniel Langenkamp told Reuters shortly before the US flag was raised above the embassy.

He said a small number of diplomats would return initially to staff the mission.

Biden says US to support Finland and Sweden against Russia

Wednesday 18 May 2022 19:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Joe Biden said the US will support Finland and Sweden staying vigilant of any Russian threats to their shared security while the two countries’ Nato membership is being considered.

The US president said in a statement that he strongly supports Finland and Sweden’s applications to join the military alliance.

US president Joe Biden (AP)
US president Joe Biden (AP)

Mr Biden said their membership would “further strengthen our defence cooperation and benefit the entire Transatlantic Alliance.”

Russia says it will rebuild ‘freed’ territories in Ukraine

Wednesday 18 May 2022 18:30 , Lamiat Sabin

Russia said it will fund the rebuilding of areas it has destroyed during its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian deputy PM Marat Khusnullin said that the Kremlin will pay for damaged roads – that lead to Russia – to be repaired.

A crater created by a Russian rocket attack in Dobropillya, in the Donetsk region (AP)
A crater created by a Russian rocket attack in Dobropillya, in the Donetsk region (AP)

He claimed, according to Russian state news agency RIA, that Russia had “freed” the territories.

Khusnullin also said the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe by capacity that has been seized by Russian troops, will supply energy to Russia and to Ukraine if the latter pays for it, RIA reported.

Russia expels 85 French, Spanish and Italian diplomats

Wednesday 18 May 2022 18:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Russia is expelling 85 embassy staff from France, Spain and Italy in response to similar moves by those countries, it said today.

The Foreign Ministry said it was ordering out 34 diplomatic staff from France, 27 from Spain and 24 from Italy.

The three countries are among European nations that have collectively thrown out more than 300 Russians since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

In many of the cases, the countries accused Russian diplomats of spying, which Moscow has denied.

Russia’s response has included sending home 45 Polish staff and 40 Germans last month. It has also announced retaliatory moves against Finland, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Japan, among others.

Biden’s national security adviser speaks to Chinese diplomat

Wednesday 18 May 2022 17:30 , Lamiat Sabin

US president Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke to China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi on the phone today.

Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan (EPA)
Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan (EPA)

The pair spoke about regional security issues, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the war in Ukraine, and specific issues related to US-China relations, the White House said in a statement.

Finland and Sweden to make joint purchases of weapons

Wednesday 18 May 2022 17:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Finland and Sweden will buy portable firearms and anti-tank weapons together, Finland’s defence ministry said.

It comes as the two Nordic countries handed in their applications to join the Western military alliance Nato, a move prompted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg during a ceremony to mark Sweden and Finland’s applications (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg during a ceremony to mark Sweden and Finland’s applications (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The two countries will step up their cooperation in defence procurement by Finland joining an agreement to acquire anti-tank weapons from Swedish weapons maker Saab Dynamics, a subsidiary of Saab, the ministry said.

Finland’s defence minister Antti Kaikkonen also authorised preparations for joint purchase of small firearms including assault rifles, shotguns and arms for personal protection, the ministry said.

Commission to spend £254bn to cut EU off Russian energy

Wednesday 18 May 2022 16:31 , Lamiat Sabin

The European Commission has proposed a package of nearly €300 billion (£254bn) to enable the EU to wean itself off Russian energy amid the war in Ukraine.

The investment initiative, dubbed REPowerEU, is meant to help the 27 EU countries start depriving Russia – the EU’s main supplier of oil, natural gas and coal – of tens of billions in revenue, as well as strengthen EU climate policies.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (AFP via Getty Images)
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (AFP via Getty Images)

“We are taking our ambition to yet another level to make sure that we become independent from Russian fossil fuels as quickly as possible,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels when announcing the package.

Germany to give Czechs 15 tanks to help it arm Ukraine

Wednesday 18 May 2022 16:00 , Thomas Kingsley

Germany will give the Czech Republic 15 Leopard 2 tanks, the German defence ministry said, part of a "ring exchange" programme under which Berlin aims to help countries pass their stocks of Soviet weaponry to Ukraine to help it fight Russia.

The ministry said it would pay for the transaction and train the Czechs to use the Leopard 2 A4 tanks. The Czechs have existing stocks of old Soviet tanks with which Ukrainian soldiers are already familiar.

"The exchange is another good example of how we are helping Ukraine in its brave fight against Russian aggression," said Defence Minister Christine Lambert. "The Czechs deliver heavy weapons, and we fill the resulting holes with Leopard tanks."

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Russia showcases new generation of laser weapons that can blind satellites ‘1,500km above earth'

Wednesday 18 May 2022 15:45 , Thomas Kingsley

Russia on Wednesday said it was using a new generation of powerful laser weapons in Ukraine to burn up drones, deploying some of Moscow's secret weapons to counter a flood of Western arms supplied to its former Soviet neighbour.

Little is known about the specifics of the new laser weapons. Putin mentioned one called Peresvet, named after a medieval Orthodox warrior monk Alexander Peresvet who perished in mortal combat.

Yury Borisov, the deputy prime minister in charge of military development, told a conference in Moscow that Peresvet was already being widely deployed and it could blind satellites up to 1,500 km above Earth.

He said, though, that there were already more powerful Russian systems than Peresvet that could burn up drones and other equipment. Borisov cited a test on Tuesday which he said had burned up a drone 5 km away within five seconds.

Ex-German chancellor stripped of his office over Putin 'lobbying'

Wednesday 18 May 2022 15:30 , Thomas Kingsley

Gerhard Schroeder's publicly funded office is to be closed and its remaining staff reallocated amid mounting dismay at the former Germanchancellor's refusal to distance himself from Russian president Vladimir Putin.

It is custom for all Germany's leaders to get a state-funded office when they leave government, but the three parties that make up current chancellor Olaf Scholz's governing coalition have agreed a parliamentary motion to close Mr Schroeder's office.

They have taken the decision after his refusal to condemn Mr Putin, whom he still calls a close personal friend despite Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

German finance minister Christian Lindner said it was unthinkable that "a former chancellor who is now openly doing lobby work for the criminal rule of Vladimir Putin is still given an office by taxpayers," in an interview with Welt TV.

German media has reported that Schroeder, 78, earns sums from jobs at Russian state-owned energy companies that dwarf the 400,000 euros the German state spends on the office.

"The budgetary committee observes that former Chancellor Schroeder no longer carries out any duties that result from his former office," the parties' joint motion read.

"The office will therefore be closed."

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Mary Dejevsky to host ‘Ask Me Anything’ about Ukraine war

Wednesday 18 May 2022 15:18 , Thomas Kingsley

So, how are things looking for Russia and Ukraine now? How could Finland and Sweden’s Nato bids affect Russia? What is going to happen next?

All of your questions and more are being answered now by The Independent’s columnist Mary Dejevsky.

Read more below for more details on how to join:

Mary Dejevsky to host ‘Ask Me Anything’ on Ukraine

Vladimir Putin loses 42nd colonel in war with Ukraine

Wednesday 18 May 2022 15:15 , Thomas Kingsley

In yet another setback for president Vladimir Putin, Russian troops have lost their 42nd colonel nearly three months into Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Denis Kozlov, 40, died on 11 May while guiding a pontoon ferry to make further advancement of the troops, according to a report by local Russian news outlet Vladimir News.

The colonel was posthumously awarded the Russian Order of Courage and buried in his hometown of Murom in Vladimir Oblast.

Read the full story below:

Vladimir Putin loses 42nd colonel in war with Ukraine

More than 20,000 Russian troops killed in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, says UK

Wednesday 18 May 2022 15:00 , Thomas Kingsley

More than 20,000 Russian military personnel have been killed in Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Britain’s armed forces minister.

James Heappey said that the Russian president’s forces were suffering heavy losses in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

The Ministry of Defence estimated in late April that the Russian death toll in the Ukraine conflict was around 15,000.

This figure is believed to have gone up significantly and Mr Heappey told LBC Radio: “There are people in Moscow who know how badly the war is being managed.

“There is a growing realisation that tens of thousands of Russians soliders are losing their lives in an operation that is defined by hubris and political interference.”

 (AP)
(AP)

Germany received over 200 asylum applications from Russians in April - ministry

Wednesday 18 May 2022 14:45 , Thomas Kingsley

Germany has registered a slight increase in the number of Russian nationals applying for asylum since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, an Interior Ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday.

In April, the second full month of the war, 222 people from Russia applied for asylum in Germany, the spokesperson said at a regular government news conference in Berlin.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

International efforts to restore wheat supply gather pace

Wednesday 18 May 2022 14:30 , Thomas Kingsley

International efforts to restore some of the world’s wheat supply currently stuck in Ukraine is gathering pace ahead of a United Nations meeting on conflict and food security.

On Wednesday, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres will reportedly announce that the United States and European Union will engage in talks with Russia and Ukraine to potentially unlock more than 20 million tonnes of wheat

Ukraine, the world’s sixth biggest wheat exporter, used to ship 4.5 million tonnes of agricultural produce through its ports per month, but the war waged by Russia has all but ceased shipments.

Read the full story below:

International efforts to restore Ukraine wheat supply gather pace

Watch: Google street view style tours take users through destroyed streets of Ukraine

Wednesday 18 May 2022 14:15 , Thomas Kingsley

Putin has ‘messianic obsession’ with Russian greatness, former Nato chief says

Wednesday 18 May 2022 14:00 , Thomas Kingsley

The West should avoid “provoking” Vladimir Putin into “even more reckless violence” in Ukraine, a former Nato secretary general has said as he warned the Russian president has developed a “messianic obsession” with his country’s greatness due to periods of isolation during the Covid pandemic.

Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, who led the North Atlantic military alliance from 1999 to 2003, said that “words matter” when it comes to a “thin-skinned” Putin, who he said had developed a “dangerous mindset” over the past two years and could escalate his attacks in Ukraine in response to hostile rhetoric from western countries.

The Labour peer, who has met Putin on several occasions, made the comments in a lecture on the future of European security.

Read the full story here

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting