Ukraine news – live: Putin survived assassination attempt, Kyiv claims

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Russia’s president Vladimir Putin apparently survived an assassination attempt at the start of his invasion of Ukraine, the head of Kyiv’s military intelligence service has claimed.

“There was an attempt to assassinate Putin… He was even attacked, it is said, by representatives of the Caucasus, not so long ago. This is non-public information. [It was an] Absolutely unsuccessful attempt, but it really happened… It was about 2 months ago,” Kyrylo Budanov claimed in an interview with Ukrainska Pravda.

Meanwhile, in an address to world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russia’s ongoing invasion will determine whether “brute force will rule the world”, as he pleaded for further economic support in the war.

“This is the moment when it is decided whether brute force will rule the world,” Mr Zelensky said before calling on nations to enforce further and stronger sanctions on Russia including an embargo on Russian oil, no trade with the Kremlin and a banning of Moscow’s banks from global systems.

Key Points

  • Putin survived assassination attempt, Ukraine intelligence chief claims

  • Russian diplomat in Switzerland says he resigns over Ukraine invasion

  • The first Russian soldier is given a life sentence for war crimes

  • We can’t allow brute force to rule the world, Zelensky says

  • Zelensky says '50 to 100' dying every day in country’s east

  • Ukraine rejects ceasefire, territorial concessions to Russia

Nearly 30,000 Russian soldiers dead, claims Ukraine

08:10 , Rory Sullivan

Almost 30,000 Russian troops were killed in the first three months of the war, the Ukrainian army has claimed.

Earlier this week, the British government said Russia had lost around 15,000 soldiers, the same number that died during the decade-long Soviet-Afghan war.

UK warns of famine caused by Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports

07:54 , Rory Sullivan

Britain has warned that “there could be a lot of hunger and indeed even famine” around the world if millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain cannot get through Russian blockades.

Grant Shapps, the British transport secretary, said the UK was working with Ukraine on how to export the grain. He spoke about the issue with the Ukrainian infrastructure minister Oleksander Kubrakov last week.

“We were discussing details which I can’t go into but about how infrastructure could be in place to ensure the grain leaves,” he told Sky News.

“We’re looking at all the different options...there are lots of different potential ways to get grain and other goods out of the country,” he said. “It’s absolutely essential that we do, otherwise there could be a lot of hunger and indeed even famine.”

‘Strong views’ on Russia expressed at Quad meeting, says Australian PM

07:37 , Rory Sullivan

“Strong views” about Russia were expressed at a “Quad” meeting, Australia’s new prime minister has said.

After discussions between the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the US, Antony Albanese said: “The Russian unilateral, illegal, immoral attack on the people of Ukraine is an outrage and the atrocities being committed on innocent civilians is something that we couldn’t have expected in the 21st century.”

“Certainly strong views were expressed in the meeting,” he said.

Biden says democracies must be defended amid Ukraine war

07:29 , Rory Sullivan

US president Joe Biden has expressed his desire for a free and open Indo-Pacific region, saying the war in Ukraine has demonstrated the importance of international order and territorial integrity.

Speaking about the situation in Ukraine at a “Quad” meeting with his Australian, Indian and Japanese counterparts in Tokyo, Mr Biden said: “This is more than just a European issue. It’s a global issue.”

“International law, human rights must always be defended regardless of where they’re violated in the world,” he added.

Russian ships load Ukrainian grain in Crimea, satellite images allegedly show

07:07 , Arpan Rai

Russian carrier ships have been spotted stacking up what could likely by stolen grain from Ukraine in the latest satellite images revealed by Maxar technologies.

Two bulk carrier ships with Russian flag — the Matros Pozynich and the Matros Koshka — are seen docked next to grain silos with the stock being off-loaded onto the vessel, the images from 19 May and 21 May show.

The ships have now left the port with the former en route Beirut via the Aegean Sea, while the Matros Koshka is still seen in the Black Sea, the ship tracking site showed.

Ukraine has alleged that Russia is stealing “several hundred thousand tonnes” of grain, while it blocks the port cities in the besieged country, threatening the global supply of wheat.

Russia facing Ukrainian resistance in Donbas, says British MoD

06:32 , Arpan Rai

The British defence ministry has said Russia is amping up its operations in Donbas — its targeted region in Ukraine for capturing more territory — and has met staunch resistance from defending Ukrainian soldiers.

“Russia has increased the intensity of its operations in the Donbas as it seeks to encircle Severodonetsk, Lyschansk, and Rubizhne. At present the northern and southern axes of this operation are separated by approximately 25 km of Ukrainian-held territory,” the ministry said in its latest update on Tuesday.

It added: “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.”

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

“Russia’s capture of the Severodonetsk pocket would see the whole of Luhansk Oblast placed under Russian occupation. While currently Russia’s main effort, this operation is only one part of Russia’s campaign to seize the Donbas,” the defence ministry said.

If the Donbas front line moves further west, this will extend Russian lines of communication and likely see its forces face further logistic resupply difficulties, it added.

Russian soldiers demanding bribes from Ukrainians leaving Melitopol

06:21 , Arpan Rai

Civilians leaving Melitopol have been asked to pay bribes by the Russian soldiers occupying the territory, officials in the region said.

Russian soldiers have asked residents who are trying to leave the city marred by conflict to pay Hr 3,000 to Hr 5,000 (£80-£134), Zaporizhzhia’s regional military administration said on Monday, reported The Kyiv Independent.

On war prisoner swap, Zelensky calls for political pressure: ‘Ready even tomorrow’

05:44 , Arpan Rai

Ukraine is ready for an exchange of prisoners with Russia “even tomorrow”, president Volodymyr Zelensky said late on Monday after Moscow captured hundreds of trapped soldiers at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

“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 round of audience questions at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Asking for assistance from his allies, he said: “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.”

“We do not need the Russian servicemen, we only need ours,” Zelensky said. “We are ready for an exchange even tomorrow.”

He added that several allies like the United Nations, Switzerland, Israel and “many, many countries” have been involved but the process was very complicated.

Zelensky warns war will be difficult in coming weeks

05:07 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Russian troops are pushing through in Kharkiv and will not give up on the region, which could result in difficult weeks to come in the war.

“The Russian occupiers are trying very hard to show that they allegedly will not give up the occupied areas of the Kharkiv region, the Kherson region, the occupied territory of the Zaporizhzhia region and Donbas,” Mr Zelensky said, adding that Russian fighters are going on the offensive in some areas.

“Reserves are being accumulated in some areas. Somewhere they are trying to reinforce their positions,” he said.

“The coming weeks of the war will be difficult. And we must be aware of that. Yet we have no alternative but to fight. Fight and win. Free our land and our people. Because the occupiers want to take away from us not just something, but everything we have. Including the right to life for Ukrainians,” Mr Zelensky said in a nightly address.

Russia could use Kherson as military base, claims official

04:56 , Arpan Rai

Russia will likely set up a military base in Ukraine’s Kherson as officials from the Russia-appointed administration there will ask the Kremlin for the move, a local government official was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency on Tuesday.

“There should be a Russian military base in the Kherson region,” said Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russia-anointed “civil-military regional administration” of Kherson.

He added: “We will ask for this and this is what the whole population wants. This is essential and will be a guarantor of security for the region and its inhabitants.”

The southern city of Kherson, roughly 400 miles from the capital Kyiv, fell to Russia shortly after the invasion began.

Russia has now appointed a new administration in the region and replaced the Ukrainian currency with the Russian ruble.

Russia organising massacre in Donbas, says Zelensky

04:40 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of organising a massacre in Ukraine’s Donbas and destroying “everything living there”.

“The most difficult fighting situation today is in Donbas. Bakhmut, Popasna, Severodonetsk - in this direction the occupiers have concentrated the greatest activity so far,” Mr Zelensky said.

He added: “They organised a massacre there and are trying to destroy everything living there. Literally. Nobody destroyed Donbas as much as the Russian army does now.”

Mr Zelensky said he is grateful to all the warriors fighting on behalf of Ukraine “who are holding their positions and have the courage to counterattack.”

He said that Russia has launched a total of 1,474 missile strikes using 2,275 different missiles in Ukraine since the beginning of invasion on 24 February.

“The vast majority was aimed at civilian objects. In less than three months, there have been more than 3,000 air strikes by Russian aircraft and helicopters. What other country has withstood such a scale of strikes?” he asked in his nightly address.

Ukrainian refugees in Germany to be allowed to exchange limited amount of currency into euros

02:58 , Andy Gregory

Germany's banks have said that refugees from Ukraine will be allowed to exchange a limited amount of Ukrainian currency into euros from Tuesday.

In a statement on Monday, the banks said they had signed an agreement with the German Finance Ministry and the national banks of Germany and Ukraine to allow a total of 1.5bn hryvnia (£40.4m) to be converted.

Every adult Ukrainian refugee with an account at a major German bank will be allowed to exchange up to 10,000 hryvnia, or about 317 euros (£269).

Dispatch from Vilkhivka: Death lingers in Ukraine village liberated from Russian forces

01:51 , Andy Gregory

Our defence and security editor Kim Sengupta has this latest dispatch from Ukraine:

As fighting erupted, Lubov Novikova panicked and began to rush home. She almost made it to her front door when the Russian tank opened fire. The first shell landed ahead on the road, flinging her to the ground; the second killed her instantly.

The 78-year-old, born in the Russian city of Kursk, was left lying on the on the road for six hours, the intensity of the bombing making it impossible to retrieve the body. Eventually her son, Gennady, and his two friends, Evgeny Sholomiy and Slava Ivanov, carried her to one of the few houses still standing in their street.

The three men also took her to the village cemetery the next morning. A missile struck the graveyard while the hasty burial was taking place. Evgeny was killed. Slava was taken home, bleeding heavily from shrapnel wounds; he died that evening.

Much of this village of Vilkhivka, near Kharkiv, has been flattened in the fierce months-long combat as it changed hands between Russian and Ukrainian forces. In many streets, every house has been hit. The school and the medical clinic have been destroyed. Explosions continue with ongoing skirmishes in surrounding areas as the Russians attempt to reclaim ground they have recently lost.

A lot of the damage, say the villagers, took place as the Russian and DNR forces were forced to withdraw. “It was spite, just spite, they were losing, having to leave and just opened fire at people, houses, that’s how Lubov was killed,” says Yuri Petrenko, 46, one of her neighbours. “One tank stopped at the bottom of this street, saw the name of the street was in Ukrainian, and fired a shell. It destroyed the sign and the house the sign was attached to.”

You can read the full report here:

Death lingers in village liberated from Russian forces

Russian ambassador hits out at west’s ‘cyber-totalitarianism’ during UN spat

Tuesday 24 May 2022 00:47 , Andy Gregory

The UK and US are accusing Russia of spreading disinformation online and manipulating public opinion about the war in Ukraine and vehemently rejecting Russian claims that the West is aiming to control all information flows and define what is true or not true.

Britain's deputy ambassador James Roscoe told a UN Security Council meeting that Russia has conducted cyber-attacks and used “an online troll factory to spread disinformation and manipulate public opinion about their war”.

And US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Russian government “continues to shut down, restrict and degrade internet connectivity, censor content, spread disinformation online, and intimidate and arrest journalists for reporting the truth about its invasion”.

But Russia's UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused countries that call themselves a “community of democracies” of building “a cyber-totalitarianism” and along with technology giants like Meta of shutting down Russian TV channels, expelling Russian journalists and blocking access to Russian websites.

Mr Nebenzia said that truth about Ukraine is being ousted by “an intense flow of ideologically charged infospam”, again accusing Western governments and media of fabricating the story of the Russian military killing civilians in Bucha near Kyiv, instead seeking to blame Kyiv.

Russia waging ‘total war’ on Ukraine, Zelensky says

Monday 23 May 2022 23:40 , Andy Gregory

Russia is waging “total war” on Ukraine, inflicting as many casualties and as much infrastructure destruction as possible, Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

In his nightly video address, on the eve of the three-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion, Mr Zelensky said the Russian army had launched 1,474 missile strikes using 2,275 different missiles – the vast majority of which he said hit civilian targets.

“Indeed, there has not been such a war on the European continent for 77 years,” the Ukrainian president said.

Azovstal fighters to face tribunal in Mariupol, Interfax claims

Monday 23 May 2022 22:24 , Andy Gregory

Ukrainian soldiers captured at the Azovstal steelworks will be tried at a tribunal in Mariupol, Russian news agency Interfax has claimed, quoting an anonymous source familiar with preparations for the hearing.

“According to preliminary data, the first intermediate tribunal will be held in Mariupol,” the source was reported as saying.

It comes after Denis Pushilin, the separatist leader in Donetsk, told Interfax that all of the Azovstal fighters are being held in Russian-controlled territory in Donetsk, and an international tribunal is planned to be organised there.

Russia will focus on developing economic ties with China, Lavrov says

Monday 23 May 2022 22:09 , Andy Gregory

Moscow would consider offers of re-establishing ties with the West and think whether that is needed, but will focus on developing ties with China, Russia's foreign minister has said.

“If they want to offer something in terms of resuming relations, then we will seriously consider whether we will need it or not,” the Russian foreign ministry quoted Sergei Lavrov as saying in a speech on Monday.

“Now that the West has taken a ‘dictator's position’, our economic ties with China will grow even faster,” Mr Lavrov said.

Putin is only Russian official I will meet with to discuss ending war, Zelensky says

Monday 23 May 2022 21:49 , Andy Gregory

Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Vladimir Putin is the only Russian official he is willing to meet with to discuss how to end the war.

Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Ukrainian president said that arranging any talks with Russia was becoming more difficult in light of what he said was evidence of Russian actions against civilians under occupation.

“The president of the Russian Federation decides it all,” Mr Zelensky said through an interpreter. “If we are talking about ending this war without him personally, that decision cannot be taken.

Zelenskiy said the discovery of mass killings in areas occupied by Russian troops earlier in the war, particularly outside Kyiv, made it more difficult to arrange talks and that he would rule out any discussions with other officials.

“I cannot accept any kind of meeting with anyone coming from the Russian Federation but the president,” he said. “And only in the case when there is one issue on the [table]: stopping the war. There are no other grounds for any other kind of meeting.”

EU will agree oil embargo ‘within days’, German minister says

Monday 23 May 2022 21:21 , Andy Gregory

The European Union will likely agree an embargo on Russian oil imports “within days”, German economy minister Robert Habeck has suggested.

But Mr Habeck warned that an embargo would not automatically weaken the Kremlin as rising prices were enabling it to rake in more income while selling lower volumes of oil.

Therefore, one consideration was to no longer pay “any price” for oil, but to agree on upper limits, he told broadcaster ZDF. For that to work, however, many countries would have to get on board.

Efforts to coordinate an EU-wide embargo have been stalled, as Hungary demands financial assistance before agreeing to such a move, with prime minister Viktor Orban warning Budapest would be severely impacted economically by an embargo.

Civilians being killed in eastern assault, UN warns

Monday 23 May 2022 21:07 , Andy Gregory

United Nations staff on the ground in Ukraine remain concerned about the impact on civilians by fierce fighting in the regions of Luhansk, Donetsk and Kharkiv, a spokesperson has said.

People are being killed and wounded, while homes and civilian infrastructure have been destroyed, Stephane Dujarric said.

In the government-controlled part of Luhansk, local authorities informed the UN that a bridge leading to the administrative center of the region, Sievierodonetsk, was destroyed on 21 May. He said that left the partially encircled city reachable by only one road.

While some people managed to leave Sievierodonetsk over the weekend, Mr Dujarric said local authorities estimate that thousands of civilians remain in the war-affected city and require urgent support.

UN humanitarian staff also said that shelling and airstrikes were reported in northern, central and southern parts of Ukraine, claiming civilian lives and damaging infrastructure.

Coffee to go: Starbucks to permanently close stores in Russia

Monday 23 May 2022 20:45 , Andy Gregory

Starbucks has become the latest western business to pull out of Russia over its war in Ukraine.

The American company announced on Monday that it was permanently shutting all of its 130 stores and ending its brand presence in the country, more than two months after it first suspended its business activities there.

My colleague Rory Sullivan has the details here:

Coffee to go: Starbucks quits Russia over Ukraine war

Biden calls Zelensky a leader worthy of Ukrainian people’s ‘bravery and resilience’

Monday 23 May 2022 20:30 , Andy Gregory

My colleague Andrew Feinberg has more details on Joe Biden’s tribute to Volodymyr Zelensky in TIME magazine, which named both leaders in its list of the 100 most influential people in 2022.

Biden calls Zelensky a leader worthy of Ukrainian people’s ‘bravery and resilience’

Ukraine says 87 killed in Russian attack on military base

Monday 23 May 2022 20:10 , Andy Gregory

Eighty-seven people were killed in a Russian air strike in the town of Desna last Tuesday, potentially Ukraine’s biggest military death toll in a single strike of the war, our international editor David Harding reports.

On the day of the attack, Moscow said high-precision, long-range missiles hit Ukrainian reserves forces at a training centre and at one other site.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky did not specify if the casualties from the attack in Desna were military or civilian. There is a military barracks and training base near the town.

“Today we completed work at Desna. In Desna under the rubble there were 87 casualties. 87 corpses,” Mr Zelensky said today during an address by videolink to a meeting of global business leaders at Davos.

Ukraine says 87 killed in Russian attack on military base

Ukrainian forces will keep fighting even if encircled in Donbas, western official says

Monday 23 May 2022 19:50 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine’s forces will make the Russians “fight for every bit” of territory even if they are encircled by Moscow’s advance in the Donbas, western officials have said.

Following the surrender of Mariupol, the Russians are seeking to cut off the Ukrainians who have been dug in around the strategically important city of Severodonetsk, which is seen as key to the Russians gaining complete control of the Donbas region.

Western officials said that, while superior Russian numbers meant they would eventually succeed in encircling the “Severodonetsk pocket”, that did not necessarily spell defeat for the Ukrainians.

“I think this largely comes down to political will,” they said, in remarks reported by the PA news agency. “The Ukrainians don't want to give up any territory. They want to make the Russians fight for every bit of it.”

They added: “Having those forces continue to fight, they are fulfilling an important military function, degrading the Russian capability to advance and creating time for the Ukrainian forces to continue to improve their defences elsewhere.

“From a loss of life position, escaping might be desirable but from a military point of view and a political point of view the Ukrainians will intend to fight. We would expect them to fight for every bit of territory they can.”

Ukrainian court orders arrest in absentia of former president over treason charges

Monday 23 May 2022 19:25 , Reuters

A Ukrainian court has ordered the arrest in absentia of former president Viktor Yanukovich, accusing him of treason over an agreement he signed in 2010 extending Russia’s lease on naval facilities in Crimea.

The agreement, widely known in Ukraine as the Kharkiv Pact, allowed Russia to keep its Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

Yanukovich, who fled to Russia in 2014 after mass protests, has already received a 13-year jail sentence in absentia for treason. That case was related to a letter he sent to Russian president Vladimir Putin on 1 March 2014, asking him to use Russian army and police forces to restore order in Ukraine.

Yanukovich could not immediately be reached for comment. He has previously denied all allegations against him.

The Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said a Kyiv court had on Monday ordered Yanukovich's arrest because the Kharkiv Pact had enabled Russia to increase the number of troops it had in Ukraine and to seize and annex Crimea in 2014.

Mr Yanukovich’s actions had violated the constitution and “to the detriment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the defence, state and economic security of Ukraine, provided assistance to a foreign state”.

Lithuania to withdraw its ambassador to Russia next week

Monday 23 May 2022 19:10 , Reuters

Lithuania will withdraw its ambassador to Russia from 1 June, according to a presidential decree signed today.

No replacement has been named.

The Baltic country expelled Russia's envoy on 4 April.

The Lithuanian government said at that time it intended to lower the level of diplomatic representation between the two countries.

Watch: Biden says Russia must ‘pay long-term price’ for ‘barbarism in Ukraine'

Monday 23 May 2022 19:00 , Andy Gregory

Here is the footage of Joe Biden’s remarks in Japan today, where the US president said he believed that Russia “has to pay a long-term price” for its “barbarism in Ukraine”.

Mr Biden also suggested China is “flirting with danger” over Taiwan, drawing a parallel between that situation and the one in eastern Europe.

Global recession not ‘out of the question’, IMF chief says

Monday 23 May 2022 18:44 , Andy Gregory

A global recession is not on the cards, but that “doesn’t mean it’s out of the question”, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in Davos, Kristalina Georgieva reminded the audience the IMF is forecasting 3.6 per cent growth for 2022, which is “a long way to global recession”.

Ms Georgieva said it was going to be a “tough year” and that one of the big problems is surging food prices, partly fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She also listed a host of other challenges, including rising interest rates, inflation, the strengthening dollar, a slowdown in China, the climate crisis and a recent “rough spot” for cryptocurrencies.

Most of the crowd of around 100 people had put their hands up when the moderator opened the discussion by asking the audience if they thought there was a chance of a recession. Ms Georgieva said the global outlook was “a little bit like the weather here in Davos – the horizon has darkened”.

20 nations announce new support for Ukraine

Monday 23 May 2022 18:30 , Andy Gregory

Some 20 nations have announced new security assistance packages for Ukraine during a virtual meeting today, including Denmark, Greece, Norway and Poland.

Denmark will provide a harpoon launcher and missiles to defend Ukraine's coast, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said, following a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group.

“Everyone here understands the stakes of this war,” Mr Austin said.

The top US military officer, General Mark Milley, added that Washington was still “a ways away” from any reintroduction of US forces into Ukraine.

Ukraine ‘probing 13,000 alleged Russian war crimes’

Monday 23 May 2022 18:14 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine is probing some 13,000 cases of alleged Russian war crimes, Kyiv’s prosecutor general has said.

"As of this day, we have more than 13,000 cases only about war crimes," Iryna Venediktova told the Washington Post.

Her comments came as the first war crime trial in a Ukrainian court since Vladimir Putin’s invasion saw a Russian soldier sentenced to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian.

Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old tank commander, pleaded guilty to killing Oleksandr Shelipov, 62, in the village of Chupakhivka, after being ordered to shoot him.

Russia intensifying bombardment of Donbas, Donetsk governor says

Monday 23 May 2022 18:00 , Andy Gregory

Russia is intensifying its bombardment in Donbas, the head of the Donetsk regional military civil administration has said.

Pavlo Kyrylenko told the Associated Press in Kramatorsk that heavy fighting was continuing near the region of Luhansk and that the front line was “under shelling at all times”, adding that the “situation is difficult.”

Kramatorsk and neighboring Sloviansk are the largest cities in the parts of Donetsk region not held by Russian forces currently.

Mr Kyrylenko said that the vast majority of the population has already been evacuated, with no more than 320,000 of the region’s former 1.6 million inhabitants still there.

Russia would need to agree to food export corridor, Western official says

Monday 23 May 2022 17:50 , Andy Gregory

Any corridor designed to secure safe passage for food exports out of the Ukrainian port city of Odesa could only occur with Russian consent, a Western official has warned, after Ukraine’s first deputy prime minister Yulia Svyrydenko called for such a move to help Ukraine and avoid world hunger.

“Clearly the Russians are dominating that area. It would require the permission of the Russians, some sort of agreement to allow that to take place,” the Western official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It would require some sort of security guarantee, I think from Turkey, to make it a reality. I think the thing that we’d have to rule out is any sense that this could be done without Russia’s permission.”

Navalny criticises ‘hypocrisy’ of world leaders over past approach to ‘evil madman’ Putin

Monday 23 May 2022 17:45 , Andy Gregory

Alexei Navalny has hit out at world leaders who “have hypocritically talked for years about a ‘pragmatic approach’” to dealing with “evil madman” Vladimir Putin.

“In so doing, they enabled themselves to benefit from Russian oil and gas while Putin’s grip on power grew stronger,” the jailed opposition leader wrote in a short essay on the Russian president for Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of 2022.

But he added: “Between sanctions and military and economic aid, this war will cost hundreds of times more than those lucrative oil and gas contracts, the signing of which used to be celebrated with champagne.”

Mr Navalny wrote that Mr Putin has “reminded us once again that a path that begins with ‘just a little election rigging’ always ends with a dictatorship” and “dictatorship always leads to war”, adding: “It’s a lesson we shouldn’t have forgotten.”

Citing the “if something looks like a duck” rule, Mr Navalny continued: “If someone destroys the independent media, organises political assassinations, and sticks to his imperial delusions, then he is a madman capable of causing a bloodbath in the center of Europe in the 21st century.”

He warned that the question of “how to stop an evil madman with an army, nuclear weapons, and membership in the UN Security Council” is “yet to be answered”.

‘He has left his mark on history’: Biden hails Zelensky in Time magazine entry

Monday 23 May 2022 17:26 , Andy Gregory

Joe Biden has hailed Volodymyr Zelensky as having “left his mark on history and proved to the world that Ukraine will long endure”, as both leaders were included in Time magazine’s list of the most influential people of 2022.

Penning the accompanying tribute to his Ukrainian counterpart, the US president wrote: “Each time we speak, I hear in President Zelensky’s voice the relentless determination of a man who believes profoundly in his duty to his people, and lives up daily to the solemn responsibility of leading his nation through this dark and difficult hour.

Mr Biden said that “the nations of the free world, inspired by the example of President Zelensky, are more united, more determined, and more purposeful than at any point in recent memory”, adding that Mr Zelensky has proven that Ukraine’s “people will ultimately realise the democratic future they have long desired”.

The magazine has also included the Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, in addition to the chief editors of Ukrainska Pravda and Novaya Gazeta, Sevgil Musaieva and Dmitry Muratov.

Vladimir Putin has also been included in the list, with an accompanying entry written by jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Ukraine cuts gas supply to Donbas after ‘Russian shelling damages main pipeline’

Monday 23 May 2022 16:52 , Andy Gregory

Gas supplies to the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk have been suspended after the main gas pipeline was damaged by Russian shelling, Ukraine’s gas system operator has said.

Currently, the damage to the pipeline is localised, but the restoration and resumption of gas transportation are impossible due to the ongoing hostilities, the operator said on Monday.

There are no alternatives to transporting gas to the two regions “due to unauthorised interference in [gas transmission system] operations on the territory occupied by Russian troops, it claimed.

The operator said its employees remain in Donbas and are in constant contact with local and military officials in order to begin the restoration of the damaged infrastructure at the earliest opportunity.

Resolution on Finland and Sweden’s Nato bids introduced to US Senate

Monday 23 May 2022 16:31 , Andy Gregory

Republican and Democratic US Senate leaders have introduced a resolution backing Sweden and Finland’s bids to join Nato.

The top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, and Jim Risch, the top Republican on the foreign relations panel, joined Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and committee chairman Bob Menendez and other senators in introducing the resolution.

“We fully support their application to become Nato members and are looking forward to their swift ascension in the coming months,” Mr Menendez said in a statement.

Mr McConnell referred to Finland and Sweden as “strong countries with formidable military capabilities” and said in his statement: “Both nations’ robust defense funding means their accession would meaningfully bolster our pursuit of greater burden-sharing across the alliance.

“I fully support the Senate providing its advice and consent as quickly as possible.”

It will take a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate to approve the expansion of the alliance, requiring “yes” votes from at least 17 Republicans.

Russian diplomat takes aim at Lavrov as he resigns over war

Monday 23 May 2022 16:08 , Andy Gregory

Boris Bondarev, the Russian diplomat to the UN office at Geneva who today resigned in response to his Vladimir Putin’s “intolerable” war in Ukraine, has taken special aim at Moscow’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in his resignation letter.

In his English-language statement, which he said he emailed to about 40 diplomats and others, Mr Bondarev said that those who conceived the war “want only one thing — to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian Navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity”.

He lamented that Mr Lavrov had gone from “a professional and educated intellectual to a person who constantly broadcasts conflicting statements and threatens the world (Russia too) with nuclear weapons”.

“Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not about diplomacy. It is all about warmongering, lies and hatred,” Mr Bondarev added.

Mr Bondarev said that he has to be concerned about the potential reaction to his resignation in Moscow, and said that his case could become an example for other “reasonable” colleagues to follow, warning: “If my case is prosecuted, then if other people want to follow, they would not.”

Our international editor David Harding has more details here:

Russian diplomat quits over Ukraine war and says he is ‘ashamed’ of his country

Putin will be ‘gone’ by end of this year, claims former head of MI6

Monday 23 May 2022 15:47 , Andy Gregory

A former MI6 chief has predicted that Vladimir Putin could be out of power and in a long-term medical facility by next year, my colleague Namita Singh reports.

Sir Richard Dearlove, who led the British Secret Intelligence service between 1999 and 2004, made the prediction on the One Decision podcast amid rumours about the rapidly deteriorating health conditions of Russia’s 69-year-old head of state.

“I’m really going to stick my neck out. I think he’ll be gone by 2023,” said Sir Richard, a co-host of the podcast. “Probably into the sanatorium, from which he will not emerge as the leader of Russia.”

“That’s a way to sort of move things on without a coup,” he suggested, adding that the secretary of the security council, Nikolai Patrushev might assume control upon Mr Putin’s departure.

“If my thesis were fulfilled and Putin did disappear into a sanatorium, I think he’s the likely stand-in,” he said. “And of course the stand-in this scenario probably becomes permanent. I mean, you know there is no succession in the Russian leadership. They certainly don’t succession plan.”

Putin will be ‘gone’ by end of this year, says former head of MI6

Starbucks to pull out of Russian market

Monday 23 May 2022 15:33 , Andy Gregory

Starbucks has told its staff that it is pulling out of the Russian market, the Associated Press reports.

In a memo to employees, the coffee giant said it had decided to close its 130 stores and cease to have a brand presence in Russia.

The Seattle-based company said it will continue to pay its nearly 2,000 Russian employees for six months and help them transition to new jobs. The stores are owned and operated by Alshaya Group, a Kuwait-based franchise operator.

Starbucks had already moved to suspend all business activity in Russia on 8 March in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Zelensky hits out at west’s failure to protect Ukraine after Crimea annexation

Monday 23 May 2022 15:21 , Andy Gregory

The west could have prevented Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine by taking tougher actions against the Kremlin following its annexation of Crimea in 2014, Volodymyr Zelensky has told world leaders.

Speaking at the annual World Economic Forum at Davos, the Ukrainian president said many lives would have been saved if the west had imposed sanctions against Russia last autumn, when Moscow massed tens of thousands of troops at the Ukrainian border, he said.

But he added that even this step would have been slow, criticising a failure to implement strong sanctions against Russia after its seizure of Crimea.

“Russia started its war against Ukraine back in 2014. We are grateful for this support [from the west] but if that happened, back then, immediately — that unity, that pressure on governments and on companies — would Russia have started this full-scale war?

“Would it have brought all these losses upon Ukraine and upon the world? I’m sure the answer to this question is also no.”

My colleague Rory Sullivan has the full report here:

Zelensky hits out at west’s failure to protect Ukraine after Crimea annexation

UK and Lithuania boost defence collaboration amid fears of Russian aggression

Monday 23 May 2022 15:07 , Thomas Kingsley

Britain and Lithuania signed a joint declaration on Monday to boost defence and security collaboration, stepping up London's support of nations that fear Russian President Vladimir Putin will not stop at Ukraine in trying to redraw Europe's borders.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February Baltic states such as Lithuania, a Nato member and former Soviet state, have become increasingly concerned they could be next to face Russian aggression.

Britain said the declaration would build on the defence cooperation the countries share as Nato allies and would increase resistance to threats, including from Russia and China. It gave no further details.

"The UK and Lithuania are two countries which believe in freedom and sovereignty, and who stand up to authoritarian regimes in Europe and across the world," British foreign minister Liz Truss said in a statement.

"We stand together with Ukraine in the face of Russia’s illegal, barbaric war."

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)
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